Jesus Is Greater Than Moses

Jesus Is Greater Than Moses

Martin Luther provides a helpful definition of God Larger Catechism

“A “god” is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.”

There is only one true God, but whatever our heart clings to is functioning as our god—whether true or not.

Jesus is greater than (>) everything! The author of Hebrews spent most of the first two chapters comparing Jesus to angels. Even where the author discussed Christ’s high priestly work in the previous passage (Heb 2:17), he did so after clarifying that his redeeming work makes his authority superior to angels (Heb 2:5916).

In chapter three the author transitions to a comparison between Jesus and Moses. Once again, the emphasis is upon Christ’s superiority to Moses. Just as the original audience held angels in high regard, they also recognize Moses to be the exemplary leader of the people of God. He led them out of bondage in Egypt and represented them before God, all the while suffering the constant complaint and challenge of an ungrateful generation. And yet, Moses was only a shadow of Israel’s true ruler, “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (v.3).

Just as these Hebrew Christians were tempted to drift away from Christ and return to Moses for their salvation, so we are often prone to look to alternative saviors. The remedy is not try to label everything else as an idol, but to invest ourselves more and more in what is superior.

The assurance of our salvation is the fruit of a mind settled upon the superiority of Christ.

Read Hebrews 3:1-6.

Consider the  Faithfulness  of Jesus (1-2)

“Therefore” indicates the connection his argument has to the previous passage in which the author pointed his reader to Christ’s ability to “help those who are being tempted” (Heb 2:18). If there is any reluctance to look to Jesus for help, our primary problem is that we do not understand Jesus.

He reminds them that they are “holy brothers” (Heb 2:11) who participate in the same “heavenly calling”. They have not only been set apart from the world as children adopted into the family of God, but they have also received an irrevocable call (Rom 11:29). This “heavenly calling” to the effectual call of God that invites them to place our faith in Christ (Heb 9:15).

They have received a divine call not to be like everyone else—not to be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2)—but to order their minds according to heavenly priorities. This calling gives them purpose and meaning to live in such a way that pleases their Creator. Instead of seeking their own pleasure, they now recognize their highest satisfaction in living for God. This divine calling also fills them with hope to receive a glorious inheritance (Eph 1:18). 

The author tells his “holy brothers” to “consider Jesus” because he knows Jesus can help them overcome whatever temptation they are suffering. This is the only command in the passage: “Consider Jesus”! They were to devote their mind to reflect upon Jesus. We often refer to our confession of faith, speaking of doctrinal standards. But, “our confession” at the end of v.1 has a different meaning. The New Testament almost exclusively uses the term translated “confession” with reference to our personal profession of faith. Jesus is the one in whom we place our faith. He is the one in whom our hearts rely upon.

As the apostle of their confession, Jesus was sent by God in order to disciple them and send them out as disciples (Jn 20:21). But the term was not exclusively used as a title for the twelve. It had to do with being designated as a steward in the house of God. The apostles were the stewards of God’s special revelation, especially the pinnacle of that revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. They heard the word of God given through His Son, they preserved that testimony, and then they were witnesses to it for the rest of their lives. This is the only time the term is applied to Jesus as the pioneer of the Christian faith. 

As the high priest of their confession, Jesus continues to represent and uphold them before his Father (Heb 7:24-25). The author will greatly build upon this argument later on. Robert Paul Martin views this as a summary statement of the broader section covering Heb 3:1-12:17. The first section considers Jesus as an apostle in comparison to Moses (Heb 3:1-4:16), while the second section considers Jesus as a high priest compared to the old covenant priesthood (Heb 5:1-12:17).

The Attraction of Faithfulness

The idea of faithfulness is almost exclusively of interest to those who are intentionally religious. I say intentionally, because there is a sense in which being made in the image of God means that everyone has eternity in their hearts (Eccl 3:11)—and they cannot help being religious. But, it would appear that the only people who are interested in the topic of faithfulness are those who are pursuing a deeper relationship with God.

Jesus can help them as they struggle to be faithful to their heavenly calling (Heb 2:13:12). Notice, the way the author encourages them to be faithful is indirect. He exhorts them to consider the faithfulness of Jesus, even as they are encouraged by the faithfulness of Moses. One commentator said, “It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of Moses in Judaism, and the veneration with which he was regarded.” Even more-so, they should be familiar with the faithfulness of Jesus.

David Strain comments,

“The faithfulness of Christ to God is the faithfulness of the Son toward His Father, in pursuit of our salvation according to the terms of the covenant of redemption. This means that whenever we speak of the faithfulness of God in Christ toward us, we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg. The faithfulness of God that we experience in the gospel is the part we can see above the waterline, but underneath this truth, giving it buoyancy, holding it up for us to know and delight in, is the greater part of God’s faithfulness, often unnoticed and overlooked: His faithfulness to Himself and the faithfulness of the Son to the Father in the accomplishment of our redemption for the glory of God’s name.

Do you see the connection? The Son’s faithfulness to the Father is what can encourage those who are weary and struggling to maintain their own commitment to God. Turn your eyes away from your distressing circumstances and place them upon the faithfulness of the Son to his Father’s plan of redemption.

