Sunday, February 24, 2013


Part 2

Last week we read that the word the Father spoke through the Son, Jesus Christ, is the superior word. It is superior to the word God spoke through the Old Testament prophets. The writer made that point so that the Jewish Christians who thought about returning to Judaism would realize their mistake. They would otherwise trade the superior word for the inferior word.

The reason the word spoken by God through Jesus is superior is because Jesus Christ the Son of God is himself superior. So, the writer told us seven things about Jesus that make him superior to the prophets and his words superior to theirs.

Here are the seven things:

1. God appointed Jesus the heir of all things;

2. God created all things through the Jesus;

3. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God;

4. Jesus is the exact imprint of the nature of God;

5. Jesus upholds the universe by his word of power;

6. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father; and

7. Jesus became superior to angels and his name superior to theirs.

We covered the first four last week.  

Jesus Upholds The Universe Through the Word of his Power
Jesus not only worked in the creation of the world, he holds it and keeps it from falling apart. He keeps it from chaos. Colossians 1:17 says in him all things hold together. Remember that, in the beginning, the earth was without form and void. (Genesis 1:2) Jesus keeps it from returning to that state. The sun continues to burn because Christ sustains it. The earth continues to revolve around it in the same orbit because Christ makes it happen. The earth rotates on its axis because Christ sustains it. Even small changes could destroy the earth, but Christ sustains it by his power. This is a power assigned to God in the Old Testament (see Isaiah 40:21-26) and the Jewish Christian would see it as a strong claim to deity.
Jesus Sits at the Right Hand of God
            Hebrews 1:3 says, after Jesus made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Jesus died, was buried and rose on the third day. (1 Corinthians 15:1-3) (Philippians 2:5-8) He then ascended (Luke 24:50-53) back to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father. The words “sat down” are important. He sat down because his work of salvation was finished. He even said this on the cross: “it is finished”. (John 19:30) This idea would also resonate with Jewish Christians. They knew the Jewish priests continually offered sacrifices for sin. They did it over and over. But Christ did it once and it was completely accomplished. His sacrifice was greater than the sacrifice of animals and it made a permanent purification for sins.
Jesus sat at the right hand of the Father. That is the favored position, the place of honor. David prophesied about this in Psalm 110:1: “The LORD says to my Lord sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  This is the exaltation of Christ. Peter preached it in his sermon at Pentecost. He quoted the verse and said it applied to the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God. (Acts 2:32-36) When Stephen was stoned to death as the first Christian martyr, the Holy Spirit allowed him to see into heaven where he saw the glory of God and the Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. (Acts 7:55) Revelation 5:6-8. shows part of this also.

Jesus will reign from this throne next to the Father. He will sit there until all his enemies are conquered, which is the meaning of “until I make all your enemies your foot stool”. (Acts 2:35) Charles Wesley captured this concept in his hymn “Rejoice, the Lord is King”, which says:

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,

And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!


This doctrine is sometimes called the “Session of Christ”. His reign is the reason he protects us from many evils. His protection will be perfected or fully realized upon his return, when all his enemies are conquered and his reign is consummated. John received a vision of this that he recorded in Revelation 20. Satan was defeated, all who followed him were defeated and all enemies were thrown into the lake of fire along with death. Jesus is seated at God’s right hand and will continue to reign with the Father in eternity.
Jesus Became Superior to the Angels
            Verse 4 is the transition from the prologue (introduction) to the first long argument of the sermon which is the Book of Hebrews. Why is the writer concerned about Jesus’ position relative to angels? I can think of two reasons. First, in the first century, people were fascinated with angels. People are today. They were messengers for God and warriors. Some lived in God’s very presence. They were majestic and reflected the glory of God. Some people may have worshipped angels. Yet, despite their exalted nature and existence, Jesus is greater than they.
            The second reason is that angels were said to have revealed the law. This is mentioned several times in Hebrews. So again, the word of the Father given through Christ is greater than the word of the law, in this case, thought to have been given through angels. Jesus is superior to them and his name is superior to them, because his name is Son. He is not servant, but Son, heir and co-ruler with the Father.  The remainder of the chapter develops this assertion fully. But one thing to remember at this state is that verse 2 says Jesus acted to create the world. Angels are created, they are creation rather than Creator. We worship the greater, not the lesser. Romans 1 condemned man because he “exchanged the truth about God for a ie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forevermore.
 Jesus' name is superior to the name of the angels also. This is first because he is the Son. Second, this is because he is Lord. I will discuss that in more detail later. The word for angels means “messenger”. A messenger is not greater than his Lord.
These seven things show you the person and work of Christ. It shows you that Christ is exalted. He deserves your honor, praise and obedience.
            But with all the discussion about the superiority of the Son of God, we should ask the question: How do we know Jesus is the Son of God?
Someone said just this week that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, only the Son of man. But the Bible tells us Jesus is the Son of God. It says so here in verse 2 and again in verse 5. But that is not all.
God the Father told us Jesus is he son. He did so twice. The Father first declared it at Jesus' baptism. Matthew 3:17 says "behold, a voice from heaven says 'this is my beloved son, in whom I am we'll pleased.' " Later, at the Transfiguration, God said "This is my beloved Son with whom I am we'll pleased, listen to him". This is recorded in Matthew 17:5.
That should do it for you, but, if not, the angel Gabriel told us. In Luke 1:32, he told Mary "he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High".
Satan also acknowledged it. In Matthew 4:3, he said "if you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." When he used the word “if’, he was not doubting, he was goading Jesus to reveal himself by serving himself.
In Gadara, the demons also acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God. (Luke 8:26-39)

