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“The Faithful One”

Hebrews 3:1-6
Bob DeGray
October 7, 2001

Key Sentence

Focus your faithfulness on the faithful one.


I. Focus on His Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:1-2)
II. Magnify His Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:3-6)
III. Imitate His Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:6)


        A few years ago on vacation our family drove to the border of Montana and Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. It was a great experience, seeing for ourselves things that cannot be adequately communicated by even the best photos. One of the those was the famous geyser ‘Old Faithful’. The first or second day at Yellowstone we stopped at the historic Old Faithful lodge. The board outside said we had a few minutes before the next predicted eruption. It was late afternoon, so we treated ourselves to ice cream cones at the lodge. Then, still licking our cones, we hurried outside, and almost exactly on time that faithful geyser erupted - sending steaming water into the bright sunlight over the heads of the waiting crowd.

        An article a few years back said Old Faithful was no longer faithful. Due to earthquakes and water changes it had lost its rhythm. It turns out the article was wrong. The time between eruptions does vary, from 69 minutes to 88, but the geyser earns its name because even over the long haul, it has been the most consistent of attractions: it has been observed erupting at least a million times.

        Faithfulness is something we appreciate. We really mean it when we sing of God, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness.’ Faithfulness is a key quality we look for in friends and in heros. The one who maintains his faith and commitment through thick and thin, in good times and bad, maybe even unto death, is the one who earns our admiration.

        We have already recognized that the book of Hebrews wants us to see Jesus as a hero. We’ve been told that he is superior to every created thing, especially angels, and that he brings a great salvation. Now, as we start chapter 3, we are going to see that he should be our hero because of his faithfulness. We’re going to compare him with possibly the greatest hero of the Old Testament, Moses. And we’re are going to be encouraged to focus our own faithfulness on the one who is truly faithful - Jesus.

        In this brief text, Hebrews 3:1-6, we see that we should first focus on His faithfulness, then magnify his faithfulness, and finally imitate his faithfulness. Let’s read the whole section and then pursue these simple truths. Hebrews 3:1. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

I. Focus on His Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:1-2)

        These verses are linked to the previous chapter with the words ‘therefore, holy brothers’, which indicate that we are now learning how to respond to the truth about Jesus’ salvation. Chapter 2 emphasized the fact that Jesus has sanctified us or made us holy through his saving work, and made us his brothers and sisters. Chapter 2 verse 11 “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Both our holiness and our brotherhood are free gifts bought for us by Jesus. ‘Holy brothers’ is a title of honor that we should not take lightly. Our response, the author says, should be to ‘fix our thoughts’ on Jesus, or ‘consider’ Jesus. The word implies that we are to look only at Jesus, literally ‘pay attention’ to Jesus. Hebrews 12 says ‘fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.’ The Greek is not the same, but the thought is: we are to pay attention to Jesus ‘the apostle and high priest whom we confess.’

        This is the only use of the word ‘apostle’ in this letter, the only time in the New Testament where Jesus is called on ‘apostle’. But it is very appropriate. The word ‘apostle’ means one who is sent, and in the book of John Jesus uses the phrase ‘sent me’ 32 times. We read a few of these in our Scripture earlier and they are significant to our understanding of both his apostleship and his faithfulness. John 4:34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 5:30 “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” John 7:16 “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” Jesus was sent on a specific mission by the Father and carried out that mission to please him.

        In addition to being the apostle, he is also the high priest. This is a thought we will develop very completely: ‘Apostle’ is only used once but ‘high priest’ is used 12 times in Hebrews. We’ll see that a priest is the one who goes before God on behalf of man. Because Jesus was perfectly human and perfectly divine, he is perfectly suited to that role, and as our high priest he offers himself as the sacrifice acceptable to God.

        Jesus is the apostle and high priest whom we confess. The Greek means ‘agree about’ or ‘say the same about’. In other words we agree with God about Jesus. We agree that he is our high priest, that he was sent from God, and that he is faithful. Verse 2 says ‘He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house.’ The Greek noun means faith, belief, trust, but the adjective means trustworthy, dependable, committed, unwavering from a purpose or conviction.

        Like faith, faithfulness usually has an object, a person or a cause to whom we are faithful. Jesus was faithful to the one who appointed him. It was to the Father who sent him that his loyalty and obedience were shown. Those passages we read in John show his unwavering commitment: he did the Father’s will, taught the Father’s word and lived a life pleasing to his Father. He was faithful in all things, but especially as the high priest and sacrifice by which the Father redeemed sinful men and women from the penalty of sin. Bluntly, he was faithful because he was willing to die to carry out the Father’s plan. He shared the Father’s love for people like you and me and became, according to Paul, obedient unto death, even death on a cross. At the very core of faithfulness is obedience to the person or principal that is the object of your loyalty. Jesus was faithful.

