Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 10, Number 14, March 30 to April 5 2008

Hebrews 3:1-6

A Sermon

By Scott Lindsay

This morning we continue in our study of the Letter to the Hebrews, starting with the beginning of chapter three, and working through to vs 6 of that same chapter. In our introductory look at this letter, we saw that the overall message of the book could be summarized like this: Hold on to Jesus, God's Supreme Word, God's Only Son, and our High Priest.

The reason for that message is because the people to whom this letter was first written were NOT holding on to Jesus and had begun to drift away from where they started in the faith. Some had already gone, apparently, and others were being tempted to follow in their steps and return to the Judaism from which so many of them had come. In the process of doing that, these same people were either being urged or frightened - or both - into adopting a lesser, diminished view of who Jesus really is and, along with that, an exaggerated view of angels.

And so, with that problem in mind, the writer of Hebrews sets about trying to stop the drift. The way that he has gone about doing that is to keep Jesus center stage - which is always a good place to start - and then to show the uniqueness and superiority of Jesus to anything that they might be tempted to abandon him for.

Thus far, we have been looking intently at the first section of the letter - chapter 1:1 through 4:13. In this section, the writer shows us how Jesus is God's final sufficient word and, as such, is distinct from and superior to all the prophets that had come before. The writer has also shown how Jesus is distinct from the angels and how he could not have been merely another one of them or even a very special one of them because he stands head and shoulders above them - in every conceivable way.

The writer then showed us how Jesus' incarnation, suffering and death should not raise any doubts about Jesus on this score because God's plans and purposes for Jesus are all wrapped up with his plans and purposes for us - which meant that Jesus had to become like us and he had to suffer and he had to die. This was not a glitch in the plan. It was the plan all along.

In the verses before us this morning, the writer takes this comparison a step or two further, showing how Jesus is not just distinct and superior to the prophets in general, and to the angels in general, but he is also superior to the greatest prophet of all - to Moses in particular and even to Joshua, who succeeded Moses. Chapter 3, verses 1-6, starts us down this road. Before we look more closely at that - let's pray together......

Read Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

Now in these verses, the writer wants his readers, as he says in verse 1, to consider Jesus. Following this request, there are at least four reasons - and probably more - why they should do so. The first reason is found in verse 1, and is really just a summary of what has already been said in the letter up to this point. ".....consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession..."

Now it is interesting that the writer here refers to Jesus as an "apostle." In fact, this is the only place in the entire Bible where it happens. The likely reason for this one-of-a-kind reference, at this particular point, is because of his subject matter. In the verses just preceding, the writer of Hebrews has been talking about Jesus in priestly terms and, in fact, as the high priest - which would call to mind the historical figure of Aaron.

Now he is turning his attention to Moses - another important historical figure, but not because he was a high priest. Moses was important to Israel as their first and great prophet. However, he was more than just a prophet. He was a deliverer. God sent him to accomplish a very important task - to deliver his people from their bondage to slavery. So, while Moses' work was certainly prophetic, it was more than that.

Well, the work and ministry of Moses is one of the many things in the Old Testament which prefigure - or point beyond themselves - to Christ and his work. So, the writer of Hebrews, in asking us to "consider Jesus" has this sort of thing in mind. Jesus' work and ministry, like that of Moses, was more than just prophetic. He too was a sent person - sent to accomplish a mission - only in an infinitely greater fashion. In the New Testament, this is precisely the sort of meaning that is associated with the term apostle.

So, by referring to Jesus as the apostle of our confession, the writer is simply pointing to the "sent" nature of Jesus' life. Now precisely what he was sent to accomplish we saw clearly last week, and is found here within the other part of his designation as "the high priest of our confession". He was sent to do the priestly work of reconciling Holy God with sinful man.

As a result, in using the language that he does in verse 1, the writer is not only recalling everything he has already said about Jesus, but he is making a link between the prophetic work of old and the apostolic work that was going on all around them - and tying all these together in the person of Jesus - whom they were now confessing to be Lord.

Now, the author will go on from here to provide further reasons why his readers should "consider Jesus," but before we look at those, I think it is worth simply pointing out the on-going value of this instruction for Christians in our own day. Because that is the aspect of what is said here, that is one of the most significant - the fact that he gives it to Christians, to those that he refers to as "holy brothers" and as those who "share in a heavenly calling".

He is telling the Christian recipients of this letter to consider Jesus. Of course, this is precisely what they need to do because of the fact that some had drifted away, and others were being tempted to do the same. So, in that circumstance, the writer urges them to stop and take a long, hard look at Jesus before they walk away - to think about what they are doing, and look at the Scriptures, and see if it makes any sense to abandon Jesus for something else.

So this is great pastoral direction for people in that sort of circumstance - for people who are being drawn away from Jesus, for people who are being tempted to let go of some things, to give in to the pressure to adopt a diminished view of Christ. People in such a circumstance don't need to look less at Jesus, they need to look more. And they need to look harder.

