6/10/02 10.30 a.m. : Hebrews 1
1 1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? 6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." 8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
10 He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." 13 To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? 14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
We are all familiar with the marketing expression 'new and improved' to the point when we may be a bit cynical when we hear it. I don't think this would have been the case two thousand years ago when God launched the new and improved covenant, although there were some misunderstandings that needed to be ironed out, and the letter to the Hebrews addresses some of these.
As the name suggests the letter was written to Hebrews, Jews, who would have been familiar with the Old Testament and the Jewish religion. It may be that they were 'Judaizers', thinking that to be put right with God you had to trust in Jesus and obey the Old Testament law. It also appears that they did not fully understand who Jesus was, as we read in today's passage. The writer of Hebrews uses the Old Testament to establish Jesus as the one who reveals God to people and reconciles people to God, a superior and new covenant compared to the to the old. The word for better and superior occur 15 times in this letter. The Old testament revelation is fragmented and spoken through a number of prophets. The new is complete and is brought about through and by one person, Jesus.
We are not sure who wrote the letter to the Hebrews. It is unlikely to have been Paul because he usually identifies himself at the start of his letters. Also the vocabulary and style are different to Paul's letters. Barnabas and Apollos have been suggested as more likely alternatives.
In the first chapter we have the superiority of the new covenant, the superiority of the minister of the new covenant, Jesus, and Christ's superiority to the angels. This is backed up by quotations from the Old Testament. We will be focusing on the question, because, until we do this the Christian faith is meaningless and our motivation to worship, witness and live for Jesus will be weak and ineffective.
We live in a world where people are often classified by what they do for a living. So the first question a person may ask another is, 'What to you do?'. In this passage the identity of Jesus is answered by what he does. What Jesus does, and the qualities that he possesses, coincide with what God does and is. We, therefore, have to come to the conclusion that Jesus is God.
Verse 2, his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things,
There is no suggestion here that God the Father will die in order that God the Son will inherit. The idea is that the Son is waiting to receive what is rightfully his, showing that Jesus has the supreme place in the universe. His return to heaven after he had visited earth in bodily form, did not mark a new position and status, Jesus returned to come back to his rightful, eternal place.
and through whom he made the universe.
When we looked at the start of Genesis 1 at the start of September we saw how God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked together to create.
Colossians 1 supports this, too; 15 He ( Jesus ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Jesus performed the work of creation that was instigated by the commands of God. Therefore, we have to deduce that Jesus is not a created being, because he created all things. We can also conclude that Jesus is co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, all of them existed before time began and all will continue to exist when it ends. This is backed up later in the passage.
10 He ( God ) also says ( to Jesus ), "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
Until that day comes the created order will continue, but only because of God's sustaining power. This passage not only teaches that Jesus created everything but that he maintains everything. sustaining all things by his powerful word. Only God can do this.
The revelation of God in Jesus is complete. He is the radiance of God's glory, verse 3. As the brilliance of the sun is inseparable from the sun itself, so the Son's radiance is inseparable from the Godhead, for he himself is God, the second person of the Trinity. This radiance reflects both the presence of God, in Christ, and also the revelation he brings to a world that is dark, evil, cut off from God. John 1: 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
3 The Son is the ( radiance of God's glory and ) the exact representation of his being
Melanie and her mother have stamps and inks that they use to produce customized greetings cards. Assuming that the right amount of ink and pressure are put on a stamp, it should provide an identical impression of the original.
Khar-ak-tar' is translated exact representation of his being, the only time this word is found in the New Testament. It is an instrument used for engraving a stamp that makes an exact copy of the original. Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father. If we want to know what God is like we can look at his Son, who is 100% God and 100% man. Not God dressed up in a man's body. Not a man who was so good and unique that he seemed God-like.
Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821, French General; "Emperor Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."
When we look at the qualities of Jesus, his love, compassion, wisdom, power and perfection and we reflect on our own sin, we have to conclude that this man must also be God.
We sing in 'There is a green hill far away' the verse,
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.
