Hebrews 3:1-6


Note that the Greek text of Nestle sets off 3:1-4:13 with gaps in the text. In chapters 3 and 4 the theme of the superiority of Jesus over Moses leads into the subject of rest which antedates Moses, could not be granted by Moses, but is fulfilled in Christ.

In view of the work of the merciful and faithful High priest, Jesus, 2:17, the writer of this epistle and his hearers are brothers, fellow saints. They share the call which has originated in heaven and has been accepted. They are to rivet their attention on Jesus, the name which is much used in this epistle.

We confess that He is the Apostle for He is God's representative to man. We confess also that He is the High priest for He is man's representative to God. He and Moses are alike in this that they are faithful to the One who appointed them.

But there is also a difference. Without detracting from the greatness of Moses, the writer shows that Jesus, with lasting results, is considered worthy of greater glory than is Moses.

As members of Christ's family we have fearless confidence toward God and triumphant hope. There is always the danger that God's children will give this up. Again and again in this epistle the writer exhorts his hearers to endure to the end. At Moses' time many did not endure. Therefore, let us hang on to that which we have in Christ. Look at 3:14; 6:11; 10:23. Also Revelation 2:10; Matthew 24:13; Luke 18:8.

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

"Therefore" points us back to 2:5-18.

"Brothers" in 2:17 was used of all people. Here is becomes more specific. It denotes Christians. They are called "holy" because God called them.

"Calling" occurs only here in Hebrews. Otherwise found in Paul at Romans 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 7:20; Ephesians 1:18; 4:1-4; Philippians 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9-11; in Peter at 2 Peter 1:10. In the Epistles, as opposed to the Gospels, "called" always denotes the successful call, not rejected.

"Share." Whether this word denotes partaking or sharing, it denotes a vertical relation to God. KJV and NASB translate "partakers" and RSV, NIV and NEB have "share." 

In 1:9 Jesus' benefactors were called "companions." 

Montefiore: 'Holy calling' - According to the New Testament there is only one vocation, to be a Christian.

"Apostle and High Priest." These two nouns are combined with one article. In one person Jesus combines two offices.

Bengel: Who pleads the cause of God with us; Who pleads our cause with God.

For Jesus as Apostle compare 1:2, as priest 2:17. He is called  "Apostle" only here in the New Testament. In Hebrews "Jesus" occurs thirteen times, "Christ" twelve.

Hebrews 3:2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house.

What in particular should we consider? "That He was faithful." In verses 1-6 Moses and Jesus are compared. Both were faithful.

These verses are a preamble to the terrible warning in 7-19.

"Appointed" gets its meaning from context and the analogy of Scripture.

"House" means "household, family," not the physical house. The meaning here is "church." 

Hebrews 3:3 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 still found worthy of greater honor. "Honor" denoted "salvation" in 2:10. Here is denotes renown.

The axiom here is a general truth readily accepted by all people. It is a marvelous teaching device. From the general axiom the writer proceeds to particular Christian truth.

Hebrews 3:4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

The verse starts with a Greek word that means "you see." Now we have another axiom. Houses do not build themselves. No matter where one goes, the building of a house is a huge task.

"Everything" covers all of creation and also the building of the Christian Church throughout the ages.

The verse implies that the incarnate Christ created all things.

Hebrews 3:5 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future.

Note the exquisite comparison between Moses and Christ in verses 5 and 6.

Moses was faithful for the purpose of testifying to the things which would be spoken, literally. The point is that Christ, not Moses, is the originator of things said.

Westcott: The position of Moses and of the Mosaic Dispensation was provisional . . . The Old Testament in all its parts pointed forward to a spiritual entity.
Lenski: Moses was the faithful transmitter of God's words to Israel; his 'testimony' as to what God said to him at any time was 'faithful' and 'true.'

Moses only testified faithfully. Jesus spoke His own Word.

Hebrews 3:6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

"Son" immediately reminds us that Christ is more than a mere man. He is faithful "over" His house. Here it is clear that "household" is a better translation than "house." See a similar expression in Galatians 6:10. Here it means the entire Christian Church throughout the ages.

The writer uses an emphatic "We are his house." Membership in the church is conditional only as far as faith is concerned. The condition does not make the membership uncertain. The uncertainty lies not in God Who is ever faithful, but in man who is prone to be fickle. This conditional sentence hints again that the readers were contemplating apostasy. This was touched on in 2:3. The hope is everlasting life. If we take it as objective genitive it denotes the thing hoped for. Some take it as a subjective genitive, the hoping which causes the pride. In either case hope is used in the sense of utter confidence that God will accomplish what He promised.

To summarize: Moses was faithful "in" the whole house as "servant" to witness to the things which would be said. Christ is faithful "over" His house as a "Son," the one who fulfilled the things said. And He Himself is the author of these things. Moses and Christ were alike in that both were faithful. They were not alike in that Moses was a servant whereas Christ was and is Son of God. There weren't two houses, but only one, the timeless church of God in Christ, look at 1 Peter 2:9. The writer does not oppose or downgrade Moses. He holds him high. But he holds Christ higher. John 5:45-47.

In conclusion we remark that perseverance is the great difference between Christianity and all other religions. That is so because of Christ, the Son of God. He endured all and equips us to endure all.


(Adapted from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays after Pentecost,
by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 84-86)

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