Doctrinal: The Superiority of Christ and His Priesthood
Hebrews 1:1 – 10:18
Hebrews 1:1 – 10:18
O U T L I N E
Christ is Superior to the Prophets and the Angels
Hebrews 1 – 2
Hebrews 1 – 2
Hebrews 1 – 2. It is fitting that the epistle addressed to the Hebrews should begin by setting forth Christ in His supreme glory. After all, Christ is the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel, although they could not see it without the eyes of faith. But these chapters, and the epistle as a whole, do not present Christ as a Messiah on earth, but as He is now: glorified in heaven! Nevertheless, the manhood of Christ is not left out. In ch.1 we have the glories of Christ as Son of God, in which His deity is emphasized. In ch.2 we have the glories of Christ as Son of Man, in which His manhood is addressed. But in both cases, it is the glorified Person in heaven that is presented to the soul as the object of faith.
- God’s Revelation through the Son vs. Israel’s Prophets (1:1-4)
- Old Testament Scriptures Showing Christ Superior to Angels (1:5-14)
- By Virtue of His Sonship (Psalm 2:7, 1 Chronicles 17:13, Psalm 97:7) (vv.5-6)
- By Virtue of His Eternal Existence (Psalm 104:4 & Psalm 45:6a) (vv.7-8a)
- By Virtue of His Holy Nature (Psalm 45:6b-7) (vv.8b-9)
- By Virtue of His Creatorial Power (Psalm 102:25-27) (vv.10-12)
- By Virtue of His Future Millennial Dominion (Psalm 110:1) (vv.13-14)
- (If You Listened to Angels in the Past, Listen to Christ Speaking Now) (2:1-4)
- God’s Purpose to Bless the Earth Through a Man: Christ the Exalted Man (2:5-10)
- Christ’s Ability as a Man to Identify With Us (2:11-18)
God’s Revelation through the Son vs. Israel’s Prophets (1:1-4)
1 God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets, v.1 God’s Revelation through the Prophets. This epistle begins as abruptly and majestically as the Jews’ own scriptures began; “in the beginning, God…”. The first verse briefly describes the communications of God in the Old Testament to Israel; “to the fathers in the prophets”. The expression “in many parts and in many ways” shows that the revelation of God in the Old Testament was fragmented and partial. He spoke directly to individuals at times, and in dreams or visions at other times (Hosea 12:10, 13). It was never intended to be complete or final. No epistle has more complete reference to the Old Testament scriptures as the epistle to the Hebrews, and this epistle shows that those revelations fell far short of the fullness of the revelation of God in His Son.
2 at the end of these days has spoken to us in the person of the Son, whom he has established heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the effulgence of his glory and the expression of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, having made by himself the purification of sins, set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high, vv.2-3 The Son and His Glories. Our God is the same God who spoke by prophets in the Old Testament, but there has been a tremendous change in His dealings with man on earth! When the Lord Jesus came, God was speaking to Israel – notice that the writer associates himself with Israel – “in the person of the Son”. It isn’t the idea that God gave words to the Son to speak, although that is true. But here it is God Himself speaking, in the Person of the Son. How much greater! The expression “at the end of these days” means the end of the days of Israel under law, when the prophetic communications were given. After many long years with only a partial revelation, God at the very end spoke to Israel face to face, in the Person of His Son. Only the Son was competent to reveal God fully. This “speaking” of course began when Christ was on earth, but Hebrews shows us that through His servants He continued to speak from heaven (Heb. 12:25). How much greater the word of Christ than the word of the prophets! The mention of the glorious Person of the Son leads into a seven-fold declaration of His divine glory:
- The Heir of All Things. All things in heaven and on earth belong to the Son in three ways: as Creator, as Redeemer, and as Heir of all things. This last way is special because it has nothing to do with what Christ has done, and everything to do with Who He is. It is God’s eternal purpose to head up all things in the One whose right it is (Eph. 1:10).
- The Creator of the Universe. We find that all three Persons of the God head were involved in creation, but the Son is the special agent to whom the magnificent accomplishment of creation is attributed; “by whom also he made the worlds”. This brings out the Divine wisdom and power of the Son, that he would bring the ordered universe into existence out of nothing! See also John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. It is an infinite power which can only be connected with His deity.
