Whose house are you living in? Now I’m not talking about your parents’ house. I’m talking about whose house are you living in spiritually? In Hebrews 3:1-6 we read:
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, take note of Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess, who is faithful to the one who appointed him, as Moses was also in God’s house. For he has come to deserve greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house deserves greater 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 would be spoken. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. We are of his house, if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope we take pride in.”
Did you know it’s possible for us to live in God’s household? Hebrews mentions two ways. We can live in God’s house as the son, or we can live in his house as servants. Now, we understand from this passage, and from the broader context of the New Testament, that God only has one Son, Jesus Christ.
So, obviously we can’t live in his household as the Son. In fact, in this passage Jesus is described in two ways that are so unique we could never fulfill his role. He’s described as “the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”
Why is Jesus called an “apostle”? Ordinarily, when we hear that word we think of the 12 apostles. But, it quite literally means “one who is sent,” and in that sense Jesus is an apostle, because he was sent from the Father to us.
“High priest” is a term we may not be familiar with, unless we’ve been studying the Old Testament. The high priest, as will be discussed later in Hebrews, was the one person in the entire nation of Israel who could approach God to offer blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. In the case of the Jewish high priests, it wasn’t his own blood, but the blood of a sacrificial animal. Hold onto that thought, because in the chapters ahead we’ll return to it.
But, here Jesus is referred to as the high priest in the sense that he is the one who enables us to approach the very throne of God. He is the one who intercedes for us before Him!
Now, in the text we’re considering, the author goes on to describe Moses as a “servant” who was “faithful in all God’s house.” Throughout the New Testament the word “servant” is used. It’s so common that we might easily overlook the significance of it here. Ordinarily, the word that is translated “servant” in the New Testament is the word duolos, which literally means “slave.” Most modern translations have softened the term by translating it as servant, but slavery was very common in the first century. In fact, approximately 1/3 of the people living in the Roman Empire were slaves. Their numbers were so great, that the government feared that if the people ever actually knew how many slaves there were throughout the Empire, there would be an uprising – a revolt.
However, in this instance, the word translated “servant” isn’t duolos, but therapon. Therapon was a word used to describe a person who was devoted to priestly service around a temple. And, the only time it is used in the New Testament is in this passage! Moreover, the only time it was used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint, it was used in reference to Moses – just as it is used here!
So, we are being told that just as Moses was a faithful servant, or priest, in the household of God, so can we be faithful priests in the household of God. If we are the priests, and Jesus is the High Priest, then the priesthood is complete. We can approach God, offering sacrifices to him of praise and worship, bringing before him our petitions and prayers, knowing that Jesus, our High Priest, intercedes for us before the very throne of God.
Perhaps your thinking, “I’ve never had any desire to be ‘a priest,’ or to serve as a priest!” Please understand that we are not talking about some kind of special wardrobe, or flowery language that can be used, and we alone understand. No, we’re simply talking about the privilege of approaching God, cleansed of our sins, and knowing that he hears us.
Really, we only have two choices: we can either be a priest, or we can be a slave. In John 8:31-32 Jesus says, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The last part of that we’ve hear many times as an axiom applied to almost everything. But, in the context in which Jesus said it, he was talking to Jewish leaders, priests to be exact, who did not believe in him! Shortly after Jesus said this, they replied that they were children of Abraham and that they had “never been slaves to anyone.” That was a boldface lie! In fact the most dramatic story of their nation was how God had delivered them from slavery to the Egyptians.
They continued to argue with Jesus and finally, exasperated, Jesus says, “You people are doing the deeds of your father,” and “You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires” (John 8:41,44). We might do well to end that sentence with an exclamation mark, because I highly doubt it was said with a soft tone. Right after this, the Jewish leaders became so enraged they tried to kill Jesus, but he escaped because it wasn’t time for him to die, yet.
These religious leaders believed they were the people of God. They believed they were rightfully priests in the household of God. They believed that they had the privilege and promise that they could approach God in prayer, confident of their salvation. But, in reality they were slaves serving in the household of the devil himself!
How can we know we’re part of the household of God? Quite simply, if we are faithful servants. If we hold onto the confidence we have in Christ. “We are of his house, if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope we take pride in.” (Hebrews 3:6)
Don’t let Satan fool you. Faithless servants are not truly servants of God at all. Faithful servants have every reason to be confident and thankful that they can approach God as members of his household.