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Sermon February 3, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1383

February 3, 2019 Hebrews 1.1-14

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

The Superiority of Christ”

 

  • Long Ago

 

Hebrews often seems to me to be one of those book where we focus on a few key passages and often ignore much of the rest of the book. Hebrews includes the definition of faith,

(11.1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews includes the often quoted text about the Word of God as a two edged sword,

(4.6) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews also includes one of the most discussed passages about salvation causing some to question if our salvation can be lost,

(6.4-6) 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

 

We will get to those areas in due time! I wanted to spent some time with Hebrews because I, like many, have limited myself to these “popular” areas without spending quality time in the entire book. So, I want to spend the next ten Sundays, before we get to Palm Sunday, exploring the depths of Hebrews.

 

We don’t really know who wrote this book. Some suspect Paul while others think it may have been a companion of Paul, but what we do know is that the author knew well the apostles (Heb 2.3-4).

 

Hebrews begins with a look to the past, a brief look...Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

 

This refers to all the ways God spoke in the Old Testament, how God spoke to His people. Sometimes the spoke directly as to Moses or Abraham, sometimes through dreams as we saw in Solomon’s dream last Sunday. God spoke through angels and through the prophets and through the stories of God’s people which would eventually be written in the revelation we now have in the written Word of God. We still consider the written Word as God’s way of speaking to us today. Some say that with the fulfillment of Scripture in Jesus, God no longer needs to speak in the many ways as He once did. In Jesus we have the superior Word, the final Word, the complete Word...and in John 1 we certainly see how this may be the case. John 1.1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

 

 

 

  • These Last Days

 

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Verse 2 reveals that God has indeed spoken to us by His Son. In Jesus we see God. In Jesus we see the Word made flesh. In Jesus we have the whole complete picture of God’s work of salvation and love and grace and mercy and faith. In Jesus we have the fulfillment of all the hope of the Old Testament and all the many ways God sought to reconcile the world to Himself. I’m fine with those who want to say that because of Jesus we need not hear directly from God like Moses did, or even from dreams or visions, except that those things were still operating after Jesus ascended into heaven. Peter had a dream that revealed new dietary freedoms. John has a vision that gave us the book of Revelation. But I don’t want to belabor this topic, just to say that we need to be careful about how God may speak today as He did long ago. I will say this, nothing that might be revealed in a dream or in any other means can ever be trusted if it departs in any way from the written Word.

 

Jesus is the One through whom God has spoken and then the author lifts up two points about Jesus:

  1. Jesus is the heir of all things,

  2. Everything was created through Jesus.

 

This begins the revelation of the entire book that shows Jesus as superior over all that has come before Him. Everything belongs to Jesus because He is the heir to all things! Paul says in Romans 8.14-17 that all who are in Christ are joint heirs. See, you do have that relative you hoped would leave you a big inheritance! :)

 

Jesus was also present at creation, even the “conduit” through which all things were created. Paul also notes this in Colossians 1.16,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

 

As well as John 1.2-3,

2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 

  • The Radiance of the Glory

 

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God

 

Hebrews 1.3 speaks of God’s glory in Jesus. Jesus is the image of God’s majesty and in His life there are times when that glory was all the more evident, first in the story of Jesus’ transformation in Luke 9,

29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

 

Second, the glory of resurrection. Luke 24.25-27, 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 

Christ will also come again in glory. Jesus, therefore, is the radiance of that glory. He shines like the rays of the sun.

Two images come to mind from Revelation:

1.12-16, The Radiance of Jesus Christ - 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

 

21.22-27 More of the radiance! 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

 

 

 

  • The Exact Imprint of His Nature

 

the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

 

The second half of Hebrews 1.3 speaks of Jesus as the exact imprint of God’s nature. The literal translation is the “character of God’s substance”. Again in Paul’s writings we see this reflected in Colossians 1.15, He is the image of the invisible God.

Everything we need to know about God is seen in Jesus Christ. Jesus said this as well in John 14.9, Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

This is one of the reasons we are so drawn to Jesus. He is the exact character of God. He is the image of the God we cannot see. In seeing Jesus, we have seen the Father. Now, I know, we are not seeing Jesus either, but we are “seeing” Jesus in the gospels in ways we may not see God in the Old Testament. We see in Jesus the God who is fulfilling all His promises given in the Old Testament. This is why we still read with as much vigor the Old Testament as the New, because we learn from both how to interpret them, how to know Jesus Christ. We are seeing the God, who through Jesus, upholds everything. We are seeing the God who sent His Son to die that we might be forgiven and the Son who now sits on the right hand of the Father. Jesus is the One superior to angels with a name far superior as well.

 

  • The Superiority of Christ

 

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

 

This first chapter of Hebrews sets the stage for the superiority of Jesus Christ. In this chapter the main superiority is over the angels. More will come in superiority over Moses and priests and even former sacrifices made to God. Here the audience would likely know that angels were considered the messengers of God. They were often sent to reveal things to God’s people and so to say that Jesus is superior to angels was saying a great deal about His place in God’s kingdom. Then the author of Hebrews quotes from all over the Old Testament to show how the Old Testament itself reveals Jesus as superior over the angelic messengers of God. This also probably indicates that the audience of this letter were Jewish Christians who would have been familiar with the Old Testament. Here is the list of superior verses:

 

  • Jesus is God’s Son “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?

  • God is Jesus’ Father “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

  • Angel’s Worship Jesus “Let all God's angels worship him.”

  • Jesus Commands the Angels “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

  • Jesus is Enthroned in Heaven “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

  • Jesus is the Eternal Creator “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, 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 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

  • Jesus is at the right hand of the Father “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

 

God never said any of this to the angels, only to and about Jesus. Chapter 1 concludes with the statement that angels are servants of God and Jesus, servants sent to brings God’s messages to His people for the sake of salvation. But they are not the agents of salvation, not the Savior, not God. Jesus is superior over them as the One who is the message! Jesus not only brings us the message of salvation but He Himself is the message. He is the Son of God, the One on the throne, the One who creates and gives life and died and rose again for our sake.