Worthy of Consideration
Our minds are constantly active, but what is worthy of our thoughts? Jesus himself is, and we must consider him if we are to make it from grace to glory.
Hebrews 1-8 (WBC), William Lane
Hebrews: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary, Thomas Schreiner
Commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews, Cyril of Alexandria
We’re continuing our series this morning through the book of Hebrews, and in past weeks we’ve had opportunity to reflect on the different voices to whom we listen. But it’s worth recognizing that the most common voice to which we listen is our own, the voice in our own heads. Our minds are constantly active. But it’s widely recognized today that if you just let your brain run wild, without attempting to direct it in some way, that’s unlikely to end well. This is especially the case when you have a goal. Let’s say you have a goal to see your grandkids at least 6 times per year. You will have to focus your mind to consider your calendar, the cost of travel, what sorts of things you can do, and so on, to make that happen. Or let’s say you have a goal to write a book. You will have to focus your mind for multiple chunks of time to write it.
The letter to the Hebrews addresses the Hebrews as people with a goal. In this passage, the author addresses them as those who share in a heavenly calling. That means they have a goal to which they have been called by God: To reach their heavenly home. That’s the goal of all Christians. And in this text, we see that we too must focus our minds to reach our goal. Specifically, to reach that destination, this text tells us to consider Jesus. To understand that, we’ll look at the command to consider, then a comparison to consider, and finally, the continuing need to consider.
The command to consider
Our passage today begins with the word “Therefore”. In the section just before this one, the author has explained how Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became like us in every way, in order that he might be a faithful and merciful high priest in the service of God, to offer sacrifice on behalf of those who are being tempted by sin. He told us how Jesus rose from the dead and was crowned with glory and honor because of his willingness to suffer death on our behalf. Now, what are we to do with that? What’s the “therefore”? Before I answer that question, notice that it is addressed to holy brothers who share in a heavenly calling, which is just a way of describing Christians. Is that the way you think of one another? Holy brothers or sisters with whom you share a heavenly calling? When God calls someone to be a Christian, he does not merely call them to a different life on earth, but ultimately to eternal life in a heavenly city, whose maker and builder is God. And we’ll see throughout Hebrews that the concern of the author is that his hearers reach their heavenly home. Older theologians called that the journey from grace to glory. When you hear the message of salvation and believe it, you enter a state of grace: God is now for you, not against you. Yet you are still on earth, though you are destined for the glory of heaven. And the author of this letter saw in his hearers a threat to their reaching glory: Turning back to the Judaism out of which they were saved. Do you sense a similar threat in your life? I don’t simply mean the temptation to turn to Judaism, but the temptation to turn to something else besides Jesus. If you think the journey from grace to glory is a simple one, such that in your own strength it will be no big deal for you to get there, might I suggest to you that you aren’t very well acquainted with the weakness of your flesh? The journey from grace to glory is anything but automatic.
And in that context, as brothers who share in a heavenly calling, the author’s inference from what he’s just said about Jesus is this: “Consider Jesus”. It’s not immediately to imitate Jesus. If you try to get from grace to glory simply by imitating Jesus, you’ll wear out before you arrive. You must also consider him, and yes, that is as simple as it sounds: Think about him. In chapter 2 we saw the command to pay much closer attention to what we have heard, which is the message Jesus proclaimed. Now here you can think of this command as though it is saying not only to pay close attention to the message declared by Jesus, but to pay close attention to Jesus himself. Devote time to simply thinking about Jesus himself, the person. On the path from grace to glory, that’s what you need to give you both the direction and the strength to keep going. And when you find yourself wandering from that path, don’t you find that Jesus himself is typically far from your thoughts?
You may be thinking a lot about the commands of Jesus, how hard or costly they seem, how far short you fall of them. You may even be thinking about the doctrinal content of the message of Jesus, and comparing it to other philosophical systems. Or, you may not be thinking about much related to Jesus at all: You may just be thinking about money, pleasure, or security, and as your mind is fixated on these things, you drift toward pursuing them, off the path from grace to glory, away from your heavenly calling. From money to the commands of Jesus, what these things have in common with one another is that they aren’t Jesus himself, and if you want to go from grace to glory, what you need is to consider Jesus himself. Eventually, yes, you do need to move from a consideration of Jesus himself to, “Ok, now how do I need to live differently as a result of what I’ve considered?” but don’t run there too quickly. Consider Jesus. That’s the command.