        Therefore Jesus is the on we are to focus on, to pay attention to. R. Kent Hughes offers some practical help in how to do this focusing. He says: “It begins with desire. The Psalmist has it: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple” Paul had this desire: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”

        Along with desire, fixing the mind calls for concentration and discipline. No one can be said to have fixed his thoughts on something without concentration. And no one will ever learn anything about anything without it. But concentration requires discipline like that of a student, or an athlete. Hebrews 12 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Paul says it this way: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

        Finally, fixing our thoughts on Jesus requires time. True focus cannot happen with just a glance. No one merely glances at their love: they gaze. My definition of an ideal vacation has been the opportunity to sit and watch a mountain go by. Jesus is the mountain that God has placed before us and we do well to sit and gaze at him.

II. Magnify His Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:3-6)

        It is through desire and concentration and discipline and patience that we focus on the one who is our high priest and apostle, the faithful one who carried out the salvation planned by his Father. But there is another technique for achieving this focus and it is used by the author, consciously or unconsciously, in the next several verses. I first saw this in J. I. Packer’s ‘Knowing God’ He says that in order to appreciate the greatness of God, we should compare him to something we consider great. This is exactly what the author does in comparing Jesus to Moses. Listen again to the middle verses: 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house.

        In these verses Jesus is compared to Moses and found superior. First it is shown that both are faithful. Jesus was faithful, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. The last phrase is quoted from Numbers 12, where God rebukes Moses’ brother Aaron and sister Miriam for their jealously of Moses’ leadership. God said to them “When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"

        The author of Hebrews is especially interested in the fact that Moses is faithful in all God’s house. The house is almost certainly a metaphor for God’s people, because that’s how it is used in verse 6. Moses had been the faithful leader and servant of God’s people in their rescue from Egypt, had carried out the Lord’s commands and plans. Because the Lord found Moses to be faithful, he spoke to him face to face, rather than in dreams or visions. Moses was the most faithful part of the house God was building, the most committed, obedient, unwavering in his purpose and conviction.

        But in verses 3 and 4 it becomes clear that Jesus is superior in faithfulness: “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” Moses is part of the house, part of the people of God, but the builder of the house is superior to the parts. Few of us could name any of Frank Lloyd Wright’s works, and yet we honor him as a great architect. It’s the same when you go to a concerto: it’s not the pianist, but rather Beethoven or Vivaldi’s name that gets top billing. The composer, at least in classical music, gets greater honor than the performer. In the same way Jesus, the composer of salvation, receives greater honor than Moses, who only played a part in the symphony.

        The author accentuates the differences between Jesus and Moses by saying “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Jesus isn’t an ordinary builder: he is God himself building the house of his Father’s people, just as in creation Jesus had already built what the Father planned. So Moses is part of the house or a workman on the house, but Jesus is its architect and builder.

        The comparison between Moses and Jesus culminates in verse 5 and the first part of 6: “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house.” Moses was faithful as a servant - and that is no dishonor to him. Servant is a title given by God himself, as we saw in Numbers 12, and used of Moses 39 times in Scripture. The word for servant here is not the usual term doulos, but therapon, which emphasizes ‘personal service freely rendered.’ In Moses’ case the servant had an important task: to bear witness to what was to follow. Moses had a great prophetic role in Jewish history: with the other prophets, he looked forward to Christ. The great mission of Moses the servant prepares the way for the much greater mission of Jesus the Son.

        Jesus, the text says, was faithful as a Son: no, Christ was faithful as a son. Last week we noted the first use of the name Jesus, his human name, when his humanity was especially in view. Here we have the first use of the title Christ, at a time when his mission as the Messiah is especially in view. The divine Son, whom we met in chapter 1, was sent as the man Jesus, whom we met in chapter 2, in order to be the Messiah, the anointed one who would rescue God’s people by his sacrifice.

        So Jesus is superior to Moses. This is probably not a shocking thought to you, but for Jewish people who had become Christians, there would be a natural reluctance to replace the Old Testament’s greatest hero with another. They undoubtedly revered Moses as the human agent of their greatest delivery, as Israel’s greatest prophet, and especially as Israel’s great law giver. To the Jew the law was the greatest thing in all the world. Moses was the conduit for the Ten Commandments, and all the laws of purity and sacrifice. In fact, they often called all this law just ‘Moses’.

        This reverence for Moses and the law can still be found today among Jewish people. For example, Rabbi Jacob Neusner, professor of theology at Bard’s College and one of the most careful Jewish thinkers of our day, wrote a book entitled "A Rabbi Talks With Jesus." He says "Imagine walking on a dusty road on Galilee nearly 2,000 years ago and meeting up with a small band of youngsters, led by a young man. The leader's presence catches your attention: he talks, the others listen, argue, respond, obey – care what he says, follow him. You don't know who he is, but you know he makes a difference to the people with him and to nearly everyone he meets. People respond, some with anger, some with admiration, a few with genuine faith. But no one walks away uninterested in the man and the things he says and does."

        Rabbi Neusner then says, "I can see myself meeting this man, and, with courtesy, arguing with him: challenging him on the bases of our shared Torah (The first five books of the Old Testament). I can also imagine myself saying, "Friend, you go your way, I'll go mine, I wish you well __ without me. Yours is not the Torah of Moses, and all I have from God, and all I ever need from God, is that one Torah from Moses."

