Jesus is superior to Moses. That is the theme of Hebrews 3:1-6. Moses was the most highly respected person to the Jews—their liberator from Egypt, the giver of the law, the tabernacle and the sacrificial system.
According to Leon Morris, the ancient Rabbis considered Moses to be the greatest man ever, greater than the angels. The writer to the Hebrews does nothing to criticize Moses, but he looks at Moses in his proper relation to Jesus.
In Hebrews 3:1-6, the author of Hebrews identifies some similarities between Jesus and Moses, but also points out some vital differences.
1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, 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.
Moses received much glory from God. This is seen in his shining face after spending time with God (Exodus 34:29-35), in his justification before Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:6-8), and before the sons of Korah (Numbers 16).
But Jesus received far more glory from the Father, at His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), at His transfiguration (Mark 9:7), and at His resurrection (Acts 2:26-27 and Acts 2:31-33). He is “my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Moses was a member of an “house;” but 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).
Both Moses and Jesus were faithful in their God-given mission, there was no arguing that (3:2). Moses was part of the house (of Israel), but Jesus was the builder, the creator. In fact, verse 4 affirms that God is “the builder of all things.” Back in Hebrews 1:3 we get more clarification when he says, “through whom [Jesus] also he created the world.” God created the world through Jesus’ direct creative involvement.
So, besides being our faithful apostle and high priest (Hebrews 3:1-4), Jesus also possesses an exalted status and position. This is found in verses 5-6:
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.
Among the Jews, Moses was the top guy. Moses was faithful; Jesus was faithful. But that faithfulness was expressed in different spheres and different statuses.
In verse 5, we see that “Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant.” First, as to the sphere, he was faithful “in all God’s house.” And he was faithful as a “servant.”
Christ, on the other hand, “is faithful over God’s house as a son.” Moses resided in the house, but Jesus presides over it. Moses was a servant, but Jesus was a son. Jesus has a higher status.
Now, the word for “servant” here is not the familiar diakonos, nor the more serious doulos (bond slave). This is the word therapon, which as a noun is used only here in the New Testament. It can mean an “attendant” or even a “comrade in arms.” It refers to a “personal service freely rendered.” So, it was an honored place in the nation of Israel. But wonderful as Moses is, he never had the status of being a son, or the Son.
You want to compare the two? Fine. It’s the difference between an exalted son and an honored servant. In that culture, much more than in our more egalitarian society, those statues were totally different and uncrossable.
Why should Jesus, rather than Moses, be the object of your steady preoccupation? Because He’s the one who occupies the most esteemed, exalted status and position; He is the Son who rules over the household of God.
It is interesting that the very nature of Moses’ ministry as stated here was anticipatory. He was “faithful as a servant in all God’s house…” And how did that faithfulness express itself? By “testifying to what would be said in the future.”
In other words, Moses’ ministry was preparatory. What Moses did and wrote about anticipated Jesus. It all points to Jesus. The law, the sacrificial system, the tabernacle, the priesthood—all of it was to point people to Jesus Christ.
So, in John 1, Philip says to Nathaniel, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
Jesus told the unbelieving Pharisees in John 5: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46)
And following His resurrection from the dead, what an incredible gift Jesus gave to His disciples. In Luke 24, He took His disciples through a seminar showing how the Old Testament, from beginning to end, talked about Him.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
When you read Genesis through Deuteronomy, the books that Moses wrote, you must look for Jesus Christ, for He is there. All that Moses wrote was aiming toward Jesus Christ. He was pointing to Jesus. Moses displayed supreme human faithfulness as a servant, “to testify to the things that were to be spoken later.” But he was not a son.
“But Christ,” says our text, “is faithful over God’s house as a son” (v. 6). He faithfully fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy. He faithfully and joyfully became incarnate, perfectly becoming a human in body, mind, and emotions. He faithfully submitted his “omnis”—his power, his presence, and his knowledge—to the will of the Father. He faithfully underwent temptation and suffered terribly, never giving in. He faithfully went to Gethsemane. He faithfully yielded his hands to the nails. He faithfully became sin for us, as wave after wave of the world’s sin was poured over his sinless soul.
Again and again during those three hours on the cross his soul recoiled and convulsed as all the lies of civilization, the murders of a thousand “Killing Fields,” the whorings of the world’s armies, and the noxious brew of hatreds, jealousies, and pride were poured on his purity. Finally, he became a curse: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). In the darkness Jesus bore it all in silence. Not a word came from his lips. Can you see him writhing like a serpent in the gloom (see John 3:14, 15)? And, of course, he faithfully died for us—“Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37). Such was the ministry of our faithful apostolos, the sent one (R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews, Volume 1, p.
So fix your attention and affection on Jesus Christ and keep it there. If you want to enjoy Jesus you have to stay with Him until you learn to enjoy Him. Stay there until your Christian life is one thrill after another. Until every waking moment of every day is joy upon joy upon joy. Consider Him. Focus your attention on Him. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 77)
Will you give up Jesus Christ for Moses—or any other thing or person?
Why should we stay focused on Jesus? Because he is (1) a faithful apostle and high priest, the very best, and (2) because he has an exalted status and role and (3) Jesus should be our steady preoccupation because to lose sight of Him is to put our eternity in jeopardy.
