mp3 audio: 2013-06-11 Hebrews 1:1-4 – Hight
What is your motivation for wanting to preach and to teach from the Bible?
What is your motivation for teaching it as carefully as you can, sticking to what it says and being sure not to misrepresent God’s Word? How do you know if you have been careful to do this enough in your message?
The book of Hebrews, and especially the start of it, is all about the supremacy of Jesus Christ, how amazing he is above every being, and that because of his supremacy we should sit up and take notice of his message [2:1-4] and to hold strongly to the truth of that message despite all difficulties.
This evening, I want to imitate the unknown author of Hebrews and magnify the glory of Christ, to show his greatness to you from these verses. In doing this I want you to be more motivated than ever before to teach the truth of the bible, and to be energised by the knowledge of the glorious things that Jesus has done. But there is also a warning, to be very careful in your teaching, because the Word of God is precious… very precious. It is so precious that it is worth dying for his truth.
Let’s read the passage – Hebrews chapter one, verses one to four, which makes up a brief introduction to the whole book. I’m reading from the NIV.
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 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. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
The rest of the chapter expands upon Jesus’ superiority to angels, and there are lots of great quotes from the Old Testament. But we’re not going into that right now…
What I do want to do right now, is to highlight the overwhelming glory of Christ in eight points which come from this passage. And then, once you are filled to overflowing and hopefully buzzing inside with the excitement from it all, I want to help you direct that excitement towards faithful handling of the Word of God, and service to Him. So here we go:
First In verses one and two, we see that God has spoken to us many times through the prophets. These communications cover the time from the creation of the world and the writings we have of these communications were written over a period of about 1000 years, from Moses to Malachi. God communicated through dreams, visions, angelic beings, and the words of prophets. Pretty amazing. But then, Jesus. Jesus came, and he spoke.
The past forms of communication are shown to be incomplete and inferior compared to Jesus. Incomplete and inferior because the mystery of the gospel wasn’t made fully clear until Jesus came and spoke. Jesus is the ultimate ambassador of God – he represents the Father perfectly, as we will look at shortly, and he speaks the message from the Father and demonstrates his powerful redemption in ways that the former prophets could not. Jesus is the cherry on the top of all of the revelation in God’s holy book. He is the final part, completing the dish and he is the part with the strongest flavour in the whole dish.
This first point is a big part of why we believe that the canon of scripture is complete. That nothing else is coming to add to the Bible. What greater prophet could add to the teachings of Jesus? In case you’re wondering, Paul and the apostles didn’t add anything, but merely carried the messages they learned from Jesus, their teacher and master – the Holy Spirit brought reminded them of everything that Jesus taught.
Second In verse two we see that Jesus has been appointed as the heir of all things, and an heir is also an important person. Where does that importance come from? It is granted by the one from whom they inherit. Do you see what I’m saying? It is the giver of the gift who has the power to give and who is declaring, by the act of giving, that they consider the recipient as important enough to receive a gift. And Jesus is receiving this gift, or inheritance, from God, the Father. If Jesus wasn’t important, he would get nothing.
And if he received a gift from, say Peter, we wouldn’t be as impressed as if he was given a gift from God. The importance of the giver definitely tells us something about the importance of the receiver.
There is another aspect of this same situation – being the “heir of all things” – which tells us how important Jesus is. When parents make a will, for the event of their death, to divide up their money and possessions to the right people – they allocate a greater proportion to the more important recipients of the inheritance. And here we see that Jesus gets everything! He is the heir of “all things”. That makes him again, an important person.
Third God made everything through Jesus – the end of verse 2: “through whom also he made the universe”. It’s a little unclear just how Jesus was involved in the creation process, but he was there, and he was active in the event, and that is huge. The entire universe. I don’t have much time here to dwell on the massive scale of the universe, but here’s a quick overview to blow your mind:
It takes astronauts three days by space shuttle to get to the moon – that’s 300,000 km – a long way away.
It takes a beam of light about one second to take the same journey.
It takes a beam of light about 8 minutes to travel perhaps 500 times further – from the sun to the earth. Light travels really fast. But if the sun was to blink out in an instant, it would take 8 minutes for the earth to go dark. It still takes light some time to cover the huge distances in space.
Now consider our spiral galaxy, the Milky Way. Our solar system with planets orbiting the Sun is only one of about 100 Billion solar systems in the Milky Way. And it takes a beam of light about 100,000 years to travel across our galaxy.
But wait, there’s more…
There are about 100 Billion galaxies in the known universe and the known universe would take about 30 Billion years for a beam of light to travel across.
Now, if you’re anything like me, that blows your mind. My physics students sit there stunned after I talk with them about this. But that’s not the really mind blowing part.
Prepare yourselves for it:
Jesus made it all.
