“Emmanuel” – Hebrews 1:1-4

July 8th, 2018

Hebrews 1:1-4


Aux. Text: Colossians 1:9-23

Call to Worship: Psalm 2


Service Orientation:  Jesus is a lot bigger, more powerful, more loving, gracious, forgiving and kind then we dare believe.  If we can ever get this through our thick skulls we can begin to enjoy life the way God intended.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. — Hebrews 1:3


Background Information:

  • Although we are glad to acknowledge that something essential, new and eternally effective has been accomplished by Christ, we are not to set one Testament against the other, but recognize that “all Scripture is God-breathed”. The way in which this letter unites both Testaments is a persuasive reminder of the authority of Scripture, a truth which is just as much exposed to attack now as in previous generations.  The early Christian communities found themselves harassed by a number of zealots who wanted to discard the OT revelation, and the problem is certainly not confined to antiquity.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  The Message of Hebrews, 28)
  • Deity is not speechless. The true and living God, unlike the idols of the heathen, is no dumb Being.  The God of Scripture, unlike that absolute and impersonal “first Cause” of philosophers and evolutionists, is not silent.  At the beginning of earth’s history we find Him speaking: “God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Gn 1:4).  “He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast” (Ps 33:9).  To men He spake, and still speaks.  For this we can never be sufficiently thankful.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 22)
  • In 1:1-4 we find no fewer than ten weighty topics, which span from heaven to earth and from eternity past to eternity future. The list of themes reads like part of the table of contents in a systematic theology textbook!  How can we focus our application when we are confronted with so much substance in such a short space?  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 51)
  • Although most translations, including the NIV, present this introduction in several sentences, Heb 1:1-4 in Greek forms a single, multiclause sentence, built around the main clause “God. . . has spoken.” Thus God and his communication to humanity through the Son engage the author’s attention from the first.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 45)
  • The OT is God slowly revealing puzzle pieces of the coming Messiah (Savior of the World) beginning in Gn 3:15 and ending with Mal 4:6
  • (v. 1) Yet, beautiful and important and authoritative as it is, the OT is fragmentary and incomplete. It was delivered over the course of some 1500 years by some forty-plus writers–in many different pieces, each with its own truths.  It began to build and grow, truth upon truth.  It was what we call progressive revelation.  Genesis gives some truth, and Exodus gives some more.  The truth builds and builds and builds.  In the OT God was pleased, for that time, to dispense His gracious truth to the Jews by the mouths of His prophets–in many different ways, developing His revelation progressively from lesser to greater degrees of light.  The revelation did not build from error to truth but from incomplete truth to more complete truth.  And it remained incomplete until the NT was finished.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 4)
  • (v. 1) The central point of contrast here is between the OT “prophets” and Christ “the Son.” Though the Holy Spirit has not here developed the details of this contrast, we can ourselves, by going back to the OT, supply them.  Mr. Saphir has strikingly summarized them under seven heads.  “First, they were many:  one succeeded another:  they lived in different periods.  Second, they gave out God’s revelation in “divers manners”–similitudes, vision, symbols.  Each prophet varied.  Third, they were sinful men–Isa 6:5, Dn 10:8.  Fourth, they did not possess the Spirit constantly.  The ‘word’ came to them, but they did not possess the Word!  Fifth, they did not understand the heights and depths of their own message–1 Pt 1:10.  Sixth, still less did they comprehend the whole of God’s revelation in OT times.  Seventh, like John the Baptist they had to testify ‘I am not the Light, I am only sent to bear witness of the Light.’” Now, the very opposite was the case in all these respects with the “Son.”  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 24)
  • (v. 1) God spoke through dreams (Gn 37:5), visions (Isa 1:1), angels (Zech 1:9), voices (1 Sm 3:4), writing (Dn 5:5), and even Balaam’s donkey (Nm 22:28)! (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 15)
  • (v. 1) At many times and in the various forms of law, history, poetry and prophecy God had spoken to them through his prophets from Moses down to Malachi. But the ministry of the prophets had been partial and their message incomplete.  More was to come, not to cancel what had been divinely recorded, but to complete it.

So it happened, just as the fathers had been told.  Moses had told them in Dt 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to him.”  And it had happened!  “In these last days,” that NT period of time in which we live and after which comes only eternity, God has spoken in the person of his Son.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 8)

