Today: [Hebrews 1:] The Lens of Christ: In the first chapter of Hebrews the writer declares that which may be made known of God is expressed in Christ. God indeed spoke in times past through the law and the prophets, but now He speaks to us through the life and teachings of Christ. We then are the inheritors of a better covenant than was available under Moses law or any performance-based religion.
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[Heb 1:1-14 KJV] 1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 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 on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son [he saith], Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, [even] thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
The book of Hebrews is written in classical Greek style presenting truths regarding Jesus unique to Paul’s theology. The apostle Paul is the only writer officially recognized to be the author of the letter, but in truth, the name of the author seems to have been deliberately suppressed from the earliest decades of the church. Because the author is formally unknown, there was much dispute as to whether or not Hebrews should be admitted to the canon of 66 books. It’s elegant style, and elevated themes, however, won the day and secured its placement among the sacred writings accepted as scripture. There are questions as to why the writer would be unknown to history. One scholar questions whether this was purposeful making the observation that church leaders surely didn’t spontaneously have a lapse in their collective memory. What would cause church leaders to embrace this letter to the Hebrews as inspired but not want to make known the name of the author? There is a strong consensus that this could indicate that Priscilla was the writer. Whoever wrote it makes mention of Timothy as a peer which would point to either Timothy rhetorically making mention of himself or one of Paul’s other proteges such as Apollos, Titus or Priscilla, wife of Acquilla. In ancient times and even among many Christian groups today accepting a woman as being the author of one of the books of the Christian canon would be scandalous. The mystery remains, but regardless the letter to the Hebrews carries a powerful revelatory message.
The book’s intended audience was to converted Jews perhaps in Jerusalem who were suffering tremendous persecution for embracing Jesus as their messiah. The theme emphasizes that Jesus as the Christ is the bringer of better promises built on a more sure covenant than that of Moses.
The first chapter opens with a declaration that while God spoke in times past through the law and the prophets, He is now speaking through His son who is appointed heir of all things. What relevance does this have for us today? We have the record of the law and the prophets, and we venerate their writings as that body of scripture we call the Old Testament. The Old Testament is to be accepted and embraced by it is true that from the earliest decades of the church right down to today many reject the Old Testament as having no relevance for believers in the age of grace. The writer of Hebrews disputes this in verse one insisting that God did indeed speak in times of old through the law and the prophets but now is speaking through His son Jesus. How then do we embrace the message of Jesus while venerating the Old Covenant? What we are given to understand is that in speaking to us through His Son we then take the life and teachings of Jesus as an interpretive lens through which to understand the nature of God as it relates to us as believers.
For instance in Luke 9:54-56, when the apostles wanted to act in an Old Covenant manner by calling down fire like Elijah, Jesus reprimands them saying that He didn’t come to destroy but to save. Thus we take the idea of outpoured wrath in the Old Testament and mitigate that concept with the abundant grace and forgiveness found in Christ in the New Testament. There is no record of Jesus ever calling down death or destruction on any individual. He never laid hands on anyone to impart sickness or death but only life and deliverance. If Jesus didn’t do it teach it or believe it then neither should we even if we have Old Testament scriptures to back it up. The Old Testament may declare to us a God of destruction and wrath but that isn’t reflected in the character of Christ and therefore should not be part of our thinking in this age. There will be a day when the iniquity of men comes to the full and final judgment will be brought forth, but for this time until then our message is to be the message of Christ in the spirit of Christ – that of grace and forgiveness.
In verse three the writer declares that Jesus is the brightness of the glory of God and the express image of God’s person. What that means is that everything God wants to say to us about Himself is expressed in Christ. Everything in our lives that is relevant to our walk with God is found expressed in the life, and teaching of Christ revealed in the gospels. The question then is do we read the gospels. The only body of scripture ignored more than Job or Ecclesiastes is the four gospels. For those believers who do read their bible, most spend their time in the Pauline epistles and the book of Revelation. It would be a good habit to form to spend time focused solely on the gospels because the epistles of Paul or Peter with the exclusion of the gospels are only dead religion with a huge vacuum in the center of them spiritually speaking.
Verse 3 goes on to say that Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power and is set down at the right hand of majesty on high above the rank of the most senior angels. This is very important to note and was corrective of early thoughts concerning Jesus by converted Jews. They believed in Jesus as the spotless lamb, but they didn’t see him particularly as very God. They believed that Jesus’ death brought forgiveness of sins, but their thought was that God the Father forgave on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross. This statement brings the focus back to Jesus – it was Jesus who upholds all things in creation in Himself, and it is Jesus who purged out sins not simply the Father separate from Jesus purging sin on Christ’s behalf.
Jesus is also (v. 4) a being higher than the angels. The idea of Jesus being made is clarified in the wording used to make the statement. It means that Jesus the son was brought out of eternity into creation by virtue of His conception in the womb of Jesus. He was made (or brought forth) but yet remains the uncreated son of God. As such the angels worship Him. He is a man, but angels never worshipped a man. The angels worship Jesus because they know Him to be fully man and fully God. The angels never sit on the throne of God, but Jesus sits on the throne of God as God and yet as a man. He was born once of Mary and then became in the resurrection the first begotten from the dead – therefore He sits as a born-again man at the right hand of the Father, unashamed to call us brethren.
In v. 10 Jesus is spoken of as the Lord who laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of His hands. To this John’s gospel agrees:
[Jhn 1:1-3 KJV] 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
The term John uses here is the “logos” which is understood to be that which proceeds from God and gives all things their created reality. This is who Jesus is in His deity inseparable from His humanity. All of creation will perish and grow old, but Jesus and those who are connected with Him through the New Birth remain forever. Accepting Jesus then is passing through the keyhole of created reality into eternal life and oneness with the uncreated nature of God Himself. That is our portion and that I what Jesus died to make available to us in redemption.
The angels have no reward or station of authority to be compared (v. 13) with that honor accorded to Jesus to sit on the right hand of God till His enemies are made His footstool. The angels are merely ministering spirits not just in their connection to Christ Himself but also sent forth by the command of God to minister to you, and I as heirs of the salvation provided for us by the work of Christ upon the cross. He is the heir of God, and we are joint heirs with Him by covenantal law invoked in the last supper and ratified upon the cross to make all of heaven’s bounty available to us here and now and in eternity future, amen.
What do we take away from this chapter then? We take from this chapter an overarching acceptance of the supremacy of Christ. The Jews only understood approaching God through adherence to the law and the application of animal sacrifice to assuage their guilt before God. We do not approach God on the basis of our religious performance or some ideation of entering into a never-ending sinning and being forgiven until death takes us. We are more than servants of God we are heirs of God through Christ. Our connection with God is not through religious understanding, doctrine or infrastructure. We are one with Christ in redemption and accepted by God, not on the basis of who we are or what we have or have not done. We are one with God on the basis of who Jesus is as the Eternal Son, and we are become joint-heirs through His substitutionary work on the cross in our behalf to mitigate our guilt and deliver us from our lost and sinful condition.
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