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 NIV
For the Jews in the original audience, Moses was one of, if not the, greatest figure in their history. Moses led them out of Egypt; mediated the covenant between Israel and God; was their lawgiver; built the Tabernacle; and led them up to the promised land. It would be hard to overstate the importance of Moses to the Jewish people. Yet, as the pastor teaches us here, he takes a back seat to Jesus.
A Translation Note
The newest version of the NIV attempts to be a bit more gender-neutral by replacing sons with ‘sons and daughters’ and brothers with ‘brothers and sisters’. While that is not what the text literally says, I do believe that the intent of the text is to include all believers, regardless of their gender. Previously Hebrews has referred to the sons and daughters who have been brought to glory (Heb. 2:10) and those called brothers and sisters by Jesus (Heb. 2:12). Now he identifies himself as one of them, calling his audience his brothers and sisters.
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
The author here makes it clear that he is not referring to family members after the flesh. He is writing to those who share in the heavenly calling. All believers, regardless of our backgrounds or current situation, share in the heavenly calling. We have a hope that transcends this world and all it has to offer. And any suffering we experience as we follow our Lord.
The author of Hebrews here calls on those of us who share that heavenly calling to fix our thoughts on Jesus. This mirrors what he says later on in Hebrews 12:2 and what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-4. Jesus should be the focus of our thoughts and lives. We have family relationships, jobs, and other obligations to attend to. But Jesus should be our highest priority. And even when we are engaged in these other necessary activities, we should be doing them with one eye looking to Jesus and the other on the task at hand. He should be our all in all.
Jesus as our High Priest has already been referenced (Heb. 2:17) and will be extensively discussed in the remainder of Hebrews. But Jesus is here also identified as our apostle. He was God’s messenger to us.
Jesus and Moses
The author of Hebrews compares Jesus to a number of different people as well as the angels. Here he is compared and contrasted with Moses. Later he will be compared with Melchizedek and the Jewish High Priest. He uses these comparisons to help us understand just who Jesus is and the role he plays in the redemption story.
Moses is the central character in Exodus through Deuteronomy and is mentioned over 100 times in the rest of the Old Testament as well as 85 times in the New Testament. While Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, Moses was the founder of the nation. God used Moses to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt. He brought them to the foot of Mt. Sinai and mediated the covenant between God and the people. He was the architect of the tabernacle and the lawgiver. He led Israel for 40 years, up to the border of the promised land. And he frequently interceded with God on behalf of the people.
Moses was not just a man that God used in creating a nation out of the enslaved descendants of Abraham. He was also one who had a very unique relationship with God. In Exodus 33:11 we are told that “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” and in Numbers 12:8 God says of Moses, “With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.” Moses was a messiah figure to Israel. One who had a unique face-to-face relationship with God, unlike anyone else in the Old Testament this side of the Garden.
Jesus and Moses Compared and Contrasted
The author begins here by sharing what Jesus and Moses have in common. They were both faithful to what they had been appointed to do. Moses was faithful to God as the builder of God’s house, his people. While Jesus was faithful as the Son over God’s house. They were appointed to fill different roles. But they were both faithful to their calling.
After affirming the faithfulness of both Moses and Jesus, the author here contrasts the roles found in a wealthy home containing household servants. There is a certain amount of honor that comes with serving in the home, especially for the household manager. But that honor is less than what is given to the owner of the house and his family. The home being described here is the house of God. Moses was a servant in the home. But Jesus was the Son of the owner. And, as the Son, Jesus is found to have greater honor than Moses.
The intent of this is not to denigrate Moses in any way. He was an extremely important figure in the redemption history we have recorded in the Bible. But Moses was only preparing the way for Jesus, the Son. And, now that the Son has come, our attention should be on him and what he did rather than on Moses. We can honor Moses for what he did. But we should realize that he was just pointing the way to the Son. And now our focus should be on the Son.
One of the primary concerns of the author of Hebrews is that his audience, potentially the local church he serves, is in danger of turning from their faith in Christ. Turning back to their old way of life under the Law. Much of what he says throughout this letter identifies Jesus as superior to their former practice. And by doing so he is trying to encourage them not to abandon the superior for the inferior.
The author does not express faith in Christ, or Christianity, as being distinct from Judaism. To him, they had not converted from Judaism to Christianity. Rather, Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament had looked forward to. Moses, the tabernacle, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the prophets all were looking ahead. And now that time had arrived. Jesus did not come to found a new religion. He came to bring to completion what was started by Moses at Sinai. Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament pointed to.
Hold Firmly Onto Your Hope
This passage has repeatedly referenced God’s house without ever explicitly defining it until now. But now we are told that we are God’s house. House here is not referring to a physical structure. Instead, it is referring to God’s people. So who are the people that the author refers to? In the first verse of this chapter, he refers to his holy brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling. And I believe that is who the ‘we’ is in this sentence; those who share in the heavenly calling.
This sentence is the first of many warnings to the author’s audience to remain faithful. And this is really just the beginning of an extended warning that runs through the remainder of this chapter. We are God’s house ‘if’. If we hold firmly to our confidence. And if we hold firmly to the hope in which we glory. The implication here is that we can fail to hold firmly to those things. That we can turn our backs on our walk with Christ. And that if we do, we are not a part of God’s house.
This passage, and many more like it in Hebrews, are challenging to those who would hold to a simple conversion experience being all that is required for salvation. And this will be discussed more in later posts. But it is worth pointing out here that this verse does not say that we can lose our salvation. Rather, it is those who hold firmly to their confidence and hope who are his house. I would understand this to say that if we fail to hold firmly, then we were not a part of his house.
- Hebrews: An Introduction
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4)
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4)
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9)
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19)
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11)
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13)
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16)
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10)
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3)
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12)
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20)
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28)
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6)
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13)
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10)
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15)
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28)
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18)
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39)
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31)