Yes, Jesus is pretty important… But there is still more.
We’ve seen that Jesus is the cherry on the top of God’s communication, that he is the heir of all things, and that he created our universe which is larger by far than we can conceive. Moving on, and I’ll try move a little quicker through these points…
Fourth Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. He perfectly represents the Father in his character, how he acts, and what he says. And when this verse carries on and says that Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory”, it means the same as him being an exact representation. This aspect is emphasised by the repetition, which is unique and stands out in this short section, and exists possibly to draw our attention to the most important out of all of these descriptions. Why is it so important? Because Jesus was God who walked among us! God in the same form and flesh that we exist in, yet of a holy and godly character perfectly the same as the Father.
I want to read here from John chapter one (I love this passage): “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God…” then a few verses later “…and the word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
What an incredible concept!
Fifth Not only was he the means by which everything was made, but verse three says “sustaining all things by his powerful word” – Jesus is also sustaining the existence of everything. This means that he enables the universe to keep existing and to function as it should.
Think on the power of that for a moment: If Jesus wanted to end it all, for the universe to cease to exist, he would just take a break from keeping it going. But he doesn’t take a break. He keeps it ticking over, and will keep it ticking over until the end when the world is judged and we have a new heaven and a new earth.
The Sixth point which shows us the glory of Christ
Jesus has “provided purification for sins” – this in verse three. The 30 or so years of sinless living, enduring temptation and rising above it, remaining perfect, and then enduring an unjust trial and death on the Cross, taking the weight of eternal punishment for those who will no longer take it themselves in hell, and then rising again in victory over death and sin! By this great work he has provided purification for sins.
Seventh He is seated on the throne of God – sitting next to the Majestic Father. Where is there a seat of more authority and honour? Nowhere in all existence is there a seat of greatness that is this great.
Eighth And last, but not least. He is superior to angels.
Now at first this does seem almost a bit of a lame addition to me from my perspective in the early 21st century – it doesn’t seem to add much to the greatness of Jesus – especially after all that we’ve just seen, but remember that Jesus came as a man, initially to first century Jews, humble and lowly, nothing much to look at and unimpressive physically. The people who knew of the man Jesus only second-hand from the previous generation might need reminding that he is also God the Son, and greater than the angelic beings which the Jews considered closest to God.
Encounters with angels in the bible make me remember those who fell to the ground in worship of the angelic messenger and are told not to do so because the angel is not God and not to be worshipped. Angels are holy and automatically command a lot of fear and respect, which we don’t see a lot of in a physical presence standing before us these days, so you can understand the mistake when this sort of encounter with the holy happens. But though we might not feel it as powerfully, if we have not encountered the presence of an angel, we can know that Jesus is to be honoured and feared much, much more than angels.
You can dwell on this passage so much more, and find so much more greatness and glory of Christ in it, but we will leave it there for now.
Before concluding, let me quickly run through these 8 points again, so they are fresh in your mind:
Jesus is the cherry on the top of the communication of God to man
Jesus is the heir of all things
God made the entire universe through Jesus
Jesus is the exact representation of the Father
Jesus sustains all that exists
Jesus has provided purification for sin by the cross
Jesus is seated on the throne next to the Father
He is superior to angels
To finish up, I will return to the questions I asked at the beginning. Remember that our goal in seeing the glory of Christ is to improve our handling of the Word of God and to give us motivation to minister that Word to others.
So first, what is your motivation for wanting to preach and to teach from the Bible? It should be the overwhelming glory and majesty that you see in Jesus Christ, and have hopefully had magnified here this evening. It should be that you are just so captivated by his amazing nature and the amazing works that he has worked. It should be hard to keep silent about Jesus and what he has done.
And what is your motivation for teaching it as carefully as you can? It is for much the same reason: that you love God and value Jesus so much that you will take seriously everything he has said. He is important and every little detail of his message to us, the Bible, is important because he is the ultimate and supreme being in the universe, and in heaven.
And finally, how do you know if you have been careful enough in your reading of scripture and in your interpretation which you will teach to others? I think it is when you know something of the greatness of Jesus, and what that greatness means about the importance of his message of redemption for us in the Bible. I think you have been careful enough when, because of your reverence for Jesus and his message, you fear to mislead anyone about what he has said. You are desperate to understand all of his words, and to share his truth with the world.
Brothers and sisters, I strongly encourage you to take his word as seriously as you can, and to seek to know more of the glory of Christ every day, to feed your motivation in ministry with a tasty and sustaining diet of holy bread.
You are holy and mighty,
far greater than any mere angel.
Help us to take your word seriously,
and to be moved to serve by your greatness.
You are our King,
and we pray in your wonderful name…
mp3 audio: 2013-06-11 Hebrews 1:1-4 – Hight