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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 3:1-6

Jesus Greater Than Moses

Therefore, holy brothers,[a] you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s[b] house. 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. (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, 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.[c]

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Last week’s entry discussed Hebrews 2, in which the author explained why Jesus is superior to angels.

Christians understand that intrinsically. However, the author’s Jewish audiences were reluctant to give up their reliance on the Old Covenant. There were also some Jews, also addressed in Hebrews, who did not believe that Jesus is Messiah.

Hebrews addresses three different audiences at various times in various ways.

In order to understand Hebrews, we need to understand the Jewish mindset as it was and, in some cases, continues be to this day.

The author is passionate about putting forward the case for Christ being superior and all-sufficient. The New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant of Moses.

For those of us who were brought up as Christians, Hebrews is a thrilling book to read. It makes us rejoice that Jesus redeemed us and sits at the right hand of the Father.

Hebrews is written with passion, as Matthew Henry’s commentary says of the unknown author inspired by the Holy Spirit (emphases mine):

In how fervent and affectionate a manner the apostle exhorts Christians to have this high priest much in their thoughts, and to make him the object of their close and serious consideration; and surely no one in earth or heaven deserves our consideration more than he.

Are we thrilled about our Christianity? Do we truly delight in Jesus as Saviour? Possibly not as much as we should. Henry says:

Here observe, 1. Many that profess faith in Christ have not a due consideration for him; he is not so much thought of as he deserves to be, and desires to be, by those that expect salvation from him. 2. Close and serious consideration of Christ would be of great advantage to us to increase our acquaintance with him, and to engage our love and our obedience to him, and reliance on him. 3. Even those that are holy brethren, and partakers of the heavenly calling, have need to stir up one another to think more of Christ than they do, to have him more in their minds; the best of his people think too seldom and too slightly of him. 4. We must consider Christ as he is described to us in the scriptures, and form our apprehensions of him thence, not from any vain conceptions and fancies of our own.

That cannot be emphasised too much.

John MacArthur says the same thing:

Listen, Christian, I say to you what the Spirit says: Consider Jesus. I mean, when the stuff gets rough and the problems come, and everything goes bad, and you start thinking about certain things that are tempting you and so forth and so on, put your gaze on Jesus and keep it there intently until all that He is begins to be unfolded before your eyes. And that’s just the reason that so many Christians are weak and worried, is they don’t really know the depths or the riches of Jesus Christ. Do you know that? They don’t know it.

Jesus made a classic statement. He said, “Learn of me.” He didn’t say, “Learn about me.” He said what? “Learn of me.” Let me ask you this. Do you really enjoy your Christian life? Do you just eat it up? Do you get up every morning and say, “Lord, I just can’t wait to get out of this place and see what you’re going to do?” I mean, do you just love your Christian life? I mean, is it so exciting you can hardly stand it? It ought to be. Do you enjoy Jesus Christ? Do you just go through the day, “Lord, your fellowship and your presence is thrilling”? Do you just sometimes want to stand up and shout? You ought to enjoy Him like that.

Many Christians don’t enjoy Jesus. Not at all. They’re miserable, unhappy. Don’t know anything about joy. The only thing the Lord’s good for is to cry on. And the reason is, they don’t know Him experientially, they don’t know Him richly. They need to learn Jesus, you see.

This is why Hebrews is one of my favourite books of the Bible. We couldn’t get more encouragement than this to experience Jesus more personally and fully.

The author addresses the Jews who have become Christians (verse 1). We know this because instead of calling them ‘brothers’, as Peter and Paul addressed the Jews in Acts, he calls them ‘holy brothers’: those ‘who share in a heavenly calling’.

He exhorts them to ‘consider Jesus’. If that seems a lukewarm exhortation, MacArthur explains why it is just the opposite:

Now, the word “consider” is fantastic. The word does not mean it’s flighty. The word does not mean take a glance. The word means set yourself to gaze intently on Jesus. You say, “Well, what’s He saying this to Christians for? We already know Christ.” Listen, no one needs that message any more than I do, do you know that? God can say to me right now, “MacArthur, consider Jesus,” because I’m a long way from really discovering all of his glori[e]s, all of his beauties, all that He is.

