this is a small excerpt of commentary from www.bible.org on the passage from Hebrews 3:1-6:
Moses and Jesus Contrasted
3 For he has come to deserve greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house deserves greater 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’shouseas a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken. 6 But Christ is faithful as a sonover God’s house (Hebrews 3:5-6a, emphasis mine).
Just as Jesus is “higher than the angels” (1:1—2:18), He is also greater than Moses (3:1-6). Our Lord was faithful “to the one who appointed him” (3:2). Moses was faithful “in God’s house” (3:5), and thus he is viewed as being a part of the house in verses 3 and 4. What is this “house”? The “house” is My house(3:5), that is, God’s house. This is a term that is often used in reference to the nation Israel, and then also to the temple. No doubt here “house” means that Moses was faithful in (or among) the people of God, the Israelites. I say among because the author’s point here is that Moses is a part of the house; the Son, however, is greater than the house. He is the builder of the house. The Creator is always greater than the creation.
Let’s not miss the subtlety of the author here. In verse 1, the reader is exhorted to “take note of Jesus.”In verse 2, Jesus and Moses are compared. In verses 3-6a, Jesus and Moses are contrasted, showing Jesus to be greater than Moses. But in verses 3 and 4, if Jesus is being shown to be Moses, then He is greater because He is the “builder of the house,” but the “builder of the house” is said here to be “God.”Let us not miss the fact that our author is saying that Jesus is the Son, and Jesus is God. He is proclaiming the deity of the Lord Jesus.
Two more elements of contrast are introduced in verses 5 and 6. First, we see that Moses was faithful “as a servant,”while “Christ” was faithful “as a son.” Second, this contrast between “servant” and “son” is underscored by the fact that Moses was a servant “in”all God’s house (verse 5), while Christ is the Son“over”God’s house. I love the story Bible teacher Ray Stedman told about visiting a ranch in Montana. At first, Ray knew only the son of one of the ranch hands. When he visited, they were restricted from the main house, and they rode the old “nags” when they went horseback riding. Then, Ray says, he became friends with the owner’s son. Now it was a whole new experience. They had free run of the ranch and could go wherever they pleased. When they rode horses, they rode the best horses. That’s the difference between a servant and a son.
There is one more observation that I would point out to you. The author began by referring to “Jesus,” then to Him as “God” (verse 4). In verse 6, He is the “Son” and “Christ.” Jesus is the Son, God, and the Christ, that is, the Messiah. Some Jews tended to understand these (and other) titles as referring to different persons. Such is not the case with the author of Hebrews.
How Iffy is Our Faith?
We are of his house, if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope we take pride in (3:6b, emphasis mine).
So the author has shown us that the Lord Jesus Christ is vastly superior to Moses, as great a man as he was. Moses was part of God’s “house,” and he was faithful. And now we are told that we, likewise, are of God’s house, “if we hold firmly to our confidence. . . .” How do we deal with this “if”? Our answer has several parts:
1. “If” statements are not restricted to the Book of Hebrews.The fact is that we find similar statements in many places in the New Testament:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him (Romans 8:9, emphasis mine).
And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17, emphasis mine).
Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God – harshness toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off (Romans 11:22, emphasis mine).
Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless, indeed, you fail the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5, emphasis mine)
22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him – 23 if indeed you remain in the faith, established and firm, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant (Colossians 1:22-23, emphasis mine).
1 So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 3 if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness (1 Peter 2:1-3, emphasis mine).
3 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3, emphasis mine).
Our problem, then, is not unique to Hebrews. If we don’t deal with it here, we will face it elsewhere.
2. The author assumes the best about his readers. That is to say, the author assumes that his readers are fellow believers in Jesus Christ. We saw this by his statements in the first verse of chapter 3. His readers are holy brothers, partners in the heavenly calling, and those who confess Jesus as apostle and high priest. The author’s statements in the rest of the book only confirm the conclusion that he assumes most of his readers are saved.
