The Superiority of Jesus Christ. Gresham Bouma Text
The Superiority of Christ
April 29, 2018 Sermon by Gresham Bouma
You know, it can be a struggle to know what to teach on when you only do it occasionally. Sometimes, if I have been memorizing a text, and we haven’t already preached on it, that helps give direction. But at times it is a struggle to know what the Lord would have us do. But I’m always tempted to go over Hebrews 12, but then I hate taking texts out of context, so in order to teach on Hebrews 12 we are going to have to work our way there. The good news today is that we won’t do the whole book today, the bad is that it may take a month of Sundays to complete the book.
The book of Hebrews is punctuated by five warnings or exhortations. Apparently, the recipients were suffering persecution and rejection and were being tempted to drift from and fall away from the faith, perhaps to go back to a Judaism without Christ. I think that those warnings serve to break the book up into logical sections. So today I am covering Hebrews 1:1 to 2:4. This first section of Hebrews sets the pattern for most of the rest of the book, so the best thing we can do to dig into the message of Hebrews is to look at this first section.
One other thing to note before we begin is that there is no certainty on exactly who the author of Hebrews was. The author of Hebrews does not disclose his identity and while there are arguments for and against certain individuals being the author that is all they are is arguments.
Reading: Hebrews 1:1 to 2:4.
Chapter 1 is all about how God the Son is superior to both prophets and angels. Let’s look at why.
Starting in vs 2 (Read) Here we are given two reasons why Christ is superior. First He is the heir of all things, and second, the world was made through Him. Neither of these could be said of the prophets who spoke in times past.
Verse 3 gives three more reasons: Jesus has God’s glory; Jesus has God’s nature; and Jesus upholds the universe with His word of power. While my intent was to survey this chapter quickly, here we need to pause and contemplate this affirmation of Christ’s deity. Jesus is the glory, the nature and the power of God! I really don’t know if there is a stronger statement of Christ’s deity in all of scripture. All glory belongs to God alone, and Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory!
Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature. Or we could say Jesus is the exact representation of God’s essence, since that would be another proper translation of the word for nature. How do you get more clear than that? Well, maybe by saying He upholds everything we can see, touch or even know about in any way, He upholds it all by His miraculous power.
Consider the atom, and the power residing in it. How did it get in there to start with, and what keeps it from self-destructing? Or consider the farthest flung constellation, what maintains the order and beauty there? Well, according to Hebrews, Jesus does. The word translated power here is not just power in a general sense, but it is miraculous power. As Christians, I hope that more and more we are in awe of the miracles surrounding us in all of creation. Christ is doing them all since it is His miraculous power at work in all of creation. And by the way, this is the essence of worship: being awe struck with the glory, the nature, and the power of the Son of God.
Going on to verse 4, the next reason for Christ’s superiority is that He has a better name. In verse 5 we see that Jesus has a better relationship with the Father than any angel. Verse 6 tells us that the angels of God worship the Son. Verse 7 calls the angels His servants.
Verse 8 is packed with four reasons for Christ’s superiority: first, He sits on the throne, which means He rules. Second, this verse calls Him God, using the word Theos, the same word used twice in verse 9 for God, clearly referring to the Father in that case. Third, His rule is eternal. And fourth, Christ wields the scepter, so again the kingdom and all authority belong to Him.
Verse 9 points out that Christ has been anointed to the supreme office. Vs 10 tells us that Jesus made everything. Verses 11 & 12 tell us that Jesus is eternally unchanging and He will roll the earth and heavens up when it is time and change them just like we would change our shirt for instance.
Verse 13 is a rhetorical question. The answer is none. This verse also informs us that Jesus will sit in effortless rule over all His enemies, they will be under His feet! In contrast to that verse 14 says angels are but ministering servants sent by Him to serve the elect.
Now we come to the point that Ch1 has been building to. We see it in the words “for this reason also”, which points back to all the arguments just made. Also, in verse2 of ch2 it says “for if the word spoken through angels”, and that phrase should send us back to chapter 1:1-2 where Hebrews starts out by making the point that God has spoken to us in these last days “in His Son”.
God has spoken to us in an unprecedented way. Not by prophets, not by angels, but by His very own Son. There has never been a greater messenger since the Son is not just a messenger, but the Word in the flesh. God the Father has spoken to us “in” God the Son. This is God’s personal word. This is no message brought by a messenger, but God Himself, God the Son has spoken so we need to “pay much closer attention…lest we drift away”.
The gospel is not a cheap insurance policy that we buy, stick in our files, and go back about our business. The New Testament likens it to a war at times. In other places it is characterized as putting our old selves to death. Here in Heb 2:1 it charges us to pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away”. Drifting is what happens when our eyes are not fixed on the right goals and over and over Hebrews presents us with a glorious description of Jesus and then warns us to pay attention to what this glorious, sovereign, creator Son has said. Repeatedly it warns us not to drift, fall away, stop believing, continue in willful sin, or refuse to listen to Him who is speaking, namely Jesus. Another thing that can cause, say a boat, to drift is immobility or lack of propulsion. Two things need to be true to avoid drifting, the right course fixed and propulsion. This reminds me of James 1 22-25 where we are charged to “prove yourselves doers of the word…” So avoid drifting by knowing the word and also doing the word.
V. 2. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
The author of Hebrews is not disdaining what was spoken in times past, whether through prophets or angels, rather the author is saying that the Son speaks with greater authority and power. The purpose of what was spoken through the prophets and angels was to point forward to the coming Son. The Old Covenant scripture came with power and glory. It is the eternal word of God, but God’s revelation is progressive in that God has revealed more over time. What was once a mystery has now been revealed in Christ.
This calls to mind 1 Peter 1:10-12 where it says: “As to this salvation…” Before the advent of Christ the grace that was to be revealed was a mystery even to those who prophesied of it. Now its power and glory have been revealed and we are warned here in Hebrews to “pay very close attention”, or as the KJV says “give earnest heed” to this message of “so great a salvation”. This salvation which was “at the first spoken through the Lord”.
These first four verses of Ch. 2 very much belong with Ch. 1. They conclude this first section of Hebrews. Remember that the chapter breaks are not inspired. This paragraph is what Ch. 1 has been building toward. These 4 verses are the application of the information provided in Ch. 1.
To summarize this section of Hebrews. We can correctly say that this time God has not just spoken to us through prophets or angels but has come to us Himself and spoken to directly and personally “in His Son”, and because of that we need to “pay attention” and not neglect this glorious message of salvation.