If that is what is needed for those who are being tempted to turn away, how much more significant and valuable would this sort of thing be for believers who were not being led away? In other words, the prescription "consider Jesus" should not only be a reactive response, it should be a pro-active response. Thinking about Christ, reflecting on his person and work — these things are the proper occupation of believers in every circumstance and are both curative and preventative.

As for how we are to go about doing these things - there are all sorts of ways that this can happen. Simply reading the Gospels is the best place to start. Keeping the life of Christ regularly before you, in your mind and heart, is a great privilege that we have and is the best way to "consider Christ" and to keep considering Christ. There is simply no substitute for setting aside time to sit down and read and to saturate yourself with the person and work of Christ - as seen in the Gospels.

In addition to that, and along with that, we can talk to God about the very things we are reading. The exercise of prayer helps us in our listening to God through the Scriptures because it forces us to summarize and conceptualize the very things we are reading - even if all we are doing is forming a question. In other words, the prayer that accompanies our reading helps us to pay attention to what we are seeing.

More importantly, however, prayer is a means of grace by which and through which we acknowledge our dependence upon God, and, in so doing, ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth and to illumine us and give us understanding and insight into spiritual truths that are only available to those who belong to Christ (cf.1 Cor. 2:11-15)

A further help in "considering Jesus" is through memorizing Scripture. Taking the time to commit to memory particular portions of the Bible can be a great help in "considering Jesus", especially for all those moments when you do not actually have a Bible in front of you - or available to you - which, for most people, is a great deal of the time - even most of the time.

Another great way to consider Jesus, and to keep him before you, is to talk with unbelievers about him. In the process of doing that, you will have countless opportunities to explain him, to respond to questions about him that have never occurred to you, to find new ways, new illustrations, new analogies that help to communicate him to people in language and forms that make sense to them. Of course, we do not, in the first instance, share Jesus with others merely as a tool for personal reflection - we do it because that is our commission and it is their greatest need. However, the reality is that reflecting upon Jesus is an inevitable by-product of telling others about him.

Now, in addition to considering Jesus because he is, in fact, the apostle and high priest of our confession, we see another reason for considering him in Heb 3:2: he was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. The writer of Hebrews did not need to convince his readers that Moses was an important person. That was not a hard sell - indeed, it was not a "sell" at all. It was a given. Nobody doubted Moses' worth and faithfulness to God. If Moses' faithfulness to fulfill the commission given to him was worthy of their consideration and respect, do they not owe Jesus at least the same respect? After all, in fulfilling his prophetic and apostolic and priestly roles he was simply doing the same thing that Moses was doing - only on a greater scale - He was being faithful to the God who appointed him to those very tasks.

However, the writer wants to say more than that. He is not just saying that they should give equal time to Jesus, or that they should at least keep Jesus and Moses in the same place together. No, he goes straight away to make the further point that while both Moses and Jesus were faithful to God, Jesus, is to be counted worthy of more glory than Moses. Why? The reason is given in verses 3 and 4,

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses - as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)
Simply put, Jesus is worthy of more honor because while Moses was a faithful servant IN all of God's house; Jesus was faithful in both CREATING God's house and in presiding OVER it. Now the word "house" here refers to "the sphere of Moses' and Jesus' stewardship," as Hughes puts it. With regard to Moses, we see in Numbers 12:7 that this is precisely how the people of Israel were referred to - as God's house. Later on, in places like 1 Peter 2:4-6 and Ephesians 2:19-21, this same sort of architectural language is used in the New Testament to refer to the people of God.

So, the point, at the very least, is that while Moses was part of God's house, and a faithful servant of it, Jesus is the one who is the builder of the house. Because God is the builder/creator of all things, and because Jesus is one with God the Father, then this is the inevitable conclusion that the writer of Hebrews wants his readers to come to.

Imagine that you are standing inside a magnificent home that has just been completed by some expert builder and craftsman. Throughout its numerous rooms, everywhere you look, there are signs of great skill and attention to detail. And as you are standing there next to the builder, a third person comes into the room where you are, takes a quick look around, and then walks over to a cabinet door and begins to comment on how amazing the doorknob on the cabinet is. He talks about how perfectly designed it seems, and how it is just the right size, and how perfectly smooth and polished it is, and how firmly attached it seems to be, etc. The person just goes on and on and on about this silly doorknob - staring at it, commenting on it, even seemingly talking to it and praising it for how wonderful it is.

Of course, the entire time this is going on, there you are standing next to the builder, perplexed, embarrassed, and amused. All around you is this enormous, amazing house, and the person responsible for every aspect of it - not just for the amazing doorknob - that person is standing right next to you. Yet this curious stranger seems to be oblivious to all that and just goes right on ahead, heaping praise and honor upon the doorknob.

Now, of course, that is a silly illustration and I would like very much to believe that none of us has ever been in circumstances quite that ridiculous. However, as ridiculous as that seems, this is very much what was going on with some of the original recipients of this letter. They were turning away from Jesus and going back to Moses and, in the process, were acting very much like the person who makes a big deal about a very tiny feature of a massive house, but has nothing to say to the builder who was responsible for that one feature as well as every other feature of the house.

