Being Partakers of Christ 05/07/2011
“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence
stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14).
To know the mind of the Spirit in our text, we must see the context in which it
is written. The context teaches the contrast of the unbelief of the children of
Israel in the wilderness, who began well, but perished in the end.
A person can take a text like this anywhere. Unless we keep this scripture in
the context in which it was spoken, we do not really keep it in the mind of the
Spirit at the time it was spoken.
The chapter begins with: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly
calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
Then he compares Christ with Moses. Verse 2 says: “Who was faithful to him that
appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.” Moses is being
distinguished from the children of Israel.
Now look at the last two verses of the chapter. We read in verses 18 and 19:
“And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that
believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
I want to show you how Moses is an example of faith, and that the children of
Israel who followed were examples of unbelief, yet they walked together
throughout the wilderness journey.
We read in verses 8 to 10: “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in
the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved
me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation,
and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.”
I want you to remember: Moses and the children of Israel went through the Red
Sea. Moses went through by faith, but the Israelites followed him in unbelief.
It is important that we learn to understand the distinction here. This message
is to help us examine the beginning of our confidence. The children of Israel in
many instances had great confidence. We must examine where their confidence
began and where it ended. Where does our confidence begin, and where does it
end? If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, we are
partakers of Christ.
To know the mind of the Spirit we must see the context in which our text is
written. The context teaches the contrast of the unbelief of the children of
Israel in the wilderness, who began well but perished in the end.
If you follow the history of the Israelites through the wilderness it will seem
like they really acted by faith many times, so we must distinguish what faith is
in contrast to unbelief.
We must examine where the beginning of our faith is so we can see how it is to
kept steadfast to the end.
FOR OUR FIRST POINT, let us consider the source and beginning of our
FOR OUR SECOND POINT, let us consider why our confidence fails.
FOR OUR THIRD POINT, let us consider the admonition to hold the beginning of our
confidence steadfast unto the end if we are to be made partakers in Christ.
First, let us consider the source and beginning of our confidence.
The children of Israel were in a hopeless predicament. The Red Sea was before
them. The mountains were on the right and the left, and Pharaoh with his iron
chariots were closing in from the rear. They were in a dilemma. They were
cornered with no place to go.
God in His providence had led them to where they were helplessly trapped. This
is how we are by nature. We are trapped by our corrupt nature. We are trapped by
the world. We are trapped with no place to go outside of Christ.
God’s ways are always so much higher than our ways. In His wise counsel God was
teaching Israel their first real lesson of faith. The Lord was beginning a 40
year tour for them through the wilderness to humble them, to prove them, to know
what was in their hearts, whether they would obey His commandments or not.
The children of Israel were about to experience their first real deliverance by
a wonder-working God. We may be able to talk of many deliverances we have
experienced. Is this the beginning of our confidence? Is this where we are
learning to walk by faith?
See the first effect the trial had in the hearts of God’s people. We read in
Exodus 14:10: “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up
their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore
afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.”
The natural reaction of unbelievers is that when human reason fails, there is
panic in the heart.
I want you to see the difference between faith and human reasoning. When we come
into a crisis, human reasoning will panic, but faith remains steadfast and looks
to the Lord.
As they encountered this first severe trial, the Lord was teaching His church
that they could trust Him, and that they must live by faith and not by sight.
Why did the Lord bring them by the way of the Red Sea instead of taking the
shortcut to Canaan? If we are going to understand faith, the first good lesson
we are going to learn is that we can trust the Lord. It is not by walking by
sight, where we can see all the answers up front, and therefore we have the
solutions figured out, and we can go forward. The Lord brings us to where we can
trust Him in total, absolute impossibility, and this is where He brought the
children of Israel.
I want you to see Exodus 14:13-14: “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not,
stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to
day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more
for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” When they
cried to the Lord, He answered, and He sent Moses with this message.