        Neusner today reveres Moses, the law of Moses so much that he will not take hold of the reality of Jesus. But Jesus himself said. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” After his resurrection Jesus said to his disciples "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Those who really revere Moses will revere more highly the one he pointed to, the Son of God, Jesus.
         Jesus was faithful. R. Kent Hughes reminds us of what we have seen in chapters 1 and 2: “He faithfully fulfilled every old Testament prophecy. He faithfully and joyfully became incarnate, perfectly becoming a human in body, mind and emotions. He faithfully submitted his power, his presence and his knowledge to the will of the Father. He faithfully underwent temptation and suffered terribly, never giving in. He faithfully went to Gethsemane. He faithfully yielded his hands to the nails. He faithfully became sin for us: during those hours on the cross wave after wave of all the world’s dark sin was poured on his spotless soul. In the darkness Jesus bore it all in silence. Not a word came from his lips. And then he faithfully died for us.” Hughes stops there, but we should add that Jesus continues to be faithful, cleansing all who call on him, giving the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, interceding for us before the Father. He was faithful, he remains faithful, he will forever be the faithful one. He says “Behold, I am with you always, even to the close of the age.”

III. Imitate His Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:6)

        How are we to respond to this faithfulness? By being faithful to him. Or, as the text says, by holding fast. Verse 6: But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. We are God’s people, his household, and Christ the Son, by virtue of his faithfulness, has been placed over us. Notice the difference in prepositions: Moses was faithful in God’s house but Christ is faithful over God’s house. Christ is the head, we are the body. We saw in chapters 1 and 2 his absolute sovereignty and the authority he exercises as the risen Son. It was his faithfulness that earned this authority.

        But if Christ is faithful and is over us, he obviously deserves something from us. We have already been encouraged to fix our thoughts on Jesus, or to pay attention to Jesus. This command, as all God’s commands, is intended to be of great benefit to us, for as we fix our thoughts on Jesus the apostle of God and high priest of our salvation, we will be strengthened to hold fast, or be faithful, in times of trouble. The Greek ‘hold fast’ literally means ‘have again’, but the way it is used almost always has the image of holding on tight to something for a long time - even ‘until the end’. I take it to mean that just as Moses faithfully did all that God asked among the people of God, and just as Jesus was faithful to the end, so too we can remain faithful even when we are called to difficult tasks, difficult relationships, difficult circumstances.

        But you’ve got to focus on the faithful one in order to maintain this faithfulness. We hold fast, the author says, to our confidence - our trust that he is who he is and will do what he says, our trust in his faithfulness - and we boast in our hope. We have such conviction that what Jesus said is true and what he did is real and what he promised certain that our hope does not waver. Our hope is not the wispy hope of twentieth century English, but the full blooded hope of the Greek root, a hope with something solid to hold on to. Faith, the author will say in chapter 11 is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. In fact our confidence and hope are so strong that we can even boast in them, and especially in their object, Jesus.

        So, again, Jesus is faithful. His faithfulness is greater than that of Moses. Our faithfulness should imitate His. Not his self-sacrifice -that’s unrepeatable. Not his divinity - he is uniquely God the Son. But his obedience. His submission to the Father’s will. His desire to please the one who had sent him. It is in imitating these things that we demonstrate that we are trustworthy, dependable, committed, unwavering in our purpose and conviction. Then, as faithful servants, we are given more responsibility in the house of God and among the people of God. If we don’t have this faithfulness we will not lose our salvation, but we will lose the privilege of service, and we may very well lose the assurance of our salvation. That assurance comes when we see God at work first, in His Son and according to his promises, and second, in our lives and through our faithfulness. That is what enables to have confidence in him and to boast in our hope.

        To become imitators of Christ’s faithfulness we need to do what the author suggested in verse one: pay careful attention to Christ. Study him in His word. Know his heart in prayer. Focus our desire, our concentration and discipline and our time on Him. Then we need to daily do his Father’s will, as he did. We need to love each other as he loved us, in the practical care we give to each other. We need have his heart for those who do not yet know his good news, and seek to make real opportunities to share. We need to have faith that he will provide all our needs and so take risks for his kingdom. We’re starting now into the fund raising phase for the building. We need to walk this way by faith. Our faithfulness and unwavering commitment shows up in the risks we’re willing to take, the sacrifices we’re willing to make.

        Faithfulness is a constant submission of my selfish human desires to the daily tasks that show love for God and love for others. A story I told last year when we studied the Fruit of the Spirit says it well: “A young man applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications, he said, "I can sleep when the wind blows." This puzzled the farmer. But he liked the young man, and hired him. Days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. Outside, they found that the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been put in the garage. The barn was properly locked. Even the animals were calm. All was well. The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man's words, "I can sleep when the wind blows." Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it broke. He could sleep in peace.

        This will be our experience when we focus our faithfulness on the faithful one. We can be faithful because he was faithful: he has given us a tremendous salvation and new life in Him. We can sleep when the wind blows because we focus on the one who is faithful above all.