- The Effulgence of God’s Glory. The Son is the “effulgence” or shining out “of his glory”. This indicates that the Person of the Son is the visible manifestation of the glory of God. We see all the attributes of God reflected in the Person of the Son. This was true always, but visibly to man when the Word became flesh. Nothing less than a Divine Person could do this. As to the question of who wrote the epistle, we might ask who among the apostles and prophets saw the Lord Jesus in the condition described in v.3? Only Paul.
- The Expression of God’s Substance. This phrase brings out most clearly the deity of Christ! For the Son to be the expression of God’s substance, He had to be fully Divine. The “expression of his substance” is broader than a Person. In John it is the Word expressing the Person of the Father, but here it is the Son expressing the substance of the whole Godhead. This is what is meant by ‘homoousios’; that the three Persons of the Godhead are of one essential substance.1
- The Upholder of All Things. The Son is not only the Creator of all things, but the one who sustains all things too. Things continue as they are because He said it! We have a related expression in Colossians, “all things subsist together by him” (Col. 1:17), meaning they continue in virtue of Him. It is amazing to think that the very One who lay in swaddling clothes in a manger, the One who was crucified through weakness, was in those very moments “upholding all things by the word of his power”!
- The Purifier of Sins. When it comes to sin-bearing it is specific to “Himself”. It emphasizes that He alone completed the work, and the glory of that completed works resists on Him alone.23 The work of purifying sins is a far greater work than creation, and it is here linked to Christ’s divine glory. This shows that Christ, in that one finished work, settled for ever the issue of sins in the sight of God, whether it be those of Old or New Testament saints. This was something that no number of sacrifices under the law could ever do (Heb. 10)!
- The One Seated at God’s Right Hand. The word “himself” is emphasized in connection with sin-bearing and with being seated at God’s right hand. In v.13 we have a different side of things, where the Son is invited to sit at God’s right hand, but v.3 is a different thought; He “set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high”. It was His right to sit down there, and He took it. It was a place He won Himself. Clearly, there is no inferiority in the Son!
Set Himself Down. It helps to thing of a prince who says to his father the king, “I am going to enter the kingdom as a commoner”. As a commoner, the prince enters the military and wins great honors. He becomes a great conqueror, delivering his people once-and-for-all from their enemies. He then returns to the palace. The prince now takes his seat in two ways: (1) because of who He is as the king’s son, and (2) because of what he has done. In the same way, the Son of God came from heaven, became man, made purgation for sin by the sacrifice of Himself, returned to heaven, and there sat Himself down (1) in the dignity of His Person, and (2) in the full rights of the finished work of Calvary.
4 taking a place by so much better than the angels, as he inherits a name more excellent than they. v.4 The more excellent name is “Son”. He had a better place as eternal son, but bypassed angels to go a little lower, for a little while inferior. He took a better place when he bypassed them again, and sat himself down on the right hand. He does so because, as man, he inherited the name of Son (which He always had) now as a man, which was never given to any Angel.
Old Testament Scriptures Showing Christ Superior to Angels (1:5-14)
Angles figure prominently in the Old Testament.
By Virtue of His Sonship (Psalm 2:7, 1 Chronicles 17:13, Psalm 97:7) (vv.5-6)
5a For to which of the angels said he ever, “”Thou” art my Son: this day have “I” begotten thee?” [Psa. 2:7] v.5a The expression “Thou art my Son” refers to the Eternal Sonship of Christ. “This day have I begotten thee” refers to the incarnation, His sonship being carried forward into time!
5b and again, “”I” will be to him for father, and “he” shall be to me for son?” [1 Chronicles 17:13] v.5b
6 and again, when he brings in the firstborn into the habitable world, he says, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” [Psalm 97:7] v.6 This quotation from the Psalms actually refers to when the Lord Jesus will be brought into the world the second time, at His appearing. It refers to the great shift in administration that will take place before the Millennium begins. But His first coming is a foreshadow of it, and the sentiments of this prophecy are fulfilled in the angels who welcomed the newborn King (Luke 2:13).
By Virtue of His Eternal Existence (Psalm 104:4 & Psalm 45:6a) (vv.7-8a)
7 And as to the angels he says, “Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire;” [Psalm 104:4] 8a but as to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is to the age of the age,” [Psalm 45:6a] vv.7-8a A flame of fire like the burning bush.
