“Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” -Hebrews 3:5,6
I’d like to expand on the meaning of this passage a bit. Warning! Rabbit trail immediately ahead, skip the portion in parenthesis if you wish. (I realize that to some, it seems pointless to examine the Greek meanings of Biblical words and phrases, but this isn’t always the case. When I look at the Greek, I do so for one simple reason – I want to know the meaning that was being conveyed by the author! There are many great English translations, but none are without any deficiency. I prefer more literal translations, but I have also learned that a strict, literal interpretation from Greek to English might not make much sense unless you approach the text spiritually, which many translators didn’t. In reference to the King James Version, I’ve heard it said that those who translated the text were “more interested in translation than in truth,” and priority number one for most translations is to make the text readable. While this is understandable, it is also a problem if an awkward or strange literal meaning was conveying a spiritual truth. This is just one example of why looking at the Greek can be useful).
Notice that Moses was a faithful servant (meaning attendant) in God’s house. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Moses’ role in regards to God’s plan for the Israelites of his day. In Hebrews, Moses is basically being considered as the old covenant equivalent of Christ. Moses was THE go-between for God and all of Israel. The Israelites actually said to Moses: “speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”2 Moses carried out this duty very well, and in Jesus’ day, Moses was still given the highest place of honor short of God Himself.
This is well and good, but Moses is long dead and most believers know (to an extent) that we aren’t under the law of Moses anymore. So why would the author of Hebrews, who understood the new covenant very well, give such attention to Moses? The reason is stated in the passage above: Moses’ ministry was “for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later…” This means God had a greater purpose behind Moses’ ministry. All the laws, regulations and commands God gave to and through Moses were intended primarily to be a “testimony” – a physical, earthly representation – of this greater, ultimate spiritual purpose and reality which was to come thousands of years later in Christ. In fact, all of the Old Testament stories, laws, and rules, (many of which seem strange and pointless), served this purpose in one way or another. Amazing, isn’t it?
Here’s the main contrast: Moses = attending servant in God’s house. He had no claim to rulership or authority over the house, he just was a faithful servant in the house. Jesus = son over God’s house (which consists of true believers!) Jesus had authority and rulership over God’s household which Moses never had. Remember, Moses = servant, Jesus = son. In a household, a servant, no matter how faithful and valuable they are, can never reach a status higher than a guest. A son (or daughter) are and will always be a part of the household, an heir, an equal. Jesus came to bring this transition; bringing carnal, law-aware servants into adoption as God-aware, spiritual sons. He came to bring those who followed the shadow (the physical law of Moses) to those who possess the substance (spiritual reality). It’s as stark a contrast as that between a reflection of an object and the object itself, or a drawing of a house and the house itself. With the exact same thing in mind, John wrote: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”3 Paul wrote of this also, at length.4
Having laid this foundation, our passage states we are members of, participants in, and the very building materials of the house of God, “if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” There always seems to be a pesky “if,” and we better not ignore it. Having looked closely at the Greek, here’s what this means: “We are of God’s house if we seize and refuse to let go of the truth of the (radical) freedom of our sonship as well as the glorious rejoicing we have in the expectation of all that is given and promised, until these things fully mature within us and we take ownership of them.” Amen! I encourage you to re-read and meditate on these things, and look at the scriptures I referenced. God bless you.
- Hebrews 3:5,6
- Exodus 20:19
- John 1:17
- Primarily in the book of Galatians. Perhaps most clearly in 4:1-7.