3. The author does not look at the world through rose-colored glasses.He does assume that most of his readers are believers in Jesus Christ. He does not believe them to be infallible. He understands that the danger of “drifting” is very real and that drawing near is not the path of least resistance. Thus, failure is dealt with as a real possibility.
4. This epistle is written to a church. It may not be a large church, but virtually all the commentators agree that it is written to a church (even if we are not certain where it may be). Whenever a church is addressed, the assumption is made that most of the recipients have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ. But it also means that it is very possible that one or more members of the church addressed may not be saved. Thus the qualifications and the “ifs” that we find in the epistles.
5. The “if texts” are not intended to teach or imply that salvation is by works.The author is simply telling us that those who are truly saved are those who will also persevere to the end. Their faith and trust in Jesus will not fail under pressure. We are encouraged to draw near because we are saved, not to work harder in order to be saved. It is Christ who saves us, it is Christ through His Spirit who sanctifies us, and it is Christ who keeps us. This is precisely why we need to draw near (and stay near) to Him.
6. The “if statements” assume human weaknesses. Only God knows the hearts of men. We know that there will be some who assume that they have gained entrance into heaven who will not be admitted:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus must have been a great shock to the Pharisees who heard it. They assumed the rich man would make it to heaven and that the poor man would join others like him in hell. Just the reverse occurred. Our consolation is that God knows His own:
19 However, God’s solid foundation remains standing, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from evil” (2 Timothy 2:19).
We do not know with absolute certainty those who are saved and those who are not. Some folks make their relationship with Jesus pretty plain, both by their profession and by their practice. But others leave us scratching our heads. My point here is to say that because we cannot know the hearts of men, we dare not assume all to be saved, even those who are fairly regular attendees at church. Thus, we must always leave room for the possibility that some who hear us may be unsaved and outside the faith. And because of this, it is only proper to include an “if” here and there, to address such folks. That is why I attempt, in nearly every sermon, to give the gospel to my audience. I assume that someone listening to or reading my sermon may be lost and in need of salvation. That is what our author is doing with his “ifs.”
7. The purpose of this epistle is not to create doubt, but to turn our attention to Jesus. Let’s not lose sight of what the Book of Hebrews is all about. It is an epistle that is addressed to a church, made up mainly of true believers. Over time, these believers, like us, can grow cold in their walk with the Lord, cold in their love for Christ and for men, much like the saints in Laodicea:
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: 15 ‘I know your deeds, thatyou are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! 19 All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! 20 Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. 21 I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 3:14-22, emphasis mine).
As our Lord invites the lukewarm Laodiceans to repent and return to intimate fellowship with Him (as symbolized by eating a meal with Him), so the writer to the Book of Hebrews warns his readers of the dangers of drifting, and exhorts them to draw near to Jesus.
The Hebrews were not to look back to Judaism, nor to the Old Covenant, nor even to great men like Moses. They were to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2). The last thing our author wants is for us to look to ourselves; his goal is to get us to look to Jesus. The “if passages” are intended to call our attention to our spiritual condition. And, whether good or bad, the exhortation is the same.
Are you lost in sin, under divine condemnation, and headed for an eternity in hell? Look to Jesus! He is the only solution. He is not only God; He also took on humanity, so that He could die in the sinner’s place, bearing his (or her) punishment. He rose from the dead and is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and in so doing, He restores all who are in Him, by faith, to the glory and dignity that was once ours, before the fall.
Are you drifting from God, negligent about studying His Word, spasmodic about your church attendance and fellowship with the saints, apathetic about the peril of those who are without Jesus? Look to Jesus! He is the One who saves, sanctifies, and keeps. It is abiding in Him that we need.
Are you troubled, in need, fearful, discouraged? Look to Jesus!
Our author does not want us to look to mere men, even those as great as Moses. And he certainly doesn’t want us looking to ourselves, as though we are able to keep our souls. We are to look to Jesus.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul (Psalm 121:7, NASB95).