So He says to these believers, “Just gaze on Jesus. Will you just keep gazing on Him and don’t keep looking around at all these rituals, and all these problems, and all these persecutions. Just consider Jesus. You don’t need anything else. He’s sufficient for everything.”

The author calls Jesus ‘apostle’ and ‘high priest of our confession’ of faith. Henry explains the importance of these titles which the Jewish Christians — and we — must consider:

2. The titles he gives to Christ, whom he would have them consider, (1.) As the apostle of our profession, the prime-minister of the gospel church, a messenger and a principal messenger sent of God to men, upon the most important errand, the great revealer of that faith which we profess to hold and of that hope which we profess to have. (2.) Not only the apostle, but the high priest too, of our profession, the chief officer of the Old Testament as well as the New, the head of the church in every state, and under each dispensation, upon whose satisfaction and intercession we profess to depend for pardon of sin, and acceptance with God. (3.) As Christ, the Messiah, anointed and every way qualified for the office both of apostle and high priest. (4.) As Jesus, our Saviour, our healer, the great physician of souls, typified by the brazen serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness, that those who were stung by the fiery serpents might look to him, and be saved.

The author goes on to discuss obedience (verse 3). Jesus was faithful to His Father in accomplishing His will, just as Moses was a faithful servant to His people.

The Jews regard Moses as the greatest human who ever lived. It is true that the Lord appeared to Moses more than any other person in the Bible and that Moses was a great leader. MacArthur enumerates his blessings and accomplishments. That said, Moses was but a faithful servant:

Moses was faithful. He carried faithfully God’s plan. He came out of in Egypt, into the wilderness. God refined him. It took 40 years for Moses to make something out of himself; 40 years for God to wreck him, and then 40 years God could use him. But 40 years in the wilderness, God broke him, made him the man he wanted him to be. Then he took the children of Israel out of the land. He was faithful. He believed God. He got to the Red Sea. And I’ve often thought to myself, “If I got to the Red Sea and somebody said, ‘Wave a stick and it’ll part, ‘ I would have said, ‘Catch that again?’“ But he did. I mean, he believed God. He was faithful. He led the children of Israel through. And then he was faithful to the time in the wilderness.

Though there were times when he was unfaithful. There were several times, even in Egypt when he slew the Egyptian, even in the wilderness when he smote the rock instead of speaking to the rock. But Moses for the most part was faithful. And so here the Holy Spirit emphasizes similarity, so as not to isolate the Jewish person.

Now, you’ll notice that it says he was faithful in all his house. What house are you talking about? Well, this means household, oikos. And Moses is seen as a faithful steward in God’s household. You say, “Well, what is God’s household?” Well, you go to the Old Testament and you about the house of David and the house of Israel. Who then is God’s household? Believers. The Old Testament believers, Israel, and any proselytes who may have been involved. Old Testament believers. Moses was faithful in God’s household.

He was a steward. Now, it says in 1 Corinthians, “Moreover, brethren, it is required in stewards that a man be found” – what? – “faithful.” Now, a steward is somebody who doesn’t own the house; he manages it for the owner. God owns the house of Israel; Moses was in charge of management. He was in charge of dispensing the facts and the things that God committed to his trust, to the people of Israel. And Moses was faithful.

However, Jesus is far greater than Moses. Jesus is both apostle and high priest. No one can claim that of Moses. MacArthur tells us:

At best Moses was an apostle. Who was the high priest? Aaron. So in this sense, Jesus is superior in his office, for he is both; Moses was only one. He is the sent one, sent from God. Apostolos means sent from God. In the Greek, it would refer to an ambassador. And Jesus is the supreme ambassador of God, sent to earth.

And what are the characteristics of an apostolos or an ambassador? Well, number one, he has all the right and all the power and all the authority of the king in the country who sends him, and so did Jesus. He came clothed with the power of God. He came with all of God’s grace, all of God’s love, all of God’s mercy, all of God’s justice, and all of God’s power.

