Lesson 4: "He Hath By Inheritance Obtained a More Excellent Name Than They" (Hebrews 1:4)
The Book of Hebrews. This is lesson # 4. Welcome again and welcome to our study. We have tried to introduce this book and -in our last lesson we worked on the first and second verses of chapter one. We read four verses, the first sentence; but, we didn't get it all discussed. God spake to those living before Christ by the prophets. God spake in divers manners, i.e. in various ways, out of a cloud, through a donkey, in visions, (etc). Since the beginning of Jesus' ministry, God has spoken by his Son, Jesus the Christ. He taketh away the first, i.e. the covenant before Christ and established the second, i.e. the covenant that came with Christ (Heb. 10:9). The writer explained that, "in these last days" God hath spoken "by His Son," i.e. the Christ. Now, notice in v.2, that when the writer mentions God's Son, the giver of the covenant "in these last days," the writer says "WHOM" so-and-so, and then again "by whom" so-and-so again in the last of that verse. Then v.3 begins with "Who being" so-and-so. At this point, the middle of v.2, the writer mentioned Jesus for the first time. Following the mere mention of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the writer began to explain and define and outline and describe just how great Jesus was/is. This discussion continues all the way through chapter one. Then chapter two begins with "therefore," i.e. as a result of this discussion on the superiority of Christ. And from time to time on through the book, the writer lapses back into this discussion on the greatness of Christ. It would appear that even those Christians of the homeland had by 30 years, or perhaps slightly longer than 30 years, after the time of Jesus, had forgotten just how great Jesus really was and had begun to equate the Christ with Abraham and Moses and the leaders of the Old Testament. Thus, these Christians AGAIN needed to be reminded of the greatness of Christ. Peter had made this mistake on one occasion. Do you remember what we usually call the transfiguration recorded at the beginning of Matthew chapter seventeen? Elijah and Moses were transfigured with Christ somewhere on Mt. Hermon in the presence of Peter, James and John. Peter in his impetuous way said: "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (that's Matt. 17:4 and its recorded also in Mark ch. 9 and in Luke ch. 9, starting in v. 28). By a tabernacle, I would assume Peter meant a monument or a landmark memorial of some kind. But, here's the point. Peter had apparently (without even thinking) equated Jesus to Moses and Elijah, i.e. two of the prophets of the O.T. by which God spake during the old era. What happened? God instantly, out of a cloud, rebuked Peter with these words: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." In other words, hear Christ and do not equate him to Moses, Elijah or others of the prophets. Christ is not to be compared with Moses and the other prophet. Jesus is "the mediator of the new covenant" (Heb. 12:24).
Now, if the Christians of the AD 60's needed this rebuke and this warning, what about us? This book of HEBREWS is still serving us. This same thought is still badly needed today. We must never equate Jesus with any other. To most of the world today, even that part which claims to be Christian, they simply think of Jesus as one more of the prophets, one more minister of the olden times. Most of the world today, (now, I speak from what little experience I have, which isn't much I concede; but, it must be above 95 percent), most of the world today think of Jesus' teaching as an amendment to Moses1 law, i.e. simply an enlargement, an expansion or an annex to what Moses taught. Jesus made very clear, this is not the case. Do you remember Matt. 9:16-17? Jesus said: "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse." In other words, what Jesus taught is something new. We must not look upon what Jesus taught as simply a patching-up or a bandaid upon the old system. In the next verse, Jesus used this illustration: "Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved," i.e. Jesus compared the old and the new covenants with their wine storage system back there, something they were familiar with. They made a clear distinction between the old and the new wine. We must make a clear distinction between Jesus and the prophets of old.
Let's get back to the middle of Heb. 1:2. I would like for us to begin in the middle of v.2 and read to the end of Heb. ch. one. Please read with me. This overlaps a little, the reading in our last lesson. Here we go, following the words: "by his son." Have you got it? Beginning in the middle of Heb. 1:2: "Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou has loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
O.K. back up where we started reading and let's try to do a listing. The Son of God is superior to all other prophets and he is even superior to the angels. The writer began to list ways in which Christ is superior. First, "he hath been appointed heir of all things." Jesus has all power and all authority in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18). It was the good pleasure of the owner of the universe, the heavenly Father to make Christ the heir of all things. What is an heir? One who has been bequeathed property or a title or both. (#2) It was by Christ that God made the worlds. Christ and God are one. Jesus said in John 10:30, "I and my Father are one." The worlds were made by Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. In John 1:3, John the apostle said: "All things were made by him [i.e. by Jesus Christ, God's Son and then John continued:] and without him was not any thing made that was made." So when the world and the universe was made in the beginning, Christ was with God the Father and they were working together. In Gen. 1:26 where it was said: "Let us make man in our image" the conversation is between God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, or in other words the Godhead. Jesus the Christ was/is part of the Godhead. To the Colossians, the apostle Paul said: "in him [i.e. in Jesus] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." The writer of the Hebrews letter simply covered all of this in the phrase: "by whom also he made the worlds" (end v.2). (#3, beginning in v.3), "Who" [i.e. Christ, now] being the brightness of his glory [i.e. God's glory, the glory of the Heavenly Father "and" more than that] and the express image of his person..." i.e. the person of God, the Heavenly Father. In a manner similar to the way a human father transmits his features to his son and his son has the features and traits of his father; Christ is the express image of God. Christ was with God and then Christ was translated into a man called Jesus of Nazareth (this is exactly what is said in John l:lff). This oneness between Christ and God goes beyond just looks or image, in John 5:23 Jesus said: "all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which sent him." Christ and God are one. We see the Heavenly Father through the Son. "No man hath seen God at any time...