Hebrews 1

Hebrews 1  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THE EPISTLE OPENS in the most majestic manner. Hebrews is the only book in the Bible which begins with the word, GOD. We are at once brought face to face with the tremendous fact that God, who had spoken to the fathers of Israel by prophets in former days, had now spoken in divine fullness and with finality in His Son. Just notice in passing that this first verse witnesses that the epistle is to the Hebrews, for the expression, “the fathers,” would have no meaning for a Gentile.
God being the living God, it is only to be expected that He would speak. Before sin came in He spoke freely to Adam, and face to face; afterward He only addressed Himself to chosen men, who became thereby His mouthpieces. The prophets had to speak just what He gave them, and often they uttered words, the full meaning of which was hidden from them, as we are told in 1 Peter 1:10-1210Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:10‑12). When the Lord Jesus came to accomplish redemption God told out all His mind. He spoke not merely by Him as His mouthpiece, but in Him. The distinction, is not made in our Authorized version, but it should be, for the preposition in verse 2 is not “by” but “in.” It is an important distinction, for it at once preserves the unique character of our Lord. When the Son spoke it was God speaking, for the simple reason that the Son was God.
Having mentioned the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds to unfold His glory, not only that glory which is His essentially as God and Creator, but also that which is His by reason of His redemption work. This leads to a long but very necessary digression, which lasts until the end of the chapter; so much so that all these verses might be placed within brackets. We should then read straight from the word “Son” to the beginning of chapter 2. and find the sense complete. “God... hath... spoken unto us in His Son... therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed.” Indeed it is not until we arrive at verse 3 of chapter 2. that we discover what is the main drift and theme of this Divine speaking. It was “so great salvation which first began to be spoken by the Lord” (ch. 2:3). When God formulated His demands upon men it was sufficient that angels should serve Him, and that a man such as Moses should be His mouthpiece. Now that His great salvation’ is the theme the Son Himself comes forth and speaks.
However the immediate theme before us in chapter i. is the unique glory of the Son. Immediately He is mentioned our thoughts are swept forward to the moment when His glory shall be fully manifested, and then back to the moment when first it appeared, as far as all created beings are concerned. On the one hand He is the Heir not merely to David’s throne but of “all things,” and this expression covers things in the heavens and not only things on earth. On the other hand when the worlds were made He was the Maker of them. God created indeed, as we are told in Gen. 1:11In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1), but when the Persons are distinguished, as in this Scripture, creation is attributed not to the Father but to the Son. The Son-whom we know as our blessed Lord Jesus—was the mighty Actor in those creatorial scenes of inconceivable splendor.
Verse 3 brings before us three great things concerning Him. First, we have what He is, as the outshining of the glory of God and the exact expression of all that God is. Secondly, we are told what He has done. By
Himself He has done the work which purges sins away. How He did it we are not told for the moment, but we know it was by the death of the cross. Thirdly, where He is comes before us. He has taken His seat at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; that is, He sits in the place of supreme power, from whence everything shall in due season be administrated. How wonderfully these three things go together! The efficacy of the work that He did was dependent upon the fact of who and what He was; whilst the proof and demonstration of the efficacy of His work is found in where He is, in the fact that He is seated in the place of supreme power. If any believer in Jesus is still plagued with doubts and misgivings as to whether his sins are really and effectively purged away, let him look by faith to that seat on high where Jesus sits, and doubt no more!
In verse 3 we also find the wonderful fact that the Son is the Upholder of all things. The previous verse has set Him before us as the Creator of all, and as the One who shall inherit all things, now we discover that all things are upheld and hang together by the word of His power. We may talk sometimes about the laws of the universe. We may observe the working of the law of gravitation, though the real why and wherefore of it is unknown to us. We may even, before we are much older, have to listen to fickle “science” altering or overturning all that she had previously asserted as to these laws. Well, so be it! We know that THE LAW of the universe is the word of His power, and this is all that really matters. Any laws which we may observe, or think we observe, are very secondary, and should the leaders of scientific speculation suddenly reverse their pronouncements we shall not turn a hair.
Let us put this together then in brief fashion. The Son is the Creator, the Upholder and the Heir of all things. He is moreover the exact Expression of all that God is, being God Himself, and being that exact Expression He has come forth to be the Divine Spokesman on the one hand, and the Redeemer on the other. Had He spoken only we should all have been terrified; but as He has made purification for sins as well as speaking, we can receive with joy the revelation which He has made.
In verse 4 He is contrasted with angles, and this contrast is not merely mentioned and then dismissed; the theme is elaborated at considerable length, and continues to the end of the chapter. It is very definitely CONTRAST. In saying this we are pointing out one of the characteristic features of this epistle. As we proceed we shall find continued references to the old order of things, established when the law was given by Moses. These old and material things bore a certain resemblance to the new and spiritual things established and introduced by the Lord Jesus, and hence they were designed to act as patterns or types. Yet when these types are put alongside the realities which they typified an immense contrast is seen. As the heavens are high above the earth so the antitype exceeds the type. In our epistle the resemblance is taken for granted, and it is the contrast which is stressed.
