One of the most difficult tasks in the interpretation of the book of Hebrews is to think like a Jew. This book was written to a group of professing Hebrew-Christians who were seriously considering leaving Christianity to go back into Judaism. The author of Hebrews goes to the Old Testament to show how Christ is superior to all the Old Testament teachings, and why they must not leave Christ and go back into the Old Testament system.
Hebrews 3:1-6 shows us that Jesus Christ is superior to Moses. It is very difficult for us as Gentiles removed 2000 years from New Testament times to understand the reverence and esteem in which Moses was held by the Jews. Almost all of Jewish religious history was related in some way to Moses. Moses was his own prophet, priest and king. Through Moses, Israel was freed from Egyptian bondage. Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant or the Mosaic Law. Through him, the whole of the Levitical economy was instituted - the tabernacle, the priesthood, the sacrifices. Moses was the administrator of the theocracy for Israel. Moses was the hero of every Jew, for he was the supreme leader and lawgiver.
If Christ is the Messiah, then it would have to be proven that Christ was better than Moses. No Jew would follow a man with fewer credentials than Moses. With great finesse, the author does not defame Moses, but he exalts Christ to show that Christ is superior to Moses.
CHRIST’S HIGH OFFICES (Hebrews 3:1)
“Therefore…” -- In chapter one of Hebrews, we saw that Christ was truly God. In chapter two, we saw He was truly man. It was also declared that Christ was a “merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb. 2:17), so now the author begins to tell us how Christ was a “faithful” high priest.
Since Christ is the God-man, our High Priest, we are to relate these truths to our lives, and the first step in this process is to meditate on Christ by considering Him.
“...holy brethren...” -- The author assumed that the vast majority of people to whom he was writing were true, born-again believers in Jesus Christ. He addresses them as brethren based on their outward profession of faith in Jesus Christ. They are also called “holy” in that they have been “set apart” to God for divine service. They are members of the Christian brotherhood and separated from their unbelieving Jewish kinsmen.
In God’s eyes, there is only one brotherhood and that is the brotherhood of all true believers in Christ. These true believers have different backgrounds, talents, temperaments, education, rank and race, but they form one brotherhood separated to the service of God.
Some time ago I was asked to lead a dorm discussion at VPI for the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. During the discussion time, several of the students asked me about the brotherhood of man and how I felt about it. The question was asked because there were about five Orientals and three blacks in the audience. I said I do not believe in the brotherhood of all men, and immediately they tabbed me as a fighting fundamentalist of the white, protestant, middle class. They said, “You are then against having people of different races in your church.” I replied that not every white man was my brother, not every oriental was my brother, not every black man was my brother and not every red man or brown man was my brother. My brothers and sisters are any and all who have placed their faith in Christ. The true brotherhood of Christ consists of all Orientals, blacks, whites or browns that have been called by God to salvation through Christ. For my brothers and sisters in Christ, I live and would gladly die. There was silence among the students and those of another race listened to what I had to say about the gospel of Christ.
“...partakers of a heavenly calling...” -- These Hebrew-Christians were sharers in the calling that comes only from God. All Christians are associated with one another in the holy brotherhood because of the sovereign call of God to salvation.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and who He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30).
“…who (God) has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity…” (2 Tim. 1:9).
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” (Eph. 4:1).
We are Christians at this very hour because God has sovereignly called us to be Christians in His divine plan.
Note carefully that this is a “heavenly calling” in that it originated from heaven and it takes us to heaven. This is also a heavenly calling in that in the Old Testament much of the Jewish hope was an earthly hope, but in the New Testament the Church has a heavenly hope, for the Church has its eyes fixed upon a city whose Maker and Builder is God, the new and eternal Jerusalem.
This is the first mention of the contrast of heaven and world, or material things of this world, which are temporary and heavenly things which are eternal.
The book of Hebrews is a heavenly book. Christ fulfilled all the Old Testament types and shadows. When Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He took everything of spiritual significance up to heaven. Our whole worship now is spiritual and heavenly. Our Christ is in heaven; our worship is in heaven; our home is in heaven. We no longer need altars, buildings, tabernacles, candles, because we are a heavenly people serving a heavenly Christ!
“...consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession...” --These Christians were to give deep contemplation to Christ and fix their spiritual eyes on Christ. It was only as they seriously considered Christ that they would not leave Christianity for Judaism. It is only as we think about, meditate on, give attention to Christ that we learn to love Him and long to please Him.
Christians have made a confession (profession) of faith in Christ as Lord, Savior, King, Priest and Prophet. The word “confession” means that when the Christian makes his initial act of faith in Christ he agrees or consents to the fact that Christ is Lord, Savior, King, Prophet and Priest as God has declared Him to be.
A true believer is one who confesses Christ to men.
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10).
“Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).
While there are some who only profess Christ outwardly, who have never been regenerated, the true believer is one who confesses Christ before God and men.
“Apostle” -- Jesus Christ is the Apostle. “Apostle” means “one who is sent” and refers to a ‘mission” to earth to reveal God’s will to men. As a prophet, Christ represents God before man and speaks to us from God. Therefore, hear ye Him!
“High Priest” -- As a high priest, Christ represents man before God and speaks for us to God.
