Hebrews 3: 1-6

Jimmy JoHebrews, SermonsLeave a Comment

Our passage today is Hebrews 3:1-6.  It reads: 

1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 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,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Hebrews 3: 1-6

Now last week, we introduced the idea that there is a repeated pattern throughout much of Hebrews where the author makes a theological assertion and then follows that with a section of scriptural proofs (though “proofs” is probably the wrong term).  Some biblical commentators describe this as a pattern of “exposition” followed by “exhortation.”

So what we have today is the “exposition” part.  And this quite obviously follows after the passage we looked at last week (I mean, logically – not sequentially, which obviously doesn’t need to be said).  So with that in mind, it makes equally obvious sense to begin with the “therefore.”  In v. 1, the author says: 

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Hebrews 3:1

The “Therefore,” connects us to last week’s passage.  And if we recall, last week’s passage had to do with Jesus’ superiority to angels.  Specifically, the author demonstrated that Jesus is superior to angels because angels are meant to serve human beings (from 1:14), and Jesus is the pre-eminent human being, the fullness of what it means to be human (2:9).  Again, we read that angels are meant to serve human beings, and therefore human beings are superior to angels.  Jesus is the pre-eminent human being; therefore, Jesus is superior to angels. 

Now the larger point that the author is trying to make is that Jesus’ (true) humanity is what enables Him to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.  And by this same sacrifice, by Jesus’ death on the cross, He proves Himself superior and sufficient and is thereby glorified (2:17,18). 

And I think it is this idea of Jesus’ glorification, by virtue of His sacrifice for us, which is made possible by His becoming truly and fully human, that the author has in mind when he continues his argument, “Therefore…” 

In other words, the author wants us to keep in mind (Or “consider,” following the ESV, NASB, NRSV, and the NKJV) the perfect work of Jesus.  Reflect on it, contemplate it.  And with this in mind, in our passage today, the author presents us with another comparison.  We read that Jesus is not only greater than angels, but is here greater than Moses. 

Earlier, we posited (though this is a guess on my part) that the author uses angels as a point of comparison because angels may be considered at the top of the spiritual hierarchy – perhaps there are even those in the community who are worshiping or otherwise honoring angels. 

Here, we can probably reasonably assume that there are those in the community who likewise consider Moses at the top of the human hierarchy.  Now this may pick up on the idea raised in the previous passage where Jesus is the superior human being.  But I think here, the author is demonstrating Jesus’ superiority, specifically in some hierarchy of heroes of faith in the history of Israel.  And so, the author, in demonstrating once again the superiority and sufficiency of Jesus, states that Jesus is greater than Moses. 

Now when considering Jesus’ superiority to angels, we might say that the comparison had to do with status, position, or the order of created things.  But here the specific criteria the author has in mind is faithfulness.  He says, “He [Jesus] was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.”  And faithfulness isn’t about status or position in the created order, but rather has more to do with character.  We might also say that it has to do with calling – or how Jesus lives out His God-calling. 

According to the author, Moses’ faithfulness had to do with being part of God’s household.  Moses was the leader of Israel, but he was part of Israel.  And as part of Israel, one might argue or assume, Moses was the most faithful of God’s household (at least for the purposes of this argument). 

But Jesus is faithful as the one who builds or establishes the house – builds or establishes Israel.  Therefore, Jesus’ responsibility – and therefore his faithfulness – exceeds that of Moses.  The author also tells us that Moses’ faithfulness is in his role as a servant.  But Jesus’ faithfulness flows out of his identity as the Son.  That is, a servant is appointed – one is made a servant.  But one is a Son by virtue of birth.  So we might also infer that Jesus’ faithfulness is a faithfulness not just to his duties, but in His very identity – He is faithful not just in what He has to do, but in who He is. 

So the argument here is pretty straightforward in as far as it goes – as we’ve outlined, Jesus is greater than Moses because He is greater in His faithfulness.  But what does faithfulness mean in this context?  When the author says that Moses was faithful – and that Jesus’ faithfulness was greater – what does he have in mind?  Unfortunately, the author doesn’t really elaborate – he doesn’t give us much detail on the substance of faithfulness here.  He does tell us (v. 5) that Moses was a faithful servant, specifically in pointing to God’s future promises, but we don’t get more detail than that.  However, in seeking to flesh this out, we can make some inferences.  We can remember that Moses’ venerated position in Israel was because of his role in delivering the people out of Egypt and leading them to the promised land (of course there are other aspects of this – for example, Moses’ unique relationship with God; his role, therefore, as lawgiver – but this is likely the main thing).  This is how Moses was God’s servant.  And if we consider Moses’ role as liberator (out of Egypt) and pioneer (into Canaan), faithfulness is precisely the thing. 