Even if you are here today and you aren’t yet a Christian, you haven’t yet started on the path from grace to glory, consider Jesus. The truth of Christianity rises and falls with him. It is easy to consider many other features of Christianity; perhaps you have questions about the Bible’s creation account, the transmission of biblical texts, Christian sexual ethics, concerns about things the church has done, or even your experiences in a church. Those things all matter, and are worthy of consideration. I or whoever brought you I’m sure would be glad to talk with you about those things. But don’t miss the forest for the trees. Consider Jesus. Who did he claim to be? What did he say he would do? Did he really do those things? Was he really who he said he was? If he did, and if he was, then trust him, and work through the other questions from there.
Perhaps it is already obvious to you, and to you who already do believe, that considering Jesus means you will need to devote time in your life to rest from your ordinary activity so that you have the mental space to think at all. Church gatherings are designed for just that, and preaching in particular should present Christ to you. The apostle Paul even summarized his own preaching in this way: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). That’s why we don’t preach sermons on how to have a happy marriage or how to balance your budget. We preach Christ, because considering him is what we need to get from grace to glory. So if you’re ever sitting here during a sermon thinking, “Man, this is a lot of stuff about Jesus. What’s it got to do with my life?” realize that’s by design. One of your biggest problems in life is the centrality of you to your life. One of my biggest problems in life is the centrality of me to my life. My sins, my anxieties, my struggles, my problems seem really big, and Jesus? He seems really small. That’s the direction in which the world, your flesh, and the devil push you, and so we don’t want to aid and abet that by catering our worship gatherings and sermons around you. We want to preach Christ, so that we might all consider him together more deeply.
We don’t want to aid and abet the centrality of you, and can I also just encourage you to not aid and abet that by reading your Bible as though it’s all about you? When you read your Bible, don’t just look for what it tells you to do or stop doing; look for what it tells you about Jesus. Use it to consider Jesus. It’s all about him ultimately, and so you will be truer to the true meaning of a text if you consider Jesus in it. When you read of Joseph being sold into slavery for silver, but then rising to a position of power, and then using his power to bless the very people who sold him into slavery, don’t first consider how you can be like Joseph. First consider how Jesus was sold not only into slavery, but into death, for silver, and how he rose from the dead to the highest place, above even Joseph, and then uses his power now to extend forgiveness to the very people whose sins crucified him. Maybe you need to learn more to able to do that well. That would be a great use of your time. Shannon, a member of our church here, is leading a ladies’ Bible study this fall with this very goal: To see Jesus in all of scripture, and so apply it to our lives through the lenses of its fulfillment in Christ. Sometimes such study can seem very academic and unspiritual, but this command to consider Jesus puts it in its proper place. On the one hand, doctrine is not ultimate, because the command is not to consider a system of doctrine. On the other hand, you cannot really consider Jesus if you know nothing about Jesus. Like, if all you know is his name, and you don’t even know what it means, you may go to consider him, and find you only have about 10 seconds of material to consider. So listening to doctrinally dense sermons, even through times you don’t yet detect the immediate relevance of them, learning how to see Jesus in all of the Bible, even reading other books that help you better understand who Jesus is and what he’s done, while not ends in themselves, can be helpful means to the end of considering Jesus. This is one of the key ways we can help one another as holy brothers who share in a heavenly calling: Not most fundamentally by telling one another what to do, but by reminding one another of who Jesus is.
And, in fact, much of the letter to the Hebrews gives us doctrine to help us consider Jesus. Remember the opening? He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Remember how he spent a significant chunk of chapter 1 just telling us about the superiority of Jesus to angels? What’s that got to do with our lives? Simply, it helps us consider Jesus. It shows us more of who he is. Remember last week how he showed us Jesus’ entrance into glory, his suffering and death, his role as high priest, his ability to help those who are being tempted. And then here, right when you thought it was about to get intensely practical, when we get the “therefore,” what’s he tell us to do with all that content about Jesus? Think about it. Think about him.