The last part of verse 6 says
And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
Moses was Christ’s “house” (or part of it) in the Old Testament. Now we who believe in Christ are “his house,” but under condition.
He says we are His house, we belong to Him IF “we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” That’s a big IF. This “if” statement is what is called a third class conditional sentence in Greek.
Daniel Wallace, in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, says that the third class condition encompasses “a broad range of potentialities in Koine Greek. It depicts what is likely to occur in the future, what could possibly occur, or even what is only hypothetical and will not occur” (p. 696).
In other words, our author holds out the possibility that they will hold fast their confidence and boasting in their hope, but they may not. In other words, they may or may not persevere.
Now, that is not very encouraging. It reminds us not to take our salvation for granted, but to be vigilant. I do want you to understand: perseverance does not save you, but it does prove that you are saved.
When someone falls away fully and finally, it is not that salvation has been lost; rather it was never there to begin with. God’s children do endure to the end.
This is the corollary to eternal security. Eternal security is the objective reality that having been united with Christ I shall be forever. Assurance is our subjective grasp of that, which can be strong or weak.
We cannot drift (Hebrews 2:1), we’ve got to hold fast (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 3:6; 6:11-12).
One Baptist pastor said: “There may not be a more needed word among Baptists than the one of this verse. While Southern Baptists claim 14 million adherents, less than half of this number is actively involved in a fellowship of believers. Yet the remaining 7 million glibly claims to be Christian under the guise of ‘once saved, always saved.’ This verse removes the mask. There is no hiding. If there is no evidence of a persevering faith then there is no evidence of faith at all.”
Some object and say that this amounts to works for our salvation. No indeed. According to our writer, it is the evidence that we are part of “His house.” We “hold fast our confidence” in Christ and his sufficiency, we “boast of our hope” in Christ “firm until the end.” A compass’s needle always points north. You can shake the compass, twist it around, so that momentarily it points another direction, but eventually the needle finds its way back home. The believer might fall into sin. He might grieve the Lord. He might bring shame to his life and to his church. But if his faith is sure, then that inward spiritual needle points back to his boast and hope, Jesus Christ. Does this describe you?
(Phil Newton, http://archive.southwoodsbc.org/sermons/hebrews_03.01-06.php).
This is not the only warning from our author about the potential of falling away from our faith.
Notice that our author puts himself in this category. He says “we are His house.” He, too, needs to persevere.
First, we need to “hold fast our confidence.” Then, we are to “boast of our hope.” Our “confidence” and our “hope” are the same thing—that salvation is found fully and only in Jesus Christ. Confidence is parrhesia and it means “boldness” or “assurance.” It describes a perspective that carries no doubts. It is used four times in Hebrews. Here and in 4:16; 10:19 and 10:35. Hebrews 10:35 encourages us “do not throw away your confidence.” We are to hold fast that confidence.
We are to “boast of our hope.” Again, our hope is Jesus Christ and all He has done for us in His active obedience of perfectly obeying His Father and in His passive obedience dying on the cross. Hope is a confident expectation that the faith we have put in Christ is well invested and will pay off.
In the Scriptures we have to be very careful what we boast in. We should never boast in ourselves and our own abilities. Instead, we are to boast in Jesus Christ. If there is one thing God hates it is human pride. It is the one thing that keeps us from receiving grace from God.
- It is boasting in self and not the Lord.
- It is taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
- It is relying on self and not God.
- It is feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
- It is the disinclination to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
- It is the unwillingness to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ.
- He loves the heart that boasts in the Lord.
- He loves the heart that gives him credit for what he alone can do.
- He loves the heart that relies on his power.
- He loves the heart that wants him to get the glory in all things and that wants the power of his Son to shine in our weakness.
Perseverance functions as evidence of an existing right relationship with God. Our author doesn’t say that a person will become a part of God’s people if they persevere. Neither does he say that a person will remain a part of God’s people if they persevere. Rather he says: this is how you can know if someone already is a part of God’s people – does he or she hold fast their confidence and their boasting in hope in Christ all the way to the end? In other words, he is less concerned with whether or not they profess to believe and more with whether or not they persevere in believing.
So, how do you persevere?
The hymn writer was right, we are “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love.” Our hearts are naturally faithless and only God’s Word and God’s Spirit can move our hearts to stay preoccupied with and passionate about Jesus Christ.
We persevere by keeping our eyes on Christ. Not a glance every now and then, but consistently gazing upon Him, seeing and savoring all that He is and has done for us. As you keep your eyes on Jesus you will find Him pulling you to Himself.
Christ must be the consistent focus in our teaching, our preaching, our communion, our fellowship, our personal quiet times and Bible reading, our prayers and worship, our service and evangelism. If we don’t keep setting forth Jesus Christ to our attention we will be distracted. Satan will make sure of it, the world will provide many opportunities and our flesh will jump at it. Why? Because meditating on Christ is difficult. It isn’t easy to stay focused.
George Mueller, the great prayer warrior and a man who started and maintained multiple orphanages, said:
“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.”
That’s why the Psalmist says that meditating on the Word makes us like a fruitful, stable tree and prospers us in life. Meditate on Jesus Christ. Stay focused on Him.