Grace For The Journey
One of the key verses in the Book of Hebrews is Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” “Looking unto” Jesus is not just a hurried glance, not a temporary gaze, but a fixed, locked-in, eyes-glued-to looking, being captivated by Christ.
To the degree we are captivated by Jesus Christ,
We will live the kind of life we always wanted to live.
When we’re captivated by Christ we are
The people we always hoped we could be.
As we begin, let me say just a few words about this Book. Hebrews is a bit different from other letters in the New Testament and we are going to be learning more about the main themes as we go along. No one really knows who wrote Hebrews. The King James Version attributes the letter to the Apostle Paul, but the earliest Greek manuscripts do not include his name and most scholars do not believe Paul wrote the letter. The style is very different from Paul’s writings. Some scholars suggest Luke was the author. Other names have been suggested like Barnabas, or Apollos. But we really do not know. Like some of the other books of the Bible, it is anonymous. One of the early church fathers in the 3rd Century, Origen said, “Who actually wrote the epistle, only God knows.”
It is not absolutely necessary to know who the author, because the ultimate author is God who inspired all the writings of the Bible. This letter was divinely inspired by God, His authority was recognized by the early church, and accepted by the church as part of the canon of New Testament Scripture. It was almost certainly written before the year AD 70, for reasons we will consider in future studies. For now, just to have a date, approximately AD 65.
The title of the Book . . . Hebrews . . . tells us that the writer was writing this letter to Hebrews – to Jewish believers, Christians who had been raised in or steeped in Judaism. That will be especially clear as we progress through these chapters.
What the writer is largely trying to do is . . .
To encourage and warn these Jewish
Christians to stay the course.
To keep on following Christ.
To not abandon their faith in Christ
And go back to the old ways of Judaism.
Many of the believers were being persecuted for their faith, ridiculed for following Christ, families were at odds with one another, and there was tremendous pressure to go back to the old ways, possibly even persecution from Roman authorities. The writer is saying, “Stick with the faith. Do not turn your back on Christ and drift away. Stay the course. Keep your eyes on Jesus.” That theme has immediate relevance to us. We are often discouraged, defeated, and may drift away from Christ for similar or other reasons.
The author of Hebrews is saying throughout this letter time and again . . .
Jesus Christ is better than anything you will
Ever have or anyone you will ever know.
He will use a number of different words to make the point, a number of superlatives, and terms like “better,” “more,” and “greater.” These words used some 25 times throughout the letter. making the case that Jesus Christ is better, more superior, and greater than anyone or anything.
Someone has said . . . “You can learn to love Jesus better, but you will never learn or love anything better than Jesus.” That is one of the main points of this book.
Let’s jump in. Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 1-4. These verses describe the person and work of Jesus Christ. They declare, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
I want us to look today at the Supremacy of the Son. That is what the writer is talking about here so that is what we want to talk about. Let’s turn our attention to these verses and consider three main truths about the supremacy of the Son of God. First . . .
I. His Supreme Place in Revelation – Verses 1-2a, 3a.
By revelation I do not mean the Book of Revelation, but revelation in the general sense of the term, as God’s revealing of Himself to mankind. When God speaks, He reveals Himself to us. And God has spoken! This opening verse is not an argument, it is an assumption, a declaration, a fact: God has spoken.
Verse 1, states, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.” “The fathers” are our ancestors, believers who have gone on before us. You read the Old Testament and you read where God spoke at various times and in various ways. God spoke through prophecy, sometimes direct words to prophets; at other times through visions, angelic revelations, events, dreams, audible voice through a burning bush to Moses, a still small voice whispered to Elijah, words written on a wall to Belshazzar, God even spoke through a donkey to Balaam – an encouragement to every preacher of the Word, that if God can use a donkey, He can use us!
Verse 2 goes on to say, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. Literally, “in Son.” Here is a new way to speak – in Son! God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past . . . has in these last days spoken to us “in Son,” the focus being upon the Son’s supreme place in revelation as the fullest and final word from God. “These last days” are the days from the writer’s time till now. Jesus Christ is the fullest and final revelation from God. He is God’s final word. Prophets in the Old Testament prefaced their teachings with, “Thus saith the Lord,” but Jesus is the Word made flesh. He never prefaced His teaching with that phrase. You will never find Jesus saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” He is the Lord.
This is why a believing Christian who interprets the Bible plainly will understand there is no room in his faith for a Joseph Smith of Mormonism or a Mohammed of Islam. Joseph Smith claimed a fuller revelation beyond Christ. Adherents of Islam also believe a fuller and later revelation from God came through the prophet Mohammed, some 600 years after Christ. When we meet with a Mormon or a follower of Islam, certainly we can both be amiable with each other, but . . .
We cannot both be right.
