The Apostle and High Priest of Our Confession | Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 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. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 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

In our study of Exodus, we have noted repeatedly that the events of that book are the most important in all of the Old Testament. Genesis is a theological prologue, written by Moses so that Israel always remembers that Yahweh is the one, true God and the great promises that He made to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From Leviticus onward, the Old Testament is all about God’s faithfulness to Israel despite their repeated failures to be the kingdom of priests that He established them to be. The entire Old Testament is the story of God redeeming a nation out of slavery in order to be His own treasure possession.

And Moses was the mediator of that deliverance and that covenant. The LORD worked through Moses to rescue His people from their slavery and then similarly worked through Him to give His laws and commandments to His people. Even though (or perhaps, because) Moses was very meek, God exalted Moses in Egypt, making him like God to Pharaoh with Aaron serving as his prophet (Exodus 4:16). And before the tenth plague, we were told: “Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people” (Exodus 11:3).

Even though the Israelites repeatedly grumbled against Moses, they also revered him. At his death, God Himself buried Moses’ body, likely to prevent the idolatrous Israelites from worshiping Moses’ bones, and we are then told:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Deuteronomy 34:10–12

Indeed, Moses seemed to understand something of his uniqueness in the history of redemption, for one of the chief prophesies given to him about the coming Messiah is found in Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Only the Christ would be a prophet like Moses, who governed God’s people like a king, gave them God’s word like a prophet, and mediated between God and His people like a priest. Abraham, David, and Elijah are similarly towering figures of faith; however, even they do not bear the gravitas of Moses.

Since Moses is a prophet without an equal in the Old Testament, it makes sense that the author of Hebrews would establish Jesus’ superiority to him next. If the original recipients of this sermon-letter where indeed Jewish Christians being tempted to revert back to Judaism, the author is warning them here against returning back to Moses whenever we now know the One of whom Moses spoke and foreshadowed.


Because Hebrews contains some the sharpest warnings of the whole New Testament, it can be tempting to let those warnings dominate how we view this marvelous first century sermon. Yes, the warnings found in Hebrews are particularly startling; however, the authors words of encouragement are equally as comforting. And we are greeted with some of those comforting words at the beginning of our passage: Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus…

The command, of course, is to consider Jesus, but we should not lightly pass by what the author calls his readers. There are three items to note here.

First, just as Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers, so does the author call his readers brothers. This indicates that, despite all the warnings that the author will give, he believes his readers to be fellow Christians, members of the household of God alongside him, and part of his eternal family.

Second, he calls them holy. As we have noted before, holiness is properly understood as an attribute of God. He alone is holy, for there is none like Him. Our holiness is secondhand because it means that we belong exclusively to God. Having been redeemed by Christ, we are made holy in Him because we are adopted into God’s people.

Third, he says that they share in a heavenly calling. This calling is God’s ultimate design for redeemed humanity to inherit salvation and reign in dominion over creation under Christ our King. It is heavenly but not in the sense of being ethereal or abstract, as we might use that word today. Rather, throughout Hebrews, the author repeatedly points to the heavenly realities as being more real than those of earth. This life is the vapor; the life to come is substance. Thus, to share this heavenly calling is to partake in that which is most true.

This threefold description applies to all who are in Christ today as well. You may not feel holy. You may not feel worthy to be called a brother or sister in God’s family. You may think that you are unfit to share in that heavenly calling. And if so, you are right. In one of my favorite scenes in the Narnia books, Aslan asks the young Prince Caspian:

“Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”

“I-I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”

“Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not.”

Something similar should be present whenever we speak of our salvation. Just like claiming to be wise is one of the surest indications of being a fool, thinking ourselves worthy of such marvelous truths is strong indication that we do not yet understand the gospel. Instead, as Dennis Johnson notes: “they ‘share’ in this glorious calling because the Son came to ‘share’ their fragile flesh and blood (2:14), and thus they are ‘companions’ of the Anointed One (1:8-9; cf. 3:14).”[1] It is only by Jesus’ sharing in our suffering under the curse of sin that we are able to share in the honor and glory with which He has been crowned. Even on the last day when we judge angels in our glorified and sinless bodies, we will forever give Jesus all the glory for working our redemption and glorification. Thus, our hearts should not swell with pride to hear such things said about us; instead, such beautiful truths should set our eyes with renewed wonder at Jesus, which is precisely what the author intends for us to do.

