The Builder of the House

 

In Hebrews chapter 1 we saw the Supremacy of Christ, the Son of God, in His exaltation as King (Son-King), a position superior to angels. In chapter 2 we read of the Humiliation of Christ, the Son of Man, in His suffering as the Last Adam. Now in chapter 3, the tide shifts to a strong exhortation based God’s revelation of who this Jesus is, followed by the entrance into the superiority of Christ over the elements of the Old Covenant, namely its mediator, Moses.

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” Hebrews 3:1

The Author’s exhortation begins appropriately with “therefore” signaling yet again the continuity with what has been expressed earlier and serving to link the previous exposition with the current one. Remember that in the original composition of this letter (or sermon), there were no chapter breaks, so, often the author is actually expressing a continuous thought and simply uses “therefore” to emphasize or reiterate a point to his audience. Though this audience of Hebrews, particularly their identification in the warning passages, has often been debated, here there is clear evidence that the intended audience, the recipients of the warnings, are believers, i.e. “holy brothers”.

This familial language introduced in chapter one between Father and Son and expanded in chapter two to include believers as the family of God and brothers of Christ, is evident yet again as chapter 3 develops. However here, this reference serves a two-fold purpose, first in identifying the recipients of the warning among the family of God, but it also serves to unite the theme of sanctification (holiness) alluded to in 1:3 and expressly stated again in 2:10-11.

Adding to this statement as a further modification of the family of God, or brothers, is that they “share in a heavenly calling.” This calling from heaven is a calling from God and a calling to God. It is an effectual, gracious call that does not extend to everyone and cannot be answered by anyone, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Likewise, this heavenly calling accomplishes all that God intends, namely in bringing many sons to glory. Similar language, for example to share, to partake, or even better to partner in, is used elsewhere, as in 1:9, and related in origin to the word used in 2:14. Likewise, it is the same word used in 3:14 (see also 6:4 and 12:8) and it highlights the various ways in which believers are partakers with Christ or better stated, in union with Him. Believers are literally united by a heavenly calling, the Gospel call, issued forth by the Spirit of God that is received by faith.

The exhortation of this section begins with the admonition to “consider Jesus”, followed by the reason for doing so, namely that He is the “apostle and high priest of our confession.” This is the only time in Scripture that Christ is referred to as an apostle, fitting though because apostle actually means “sent one”. He commissioned His own disciples in their apostleship, similarly He was commissioned for His own apostleship by His Father. When held in conjunction with the office of High Priest, we will see in subsequent verses that Christ in His official capacities were granted them by oath of God the Father.

In the verse that follows, the Author begins a series of comparisons and contrasts, similar to that of chapter 1 between Christ and angels, but here the object of comparison is with Moses, the fundamentally superior character on the pages of Old Testament Scripture. Moses stands head and shoulders above anyone else because he is viewed as the great redeemer and law giver. He is the one who met face to face with God on the mountain and in the tabernacle. He is the one who so often interceded to God on behalf of Israel for food, water, and God’s mercy. So then, when the author sets up the comparison and contrast of Christ with Moses, we must realize the significance of this, particularly from the perspective of Jewish tradition.

The comparison begins with the faithfulness of Christ, “who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.” This mention of Christ faithfulness picks up on the mention of His “merciful and faithful” high priesthood from 2:17 giving the reader an indication of its importance and the attention it will be given in subsequent chapters. We see that the object of Christ’s faithfulness was toward God the Father, “who appointed him.”

This appointment ties back with the earlier statement of Christ’s apostleship and high priesthood. Christ did not appoint Himself, nor did He come on His own authority, as He so often proclaimed during His earthly ministry, but came at the direction of the Father to do His will. The language of appointment is likely intentional to draw the readers minds back to 1 Samuel 2:35:

“And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”

and 1 Chronicles 17:14

“but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever”

Additionally, the reference to appointment serves as a springboard into the citation of Psalm 110 by the Author in chapter 5, which will serve as the introduction to the discourse on the Priesthood of Christ.

The comparison then is the faithfulness of Christ with the faithfulness of Moses, who, as we are told, “was faithful in all God’s house”. This statement will eventually set up the first point of contrast in the following verse, but we should pause to ask, what is this house of God that Moses was faithful in? In Numbers 12:6-8 we find perhaps the foundation upon which this statement is made in Hebrews, “And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 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 beholds the form of the Lord.”   The house in reference here is sometimes referred to in two ways, the first being the House of Israel and the second being the House of God, i.e. the tabernacle. Both statements are true, but as Schreiner points out, “’house’” in this context refers to the people of God. As a member of God’s people Moses was faithful.”[1] This seems to correspond with the context, as we will see.

Continuing into the contrast, “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,” we see that Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses. Why? To answer that, the Author establishes a contrast by way of analogy, “the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself”. The implication here is that Jesus is the Builder of the house and that Moses is the “house”. Not that he is the house alone, but is a member of the house, as will be clarified in verse 6.

In verse 4 we read the following parenthetical statement, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” When held in combination with the previous verse that established Jesus Christ as the Builder of the house, this verse declares the deity of Christ by saying all things are built by God and that Christ is that God. The syllogism reads like this: Christ built the house::All things are built by God::Therefore Christ is God. Perhaps it has Hebrews 1:2 in mind, or perhaps it isn’t a reference to creation in general, but to building the house of God specifically. Nevertheless it is a syllogistic statement setting forth the truth that Jesus is God.

The author of Hebrews then steps back into his contrast by positively stating the role of Moses, “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later”. Here we get a further statement concerning Moses’ position in the house, i.e. that of servant. In fulfilling his duty, he testifies to the “things that were to be spoken later.” What things are these? The things of Christ, i.e. the coming of the Messiah, i.e. the Gospel. Luke 24:44 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’”  There is much more that could be said regarding this, such as John 3:14-15; John 6:31-51; 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 9-10; Moses spoke and testified of Christ and despite some more modern theological systems claiming otherwise, the Gospel was present and preached in the Old Testament. This becomes more explicitly stated in Hebrews 4:1-2.

Continuing in our passage, verse 6 is the culminating verse that states the superiority of Christ, as Son, who in His position over the house is greater than Moses who serves in the house. If any lingering questions remain at this point regarding the substance of this house, whether it be a physical structure or in reference to a spiritual structure, that is cleared up in the remaining portion of this verse, “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” As we have seen, the author has included himself in the introduction of this warning statement and again, he aligns himself with his audience, “we are his house if indeed we”.

Believers are the temple of God; the place where God resides and dwells within (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). The Old Testament temple was but a type of the temple of Christ’s body (John 2:19-22). The New Testament uses this imagery to paint a picture of our relationship in union with Christ, the true temple.

The “if” used here is not necessarily a conditional statement, but is a statement of perseverance, “If we persevere, we are His house”. The second clause is not necessarily dependent, as in an if/then statement, but more so is clarified by the first statement. In other words, our inclusion in the house of God is evidenced by our perseverance, which is here referred to as “holding fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope”, all of which point to Christ as its source.

Moses was a member of the house of God and a faithful servant in it. Christ, as Son, built the house giving Him more glory and honor than a servant. We, like our first century brothers and sisters receiving this message, are called to consider this Jesus. Apostle. High Priest. Builder. Son. Merciful and Faithful in all these. Our Confidence and our Hope. Let us therefore persevere as members of the House of God built in Christ.

 

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R., “Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation: Commentary on Hebrews”. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2015. Pg 115

*Image Credit – Wikipedia

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