It may be asked however, Why is the contrast with angels so elaborated, and even carried on into the next chapter? What is the point of it? Well, every Jew knew that angels played a very large part in connection with the giving of the law by Moses, though but little is said of them in Exodus. The words of Stephen, recorded in Acts 7:5353Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. (Acts 7:53) show this, as also the second verse of our second chapter. This display of angelic might gave a very powerful sanction to Moses and the law he brought them, in the minds of the people. And now there appears amongst men the Divine Spokesman, yet to them He is but Jesus of Nazareth, a humble and despised Man. There is no beauty about Him that they should desire Him or His words, nor is there any display of angels to accredit Him. It became therefore of the utmost importance to insist on the true glory of His person as being immeasurably above all angels. Had He been visibly attended by ten thousand times ten thousand, it would have added nothing to Him!
Two things are said in verse 4. First, He has a more excellent name than angels by inheritance; second, He has been made better than they. The words, “Being made,” may also be translated, “Having become,” or, “Taking a place.” The first refers to His superiority by reason of His Godhead glory; the second to the place He now occupies in Manhood, as the Accomplisher of redemption. And notice that His superiority is equally pronounced in both, as evidenced by these little words in the sentence, “SO... AS.” Read the verse again for yourself, and see.
These facts, as stated in verse 4, are supported and proved by a remarkable series of quotations from the Old Testament, extending from verse 5 to the end of the chapter. Let us just notice how the argument runs.
Verses 5 and 6 contain three quotations giving the pronouncements of God when introducing the Lord Jesus to men. They very definitely support what is said in verse 4, especially the statement as to His being better than angels by inheritance.
In verse 7 we have a quotation which plainly states the nature of angels and the reason why they exist. They are spirits in their nature and they exist as ministers to serve the Divine will. This is in contrast to what goes before and also to that which follows.
In verses 8 to 12 we get two quotations giving us utterances of God to Christ, in both of which He is addressed as Man and yet He is saluted as God and as the Creator.
In verse 13 comes the quotation giving the decree which has exalted Him to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and this, we are assured, is something which never was said to angels. They are but spirits who are glad to serve, according to the Divine will, such humble creatures as those who once were fallen sinners, but who shall be heirs of salvation. All this, and particularly verses 9 and 13, show us that He is better than angels, inasmuch as He has taken a place which is so much higher than theirs.
The first is deeply interesting for it shows that even as a Man born in time He is the Son of God. These words from Psa. 2 anticipate the virgin birth, and their fulfillment is announced in Luke 1:3535And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35). We may say they give us God’s utterance to Christ at His incarnation.
The second is remarkable as showing how the Holy Ghost always has Christ in view. Reading Samuel we might think that the words only referred to Solomon. Immediately, Solomon was in view, as the words following those quoted show; but ultimately, Christ was in view.
The third gives us the decree concerning Christ at the moment of His reintroduction into the world in power and glory; not His first coming, but His second. We read the Psalm and the “Him” is clearly Jehovah. We read Hebrews and the “Him” is clearly Christ. What does that teach us? Notice also that the term “gods” may be used of any who represent God, whether angels as here, or men as in Psa. 82:66I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. (Psalm 82:6),-the passage which the Lord Jesus quoted in John 10:3434Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? (John 10:34).
The fourth is what is said to the Son by God at the opening of the Millennial kingdom. He is a Man, for God is His God, yet He is addressed as God. As Man He has His fellows, or companions, yet He possesses a gladness which is above them—and how glad we are that He does!
The fifth gives us the divine word addressed to Him in the moments of His deepest humiliation and sorrow—we might almost say, in the garden of Gethsemane. He who is being cut off in the midst of His days is declared to be the mighty Creator, who shall ultimately consume or change all in creation which needs changing, and yet Himself remain eternally the same.
The sixth turns our thoughts to Christ as the risen One and gives us God’s utterance to Him as He ascended into the heavens. Thus we are conducted to the place where Christ is; and we are prepared to see Him there and to learn the meaning of His session in glory when we come to chapter 2.
All this wonderful unfolding of the excellence of our blessed Saviour is in order that we may be impressed with the greatness of the One in whom God has spoken to us. He is, as chapter 3:1 puts it, “the Apostle... of our profession.” An apostle is a “sent one,” one who comes forth from God to us, bringing the divine message. Our Lord Jesus has thus come forth, bringing us the complete divine revelation; only He is Himself God. This fact at once lifts all that He has said to us on to a plane far above all that went before. The prophets of old were fully inspired of God, and consequently all that they said was reliable and comes to pass, but they could never convey to us the revelation which we have in Christ.
Into the marvelous light of that revelation the Hebrews had been brought. And so have we, thanks be to God!
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