And through the rest of this passage, the author continues to help us do so. Here in verse 1, with the command to consider Jesus, he describes him as the apostle and high priest of our confession. The word apostle comes from a word related to sending, although the use of the word in the New Testament suggests something more specific, like one sent to deliver a message. Jesus is the one who was sent to deliver the message of our confession. Our confession is what we confess to believe as Christians, and Jesus is the one who first declared it, as we saw earlier in chapter 2. He is the one by whom God has spoken in these last days, as we saw in chapter 1. But not only is he the original speaker of our confession; he is the central content of our confession. That’s why the author also calls him the high priest of our confession. We confess our faith in him as our high priest, which means we confess him as our representative before God. If you present yourself to God without a representative, you will be condemned as guilty. None of us can stand before him on the basis of our own goodness; he knows we have not loved him or our neighbor as we ought to have. But the Christian confession is that Christ is our high priest, and as our high priest, verse 2 goes on to tell us that he was faithful to him who appointed him.
To be faithful means to be trustworthy. It means the one who appointed you can count on you to do the thing for which he appointed you to your position. In the passage just before this, we learn very clearly why God appointed Jesus a high priest: To make propitiation for the sins of the people, so that we might be brought to glory, and he was faithful to the one who appointed him. Though as he approached the cross, where he was to offer himself as the sacrifice of propitiation for our sins, he dreaded such a prospect and even prayed that if there was another way, that the Lord would grant it, he ended his prayer by saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” And though from the cross he could have called down an army of angels to defeat his enemies, he was faithful to the one who appointed him by offering himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all who would ever believe in him, and even interceding for them from the cross as he prayed for their forgiveness. As our faithful high priest, he has made propitiation for our sins. The Christian confession is that the sacrifice he offered of himself was sufficient to pay for all our sins, entitle us to forgiveness, and bring us to glory with him, where he is seated now. He is the apostle who first declared to us the message of salvation, and he is the faithful high priest who accomplished our salvation. As you journey from grace to glory, as you face the temptation to stray from that heavenly calling, holy brothers and sisters…consider him. That’s the command. Let’s look next at a comparison.
A comparison to consider
A comparison is introduced in verse 2. After telling us that Jesus was faithful to him who appointed him, the author says that Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. That’s a point of similarity between Jesus and Moses: they were faithful. This is the first time in Hebrews Moses’ name has appeared, although we did get a reference to the law of Moses earlier in Hebrews chapter 2 when the author spoke of the message delivered by angels. To what seems to have been a primarily Jewish-background audience for this letter, Moses was what we’d call “kind of a big deal”. The laws by which the Jews lived before the coming of Christ, which God himself gave them, were delivered by angels to Moses, who then gave them to the people. Not only that, but Moses was the leader of the Jewish people who led them out of slavery in Egypt, which was the great event that really constituted Israel as a people. There were other prophets before the coming of Christ; Hebrews 1 even said that a long time ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets. But Moses stands out among them all. Listen to these words from God spoken in Numbers 12:6-8, to which our passage alludes: “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.”
So there you have the statement that he was faithful in all God’s house. And yet, the author doesn’t tell us to consider Moses. He tells us to consider Jesus. Why? If they were both faithful, why consider Jesus over Moses? And remember, this is a pressing issue for his original audience: They were being tempted to turn back to Moses and forsake Jesus, so again, why consider Jesus over Moses? Verse 3: 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. And in support of that statement, the author says in verse 4 that every house has a builder, but the builder of all things is God. And what all would have agreed on is that God is worthy of more glory than what God made. That being the case, Jesus, as the builder of the house, is worthy of more glory than Moses, who was merely faithful in God’s house.
Though God is the builder of everything, the specific house in which Moses was faithful and the specific house Jesus built is not a physical building, but a people, what we could simply call the people of God, or God’s household, as 1 Timothy 3:15 describes the church. That’s the way the word house is typically used in the Bible; we’d probably more commonly use the word family. Moses was faithful in God’s house in that he was faithful as one of God’s people, the leader even of God’s family. But even that generation that came out of Egypt proved faithless in the end, and future generations of Israel would as well, until eventually God scattered the family, his children, among the surrounding nations in exile. God’s family, God’s house, was broken down. During exile though, through the prophets, God spoke of another who would come to build the house of the LORD (Zech 6:12). Here the author identifies Jesus as that promised builder of God’s house, as Jesus himself declared: “I will build my church” (Matt 16:18) and as John wrote that he died to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52).