The second lesson we learn from this trial is that the Lord commands us to go
forward in the face of human impossibilities. We read in verse 15: “And the LORD
said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of
Israel, that they go forward.”
It was not until their feet began to step into the water that the water started
to disappear in front of them. They had to go forward by faith into the water.
As they began to step forward, the waters divided before them, and they went
across on dry ground.
When they were across they looked back. We read in Exodus 14:31: “And Israel saw
that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the
LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.” When they had experienced
deliverance, they believed. Before they entered the water, they cried against
Our text says, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the
beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.”
They had no confidence until after they had crossed the water and could look
back. Moses had confidence before He crossed the water.
Now let us see the beginning of their confidence. We see this in Exodus 15:1-3:
“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake,
saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse
and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and
he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation;
my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his
The heart of the message is in Exodus 14:31-15:1: “And Israel saw that great
work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians.... Then sang Moses and the children
of Israel this song unto the LORD.”
They could not sing the song of deliverance until after they could look by sight
and see that the Lord had done it. Until then they murmured against Moses. They
could not believe until it had happened. The old saying is, Seeing is believing.
That is not faith.
Faith is believing then seeing. Their problem was that their beginning was not
until after they had seen. You and I must believe, and the beginning of our
confidence we must hold steadfast until we have seen.
FOR OUR SECOND POINT, let us consider why our confidence fails.
The children of Israel walked by sight, not by faith. It was not until they saw
that they believed.
It was not until after they saw God’s deliverance they could sing as Miriam and
her maidens danced saying: “The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall
take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be
amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the
inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away” (Exodus 15:14-15).
Look at the confidence they had when they could look back and see the Egyptians
on the shore. Their confidence seemed so strong in the beginning, but they
walked by sight, not by faith. They could not believe until they saw.
Our text says, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of
our confidence stedfast unto the end.” Our confidence must be before we see and
before we receive, not when we can look back and walk by sight, and see and then
Israel did not hold the beginning of their confidence unto the end because they
had already failed before their victory. Before their victory they murmured
against Moses and the Lord. In the beginning they had no confidence.
I want you to see this in Exodus 14:11-12: “And they said unto Moses, Because
there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?
wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not
this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us
alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to
serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.”
This is the lack of faith they had before they saw. That is the content of their
faith. Moses, however, believed before he saw. The children of Israel murmured
against the Lord and against Moses.
The evidence of their lack of faith was revealed just three days later at the
waters of Marah. We read in Exodus 15:24: “And the people murmured against
Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”
Moses acted by faith as we see in the next verse: “And he cried unto the LORD;
and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the
waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and
there he proved them.”
See the difference between what Moses did and what the children of Israel did.
The Lord brought them through these circumstances. Three days after this great
deliverance through the Red Sea they murmured against the Lord because the
circumstances the Lord brought them into again brought forth what was in their
hearts. Through these circumstances, He again proved them, that they had no
faith, that they were acting by unbelief.
God’s purpose for leading His people into these trials is to try their faith. It
is to prove them. It is to try their hearts and to see what is in their hearts.
He found their hearts to be just as they were before they crossed the Red Sea.
They could not believe until they saw.
The Lord tries our faith to prove whether we are walking by sight or by faith,
that we may “hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” In
other words, are we partakers of Christ? Can we lay hold of Him by faith and
believe before we see?
When we question whether the Lord is among us, we are tempting Him. When we
question whether we have grace or whether the Lord is with us, we are tempting
We see this in Exodus 17:7: “And he called the name of the place Massah, and
Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they
tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?”
How could they question whether the Lord was among them, when He had already
allowed them to cross the Red Sea through unbelief and let them see after the
fact that He was with them? By this unbelief they tempted the Lord.
Living in doubt and fear and what some call holy depression and holiness tempts
the Lord. The Lord says we are to hold our confidence steadfast unto the end.