  • (v. 1) The original Jewish readers of the book would have remembered that God had used many approaches to send his messages at many times and in various ways to people during OT times. God had spoken to Isaiah in visions (Isa 6), to Jacob in a dream (Gn 28:10-22), and to Abraham and Moses personally (Gn 18; Ex 31:18).  God had taught Jeremiah through object lessons (Jer 13) and had taught the people through a prophet’s marriage (Hos 1-3).  Elsewhere, God had revealed his direction to the people through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire (Ex 13:21) and had guided them in decision making through the Urim and Thummim (see Ex 28:30; Nm 27:21).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 2)
  • (v. 1) And when God’s seers prophesied, they utilized nearly every method to communicate their message. Amos gave direct oracles from God.  Malachi used questions and answers.  Ezekiel performed bizarre symbolic acts.  Haggai preached sermons.  And Zechariah employed mysterious signs.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 21)
  • (v. 1) God spoke long ago: Saving the best for last is always God’s rule. “You have kept the good wine until now” (Jn 2:10).  Prophets are a very blessed means of communication, but how much more sure, how much more condescending is it for God to speak to us by His Son!  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 6)
  • (v. 1) The many-sided revelation of God that came repeatedly to the forefathers in the ages before the birth of Christ was inspired by God. It was a progressive revelation that constantly pointed toward the coming of the Messiah.  And when Jesus finally came, he brought the very Word of God because he is the Word of God.  Therefore, Jesus brought that Word in all its fullness, richness, and multiplicity.  He was the final revelation.  As F. F. Bruce aptly remarks, “The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond Him.”  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 27)
  • (v. 2) The phrase “the last days” was very familiar to the Jews of that day and had a distinctive meaning. Whenever a Jew saw or heard these words he immediately had messianic thoughts, because the scriptural promise was that in the last days Messiah would come (Jer 33:14-16; Mic 5:1-4; Zech 9:9, 16).  Since this letter was written first of all to Jews, we will interpret the phrase in that context.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 6)
  • (v. 2) The author describes this new era as these last days. Translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) used this phrase, “last days,” to describe the messianic era.  The Jews of Jesus’ day believed that the Messiah would usher in God’s kingdom.  They were hoping for political and military power that would bring peace to the world.  The writer of Hebrews reported that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, initiated this new, long-awaited age.  But Jesus brought spiritual peace and a spiritual kingdom.  Jesus, the Messiah, has already begun his kingdom on earth in the hearts of his followers.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 1)
  • (v. 3) The Greek word basically means a ray of light from an original light body. Of course, Christ revealed the Father.  But this glory was resident in him also as a Person of the Godhead (cf. Mt 17:1ff.).  “The glory,” not “his glory,” may refer to God’s glory seen in Jesus Christ.  Or it may refer to the glory resident in Jesus himself.  In either case he was the Shekinah Glory dwelling among men (Jn 1:14).  (Herschel H. Hobbs, Hebrews: Challenges to Bold Discipleship, 11)
  • (v. 3) The word has been interpreted as “the sum of the ‘periods of time’ including all that is manifested in and through them.” It refers not to the world as a whole but to the entire created order that continued to develop in the course of time.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 29)
  • (v. 3) The overarching significance here is that priests never sat down. Levitical priests always were standing, standing, standing–because no sacrifice was complete.  The borders of the high priest’s garment was sewn with bells so the people could hear him moving inside the Holy of Holies–and thus know he had not been struck dead.  See him enter the Holy Place trembling as he bore the sacrificial blood before the glowing mercy-seat.  There he entered and stood year after year, high priest after high priest, for the work was never done.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 30)
  • (v. 3) “Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Three things are here denoted.  First, high honor:  “sitting,” in Scripture, is often a posture of dignity, when superiors sit before inferiors:  see Job 29:7, 8; Dn 7:9, 10; Rv 5:13.  Second, it denotes settled continuance.  In Gn 49:24 Jacob said to Joseph that his “bow sat in strength,” fittingly rendered “abode in strength.”  So in Lv 8:35 “abode” is literally “sit.”  Though He will vacate that seat when He descends into the air (1 Thess 4:16) to receive His blood-bought people unto Himself, yet it is clear from Rv 22:1 that this position of highest honor and glory belongs to Christ for ever and ever.  Third, it signifies rest, cessation from His sacrificial services and sufferings.  It has often been pointed out that no provision was made for Israel’s priests to sit down; there was no chair in the Tabernacle’s furniture.  And why?  Because their work was never completed–see Heb 10:1, 3.  But Christ’s work of expiration is completed; on the cross He declared, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30).  In proof of this, He is now seated on High.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 40)
  • (v. 3) “On high” (heaven – NIV) is, in the Greek, a compound word, used nowhere else in the NT; literally, it signifies, “the highest height,” the most elevated exaltation that could be conceived of or is possible. Thus we are shown that the highest seat in the universe now belongs to Him who once had no where to lay His head.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 40)
  • (v. 3) That no literal location is intended was as well understood by Christians in the apostolic age as it is by us: they knew that God has no physical right hand or material throne where the ascended Christ sits beside him; to them the language denoted the exaltation and supremacy of Christ as it does to us.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 50)
  • (v. 4) Now the author compares the Son with angels, those created beings that constantly surround the throne of God. They (the angels) of all creatures are closest to God; they serve as his messengers; they are appointed to be busy in the work of providing man with God’s revelation and in the work of redeeming fallen man (Acts 7:38, 53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2).  In many respects, angels are higher than man, who was crowned with glory and honor as king in God’s creation (Ps 8:5).  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 31-2)
  • (v. 4) The writer here begins a series of arguments proving Jesus’ superiority over angels. Angels are spiritual beings created by God and are under his authority (Col 1:16).  They help carry out God’s work on earth by bringing God’s messages to people (Lk 1:26; Rv 14:6-12), protecting God’s people (Dn 6:22; Mt 18:10), offering encouragement (Gn 16:7ff.), giving guidance (Ex 14:19), carrying out punishment (2 Sm 24:16), patrolling the earth (Zech 1:9-14), and fighting the forces of evil (2 Kgs 6:16-18; Rv 20:1-2).  Other popular Jewish teachings during NT times said that angels brought people’s requests to God and interceded for them.  Because of all these beliefs about angels, the Jews honored them highly.  However, Hebrews emphasizes that Christ and his work far surpass angels and their work.  Jesus created the world, sustains the world, reveals God’s glory, makes God known, and provides the perfect sacrifice for sins.  No angel can accomplish any of these things.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 7)
  • (v. 4) The Bible speaks a great deal of angels. There are 108 direct references to angels in the OT and 165 in the New. The primary purpose of their creation was to render special worship and service to God.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 22)
  • The process of revelation is perfected in a Son. The old revelation went on and on, incomplete and growing; the new revelation is a completed action, done with, finished, sufficient, never to be added to.  The comparison is stunning and clear.  Our author will repeat many times the style of comparison used in this first sentence, proving that the ministry of Jesus Christ is superior to that of the older forms.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 40)
  • Throughout the book we have comparisons between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant and between Jesus Christ and everyone else, to show that Jesus is superior in every way. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 22)


The question to be answered is . . . Who is Jesus?


