- Locate the Passage
Hebrews 3:1-6 is situated in the first major division of the letter (1:5-4:13).
Hortatory. Note the imperative in 3:1 and an imperatival idea semantically encoded in the conditional clause of v. 6.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
The hortatory nature of Heb 3:1–6 is signaled by a change in topic, the use of direct address via the vocatives, and the use of an imperative in 3:1. The paragraph is unified by lexical cohesion with the repetition of “house,” the comparison and contrast of Jesus and Moses, and the use of inclusion with the name “Jesus” in v. 1 and the “Christ” in v. 6. The paragraph can be summarized in three points: (1) Moses was a servant; Jesus is the Son; (2) Moses was a part of the house; Jesus is over the house; and (3) Moses testified of what was coming; Jesus fulfilled the testimony.
- Exegete the Passage
The inferential particle hothen translated “therefore” indicates a conclusion drawn from the preceding thought and provides the reason for the exhortation to consider Jesus. Semantically, the word gives the grounds for the exhortation about to be made. It marks a summary conclusion and places semantic dominance on 3:1–6 in relation to the preceding section: “Since Jesus is the apostle and high priest, consider him.”
Verse 3 is the beginning of a new sentence in Greek introduced by the subordinating conjunction gar in Greek. The author continued the comparison begun in v. 2 by indicating the reason for carefully considering Jesus. Several translations take gar as indicating a contrast with the preceding verse with the sense that Jesus and Moses are similar, but Jesus is worthy of more honor. What contrast is indicated is not drawn from the conjunction but from the phrase “greater honor than Moses” occurring later in the verse.
Note the Greek conjunction gar, not kai, introduces v. 4, and it grammatically subordinates the verse to the thought of v. 3 and semantically functions to clarify v. 3. The repetition of the subordinating conjunction gar in v. 4 coupled with the fact that kai connects v. 4 to 5 (with v. 5 beginning a new sentence coordinated with the previous sentence) shows that the gar at v. 4 governs the next three verses. Thus, v. 4 is not parenthetical but marks a transition from assertion to explanation.
Verse 6 continues the contrast begun in v. 5 with the other half of the men … de construction in Greek (“on the one hand…on the other hand”) by stating that “Christ is faithful as a son” over the house. The contrast is between two pairs: “servant” and “son”; “in all God’s house” and “over God’s house.”
The readers are exhorted in v. 6 through a mitigated command expressed as a conditional clause to “hold on” to their “courage.”
In 3:1–6 we have two imperatival ideas expressed; the present imperative in v. 1 (overt) and the surrogate imperative (the conditional clause) in v. 6b (covert). The conditional clause conveys the meaning that we should indeed hold fast our confidence….
See Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook, 64-74; J. Harold Greenlee, Hebrews: An Exegetical Summary, 84-98; and David L. Allen, Hebrews, 235-52, for more detailed exegetical and semantic analysis of the text.
- Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon
I. 3:1 (Command to consider Jesus as superior to Moses.)
A. 3:2 (Provides further grounds for the exhortation in v. 1 – Jesus was faithful,
so consider him.)
B. 3:3 (Provides further grounds for the command in v. 1 – assertion of Jesus’ superiority to Moses.)
C. 3:4-6a (Provides an illustration with intent to clarify – the “house” belongs to both
God and Jesus as founder; along with further explanation that Moses “serves” but
Jesus is “Son” over the house.)
D. 3:6b (Direct application to readers/hearers. The conditional clause expresses a
mitigated command: “hold fast our confidence….”