On the cross he who never sinned took the blame for my sin, your sin, the sins of the world. So people can be free to have a right relationship with God the Father and free to follow his ways. On many occasions this letter refers to what Jesus has done to counteract sin, showing how he has dealt with it in a way that the Old Covenant could not. Here the writer refers to the way that Jesus removes the stain of sin. It was as if the Old Covenant was like an ineffective stain remover, but the New Covenant was a new improved one that permanently and effectively removed soiling.
After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Sitting is a position of rest. Being at the right hand of God is a place of honour. This shows that Christ has completed his saving work, he has done everything that is needed to save people from the effects of sin. The only thing left is to respond in penitence and faith, and be prepared for Jesus return.
Blaise Pascal, French Scientist, Religious Philosopher (1623-1662 ); "Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair."
4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. To most Jews angels were celebrated beings, especially revered because they were involved in giving the law at Sinai to the Jews God's supreme revelation. The Dead Sea Scrolls reflect the expectation that the archangel Michael would be the supreme figure in the Messianic kingdom. Perhaps the recipients of Hebrews were tempted to give angels a place above Christ. This first Chapter certainly suggests that they did not fully appreciate who Jesus is.
name. To Jews a name stood for the full character of a person in all he was and did. So people's names often reflected something about their personality or physical features. The section that follows indicates that this name was "Son", a better name to which no angel could lay claim.
Christ's superiority to angels is documented by seven OT quotations showing that he is God's Son, and that, though he is God, he is distinguished from the Father.
Verse 6 says that he is worshiped by angels. This not only tells us that Jesus is superior to the angels but also that he is God, because they would only worship God .
A few years ago my father-in-law, Roy, gave Joshua an old T.V. that used to belong to Roy's late father. I spent time re-tuning it to the correct frequencies for this area. It was not that easy as there was no instruction booklet and no remote control ! Part of the process involved fine tuning, making minute adjustments by pressing two buttons simultaneously. This changed a fuzzy picture with background noise into a sharp picture with clear sound.
We need to fine tune our impression of Jesus, using the Bible, helped by God the Holy Spirit so that we can understand who he really is. Until we do then there is a danger that we treat him as less than God. This can manifest itself in a number of ways.
- In prayer, we can treat Jesus as an errand boy, fulfilling our wish list. Whilst we can bring our concerns to God in prayer through Jesus it should also involve adoration of God, thanksgiving to God, confession of our sins, and submission to his will. It has been suggested that prayer is like a small boat throwing an anchor onto land and then being pulled by the rope so the boat draws close to the land. We are like the boat, God immense and steadfast like the land, and the anchor and rope are the prayer, pulling us closer to God and his perfect will for us.
- In life, we can limit his power and doubt his ability to act. One of the ways in which we do this is to live as if his teaching does not carry ultimate authority. Even though he has created us and provides us with our life and all our possessions we can rely on them and ourselves rather than him. So we do not give him his due withholding our money, possessions, time and talents. We also withhold our worship, not giving what is due to him. Yes, we can point to reasons, but these are really about priorities.
Malachi 3 refers to a lack of commitment to God and the promise he holds out for those who will really trust him.
Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, `How are we to return?' 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, `How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
God is not a spoilsport wanting to deprive us of good things. Rather he wants the opportunity to bless us and give to us, but until we submit to him we have no way of showing the depth of our faith and he has no vehicle to bless our faith.
Jesus is neither an angel nor an archangel, nor just a unique human being. He is God's Son, who came to reveal God to us, and reconcile us to God. Therefore, he deserves our wholehearted worship and commitment because of who he is, as well as what he has done for us.
Chrysostom, the ancient Church Father, was a beautiful example of true Christian courage. When he stood before the Roman Emperor, he was threatened with exile if he still remained a Christian. Chrysostom replied, "You cannot, for the world is my Father's house; you cannot exile me."
"But I will kill you," said the Emperor.
"No, but you cannot," came the reply, "for my life is hid with Christ in God."
"I will take away your treasures." "No, you cannot," was the retort; "in the first place, I have treasures you know nothing about. My treasure is in heaven, and my heart is there."
"But I will drive you away from man, and you shall have no friend left." "No, and that you cannot," once more said the faithful witness, "for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you shall not separate me. I defy you; there is nothing you can do to hurt me."