Answer: Jesus is God the Son, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, Who loved the world so much that He redeemed mankind and the world by becoming a sacrifice.


The Word for the Day is . . . Emmanuel


Who is Jesus?:

I-  As prophet, priest and king, Jesus is the Heir of all things.  (Heb 1:2; see also: Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 1:18; Phil 2:6-11; Heb 1:13; 2:8-9; 1 Pt 1:3-9)


It is to be observed that in vv. 2, 3 the Holy Spirit has, briefly, set forth the three great offices of the Mediator.  First, His prophetic:  He is the final Spokesman of God.  Second, His kingly:  His royal majesty–upholding all things, and that, by the word of His power, which affirms His absolute sovereignty.  Third, His priestly:  the two parts of which are expiation of His people’s sins and intercession at God’s right hand.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 40)


Christ is the heir of all things precisely because God has only one Son and one Heir.  Christians, it is true, are also called sons and heirs of God, but they are so not in their own right but solely by virtue of their incorporation into the only-begotten Son with whom alone God is well pleased (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:4-7; 1 Pt 1:3f.).  In short, apart from Christ there is no sonship and heirship.  Those therefore who desire to enjoy the privileges of the sons and heirs of God can do so only as by faith they are found in Christ.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 39)


But in addition to his natural inheritance as Creator, as Redeemer he has also earned a vast inheritance of souls renewed through his atoning work of reconciliation on the cross.  We are his inheritance!  This is a mind-boggling truth, to say the least.  It is so stupendous that Paul prayed that the church would have its eyes opened to the “riches of his [that is, Christ’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18).  The apostle was praying that his readers would understand how highly they are valued in Christ. Think of it–Jesus is heir to all the heavens and numberless worlds, but we are his treasures.  The redeemed are worth more than the universe.  We ought to be delirious with this truth.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 26)


The word “heir” suggests two things:  dignity and dominion, with the additional implication of legal title thereto.  For its force see Gn 21:10, 12; Gal 4:1, etc.  “An ‘heir’ is a successor to his father in all that his father hath.  In connection with the Father and the Son, the supreme sovereignty of the One is nowise infringed upon by the supreme sovereignty of the Other–cf. Jn 5:19.  The difference is only in the manner:  the Father doeth all by the Son, and the Son doeth all from the Father” (Dr. Gouge).  The title “Heir” here denotes Christ’s proprietorship.  He is the Possessor and Disposer of all things.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 31)


Thus the greatness of the Son of God receives sevenfold confirmation, and it appears, without being expressly emphasized, that he possesses in himself all the qualifications to be the mediator between God and the human race.  He is the Prophet through whom God has spoken his final word; he is the Priest who has accomplished a perfect work of cleansing for his people’s sins; he is the King who sits enthroned in the place of chief honor alongside the Majesty on high.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 50)


Early Jewish Christians interpreted the role of Wisdom in Prv 8:22-31 as referring to Jesus’ work.  Jesus was active at the beginning of time as the agent of creation, and he will act at the end of time as the heir (see Ps 2:8; Rom 8:17; Gal 4:7).  In the end, the world will be made perfect.  Jesus will destroy all the works of evil and will reign over the world that he created.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 4)


In the term “heir” there is no thought of entering into possession through the death of a testator.  In the NT the word and its cognates are often used in a sense much like “get possession of” without reference to any specific way of acquiring the property in question.  In other words, the term points to lawful possession but without indicating in what way that possession is secured.  “Heir of all things,” then, is a title of dignity and shows that Christ has the supreme place in all the mighty universe.  His exaltation to the highest place in heaven after his work on earth was done did not mark some new dignity but his reentry to his rightful place (cf. Phil 2:6-11).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 13)


In our author’s thought, this royal inheritance of Christ has only been inaugurated but will be consummated at the end of the age (1:13; 2:8-9).  Thus this initial proposition both affirms the present and anticipates the future rule of Christ.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 47)


It is because of their indisssoluable union with Him that His people shall also enjoy the Inheritance which God has appointed unto the Son.  Herein we discover the Divine discrimination and propriety in here speaking of Christ not as “Lord of all things,” but “Heir.”  We can never be “joint-lords,” but grace has made us “joint-heirs.”  Because of this the Redeemer said to the Father, “the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them” (Jn 17:22).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 33)


II-  Jesus is Emmanuel.  (Heb 1:3a; see also: Mt 1:25; 3:17; 17:5; Mk 9:3; Lk 1:35; 9:38-36; Jn 1:1-14; 14:9; Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26:13; Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 3:18; 4:4; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; 3:10; 1 Tm 3:16; Heb 1:14)  


We get a perfect picture of God when we look at Christ (Jn 1:18).  In other words, Jesus explains God; he came to the world and portrayed God to people by his words and actions.  No one can know God apart from Christ because we know God by knowing Christ.  God reveals himself through Jesus (see Jn 1:1; 2 Cor 4:4; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15).  The prophets could only tell God’s people what they saw and heard.  Jesus was God himself–his message was firsthand.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 5)


