CHRIST, THE SON Hebrews 1
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3).Christian faith rests on the conviction that Jesus Christ is God the Son.
The Book of Hebrews.
Like the other letters that have found a place in our New Testament, Hebrews was circulated among congregations of the early church, and quickly acknowledged as authoritative. Both the name—“to the Hebrews”—and the content of this letter have led most to suppose the intended readers were Jewish Christians, whose commitment to Christ wavered as they remembered the richness of their heritage. How could they abandon a faith and lifestyle which generations of their forefathers had been firmly convinced was revealed to them by God? Recently modern scholars have questioned the belief that Hebrews was originally directed to Jewish Christians. In the first century many active “Judaizers” sought to draw Gentile believers into Judaism by superimposing their Law and religious practices atop Christianity. Some think that Hebrews is directed to Gentiles, to counter Jewish corrupters of early Christian faith. Whichever theory is correct, the writer of this epistle showed his readers that faith in Christ is not abandonment of Jewish hopes. Christianity is the fulfillment of all that Old Testament faith and life promised. All that was so dear to Jewish believers—the revelation of God’s will through Moses, the priesthood, the covenant, the sacrifices, the temple worship—were but shadows that dimly revealed the Son. The Son of God, not the shadows, represents spiritual reality. Thus the Jew who turns to Jesus does not abandon his heritage: he discovers the reality to which that heritage has pointed all along! The Book of Hebrews remains a rich vein of truth to be mined by modern Christians. While the modern church is not threatened by Judaizers, we do need to sense the essential harmony between the Testaments. And we need to examine carefully the person of Jesus and His impact on our lives. For these two purposes—to understand Jesus better, and to experience Him more fully—Hebrews remains an unmatched spiritual resource.
The source of the new revelation is God’s own Son (1:1–3), demonstrably superior to the angels thought by Israel to have mediated Old Testament revelation (vv. 4–14).
Understanding the Text
“God spoke to our forefathers” Heb. 1:1.
The Old Testament faith is a revealed religion. Moses didn’t invent it. The priests of Josiah’s day did not—as some modern skeptical scholars have suggested—rewrite Jewish history, inventing the bulk of the documents we ascribe to Moses. No, God spoke—and what He said was accurately reported by the prophets of a hundred different times and places. What’s more, what God said is accurately recorded in the books of the Old Testament. That of course is what gave some early Christians pause. If God ordained the faith of Israel, how could He overturn or abandon that Word? How could He reject His chosen people in favor of Gentiles? As we read on in Hebrews we’ll see that the Old Testament word to Israel was neither overturned nor abandoned, but fulfilled. But first the writer of Hebrews makes a vital point. We can trust the Old Testament, for God spoke to man through the prophets of old. But we can trust the New Testament even more, for the Agent of that revelation was no mere man! The Agent of New Testament revelation was God the Son! God did not merely speak to us through men, He became a man, and as a man spoke to us directly. What an awesome thought. God bridged the vast gap between Himself and humanity by becoming a human being. Only in this way could He clearly, and with unmistakable authority, communicate the Good News to us. Let us approach the Scriptures, and especially the New Testament, with great reverence and awe. We are not just reading words. We are listening to the voice of God, and hearing the words of Jesus Christ. “By His Son” Heb. 1:2–3. Christianity, the saying goes, is Christ. And the saying is exactly right. Everything hinges on Jesus and who Jesus is. And so the author of Hebrews tells us, clearly and unmistakably. Jesus, the Son, is the “Heir of all things.” Jesus, the Son, is the Creator of the universe. Jesus, the Son, is the visible expression (the radiance) of God’s glory. Jesus, the Son, is an exact representation of God. Jesus, the Son, maintains the universe, His word alone enabling it to exist. Jesus, the Son, having dealt decisively with the problem of sin, is seated at the right hand of God, the place of power and authority. After membership class yesterday our pastor mentioned his frustration when two Mormons tried to join the church. He had tried to be gracious in speaking with them privately. He listened to their protests that they were “Christians too.” He agreed that there were some beliefs we hold in common. But there was also a critical difference: Who is Jesus? Only when a person confesses joyously that Jesus is the Son of God, the Heir, Creator, and Sustainer of all things, one with God in His essential being and the radiant expression of God’s own glory, can he or she claim the name “Christian.” In New Testament times coins were made stamped in a die, leaving an exact impression of the original. The word for the impress of a die was charakter, the word translated “exact representation” in Hebrews 1:3. Jesus is identical with God. His very being—His essence, His hypostaseos, is an exact representation of the essence of Scripture’s God! “Superior to the angels” Heb. 1:4. The writer of Hebrews used the word translated “superior” or “better” 13 times. Only 1 Corinthians, with 3 occurrences, has it more than once! In Hebrews 1:4 the emphasis is on Jesus’ personal superiority to angels. Often though the emphasis is on the superiority Jesus brings to you and me. Because of who Jesus is and what He has done, you and I have a better hope (7:19), a better covenant (v. 22; 8:6), better possessions (10:34), a better country (11:16), and a better resurrection (v. 35). Jesus always was superior to angels, for His “name” (identity) as Son of God is better than that of any created being. How then is Jesus superior to angels? The most likely answer seems to be that Jesus became superior to angels as a Mediator of revelation. Hebrews 2:2 suggests that angels mediated transmission of God’s Word to Moses and the Prophets. Jesus, in fulfilling His mission as God’s Spokesman, became superior to angels in this aspect of ministry. Angels are at the present superior to human beings. But Jesus, in His nature and in His mission, is far superior to them. We need neither fear demons, nor reverence angels. Jesus is above all. “You are My Son” Heb. 1:5–13. Drawing on the Old Testament to prove his point, the writer of Hebrews showed that the Son is superior to angels in His relationship with God (v. 5), His claim to worship (vv. 6–7), His authority (vv. 8–9), His eternality (vv. 10–12), and His destiny (v. 13). Jesus is superior to all! “Sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” Heb. 1:14. This verse indicates that believers do have “guardian angels.” We may be powerless in ourselves. Yet God has put His Spirit in us, and His angels stand guard around us.
Son of God(Heb. 1:1–4)
It’s hard sometimes to know just how to think about Jesus. He alone is both a true human being, and at the same time truly God. Sometimes we’re comforted by concentrating on the humanity of Jesus. We know He understands us and sympathizes with our weakness. We remember His compassionate involvement in the lives of so many, and feel close to Him. On the other hand, it’s hard to feel close and comfortable with the God who created the universe and whose elemental power sustains it even now. What accord can we finite, short-lived beings have with one whose existence stretches unbroken from and to eternity itself? Perhaps the best answer for us is to think “Jesus” when we need to sense the loving character of God, and to think “God” when we need to trust the ability of Jesus to meet our every need.
To deepen your faith, meditate on who Jesus is.
“Something fiery and star-like gleamed from His eyes and the majesty of Godhead shown from His countenance.”—St. Jerome