A more reputable source, John the Baptist told us also. In John 1:34' he said " ...I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God".
The disciples said it. Read Matthew 14:32-33.

The Centurion said it Read Mark 15:39.

And Jesus certainly said it. He called God his father in his prayer in John 17:1 and also John 8:38That is the same as saying he is God's son. If I say Joy is my wife, I am also saying I am her husband.
And, finally, when Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:16) that God sent his only son, he was clearly referring to himself.
The Bible is clear that Jesus is God's son and Jesus clearly claimed that very thing.
Because he is the Son, he is superior. He is exalted. That is why we worship him and honor him above any created thing. Failure to exalt him over the creation is a sign of the depraved mind in need of salvation as described in Romans 1. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013


part 1

            Last week we read that the word the Father spoke through the Son, Jesus Christ, is the superior word. It is superior to the word God spoke through the Old Testament prophets. The writer made that point so that the Jewish Christians who thought about returning to Judaism would realize their mistake. They would otherwise trade the superior word for the inferior word.
            But why is the word spoken by God through Jesus superior? It is because Jesus himself is superior. So, the writer tells us seven things about Jesus that make him superior to the prophets and his words superior to theirs. And interestingly, the list alludes the Psalms, specifically Psalms 2 and 110, which were recognized as Messianic Psalms (Psalms that spoke of the Messiah to come). Here are the seven things:
1. God appointed Jesus the heir of all things;
2. God created all things through the Jesus;
3. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God;
4. Jesus is the exact imprint of the nature of God;
5. Jesus upholds the universe by his word of power;
6. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father; and
7. Jesus became superior to angels and his name superior to theirs.

Heir of All Things
            Jesus is the heir of all things because he will inherit all of creation from the Father. Psalm 2 speaks of this. This is a royal Psalm, recognizing David as king and stating that God will bless the Gentile nations through their obedience to the Davidic king. To the King, the Father says, starting in verse 7, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me and I will make the nations your possession.” God told David he would rule the Gentiles and this Psalm calls that promise to mind. The writer of Hebrews tells us the promise is ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
            And, really, the promise goes even further back into history. God gave Adam the earth. He made him lord over it and he was to take dominion over it. He said “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over every living thing…”. (Genesis 1:28) Adam forfeited his inheritance by following Satan rather than by God. But God promised to take it back through another son. He told Satan that the seed or offspring of the woman would bruise his head. (Genesis 3:15)
            God continued to work and he promised Abraham and his descendents dominion over the land of Canaan. (Genesis 17:8) God fulfilled that promise in Christ by giving him even more, the dominion and ownership of all of creation. He inherits all things.

The World Was Created Through Him
            Jesus’ superiority and his divinity are shown in his role in the creation. Hebrews says “through him who created the world”. (1:2) Jesus was not only present and existing at the time of the creation, he had a part of it. John said “all things were made through him and without him was not any thing made that was made”. (John 1:3)  “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made”. (Psalm 33:6) In the Greek translation, the word for “word” is “logos”. This is the word John used in John 1 when he said “in the beginning was the Word”. The Father desired to create the world and Jesus was the one who made it happen, he was the personification of the word of the Father.
            Colossians 1:16 says all things were created by him and through him and for him.
            His part in creation is tied to his right to inherit. The thought here is he made everything and therefore it will all become his.