Jesus’ radiance is derived from the Father, even though he himself is the light.  The Son causes the radiance of the Father to shine forth.  As John writes in the prologue to his Gospel, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14).  The Son’s radiance, therefore, is an extension of God’s glory.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 29-30)


Once or twice, while God walked this planet in a Jewish body, His divine glory broke through the trappings of His humanity.  We see this in Lk 9:28-36 where Peter, James, and John, whom Jesus had chosen to accompany Him to the mountain to pray, saw the Lord “transfigured” before their very eyes.  It was at times like this that the very expression of God’s substance, the representation of His being, in fact, the imprint of His essential nature, was seen.  (Jill Briscoe, Faith Enough to Finish, 11)


Jesus does not simply reflect God’s glory; he is part of it!  This was shown on the Mount of Transfiguration when “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mk 9:3).  It was his own essential glory, but it was also the Father’s.  This is what blinded Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3; 22:6).  This is why the Nicene Creed sings of Christ, “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.”  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 29)


When He took upon Him sinless human nature He did not cease to be God, nor did He (as some blasphemously teach) “empty” Himself of His Divine attributes, which are inseparable from the Divine Being.  “God was manifest in flesh” (1 Tm 3:16).  Before His Birth, God sent an angel to Mary, saying, “He (the Word become flesh) shall be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).  The One born in Bethlehem’s manger was the same Divine Person as had subsisted from all eternity, though He had now taken unto Him another, an additional nature, the human.  But so perfect is the union between the Divine and the human natures in Christ that, in some instances, the properties of the one are ascribed to the other: see Jn 3:13, Rom 5:10.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 25)


Deity is not to be explained, but to be adored.  The sonship of Christ is to be accepted as a truth of revelation, to be apprehended by faith, though it cannot be comprehended by the understanding.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 6-7)


Jesus is a superior revelation of God.  When we see him, we know just what the God of the universe is like.  We know how he thinks.  We know how he talks.  We know how he relates to people.  God has spoken in his Son.  It is his ultimate communication, his final word, his consummate eloquence.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 29)


Here is the final answer to the cults.  Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ was nothing more than an angel, the highest created angel.  They identify Him with Michael, the Archangel.  But this passage in Hebrews utterly demolishes that theory, for Christ is a Son and not an angel. To what angel did God ever say, Thou art my Son?  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 13)


The Son is declared to be the “brightness” (1:3) of the glory of God.  God’s essential glory cannot be known to man.  John writes, “No man hath seen God at any time.”  He hastens to add, however, “the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jn 1:18).  Christ, the Son, is the visible out-shining of God’s glory.  The invisible God can be seen and known in the Person of His Son.  (Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 18)


The principal idea intended is that of exact correspondence.  This correspondence involves not only an identity of the essence of the Son with that of the Father, but more particularly a true and trustworthy revelation or representation of the Father by the Son.  Herveus insists that the Son is the express likeness of the Father “not in an external sense but in substance” and links this truth with the declaration of the Incarnate Son: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).  In a similar manner Paul teaches that Christ is the image or likeness of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15).  It is according to this image that man was created (Gn 1:27), and that same image, which was marred by the fall and is perverted by sin, is restored in Christ, the True Image, so that the believer is “being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18), and the new nature which is his “is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 43-4)


This is nothing less than the essential glory of God himself, corresponding to the shekinah glory which in the OT signified the very presence of God in the midst of his people.  It was the radiant glory of Yahweh’s presence which settled as a luminous cloud on Mount Sinai when Moses went up to meet with God (Ex 24:15ff.), and which was seen at the door of the tabernacle when Yahweh “used to speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:9ff.).  It was, moreover, the glory manifested resplendent cloud of the shekinah (Mk 9:22ff., par.), an event which reflection of a glory not his own:  the apostles who were present were witnesses for a brief while of the glory which the Son had with the Father before the world was made (Jn 17:5).  The brilliant light, brighter than the midday sun, seen by Paul at his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26:13) was the same radiant glory of the divine presence.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 42)


Christ is the irradiation of God’s glory.  The Mediator’s relation to the Godhead is like that of the rays to the sun itself.  We may conceive of the sun in the firmament, yet shining not:  were there no rays, we should not see the sun.  So, apart from Christ, the brightness of God’s “glory” could not be perceived by us.  Without Christ, man is in the dark, utterly in the dark concerning God.  It is in Christ that God is revealed.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 35)


III-  Jesus created and sustains the Universe with His powerful Word.  (Heb 1:3b; see also: Ps 51:10; Jn 1:1-14; 1 Cor 15:28; 2 Cor 5:17; Col 1:14-17; Phil 1:6; Heb 1:13; 2:5-8; 1 Jn 1:1-3; Jude 24-25)  


Only in the later parts of the NT does there emerge the concept of Jesus as a cosmic Messiah:  a ruler spanning all geographical and ethnic differences, providing the glue of the universe (Col 1:17) and upholding all things by the word of his power (Heb 1:3), or, as the Jerusalem Bible beautifully translates it, “sustaining the universe by his powerful command.”  Thus he is, as described in the book of Revelation, the Alpha and Omega, the Faithful and True, the Word of God, who leads the armies of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rv 1:8; 19;11, 13, 16).  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 168)


We cannot create the tiniest speck of dust, much less a mayfly, but he created the universe.  He can do what we can never do, materially and spiritually.  He can create in us clean hearts (Ps 51:10).  In fact, he can make us into new creations:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17).  He can do it ex nihilo–out of nothing.  He can take whatever you are–your “nothingness”–and create a new person.  (Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 28)


through whom he also made the world:  I love to think that He who created all things is also our Savior, for then He can create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  If I need a complete new creation–as I certainly do–He is equal to the task.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 9)


