Only One House

There might not be a passage of Scripture more underappreciated for its rich theological, ecclesiological, and eschatological focus than that which we find in Hebrews 3:1-6. The writer was wishing to highlight the betterness of Christ to everyone in the Old Testament economy to keep the eyes of those to whom he was writing on Christ. The danger was for them to turn back to the weak and beggarly elements of Judaism, with its focus on external ceremonies and preparatory types. All of these things having passed away, the author firsts compares and contrasts Moses and Christ. Since Moses was the typical redeemer of the Old Covenant, it would make sense for the writing to highlight the relationship between the type (i.e., Moses) and the antitype (i.e., Christ). There is a world of theological riches that open to us when we carefully consider this text. 

The first thing that the writer does is to draw our attention to Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession.”Jesus is both the great Prophet, revealing the true God, to His people and the great High Priest, representing believers to God by His atoning sacrifice and continual intercession. He is the Prophet of all the prophets in that he immediately reveals God as God manifest in the flesh. Among all the other prophets, Moses stands unique. In one sense, he is like Jesus in that all the other prophets in the Old Covenant church come under his ministry. Geerhardus Vos explained, 

“Moses. . .is placed not merely at the head of the succession of prophets, but placed over them in advance. His authority extends over subsequent ages. The later prophets do not create anything new; they only predict something new. It is true, Moses can be co-ordinated with the prophets: [Deut. 18:18; ‘a prophet like unto thee’]. Nevertheless the prophets themselves are clearly conscious of the unique position of Moses. They put his work not so much on a line with their own, as with the stupendous eschatological work of Jehovah for His people expected in the latter days [cp. Isa. 10:26; 11:11; 63:11, 12; Jer. 23:5–8; Mic. 7:15].”1

Additionally, Moses authorized the building of the tabernacle with its priesthood and sacrificial system. Until the formation of the Aaronic priesthood, Moses acted in a priestly way among the people of God. He was also a kingly figure in his role as the lawgiver. Vos again noted,

“According to Num. 12:7, Moses was set over all God’s house. It is entirely in keeping with this prospective import of Moses and his work, that his figure acquires typical proportions to an unusual degree. He may be fitly called the redeemer of the Old Testament. Nearly all the terms in use for the redemption of the New Testament can be traced back to his time. There was in his work such a close connection between revealing words and redeeming acts as can be paralleled only from the life of Christ. And the acts of Moses were to a high degree supernatural, miraculous acts. This typical relation of Moses to Christ can easily be traced in each of the three offices we are accustomed to distinguish in the soteric work of Christ. The ‘prophet’ of Deut. 18:15, reaching his culmination in the Messiah, is ‘like unto’ Moses. 

Moses fulfilled priestly functions at the inauguration of the Old Berith, before the Aaronic priesthood was instituted [Ex. 24:4–8]. Our Lord refers to this as a typical transaction, when inaugurating the New Diatheke at the institution of the supper [Lk. 22:20]. Moses intercedes for Israel after the commission of the sin of the golden calf, and that by offering his own person vicariously for bearing the punishment of the guilty [Ex. 32:30–33]. A royal figure, of course, Moses could not at that time be called, for Jehovah alone is King of Israel. None the less, through his legislative function Moses typified the royal office of Christ.”2

He then proceeds to compare Moses and Jesus, in accord with the principle of faithfulness. Both Moses and Christ were faithful to God. They were faithful in the lives and ministries among the people of God. The author is here highlighting the sweet continuity–showing due respect to Moses as a faithful mediator, while setting him in contrast with the antitypical faithful mediator of the new and better covenant.

The contrast comes when the author notes that Moses acted servant in the house of God,  whereas Christ acted as the Son over the house. The difference is one of authority. Jesus has divine authority over the church of God since he is himself the eternal divine Son. The writer hotes this contrast when he says,

“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.)” (Heb. 3:3-4).

Christ is deserving of greater glory because he built the house of God as God incarnate. 

There is, however, another point of identification between the Old and New Testament in this passage. The ecclesiological and eschatological come together in this text in a way that is infrequently seen in the pages of the New Testament. The identification is in discovered in the fact there is one house of God in both the Old and New Testament economies. There is only one church of God, the temple of His people among whom He dwells. The writer of Hebrews is making this principle explicitly clear so that there is no notion that he was pitting the Old Testament and the New Testament with such a sharp division that the two were not seen to be organically connected in their origination and purpose. Geerhardus Vos captured this point so well when he wrote, 

“We must note the continuity of the Old Testament with the New. In 3:1–6 Moses is compared with Christ. There we read that Moses was in the house, whereas Christ is over the house. The implication is that the same house is meant in both cases, namely, God’s house. (Compare Num. 12:7). In this house Moses is a servant, while Christ is a Son. The superiority of Christ to Moses is further brought out by the consideration that the builder of the house (Christ) is greater than the house and its contents (including Moses). Again the implication plainly is that the same house is meant, namely the house of which Moses was an inmate and in which he was a servant.”3

This may be the most strikingly clear allusion to the New Testament church as belonging to the true Israel of God. The continuity is rarely seen in such a clear way as it is in this passage. There is only one house of God, built on the same promises, tasked with the same purpose and mission. When we remember this, we recognize that the preparatory and anticipatory elements of the Old Testament were there for us to come to a greater understanding of the spiritual blessings of Christ in the fulness of time. However, the continuity works the other way as well. There is something deeply spiritual about the Old Testament. The Old Testament saints were living as pilgrims and strangers here. They were, like New Testament believers, looking for the city to come that has foundations, “whose builder and maker is God.” They were willing to take up the reproach of Christ during the time of the sojourning here–as we learn of Moses himself (11:25–26). Vos again notes, 

“Christ is the core of the heavenly, spiritual world. Therefore a real contact existed between that world and the Old Testament house. The Old Testament house was therefore also in vital contact with the heavenly, spiritual reality.”4

Understanding these truths helps us more confidently to go back to the entirety of the Old Testament and discover the spiritual and eschatological core of the types, shadows, and ordinances (which have all been fulfilled in Christ). Whatever glory Moses and the Old Testament had in redemptive history, Christ has is worthy of more glory since he built the one house of God, Old and New Testament, “whose house we are in we hold fast our confidence and boasting in our hope” in Christ(Heb. 6:6). 

1. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 104.

2. Ibid.

3. Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. Johannes G. Vos (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1956), 67.

4. Ibid.

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