The book of Hebrews can be summed up in just one word: greater. As in, Jesus is greater. He’s greater than angels, prophets, priests, and kings. He’s greater than everything, and every person that has is, or will exist. The writer to the Hebrews labors throughout the entire book to show that to his Jewish friends who are struggling with their newly found Christian faith. Their congregation was being enticed to turn back to the old covenant and to leave the far superior new covenant. Or, to put it another way, they were being pulled away from Jesus and back to Moses.
In the old covenant, Moses was the quintessential prophet. Even with all of his faults (and there were many), he was a true servant of God like no other. Yet, he was just that: a servant. What these Hebrew Christians failed to realize is that this faithful servant pointed to an even more faithful master. This is why verse 5 states that Moses testified “to the things that were to be spoken later.” Moses, along with every Old Testament believer, pointed towards the coming of Christ. Those days of anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises have now come to an end (Hebrews 1:1), and the household of God has been expanded as the Gentiles have been grafted in (Romans 11:17) as the gospel has gone out to all the nations (Matthew 28:19).
Living no longer as spiritual orphans, those who belong to God have been adopted and made sons and daughters to God and brothers and sisters to Christ. To live under this rule is far sweeter and fuller than living under Moses. To be brought into God’s house as a fellow heir with Christ (Romans 8:17) is an unfathomable blessing. As Thomas Watson once observed, “It were much for God to take a clod of dust and make it a star; it is more for God to take a piece of clay and sin and adopt it for his heir.” The glorious act of grace in adoption must be written on our hearts with an iron pen.
However, the text doesn’t stop there. As is common with Hebrews, verse 6 has a condition attached on the backend. We are part of this household “if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” At first glance, one may think statements like this undermine the gospel of grace. On the contrary, these statements are perfectly consistent with a gospel of grace. The writer to the Hebrews is picking up on the teaching of Christ who warned against the seed of faith that was thrown on the rocky ground which may shoot up quickly with all signs of growth, but when difficulty arises, it withers because it never was actually planted deeply into good soil (Luke 8:13). This is precisely why Peter exhorted his readers to be diligent in making their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). True faith results in perseverance. One cannot exist without the other.
You may read this and be naturally drawn to an unhealthy introspective view. Indeed, many are constantly haunted by the fear of whether or not they are bearing enough fruit or whether they will persevere. That is not what Hebrews is trying to accomplish. Notice what we are instructed to do: hold fast our confidence and our boasting in hope (vv. 6). Where does this come from?
Ultimately, our confidence is in Christ alone and the impassability of our God, who doesn’t lie, nor does he waver in his faithfulness to us. This text anticipates Hebrews 10:22-23, which calls us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water…for he who promised is faithful.” The writer is exhorting these Hebrew Christians not to buckle under the pressure of persecution but to keep their eyes on Jesus. They are to hold fast to the one who never lets them go.
Hebrews 3:3-5 speaks directly to us today. Perhaps you’re not a convert from Judaism, but you most certainly have or will face pressure to turn away from Christ. Sometimes the pressure is external and comes in the form of social persecution. Other times, we have an internal pressure which arises up and attempts to put out the faintly burning wick of our faith. Regardless of the situation, the solution is to look away from ourselves and place our eyes on Jesus. We must persevere with the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. Our confidence and our boasting are found not in ourselves, but in the “unchangeable character of his purpose…in, which it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:17-18).