Looking at verse 1 in its entirety, we read: Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession… The command to consider Jesus is at the heart of this verse, and I would argue that it is at the heart of the entirety of Hebrews. This really is the great purpose and aim of the letter. Yes, the author repeatedly emphasizes that Jesus is greater than every aspect of the old covenant; however, all of those comparisons are subservient to this supreme command: consider Jesus. But what does the author mean by consider? Robert Paul Martin explains:

The word “consider” signifies to apply one’s mind diligently to something, to weigh it carefully, to reflect deeply on it. It means “to direct one’s whole mind to an object,” “to immerse oneself” in a subject and to try to understand it in its “whole compass” (cf. Heb. 10:24). At Heb. 5:12-14, the writer rebukes his readers for their slothfulness and slowness in learning and applying the doctrines of the gospel. So here, he exhorts them to apply their minds diligently to the consideration of the person and work of Jesus, God’s Son.[2]

When we couple this with the author’s previous warning against drifting away and neglecting this great salvation, we get the picture that our walk with Christ in this world is meant to be active, alert, intentional, and diligent. Such diligent meditation will never come easily; however, our present age is particularly hostile to this sort of thoughtfulness. The comforts and amusements that surround us 24/7 have a sedating effect, making it all too easy to sleepwalk through life.

Indeed, as daily life becomes all the more automated by machines and we are all the more connected through and kept entertained by machines, the great battle of the coming decades will be how to maintain our humanity, with its dignity, limitations, and suffering. In other words, the great question will not be what to do whenever machines become human; instead, it will be how we can avoid becoming artificial intelligences ourselves.

The response of those who are “spiritual” has often been to practice mindfulness. However, mindfulness is simply taking one’s focus off of the specially curated ordering of pixels that we keep in our hands and placing focus upon… oneself. Thus, both are self-centered. Through our devices, the focus on self is more passive, and through so-called meditation, the focus is explicitly placed on self.

The proper, biblical response is to consider Jesus, to set our eyes upon Him through meditating on His Word day and night. Indeed, there will be no other way to maintain our humanity, except by considering Him who became the most truly human to ever live.

This is a duty of radical importance to Christians. It is because we think so little, and to so little purpose, on Christ, that we know so little about Him, that we love Him so little, trust in Him so little, so often neglect our duty, are so much influenced by “things seen and temporal,” and so little by “things unseen and eternal.” If the Apostle could but get the Hebrew Christians to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of their profession,” his object of keeping them steady in their attachment to Him was gained. It is because men do not know Christ that they do love Him; it is because they know Him so imperfectly that they love Him so imperfectly. The truth about Him as the Great Prophet and the Great High Priest well deserves consideration—it is “the manifold wisdom of God.” It requires it; it cannot be understood by a careless, occasional glance. Angels feel that even their faculties are overmatched with this subject. They are but “desiring to look into” it, as they do not yet fully understand it. It is only by “considering” the truth about Jesus Christ as “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” that we can personally enjoy the benefits of His teaching as a Prophet, and of His expiation and intercession as a High Priest. We cannot be too deeply impressed with a conviction of this, that all spiritual blessings come to us through the faith of the truth respecting the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. Truth must be understood in order to its being believed, and it must be considered in order to its being understood. The consideration of Jesus Christ is not only necessary to the production of faith, but to its continued existence, and to its gradual improvement. An inconsiderate man is never likely to succeed in life. An inconsiderate Christian is necessarily a very unsteady and a very uncomfortable one. The grand radical duty of the Christian is “looking to Jesus;” and the sum and substance of the message which the ministers of Christ have to deliver is, ‘Behold Him, behold Him.’[3]


That may also be the best summary of Hebrews as a whole that I have ever read because the heart of the author is clearly as Brown says, “If the Apostle could but get the Hebrew Christians to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of their profession,” his object of keeping them steady in their attachment to Him was gained.” If he could just help them to see the radiance and glory of Jesus more clearly, they would not return to the futile ways of the old covenant. If they could only get a glimpse of Jesus as the Apostle (that is, the sent one) and High Priest of their faith, they would see the insufficiency of the old covenant more clearly. To make this point clearly, the author goes on to compare Jesus with Moses, God’s chief instrument for inaugurating the old covenant:

who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 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. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.

