In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 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. 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. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
- Hebrews 1:1-14
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
Hebrews 1: 1-2 ‘God speaking through His Son’: “God, motivated by love and directed by divinity, surprised everyone. He became a man. In an untouchable mystery, he disguised himself as a carpenter and lived in a dusty Judaean village. Determined to prove his love for his creation, he walked incognito through his own world. His callused hands touched wounds and his compassionate words touched hearts …
But as beautiful as this act of incarnation was, it was not the zenith. Like a master painter God reserved his masterpiece until the end. All the earlier acts of love had been leading to this one. The angels hushed and the heavens passed to witness the finale. God unveils the canvas and the ultimate act of creative compassion is revealed.
“God on a cross. The Creator being sacrificed for the creation. God convincing man once and for all that forgiveness still follows failure.”
- Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior
Hebrews 1:2 ‘the heir’: “Christ is Lord of all the angels – not a seraph spreads his wings except at his bidding. As for all things here below, God has given the Son power over all flesh. All must willingly, or else unwillingly, submit to his sway, for his Father has appointed him. This is another wondrous encouragement to anyone who is seeking salvation. Christ has everything in his hand that he may save us.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
Hebrews 1:2 ‘the answer’: “The Christian faith engages the profoundest problems the human mind can entertain and solves them completely and simply by pointing to the Lamb of God. The problems of origin and destiny have escaped the philosopher and the scientist, but the humblest follower of Christ knows the answer to both. ‘In the beginning’ found Christ there at the creation of all things, and ‘the world to come’ will find Him there at their regeneration.
“The church is constantly being tempted to accept this world as her home, and sometimes she has listened to the blandishments of those who would woo her away and use her for their own ends. But if she is wise she will consider that she stands in the valley between the mountain peaks of eternity past and eternity to come. The past is gone forever and the present is passing as swift as the shadow of the sun dial of Ahaz. Even if the earth should continue a million years, not one of us could stay to enjoy it. We do well to think of the long tomorrow.
“Toward the world to come we are all headed. How unutterably wonderful that we Christians have one of our own kind to go ahead and prepare a place for us! That place will be in a world divinely ordered, beyond death and parting, where there is nothing that can hurt or make afraid.”
- A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men
Hebrews 1:3 ‘faith engaging truth’: “What is overlooked in all this is that faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy. For it is not enough that we believe; we must believe the right thing about the right One. To believe in God is more than to believe that He exists. Ahab and Judas believed that. To a right faith, knowledge is necessary. We must know at least something of what God is like and what His will is for His human creatures. To know less than this to be thrown back upon the necessity of accepting the affirmations of the soul and substituting ‘Thus saith my soul’ for the biblical ‘Thus saith the Lord.’
“True faith requires that we believe everything God has said about Himself, but also that we believe everything He has said about us. Until we believe that we are as bad as God says we are, we can never believe that He will do for us what He says He will do. Right here is where popular religion breaks down. It never quite accepts the severity of God or the depravity of man. It stresses the goodness of God and man’s misfortune. Sin is a pardonable frailty and God is not too much concerned about it. He merely wants us to trust in His goodness.
“To believe thus is to ground faith upon falsehood and build our eternal hope upon sand. No man has any right to pick and choose among revealed truths. God has spoken. We are all under solemn obligation to hear the affirmations of the Holy Spirit.”
- A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men
Hebrews 1:3 ‘the radiance of God’s glory’: “There is no glory in God but what is also in Christ. Whatever God is, Christ is. Who will dare to turn his back on him? If this is God’s ambassador who comes clothed in the crimson robe of his own blood to redeem humanity, who will refuse the peace he brings?”
‘purification for sins’: “Is it not a wonderful thing that he made purification for our sins even before the sight of God, as already existent in all their hideousness. The sweepers of the streets, the dishwashers of the kitchen, the cleansers of the sewers have honorable work compared with this. Yet the Holy Christ, incapable of sin, stooped to make purification for our sins.
‘sat down at the right hand’: There he sits, and he would not be sitting if he had not finished the salvation of his people. He dwells in the highest conceivable honor and dignity. None can stop his purposes or defeat his will. His cause is safe; his kingdom is secure.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
Hebrews 1:4-14: “It was said of Christ, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Ps. ii. 7) [Ps. 2:7]. Now this was never said concerning the angels, and therefore by inheritance he has more excellent nature and name than they. It is said concerning Christ, but never concerning angels, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son. It is said of Christ, When God bringeth his First-begotten into the world, let all the angels of God worship him. The proof of this is taken out of Ps. xcvii 7, [Ps. 97:7]Worship him, all you gods, ‘All you that are superior to men, own yourselves to be inferior to Christ in nature and power.’”
- Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold-italics)
Okay, before we get to anything serious, I need to start with something imbedded into this video by david m. bailey (1966-2010), a classic joke. Yes, david always wrote his name in lower case. Honest, this ties, in such a simple way, with a Bible study of this book of the Bible. In this video, david sings one of his songs that became a fan favorite, even though it does not speak that much about God, Love, and his favorite topic in his folk music, Hope. One of david m. bailey’s last concerts was at our church. It was his third concert at our church, since his father was a retired Presbyterian missionary to the Middle East, Kenneth E. Bailey (1930-2016), and his father retired to an area just northwest of Pittsburgh, PA – right up the interstate from our church. At the last concert, david sang the same songs of hope as before, and this one in the video, but at one point, he removed the hippie doo-rag (something he’d never done before. The doo-rag was used to cover the scars from his surgeries. He had been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme IV (GBM 4) brain tumor and given six months to live in 1996. He quit his corporate job and grabbed his guitar and went on tour, celebrating Jesus and singing about Hope for about 13 years past the point that the doctors had given him. But the last tour, with the cancer returned, he doffed his “cap” to the audience. He passed away a couple of months later. Okay, this intro to the video clip (video not done at our church) has gotten serious, but the joke he tells is not serious, nor is the song. Enjoy.
