The Duty of Christians to Study Christ
William Nicholson, 1862
"Therefore, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess." Hebrews 3:1
The kindness of a friend, the gifts of a benefactor, or the forgiveness of the offended, are long cherished by the grateful heart. It would be base ingratitude to forget.
Jesus is the great Benefactor of his redeemed people. What he has done for his people, no human mind can fully conceive, no tongue can tell. He "loved the Church, and gave himself for it." Should he then be forgotten? His character, his love, his deeds, ought to be considered constantly. It would be base ingratitude for one ransomed by the shedding of his blood, to forget Christ, his Substitute, his Ransomer. No one on earth, or in Heaven, deserves consideration more than he. Hence our text.
I. The Designation of the People Called upon to Consider Christ.
They are called holy brethren, and partakers of the heavenly calling. Such language implies —
1. That they have become the subjects of regenerating and renovating and adopting grace. Formerly, they were not "brethren," but aliens, outcasts, enemies. Ephesians 2:1-6, 19-22. They have been convinced of their dreadful state of alienation from God, and have been reconciled to God through Christ. Their sins have been pardoned — their souls have been justified and regenerated. Colossians 1:21, 22.
2. They have united with God's people, and are consecrated to his service. "They have given themselves first to the Lord," etc. They are "brethren," by relation and affection. Matthew 23:9; 1 John 3:2, 11, 12, 18; see also ch. 4.
3. They are "holy brethren." This will be the result of the aforementioned change. Holy, not only in profession and title, but in principle and practice — in heart and life. They are consecrated, set apart for the service and enjoyment of God.
4. They are called "partakers of the heavenly calling." Their first call is heavenly. It is the Spirit's voice and power that speaks, and operates upon their hearts. All this comes from God. "It is not by might," etc. John 1:13. Human instrumentality without heavenly aid, would be nothing. "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow!" 1 Corinthians 3:6. "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7
They are called . . .
to heavenly privilege,
to heavenly employments,
to heavenly hopes, and
finally to Heaven itself.
They "die in the Lord." What a heavenly call that will be! "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" Matthew 25:34
They are "partakers" of all this. God has graciously remembered them, with a call from Heaven — to Heaven. "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
II. The Duty of Christians — to Consider Christ.
1. The OBJECT of consideration.He is called "the apostle and high priest whom we confess."
Among the Jews, the high priest was considered to be also the apostle of God. Paul here exhorts Christians to consider Christ as such; an intimation that the Mosaic economy was at an end, and the priesthood changed. Jesus was the Apostle of the Father, and has given the New Covenant; the whole of Christianity came immediately from him.
Moses was the Apostle under the Old Testament, and Aaron the priest. When Moses was removed, the prophets followed him; and the sons of Aaron were the priests after the death of their father. That system is annulled; and Jesus is the prophet who declares the will of God, and he is the priest who ministers in the things pertaining to God, ch. 2:17. He makes atonement for the sins of his people, and is a Mediator between God and man.
(1.) Consider him in his delegated character, "The Apostle," prophet, or one sent of God. See Hebrews 1:1, 2, and other passages which speak of him as sent into the world.
As a prophet or teacher, he was infinitely wise, tender, benevolent, faithful. He proved the Divinity of his commission by miracles — by perfect holiness of character — and by the revelation of the plan of salvation, He brought life and immortality to light.
(2.) Consider him in his official character. "High Priest."
In the priesthood, he was infinitely superior to Aaron and his successors. As they were Divinely appointed to the office — so was Christ, Hebrews 5:4, 5, 6. Hence,
This Great High Priest is styled "Christ Jesus." Christ is the same as Messiah, and means anointed, John 1:41. Jesus is the same with Joshua, Hebrews 4:8; and Joshua is a contraction for Jah Oshuah, the former of which signifies God, and the latter, Savior, the import of this appellation, "Christ Jesus," the Anointed Divine Savior.
Now, in this character, consider:
The dignity and glory of his character, as represented in this epistle. See ch. 1.
As the great atoning sacrifice. This is frequently stated in the epistle.
As the Conqueror of Death, ch. 2:14, 15.
As the exalted Savior, and prevailing Intercessor, ch. 2:9; 4:14; 7:24, 25; 8:1; etc. He presents the prayers of his people — bears them on his breast-plate, and makes known to them the will of God.
As infinite in compassion, ch. 2:17, 18; 4:14, 15. He himself has submitted to poverty, endured persecution from men, temptation from Satan, desertion from God, bodily infliction, and tasted death, etc.
As the author and finisher of his people's salvation, ch. 9:28; 12:2. Then shall they resemble him, and reign forever with him.
2. The Duty:"Fix your thoughts on Jesus." In every season — with attention, with faith — with affection — with gratitude.
1. Christ is not so much thought of as he deserves, and desires to be.
2. Consideration of Christ will be advantageous. It will increase knowledge, faith, love, joy.
3. Consider Christ as presented in the Scriptures, and not from any vain and fanciful conceptions of your own.