NET – 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, take note of Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess, 3:2 who is faithful to the one who appointed him, as Moses was also in God’s house. 3:3 For he has come to deserve greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house deserves greater honor than the house itself! 3:4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 3:5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken.
3:6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. We are of his house, if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope we take pride in.
“We are of his house”
NET Note: Grk “whose house we are,” (most translations)
In verse 1 the author makes it clear who he is addressing. He refers to them as “holy brothers.” He confirms that by acknowledging that they are “partners in a heavenly calling.” So we know for sure that he is speaking to Christians. In verse 6, he says that “Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house.” Who is God’s house? The author plainly states that “we are his house.”
The Church is the house that he is referring to (He 10:19-22; 1 Pe 2:3-10; 1 Pe 4:17). However, in the very next phrase he has individual members of the house in mind when he says: “if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence…” He can’t be talking about the Church as a whole at this point, because the Church will never cease being “God’s house.” However, individual Christians can drift in their faith (“confidence”) to the point to where they are no longer members of the household of God, the Church. The NET translation’s use of the word “of” indicates the individual membership of each believer.
That little word “if” has so much meaning in Scripture, indeed in all of life. It’s a powerful word that can be life-changing, depending on the situation. Here the author says that “we are of his house if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence…” Confidence is another word for faith. As Christians our confidence or faith is always in Christ, and not in ourselves. So we see, then, that remaining in the house of God is dependent upon remaining “firm” in our faith. This speaks of an enduring faith. So what the author is explaining here, is that our salvation is conditional. In other words, our security in Christ requires that our faith endure. That saving faith is an enduring faith is confirmed in several other places in Hebrews:
Those who hold to the OSAS (once saved always saved, no matter how we live our lives) position on eternal security, make the mistake of viewing faith as a single act in a moment of time…..as if once we walk through the door of salvation, nothing else matters after that. However, true saving faith in Christ is not a single act, but is a faith that endures – yes, must endure – throughout our lives. Since we are exhorted to endure in our faith, this suggests that it’s possible not to endure. Therefore, if during the course of our life we drift away from our faith in Christ, and die in that state of unbelief, we die as unbelievers.
I think it’s important to note that some ancient manuscripts (as seen in the NKJV, NAS) end verse 6 with the following: “firm to the end,” strengthening the conditional “if.” Here’s the NET Note on this:
“The reading adopted by the translation is found in Ì13,46 B sa, while the vast majority of mss (א A C D Ψ 0243 0278 33 1739 1881 Ï latt) add μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν (mecri telou” bebaian, “secure until the end”). The external evidence for the omission, though minimal, has excellent credentials. Considering the internal factors, B. M. Metzger (TCGNT 595) finds it surprising that the feminine adjective βεβαίαν should modify the neuter noun καύχημα (kauchma, here translated “we take pride”), a fact that suggests that even the form of the word was borrowed from another place. Since the same phrase occurs at Heb 3:14, it is likely that later scribes added it here at Heb 3:6 in anticipation of Heb 3:14. While these words belong at 3:14, they seem foreign to 3:6.”
Either way, the message of this whole passage is clear, our faith in Christ must remain “firm to the end.”
I want to talk a little more about this word “if.” It’s already been established that the author is speaking to Christians. The whole context makes that clear. The suggestion that the writer is referring to anyone but Christians, or that the author is speaking hypothetically or theoretically, is based entirely on a positional bias — namely, a settled belief about eternal security. We can’t approach any portion of Scripture with a positional bias. When we do, we will view the text under study with this thought going through our minds:
“Since I ‘know’ x to be true, then y must mean something other than what it is actually saying.”
In other words, if we already have it in our minds that the Bible teaches unconditional eternal security, and we can’t be convinced otherwise, then every time we run across a text like this one – that uses the word “if” – we won’t be able to see it for what it really is. We will always assume that it means something else. We will do our best to explain it away so that it doesn’t conflict with what we believe.
We will not be able to see the truth with that kind of mindset and practice. We must approach every passage of Scripture with a willingness to follow the truth where it wants to lead us. We must carefully consider what each verse is saying within its context. Then compare scripture with scripture from the whole of God’s Word.
The point I’m trying to make is that we must be very careful not to draw immediate conclusions about what a verse is saying. That’s not wisdom. We must be open to learning the truth without allowing preconceived ideas to influence what the text means. I don’t believe we can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading when we close ourselves off like that. We don’t like having our dearly held beliefs threatened. So the natural thing that occurs in those situations, is for our defense mechanisms to kick in. We must be aware of this natural tendency, and guard ourselves against it. Again, we must be willing to allow truth to lead us where it wants to take us…..no matter how much it may hurt at the time.