Lest we miss the argument, these words “Apostle” and “High Priest” are introductory, to show that Christ is superior to Moses. Moses was a prophet, but Christ was The Prophet (Deut. 18:15). Moses was a king, but Christ is King of kings (Deut. 33:5). Moses was a priest, but Christ is the High Priest (Exodus 24:6; 32:11).
CHRIST IS SUPERIOR IN HIS PERSON TO MOSES (Hebrews 3:2-4)
“He was (being continually) faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house” -- Moses is given the highest compliment; he was faithful in all his house. In the household of God, Moses resembles Jesus in his faithfulness. Though Moses was not without personal failings (killing the Egyptian, slowly responding to God’s call and smiting the rock in anger) he was faithful as a minister. “Not so, with My servant Moses, he is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth…” (Num. 12:7-8).
The difference between Moses and Christ was that Moses ministered faithfully during a limited period of time on earth, but Jesus ever lives to exercise faithfully the office of Divine Mediator and High Priest from His throne in heaven.
The term “house” refers to people and not to buildings. The house of Moses was the children of Israel. The house of Christ consists of all true believers. The “house of God” in New Testament understanding refers to the Church made up of people. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and temple were called the house of God, but these are types and shadows pointing forward to Christ and the Church. Nowhere in the New Testament is the house of God referred to as a building. In fact, the early Christians had no building for almost 300 years. When they referred to the house of God, they thought of people not buildings. God’s purpose in the New Testament is not to dwell in buildings but to dwell in people.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
“For He 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. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” -- Moses ministered faithfully to Israel, but he was not the founder of Israel but only a member of that great nation. But Christ, who is God in His reincarnated state, actually called the nation of Israel into existence. Jesus Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament and He alone is the founder of Israel. Therefore, Christ deserves more honor and glory than Moses.
CHRIST IS SUPERIOR IN HIS WORK TO MOSES (Hebrews 3:5-6)
“Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant...” -- Mosses was faithful in his house of Israel but he did the work as a servant. He was a servant in the house but not the creator of the house. A servant does a lesser work than the creator.
“...for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later...” -- There was a divine design in all of Moses’ work as a servant in the house of Israel. A servant is always working in anticipation of something. All of the institutions that Moses set forth were to point to Christ who
was to come. The tabernacle, the feasts, the sacrifices, the holy days, the law, all were types and shadows of the promised Messiah.
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me” (John 5:46).
“And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27).
“…but Christ was faithful in all His house as a servant…” -- Christ is the Son who is Lord over the Church, the spiritual house of God. Moses is a servant; Christ is a Son. Moses served in his house. Christ served over his house as Lord. Christ, therefore, is superior to Moses in every way.
“...whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” -- The author assumes that those to whom he is speaking were true believers, for he says, “whose house we are.” He accepts their profession of faith because they are the house of Christ.
They had professed Christ and outwardly identified themselves with the household of Christ, but they were also under obligation to maintain their personal confidence and Christian hope. The author then interjects the word “if” which means “maybe you will and maybe you won’t.” This is another reference in the book of Hebrews to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Eternal security is not the issue here, for we know that the truly saved person can never be lost. The issue here is that a truly saved person will evidence his faith by holding fast (seizing, taking possession of) the Faith. True Christians have confidence (assurance, boldness) and hope (Christ’s coming and the receiving of a resurrected body). They have this confidence and hope right up to the end. The “end” refers to the end of a person’s life or until the end of all human history as we know it, at the second advent of Christ.
Remember, this is a warning to these Jews who were thinking about leaving Christianity for Judaism. If they leave Christianity, they were never saved in the first place, but if they stay they will persevere right on to the end.
This warning is just as true today as it was in the first century. True believers persevere, never perfectly, but they do push on in the Faith. There is always the possibility that in any group of believers there are mere professors who are self-deceived into thinking they are Christians because they go through all the external rituals of Christianity. A Christian is one who believes in Christ and lives for Christ.
The necessity of persevering in the Faith is taught in other places.
“Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).
“For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…” (Heb. 3:14).
“…by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:2).
The cares and the riches of the world may lure a Christian temporarily away from Christ, but he will persevere. Trials and persecutions may discourage a true believer, but he will grasp tightly “the confidence and rejoicing of hope” which is his because he belongs to the spiritual house of Christ, the Church.
This verse teaches that Christians can have the assurance of salvation. As true believers, they can have the confidence, boldness and assurance of salvation with great rejoicing. This is not boasting; it is a confidence that is ours because we know the living Christ. Nor is it a presumption to have assurance of salvation, for this is the natural result of seeing the living Christ at work in us.
One of the greatest truths in all the Bible is that true Christians will persevere in the Faith once for all delivered to the saints!
Are you a Christian or a churchman? Have you had a religious experience or regeneration that comes from God? Do you know Christ or are you committed to a church organization? A Christian is one who receives Christ by faith, acknowledging him as Lord and Savior. Have you made this step of faith?
You can know that you are saved. You can have assurance of salvation and boldness before God. You can have the joy of knowing you will have a resurrected body. How can you know? Receive Christ by faith and begin to live for him daily; then assurance will come. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” (John 10:27).