[Christ] declared him" that verse goes on to say (John 1:18). Jesus was both divine and human. Paul told Timothy: "God was manifest in the flesh," i.e. God was made known in the flesh of Jesus (I-Tim. 3:16). Jesus said to Philip the apostle in the upper room, that last night: "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus is as close as you can get to God in this life. Then #4 (beginning in the middle of v.3), Jesus the Christ "up-holding all things by the word of his power." Jesus by merely speaking could heal miraculously. Have a new leg there fellow! Lazarus was raised from the dead. Jesus simply said the word: "Lazarus come forth" (John 11:43) and Lazarus came to life just like turning on a light switch. Jesus could calm a storm on the sea by simply saying the word. Jesus the Christ the Son of God, sitting on the right hand of the Father in heaven up-holds all things by the power of his word. The apostle Paul told the Colossians: "by him all things consist" (Col. 1:17). It is by Jesus that all things hold together and work together, i.e. even what we call the laws of nature respond to his power and his words. In the beginning of the church, Christ through the Holy Spirit gave certain aspects of this power to his apostles also for confirming the word. For example, a man (lame from his mother's womb) was given perfect soundness on one occasion, i.e. this man's leg was presented to him as if it had developed naturally, i.e. by the laws and methods of nature. Luke used the words "perfect soundness" to describe this (Acts 3:16). This power (or we sometimes use the word inspiration) was given to the apostles for establishing the church. This Bible was given by inspiration, "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (I-Tim. 3:16) and Peter said "no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation" (II-Pet. 1:20). In the next verse Peter made it clear this was true of the O.T. as well. God's Son, Jesus Christ, up-holds all things, i.e. everything by the power of his word. You see Jesus was superior to all other prophets and he is not to be compared to the prophets of old. Then point #5 (in the last part of v.3), "he [i.e. Jesus] hath by himself purged our sins [and then] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." You see, Moses and Aaron and the old prophets used animal sacrifices, the blood of bulls and goats as an offering or atonement of their sins, which was a temporary thing. Jesus purged sins, i.e. cleansed sins by sacrificing himself for the sins of the whole world, once for ever. It is through the atoning blood of Jesus that we can have forgiveness of sins if we will but submit our sins for this atonement, called remission of sins. When Jesus had accomplished this he went back to sit on God's throne at the right hand of the Father on high.
Thus, in v.2-3, the Hebrews writer listed five ways in which Jesus was superior to the prophets of old. But, that's not all! Beginning in v.4, the writer shows that Jesus is superior to the angels. Now, let's look quickly at some of the ways Christ is superior to the angels, i.e. angelic being. First of all, let me ask you: what is an angel? Are they bodiless female weirdos? as the astrological section of modern bookstores present them? All the angels in the OT and the NT appeared as men, I said: AS MEN. Do angels have wings and play harps? This idea comes from the fantasy of artists and musicians and not from the scriptures. Charles Hodge in his book calls them: "Heaven's Personal Delivery Service." This caption does not come from scriptures; but, it's a pretty good description in terms of practical bible facts. Are angels dead saints in heaven? Well, that's another fantasy. Angel worship was condemned at Colosse (do you remember Col. 2:18?) When it comes right down to it, I don't know much about angels. I have never preached on angels. But, let me quickly concede, there's a lot said about angels in the Bible. There ARE angelic beings, the bible makes very clear. The fact that I don't know much about them, doesn't take anything away from them. Here in verse 14 (Heb. ch. 1) it says: angels are sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. Angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). Now, I've probably asked more questions than I have given answers; but, let me get back to the Hebrew writer. How does Jesus compare with the angels? First (v.4), Jesus was made better than the angels, i.e. by inheritance and by his atonement for our sins. Next, moving to v.5, we find two O.T. quotations. The question is, did God ever say these things or make this comment to an angel? The answer is obviously no. The first quote comes from the second Psalm (v.7): "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" The psalmist prefaced this quote by saying: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me..." i.e. the Psalmist had received this fact by inspiration i.e. the messiah as they considered it, would be like a Son to the Heavenly Father, begotten of the Heavenly Father. This idea penetrates the entire N.T. , I think you know. The apostle Paul, preaching in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:33) used this same quote and identified the Son, begotten of the Heavenly Father, as Jesus. The second quote comes from II-Sam. 7:14, God by the prophet Nathan was speaking to David and the primary reference in that verse was to Solomon although it is obvious the Hebrew writer by inspiration sees in this a secondary reference to the Christ. The "first begotten" (v.6) is obviously a reference to Jesus after he came back from the dead, I'm not sure where the quotation comes from. The quote in v.7 comes from Psalm 104:4 and the quote in v.8-9 comes from Psalm 45:6-7. The quote in v.10-11-12 comes from Psalm 102:25-26-27. The meaning in reference to the angels is obvious, I think. Then, the quote in v.13 comes from Psalm 110:1 and is quoted various places in the N.T., in Matt. 22:44 Jesus used it in answering the Pharisees; Peter quoted this Psalm in his famous Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:34-35). In I-Pet. 3:22, the apostle Peter paraphrases the thought in saying Jesus Christ is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God. Then Peter says: "angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." This is the point of the Hebrew writer also (here in v.13). Then, coming to v.14, we looked at this verse before. Angels, their purpose and their duties are spelled out in this verse in the form of a question which shows that the Christ is superior to even the angels. Our time is out, we'll pick up with ch. 2 in our next lesson. Until then, this is saying: have a good day.