Moses was faithful in that family in his own day, when it consisted of only one nation, but Jesus is the builder of that family, who has built his church thus far among the Hebrews, Corinth, Rome, Galatia, and other places in the times the Bible was still being written, who has now built it among many more tribes, languages, peoples, and lands, and who will continue to do so until all the children of God scattered abroad are gathered into one. He is the reason any particular church exists; he is the reason the universal church exists. And therefore, he is worthy of more glory than Moses. When an actor wins an Oscar for best actor, that actor gets the Oscar trophy. But when a movie wins best picture, the trophy goes to the producer, because we understand the producer is worthy of greater honor for the whole picture than someone who acted in it. So also, Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, as the builder is worthy of more honor than the house itself, and as God is worthy of more honor than his creation.
And he is worthy of more honor than Moses because he is the Son who is faithful over God’s house, while Moses was faithful merely as a servant in God’s house. In the quote from Numbers 12 that I referenced earlier Moses was literally called a servant. If you think of a traditional family or household structure, still present in parts of the world today, you have the owner of the house, which in this case is God, then that owner would often have a firstborn son, who would be the heir of his house, and servants, who would serve in the house. So here the comparison switches from builder and member to son and servant. In God’s house, Moses was a servant, not the heir, and the particular service he did, according to verse 5, was to testify of the things that were to be spoken later. But, in these last days, Hebrews 1 tells us that God has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things. In other words, Moses served the people of God by telling them of one to come, to whom they should listen, but Jesus is the one to come! Moses was in the house as verse 5 says, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son, as verse 6 says. He is the one by whom God has spoken his final word, and he is the one now seated at God’s right hand as his royal son and heir. Consider him greater than Moses because he is both the builder of God’s house and the faithful Son over God’s house, while Moses was merely a faithful servant in God’s house.
Perhaps Moses isn’t a big deal to you the way he was to the Hebrews. Who is? Whose glory do you spend a lot of time considering? Jesus is worthy of more glory. Jesus is better. Consider him. It can be hard to see this when our vision of greatness has been shaped by the world. If what really impresses you is athletic prowess, physical beauty, or wealth, you won’t see Jesus as better than anyone else. But if you recognize that even the best things that exist on earth are still things God made, and the builder is worthy of more honor than the building, you can see Jesus as better than anyone else. He is the creator, not the creature, one in being with the Father, the very radiance of his glory and the exact imprint of his nature. And we are creatures who have sinned against our creator. Our greatest need, then, is to be reconciled to God, and Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession, who made propitiation for our sins. He is the builder of God’s house and the faithful son over God’s house. Consider him better than anyone else.
Consider him better than those who are great in this world, and consider him better than even the best of his servants! That’s what Moses was, right? And many of you here today have no doubt benefited from the service of others in God’s house. I think of how many of you had the privilege of being raised by parents who served the Lord by teaching you the gospel from a young age, praying for you, disciplining you, and giving you a living example of what it looked like to walk with Jesus. I think of others of you who had friends who loved you enough to share the gospel with you before you believed it. In my own life I think of Griffin Jones, Nate Forney, Dave Bowman, Jason Hess, Dusty Thompson, and Matt Cohen, men who served in God’s house by speaking God’s word to me and who spent intentional time sharing their lives with me. I don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for the service of these men, and yet, in the end, they are servants in the house of God, while Jesus is the builder of the house and the Son over the house. That’s important to keep in mind when servants in the church prove themselves faithless, as does sadly happen from time to time. Their faithlessness can’t nullify the faithfulness of Jesus. Consider him when the people to whom you looked up fall. And, it’s important to keep in mind even when they are faithful, as Moses was, so that your faith rests not on them, but on Christ. Certainly we should honor faithful servants of Jesus, but as you see Jesus in them, let that grow your adoration of Jesus even more than your adoration of such people. Don’t settle for communion with other Christians, even more mature Christians; press on to consider Christ and enjoy real, living, vital communion with him.
Perhaps it’s hard for you to imagine how someone like Moses could be such a big deal to a community. But there was a time in the world when he was, and there was a time in the world when it was common for a people to have such a strong sense of corporate identity that they adored the founder of their community, and the present leader of their community. In this building here in which we gather there is a painting of the founder on the wall as you walk into this room; the room is even named after him. In England this is less true today, but you can see examples of it in early seasons of the Crown, where people felt that the king or queen was worthy of a unique honor because they ruled over their house. And that underscores the significance for us as Christians of the beginning of verse 6: And we are his house. Our corporate identity as holy brothers, not those who share citizenship in an earthly nation, but citizens of heaven, who share in a heavenly calling, is that we who are believers in Jesus today are his house, and therefore Jesus is worthy of the utmost honor as the founder of our house, the builder, and the one who rules over it faithfully now as Son. There is no limit to the honor and glory you can rightly ascribe to Jesus. He is worthy of it all. Hold none of it back. Honor those who are worthy of honor, as the author does with Moses here, but give the greater glory to Jesus.