Secondly, an ambassador has to speak with the voice of the one who sent him. And so Jesus came and said, “I speak not that which I decide to speak. I speak only what I hear the Father say.” So Jesus was the perfect sent one from God. He came with all of God’s power, and with God’s voice He spoke. But beyond that, He was always the high priest of our profession.

Now, we’re not going to spend time on the high-priest concept, because that unfolds in the whole later section of Hebrews. Suffice it to say that the word “priest” in the Latin is the word pontifex, which broken into two words, means bridge-builder. And Jesus was the one who built the bridge from God the man. He was the one who connected God and man. And so Jesus is not only the sent one from God, with all God’s power and speaking with God’s voice, but He is the one who takes man and God and brings them together. He’s the bridge-builder. And He’s also the bridge.

Then it says that He is the apostle and high priest of our profession. That is, He’s the one we confess. And don’t you see the point of the verse? Listen to this. “If you profess Christ, if you confess that He is your Lord, then you certainly ought to gaze on Him”, right? That’s what He’s saying. “You Jews, you have received Christ, you’ve confessed Him as apostle and your new high priest, you’ve received all that He has. Now gaze on Him intently.” What sense, having confessed Him as Lord, not to gaze on Him as such?

The author then states that, for these reasons, Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house is esteemed more highly than the house he built (verse 3). Did Moses build the community of God’s people? No. He managed that community — and very effectively — but he did not create it. God did (verses 4, 5). And Jesus — the Alpha and Omega — has always existed with His Father.

Furthermore, Moses served God by managing the community of the Old Covenant, preparing them for the Messiah. Jesus is the High Priest of the Church, the New Covenant, which carries with it the promise of eternal life.

MacArthur explains:

Who is Christ’s household? I’ll read it to you. It’s in Ephesians chapter 2, verse 19. “Now therefore you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” The household of God. Who is this? It’s the church. We’re [of the] new household. And Jesus is the one who cares for us. In 1 Peter 1 – pardon me, 2:4, it says “To whom coming is unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men but chosen of God and precious, ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house.”

So as the believers of the Old Testament are called “The house of Moses,” the believers of the New Testament are called “The house of Christ.” And as Moses was faithful to an earthly household, Jesus was faithful to a heavenly household. As Moses was faithful to the house God gave him, Jesus was also faithful to the house that God gave Him. And Jesus could say at the end of His life, “Father, I have finished the work which you gave me to do. I’ve told the house all that you instructed me to tell them.” He was faithful. And so the Holy Spirit delicately then begins by comparing Moses with Jesus on the basis of their faithfulness to a God-given task.

The author states that Christ — meaning Lord — is the Son who is faithful to His Father’s house (verse 6). Therefore, His position is superior to that of Moses, a servant.

MacArthur analyses verses 3 through 6 as follows:

Moses was faithful, but he’s a piece of the house. Jesus made the house. That’s the difference. Jesus created Israel. All things were made by him, Hebrews 1 – or John 1. And without him was not anything made that was made.

Moses is only a member of the whole spiritual household which Jesus himself built. Jesus created Israel; Jesus created the church. You say, “Boy, in order to do that, you have to be God.” That’s verse 4. “For every house is built by some man, but He that built all things is” – what? – “is God.” And who built all things? Jesus did. So who is Jesus? He’s God. He’s God. Every house is built by some man. I mean, somebody – a human instrument is used.

For example, you’re here today. You’re a part of God’s house. Somebody shared Christ with you, did they not? Somebody did that. Somebody introduced you to Jesus. Somebody introduced maybe several of you to Jesus Christ. And they’re responsible in a human sense for part of the house. But who really created the house? God did. It was God through them, wasn’t it? And so the distinction is just that clear. Moses is just part of the house; Jesus made the house. So you see, to hang on to the forms of Judaism doesn’t make any sense, because the greater than Moses is here.