The Radiance of the Glory of God & the Exact Imprint of His Nature
            I counted this as one statement because I believe it is a parallelism (two ways of saying the same thing). Glory is the expression of God’s perfect and holy nature. Jesus is the exact expression of God’s nature. The ESV uses the words “exact imprint”. The NIV says “exact representation”. An imprint is like a stamp. The image stamped is the exact imprint of the stamp. If you want to know the Father, know the Son. Jesus is fully God; he shows us the nature of the Father. John said “No one has ever seen God (the Father); the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18) 1 Timothy 6:16 says the Father dwells in unapproachable light, and no one has ever seen or can see him”.
            Jesus taught this concept to the disciples. When Thomas asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus said whoever has seen him had seen the Father for the Father was in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. (John 14:6) The Father and the Son are both of the godhead, they are both God, both divine. Therefore, Jesus could reveal the Father’s nature to us.
            Paul also expressed this thought. In Colossians 1:15, he said Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
            You also see here that the Son and Father are separate persons, since one reflects the 
other. This is a part of Trinitarian doctrine: there are three persons yet one God.

Reflect this week on who Jesus is as revealed in these verses!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


The general theme of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is supreme. The writer wanted his Hebrew readers to know they could not go back to their old religion, because Christ was superior to it. The writer began with a prologue, or introduction, of four verses to begin his explanation and show why Christ is superior to all.


The passage from 1:1 to through 2:18 discusses Jesus’ superiority to angels. But these first four verses make a grand statement of who Jesus is and why is supreme over all others.

The first explanation of the superiority of Christ is the superiority of the message the Father gave Jesus over the message he gave to anyone else in the past.

Verses one and two present a comparison. The comparison is between how God spoke in the past and how he spoke to this age.

In the past (NIV) or “long ago” (ESV, NASB), God spoke through the prophets. The writer says he spoke “to our fathers” or “to our forefathers” depending on your translation. This statement tells us that both the writer and the majority of his audience are Jewish Christians. He said “our fathers”. That means they had the same fathers or forefathers.

By prophets, he means the Old Testament prophets. This would include Moses and all those who spoke prophetically up through Malachi. Then we know there were about 400 years between the last prophetic word in the Old Testament and John the Baptist. So, you could certainly say the prophets spoke long ago.

God spoke at many times. God spoke through Moses during the Exodus. He spoke through David as he wrote the Psalms. He spoke through all the prophets who wrote the prophetic books of the Old Testament.

God also spoke in various ways. He explained that to Aaron and Miriam in Numbers 12:6-8. God spoke in visions and dreams. But to Moses he spoke directly.

Several contrasts are made in this first verse.

The first contrast is a matter of time periods. The first time is “long ago”. This is the time of the Old Testament prophets. In contrast is “these last days”. By using the word “these” the writer shows he considered himself as living in the last days.

Writers in our century, especially those who write books saying the world is about to end, refer to the last days as the time just before the return of Christ. But the New Testament writers actually considered all of the time from Pentecost on to be the last days. Peter, in his first sermon, said the words of Joel 2:28 were fulfilled at Pentecost that “in the last days” God would pour out his spirit on all people. (Acts 2:16-17)

The second contrast is who God spoke through in these two different time periods. In the time of “long ago”, he spoke through the prophets. In the last days, or in the church age, God “has spoken” to us by his Son. 

The third contrast is between God speaking in many ways in the Old Testament age and in one way, through his Son, in the church age or the last days.

Here are some conclusions from this verse.

First, notice the exclusiveness of the word spoken through Jesus, God’s son. The contrast between many ways and this one way is made to emphasize that the only word for us in the last days if the word of Jesus Christ, which is the word of the Father given to and through him.

That means for the whole church age, the time from Pentecost until the day Jesus returns no matter how long that is, there is no word from anyone but Jesus Christ the Son of God that is the word from God the Father. Mohammed does not speak the word of the Father. The Father does not speak through Joseph Smith.

The Father does not speak through Sun Yung Moon or any other self proclaimed messiah. The Father does not speak through television evangelists. And if I can get really personal, the Father does not speak through the Pope.

No teacher or preacher should ever claim that God spoke through him directly. Our job is to study the Father’s word, given through the Son, recorded and explained in the Bible, to God’s people. The Son is the supreme recipient of the word of the Father and the supreme communicator of it and no preacher or teacher should usurp the Son’s exalted position.

Second, please notice the finality of the Word of the Father spoken through the Son. The English versions read “he has spoken to us by his Son”. Focus on the words “have spoken”. Grammatically, that is a past perfect form of the verb. The past tense would simply be “he spoke to us by his Son”.

The reason the past perfect form of the verb is used in English is to try and capture the meaning of the verb in Greek, which is not just that it happened in the past, but that it happened and it is complete. Where I grew up, they would say it was “over and one with”.

So the point is that in our age, God spoke through his Son and he is done speaking. That is his final word. So, again, we do not acknowledge the writings of any subsequent person to be the Word of God. They might preach or write to explain the final Word of God, but they do not receive a new Word of God. So, when you hear preachers late at night say they have a new or “fresh” word from God, turn them off.

