Grace For The Journey
I really love these opening three verses! They are so good, because they teach such beautiful truths about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we look at these verses again, listen for the marvelous teaching about our Lord, the eternal Son of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity. The writer proclaims lofty truths about the Son of God in verses 1-3, “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.”
One of the major themes of the Book of Hebrews is the heralding of Jesus Christ, the proclaiming of Christ as “better” or “greater” than anyone or anything. The words “better,” “more,” and “greater” occur a combined total of 25 times in this letter.
The writer of this letter knows his audience. They are, of course, Hebrews. That is the title of the letter. He is writing to Jewish Christians, believers who came out of a background steeped in Judaism. Many of these new believers were undergoing persecution for their newfound faith, and, were tempted to turn back to their old ways to avoid Christian persecution. Because of that, the writer both warns and encourages them to stay the course. Do not turn away from Jesus. He is vastly superior than the old Jewish, Old Covenant way of living.
Adrian Rogers illustrated this truth years ago by likening the situation to a dog with a bone. He said if there is an angry, mean dog, and that dog has a bone in its mouth, and you try to take the bone away from him, you are going to regret it and that dog will bite you! If you really want to get that bone away from the dog, then you take a fresh sirloin steak and you just put it down on the ground in front of that dog. And that dog will drop that bone to get that steak. That steak is far better than that old bone!
The writer of Hebrews is showing these new Jewish Christians that there is something far better than the old ways of the Old Covenant . . . The Son of God, Jesus Christ . . . He is far better and much more superior than anyone or anything!
He begins by showing that Jesus is better than the angels. Now we will look at that in a moment, but before we do it is important that we see the bigger picture that the writer will be unfolding in the days to come. God is leading the writer of Hebrews in these first four chapters to show that Jesus is . . .
- Better than the prophets,
- Better than angels,
- Better than Moses,
- Better than Joshua,
- Better than the Sabbath.
In Chapters 4 through 10 the writer goes on to declare Jesus is . . .
- Greater than earthly priests,
- Greater than the Mosaic Law,
- Greater than animal sacrifices
- Greater than daily offerings.
Jesus is better . . . Jesus is greater!
Before we look at verses 4 and following, let’s review the first three verses and recall quickly the main teaching of verses 1-3. Here we see, number one:
I. God’s Revelation of the Son – Verses 1-3.
Remember that the general term “revelation” refers to God’s revealing Himself to His creation. The writer opens the letter by telling us that Jesus Christ is God’s final and fullest revelation, disclosing of Himself, to His creation, “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…” God’s revelation by His Son. We learn something of the person and work of the Son, who He is and what He has done. Continuing in verses 2 and, “… 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 (or the exact imprint of His nature), 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 atoning work is finished,
The cross was sufficient.
Nothing needs to be added
To His work or repeated.
And then from verses 4 to the end of the chapter the writer expands upon this truth that Jesus is much better than the angels because of His Sonship. This is the second of two main teachings here in chapter one. The first by way of outline is . . .
God’s Revelation of the Son (1-3)
And now we move to God’s
Exaltation of the Son (4-14),
The second main teaching
About the Son of God.
II. God’s Exaltation of the Son – Verses 4-14.
The hinge on the gate of verse 4 swings forward now to show how the Son is exalted over all creation, over everything, beginning first with the angels. Jesus is much better than the angels. The first century Jewish readers held angels in high regard. Literature from the intertestamental period – the years between the Old and New Testaments – literature from this time period indicates some level of fascination with angels. And this helps us understand why the writer of Hebrews addresses the matter of angels.
To be truthful, our own popular culture has something of a fascination with angels. They are everywhere: figurines, nursery decorations, on get well cards, TV shows, and movies. Remember “Clarence” in the Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Clarence was George Bailey’s “guardian angel.” Clarence, a sort of bumbling, childlike, softie of a man. I always liked that line where Jimmy Stewart looks at Clarence and says, “Well, you look about the kind of angel I’d get!”
