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The Son Surpasses the Servant – Hebrews 3:1-6

As we move into the next phase of the author’s sermon, there is a definite shift in subject. For two whole chapters, the author has exalted Christ above the sons of God – the heavenly beings. He is preeminent in the heavens and all of creation, period. I like that the author began at the top. Elevating Christ above the heavenly hosts was not only necessary, but it also set the stage for every subsequent comparison the author made. If He is above the sons of God, then it follows that He is also superior to every human with whom He could be compared. And really, in the Jewish mind, there was only one man with whom Jesus directly competed.

Moses.

Of course, when I say compete, there wasn’t really a competition. I mean competition in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. Moses was not competing with Jesus or vice versa. In fact, when Jesus transfigured, one of the figures who showed up to bear witness to His glory was Moses (Luke 9:28-30). So, let’s get down to it and read our passage.

1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 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. 4 (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, 6 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.
– Hebrews 3:1-6 (ESV)

Apostle and High Priest

The author said something here no other Biblical author ever said. He called Jesus an apostle. Most of us haven’t been trained to think of Jesus as an apostle but instead as the one who sent out the twelve apostles. And, that would be correct, but the author of Hebrews draws a direct line from the Father to Jesus to us. Apostle simply means sent one. In that sense, Jesus was sent by the Father, and Jesus sent out the twelve Apostles, and ever since as men and women have heard the Gospel, we too have been sent out with the same authority that the Father invested in Christ, and that Christ invested to the twelve, and so forth and so on. Apostles are sent ones.

I don’t want to dilute the word too much. There indeed seems to be a broad sense that all believers are apostles in that we are sent ones. In that regard, apostle and ambassador would be synonyms. But there is also a more specific gift of apostleship that some believers receive from the Holy Spirit. These men and women would be church planters and missionaries who spread the kingdom in unreached places. The church recognizes this gift, commissions them to go, and sends them out. Then there’s an even more specific office of Apostle. The Apostolic office belongs to the twelve apostles, commissioned by Jesus himself in the New Testament. Some argue that the Holy Spirit is still calling people to the office of Apostle, but the Scripture offers a definition of who qualified for the office in Acts chapter one.

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.
– Acts 1:21-22 (ESV)

The context here is the replacement of Judas, and the qualifier was it had to be someone who had accompanied the original twelve when Jesus was among them during his earthly ministry. That’s a really strict qualifier that disqualifies anyone, ever since, from holding the office of Apostle. So there are no more men who hold the office except Jesus, who holds it eternally.

The author continued to tease Christ’s high priestly role, but he doesn’t address it in depth until later in chapter four. I will wait until then as well. So, Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession. That confession is the Gospel. It is the good news that Yahweh sent His Son, Jesus, to fulfill the Law, atone for sins through the shedding of His blood, grant forgiveness to all who would believe in Him, and raise Him from the grave, give Him all authority in heaven and earth to rule, to judge, and to intercede for us from the right hand of the Father until He returns. That is our confession, and He is the apostle – sent one – who declared it first to us and the high priest who prays and intercedes on our behalf while we continue declaring that same message.

There is a sense in that Christ’s intercession for us is intimately tied to our apostolic work in being His sent ones. We like to think that He’s interceding for us so that we’ll have all our bills paid on time, have healthy lives, have good relationships with our children and spouses, etc. I’m not saying that’s not part of His intercession for us, but I believe the majority of His prayers are directed toward our boldness as sent ones. I’m more confident that He prays for me that I’ll have the boldness and courage to share the gospel and teach the Word with clarity than I am that He prays that I’ll pay off my mortgage ahead of time or that my side hustles will generate a lot of extra income.

Hear me again, I believe His prayers for me (and you) cover everything, but I believe He’s more concerned that I’m a faithful witness, and therefore the majority of His intercession for me supports that end more than anything else.

The Son Surpasses the Servant

It’s actually a bit surprising that the author only spent a few verses doing this Jesus-Moses comparison. But verses five and six reveal why there needs not be much more said. I’m going to work backward from verses five and six to finish our discussion on Jesus and Moses.

