Jesus is Better1
Here at Bridgeway Church in OKC we are slowly making our way through the Epistle to the Hebrews on Sunday morning. We recently concluded chapter 4. If you have not had the opportunity to closely study Hebrews you have greatly missed out on one of the more glorious portrayals of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture. And why is that important? Continue reading . . .
Here at Bridgeway Church in OKC we are slowly making our way through the Epistle to the Hebrews on Sunday morning. We recently concluded chapter 4. If you have not had the opportunity to closely study Hebrews you have greatly missed out on one of the more glorious portrayals of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture. And why is that important?
Well, it’s not important in the same sense we might say that it’s important to decide which fraternity or sorority you pledge when you first enter college. This isn’t a response or a decision on the level of deciding if you will support my hometown OKC Thunder basketball team. And as significant as your vote for a Presidential candidate may be, it differs greatly with what you ultimately do with this person who is described in Hebrews 1:1-4. Here’s how important your response to Jesus is: On it hangs suspended heaven and hell. In other words, we’re dealing here with eternal life versus eternal death. That’s how important it is!
Let me take a brief moment and speak directly to anyone who is straddling the fence on what to believe about and do in response to the claims of the Bible concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Please understand that I can’t persuade you of the truth of these statements about Jesus. All I can do, to the best of my ability, is to explain what they mean. I can paint a picture of who he is and what he has done, but in the final analysis the Holy Spirit has to give you eyes to see and a heart to believe. My aim, then, is to try to make sense of what our author says and to encourage you to think and ponder and pray about whether you find Jesus to be, in actual factual reality, what this passage claims for him.
As for those who are already Christians, I hope your confidence and faith in the identity and accomplishments of Jesus Christ are enlarged and intensified and that, as a result, your love and admiration for him and your commitment to follow, serve, and worship him grow ever more passionate and pointed.
The overall theme of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is better! Jesus is better than all that preceded him in the Old Testament. What Jesus offers men and women is better than anything anyone else can possibly imagine. Hebrews 1:1-4, like so many others in the letter, tells us why. It gives us reasons why Jesus is better. And there are seven of them. Here is the text:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Heb. 1:1-4).
(1) Jesus has been appointed the heir of all things (v. 2b)
At the conclusion of Paul’s hymn of praise to Christ in Colossians 1, the apostle says that “all things were created through him and for him” (v. 16). He said much the same in Romans 11:36, declaring: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To be him be glory forever. Amen.”
What does it mean to say that everything that exists exists “for” Christ and is “to” Christ? These prepositions are brief summary statements of what the author of Hebrews has in mind when he says that Jesus is the “heir” of all things.
In all likelihood, everyone reading this article either already has or someday will inherit something. It may be a lot or it may be very little. But for you to become an heir someone else has to die. You take possession of something previously not your own when someone writes you into their will and then passes away. But we can’t read this passage in those terms. Our author has something different in mind.
It has been the purpose of God the Father from eternity past that God the Son should inherit all things. That doesn’t mean the Father has to die for his Son to inherit all things. God is eternal and cannot die. Furthermore, it certainly doesn’t appear at present that Jesus owns it all. But in the end, when Christ returns to this earth, he will take visible ownership of everything. Everything will be subject to his disposal, whether land or sea or stars or bugs or gold or dirt or demons or sub-atomic particles or books or individual human beings. Everything will be his, not just in title but in actual reality.
Take but one example. In Matthew 5:5 Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jesus can say this because the earth will be his to give to whomever he pleases. In fact, we will be co-heirs with Christ of all things. Paul wrote in Romans 8:16-17a, “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” That’s stunning! Christ inherits everything and by grace makes us co-heirs together with him that we might share in his possession of and rule over the whole of creation.
How does it affect you to think that everything you are and own belongs to Jesus? Should that not greatly transform how we make use of what we have: our time, our possessions, our wealth, our opportunities, our influence? This is who Jesus is: the heir and owner and Lord over all things.
(2) Jesus is the one through whom God created the world (v. 2c)
And of course it only makes sense that he should inherit everything. After all, he created everything! This universe of physical and spiritual reality is not eternal. There was a time when there was nothing except God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Until such time as the Father said to the Son, “Say it. Do it.” And the Son said: “Be!” And it was done!
The word translated “worlds” is literally “the ages” (pl.). It points to all that exists in the world under the conditions of time. He specifically has in mind the many eras and epochs and ages of time and history and all that occurs and everything that exists within them.
God the Son, who became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, created the whole created universe of time and space and every single solitary particle, molecule, atom, quark, proton, neutron, electron, and neutrino that is. Contrast this with a worker on the assembly line at Ford Motor company in Detroit. My guess is that when a vehicle rolls off the line he might be inclined to say, with a measure of pride, “I created that!” But the fact is, he only assembled it. Someone else made the metal and plastic and leather and hoses and glass and rubber that together constitute the many parts of that vehicle.
But Jesus created everything! He didn’t merely assemble the parts of what already existed. He called into being out of nothing everything that is or ever will be. Every raw material, however large and imposing or tiny and invisible, he created.
This again is what Paul had in mind in Romans 11:36 when he declared, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” Again, in Colossians 1:16 we read, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”
(3) Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (v. 3a)
Who is it that has been appointed the heir of all things? Who is it that created everything that is? Who is it that upholds all things by his powerful word and made purification for sin and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Answer: He is the one who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his character.
Let’s take the first of these: “he is the radiance of the glory of God.”
Do you remember what it was like at the end of a long and dreary winter when the clouds had obscured your vision of the sun. But spring is just about here and most days you’ll be able to walk outside and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays and gaze on their brilliance. The sun cannot exist without the emission of its rays. The rays only exist because they extend the power and brightness and heat of the sun. The sun’s rays are the sun’s glory shining forth. We see and experience the sun through the rays. The rays are the sun shining.
Of course, all analogies with nature are limited and eventually break down, but the point here is that Jesus radiates the very nature and glory of God. To see him is to see God. To ask the question, What is God like? can only be answered by looking at the glory and brilliance revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. The glory of God is in the Son and the Son is that glory shining forth.
The glory of God finds its perfect expression in the Son as its effulgence.
(4) Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature (v. 3b)
But he is yet more! The words translated “exact imprint” refer to an engraved character or impress made by a die or a seal, as, for example, on a coin. Jesus is the perfect, personal imprint of God! Whatever God is can be seen and touched and known and enjoyed in Jesus. Jesus is God made visible. You need never again wonder what God thinks or what is important to him or what he loves or hates. Just look at and listen to Jesus!
Those are the first four of seven reasons Jesus is infinitely better than and superior to anyone else. We’ll look at the fifth and sixth reasons in the next article and then conclude with the seventh.