One of the things that is striking so far in the book of Hebrews is that this morning we’re beginning the third chapter of the book, and we’re only running into our second exhortation. Most of the book has been teaching about the nature and superiority of Jesus and not giving us commands. But perhaps what is even more striking than the fact that we’re only running into our second exhortation in this book is the nature of these exhortations. The first we saw was back in 2:1 where the author wrote, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we’ve heard.” And the second begins our text this morning as the author writes in 3:1, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus.” These are the two exhortations: “pay much closer attention” and “consider.”
Now, my guess is that when you think of application, you typically don’t think of words like “pay much closer attention” or “consider.” You’re ready to do something, not pay closer attention to something or consider something. Yet when the author of Hebrews writes to a people who are in danger of facing the Lord’s judgment—and indeed they are—it’s interesting that the first two things he tells them to do is to “pay much closer attention” and “consider.”
Why? Perhaps one way we can arrive at the answer is by thinking of the way the Bible handles other exhortations. For example, when Paul writes to Timothy, telling him to charge the people to “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths” (1 Tim 4:7), it’s reasonable to think he knew they faced a particular temptation to take up irreverent, silly myths. When he writes to the Colossians, warning them to let no one cake them captive according to philosophy or human traditions (Col 2:8), we should reason that Paul knew they were susceptible to that. Or again, when Paul charges the rich not to be haughty (1 Tim 6:17), it’s reasonable to assume that those who have great wealth face a particular temptation to think much of themselves in comparison to others. And though we could go on, I assume we all get the point. Seeing an exhortation helps us get a clearer view of where temptations lie. And I think we can assume the same thing about our text we’re looking at this morning.
For Paul to tell these Jewish believers to pay much closer attention to the gospel message of what Jesus has done for us and to consider Jesus, in terms of who he is and what he has done, seems to suggest that they faced a particular battle in terms of their minds. That is, they were being tempted to find their minds more interested in and more attracted to something besides Jesus. In other words, it seems that their great struggles weren’t in the area of craving lustful sins or pursuing selfish gain and greed but in becoming more interested in and captivated by other things above Jesus.
And in the Lord’s infinite wisdom, the Spirit saw fit not only to have the biblical author address these Jewish believers but to provide it for us as inspired Scripture. Moreover, it comes to us as one of the most intentional letters of warning in the Bible. That is, more than any other book, the letter to the Hebrews warns professing believers of the dangers of facing God’s judgment if they drift away from holding fast to our hope. And, within that book, the first two exhortations he gives are related to our minds. He wants us to pay closer attention to and consider Jesus, reminding each of us that the greatest danger we may face today might not be that image that you come across simply trying to check out at the register at Kroger, that desire to covet what your neighbor has, or the impulse to spread hurtful information about others in gossip; it may well be that you simply are tempted to find some things more interesting and captivating to your mind than Jesus.
And don’t you feel that? Don’t you feel it on occasion (or often) when you pray? It’s as if you sit to pray and suddenly you become fully aware that there is a war going on for your attention and interest. You want to be the kind of person who has your heart and mind captivated by Jesus each moment, and yet you find your heart and mind more captivated by so many other things. What is the remedy? Well, it has been said that if you want your mind to drift toward thinking of your Savior in times of prayer, you must make a discipline of thinking about him much outside of times of prayer as well. And I think that’s precisely the answer that the author of Hebrews gives us in our text. In order to keep our minds from being more interested in others things and drifting away from Jesus toward those things we must think much on, pay closer attention to, and deliberately and frequently consider who Jesus is, how glorious he is, and why he should occupy more of our thoughts than other things. We might say in a book where the theme that Jesus is better than anything that we set alongside of him, that Jesus is better for occupying our thoughts and attention than anything we can place alongside of him. Therefore, this morning, let’s take some time once more to consider Jesus.
Before we dive in to seeing the three things our text tells us that we need to consider about Jesus, we should note that the overarching truth presented here is that Jesus is better than Moses. And this point makes sense when we remember that the specific reality capturing the interest and attention of these Jewish believers (and, thus, pulling them away from Jesus) was the OT law. Therefore, since the Bible teaches that the law was delivered by angels, the author has shown in chs. 1-2 that Jesus is superior to angels. Now, since Moses is the key human figure associated with the law, the author of Hebrews begins in ch. 3 showing that Jesus is better than Moses. And by doing so, he’s showing that they need to stop being captivated so much by Moses and the Old Covenant sacrificial system and begin considering who Jesus is and what he’s done for them. So, what does he want them to see about Jesus in these verses? First, he wants us to see that Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession.
Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession
The author of Hebrews writes in verses 1-2, “Therefore, holy brothers, 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 was faithful in all of God’s house.”
