How to Persevere in the Faith, part 2 (Hebrews 3:1b-3)

The author of the book of Hebrews is very concerned about his congregation and the possibility that they may not persevere in the faith—that they might turn back to the familiar and comfortable arms of Judaism.

All of us face this possibility too—not returning to Judaism, but going back to our old life.  Paul tells us to “put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man” (Ephesians 4:22), but that old life has a magnetic draw.  Many of our old friends still live that way.  It seemed so fun.

Peter (2 Peter 2:20-22) says…

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

It may sound like these people have lost or forfeited their salvation, but in reality their nature never changed.  The dog and pig are acting in accordance with their true nature.  These people obviously had some moral reformation of their lives, but becoming entangled in the old life so that “the last state has become worse for them than the first” shows that they had never been born again and given a new nature.

So the author of Hebrews is concerned.  He starts out in Hebrews 1 reminded these Christians of who they were

1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling,

And we talked about that last week.  Now our author focuses on the key thought.  We not only need to think accurately about our new nature, but we need to think accurately about Jesus Christ.

We don’t just need to have the right theological understanding of who Christ is, but we need to fix our thoughts on Jesus Christ.

consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 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. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 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.

Consider Jesus—that is the focal point of this paragraph.  We are to stay focused on Him.  This imperative carries with it the full apostolic weight.

The Greek word here is katanoein.  It is an intensified expression of thinking, applying the mind.  “It does not mean simply to look at or to notice a thing.  Anyone can look at a thing or even notice it without really seeing it.  The word means to fix the attention on something in such a way that its inner meaning, the lesson it is designed to teach, may be learned.” (Barclay) 

There are no less than eleven Greek words in the NT all rendered “consider,” four of them being simple ones; seven, compounds.  The one employed by the Holy Spirit in Heb 3:1 signifies to thoroughly think of the matter, so as to arrive at a fuller knowledge of it.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 154)

It means to give consistent, concentrated attention and deepest regard to Jesus Christ.  It means considering Him deeply and thoughtfully.  One author says, “To attentively weigh His dignity, His excellency, His authority, to think of what is due to Him.”

We live in a world that is so easily distracted.  It is hard to give 10 seconds of serious, concentrated thought to anything.  We are bombarded with information and we have learned to skim it.  We don’t know anything deeply; we know a little (a very little) about a lot of things.  We think we know a little about a lot of things.

This word is the exact opposite.  Considering Jesus requires focus over time.  It is not a momentary glance, but a lingering gaze.  And it is the key to perseverance in the Christian life.

Keep your attention focused on Jesus!

Here is the simple principle:  The successful perseverance of the Christian is the consequence of a steady preoccupation with Jesus Christ.

Don’t keep your eyes on yourself.  Don’t put your eyes back on Moses.  Keep focused on Jesus.

There are really two ways to apply this to our lives.  One is negative, it is what we should keep our minds away from.  We must stay away from having as our model anyone other than Christ.  Don’t put your focus on your pastor, or a Christian celebrity.  We can be encouraged by them, but it is not our goal to be like them or to put our hope in them.  They will likely disappoint us.

But the positive side is this—not what we must not do, but what we must do.  That is to explore the depths of Jesus Christ, to see and savor everything about Jesus Christ, making Him the burning center of our hope and our life. 

Everything in life will try to keep you from fixing your attention on Jesus.  Sports, grades, boyfriends, our kids, a better job.  The Bible says, fixate on knowing Christ and learning how much more valuable and pleasing and sweet He is than anything else.

John Piper says it like this: “If your mind is like a compass moving through a world of magnets, making it spin this way and that, make Jesus the North Pole of your mental life that your mind comes back to again and again through the day” (“Jesus Worthy of More Glory Than Moses”).

Focusing on Jesus this way begins with desire.  This is what David said in Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”  Paul expressed his desire in a passionate prayer: “I count everything as loss . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:8–10).

But desire is followed by concentration, of applying the mind in dedicated attention.

A brilliant mathematician, Norbert Wiener, was walking across the campus of MIT.  He was so absorbed in thought that when a student greeted him, he failed to respond.  But after a few steps he turned and said, “Pardon me, could you tell me which way I came from?”  The student pointed and answered, “That way, sir!”  “Thanks,” said the prof.  “Now I know I’ve had lunch!”  This is extreme, to be sure, but no one’s thoughts can be said to be fixed without concentration. And no one will ever learn anything about the subject being considered without it.  Isaac Newton said the key to his understanding was, “I keep it before me.”

The third element involved here is discipline.  We’ve got to keep at it.  God’s Word (through which we know Christ) will only yield its riches to those who persist in disciplined meditation.  It will take time, therefore it will take discipline.

These are the people who stand fast in the Christian life.  These are the ones who are not given to extreme highs or extreme lows.  These are the people in it for the long haul, who endure to the end.

They are not turned aside by the seduction and allurements and enchantments of the world, not because they are less susceptible to temptation than you and I, not because fate has given them a better marriage or a better job or better finances, but because they are steadily preoccupied with Jesus Christ.

There is no mystical “secret” to the Christian life.  It is simply training our minds consistently upon Jesus Christ.

We need to remember who we are, but we need to focus our attention and affection upon Jesus Christ.

And then he gives us three reasons why Jesus Christ (not Moses) should be the object of our steady preoccupation.

First, because Jesus Christ is our faithful apostle and high priest.

