1-2: An Focusing Exhortation
3-6: A Substantiating Comparison
3-4: The Glory of Builder vs. Glory of House
5-6a: The Glory of a Servant vs. Glory of Son
6b: An Stirring Qualification
What: The author calls his readers to focus firmly on Christ as superior to Moses in that he is the Builder and Son over the house, delineating those who hold their confidence and rejoicing firm to the end.
Why: Because the readers were loosing their grip on Christ in favor of such people as Moses greatly lauded in Judaism.
How: By setting forth the comparative and ultimate excellency of Christ over Moses from Scripture, exhorting them to consider Christ, and putting to them the question whether they are the house of Christ.
Whereunto: That they might be firmed in their identity as sharers of the heavenly calling, the house of Christ, and glorify Christ as worthy of all.
Having set forth Christ as superior to the angels and the great and ultimate Adam, who took to himself a human nature to redeem the seed of Abraham, the author now shows Christ effecting a greater Exodus as Apostle and Highpriest, and Son over and Builder of the house of God. Out of Egypt God had called His Son at the first, and now again, we are partakers of the heavenly calling, brothers of this Son of God, if we hold the confidence and rejoicing of our hope firm to the end. This firmness comes from considering Christ as so far superior to Moses as a servant is compared to the Son. To identify with the servant is not consolation, if this means loosening your mind from the Son over and Builder of the house. This the Hebrews were threatening to do to their own great detriment. Their identity as part of the house was at stake.
In essence, the author is bringing the authority of Christ to bear on a house, which has it focus wrong, on shadows as opposed to the supreme revelation of glory, and they are threatening to succumb in the wilderness like the very rebels against Moses did way long ago. The key to faithfulness is considering the more faithful Christ, to whom the Father has said, face to face, “Sit at my right hand.” There lies the security and victory of all the people of God.
The first exhortation (3:1–6) provides an exposition of the faithfulness of Moses and that of Jesus as the hearers will be encouraged to imitate this faithfulness and reach their heavenly destination. The paragraph is framed by an admonition (v. 1) and a conditional sentence (v. 6) which indicates that their ongoing membership in God’s household is dependent on holding fast to the end.
Christ is put in contrast to heavenly beings, but also to those on earth who resemble Him, like Moses. The Hebrews who saw Moses as a leading figure are directed to someone who is higher than Moses, someone who does not only lead His people to safety but is also a High Priest.
V.1-2 The verse starts with the particle, “therefore,” “for this reason” (ὄθεν). This indicates that the verse continues what is mentioned in the previous chapter, which has spoken of the walk of holiness by accepting the sacrifice of Christ. “The “brothers” are “holy” because they have been consecrated to the service of God by Jesus in his priestly role as the consecrator of the people of God (2:11).”
Moses was faithful because he had an extra-ordinary vision of God. He enjoyed God’s presence, being God’s faithful servant. “The writer initiates the comparison between :Jesus and Moses out of necessity, as a point of argument intended to affirm the ultimacy of Jesus.” Moses and Christ were both witness of God, Christ as superior as God’s Son who has seen the Father in full glory. Moses only able to see the back of God, being inferior to Christ in every way.
κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου μέτοχοι, “sharers in a heavenly calling,” occurs nowhere else in the NT.. The people share the privilege to have access to God. As Lane says: “The unusual designation corresponds to the description of the Church in 2:10 as those who are being led to enjoy the glory of God’s presence (cf. 11:16; 12:22). They owe their privileged status not to Moses or to Aaron but to Jesus as their high priest who has entered heaven (9:24).”
Jesus, who had laid down His life as sacrifice was faithful (κατανοήσατε … Ἰησοῦν πιστὸν ὄντα, “observe that …. Jesus was faithful”). This sentence is an imperative. It demands the listeners to pay attention, and to direct their eyes upon Jesus.
Who is Jesus again? And why do we fix our eyes upon Him? He is τὸν ἀπόστολον καὶ ἀρχιερέα τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν, “the apostle and high priest (ἀρχιερέα) of whom our confession speaks.” It is for this reason that the hearers must pay attention, for it is Him who is our priest and the only atonement for our sins. This obligation is mentioned in the term ὁμολογία, “confession.” A confession is like a commitment, responding in faith to God’s action. “It connotes the essential core of Christian conviction that the writer shared with his audience (“our confession”). In the community addressed, the core was the acknowledgment of Jesus as the Son of God (4:14).”
High priest is used as a “hook word” to link the end of the earlier exposition (2:10–18) with this new section. Several other clear connections between 2:10–18 and 3:1–6 show that the author has made a smooth transition from the former to the latter. The repetition of key words and ideas demonstrates this: God is the creator of all things (2:10; 3:4), Jesus’ brothers and sisters belong to God’s household (2:11–12; 3:1, 6), and can be called holy (3:1) because Christ sanctifies them (2:11). The presentation of Christ as the one sent to deliver his people (2:14–16) and to be the priest who makes atonement (2:17–18) continues in 3:1, where he is called apostle and high priest. Further, similarities between Jesus and Moses that are implicit in 2:10–18 (see the exegesis above) are explicit in 3:1–6, while the vital theme of ‘faithfulness’ is reiterated.
It is remarkable that Jesus is never else called “ὁ ἀπόστολος,” “the apostle/the sent one.” There are different reasons given:
1. Whenever “high priest” occurs in Hebrews, the Day of Atonement stands in the background. Jewish sources indicate that the high priest was regarded as the fully accredited representative (שׁליח) of God before the people on that solemn day. The translation of שׁליח into Greek would be ἀπόστολος. The coordinated phrase “the apostle and high priest” in Heb 3:1 reflects this traditional understanding.