When Christ begins a work in your heart, He holds onto it and sustains it all the way through.  We can imagine Jude’s excitement when he wrote, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen” (Jude 24-25).  When your life is given to Jesus Christ, He holds it and sustains it and one day will take it into God’s very presence.  A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 18)


Because Christ sustains everything, nothing in creation is independent from him.  All things are held together in a coherent or logical way, sustained and upheld, prevented from dissolving into chaos.  In him alone and by his word, we find the unifying principle of all life.  He is transcendent over all other powers.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 5)


Through his Son, God made the universe.  It is impossible for man to understand the full import of this statement, but complete understanding is not the objective at this point.  However, it is important to recognize the majesty of the Son of God, who was present at creation and is the sovereign Lord of all created things.  He is God.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 29)


We base our entire lives on the continuance, the constancy, of laws.  When something such as an earthquake comes along and disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous.  Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe?  We would go out of existence.  If  He suspended the law of gravity only for a brief moment, we would all perish, in unimaginable ways.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 16-7)


You may have seen the image of the god Atlas holding the globe on his back and shoulders, straining under the weight, his bulging muscles beading with sweat.  Banish that image from your mind!  The Son of God upholds not just this world but also the entire universe.  And He sustains this creation not by physical strength but by His almighty word.  The Son Himself has the power to sustain through His very word.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 18)


The Son, to whom all of creation will be subjected in the end (cf. 1 Cor 15:28; Heb 1:13; 2:5, 8), is he through whom it originated in the beginning.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 47)


Jesus Christ is sustaining the universe.  He is Himself the principle of cohesion.  He is not like the deist’s “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since.  The universe is a cosmos instead of chaos, an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle, only because Jesus Christ upholds it.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 17)


Frederic Burnham, a science historian and director of the Trinity Institute in New York City, said many scientists would, at this time {with NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)} more than any time in the last 100 years, consider the idea that God created the universe a more respectable hypothesis.  This discovery also supports the theory that up to 90% of the universe is made up of cohesive, invisible, dark matter that scientists haven’t yet been able to identify.  Again, the answer is in the Bible:  Col 1:15-17 tells us that Jesus is the image of the “invisible” God and that through Him all things were created and “in Him all things hold together.”


That which is in view in his fifth glory of Christ is His Divine providence.  “The term ‘uphold’ seems to refer both to preservation and government.  ‘By Him the worlds were made’–their materials were called into being, and arranged in comely order; and by Him, too, they are preserved from running into confusion, or reverting back into nothing.  The whole universe hangs on His arm; His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing and directing the complicated movements of animate and inanimate, rational, and irrational beings, to the attainment of His own great and holy purposes; and He does this by the word of His power, or by His powerful word.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 37-8)


He is not only at the head of the spiritual realm, but he “upholds all things.”  All movements, developments, actions, are borne up and directed by the word of His power.  Glimpses of this flashed forth even in the days of His flesh.  The winds and the waves were subservient to His word.  Sickness and disease fled before His command.  Demons were subject to His authoritative bidding.  Even the dead came forth in response to His mighty fiat.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 38)


British physicist Paul Davies in his 1983 book, God and the New Physics, denied the possibility of God as Creator and promoted an atheistic interpretation of the universe.  But, just one year later, his thinking had begun to change.  In his 1984 book, Superforce, he wrote:

The laws (of physics)…seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly         ingenious design…The universe must have a purpose.

In his 1988 book, The Cosmic Blueprint, Davies expressed further change:

(I see) powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all.  The impression of design is overwhelming.

Agnostic Robert Jastrow described the path traveled by his fellow astronomers as:

scaling the mountains of ignorance,…conquering the highest peak,…pulling (themselves) over the final rock…(to be) greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.  (Dr. Hugh Ross; Creation and Time, 128)


The Son is not only the Creator of the universe (1:2); he is the upholder of all things as well (1:3).  The two passages complement each other and reveal the divine power of the Son.  He speaks, and by his word all things are sustained, preserved, upheld.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 30)


The Son carries “all things” to bring them to their destined end.  And he does this by a mere utterance (“by his powerful word”).  Christ, the ruler of the universe, utters a word, and all things listen in obedience to his voice.  No other motions are necessary, for the spoken word is sufficient.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 30)


The author does not see Christ’s work in sustaining creation as holding up the universe like a dead weight (as Atlas was supposed to do!).  Rather his thought is that of carrying it along, of bearing it toward a goal.  The concept is dynamic, not static.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 14)


Surely, if Christ upholds all things He can uphold me.  If the word of His power upholds earth and heaven, surely, that same word can uphold you, poor trembling heart, if you will trust him.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 10)


IV-  Jesus is so much more; but that is for the weeks to follow.  (Heb 1:3c-4; see also: Jn 3:16; Acts 20:28; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:19; Col 2:18; Heb 2:2, 17; 8:12; 9:15, 26-28; 10:12, 17-18; 1 Jn 1:7; )  


Truly Christ is the door that opens the whole universe to us!  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 39)


