Text: Hebrews 1
The whole point of writing a letter of recommendation, or introducing a speaker, is to answer the question, “Why should I listen to him?” The writer of Hebrews begins his epistle by “introducing” Jesus to believers who were confronted with varying views and opinions about Jesus that questioned the authority, trustworthiness, power, work, and person of the Christ. The author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes his case that Jesus Christ is superior in every way to any savior a fallen world can construct out of its imagination. In short, he is a better savior.
A common false teaching among cults and other world religions is that Jesus Christ is (or, was) a created being. Rejecting Christ’s own self-introduction in the Bible, such folks think they need no introduction to One who is merely a few clicks more advanced than the rest of Creation. They may honor him to a degree, even say they believe in Him, but they do not know Him unless they receive what He has said about Himself. The book of Hebrews, chapter one, is a good beginning place to counteract this false teaching. Actually, Hebrews chapters one through five make it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ is better than all in many aspects of the faith: for my purposes here, we will limit ourselves to chapter one, and the issues of Jesus’ authority and person. With your Bible open, let’s walk through it together.
Better than Merely Human Spokesmen
False religions look to writings other than the Scriptures as God’s authoritative voice to men, inventing fantastic histories of their origin that have no basis in fact whatsoever. The writer of Hebrews asserts to those long accustomed to listening to men that Jesus is God’s supreme spokesman. In verse one the Holy Spirit reminds us that God did indeed speak through lesser voices in the past. Prior to Moses, God laid the foundation for revelation to his chosen people through direct revelation to his servants Adam and Noah; through direct revelation, angelic visitation, and theophanies to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and through visions and dreams to Joseph. Each interpreted to his family/society what God had revealed. What God desired that mankind remember is recorded in the Bible’s pages.
To Moses and after him, God revealed himself by various means in the giving of the law and application of that law. Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament period, enjoyed God’s direct revelation as had Adam, Noah, and Abraham before him: “Then He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the LORD’ ” (Numbers 12:6-8). To the prophets that followed, God revealed himself and his message through the law itself, visions, dreams, and angelic visitations. All of these means are wonderful, and some even now long for them (Colossians 2:18, 19), but the author of Hebrews makes it plain that a better Spokesman is here, and that we should attend to him.
Verses two through four definitively teach that no matter who God has spoken through in the past, he speaks through Jesus now. The main verb, “has…spoken” can be translated “did speak,” and refers to a final and full revelation. There is nothing more to be said than what Jesus has already said and revealed in himself. The writer gives several reasons that add up to this truth.
One with the Godhead
First, Jesus is one with the Godhead. We understand this from the title “Son” that is applied to the Savior. A. T. Robertson comments on this verse in his Word Pictures of the New Testament, “No article or pronoun here with the preposition [en], giving the absolute sense of ‘Son.’ Here the idea is not merely what Jesus said, but what he is, God’s Son who reveals the Father (John 1:18 [‘the one who dwells in the bosom of the Father has declared him.’].” The title “Son” does not indicate a created being at all, as the Jews well knew when Jesus used the term (which is why they tried to stone him for blasphemy). Jesus put it best in John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.” Furthermore, by the phrase “brightness of his glory” we may understand that Jesus perfectly reflects and radiates the perfections of the Godhead. Second Corinthians 4:6 reads, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shined in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Finally, the phrase “express image of his person” (“image” coming from the Greek word translated “character”) declares that Jesus is the exact imprint of deity. God carved his name into his world, and Jesus is that name.
Agent and Inheritor
Second, Jesus is the agent and inheritor of all creation. Verse two’s use of the word “appointed” points to the reality that Jesus stands as the recipient of a timeless designation as the beneficiary of God’s plan. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16b, “All things were created through Him and for Him.” Creation came into existence through the agency of the Second Person of the Godhead, and he is the inheritor of what he created. He is the Creator, not the created.
Third, Jesus is the sustainer of creation. Verse three records that Jesus hold all together by his powerful declaration. This is the work of God, not a created being. Again, to find further explanation from the Apostle Paul, we read in Colossians 1: 17 that “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [find their proper place].”
Fourth, Jesus is the redeemer of creation. The closing phrases of verse three reveal the precious truth that the price of redemption was paid completely by Jesus, and that the work is finished. The word “purged” speaks of a one time, purifying act in the past. This is the first time Christ’s priestly office is mentioned, and his priesthood becomes a principle focus of the book (see 7:27, for example). The phrase “sat down” suggests that his atoning work is finished (Levitical priests were to stand always in their ministry). See also verse thirteen and Psalm 110: 1. He is in the place of both judge and intercessor now.
Though many others have spoken for God in the past (and some try to usurp the office to this day), the supreme, anointed spokesman for the Godhead has been introduced. Are you listening?
Better Than Angels
A strange situation exists in our society these days, strange beyond belief. On the one hand, there is on every level of society a growing fear or even hatred of Christian belief and practice. On the other hand, one of the most popular shows on TV in recent years was the program “Touched by an Angel”! Perhaps it’s not so strange after all. Sinful man loves signs and wonders, but when it comes to submission and commitment, they start looking for the door. Some faiths seek to reduce Jesus to a created angelic being in order to make Jesus more accessible in their minds, but doing so only reveals that they do not understand much about angels, since they think angels are less fearful beings somehow, contrary to the biblical record. Regardless of how they strike us, however, it is time for all of us to turn from fascination with created beings, and humbly gaze upon the Infinite. Jesus is superior to angels! Men and women need to be urged to look no further for their revelation, for their joy, for their redemption.
Here in verses four through six the author fleshes out the idea of sonship. Using the word “begotten,” he indicates that by eternal decree, Jesus entered into the relationship as Son to the Father, was manifested by the incarnation, and was confirmed in his relationship by the resurrection. This begetting is not referring to any physical procreation, but expresses the nature of a covenant relationship within the Godhead in terms that accommodate this great mystery to our limited understanding. Psalm 2:7 reads, “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ ” Acts 13:33 rounds out this aspect of the nature of Jesus Christ by saying, ”God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’” This does not mean that Jesus is a lesser god, or a created being. It means that he is fully God and works according to a covenantal framework of obligation and scope of activity (“decree”).
The phrase “firstborn of all creation” in verse six refers to Jesus as the unique preexistent Son of the heavenly Father; as the one existing before, and superior to, all creation (Psalm 89:27 – “Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth,” and Colossians 1: 15 – “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation”): as the first to be resurrected from the dead (Colossians 1.18 – “And He is … the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence”); as the head of a spiritual family of “many siblings” (Romans 8:29 – ” … the firstborn among many brethren”). The title of “Son” in this sense is never applied to any angel, but only to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the firstborn Son, Jesus is the heir of the kingdom. Verses 7-14 explain that this truth means that to him belongs the service of angels (he is not an angel himself); to him belongs eternal authority; to him belongs the absolute joy of righteousness which no other possesses; to him belongs the eternality of the Godhead; and that to him belongs the place of favor in heaven. None of these things can be said of angels, even archangels. Jesus is superior to angels in every way.
Apostles and prophets cannot save because they are but men. Angels, as powerful as they are, are only creatures, too. Jesus is the Creator; fully God and man (Hebrews 2 covers that truth!)—we had better all be paying attention (Hebrews 10:26-31). Jesus is a better savior, far better than the imaginations of men can devise! For those who have been deceived by false teachers and religions into explaining away or ignoring the truths of Hebrews 1, a simple walk through this wonderful passage will begin to open their eyes to the truth of Who Jesus really is.