Remember how Moses, when first called by God, did not want to obey.  He thought that he didn’t have enough status to speak to Pharaoh; he thought that he wouldn’t be charismatic or compelling enough to convince the Israelites; he thought that he couldn’t be eloquent enough or impressive enough.  He begged God to choose someone else.  But in the end, he obeyed.  Moses stepped out (in faith) to stand up to Pharaoh.  Moses stepped out (in faith) to lead God’s people out of Egypt.  Moses continued in faith through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness due to a rebellious and stiff-necked people.  And Moses eventually brought the people of God to the promised land.  Through all of this, Moses continued to seek God, continued to obey God, to follow God, even though the people wanted to seek anything else. 

Jesus was similarly faithful to go where God wanted Him to go.  He led a group of twelve who continually misunderstood who He was and what He was called to do.  He preached to a people who thought they knew everything already and refused to recognize the divinity and calling of Jesus.  He went to the cross because of this same people.  Jesus was faithful to go to the cross, even when the people (us) deserved something far different.  In all of this, Jesus demonstrated His faithfulness to God the Father – to the Father’s plans, to the Father’s purposes.  And because He was faithful to the Father, through Jesus, God demonstrates His faithfulness to us. 

Again, we don’t know if this (or something like this) is exactly what the author of Hebrews had in mind.  But we know that, at least in these things and in these ways, both Moses and Jesus demonstrated their faithfulness.  And because of Moses’ faithfulness, the people of Israel were freed from Egypt and led to the promised land.  But Jesus’ faithfulness is far greater.  Because His faithfulness leads us into true life.  Again, the author of Hebrews says: 

“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future.

Hebrews 3:5

“What would be spoken…in the future,” is the final fulfillment, the consummation.  What would be spoken is life in Christ. 

Now the final verse of this passage leads us directly into the passage we will look at next time.  Verse 6 tells us: 

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Hebrews 3: 6

It’s the latter part of this verse that I want to call your attention to.  The phrase, “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory,” transitions us into a conversation and warning, in the immediately following verses which we will look at next week, about precisely how Israel was not faithful.  That is, hold firmly to our confidence and hope, and (in the next verses) do not be like Israel who did not. 

In other words, Moses was faithful, Christ’s faithfulness is greater still.  Therefore, in response, you, the community of God, be faithful.  And as I said, we’ll explore that aspect more next time. 

But inasmuch as we consider our verses today, we are reminded that Christ is superior (here, than Moses).  We are reminded that Christ is sufficient to lead us out of sin and death and into new life.  We are reminded to put our faith in Him alone because there is no other.  And again, we theorized that this argument needs to be made precisely because the audience is looking to someone or something else, just like the Israelites had such a history of doing. 

And that begs the question, in what or in whom do we place our trust?  Who or what do we think is superior and sufficient?  Who do we think is the pre-eminent human being?  What kind of person or people do we find admirable or praiseworthy?  What qualities are important to us?  And is faithfulness one of those qualities?

A quick glance at the world around us tells us that the things that are important to society at large, the things that are important to us, are often not the things that the bible tells us are truly admirable or praiseworthy.   

And I’m not talking about particular persons or specific institutions.  I’m talking about the qualities in those persons or institutions (or whatever).  So we may admire a particular celebrity because they are attractive or charismatic.  We may admire a particular athlete because they are strong or fast or agile.  Maybe it’s a particular politician that we admire because they are eloquent or powerful or effective.  Or we might admire all of these people because of their status or because of their wealth.

Perhaps admire particular institutions because they of their growth or their scope.  A particular organization, for example, might have reach into most every country in the world.  We might be attracted to its branding and how it makes us feel or how it makes us look.  There’s a whole community or culture around owning an Apple instead of a PC, for example.  Or Nike people vs. Reebok people.  Why are some folks Ford people and others Chevy people?  Or Mercedes people vs. BMW people?  People who own Jeeps are also notoriously elitest and weird. 

And of course, we see this in churches as well.  We think that certain kinds of churches are admirable or praiseworthy.  It might be because of their size or growth; it might be because of their programs; it might be because of their leaders. 

And once again, none of these things are inherently bad or necessarily bad.  It’s not a bad thing to grow, or to be successful, or to be effective.  But what about faithfulness?  Where does faithfulness fit in the list of things we look up to, the things we long to emulate?  Do we admire those who demonstrate a long obedience in the same direction?  Do we fix our eyes on those who are faithful and long to be faithful ourselves? 

Holy brothers and sisters, I exhort you to fix your thoughts on Jesus, on Jesus alone.  I exhort all of us.  Let us fix our thoughts on He who was faithful to the Father in order to restore us to Him.  And may the faithfulness of Christ encourage us to be faithful in response. 

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