Regarding these verses, we ought to note the author’s high estimation of Moses. As we noted in the introduction, Moses is by far the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, and Moses’ greatest stems directly from his faithfulness. He was a faithful steward over God’s house, which was Israel.

Yet as worth of honor as Moses was, Jesus is worthy of far more glory and honor. Notice that the author gives two pictures for understanding the superiority of Jesus. First, Jesus is greater than Moses in the same way that the builder of a house is greater than the house itself because without the builder the house would not exist. Moses may have had a foundational role in being used by God in the formation of Israel as a nation, but it was through Jesus that the Father created the cosmos. Second, Moses was faithful as God’s servant, but Jesus was faithful as a son. Again, the point is that as great as Moses was Jesus is far greater.

This ought to also remind us that supposed conflict between Moses and Jesus is purely extrabiblical. As verse 5 indicates, a chief element of Moses’ ministry was to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, that is, to testify of Christ’s coming. Moses was a forerunner to Christ, heralding His coming. In John 5:45-47, Jesus rebuked the unbelieving Jews for claiming to believe in the words of Moses yet denying Him as the Christ, saying:

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”


In the last half of verse 6, the author again exhorts his readers, writing: And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Having been speaking of God’s house, he again brings us back into the frame by noting that we are God’s house. The Greek word oikos can mean both the house itself and the people who live in the house, that is, the household, and the author certainly seems to be employing both uses. Recalling that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and that in Him we are a holy brotherhood we are God’s household is fitting. But the author also just spoke about a house and its builder, which means he was speaking about the house itself. Since we have already spoken briefly on the wonder of belonging to God’s family, what is the significance of us being God’s house? Richard Phillips gives a great answer:

If this is what Christians are—God’s house—then we should ask, For what reason does one build a house? We might say that one builds a house for his glory. That certainly is in view here, and a majestic estate certainly does show the riches and the skill and artistry of the one who can afford to build it. But the main reason one builds a house is to live in it. What a marvelous truth this is, that God has redeemed us that we might be on his own dwelling place (see also Rev. 21:3).[4]

As Phillips references, Revelation 21:3 is one of the most splendid verses in the Bible, for it describes most succinctly the eternal destiny of God’s people:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Yet notice the condition that concludes our passage: if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Our hope and confidence is the heavenly calling that we share because Jesus shared in our humanity to bring us to glory with Him as the captain of our salvation. Our boasting is in love and might of our great Savior and that He is our merciful and faithful high priest who is able to help us whenever we are tempted. Our confidence, boasting, and hope are all in Jesus. Yet we are also summoned to hold fast, to hold firm until the end. Does that seem like a contradiction?

We will discuss how our own holding fast fits with our being held fast by Christ more fully next week, but the short answer is simply that, as Spurgeon says, “None are truly Christ’s but those who persevere in grace. Temporary Christians are not really Christians.” Indeed, if we had to put a short slogan on such a matter, it should not be “once saved; always saved” but rather “if saved, surely saved.” Though who do not hold fast to are ultimately those who failed to consider Jesus. If they would have meditated upon Him day and night, they would have known Him, and if they had come to know Him, they would have possessed eternal life even before having ever died. As we will see in Hebrews 6, many apostates from the Christian faith have shared in many of the communal blessings of the faith, appearing sometimes for many years to be a believer. Yet they ultimately fall away because they have no love for Christ. They may be fascinated with Jesus as a great teacher and as a spiritual and moral guru, but they never truly consider Him as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.

In light of these things, we ought to be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure. As we come to the Table set before us, let us remember that Paul calls our eating and drinking a proclamation of Christ’s death until He comes. This bread and this cup are weekly calls to consider Jesus, to look upon His being pierced for our sins, to taste and see the goodness of God in Him who tasted death to deliver us from death.

[1] ESV Expository Commentary Vol XXII, 55.

[2] Robert Paul Martin, Hebrews, 154.

[3] John Brown, Hebrews, 157-158.

[4] Richard Phillips, Hebrews, 86-87.


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