Do you question whether there ever was a time when the Lord was with you? Could
the children of Israel question that the Lord was with them when they crossed
the Red Sea?
Our text is in context with the admonition to remember the example of Israel in
We read in Hebrews 3:13-15: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To
day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are
made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast
unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not
your hearts, as in the provocation.”
The Lord is saying not to tempt Him by questioning whether He is among us or
not. Faith lays hold on the fact that the Lord is with us, and we believe before
we see. The Lord was grieved that they did not hold the beginning of their
faith, of their confidence, steadfast to the end. It was grievous to the Lord
that in the first trial of their faith they again failed. They did not have
faith. They perished because of unbelief. That is the distinction. They could
always believe after they saw. They could not believe without seeing first.
They had such confidence when they saw His deliverance at the Red Sea. They saw
the healing of the waters of Marah. They saw the water flow from the rock on
Mount Horeb. They ate manna that came from heaven, yet they could question
whether the Lord was among them. They could not remain steadfast. They had no
confidence to look forward. After seeing all His mighty works, they still
tempted the Lord asking whether He was among them. This is the distinction we
must understand between faith and unbelief.
Our text says, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of
our confidence steadfast unto the end,” but the children of Israel did not have
faith to enter the Promised Land. After the Lord had led them through all these
years in the wilderness, and He had showed them deliverance after deliverance
and all these mighty works, they still questioned whether the Lord was among
them. That was their unbelief, and that is what made them perish in the
Ten of the 12 spies brought an evil report saying: “We be not able to go up
against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil
report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying,
The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the
inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great
stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the
giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their
sight” (Numbers 13:31-33).
After all these years and all these deliverances they would not trust that the
Lord was with them, and that He would deliver them. They still murmured against
FOR OUR THIRD POINT, let us consider the admonition to hold the beginning of our
confidence steadfast unto the end.
These things are written to admonish us against tempting Christ, saying, Is the
Lord among us or not?”
I want you to see in 1 Corinthians 10:9: “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some
of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”
He is bringing this into the gospel sense. We must see the distinction between
faith and unbelief. Are we willing and able to trust that Christ is among us or
will we give that sigh, as if depression were godliness, and feed on unbelief,
and the deeper we are in unbelief the deeper we experience the work of grace.
This is such mockery. This is not scriptural.
The Israelites tempted God by asking whether He was among them. They did this by
feeding unbelief instead of having the faith and the confidence to stretch
forward and lay hold upon Christ.
Continuing in verses 10 to 12 we read: “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also
murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened
unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the
ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take
heed lest he fall.”
We are told not to fall into that form of unbelief—that we have to wait until we
see before we can believe. The confidence we have to be partakers in Christ is
that we believe before we see.
All the trials and deliverances through which the Lord leads His people are to
build faith and steadfast trust in Him. When the Lord brought the children of
Israel to the Red Sea, He wanted them to trust Him.
The Lord brings us into circumstances to try our faith. Will we have confidence
in the beginning, before we see, or do we walk by sight?
When the people murmured against Moses and the Lord for bringing them out of
Egypt, after the evil report, we read in Numbers 14:5 and 11: “Then Moses and
Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the
children of Israel…. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people
provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which
I have shewed among them?”
How often they had seen, but nothing changed. Their problem was that they were
still going to believe after they saw, and now the Lord says no. Now if they
refuse to believe they will not enter the Promised Land.
I want you to see where faith and unbelief separate. By faith they should have
gone forward in obedience. By faith they should have taken up their arms as the
Lord commanded and gone in and taken possession of the Promised Land. However,
they murmured and disobeyed.
You do not separate faith from unbelief merely by a state of mind. The one is
action in obedience, and the other is action in disobedience. You cannot
separate faith from action. Faith is acting upon what you believe. Unbelief is
acting in the way of disobedience, and that is what the children of Israel did.
They disobeyed. The Lord said, Up, go forward, but they murmured and rebelled,
and did not go forward.
