Online Bible Commentary
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. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 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. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 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. (NIV)
The letter to the Hebrews is concerned with two main subjects. The first is to proclaim the superiority of Christ (vv. 1:1-10:18) and the second is to exhort the Hebrews to obedient living (vv. 10:19-13:25). Previously in this letter the writer, likely Paul, has proclaimed the superiority of Christ over the prophets, the angels, and mankind. Now, in this passage, the writer proclaims the superiority of Christ over Moses, the writer of the Law, the Torah, and one of Israel’s greatest national heroes.
The passage begins with the word “therefore” (v. 1a), which refers to a previous verse or passage. In this case, the writer is making reference to the previous two verses which proclaim that Christ is the high priest who is willing and able to help them. The action the writer is pointing the readers to is to fix their thoughts on (v. 1d), to continually focus on, Christ, this high priest who can help them. The writer addresses the Hebrews as “holy brothers” (v. 1b), meaning they are fellow Christians, brothers (and sisters) of Christ who share the same Heavenly Father. As brothers, they all share the same “heavenly calling” (v. 1c), to be Holy.
Christ is described here as “the apostle and high priest” (v. 1e). An apostle is one who represents God to us and a high priest is one who represents us to God. Christ does both. He speaks for God the Father to Christians, through the Holy Spirit, and He intercedes for Christians before God the Father. He pleads our case. He sits at the right hand and fulfills the role of our lawyer before our Father in Heaven. He has lived on this earth, has walked in our shoes, and knows how to best represent us before the Father.
Before the writer proclaims how Christ is superior to Moses, he proclaims what they have in common. They both were “faithful” to God (v. 2). Christ was faithful to the “one who appointed him”, the Father in Heaven. Moses was faithful to “all God’s house, all believers in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The writer now proclaims how Christ is superior to Moses, in three ways. He identifies Christ as “the builder” of God’s house, whereas Moses was only part of “the house itself” (v. 3a). Greater honor is given to the builder of the house than the house itself (v. 3b). The word translated “builder” is from the Greek word “kataskeoazo”, which means to construct or create. The word expresses more than just building a house. It includes the equipping of all that is needed in the house, and all that is needed to maintain the house going forward. This is the role that Christ plays in the lives of all Christians.
The second way that Christ is superior to Moses is that Christ is God. In a reference to Jesus as God, the writer proclaims that “God is the builder of everything” (v. 4). Through Jesus all things were created (Jn. 1:3).
The third way that Christ is superior to Moses is that Christ is the “Son” of God, ruling over “God’s house” (v. 6a), all believers, and Moses was “a servant” of God (v. 5a). This is not to denigrate Moses, for Moses was a prophet of God, “testifying to what would be said in the future” (v. 5b).
The writer completes this passage by identifying who is the “house” (v. 6b). The house is “we” (v. 6c), the believers in Jesus Christ, Christians. We are believers “if we hold on to our” (v. 6d) faith. We are proven to be believers by our persistence in the faith, not through the action of persisting in the faith. This is a very important distinction. We are believers through the actions of Jesus Christ, so that we are saved through faith in Him, not our works, not even our works of persistence.
When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells us, sealing us in our belief (Eph. 1:13). The Holy Spirit is a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” of eternal life (Eph. 1:14). Christians cannot lose their salvation. However, there are cases of people appearing to “fall away” from Christianity. These people did not actually fall away from their faith. They were never Christians. They were never indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Persistence in the faith, therefore, is proof that we are Christians. Those who do not persist never were Christians in the first place. Jesus knows their heart, and, for some reason, their motives were not right when they made their profession of faith. They need a do over, with the right motives. The good news is that God is the God of second chances.