2. “Angel/Messenger” comes from from Exod 23:20: “Behold, I send my angel [ἄγγελος] before you” On several locations instead of מלאך, “angel,” the text reads שׁלחי, “my apostle.”
3. The title ὁ ἀπόστολος derives from the figure of Moses, who is described as an apostle in Exod 3:10 (καὶ νῦν δεῦρο ἀποστείλω σε πρὸς Φαραὼ βασιλέα Ἀιγύπτου, “And come now, I will send you to Pharoah, king of Egypt”). Although Moses is never designated ὁ ἀπόστολος, the conception of him as one called, appointed, and sent by God stands behind the term
4. Jesus repeatedly describes himself as having been sent by the Father into the world (see Jn. 3:17, 34; 5:36ff.; 6:29, 57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3; also 1 Jn. 4:10). As Hughes notes: “In the basic sense of the word, he is indeed the first apostle, the great apostle, and the source of all apostleship.”
ὡς καὶ Μωϋσῆς, “as was Moses also.” That Jesus is a faithful high priest has already been demonstrated in 2:5–18. The repetition of that theme here prepares for the comparison between Jesus and Moses, since both were faithful to God, who appointed them to their missions. (Appointed commonly means to “make” or “create” (Gen. 1:1). Christ was made high priest, through His sacrifice and mediating role. Moses was worthy of the honour due to a faithful servant in the household, but Jesus is worthy of the glory due to a faithful Son who is over the household. Verse 2 provides an allusion to Num. 12:7 and to 1 Chr. 17:14, saying “πιστώσω αὐτὸν ἐν οἴκῳ μου,’ (I will make him faithful in my house.” The verb πιστοῦν in the active voice means “to make πιστός (faithful, reliable)” or “to appoint.”
V.3-4 Although Jesus and Moses were both faithful, Jesus is considered worthy of greater glory than Moses. Moses deserved honor (δόξα) given from God (Num. 12:7), because God spoke to him face to face. However, Jesus was crowned with glory and honor (δόξα καὶ τιμή). Here it is stated that Jesus is considered worthy of greater glory than Moses. “The initial basis for the comparison is the general principle that the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.’ God as a Creator is mentioned here. So the writer shows how Jesus and Moses are alike, and how they differ, on the topic of “glory.” Also, Christ is the builder of all things (πάντα). As Moses is the builder of one house, God is the Creator of all. Verse 3 presents a chiasm:
A Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses
B as the house-builder receives more honor than the house
B´ for every house is built by someone
A´ but God is the builder of everything.
The concept of Christ as the builder of the house is probably based on the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 6:12f., which declares: “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall grow up in his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord, and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule upon his throne.” It also rests on God’s promise to David that he would raise up for him a son who would build a house for God and whose throne would be established forever (1 Chr. 17:11f.). Moses served as a steward was, like the law he mediated, “but a shadow of the good things to come” and not the final reality (10:1). Israel was a type of the true Israel of God, redeemed and led to eternal rest by Christ (10:1).
There is a pastoral aspect to these verses. Every house, material or spiritual is built by someone, also in our lives. Christ is the head over all, building and maintaining the old and the new creation for His glory. Our building efforts are glorified by Christ as they are glorifying to Him, but the ultimate glory belongs to Christ Himself.
V. 5-6 The following verses show the superiority of Jesus over Moses. The greatest distinction is between θεράπων, “servant,” and υἱός, “son,” and between the prepositions ἐν (“in the house”) and ἐπί (“over the house”). The key word πιστός appears to carry the double meaning “appointed/faithful.” Moses was appointed to, and was faithful in, his office as prophet par excellence in the household of God.
Moses was leading the covenant people, and was trusted. Num. 12:7: “my servant Moses in my whole court is trusted”). The basis of his dignity was his relationship to God, in which he proved trustworthy. However, Moses served for a revelation that had not come yet (τῶν λαληθησομένων) “things which were to be spoken in the future. The writer points this out (v. 5b). “Moses’ prophecy was a corroboration of the new salvation, which began to find expression in the preaching of Jesus (2:3).” God had appointed Moses to play a role in the future of salvation, and thus being a servant of the heirs of salvation. God vindicated Moses by saying: στόμα κατὰ στόμα λαλήσω [future!] αὐτῷ, “I will speak to him mouth to mouth” (Num 12:8). These verses are so important for the Hebrews, because “the hearers are no longer to consider Moses as the supreme example of perfection in his service to God and in the encomium he received from God but Jesus, as the exalted Son whose glory surpasses that of Moses.”
“By defining Moses’ service in this way, the writer indicates that Moses’ status as servant corresponds to that of the angels, who are servants to the heirs of salvation.” The Son is exercising rule over (ἐπί) the house of God. The Son is on the throne, over the house, while the servant is in the house. It was in 1 Sam. 2:35 that God promised to raise up a faithful priest and a faithful house. ἐσμὲν ἡμὲῖς, “we are,” serves to emphasize the corporate conception of the church as the “house of God.” The house of God is the Christian fellowship, as mentioned before. And the church has her hope in Christ as the High Priest, having faith and hope, being committed to Him in faithfulness. παρρησία, “confidence,” and ἐλπίς, “hope,” are the hallmarks of the members of God’s household. Παρρησία speaks about boldness, openness in a relationship, because now we may approach God freely and openly. In Gal. 6:10 Paul assures the Gentile believers of Ephesus that they are “no longer strangers and sojourners, but … fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). In Eph. 2:20 is written that believers are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord,” a temple which is in fact the “dwelling place of God”34 (Eph. 2:20). The sons and daughters have a home.
As children of the house we may rest in the hope and confidence that the community has in Christ. Further in this epistle the status of the Christian connects to a condition: we are God’s house if, on condition that, we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope. Christ taught this as well, saying: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn. 8:31).