Now, I’ll get to Moses as we look at the next point, so I won’t tackle the last phrase of verse 2 yet. But as we look at what’s said here, one of the first things that probably strikes us is that there is language here we don’t usually use. Even if you’ve been in church your whole life, my guess is that you don’t greet one another as, “Fellow brother who shares in a heavenly calling.” Nor do you refer to Jesus as “the apostle … of our confession.” So, what’s going on here?
Well, when the author of Hebrews refers to these Jewish believers as those who share in a heavenly calling, I think he is simply referencing the truths that he’s unfolded in the first two chapters. Because Jesus has identified with us and done everything necessary for our salvation, we’re going to be heirs of a glorious new creation at the resurrection, when the world is made new. Now, when you read the rest of the book of Hebrews, you’ll find that this new creation (or “world to come” as we saw in ch. 2) is referred to as “a heavenly” city (11:16) or “the heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22). So, the author isn’t moving us away from some new topic. He’s simply saying to his hearers, “We share with Jesus being heirs of that world to come, that heavenly calling he’s gained for us.”
In the same way, when he refers to Jesus as “the apostle … of our confession,” he’s simply identifying Jesus as the one sent from God to accomplish our salvation. The term apostle means one who is sent, and this is what we’ve seen in the first two chapters. Adam failed in his task of reigning over this creation, and so God sent another to undo Adam’s failures and to succeed where Adam failed. Jesus is this sent one. Also, Moses is spoken of as being sent by God to Pharaoh in the OT, so the author may already be using language to set up the comparison he’s going to make.
Moreover, the confession he refers to isn’t simply some list of truths we all ascribe to in order to be saved. It’s our confession about who Jesus is and what he has done. Think, for example, when we publicly confess faith in baptism. We typically have those baptized make a verbal confession of faith—whether they’ve only recently become believers or have been Christians for a long time. And we ask them to confess that Jesus is the Son of God, who came from heaven, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead on the third day. Then we ask them to confess that they’re trusting in him alone for their salvation.
Now, in that confession, we are asking for a confession of truths, but notice that all the truths revolve around who Jesus is and what he has done. What that shows is that the Bible teaches us that we’re justified by faith alone, but it isn’t simply faith in whatever you want to believe. We’re saved by faith in Jesus—who he is and what he has done for us. Salvation is utterly wrapped up in Jesus.
This is what the author of Hebrews wants his hearers to remember. There is one who was sent from God to accomplish our salvation. That is Jesus, not Moses or anyone else. He is the apostle of our confession. There is one who is our representative before God so that we can be saved. That is Jesus. He is the high priest of our confession. There is one in whom we confess our hope for salvation rests. That is Jesus. And his point is, if you turn from Jesus to absolutely anything or anyone else, then you’re walking away from your only hope for salvation, for he alone is the apostle and high priest of our confession. It is through union with Christ alone that we find salvation.
This is why we’ve noted multiple times that the question, “Can people be saved apart from Jesus” is a question that doesn’t even make sense in light of the teaching of the Bible. It’s like asking, “Can you be married and still be a bachelor?” or “Can something have four sides and still be a triangle?” It’s nonsensical. Salvation in the Bible is nothing less than being united with Jesus so that everything he is and has achieved counts for you. That’s why the Bible doesn’t refer to us as being “saved” nearly as much as it refers to us as being “in Christ” because that’s what salvation is.
So, this is our starting point. Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation, and therefore he is our salvation. He is the apostle and high priest of our confession. Second, Jesus is the head and creator of the people of God.
Jesus is the head and creator of the people of God
Now, what you’ll see in each of these points is that the author is not making altogether unrelated points. In fact, you might think of it as simply turning a diamond to look at another facet of the same glorious gem. In this case, he looks at Jesus and shows us another facet of who he is and what he’s done. But, once more, the way he speaks of Jesus as the head and creator of God’s people is a bit complex.
After noting that Moses was faithful “in all God’s house,” the writer continues, “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.)” (vv. 3-4).
So, what’s going on here? Again, we have to take this by pieces. First, in order to show that Jesus is better than Moses, he’s not denigrating Moses. Sometimes we’re tempted to exalt ourselves by putting others down around us. But that’s not what’s going on here. The author notes that Moses was faithful. And the OT agrees. In Numbers 12 the Lord notes that he speaks to numerous prophets in dreams, but then he writes, “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he behold the form of the LORD” (vv. 7-8). What a strong testimony to how glorious of a figure Moses was in the OT! Yet, the author tells us that Jesus is worthy of more glory.
