Whenever I have conversations with skeptics about the basics of the Christian faith, I inevitably point out that Christianity is not a system of morals but the story of God’s rescue of his people. The response is typically varied disseminations of puzzlement because, for whatever reason, it is difficult to imagine Christianity not being about thou shalts and thou shalt nots.
“But, Aaron,” I hear from my fellow Christians, “what about the Ten Commandments? What about Jesus’ command to love God above all else and love one another as ourselves?” Indeed there is much in the Bible about right ways of living and doing good deeds. Jesus himself challenges us to “take up [our] cross and follow [him].” Was this the reason that Jesus came? If his intention was to give us a good example to live by then why did he have to die?
The next passage of Hebrews begins to give us the author’s perspective:
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)
What Came First?
Earlier in Hebrews the author makes a demonstrative point that Christ is indeed one with God the Father, God the Creator. Here that relationship is expressed in terms of another major character in the history of the faith: Moses. Not only a great teacher, Moses was and still is revered as the one by whom God gave the Law, his instructions on how to live and how to please him. God chose to give his Law to a people he had already taken as his own covenant people. God had made a promise, sealing it with his own unchanging reputation, that he would keep the people of Israel as his own, but he would also send a Redeemer to save his people from their sin.
You see, not only did God build the earth itself, but he also built the foundations of a moral system by which he expected his people to live. But before this he gave a promise of redemption, in full knowledge that his people would not be able to live up to his standard. And being the author of that Law, his work and authority is above his commands.
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.
(Hebrews 3:3 ESV)
Moses, an instrument of God, operated as a servant in the house that God had constructed. As the Lord of that house, Christ came and fulfilled the promise that was set out at the time of the first sin: he would crush the head of the serpent.
Witness to the Unseen and Not Yet Heard
The Law of Moses was not something that the people could live by. Moses himself failed at that task and was refused entrance into the Promised Land. Moses, as the servant of the Law and therefore of its Author, was also a witness to he who would come after:
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.
(Hebrews 3:5-6a ESV)
How was the Law a witness to Christ? There are at least two answers to that question: first the difficulty of following all the commandments set out in God’s Law, it graciously gave us full knowledge and hunger for relief and salvation. The second answer is that because no one was able to live up to the standard in God’s Law, it was a very good picture of who Christ would be and the life that he would live.
So Christ stands above the law because he followed it to the letter and to its heart. Not only that, but as the second person of God, he gave the Law to Moses in the first instance. Christ’s supremacy even over his commands is what gives us the assurance that his work is sufficient to make up for what we lost in our sin and to rectify us with God. If Christ is above the law, then his work also surpasses it, so his life, death and resurrection is all that we need. What a powerful blessing to know that our inability to follow the Law, our sins, not only in the past but those we commit now and in the future, are covered by his mighty work!
< Hebrews 2:5-19 | Hebrews 3:1-6