This statement in Hebrews is fully in agreement with what Jesus himself said to his disciples. Jesus told them “all that I have heard from my Father I have made know to you.”   (John 15:14-15) That is a profound statement. It means the Father told Jesus all that was needed. Then, Jesus told his disciples all the Father revealed to Jesus, all that he wanted us to know and all we needed to know.

Now you might say: I understand how the Father spoke to us through the Son, but what gives the disciples the right to communicate the word of God? The answer has two parts: first because Jesus told them to and second, Jesus empowered them to.

Jesus commanded the disciples to communicate the word of the Father spoken through himself. In Matthew 28:18-20, he said:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus not only commanded the disciples to communicate the word of the Father spoken through the Son, he empowered them to do so. He empowered them by sending the Holy Spirit to them. Jesus said:

 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hers he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the father has is mine, therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)

The Father told the Son all that he wanted the Son to tell the disciples. The Son told the disciples all the Father told him. The Holy Spirit brought it to their minds and gave them understanding. They wrote it down to communicate the Word to future disciples.

For the Jewish Christians, this meant God’s word through the Son was superior to the words of the prophets, and was God’s final word, so they should not abandon it and return to the prophets and the law. It means that for us also, but it also means for us that Christ’s words are final and sufficient. We do not receive another prophet or spokesman for God in addition to or in replacement of the Son. We do not God’s word in sources outside the Bible. And, we hold Scripture sufficient for all of our needs.

Sunday, February 03, 2013



We commonly refer to this New Testament book as the “Book of Hebrews” or “The Letter To The Hebrews”. It does not have the customary beginning of a letter. It does not say who it is from or to whom it is addressed. In the letter right before Hebrews, Philemon, the verse word of the letter is “Paul”, telling you who the letter is from, as was customary for the time. Then it says “to Philemon”. Hebrews, however, jumps right into the theological argument. The end of Hebrews does contain a blessing and some personal greetings, however.

Because of this, I think Hebrews is a sermon which was written and sent as a letter. The writer calls it “my word of exhortation”. (13:22)

We do not know who wrote Hebrews. For many centuries it was taught that Paul was the author. Your King James Bible labels it “Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews”. However, the ancient manuscripts do not contain the title. Many early writers disputed the idea that Paul wrote it. Origen noted the difference in the writing style of this book versus the letters of Paul. Much later, Calvin succinctly dismissed the possibility that Paul was the author.

Since we do not have good historical evidence, I would point out one piece of internal evidence. That is in Hebrews 2:3. The writer speaks of the gospel, saying “it was declared at first by  the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard…” In other words, Jesus preached the gospel to the first disciples who told it to us. That would mean the writer was a “second generation” believer. He heard the gospel not from Christ but from one of the original disciples. That was also true for his audience.

In contrast, Paul writes in the Letter to the Galatians, the he received his commission as apostle directly from Jesus (1:1), had Jesus revealed directly to him (1:16) and did not consult the other apostles for his message. Indeed, this direct revelation is the basis of his claim to be an apostle. He had to be one that had been with Christ.

Some in medieval times proposed Barnabas as the writer. Many other have bee proposed. There is no historical evidence for any of them however. So, our conclusion is that we do not know who wrote it. 

To whom was this sermon addressed? Who was the intended audience? The specific audience was a group of Jewish Christians who were tempted to abandon the faith and return to Judaism. I believe they were in and around Rome. Hebrews 13:24 says “those from Italy” greet you. That indicates the writer was in someplace other than Italy, accompanied by others from Italy and writing to people still in Italy who would be interested to know others from Italy were with the writer.

Rome persecuted Christians. Jews persecuted Jewish Christians. In addition, Judaism, with its laws and ceremonies, was what they were raised with. So, the writer of Hebrews demonstrated the supremacy of Christ over all parts of Judaism.  He urged them and exhorted them not to give up, but to hold fast to their faith and grow in it.

More generally, the sermon is addressed to people tempted to give up on the faith. This is applicable to us, the modern readers. Your faith will be attacked this year. People will criticize your beliefs. Books, magazines and movies will try to discredit the Bible, the church and the historical faith. Friends will abandon the faith. False doctrines will be proclaimed by preachers who formally preached the gospel.

In addition to persecution, some of you will suffer trials. You will be sick. You will lose your job. Friends and family members will die. Your marriage will dissolve. You will be betrayed. You will be hurt. You will be tested. How will your survive with your faith intact? You must look to Christ! And to do that, you must know who he is and what he had done. We call this the person and the work of Christ. Hebrews deals with both in detail.

So, this book is about Christ. It shows us who he is and that he is above everyone else. It shows us what he has done and how his work is superior to anyone else’s work. He is above all. That is a message you need and you can use.