With the statement about the Son’s having effected purification of sins, the author comes to what is for him the heart of the matter.  His whole epistle shows that the thing that had gripped him was that the very Son of God had come to deal with the problem of man’s sin.  He sees him as a priest and the essence of his priestly work as the offering of the sacrifice that really put sin away.  The author has an unusual number of ways of referring to what Christ has done for man:  The Savior made a propitiation for sins (2:17).  He put sins away so that God remembers them no more (8:12; 10:17).  He bore sin (9:28), he offered a sacrifice (thysia) for sins (10:12), he made an offering (prosphora) for sin (10:18), and brought about remission of sin (10:18).  He annulled sin by his sacrifice (9:26).  He brought about redemption from transgressions (9:15).  In other passages the author speaks of a variety of things the former covenant could not do with respect to sin, the implication in each case being that Christ has now done it (e.g., 10:2, 4, 6, 11).  It is clear from all this that the author sees Jesus as having accomplished a many-sided salvation.  Whatever had to be done about sin he has done.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 14-5)


The whole revelation and manifestation of God is now in Christ; He alone reveals the Father’s heart.  It is not only that Christ declared or delivered God’s message, but that He himself was and is God’s message.  All that God has to say to us is in His Son:  all His thoughts, counsels, promises, gifts, are to be found in the Lord Jesus.  Take the perfect life of Christ, His deportment, His ways; that is God “speaking”–revealing Himself–to us.  Take His miracles, revealing His tender compassion, displaying His mighty power; they are God “speaking” to us.  Take His death, commending to us the love of God, in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us; that is God “speaking” to us.  Take His resurrection, triumphing over the grave, vanquishing him who had the power of death, coming forth as the “first fruits of them that slept”–the “earnest” of the “harvest” to follow; that is God “speaking” to us.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 27)


The glory associated with Moses and Elijah was so eclipsed by the infinitely greater glory connected with Christ, that they faded from view.

Now it is something very much like this that we see here all through the Hebrews’ Epistle.  The Holy Spirit takes up one object after another, holds each one up as it were in the presence of the all-excellent “Son,” and as He does so, their glory is eclipsed, and the Lord Jesus is “found alone.”  The prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua, the Levitical priesthood, the OT men of faith, each come into view; each is compared with Christ, and each, in turn, fades away before His greater glory.  Thus, the very things which Judaism most highly esteemed are shown to be far inferior to what God has now made known in the Christian revelation.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 29)


In the OT the priests had to make sacrifice after sacrifice, for themselves and for the people.  Jesus made but one sacrifice.  He not only was the Priest, but also the Sacrifice.  And because His sacrifice was pure, He can purify our sins–something that all the OT sacrifices together could not do.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 18)


Jesus took His place at the right hand of God.  The marvelous thing about this statement is that Jesus, the perfect High Priest, sat down.  This is in great contrast to the priestly procedure under the Old Covenant.  There were no seats in the Tabernacle or the Temple sanctuaries.  The priest had no place to sit because God knew it would never be appropriate for him to sit.  His responsibility was to sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, over and over again.  So the priests offered sacrifices daily–and never sat down.  But Jesus offered one sacrifice, and said, “It is finished.”  He then went and sat down with the Father.  It was done.  What could not be accomplished under the Old Covenant, even after centuries of sacrifices, was accomplished once by Jesus Christ for all time.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 19-20)


According to the Mosaic law the high priest had to make atonement on the Day of Atonement to cleanse the people of Israel of all their sins (Lv 16:29-34).  The Aaronic high priest was a sinner and therefore did his work imperfectly, whereas Christ as the sinless One and the true High Priest completed the work of purification perfectly.  The high priest in the OT era needed animal sacrifices, first to cleanse himself and afterward to remove the sins of the people.  Christ was simultaneously the High Priest and the sacrifice when he offered himself for the purification of the sins of his people.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 31)


In his own person he did for sinful man what man could never achieve for himself.  The law said, “Do this.”  It demanded man’s work.  But Christ came and effected by his saving death man’s purification from sin.  His message was, “Trust this.”  Man was urged to believe in Christ’s work, not his own.  It was not to be achieved by the multiplicity of good works, but by Christ’s work.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  The Message of Hebrews, 33)


The putting away of the sins of His people was an even greater and grander work than was the making of the worlds or the upholding of all things by His mighty power.  His sacrifice for sins has brought greater glory to the Godhead and greater blessing to the redeemed than have His works of creation or providence.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 38)


The redemptive ministry of Christ formed a prelude to the glorification of the Son “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  Paul tells us that it was because Christ humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, that the Father “highly exalted him” (Phil 2:7-9).  The preincarnate Christ had a glory with the Father “before the world was” (Jn 17:5).  The crucified Messiah, however, has a new position with all power in Heaven and on earth committed unto Him (Mt 28:18).  This is reflected in the words of Ps 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”  (Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 19)


The ministry of pressing upon the Hebrews was the finality of the Gospel revelation.  Through the “prophets” God had given predictions and foreshadowings; in the Son, the fulfillment and substance.  The “fullness of time” had come when God sent forth His Son (Gal 4:4).  He has nothing now in reserve.  He has no further revelation to make.  Christ is the final Spokesman of Deity.  The written Word is now complete.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 24)


Here is fulfilled what was prefigured on the day of atonement, when an atonement was made for Israel, to cleanse them from all sins, that they may be clean from all their sins before the Lord (Lv 16:30).  Thus our great High Priest saith unto us, “Ye are clean this day before God from all your sins.  He is the fulfillment and the reality, because He is the Son of God.  ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 Jn 1:7).  The church is purchased by the blood of Him who is God (Acts 20:28, with His own blood).  Behold the perfection of the sacrifice in the infinite dignity of the incarnate Son.  Sin is taken away” (Saphir).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 39)