Pop culture typically portrays angels as sweet, harmless looking ladies with wings. Actually, that is not at all the way the Bible portrays them. In fact, usually when people encounter angels in the Bible, the first thing they do is fall down and shudder in fear. Remember the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? An angel appeared to them and they started quaking in their boots! More than once we read that the first thing out of an angel’s mouth is, “Fear not!” There was this fascination with angels, and the writer of Hebrews sets out to correct the faulty exaltation of angels over the Son, over Jesus.
Verses 4 and following throughout the chapter are simply the writer’s way of demonstrating that Jesus is superior to the angles, demonstrating this fact by using the Old Testament, something those early Jewish believers also held in high regard.
In verses 5 through 14,
The writer cites seven different
Passages from the Old Testament
To make the case that Jesus is
Far and away superior to the angels.
And he begins by calling attention to Jesus’ peerless, matchless name, the excellent name, of Son, Son of God – The pre-existent Son of God, the eternal God who took on flesh in Jesus Christ. Son. Verse 5 states, “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You?’ And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son?’” See the argument? To which of the angels did God the Father address as Son? Answer: none. No angel has ever been addressed this way.
Then the writer defends his truth by using Old Testament quotes and citations, the first two from Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7. Some of you have a Study Bible that shows you those Scriptures in the margin and you can look them up later. And when you look up those Old Testament passages you will note that they are prophetic words that find a dual fulfillment, they are prophecies fulfilled in two ways. There is a more immediate fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment. The words in verse 5, for example, from Psalm 2, these words “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” find a more immediate fulfillment in an earthly king – an heir of King David – and an ultimate fulfillment in an eternal king – King Jesus.
This is dual fulfillment of prophecy is common in the Bible. It should not really surprise us given the nature of God. He is timeless. As the Creator of time, He is not bound by time. He is outside of time, yet He does act in time. To a timeless God, His timeless word has both immediate relevance in present history and fuller, ultimate relevance in future history. This why Peter could say in 2 Peter 3:8, “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
The writer understands the word “begotten” in verse 5 not in the sense of the Son’s being created or made, because the Son was not created or made. The writer taught as much in the opening verses. The Son is the agent of creation, the very One through whom the worlds were made (Hebrews 1:2).
He is not created;
He has created all things.
He is Son not by
Virtue of creation,
But by nature.
The word “begotten” refers to the paternity of God in relation to the Son, the unique Father-Son relationship without specific reference to any particular moment in time. It is a matter of status. The writer’s point in verse 5 is that no angel ever heard these words. God the Father never said to an angel, “You are My Son.” Never. Only the Son “has by inheritance” this “more excellent name” (Hebrews 1:4), the name “Son.”
Verse 6 says, “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’” Here is a quotation from the Old Testament that may cause to wonder a little bit when you try to look up the references. Sometimes when we look up the references in the Old Testament, the words are a little different. One reason is because people of Jesus’ day often quoted not from the Hebrew Old Testament directly, but usually they quoted the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is what is called the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
It seems this quotation, “Let all the angels of God worship Him” is a Holy Spirit inspired interpretative citation from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible – the Septuagint – most likely referencing Psalm 97:7 and Deuteronomy 32:43. Some of you may wish to explore that a bit further, but let’s not miss the author’s primary point. The author’s primary point is:
The angels worship the Son of God.
The Son of God is far and away better,
Much better, vastly superior to the angels.
The word “firstborn” here is used as a title, a title of honor stressing preeminence in family lineage, describing the one who is rightful heir of all things. Here a reference to the incarnation, as the Son of God takes on flesh in Jesus Christ. The angels of God worship Jesus. The Son is superior to the angels.