5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 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.
– Hebrews 3:5-6 (ESV)

There’s something powerful about this son-servant comparison. Jesus himself made this contrast.

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
– John 8:35 (ESV)

I don’t want to be guilty of cherry-picking. This saying happened in the middle of a conversation with some Jews who claimed to be Abraham’s children but who were still enslaved to their sins. The concept Christ was trying to get across to those Jews was you may well be in Abraham’s household, but you’re servants, not children. You aren’t a member of his family because you don’t have the same faith that he had. Slaves don’t remain in the house forever. Only sons.

The concept applies here. Moses wouldn’t remain the steward of God’s people forever because he wasn’t the Son. Jesus is the Son of God, and He came to take over the shepherding of God’s people from the faithful stewardship of Moses. Note: the author doesn’t diminish Moses one bit. He even goes as far as to say that Jesus is faithful, just like Moses was faithful in all of God’s house. He honors Moses. I would even go as far as to say that the author loved Moses like any faithful Jew. But he recognized that Moses was a faithful manager, not the owner of God’s house. He was a servant, not the Son. As such, he could not remain the shepherd of God’s people forever.

Do you see it?

In the beginning, before sin entered the picture, the LORD Himself shepherded His family. He had an unveiled relationship with Adam and Eve, and they were naked and unashamed before Him and with each other. After sin entered, a veil fell. There was a separation between mankind and the LORD. There was even a veil that fell between Adam and Eve as they could no longer be naked and unashamed with each other. Because the LORD desired fellowship with His family, he gave them human shepherds, beginning with Moses, who would point them toward Himself. But human shepherds were no substitute for personal interaction. Human shepherds would not satisfy the LORD’s desire forever. He sent Jesus the Son to become THE Shepherd of His family. And so, with Christ as our Shepherd, the LORD is moving us back toward what He had in the beginning. An unveiled relationship with His family. We are heading back to Eden. A better Eden!

Moses, as faithful as He was, could not get us there. Only the Son.

[I realize that I totally nutshelled everything in redemptive history in that paragraph and forsook many other aspects for the sake of making a point. But the point is rock solid!]

Therefore, when the author contended that Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, it was not disrespectful to Moses at all. He did not denigrate Moses or minimize him one bit. He only states that Jesus – the builder of the house – is deserving of more glory than the one who was steward of the house – Moses. It wasn’t Moses’ house, though He deserves honor and glory for his stewardship. The apostle Paul puts it another way in 2 Corinthians.

7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
– 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (ESV)

I’ve always said it like this. The brightest lightbulb you can purchase for your home will bring excellent light. It will serve its purpose, do it perfectly, and there will be no reason to cast shade on it for being insufficient. It does its job, and it does it perfectly according to its designed purpose. But, if you take that perfect lightbulb outside and hold it up to the sun, it will appear to have no light at all. It’s not because it’s malfunctioning or not performing at it’s designed capacity. It is. But in the presence of the sun, its light renders the light of the bulb ineffective.

Moses had glory. He spent so much time in the LORD’s presence that his face shone (Exodus 34:29-35). But his glory wasn’t even his. It was transferred glory from being in the presence of the LORD. It was Yahweh’s glory rubbed off on him! The Son, Jesus, is Yahweh incarnate, and His glory is what was shining on the face of Moses. Whatever glory Moses had, was a reflection of the glory that surpasses him.

Jesus is the sun, Moses is the lightbulb. Moses did his job and did it well, but the Son has risen to bring light that surpasses the light that Moses brought. Jesus is the Son who surpasses the servant.

I want to end this study with a question. Think about your relationship with the LORD and ask yourself this question. Am I a servant or a son? Am I working out my salvation like a slave or like a son? There is a sense in which all sons serve their fathers. I am not discounting the servant aspect of being in God’s family. We serve Him, and we serve one another. The question is, are you basing your claim to salvation because you serve or because you’re a son? There’s a huge difference because one will remain in God’s house forever, and the other won’t.

I’m already working on the next lesson. Stay tuned. Remember to post any questions or comments you may have in the Facebook group for discussion.

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Last modified: April 12, 2023
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