Let every believer, if he wants to see his sins, stand on tiptoe, and look up.  Will he see them there?  No.  If he looks down, will he see them there?  No.  If he looks around, will he see them there?  No.  If he looks within, will he see them there?  No.  Where shall he look, then?  Where he likes, for he will never see them again, according to that ancient promise, “‘In those days and at that time,’ declares Yahweh, ‘the guilt of Israel will be sought, but there is none, and the sins of Judah, but they will not be found, for I will forgive those I left behind’” (Jer 50:20).  Shall I tell you where your sins are?  Christ purged them, and God said, “I will cast all their sins behind my back.”  Where is that?  All things are before God.   I do not know where behind God’s back can be.  It is nowhere, for God is everywhere present, seeing everything.  So that is where my sins have gone.  I speak with the utmost reverence when I say that they have gone where Yahweh himself can never see them.  Christ has so purged them that they have ceased to be.  The Messiah came to finish transgression and to make an end of sin, and He has done it.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 13)


He said, “It is finished,” and I believe Him.  I do not–I cannot–for a moment admit that there is anything to be done by us to complete that work, or anything required of us to make the annihilation of our sins complete.  Those for whom Christ died are cleansed from all their guilt, and they may go their way in peace.  He was made a curse for us, and there is nothing but blessing left for us to enjoy.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 13)


Someone has said that Jesus Christ came from the bosom of the Father to the bosom of a woman.  He put on humanity that we might put on divinity.  He became Son of Man that we might become sons of God.  He was born contrary to the laws of nature, lived in poverty, was reared in obscurity, and only once crossed the boundary of the land in which He was born–and that in His childhood.  He had no wealth or influence and had neither training nor education in the world’s schools.  His relatives were inconspicuous and uninfluential.  In infancy He startled a king.  In boyhood He puzzled the learned doctors.  In manhood He ruled the course of nature.  He walked upon the billows and hushed the sea to sleep.  He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services.  He never wrote a book and yet all the libraries of the world could not hold the books about Him.  He never wrote a song, yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all songwriters together.  He never founded a college, yet all the schools together cannot boast of as many students as He has.  He never practiced medicine and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors have healed broken bodies.  This Jesus Christ is the star of astronomy, the rock of geology, the lion and the lamb of zoology, the harmonizer of all discords, and the healer of all diseases.  Throughout history great men have come and gone, yet He lives on.  Herod could not kill Him.  Satan could not seduce Him.  Death could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 10)



Worship Point:  Our worship of Jesus will be in proportion to what we know of Jesus, our gratitude for what He has done, and Who He is.


Gospel Application:  Jesus had to be God, Creator, perfect and loving in order for the Gospel to be truly the Gospel and not a fairy tale.


To the Jew the writer to the Hebrews said:  “All your lives you have been looking for the perfect priest who can bring the perfect sacrifice and give you access to God.  You have him in Jesus Christ and in him alone.”

To the Greek the writer to the Hebrews said:  “You are looking for the way from the shadows to reality; you will find it in Jesus Christ.”  To the Jew the writer to the Hebrews said:  “You are looking for that perfect sacrifice which will open the way to God which your sins have closed; you will find it in Jesus Christ.”  Jesus was the one person who gave access to reality and access to God.  That is the key thought of this letter.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 4-5)


Heidelberg Catechism questions 13-19

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

  1. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).


Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

  1. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mat 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).


14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

  1. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).


Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

  1. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1).


Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

  1. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).


Q17. Why must he also be true God?

  1. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).


Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).


Q19. How do you come to know this?

  1. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gn 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).


What is essential with Christianity?  The “armness” of Christianity.  What do I mean?  All right.  Here’s what I mean.  Jesus Christ is not here called the mouth of God, the mouth of the Lord, he’s called the arm of the Lord.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t come to teach.  He’s a teacher.  But he didn’t primarily come to tell you what to do, he came primarily to do, and that’s the essential difference between Christianity and every other religion.  Jesus Christ did not essentially come–every other founder comes and says, Jesus did not–every other founder says, I’m gonna show you how to connect to God.  Do this.  Jesus Christ says, I’m going to connect you to God, I’ve done this.  Or to put it another way, or another way to put it.  It means, for example, the Gospel is news, not advice.

You see, the other founders come with advice.  And they say, Hey, uh, here’s how you can change your life.  But news is this is what’s happened that changes your life.  Some of you may have heard me say this before, but let me put it another way that I think brings it home.  The stories of Christianity don’t work unless they’re true.  Whereas the stories of other religions work anyway.  See, for example, what’s the purpose of Buddhism, what’s Buddhism about, it’s about enlightenment, it’s a wonderful faith.  It’s got lots of great stuff to teach us, it’s enlightenment.  And it’s about an attitude towards life, an attitude towards suffering, and an attitude towards not grasping and the working against the craving egos.  So, all of the stories about Buddha –does it matter if they’re true or not?  No, it doesn’t.  Here’s why.  They might be, they might not be.  The problem is they’re inspiring, they tell me how to find enlightenment, they tell me how to live.  And they work whether they are true or not.  OK.  Mohammad.  I mean no disrespect to anybody, but take a look at the stories of Mohammad.  What is Islam about?  Well, the word Islam means submission.  Obedience.  Not so much enlightenment.  Obedience to Allah.  So all of the stories about Mohammad work in this.  Whether they are true or not, they show me how to submit.  They tell me what to do.  Right?  So they work.

Let’s look at the stories of Christianity.  OK.  Let’s look at the Christmas story.  Born in a manger, OK.  What’s the moral of that story?  Natural childbirth?  What’s the moral?  Homelessness is fine?  What’s the moral?  Listen.  There is no moral.  The story is this:  the arm of the Lord.  The ideal has broken into history–it’s become real.  Finally, and this has happened, and it changes everything.