Verse 7 goes on to say, “And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.’” The writer is quoting Psalm 104:8-9 in this verse. And verses 8 and 9 are from Psalm 45:6-7, “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’” Verses 10 through12 are from Psalm 102, the writer citing the Septuagint again, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In that translation of Psalm 102, these words in verses 10-12 are spoken by God (Psalm 102:23-28). And the writer of Hebrews is applying Psalm 102 to the Son of God, finding fulfillment in the nature and being of the Son. In verse 10, he declares Jesus to be the agent of creation and timeless, “And: ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.’” Here again, the Son of God is the agent of creation and He is eternal. He has always been. He created all things. Everything is “the work of His hands.”
Verses 11 and 12 state, “They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” Again, the writer is talking about the Son of God here!
He created all things in the heavens and earth,
He will re-create all things, new the heavens and earth.
Verse 13 goes on to ask, “But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?’” And the answer? No one. No angel has ever heard these words from God the Father. All things belong to the Son. He is rightful heir, rightful ruler, Lord.
The writer concludes with a question about angels in verse 14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” And the answer is “Yes.” Angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Angels are servants commissioned to serve those who receive Jesus Christ, to help them, and to serve them.
The main point of the passage:
Jesus is much better than the angels.
Do not worship angels, worship Jesus.
He is much better!
Truth is, it seems highly unlikely that many, if any, of us worshiped angels this past week. And I think it is reasonable to believe that most of you reading this blog know theologically that Christ is superior to angels. There may be some of you today for whom this was news, but I should think the vast majority of us knew that before we opened up this site.
Jesus Christ is superior to the angels
We are not to place angels before Jesus
But I will believe a few of us, if not all of us, are guilty of placing something else before Jesus. I believe a few of us do, at times, value something or someone greater than we value Jesus. Jesus is much better than the angels, yes, but do you believe that He is more gloriously beautiful and more supremely wonderful than anything else?
There are things we believe to be true that we find hard to believe. Do you know what I mean by that? We believe the Bible is the Word of God. We believe it to be true from cover to cover, but the way we live once we have walked out these doors may indicate that we find this passage hard to believe. Yes, theologically, we affirm Jesus is much better than the angels and much better than anyone or anything. Amen, preacher! All is well – so long as we’re talking about angels; so long as we’re talking about something easy to affirm; so long as we are talking about something that does not really challenge us or require change from us.
Imagine someone walked around with you every day last week. Spent Monday morning, afternoon, evening with you. Just watched you, observed you every day – Monday, then Tuesday, Wednesday and on through the week. Then somebody asks this person who was with you all last week, “What did he value most? The way she spent her time, what he talked about, how she lived, what was his, what was her superior satisfaction?”
If you have little desire for Jesus, competing desires will triumph. Worldly desires, sinful desires, desires of the flesh – the old you – they will win out. You have got to cultivate a greater desires for Jesus Christ, believing Him to be a superior satisfaction over all things. Remember . . .
You can learn to love Jesus better,
But you will never love
Anything better than Jesus.”
Pray to Jesus at the beginning of each day. Ask in prayer like the psalmist in Psalm 9014, “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.”
This week can be such a good week! It can be a great week spiritually, as long as you and I do not value anything greater than Jesus. As long as you and I do not allow anything to so occupy our minds and hearts that we begin to idolize that thing – whether it is some human being, a relationship, man or woman, parent, child; so long as we do not allow something else to capture the gaze of our eyes and hearts; our personal safety, our health, worldly friendships, job recognition, success as measured by worldly metrics, money and investments, our house, the car we have, the car we do not have, the house we really want, or the approval of others. Fear can be an idol if we allow it to dismantle our trust in God. Even peace can be an idol if it is peace as the world defines peace: absence of all trouble, that can become an idol, too. Let go of sin. Obey God’s Word, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Fix your eyes on Jesus
You may need to repent today. Right where you are. If you are clutching something or someone more than Jesus, let go of it. Turn from your sin and turn to Him.
You may need to be saved this morning – receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Just simply surrender to God and say, “I want to go God’s way today; I surrender all.”
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
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.”