Moses believed, and he started forward, and as he started forward, they
followed. Moses had faith.
The Lord showed signs and wonders to the children of Israel for 40 years in the
wilderness. This was through their whole lives. Can you talk of any person in
Holy Writ who lived to see more experiences than the children of Israel? They
saw the 10 plagues on Egypt. They saw the Egyptians lying on the shore. They saw
water flow out of a rock. They saw the Rock that followed them, which was
Christ. For 40 years they ate manna in the wilderness.
They had many experiences, but how much salvation was in these experiences? I am
not against experiences because, believe me, I have had many rich experiences.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye
should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all
passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in
the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same
spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and
that Rock was Christ.”
However, if experiences become the foundation of our hope, we could be living by
sight and not by faith, and still not be able to retain our confidence from the
beginning because we had no confidence in the beginning. This is where the
children of Israel failed. They had no confidence until after they saw—and they
disobeyed, in spite of all their experiences.
This is where the Lord was grieved. He had given them all these rich
experiences, and they still refused to believe Him. They refused to go forward
and stop asking whether God was with them.
Faith looks back on past deliverances to “hold the beginning of our confidence
stedfast unto the end.”
I want to show you the other side of this principle. Let us see how faith is
exercised and how faith works. We will see a man who calls past experiences to
memory—in faith. I am not against experiences, because they can become the
foundation of our hope and the faith we need to stand the next trial. The
difference is that we believe before we see.
We read in 1 Samuel 17:37: “David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out
of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out
of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be
I want you to see the difference between David and the children of Israel. When
David took on that bear, he believed beforehand, or he would not have dared to
take the bear on. When he went to deliver a lamb out of the paw of a lion, he
believed God was going to deliver him before he did it. He had his confidence
before he saw that lamb delivered. If he had not, he would not have done it.
See how these two instances of deliverance become the foundation of his faith
for a greater deliverance. He knew that that same God was still with him and
would deliver him from Goliath. He looked back to these experiences for proof
that the Lord was still with him. This was evidence that he could fight Goliath.
Now we start to see where experiences have their proper place.
The opposite was true with the children of Israel. They were still concerned
whether their army could defeat the army of the Canaanites, who were bigger than
them. Yet, Goliath was bigger than David. Goliath had a coat of armor, a sword
and an armor bearer. David was a little stripling. All he had was his staff, a
sling and stones, yet he knew the Lord was with him.
We must take on Goliath because he is a type of the old man of sin. We must take
him on in the name of the Lord. Can we question whether the Lord is with us, and
then be able to fight Goliath? No. That is why it is so important that we
understand the difference between faith and unbelief. If we are going to fight
old Goliath with nothing more than a sling and a stone, and in the name of the
Lord, then we cannot question whether the Lord is with us. Now we must go
forward by faith. We must believe before we see, and then watch old Goliath
fall, and roll and tumble as we go. Now we can see that power of sin broken,
because we go in the name of the Lord.
After David had been anointed to be king, the Lord tried his faith to the end.
He was made to flee for his life until he sought refuge in the land of the
Faith endures the sharpest trial. Under no circumstances does faith give way to
not trust the Lord. When Ziklag was burned with fire, we read in 1 Samuel 30:6:
“And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because
the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his
daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”
These people who spoke of stoning David were the 600 men who followed him. They
followed him and lost their families. David did not plead for his life. Though
his heart was just as vexed as theirs, he encouraged himself in the Lord as he
remembered past incidences where the Lord delivered him. This was at a time when
all human reasoning came against him.
When we walk by faith, we trust the Lord and can sing His praises before the
Our text says, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of
our confidence stedfast unto the end.”
I want to go with you to 1 Samuel 30:6-7 and show you something the Lord used to
bless my soul. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of
stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his
sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me
hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.”
David did not move until the Lord told him what to do. We see in verse 8: “And
David inquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I
overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them,
and without fail recover all.”