We should keep our focus on Jesus because He meets our two basic needs.  We need a word from God and way to God. We need revelation from God and we need reconciliation with God. And the point of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is both. This is why verse 1 ends with two descriptions of Jesus: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”

“Apostle” means “sent one,” sent from God to us with His Word.  He brings us our “heavenly calling.”  Jesus repeatedly describes himself (over ten times in John’s writings alone) as being sent by the Father into the world. Jesus is “the first apostle, the great apostle, the source of all apostleship” (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), p. 127).  Yes, Moses was sent by God, but Jesus is the apostle par excellence. Jesus was sent on a mission and the cross and resurrection meant that the mission was accomplished.

As “high priest” he is the mediator between God and man, offering sacrifice to bring us to God.  Jesus is also the “high priest” par excellence. Because he was perfectly human and perfectly divine, he can relate to both man and God.  Thus, He can perfectly mediate between God and man.

We saw back in Hebrews 2:17

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Jesus came in a human body, allowing Him to die in our behalf, to “make propitiation” or to “satisfy” the wrath of God against my sins.

Moses performed part of the role of a priest by interceding for the people, but never could do anything to satisfy God’s anger against them.  Moses himself was a fallen man.

John Piper says…

So what the writer is saying is: You Christians, you who share in the calling of God from heaven to heaven, you have great confidence that you have heard from God (through your apostle) and you have great hope that you are going to God, loved and reconciled and secure, you Christians consider Jesus, think about Jesus, meditate on Jesus, listen to Jesus.  Why?  Because he is the Apostle from heaven who brought you your calling.  And he is the final, once for all High Priest of God whose sacrifice of himself reconciled you to God and guarantees your homecoming to heaven. Consider Jesus, God’s Apostle—the final word from God—and God’s High Priest—the final way to God. (“Jesus Worthy of More Glory Than Moses”)

So, our author is telling us to consider Jesus, specifically in comparison to Moses, this great man in Israel’s history.

Have you thought much about Jesus as your “faithful apostle and high priest?”

John Brown of Edinburgh, a puritan in the 19th century, wrote:

It is because we think so little about Him, that we love Him so little, trust in Him so little, so often neglect our duty, are so much influenced by “things seen and temporal,” and so little by “things unseen and eternal.”

Jesus was “faithful” as an apostle and high priest from the time he was 12 years old, throughout his earthly ministry and to the last moment on the cross.  He could declare, “It is finished!  I’ve accomplished it.  I’ve faithfully finished what you sent me to do.”

Yes, there are some similarities between Moses and Jesus.  Both were faithful, but the magnitude and meaningfulness of Jesus’ faithfulness was so much greater.

Moses was an apostle and priest, but an imperfect shadow of all that Jesus Christ would accomplish as the apostle and priest par excellence.  This is why he says in verse 3: “Jesus is worthy of greater honor than Moses.”

Remember, he is writing to believers tempted to take their eyes off Jesus and go back to Judaism.  Brilliantly he takes the best guy Judaism had to offer and shows how inferior He was to Jesus.

First of all, he shows the similarity between Jesus and Moses and then he shows the superiority of Jesus over Moses.

Look at it.

“He [Jesus] was faithful to Him [God the Father] who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.”  So first there is a comparison before there is a contrast.  The writer is not putting Moses down.  That’s not the point.  Moses was faithful in the household of God.  The writer is quoting from Numbers 12:6–8 where God says,

Hear now my words: if there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7 not so, with my servant Moses, he is faithful in all my household; 8 with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord.

When the writer turns now to contrast Jesus and Moses, it really means something because Moses was one of a kind in his day—with a more intimate relation to God than any other prophet.

In what ways is Christ superior to Moses?  In the following verses our author will show:

Moses was a member of an “house;” Christ was the Builder of one (v. 3).  Moses was connected with a single house, Christ “built all things,” being the Creator of the universe (v. 4).  Moses was a man; Christ, God (v. 4).  Moses was but a “servant” (v. 5); Christ, the “Son.”  Moses was a “testimony” of things to be spoken after (v. 5), Christ supplied the substance and fulfillment of what Moses witnessed unto.  Moses was but a servant in the house of Jehovah, Christ was Son over His own house (v. 6).

Let’s look at each one.

First in verse 3,

For He [Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.

Verse 3 says that Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses in relation to God’s house. And he gives an astonishing reason.  Because Jesus is the builder of the house and Moses is a part of the house.  Look at it carefully. Verse 3: “[Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses.”  In what way? “By just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.”  In other words he is saying: Jesus is to the people of God as a builder is to a house.  Moses is to the people of God as one of the people of God is to God’s household.  Therefore, Jesus is Moses’ builder.  In short, Jesus made Moses.

The architect or builder is greater than what he builds, thus Jesus is greater than Moses.  It’s not that Moses wasn’t important, or that he wasn’t faithful.  It’s just that he and Jesus are in different categories.  Jesus is the Creator, Moses is the created.  He is a creature and Jesus created Him.

John Piper compares it to decathlon athletes bragging about their accomplishments:  One said, “I threw the javelin farther than anyone else. I’m the greatest.”  Another said, “I put the shot farther than anyone else. I’m the greatest.”  Another said, “I jumped higher than anyone else. I’m the greatest.”  And eventually they all look toward Jesus in his burgundy sweat suit sitting calmly in the corner, and someone says, “What about you?”  And Jesus says, “I made all of you.  So, I’m the greatest.”

We might admire the house, but we honor the builder.  It’s a misdirection to honor the house for being a house.  But that’s exactly what they did when they honored Moses and the Mosaic system of rules and regulations.

The existence of a house presupposes a builder, thus verse 4 says, “Every house is built by someone” and concludes “but the builder of all things is God.”  Thus, Jesus, the builder, is God! Focus on Him!

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Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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