We are his house, and yet we do see at the end of verse 6 that we are only his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. So let’s close by looking at the continuing need to consider.
The continuing need to consider
The idea of holding fast there in verse 6 could also be translated with the word “retain” or “keep”. The idea is that we already have a certain confidence and boasting in our hope, and we are God’s house if we retain it, or keep it, to the end. Considering Jesus once, confessing faith, and then moving on does not make one a Christian, a member of God’s house. Rather, we are his house only if we continue considering Jesus, and here that is represented as holding fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. The rest of Hebrews clarifies that the confidence here spoken of us is the confidence we have to draw near to God, to offer to him acceptable worship. You ever think about that? If you pray, if you come to services like this, what gives you the confidence to draw near to God like that? We don’t have that confidence with everyone. I wouldn’t feel confident to go strike up a conversation with a terrorist, for example. You say, “Well yeah, but God’s not a terrorist.” Amen! But later in Hebrews we’re going to come across statements like this: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31) and “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). We can think of a story like that of Nadab and Abihu, who in the Bible attempted to draw near to God to offer him worship, and who God killed by fire. I even think of one non-Christian friend who somewhat jokingly said she was afraid to come to church, because if she did, God might bring the roof down on her (she knew she was living in sin). So what gives you and me confidence to draw near to him? Imagine the day of your death, or the day of Christ’s return, when you will face God’s judgment, whether you want to or not. Do you have confidence for that day?
Many do, but the confidence is in themselves. They think, “well of course I’m not perfect, but I have tried to do better day by day, and so I’m sure God will accept that. I’m not a murderer, after all.” But the Christian confidence, the confidence spoken of here in verse 6, is different. The Christian confidence, how someone becomes a Christian, how you’d even become a Christian if you are here today and aren’t yet one, is a renunciation of all confidence in ourselves, and instead a resting of all our confidence upon Christ. It’s approaching God with him as your representative, confident that though God is perfectly holy and you are a sinner by nature, Jesus Christ is your faithful high priest, whose death on the cross made a full propitiation for your sins, and therefore there is now no condemnation for you as long as you hold fast your confidence in him. You see the need for continuing to consider Jesus, then? If you stop considering Jesus and instead begin making your goodness the source of your confidence before God, you will have no real confidence. You will either have a false sense of security or you will despair of your lack of goodness.
Jesus is our confidence and the boasting in our hope. Our hope speaks of our future, our heavenly calling. And the question raised by the end of the verse, similar to the beginning, is in what do you boast, that gives you hope for your future? When you think about what job you might be able to get in the future, in what do you boast? You boast in your resume. When you think of why you might be able to retire and enjoy the finer things in life I the future, in what do you boast? You boast in your 401k. What is our boasting in our hope? It’s what Jesus has done for us. All our hopes for the future are set on him. The reason we have a firm and certain hope of our heavenly inheritance, the reason we look forward to glory from the standpoint of grace, is because we have a faithful high priest, who was faithful to the one who appointed him, who has built the house of God, and who rules over it now as the Son of God.
Holy brothers and sisters, we are God’s house if we hold fast that boast, and that confidence, to the end. If you want to make it from grace to glory, consider Jesus. When people drift away from him, it almost inevitably begins because they take their eyes off him, and get fixated instead on their sins, their hardships, the approval of others, or their doubts even. Heed the counsel of the now dead pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who said for every one look you take at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. When you sense yourself getting off the rails, stop and consider: “But what about Jesus? What’s true of him?” Johnny Gibson, author and professor, in his children’s book The Moon is Always Round, tells the story of having to counsel his son through the death of his daughter. His son asked him, “Why isn’t Leila coming home with us?” Gibson told him because she’s gone to be with Jesus. He asked, “Will Leila come to us after a day with Jesus in heaven?” Gibson told him that when you meet Jesus, you don’t want to go anywhere else. His son asked, “Why?” and Gibson answered, “because he is such a wonderful person.” Jesus is such a wonderful person. Don’t go anywhere else. Consider him. Take time to simply think about him. Consider him greater than Moses, consider him greater than the greatest servants of God, consider him greater than anyone else. And hold fast your confidence in him to the end.