Better Than Moses

The book of Hebrews is designed to exalt Christ. The book may be outlined as follows: I. Christ is a better messenger than previous messengers of God (1:1 – 4:13). II. Christ is a better priest than the Levitical priests (4:14-7:28). III. Christ’s priestly work is a better work than the work in the tabernacle/temple of the Mosaic order (8:1-10:31). IV. Christians are exhorted to faithfulness (10:32-13:25).

Christ is a better messenger. He is better than the prophets, who spoke to the Hebrew fathers (1:1-1:4). He is better than the angels (1:1-2:18), who played a role in the giving of the law (2:1-3 cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). He is better than Moses (3:1-3:19). He is better than Joshua (4:1-4:13).

Let us consider the comparison of Jesus with Moses, as set forth in Hebrews chapter three

1. Similarities

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house” (Hebrews 3:1-2).

There are similarities which may be inferred from these words. (1) Jesus is referred to as Apostle. The word “apostle” means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (VIne’s). “One chosen and sent with a special commission as the fully authorized representative of the sender” (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary). Jesus was sent by God into the world for salvation (John 3:17; 4:34; 5:23, etc.). Moses was sent by God to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:9-10). (2) Jesus is referred to as High Priest; this point is developed later in this book (Hebrews 7-10, e.g. Hebrews 7:26-28; 8:1-3; 9:11-12; 10:11-13). Moses seems to have functioned in this role until the appointment of Aaron and his sons (Consider: Exodus 24:5-8; 29:10-14, 15-18, 19-25, 26-28. Aaron and his sons are appointed in Exodus 28-29).

Both are said to have been faithful in their appointed roles. Jesus prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:29). “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Moses was also a faithful steward (cf. Numbers 12:7). Yes, Moses had his shortcomings. However, “the tenor of his years of service was one of faithful trust in God” (Tom Wacaster).

2. More Glory

“For the One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house” (Hebrews 3:3).

What is the house? (1) Some believe that it refers to material creation. However, this does not seem to fit (cf. Hebrews 3:6). (2) Some believe that two houses are in view in this chapter. Israel is thought to be in view in Hebrews 3:3, 5. The church is thought to be in view in Hebrews 3:6. This is based on the words “His Own.” This we will see is a dubious translation. (3) Still others believe that this refers to God’s special people (whether in Old Testament or New Testament).

Let’s notice the comparison. First, let’s consider how Moses is described. Moses was the house (Hebrews 3:3); that is, he was a part of the house. He was a faithful servant in the house (Hebrews 3:5). The house did not belong to him, and he did not build it. Second, let’s consider how Jesus is described. He is the builder (Hebrews 3:3). But how? Moses lived long before Jesus was born into this world. However, remember that the writer has already presented Jesus as the means by which creation occurred (Hebrews 1:1-2 cf. Colossians 1:16; John 1:1-3). His existence did not begin with His conception or birth.

“For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).

The world “for” (gar) connects this verse with the thought in the previous verse. An effect implies an adequate cause. A design implies a designer. “The building of every house implies a chief architect” (Robert Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews).

God is the ultimate reason all things exist. He created the universe and all things therein (Hebrews 11:3 cf. Exodus 20:11). He is the ultimate reason that people exist, and that God’s special people exist.

Is Jesus referred to as “God” in this passage? It is difficult to tell from this verse alone. However, let us remember that He already has been referred to as LORD and Creator in this book (Hebrews 1:10-12 cf. Psalm 102:25-26). Robert Milligan believed that this referred to the entire Godhead. He wrote, “God himself (including the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) was the Supreme Architect” (Robert Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews).

3. Servant In His house vs. Son Over His House

“And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:5-6).

The comparison continues. First, let’s consider how Moses is described. He was a faithful servant (Hebrews 3:5 cf. Numbers 12:7). “His house” refers to God’s house (cf. Numbers 12:7). He served “for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward.” Marvin Vincent comments, “The meaning is that Moses, in his entire ministry, was but a testimony to what was to be spoken in the future by another greater than he. Comp. Deuteronomy 18:15 explained of Christ Acts 3:22-23” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Preston Silcox comments, “That is, he allowed his words and actions to point to thing beyond himself. These ‘things’ were Christ and His house – things far superior to Moses and the Old Testament economy!” (ed. Devin W. Dean, Studies In Hebrews, The Gospel Journal Commentary series). Second, let’s consider how Jesus is described. He is a Son (Hebrews 3:6), heir of all things (cf. Hebrews 1:2). He is over lit. the house of him. Notice the comparison: servant vs. Son, In vs. Over.

Whose house is it in context? Some translations read “his own house” or “His own house,” understanding the house to belong to Jesus (e.g. KJV, NKJV, Douay). Some translations read “his house” or “His house” (e.g. ASV, NASB. The ASV footnotes this, “That is, God’s house”). Some translations read “God’s house” (e.g. NIV, ESV). The literal language is “the house of him.” This same pronoun was used in verse 2 and verse 5. It seems to refer to the house of God (cf. Hebrews 10:21-22).

Jesus is over the church (Ephesians 1:22). The church is the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15).

However, the church belongs to Jesus (Matthew 16:18). He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He is the God-man.

The writer exhorts them (and us) to hold fast (Hebrews 3:6 cf. 3:14, 4:14; 10:23). They were God’s special people, and would continue to be if they would hold fast. Confidence (faith) was needed (Hebrews 3:5 cf. 4:16; 6:11; 10:19; 10:35). Hope was needed (Hebrews 3:6 cf. 6:11; 6:18; 7:19; 10:23). It is interesting to note that the word “hold fast” (Katecho) was used nautically to mean “Make for, head for, steer for” (BAGD); “holding one’s course toward, bearing down for, Acts 27:40” (Vincent’s Word Studies). This may be saying that they needed to keep their course fixed on the confidence and hope they have had (Hebrews 3:6 cf. 10:23).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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