Yes, I know, I should be pun-ished for having repeated the joke.
And a further interruption, I must confess that the book of Hebrews is one where I have not spent deep study in the past. I have quoted from Hebrews, in posts, 38 times prior to this post, but about half of those quotes have been from Hebrews 11 and 13: the Hall of Fame of Faith and the statement that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. Since I was brought up in a Protestant Christian home, the concept of Christ as a priest is not a foreign concept, but our denomination had no ‘priests.’ I know the Scriptures regarding Melchizedek. But it does not resonate as other Scriptures do. I hope to gain that resonance within me over the next quarter (thirteen chapters, one per week – therefore, three months).
Now, for the serious part.
Let’s spend a bit of discussion on authorship of Hebrews. The book never says who the author is. From about the fifth century until well into the 1800s, it was largely accepted that Paul wrote Hebrews. Since Matthew Henry wrote his Bible commentary in this period, he accepts Paul as the ‘possible’ author. Yet, in the Spurgeon Study Bible (using the HCSB translation), it points out several oddities that argue against Paul as the author, for example, Timothy being mentioned as a brother instead of “my true son in the faith.” A couple of study Bibles suggest a few other possible authors: Luke, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Apollos, Philip, Peter, or Silas. As for me, I feel that if Paul had written the book, he would have started with a salutation that was the custom of the time. There is no salutation at all. Why be consistent from Romans to Philemon (although they were not written in that order) and then ignore it in Hebrews? The only thought there would be if the salutation was a Roman custom that might irritate the Jews, but even so, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.
Whoever wrote the book started the book with authority. This book is filled with Scripture references and quotes. The first chapter demands the attention of those who were well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. Hebrews 1:5 could be a translation of three different verses, Psalm 2:7 (for the first statement), 2 Samuel 7:14, and 1 Chronicles 17:14 (for the second statement). The latter two references refer to the same revelation to Nathan about David, but Jesus is a descendant of David, at least His parents were.
In Hebrews 1:6, Deuteronomy 32:43 is quoted – at least in the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls versions of Deuteronomy. The line of poetry regarding “and the angels shall worship Him” at the end of the verse has been dropped from most modern translations. This may point to who the author was, possibly an Essene, or one who studied with the Essenes, who studied the Scriptures found along the hills near the Dead Sea.
Hebrews 1:7 quotes Psalm 104:4, loosely. Some modern translations state “messengers,” but angels are messengers. Hebrews 1:8, 9 quote Psalms 45:6, 7. Hebrews 1:10-12 quote Psalm 102:25-27. And Psalm 110:1 is quoted in Hebrews 1:13. Matthew may have often quoted Old Testament Scriptures, but the author of Hebrews pours it into the first chapter, getting everyone’s attention.
In these verses, the author dispels the idea that Jesus was not merely an angel. This may have been a prevalent idea at that time. He suddenly arises to prominence and after He is killed, He rises from the dead and disappears. Since little was known of angels, this false doctrine could have spread. Yet, these verses quoted mostly from the Psalms, all point to Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
In a way, this chapter reminds me of my introduction to developing technical training courses. A new employee was an open book. You told the new employee how things worked, and he/she accepted it. But, the seasoned employee that had worked at the plant for thirty years would call me a liar. Thus, it was much harder to teach them than a new employee. I had to rid their minds of old wives’ tales and myths, before they could be receptive to the true science that was involved.
I remember one instrument technician who would not accept one particular wives’ tale to be false. He confronted me outside his own superintendent’s office, as I walked down the hall. He demanded that his grade be changed on his exam, because he KNEW he had the question answered properly. Making the one change would not pass him. He had already passed the exam. It would not give him a perfect grade. This was him defending what he thought was true. He was yelling so loud, that the superintendent got up to close his office door, but then the superintendent stopped when he recognized the individual as being one of his guys and he recognized the wives’ tale being discussed. He entered the ‘discussion’ and calmed his employee down, and then he tried to explain in his words that the wives’ tale was false and that I had taught him properly. The technician said a curse and stormed down the hallway. The superintendent then put his hand on my shoulder and said that I was doing an excellent job, and “don’t worry. That technician will never work on the equipment that measures what he does not understand.” What was not mentioned was that the technician might never get promoted either. Regardless, I went back to my desk and tried to rewrite the paragraph on that topic to make it unassailable.
How does this relate to the Hebrews who were the recipients of this letter? They had to rid themselves of the notion that Jesus was an angel. Jesus was not an angel. Jesus was, and still is, the Son of God, fully human, fully God. In subsequent chapters of Hebrews, it is not as much ridding the people of false doctrine or wives’ tales as much as it is giving Jesus authority as prophet, priest, and king – the culmination of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“1. When did Jesus Christ becomes more than just a name to you?
”2. Of all the qualities of Jesus mentioned in verses 2-4, which one are you beginning to appreciate more and more?
“3. Of what help is it for the Christian that God has indeed spoken ‘at many times and in various ways’? Why not in just one way? Which seems to be God’s chosen way of speaking especially to you?
“4. Does this passage imply that Jesus is God’s final revelation? Most authoritative revelation? Most complete revelation? Only self-revelation? In each instance, tell why you think so.”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.