The Bible says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”
Jesus Christ He is the fullest
And final word from God.
As we look to the first part of verse 3 we see a little more here about God’s revealing Himself to us in His Son, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
The writer does not describe the Son
In terms of appearance, but
In terms of His nature
. . . Who, What He is.
We tend to describe people based on appearance: He is tall, has short hair, a beard, and a little stocky.” We are not given a physical description here of the Son of God, but a description of His very nature, His “being.” “Being the brightness of His glory” means “Jesus radiates God.” The glory of God is seen in Christ. John 1:14 says, “The word was made flesh and dwell among us and we beheld His glory . . .” The glory of God is obvious in the transfiguration. The transfiguration is not the only example of the glory of God in Christ. The biblical teaching here is much greater than that!
The whole life and mission of
Jesus Christ reflected the glory of God.
The phrase, “the express image of His person,” teaches us that Jesus is identical in substance to the Father. In all of His attributes and abilities, the Son is exactly like the Father. The word translated “image” is the Greek word for “character.” Think of characters on keyboard as you text. The letter you press is the same letter that appears in your text. There is an exact correspondence between the two. In Jesus you have God. Whatever God is, Jesus embodies. There is an exact correspondence between the two. You want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus.
II. His Supreme Power in Creation – Verses 2b-3.
The pre-existence of the Son, existing before the material creation. There has never been a time when the Son was not. Verse 2 says, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” He made the everything in the world and He has been “appointed heir all things.” He inherits what He has made Our universe is vast. One person has said, “To try imagining how big, place a penny down in front of you. If our sun were the size of that penny, the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, would be 350 miles away.” Jesus did that. He created that distance.
Verse 3 states, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He is the glue that holds everything together. The Bible says in Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. “ Someone has said, ““God does not have to take your life; all He has to do is stop giving it.” This verse teaches Christ’s supreme power in creation – He makes it . . . He sustains it . . . And He redeems it. I will talk about the phrase “He had by Himself purged our sins” more tomorrow.
III. His Supreme Position of Exaltation – Verses 3-4.
Verse 3 declares, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” His work is finished. It is only after He Himself purged our sins that we read of His exaltation at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Verse 4 states, “Having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” There were some folks in Colossae who were actually worshiping angels (Colossians 2:18), yet Jesus is deemed superior to them, in part because His name (His essence) is “Son” (all that belongs to the Father belongs to his unique Son,)” which points to a more intimate relationship and which speaks of a better family inheritance.
There is good theology here in these opening verses. But biblical teaching, theological truth, is not just to be learned, but lived. By God’s grace this week we will live out what we have learned today. How? How does all this wonderful teaching about the Supremacy of the Son affect us? What are we to do with it?
When we follow the writer’s train of thought in this opening chapter and look on to see where he is headed, we see the primary point of application for our lives. The writer’s teaching here about the supremacy of the Son leads to a warning at the beginning of chapter 2 – In light of what the believers have learned about the supremacy of Christ they must give the more careful attention to the things they have heard, lest they drift away. That is where the writer is headed. His goal is that they embrace this truth about the Son of God, and His great supremacy over anything and anyone so they will not drift away. That is what he wants of us … he does not want us to from Christ and His church this week or throughout this year. He wants us to stay focused on Jesus, keep following Christ, and stay captivated by Christ.
All this biblical truth helps you to stay captivated. If you consider that He is God’s final and fullest revelation, that He is the agent of creation, creating all things, creating you – and recreating you through the power of the gospel and the grace of redemption, giving you life in His name – and that He has purged you of all sin and is right now seated at the right hand of the Father – You can trust Him. Trust Him! He is in control of all things – including you – and He will always do what is right in your life.
It is like in the sermon on the mount where Jesus said in Matthew 6 . . . What are you worried about? Don’t you know that the same God who created the little things like birds of the air, and grass of the field – and cares for them – is the same God who created you in His image. And Jesus reminds us that we are much more valuable than birds and grass. You can trust the Son of God to do what is right in your life this week.
Trust Him! Keep your eyes on Jesus! Stay captivated by His love for you and His power to work in your life. He will never let you down. Remember: You can learn to love Jesus better, but you will never love anything better than Jesus.
The first days of the new year gives us the opportunity to renew our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Supreme Son of God. Every one of us is either a follower of Jesus or we are not. We are either following Christ or we are following something or someone else. As we respond to the truth of God’s Word and the fact that Jesus Christ is the Supreme Son and King and Lord and Savior, we renew our hearts in obedience for follow Him.
If you are not following Christ, turn to Him this morning. Confess your sin. Repent. Turn away from whatever else you have been following, whatever else you have been living for . . . self . . . stuff . . . secret sin . . . and turn to Christ. Follow Christ.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”