HEBREWS, Part 5

Jesus vs Moses, 3:1—6

For two chapters, the author of Hebrews has developed his argument, using passages from the Old Testament, that Jesus is superior to angels. Jesus is the author of a great salvation and great enough to become a man in order to accomplish it. But the people to whom this letter is addressed are Jews. and who was a very important Jew? Moses, of course. So, as if to head off the notion that among the Jews Moses might have been greater than Jesus, Paul turns his attention to that thorny issue.

The voice of Moses had become synonymous with the voice of God to the Jews. Appealing to Moses stopped any dispute. It may be difficult for us today to understand, but for these Jews, the transfer of faith and allegiance from Moses to Jesus was not an easy thing, and there was the nagging temptation to return to Moses.

So, having demonstrated the greatness of Jesus to angels and the priesthood, it was time to deal with Moses.

1. Don’t get distracted, 3:1

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.

The “therefore” is important because it links chapter 3 with what the teacher had just written about the unity Jesus has with His brothers and sisters. Together, we are part of the great family of God. The brothers and sisters to whom this letter was written were made holy by Jesus. The word “holy” is also important. It’s an adjective that indicates these people had been sanctified; the guilt of sin had been removed from them through the suffering and death of Jesus. These folks had been separated from the rest of humanity, as all Christians have been, by an act of Jesus on their part. They belonged to Him.

Not only were these people holy, but, along with the author, they “share in the heavenly calling.” What is “the heavenly calling?” The phrase indicates a number of things. First, it shows that salvation—the creation of holy brothers and sisters—is God’s initiative, not man’s. The decision to save and sanctify comes from heaven. God has called man to become His own and because Jesus has taken on our natures, He is more than able to help us answer that call.

But it means even more than that. The “heavenly calling” is not only a spiritual calling to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but a practical one, as well. Notice what Hebrews 9:14 says:

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

So the “heavenly calling” also has something to do with serving the Lord in the present world; it has to do with “good works.” Not only have we been saved by grace through faith, which is a work of God and not our personal work, but we have been created for good works that God has in mind for us to do. How many Christians know Ephesians 2:8 and 9 by heart but are totally ignorant of verse 10:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

These ideas are followed by the advice to “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Another way to translate that admonition is to “consider Jesus.” The Greek word means “to bring your mind down on this one” thought; “think carefully about” something. That’s a good advice. It’s far too easy to get distracted by other things and people that take our attention away from Jesus. So, it’s vitally important to stay focused on Him.

But, why is Jesus called “an apostle?” We can understand why He is called a High Priest, but an apostle? This is the only time Jesus is referred to an apostle, and it seems odd. The basic idea the writer is trying to convey to his audience is that God “sent” Jesus; He sent Jesus to accomplish a definite purpose. Like human apostles, Jesus was given the authority to speak for the One who sent Him: God the Father.

But the word means even more than that. If we remove the prefix, apo, we are left with the word stolon. You may not know that word, but biologists do, and they use this word to describe a type of root that descends from a plant having the capability of putting down a new set of roots. You might call that plant “crabgrass.” And if you’ve every tried to get that crabgrass out of your lawn, you see how pervasive that root system can be! Those darn stolons are always establishing new colonies of crabgrass all over your lawn!

So Jesus is like crabgrass in the sense that He was sent by the Father with the authority to establish a new “colony of heaven” here on Earth. Christ in turn has given us that same authority to establish new, smaller “colonies of heaven,” which we call “churches.”

Hence, Jesus is an apostle, as we are. He is faithful to God the Father as we should be.

2. Jesus and Moses were both faithful, 3:2

He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.

The emphasis in this verse is not that Jesus “was faithful,” but that He was faithful to “the one who appointed him.” Part of being both an apostle and a high priest is being absolutely faithful to God. Now, Moses was also faithful in the house of God. Moses was faithful to speak the words God wanted him to speak. He accomplished the things God commanded of him. Moses is the perfect example of a human being who lived a life of obedience to God. No, he was not perfect. Moses made mistakes. But the writer gives Moses his due, comparing our Lord’s perfect faithfulness to his.