All right. Then we see, first of all, His office is superior and His work is superior. Thirdly, the superiority of His person. His person is superior, verses 5 and 6. And here’s the climax. And before we look at it, let me just give you the distinction. In this passage you’re going to see that Moses is by person a servant; Jesus is by person a son. Did you get that? And there’s a lot of difference, friends, between a servant and a son, is there not? And it reminds me of John 8, because in John 8 – I think it’s in John 8:25, yes. “And the servant abideth not in the house forever, but the son abideth forever.” In other words, there’s a certain ranking for the son. Servants come and go; sons are sons for life. And so there’s a difference.

Look at verse 5. “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house” – what? As what? – “as a servant.” As a servant. He conducted himself as a servant. And this is kind of a dignified word. Thereupon, it also is used of angels. In the Septuagint, it’s used of prophets. This is a ranking word. He was a faithful, obedient, ministering, caring servant, and he was a good steward of God. In Exodus 40, eight times – in Exodus chapter 40, eight times it refers to Moses’ obedience to all that God commanded him. That’s pretty good. In Exodus 35 to 40, 22 times it refers to Moses’ faithfulness to obey all that God commanded him. Can you say that about your life? Can God say of you, “Twenty-two times he obeyed all that I commanded him”? Moses was – he was up there. As exalted as he was, Jesus was more exalted.

Jesus spoke of Moses during His ministry. Moses did indeed testify of Him (verse 5), which is why the Jews expected the Messiah. MacArthur elaborates:

… let me just show you John 5:46. “For had ye believed Moses,” Jesus said, “You would have believed me, for he wrote of me.” Jesus said, “Moses wrote all about me.” So you see, to accept Moses and not Jesus isn’t really to accept Moses.

Then also recorded for us in Luke 24:27, and beginning – this is Jesus on the road to Emmaus. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself.” He took Moses and said, “Now, watch what Moses says about me.” In Acts chapter 3 verse 22, “For Moses truly said unto the Father, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatever he shall say unto you.” And Peter went on to say, “And Jesus Christ is that prophet.” He is that prophet.

So you see, Moses pointed to Jesus. In fact, in Acts 28:23, yes, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets from morning until evening.” That means there was a whole lot of stuff there about Jesus in Moses’ writings.

The author concludes by stating that we — the faithful — are that house provided we believe in Christ without faltering and without losing our hope in Him. These ‘holy brothers’ were losing confidence in their conversions. Yet, despite all the hardship via persecution that they were experiencing, the author of Hebrews encourages them to stand firm in the faith, to be bold and confident about their new life in Christ.

This is why the author encourages them to ‘consider Jesus’, to think deeply about Him, thereby developing a greater relationship with Him.

As MacArthur says, this means putting navel-gazing and problems aside to focus on the future — eternal life:

If you’re going to run the Christian race, where are you going to look? Jesus.

I used to run the 100-yard dash at 2:20 in college. And one day we learned very soon that they don’t know it was – you can’t run when you watch your feet. Have you ever tried to do that? You can’t do it. I mean, you’ll run into a wall. You can’t do it. When you’ve got to stay in a lane, it’s amazing how your body works. You set your sight — just like when you drive — on something way down there, and you run right at that target. And when we used to run the sprints, we used to set our eyes on the tape. And we kept the eyes on the finish. That was not only motivation, but that’s what kept your sense of direction.

And when you’re running in the race as a believer, get your eyes off your feet. Get your eyes off yourself. You’re going to run into wall after wall after wall. You’ll be like the bruised and bleeding Pharisees that we talked about, who got that name because they thought it was a sin to look at a woman. They kept closing their eyes when they saw them, and they ran into all the buildings. There’s no sense in that.
You set your eyes on the tape. You look unto Jesus, the author and – the what? – the finisher of our faith. And you look at him and then you run. So many Christians run with their head down. It’s no wonder they run into everything.

That is a practical — and good — way of considering our Christian life. Truly considering Jesus — deeply, continuously — will turn us into long distance runners for that eternal, heavenly prize at the finish.

Next time — Hebrews 3:7-14

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