Let’s get more to the point.  Let’s take a look at the story in front of us.  The cross.  There’s a Christian story.  Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  Now.  What’s the moral of the story?  If that story is not true, think about this for a second.  You say, ah well, it doesn’t matter if it’s true, it’s inspirational.  Oh really?  Let’s think about this for a minute.  What’s the moral of the story?  Don’t protect yourself?  You’re the victim of what?  It’s oppression.  When oppression comes to you–just give in.  You just let them walk all over you.  You don’t open your mouth, you don’t protest.  Just let injustice roll all over you.  Is that the moral of the story?  That’s perverse.

And there’s another way to put it.  OK.  Let’s say you and I are going to the top of the Empire State Building.  And we’re looking out there and all of a sudden you come to me and you say Tim, I just want you to know how much I love you.  I want you to know how much I care for you and I’m going to show you how much I love you.  And you get up on the ledge, and you say watch.  And you throw yourself off and down you go to your death.  And I look over the ledge and I say, look how that person loved me.  Do I?  No.  I would say what’s wrong with that person?  But what if I because I’m stupid or because I’m a fool or something what if I get to the edge myself and I’m about to fall off and you come over and you push me to safety but in the process you fall.  Now listen.  The crucifixion is, something has happened in history that changes everything.  The Servant has come to take your punishment.  It changes everything.  If it’s not true, it’s not just unimportant, it’s bad.  It’s not just that the story doesn’t work, if it’s not true, it actually works badly, it’s perverse, it’s a…it’s pernicious. (Tim Keller Sermon “Indestructible Truth” )


Spiritual Challenge:  Fight against the world, your flesh and the Devil to begin to comprehend the REAL Jesus.


The rule that governs my life is this:  Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult; is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”  — J. Wilbur Chapman


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.   You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.” (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 55-6)


You cannot be enticed or tempted nearly as much with that which is inferior to that which you find most beautiful, desirous, magnificent and the object of your affections. That is one of the reasons why Jesus was able to withstand the full on assault of the Devil’s temptations.  — Pastor Keith


If we are to know anything about God, it will not be by escaping, or climbing, or thinking, or working our way to Him; it will only be by His coming to us, His speaking to us.  We cannot, by ourselves, understand God any more than an insect we may hold in our hand can understand us.  Nor can we condescend to its level, or communicate with it if we could.  But God can condescend to our level and He can communicate with us.  And He has.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 2)


Every religion is but man’s attempt to discover God.  Christianity is God bursting into man’s world and showing and telling man what He is like.  Because man by himself is incapable of identifying, comprehending, or understanding God at all, God had to invade the world of man and speak to him about Himself.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 3)


We all suffer from Christian dementia.  —Colleen Ladd


So What?:  A life that comprehends the REAL Jesus cannot help but be changed.  


Mankind exhibits a constant desire to “see” God.  The heathen bowing before his idol is deluded into thinking that his is a real “image” of God.  The desire is right, but the manifestation of it is wrong.  God desires to be “seen,” but He is only visible in the Person of Jesus, “the express image of his person.”  (Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 18)


The message to Mary and the message of the incarnation was that God is greater than we thought.   Many think God is too great to become a single, weak, unique, human being. God cannot become a weak, unique human being, humanists say, because . . . it makes Christ too central—They resist the centrality of Christ, that God became one human being.  Judaism and Islam say it for a different reason.  They say that God is too great to have become limited like that.  But no.

This passage tells us that what makes Him The Most High is that He was able to become most low.  In fact, to disbelieve in the incarnation, in the name of the greatness of God, is actually to diminish His greatness.

One writer put it this way and I think it is fascinating:  “The power of the higher just in so far as it is truly higher can come down to include the lesser.  And everywhere the great enters the little its power to do so is virtually the test of its greatness.  Now listen . . .  Think!  Think! . . .  You can become kittenish with your kitten but your kitten will never talk about philosophy with you. . . . Everywhere the great enters the little its power to do so is the test of its greatness.  The inability of the lesser to enter the greater is a proof of its lesserness.

Hitler could never understand Lincoln but Lincoln can understand Hitler. . . . wisdom always understands foolishness (because wisdom sees the foolishness in yourself) but to foolishness wisdom is utterly incomprehensible.

Unselfishness knows selfishness’ number but to the Selfish the deeds of the unselfish are completely incomprehensible.

Therefore, if God is truly Great, this makes perfect sense, In fact, now we know how great He is.  The greatness of God is greater than we ever thought.   The Most High has become the most low.  (Tim Keller; sermon: The Deity of Jesus)


We note Christ’s majesty and glory.  This cannot be expressed.  It includes all that can be given by God in heaven.  God on his throne is God in the full manifestation of his own majesty and glory; on his right hand sits the Mediator, yes, so he can be in the middle of the throne (Rv 5:6).  How little our weak minds can comprehend this majesty (see Mt 20:21; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Phil 2:9; Col 3:1).  (John Owen, Crossway Classic Commentaries: Hebrews, 21)


Possibly our vision of Christ is limited.  We are in danger of confining him to our restricted experience or limited knowledge.  We need a vision of Christ with these immense cosmic dimensions, a Christ who transcends all our noblest thoughts about him and all our best experience of him.  These first-century readers would be less likely to turn from him in adversity if they had looked to him in adoration.  The opening sentences of the letter are designed to bring them and us to our knees; only then can we hope to stand firmly on our feet.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  The Message of Hebrews, 32)






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