Verses 9 and 10 tell us: “So David went, he and the six hundred men that were
with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those that were left behind stayed.
But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which
were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor.”
They wept until they had no more power to weep. They were so tired that 200 men
could not even cross the brook.
Continuing in verses11 to 19 we read: “And they found an Egyptian in the field,
and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him
drink water; And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of
raisins: and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten
no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. And David said unto
him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man
of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days
agone I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and
upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we
burned Ziklag with fire. And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to
this company? And he said, Swear unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me,
nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this
company. And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon
all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil
that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of
Judah. And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next
day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which
rode upon camels, and fled. And David recovered all that the Amalekites had
carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to
them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor
any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all.”
This was 36 hours of hand to hand combat. Look at the supernatural strength the
Lord gave David and those 400 men.
The Lord gave me such encouragement in these verses, showing me that He would
give me supernatural strength to be able to bear what He had laid upon me.
David encouraged himself in the Lord before he saw the deliverance. When we walk
by faith we can sing the songs of deliverance before we are delivered.
How could the children of Israel lose their confidence just three days after
they sang: “The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the
inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men
of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan
shall melt away”? (Exodus 15:14-15).
They walked by sight, not by faith. When they saw they sang, but when a trial
came they murmured.
When unbelief is harbored in your heart, murmuring and complaining is the sad
Have you ever hear people murmur? Have you ever heard people murmur against the
Lord, complaining, wondering if the Lord is with them?
Unbelief must be rooted out. It cannot simply be suppressed. It must be pulled
out by the roots. Unbelief is disobedience. Faith is obedience. The root of the
matter is to walk by faith, not by sight. It is as far apart as east is from the
west. Faith is believing and doing. Unbelief is murmuring and disobeying. You
cannot suppress unbelief and put faith on top of it.
We cannot “hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” if we had
no confidence from the beginning, so it is important to examine our beginning.
David could believe the Lord because he remembered all the signs the Lord had
given him. He remembered he had been anointed king, and he knew that what the
Lord promised He was able to perform. He knew he was going to be delivered, and
he acted upon it.
God’s Word tells us in James 1:6-7: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.
For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
Do not think that you will receive anything of the Lord when you do not believe
you are going to receive what you asked for. When you ask in unbelief and are
only reciting words, it is not going to happen.
I want you to turn with me to Hebrews 11, and we will see what faith is. Verse 6
tells us: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh
to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek him.”
David not only believed, but he turned to the Lord for the reward.
We read in Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our
faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the
shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured the cross before He was seated at the right hand of the Father.
That is faith. He obeyed before receiving the reward.
Faith is believing and trusting before we see.
After the Apostle Paul had suffered the loss of all things that he might win
Christ, he said in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I
live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the
flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for
I am not going to twist that to say “by faith in the Son of God,” as some
commentators have the gall to do. It is that imputed faith of Christ that makes
our faith saving faith.
Our text says in Hebrews 3:14: “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold
the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.”
The beginning of our confidence has to be that we trust the Lord before we see.
He wants us not only to obey Him, but He wants us to trust Him. That is what He
will prove by the circumstances He will bring us into, whether or not we are
willing to trust Him.
The grievousness was that after He had given the Israelites so many rich
experiences, and they had seen evidence so many times that the Lord was among
them, yet they would not trust Him.
I have heard the saying, Unless you have unbelief, you do not have the work of
grace. Well, I cannot find it in my Bible, and I will tell you something, The
poor man who is saying this does not understand what unbelief is, because it
would be hard to believe that anyone would say, Well, unless you disobey the
Lord you do not have grace.
Unbelief is absolute defiant, rebellion against God, and this is why the Lord
was grieved with the children of Israel. They rebelled when they were told to go
forward after they had seen all these different proofs that He was among them.
When David saw evidence that the Lord was with him, he did not need to see
before he could believe. David went forward with supernatural determination and