But such a thing just does not make any sense. This is the point being made by the writer of this letter. If Moses - who was certainly faithful - is worthy of glory, then Jesus is worthy of far greater glory. Moses was faithful IN and even TO God's house. His role within the "house" of God was important but, as compared to the entirety of what God has been doing, it was only a small part - like a doorknob on a cabinet. So Moses was a doorknob - and he was a great doorknob. A doorknob for which we are all thankful. He was a great part of God's house. However, at the end of the day, he was only a part. Jesus was responsible for there even being a house in the first place. So, Jesus is worthy of greater honor.

Now having said all this, it is important to take note of the way in which the author refers to Moses here. He says in verse 2 that Moses was faithful. He implies, in verse 3, that Moses was deserving of some degree of glory, honor and respect. He goes on to say, again, in verse 5 that Moses was a faithful servant among the people of God.

In other words, the author elevates Jesus - but not at the expense of Moses. He does not demonstrate Jesus' superiority by tearing Moses down or detracting from him. He simply makes the point that, as great as Moses was, Jesus is far greater. However, he still values Moses, and he desires his readers to value Moses. He wants them to still see Moses as the agent of God's revelation that he was. He wants them to still value the law and the commandments that God gave through Moses, His servant.

This is an important observation not only for God's people, but for the Church in our own day. Many believers in our own day have what amounts to an inadequate and, ultimately, unbiblical understanding of how the law which God delivered through Moses, relates to the Gospel; which God also accomplished and proclaimed through Jesus. Whole theologies have been developed around these two things which, in the end, leave the impression that God suffers from some sort of cosmic, historical schizophrenia - not really sure how he is going to work out his plans and purposes.

In these sorts of theologies grace is talked about a great deal, and there is certainly much honor and praise given to Christ - as there should be - but in the end their elevation of Christ and his Gospel comes at the expense of other things. It comes, chiefly, at the expense of the larger biblical framework out of which the Gospel arises, and in which there is DEFINITELY an on-going place for the law delivered thru Moses - not as a means of salvation (which it never was anyway) but as a rule of life, as permanent evidence of the sorts of things God will love (and hate) to see in the lives and hearts of his own people, as a lasting testimony to what God will always regard as loving behavior - toward Him and toward one's neighbor.

So, for the original recipients of this letter, and for us as well, the challenge is to maintain a proper and exalted view of Christ, but to not do it in a way which disparages Moses, and the revelation that came through him. Indeed, the importance of this is seen even more clearly when we think about the third and final reason for "considering Christ" to be found in these verses - namely this: That whereas Moses was a faithful servant who testified of things that were to be spoken later, Jesus was a faithful SON, who was the very one that Moses' entire ministry and message was a testimony to.

Now, as I suggested, there is a certain amount of overlap between this and the previous point, but the thing to be highlighted from this is simply the relationship between Moses' work as a servant and Jesus' work. To be sure, Jesus was also, in a very real sense, a "servant" - he was, in fact, the servant - the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He was the one who came, not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many - as Mark's Gospel tells us.

Nevertheless, while he was a servant, he was also much more, he was and is God's Son. In other words, he is the Lord of the Manor, so to speak, the master of the house in which Moses served so faithfully. And part of Moses service was to testify - to be a signpost for Christ, who was yet to come, but whose ministry would completely line up with and fulfill all that Moses ministry initiated. This is the Jesus who, when he came, stood in Mosaic fashion on the side of a mountain and said,

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.....
In short, then, the people who were abandoning Jesus for Moses, and by that I mean going back to their former Judaism, but in taking that step, these people were implying that what those two were on about were different things; they were acting as if somehow Moses and Jesus were at cross-purposes with each other. Nevertheless, as these verses explain, and as this last point highlights, nothing could be further from the truth. Moses was a servant in the House of God, Jesus was the Son who built and then served and who now rules over the House of God - but it was the same house. Moses and Jesus were not on opposing teams, they were on the same team, working on the same task, working toward the same purpose, under the sovereign authority of the one, true, and living God.

Those who were abandoning Jesus for Moses demonstrated by their actions that they did not have the faintest idea what either one of them was saying. If they had understood, then they would see that it was not a case of either/or. It was a case of both/and, with Moses receiving his due, to be sure, but with Jesus being given the greater honor and glory that belong to him, and him alone.

Even though the Hebrews were being tempted and tried, they were not beyond help, nor were they beyond hope. As vs 6 says,

....but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house IF indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope...
In other words, the house over which Jesus presides as Son, and in which Moses worked as a servant is an open house. It is open and available to all those who place their full confidence in what Christ has done. It is open to all those for whom their only "boast" is to boast in what Jesus has accomplished - Jesus the high priest who has reconciled God and man in himself. Jesus who fulfilled the law that Moses could only announce.
That is the ground of our hope.
That is our confidence.
That is our boast.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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