When we read the Bible, especially the books that come after the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we may be used to the usual greetings that Paul writes, or some sort of introduction about who each book is addressed to (or from). However, in the book of Hebrews, the author kind of jumps right in, and almost immediately starts to talk about the Son of God.
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.
Hebrews 1:1-4 NIV
I guess that’s not a bad place to start!
In this context, let’s take a look at several attributes of Jesus:
Jesus is Truth: Jesus said as much to His disciples, as recorded in John 14:6. In addition, God proved this through a number of forms of evidence, including Jesus’ fulfilment of prophecies in Scripture (as well as His own prophecies), God the Father raising Jesus from the dead (to verify that Jesus was indeed who He said He was), and the Holy Spirit attesting to Jesus through those who had faith in Him.
However, Jesus isn’t just some abstract truth, like a fact for us to merely acknowledge. He spoke to us and gave us important instructions that we must heed and act upon (see John 6:67-69), in order to receive the blessings that He promised.
Jesus is Creator and Sustainer: I’m not sure if we know exactly how each of the three persons of God were involved in the creation of the universe, but we know that multiple persons of God were there (Genesis 1:26). Colossians 1:15-20 also talks about God the Son’s role in creation.
Jesus as Sustainer is a little more interesting. We may take for granted that the world keeps running, just the way that God created it. However, phrases like “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (here), and “in him all things hold together” (from Colossians 1:17), seem to imply an ongoing, active role of Jesus in maintaining how the universe works.
Jesus is Savior: We should already know this, especially through recent articles from the book of Galatians, where faith in Jesus is our means of justification (becoming righteous before God, not expecting the law to save us through our own works, but rather having faith in Jesus’ salvation). This is a slightly different illustration, though, and a good reminder: Jesus “provided purification for sins” (verse 3).
Jesus is Heir and Ruler: While Jesus demonstrated humility here on earth (Matthew 11:28-30) even to the point of accepting death (Philippians 2:5-11), and He served others (John 13:1-17), God did not leave God the Son in a lowly role.
Jesus came to the world in humble circumstances, but He will return as a king. He was “appointed heir of all things”, and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”. While Jesus called His disciples friends (see John 15:9-17, John 21:1-14), we would do well to remember that He is a mighty king, as well.
Jesus is Superior: A lot of credit is given to angels in some circles, and I don’t think that this is necessarily wrong. God sent angels to do things throughout Scripture, and He can do so today. Having said that, I don’t claim to be an expert on knowing when someone was helped by an angel of God, versus God working in some other way.
However, there is an important fact that we must consider when God’s angels – His messengers – tell us something or do something for us: This angelic action is done at the command of God. While an angel may be the means by which we are informed or helped, God is the power and wisdom behind those activities. As a result, God deserves the credit and the glory for what His angels do.
In fact, the same should be true of us, as ambassadors and followers of Jesus: When God calls us to tell His good news to someone else, or to serve according to His will, the credit doesn’t belong to us. After all, we only exist because He created us, and we should be living according to His wise guidance. I think that it’s OK to say “thank you” when someone recognizes your work for God, but let us make good use of opportunities to point people right back to Him (and, invite them to join us).
Jesus is God: To a Hebrew (that is, Jewish) audience, understanding who Jesus was in relationship to God is pretty important. (For that matter, this is important to the rest of us who aren’t Jewish, too.)
This Messiah (or Christ) who had been prophesied to the Jewish people turned out to be the Son of God, and not just a good prophet or other normal human being used by God (although there were plenty of those throughout history). Jesus is also “the radiance of God’s glory”, which may have reminded Jewish readers of the glory of God on Mount Sinai, when they were given instructions on what it meant to be God’s chosen people. And, Jesus is “the exact representation of his being” (i.e., God’s being). We might say that Jesus has the nature of God (see Philippians 2:6). After all, He is God (John 10:30).
Usually, when someone says that they are “putting someone in their place”, they mean to put them down. However, these initial verses from Hebrews remind us that Jesus is in a high and exalted place, and we should keep that in mind, so that we don’t drift away from following Him.
And, if these verses are interesting to you, why not continue reading the rest of the way through the book of Hebrews?
From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 5, 2021
- The Lookout, September 5, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse. College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.