Hebrews 3:1-2 reads as follows: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him who appointed him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house.” (NKJV)
Reading this passage and its surrounding context awhile back got me to thinking about the faithfulness of Jesus. We seldom think about Jesus being “faithful,” that is in the sense of being faithful to God, even though we know he lived a sin free life. I think there is profit to be had in looking into this subject in as much as Jesus is to be our example. It is Jesus who said, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24 NKJV) Following Jesus would include following him in faithfulness.
While Jesus was in the beginning with God and the Holy Spirit when the words were uttered, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen. 1:26 NKJV, see also John 1:1-11) once Jesus entered the world, sent by God the Father (John 17:18), he became not only the Son of God but also the Son of Man and became subject to the Father. Paul said, in speaking to the Corinthians, “I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3 NKJV) Paul said earlier, in the same book, “And you are Christ’s (speaking of the Corinthian Christians-–DS), and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor. 3:23 NKJV) When Paul wrote those words Jesus was back in heaven but if he was then subject to the Father then certainly he was subject to him earlier while on earth.
We also know that when this world comes to an end and the Day of Judgment has come to be history that Jesus who now sits at the “right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3 NKJV) ruling “till he has put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25 NKJV) will then himself “be subject to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28 NKJV)
We are really talking here about decisions made by the Godhead before the creation of the world itself. Sometime before the foundation of the world the Godhead made the decision that once the world was created and man placed upon it that Jesus would, at some future point in time, a time known only to God, take upon himself the form of man, enter into the world, and become its Savior by the sacrifice of himself on the cross for the sins of man. Yes, God knew his creation, man, would sin before man was created.
Jesus was our Savior chosen to be so before the foundation of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world (read that again a second time for emphasis-–DS), that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (1 Peter 1:20 NKJV)
Jesus was born into the world to be a sacrifice for man’s sin. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death (emphasis on what you have just read-–DS) … that he, by the grace of God might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9 NKJV) Jesus came into the world for the express purpose of dying “for everyone.” This was by God’s gracious act. Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1:29), “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8 NKJV)
Yes, Jesus was and is God. Only God can save us. Jesus was our Savior chosen to be so by the Godhead before the foundation of the world. However, while Jesus was/is God (see Heb. 1:8, John 1:1-2, Phil. 2:6, and other passages) when he took on the role of the Son of Man coming to earth in bodily form he himself became subject (willingly) to the Father.
The Hebrew writer makes this clear when he says:
“But to the son he says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions.'” (Heb. 1:8-9 NKJV)
Jesus who was himself God (read the verse above again) had a God. Who did Jesus pray to if not to his God and Father? Who did he sing praise to (Heb. 2:12) if not to his God? Who did he put his trust in (Heb. 2:13) if not in his God?
It was “in all things he had to be made like his brethren” (Heb. 2:17 NKJV) and thus his faith in and dependency upon the Father, God in heaven. Now please do not misunderstand. The most difficult subject that a man can study and never really understand is how both deity and humanity dwelt within Jesus at the same time. I am avoiding that subject in this article like the plague. I am only saying here that in Jesus’ role as the Son of Man he had a dependency on God the Father just as all men do. Even as the Son of God sons are subject to their fathers and must always show them honor and respect.
The Bible says Jesus was “faithful” to God who appointed him as the apostle and high priest of our confession (Heb. 3:1-2). The text also points out how Moses had also been “faithful.” What does the word faithful mean? What makes a person faithful? When we speak of the faithfulness of Jesus what does that mean?
A good synonym for faithful would be the word “reliable.” Other synonyms might be “dependable” or “trustworthy.” My Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Thesaurus says of the word faithful, “firm in adherence to whatever one is bound to by duty or promise.”
The Bible speaks of God being faithful. “Therefore know that the Lord your God, he is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy.” (Deut. 7:9 NKJV) What does that mean? It means if God said it you can depend on it. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), neither can he grow weary and tired or weak and unable to fulfill what he has said. When God makes a covenant with man, that man enters into with him, God will keep his part right down to dotting every i and crossing every t. He will fall short in nothing in keeping his part of the covenant. Man must remember, however, that the covenant God has made with his people is conditional, not unconditional.
In speaking of the children of Israel that came out of Egypt with Moses the Psalmists says, “For their heart was not steadfast with him, nor were they faithful in his covenant.” (Psalms 78:37 NKJV) They entered into a covenant relationship with God at Mt. Sinai in the desert but they proved unfaithful in keeping their part of the covenant and thus were not allowed to enter the Promised Land due to disobedience (Heb. 3:18, 4:6). Jesus, who came many years afterwards, did not prove unfaithful in keeping that very same covenant.
