Today we begin a new series through the New Testament book of Hebrews. Over the next several months we are going to go through it chapter by chapter and verse by verse. We are going to read and discuss every passage in detail. As we do so, I trust that the Holy Spirit will open our minds and hearts to see and understand things we’ve never recognized or known before. Furthermore, this study will reinforce and give us a broader perspective about some things we’ve known for many years.
It is uncertain who wrote the book of Hebrews. Some speculate that Paul is the author, but there are several reasons to doubt this. Most notably, in all of Paul’s other letters he uses a standard greeting in which he names himself as the writer at the outset. This greeting is conspicuously absent from the book of Hebrews. In light of this, other experts have proposed that Hebrews was penned by one of Paul’s associates - perhaps Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Philip, or Aquila and Priscilla. While its human author is unknown, we can be certain that Hebrews is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is ultimately the inerrant Word of God.
It is also uncertain to whom the letter of Hebrews was written. The book is placed in Scripture with the general epistles, which are letters written to a universal audience rather than a specific church, group, or individual. Some have disputed this classification by arguing that Hebrews was in fact written to a specific congregation of believers, perhaps those in Jerusalem. Whomever the intended recipients of this letter were, clearly they were Hebrews who had at some point converted from Judaism to Christianity.
Internal evidences found in the text suggest that Hebrews was written sometime around 65 AD. From where it was written is not known, though some have guessed that it may have originated in Rome. While many of the details surrounding its writing remain a mystery, the purpose of the letter is clear. As persecution against Christianity increased, many of the newly converted Jews were reverting back to their old ways. The writer of Hebrews urged them to remain faithful by presenting a thorough explanation of the superiority of Christ. For this reason, I have named this upcoming series “Hebrews: Jesus is Better”.
I. GOD HAS SPOKEN (verses 1-2a)
Since their creation, God has been speaking to and revealing Himself to mankind. He has not remained silent, aloof, or inaccessible. He has not hidden Himself from us. From the very beginning the LORD has continually communed with men. While there are certainly seasons when God’s voice has been absent or rarely heard, these periods are occasional and do not represent normal circumstances. God spoke regularly to people throughout the Old Testament, from the days of Adam through the birth of Christ. These ancient saints are “the fathers” to whom the LORD spoke “long ago”.
God speaks to people in a variety of ways. In the Bible we find examples of God talking directly to particular people, speaking through dreams or visions to some, conversing with others through angels, and even sending human messengers called “prophets” to declare His word to many. The Old Testament prophets spoke “in many portions” (some much more extensively than others), which is why we categorize them as major and minor prophets. They also spoke “in many ways” as each prophet had a unique tone, emphasis, and style of delivery.
Throughout the Old Testament era God spoke to His children through the aforementioned channels. But in recent times (from the writer’s perspective), which he calls “these last days”, God had revealed Himself to the people in a new and better way. This contemporary approach stood in stark contrast to those of the past. Rather than sending more men, who despite their sincere faithfulness were still hopelessly flawed and sinful, instead God now spoke through His Son Jesus Christ.
II. WHO JESUS IS (verses 2b-3a)
Jesus is superior to human prophets. The writer of Hebrews makes this abundantly clear in his description of the Lord. First, God has “appointed” Him to be “heir of all things”. This means that Jesus will inherit all of the Father’s creation. Everything that God has will be given to the Son, and He will exercise authority and dominion over it all. While the redeemed Children of God can become co-heirs with Christ, clearly Jesus is the primary recipient of God’s inheritance.
Not only is He the appointed heir of all things, but God also “made the world” through Him to begin with. God spoke the words and Jesus brought them into being. In other words, Jesus was the agent through whom God created the heavens and the earth. In addition to this, Jesus “upholds” or sustains “all things” by the almighty “power” of God. Everything in the universe continues to function and be maintained by Jesus.
Jesus is further described as “the radiance of” God’s “glory”. The magnificent light of God’s majesty shines in and through Christ. It penetrates and illuminates the darkness of this fallen world. One day, when the heavens and earth are remade, God’s glory will replace the sun, moon, and stars as the source of light. God’s divine “nature” is represented exactly in the person of Christ. Jesus is the physical, human manifestation of God. He is not a duplicate or copy of the Father, but rather is one with the Father sharing in the same divine essence and being.
III. WHAT JESUS DID (verses 3b-4)
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. His ultimate goal was to give Himself as the preeminent sacrifice for the sins of man. While He languished on the cross, God placed all of humanity’s sin - past present, and future - upon Him. Through His death Jesus voluntarily paid the full debt of sin and satisfied the justly warranted wrath of God. He made forgiveness and redemption possible and available to all. The shed blood of Jesus “made purification of sins” by washing them away and cleansing the repentant sinner’s soul.
After His victory over sin and death, Jesus ascended into Heaven and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. His redemptive work had been fully completed and there was nothing left to do. Jesus had accomplished His mission. Whatsmore, God the Father had accepted His Son’s sacrifice and seated Him in the place of highest honor. As we speak, Jesus is sitting in Heaven at God’s right hand waiting until the appointed time in which He will return for His church.
Lastly, Jesus is “much better than the angels” and has “inherited a more excellent name than they” have. This statement will be developed thoroughly throughout the remainder of this chapter. As such, I will withhold my comments on these phrases until next week’s message. Suffice it to say that salvation cannot be found through the angels. For there is no other name by which men can be saved other than Jesus Christ!
When you think about who Jesus was and what He did, what other messenger could ever compare to Him? All of creation was made through Him and is being upheld by Him. He has been appointed by the Father to inherit and reign over it all. He is one with God the Father, sharing the exact same nature and divine character. In Him shines the fullness of God’s remarkable glory. He accomplished the salvation of mankind through His sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, currently sits in Heaven at God’s right hand, and has the name that is above all names.
Jesus is a far better messenger than any other prophet or angel ever could hope to be. And since He is a better messenger, it stands to reason that He came to deliver a better message. This argument is the central theme of Hebrews. The revelations that God made through His Son were far greater than those which had been previously revealed. The proclamations and promises conveyed by the Old Testament prophets all found their ultimate meaning and fulfillment in Christ. Jesus was and is the final and supreme messenger of God. But, as we will soon discover, He is much more than just a messenger…
Is your faith wavering today? Are you entertaining the thought of giving up? Has following Jesus become a burden that you can no longer bear? If so, to whom will you turn? Who else has the words of life? Who else can satisfy your soul like Him? Is there anyone who is His equal? Is there any other who can compare? No my friend, there is none other. So cling to Jesus. Everyone else pales in comparison. Irregardless of who they may be, Jesus is better!