Why? He notes that Jesus is worthy of more glory by way of pointing us to an easily understood illustration. He notes that one who builds the house is worthy of more honor than the house the person builds. And this makes sense. I often think of this if I’m on the beach and see some spectacular structure that someone has built out of sand. My instant thought is to look around and try to figure out who built it. Why? Well, it’s because we intuitively know that as glorious as a structure is, the real honor and glory should go to the one who actually constructed it. So, Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses just as a builder of a house is worthy of more honor than the house itself.
Okay, we might say, that is fair, but how do Jesus and Moses related to a builder of a house and the house the builder builds? Well, the picture becomes clearer when we skip down to verse 6 and note that when the author of Hebrews speaks of God’s house he is speaking of God’s people. We read in v. 6, “And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Throughout the OT the temple was seen as the house of God in that it was the place where God dwelt. But in Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul will tell us that it’s as if each of us are stones that are built and joined together into a holy temple so that we are the dwelling place of God by his Spirit. And it’s this point that the author of Hebrews is making here. When he refers to “the house of God,” he’s not referring to the literal temple that was destroyed in A.D. 70. He’s referring to the people of God among whom God dwells by his Spirit. And of Moses, we are told, that he was faithful “in all God’s house.” That is, he was one of the people of God, and among them, he was very faithful. In fact, we might say, if we were to rate the faithfulness of God’s people throughout history, Moses may well be very near the top of the list. That’s impressive.
Jesus, however, is not merely a member of God’s people. He is the builder of the house. He is the head of God’s people and the creator of God’s people. In Ephesians 2, we are told that Jesus is the cornerstone on whom the temple of God’s people is built. In Ephesians 5, he is called the head of the church. And here he is called the builder of God’s people. But the point is the same no matter how you want to say it, “Jesus is the foundation and creator of God’s people.” In fact, if you want a definition of who the people of God are you can simply say that God’s people are those who have been united to Jesus by faith. For it is only in being united with Jesus that we become one of the people of God. God’s people are formed by Jesus.
And more than that, since the builder of all things is God, and Jesus is the builder of God’s people, then the author is once more confirming that Jesus is no mere man. He is the God-man. He is God the Son incarnate. And the only reason these Jewish believers have been distracted by the glory of Moses—who was extremely faithful as a person of God—is because they’ve failed to stop and consider Jesus, who is no mere member of the house but it’s builder. He is the head and creator of the people of God. He has infinitely more glory than Moses.
Finally, Jesus is the Son of God and our only hope for salvation.
Jesus is the Son of God and our only hope for salvation
The author ends in verses 5-6 writing, “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.”
Even Moses’ faithfulness pointed us to something more. One way that Moses was faithful to God is that he always pointed his hearers to one greater to come. This is what the author is referring to as he notes that Moses was faithful to “testify to the things that were to be spoken later on.” In Deuteronomy 18, for example, Moses spoke as a prophet of God telling that there would be another prophet to come one day. The book of Hebrews opens by telling us that this supreme prophet has come. God’s mouthpiece has arrived. He is Jesus. But he is no mere prophet. He is God’s Son. God has spoken to us by coming to us himself, in the person of his Son. Jesus was faithful in his task as God the Son. He is faithful as God’s human king and Son. He was and is faithful as the God-man.
And the author of Hebrews sends a subtle warning at the end as he writes that we are his people if we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in hope. That is his way of saying, “And you are a child of God if indeed you keep holding fast to your confession that Jesus and what he has done is your only hope.” In other words, if you turn from Jesus, you’re turning from your only hope of salvation.
This isn’t his way of suggesting that someone can lose his or her salvation. But it is his way of reminding us that though many profess to be believers, those who truly are believers will show that in their lives by continuing to walk in repentance and faith in Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, a few weeks back we considered the danger of drifting. And this morning we’re reminded that one way we can begin a process of drifting is by allowing our hearts and minds to be captivated by something and interested in something more than we’re captivated by and interested in Jesus. And there’s always something that stands as a temptation for us to be drawn to more than Jesus. For these Jewish believers it was the OT law. For us it could be a career, prestige, a man or woman we’re interested in, a sports team, riches, or a hundred other things. And each of these things is great as long as they’re held in their place merely as temporary gifts from God to be enjoyed. But each of them also can become a threat to our faith.
So, what is the answer? Spend more time considering Jesus. It may not feel like a weighty application. But some of us need to stop being so busy and stop and consider who Jesus is. Al Mohler once wrote an address titled, “Stop doing something and stand there.” Maybe that’s how we should respond to this text today. Stop doing something and just meditate on and ponder the glory of Jesus who lived, died, and was raised so that we might be children of God. Stop and consider who he is until you find your heart stirred in greater affection for him. Let us pray today that as we consider him, the Spirit might allow his glory to captivate our hearts and minds more than anything or anyone else in this world. May that be our prayer as we come to the table. Amen.