By Virtue of His Holy Nature (Psalm 45:6b-7) (vv.8b-9)
8b and “a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness and hast hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy companions.” [Psalm 45:6b-7]
By Virtue of His Creatorial Power (Psalm 102:25-27) (vv.10-12)
10 And, “”Thou” in the beginning, Lord, hast founded the earth, and works of thy hands are the heavens. 11 They shall perish, but “thou” continuest still; and they all shall grow old as a garment, 12 and as a covering shalt thou roll them up, and they shall be changed; but “thou” art the Same, and thy years shall not fail.” [Psalm 102:25-27]
By Virtue of His Future Millennial Dominion (Psalm 110:1) (vv.13-14)
13 But as to which of the angels said he ever, “Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet?” [Psalm 110:1] 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out for service on account of those who shall inherit salvation?
(If You Listened to Angels in the Past, Listen to Christ Speaking Now) (2:1-4)
1 For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should slip away. 2 For if the word which was spoken by angels was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received just retribution, 3 how shall “we” escape if we have been negligent of so great salvation, which, having had its commencement in being spoken of by the Lord, has been confirmed to us by those who have heard; 4 God bearing, besides, witness with them to it, both by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will?
God’s Purpose to Bless the Earth Through a Man: Christ the Exalted Man (2:5-10)
Four Reasons Christ Became Man. To make propitiation for the sins of the people (v.17), to fulfill the counsels of God with respect to man (vv.7-8), to destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil (v.14), to become a sympathetic captain of our salvation (v.10, v.18).4
5 For he has not subjected to angels the habitable world which is to come, of which we speak;
6 but one has testified somewhere, saying, What is man, that thou rememberest him, or son of man that thou visitest him? 7 Thou hast made him some little inferior to the angels; thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of thy hands; 8 thou hast subjected all things under his feet. For in subjecting all things to him, he has left nothing unsubject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to “him”, 9 but we see Jesus, who was made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; so that by the grace of God he should taste death for every thing. vv.6-9 Note: Psalm 8 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews 2. Half the psalm is fulfilled now because He is crowned with glory and honor, but the other half is still future, for we do not see everything put under His feet. Psalm 8 is the cornerstone of Paul’s doctrine concerning the glory of Christ.
10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make perfect the leader of their salvation through sufferings.
Christ’s Ability as a Man to Identify With Us (2:11-18)
The Fellowship of the Sanctified Ones (vv.11-15)
11 For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing thy praises. 13 And again, I will trust in him. And again, Behold, I and the children which God has given me.
14 Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; v.14 The Devil was annulled in the death of Christ; i.e. his power was broken. But he will be finally destroyed when he is cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10). He “took part of the same”, but doesn’t say how for it goes. In Philippians 2:7 it says that Christ “emptied himself”, but again it doesn’t say how far that goes. We can see from other scriptures that Jesus was fully man (1 Tim. 2:5) and fully God (Col. 2:9). He did not ever empty Himself of deity. He became a full man; spirit, soul and body. The inscrutable union of the divine and human natures of Christ involved addition only, not subtraction.
15 and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage.
The Sufferings of Christ Prepared Him to be Our High Priest (vv.16-18)
16 For he does not indeed take hold of angels by the hand, but he takes hold of the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; 18 for, in that himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to help those that are being tempted.
- This was the term put forward by the First Council of Nicaea (325) to resolve the controversy over Arianism, which taught that Christ was not fully divine. The Greek word homoousios means “of one substance”. The creed produced at the council was intended to put an end to the controversy.
- The Greek verb has here a peculiar form, which gives it a reflective sense, causing the thing done to return into the doer, throwing back the glory of the thing done upon the one who did it. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- There are a number of things the Lord does by Himself; He comes for the saints Himself (1 Thess. 4), He restores the discouraged soul Himself (Luke 24), and here we find He “made by himself the purification of sins”.
- In Hebrews 2 four reasons are given why Christ took flesh and blood: first, to make atonement; second, for God’s glory and counsels; third, to destroy him that had the power of death; fourth, that He should go through every sorrow, and so have sympathy with us. – Darby, J.N. Brief Thoughts on Philippians.