Moses ministered faithfully in God’s house—the “church of God in the wilderness”—during the 40 year wilderness wandering of the Hebrews. But, there is a vital difference between Jesus and Moses.

3. Jesus is different, 3:3, 4

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.

Jesus is vastly different from Moses because while Moses served in God’s house, Jesus built the house! Jesus is not a mere servant; He actually created the house. So the Son is worthy of more honor than Moses. Now, Moses was certainly an honorable person, but he pales in comparison to Jesus; his honor just can’t measure up to Jesus’.

We may admire a magnificent building, but it’s the architect who gets the award. In that sense, Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses was always just a member of the people of God. He had great honor within that body, but Moses could never be more than that. But not so Jesus; He was more. Yes, Jesus became like those He came to save, but He was always more than those He came to save! And as the Son of God and man, He built the house of God—the Church.

Verse 4 is kind of parenthetical thought. Jesus created the house of God—He founded the Church—but it’s God who is creator of all.

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

So, we can see the teacher’s strategy here. There is a relationship between Creator and creature. Christ is the builder but Moses was part of the house being built. Christ is over the house, Moses is in the house. Christ is the Son, Moses a servant.

4. The new is better than the old, 3:5, 6

Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. (verse 5)

The main point in verse 5 is the last phrase. In a sense, Moses functioned as a prophet and was a foreshadow of Jesus, the great Prophet. All that was revealed to Israel through Moses anticipated things yet to come. This is a powerful thought that would hit these Hebrew readers right between the eyes. Jesus is superior to Moses, and the words of Jesus are superior to the words of Moses because those words—the Law—simply foreshadowed what God would speak later on. This simple statement shows how temporary and anticipatory the Law really was. This must have been a big pill for some of the readers of this letter to swallow and digest!

And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. (verse 6b)

This verse tells us that the Hebrew readers of this letter were saved and that obedience to revelation is evidence of the genuineness of anyone’s salvation.  The children of Israel by faith accepted the plan of redemption they were given by God through Moses. In obedience, they sacrificed the lamb, put its blood around the door posts of their homes. There was no rebellion at that point. However, after they experienced their redemption—deliverance from Egypt—God’s newly redeemed people continually rebelled against Moses. Sadly, that entire redeemed generation was characterized by complaining and murmuring, grumbling and discontent with everything. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews cautioned his readers to “hold firmly.”

The “people of God as a house” metaphor is seen frequently in the New Testament. The author tells his readers that we, believers, are the house of God. This means that those who confess Christ as Savior, not those who practice Judaism, constitute the household of God. Christians acknowledge Christ as the chief cornerstone. But, the teacher places two limitations on being a part of God’s house.

a. If we hold firmly to our confidence. We can no longer be a part of God’s house if we lose our confidence or our courage. For these Hebrews, backsliding into Judaism was a constant danger, so our writer urges them to hold onto their confidence in the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ in the face of the fierce opposition they must have been facing from their families and friends. Gentile Christians, too, must be faithful in the face of any kind of persecution. The word translated “confidence” in the TNIV is translated “courage” in other versions of Scripture. The Greek word is particularly significant for the Christian because it relates to our boldness and frankness in sharing the Gospel

b. The hope in which we glory. If the readers of this letter no longer hold on to the hope they’ve boasted about in the past, then they are no longer part of the household of God. This “hope” is something the author deals with later on:

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain… (6:18, 19)

The “hope” every Christian has is in God’s unchangeable purpose and the fact that God cannot lie; that He is absolutely trustworthy.

Just as God is true to His purpose and character, so we must be a true reflection of Him as our Creator and Redeemer. If we fail, then we cease to be a part of God’s house. This is why throughout Hebrews the writer urges his readers to be faithful to their calling.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

That’s not easy to do. We want easy things to believe it. But knowing Christ involves a lot more than merely mouthing the right words. It involves a solemn responsibility to live in obedient submission to Him. Because if we don’t, we are in danger of forfeiting His blessings in our lives, and perhaps even life itself.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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