Meditate upon the Son’s willingness to fulfill the covenant of redemption on your behalf, even though he knew better than you, how often you would be tempted by infidelity. His faithfulness to the Father is what roots our confidence that he will remain faithful to us.

2 Timothy 2:13 ESV

if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

› We could meditate upon Christ’s faithfulness for the rest of the day, but let’s take up the next attribute and…

Consider the  Glory  of Jesus (3-4)

The author is not denigrating Moses (or angels), but giving the Son His proper place. Jesus is worthy of more respect and honor. Those who reject the ministry of the Son are in greater danger than anyone else, because they are rejecting the very height of revelation (Mt 11:21). 

Hebrews for Everyone Jesus and Moses (Hebrews 3:1–6)

Moses matters, says Hebrews, but Jesus matters even more; Moses was a true servant of God, but Jesus is God’s son. You don’t diminish Moses by making Jesus superior to him; you give him his rightful place, which is a place of honour even though it’s not the supreme honour.

“The builder of all things is God” and Jesus is called the “builder” who “has been counted worthy of more glory.” Jesus is the builder’s faithful apostle (vv.1-2), but he is also the builder (v.3). He is identified with God, but distinguished from the Father. Jesus is the Branch who would build the temple of the Lord (Zech 6:12-13), but he is also the temple itself (Jn 1:14). 

Once again, the author of Hebrews is equating Jesus with God. He has already referred to the Son as the “exact imprint” of God’s nature (Heb 1:3). Notice the context of that statement follows the “radiance of the glory of God.”

He has cited Psalm 45:6-7 as being spoken of the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Heb 1:8).

Jesus is the builder who is worthy of more glory than anyone else involved in the structure of this house. He is the chief cornerstone upon which every other stone is laid (Eph 2:19-21).

The only possible reason anyone would depart from Christ would be a false perception that a greater glory is offered elsewhere. Just as I mentioned that it would seem no one is really interested in faithfulness unless they are seeking religious insight, glory is different. Everyone wants to be near what is glorious. Everyone is seeking to behold glory and even to obtain it.

Everyone finds glory compelling, but they think it can be found in anything. What is interesting is that the very thing they are not interested in (faithfulness), is the very thing that gives glory its weight. What makes the glory of anything else pale in comparison to the glory of Christ is the fact that it is fickle and fleeting. The glory in this world is like a vapor. You will never find it apart from faithfulness.

What makes Christ’s glory superior is that is perfectly consistent with his faithfulness. A faithful Savior is a glorious Savior.

› And we can place our hope in him because he has all authority in heaven and earth…

Consider the  Authority  of Jesus (5-6)

The primary comparison is between Moses, who was a servant in the house (v.5), and Christ, who is a son over the house (v.6). Although Moses is called a servant, it is not the typical word (δοῦλος), but the word denotes a servant in high standing (θεράπων). John refers to Moses as the δοῦλος of God in Revelation 15:3. So the comparison would still apply. But, it seems the author of Hebrews is safeguarding any denigration of Moses while promoting an appreciation for the superior authority of Jesus. Moses was worthy of honor, but Jesus is worthy of much more. Moses is considered a faithful member within God’s house, but Jesus is the one who built the house!

What is “God’s house”? The word “house” (οἶκος) occurs seven times between Heb 3:2-6. It occurs another three times in reference to the new covenant promise God made to the house of Israel (Heb 8:810Jer 31:31-34). And it occurs one last time as the “house of God” (Heb 10:21). 

This theme is concentrated here and relevant in each section of the passage. We’ve already seen the comparison of Jesus’ faithfulness to the faithfulness of Moses “in all God’s house.” The previous section points to Jesus’ superiority over Moses as the builder of the house has more glory than the house itself. And now, we have a comparison between the roles of Moses and Christ within God’s house.

The house of God is consistently used in reference to the people of God. Jesus promised to build his Church (Mt 16:18). The house was a metaphor that was quite familiar to Israel, especially in relation to the promises of the new covenant (Jer 31:31-34). It was very common for the post-exilic prophets to refer to the “house” that would be restored (Isa 33:20Jer 3:18). The promises that were given to the house of Israel are now fulfilled in Christ and they appropriately belong to the “household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim 3:15). 

The writer concludes this section with a direct application of this truth to his audience. “And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Heb 3:6). Our membership in this house, just as our “share in Christ” (Heb 3:14), are conditioned upon our perseverance. Whoever does not persevere will not inherit the promises of God (Heb 6:11-12). To walk away from Christ, which is precisely what this original audience is tempted to do, is to forsake the fulfillment of the promises of God to the house of Israel. F.F. Bruce notes, “They have everything to gain by standing fast, and everything to lose by slipping back.”

Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (Jn 14:2).

We can trust his promise to complete the work that he began because he has the authority to do so. We have no more reason to doubt our ability to hold fast than we do to doubt his faithfulness as a son.

Maybe you think you don’t belong. Maybe there is doubt in your mind when you attend worship. You aren’t sure you’re worthy to be here. The fact is, you’re as worthy as the rest of us. Only in Christ do we have the authority to approach the throne of grace.