We can see then that being faithful means, on man’s part, being obedient to the covenant he is under with God. Have you ever read or paid any attention to the cover page or title page of your New Testament? The New Testament I am using as I write says on its cover page “The New Testament of Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ.” The older versions used to read differently. I am now looking at the cover page for the old American Standard Version of 1901 and that cover page reads “The New Covenant Commonly Called The New Testament Of Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ.”
God has had two covenants with man. The first he made with the Jewish nation. This was the Law of Moses delivered on Mt. Sinai and is the covenant that Jesus kept faithfully and under which the thief on the cross lived and died (mentioned for benefit of those who think he died under the Christian dispensation of time). The second covenant is the New Covenant commonly called the New Testament which all of mankind has lived under or put another way been subject to since the cross. Much of the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews are devoted to this very subject of the change of the law or the covenants under which men live.
As has been said to be faithful is to be obedient to the covenant under which one lives, in our case the New Testament. The New Testament, or New Covenant, is God speaking to you and me his will. He speaks through his word. I cannot be faithful to God while disregarding his words directed to me. If he gives me a command and I try and keep it you can call that an attempt on my part to work my way to heaven, some feel that way about obedience, but your calling it that will not make it so. It is, instead, an effort on my part to be faithful to the one who has spoken to me his word, one who is telling me what his desire for me is.
We say truthfully that Jesus was the Lamb of God for John the Baptist called him that (John 1:29, 36) and the Hebrew writer says he “offered himself without spot to God.” (Heb. 9:14 NKJV) He was “a lamb without blemish and without spot,” says Peter. (1 Peter 1:19 NKJV) The only thing that brings blemishes and spots to a man’s soul is sin. Sin is “the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4 KJV) The faithfulness of Jesus was such that it led to a perfectly sinless life. Peter says of him that he, “committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22 NKJV) He was “without sin.” (Heb. 4:15 NKJV) Was Jesus trying to work his way back to heaven by being obedient? Should I not try and be obedient?
While living on earth Jesus was under commandment from God not just pertaining to those things contained in the Law of Moses but more. Jesus had been commanded to speak the words he spoke. “For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49 NKJV)
In Hebrews 3 Jesus’ faithfulness is contrasted with the unfaithfulness of the Israelites who left Egypt led by Moses as they headed to the Promised Land. They did not enter into the Promised Land because they did not obey and they did not obey because they did not believe (Heb. 3:18-19). The warning given to the Hebrews then living, to whom the writer of Hebrews was writing, was not to “fall after the same example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:11 NKJV) Disobedience is unfaithfulness.
I ask a question easily enough answered. Was Jesus under a command from God to give up his life on the cross for the sins of men?
Jesus answers himself. After the last supper Jesus made this statement, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (John 14:31 NKJV) At that point in time the only thing left was the cross. They left their present location for the garden where Jesus prayed and was later arrested.
Another passage that tells us the same thing in different language is Heb. 10:5-7.
“Therefore, when he came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of me written of me—to do your will, O God.’ ‘ ” (NKJV) It was God’s will that Jesus die on the cross for man’s sins.
“By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10 NKJV) Jesus came into the world for one purpose–to fulfill the will of God which was that we be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.” (Heb. 10:10 NKJV)
John 10:17-18 also helps clarify:
“Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18 NKJV)
What command was it that Jesus had received? The command to lay down his life and take it again–the command to go to the cross.
Jesus was obedient (faithful) unto death. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8 KJV) The words “the point of” are italicized in the NKJV Bible meaning they were added by man (the translators) and are not in the original so the actual text should read, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” Yes, the cross was a commandment given to Jesus. It can be difficult sometimes for a man to obey, to be faithful, but ultimately unfaithfulness is far more costly.
What then can we learn from Jesus’ faithfulness that will help us to be faithful? It seems to me the big lesson is the total surrender of the life, the will, to God. We as human beings are always thinking about “what I want to do.” Jesus did not live that way. It was for him and must be for us “not My will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 NKJV) A total surrender of one’s life to God is the answer to faithfulness.
And, I ask in closing, what is the command that God has given you and me? We find it in what Jesus said to the angel of the church of Smyrna, quoting from the original King James Version, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10 KJV) So we see there is a sense in which we too are under the commandment of death—when faithfulness requires it. Jesus was/is our example. Polycarp, a second century Christian, was burned at the stake for his faithfulness. How strong is your faith today? Is it strong enough to be faithful? No doubt we all need to work on both our faith and our faithfulness.