Jesus is Better (2)
In the previous article we looked at the first four reasons why Jesus is better as found in the portrayal of him in Hebrews 1:1-4. I want us to pick up on that theme and see what else our author says about the Son of God, our Savior. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article we looked at the first four reasons why Jesus is better as found in the portrayal of him in Hebrews 1:1-4. I want us to pick up on that theme and see what else our author says about the Son of God, our Savior. Here again is the passage:
“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).
(5) Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power (v. 3c)
One of the most destructive heresies the church has battled is known as Deism. Deism emerged in the 17th century and eventually made its way to America. The Deists argued that once God created the universe and everything within it, he in essence packed up his bags and left town. Or more accurately he left the universe. He wound up the world like a gigantic clock and now simply lets it run by its own power. He does not intervene to perform miracles. He does not providentially direct the affairs of mankind. He does not invade our world to answer our prayers. He is distant and remote and altogether uninvolved in the affairs of mankind.
That’s not what the Bible teaches! Again, we’ve already seen this in Romans 11:36 in the use of that glorious preposition “through” – “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” It’s important to understand the difference between creation, preservation, andprovidence. In creation, Christ calls all things into existence out of nothing. In preservation, Christ sustains all things in existence. This is what Colossians 1:17 means when it says that “in him all things hold together.” But in providence, he takes all that he has created and is currently preserving and directs it toward its proper end and conclusion.
The idea here, then, is not that Christ passively bears up or holds up in providing support for the universe, as if he were like the mythological Atlas who bears up the weight of the world on his shoulders. Rather, he “carries along” everything to its appointed goal. The notion of direction and purpose is involved. He organizes, orchestrates, and orders all things so that they achieve what God created them for. And please note that the word translated “universe” (ESV) is actually “all things” in the original text. It is exhaustive in its scope and all-inclusive in its range. Nothing is exempt. Every “thing,” whether great or small, whether important or mundane, is being upheld and carried along by the risen Christ to its appointed goal.
And he does this by the “word of his power” or by his “powerful word”. All this to say that he merely speaks and the power generated by his word sustains and upholds and gives direction and purpose to everything! Your kidneys and pancreas and freckles and flesh and the chair on which you sit and the ground beneath your feet and the air you breathe and the shirt on your back and the car which you drive and the soccer ball you kick and the love that you feel and the joy you experience and the people next to you this morning have all been created by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and are all upheld in existence by him such that if he were for a mere millisecond to withdraw his power everything would literally vaporize. And all this, and everything else, is subject to his sovereign authority and is being directed and orchestrated to reach its God-ordained end.
What we are seeing here is utterly contrary to all modern scientific thought. To the atheistic naturalist, material existence or physical stuff is the first, foundational, and final reality in the universe. The only thing that ultimately we can know or trust is what can be seen or felt or smelled or heard. Physical stuff, so they tell us, is the measure of all things real.
But the author of Hebrews says otherwise. He says that the ultimate and foundational reality of existence is Jesus Christ and his powerful, creative, sustaining, providential Word. And the only reason there even is a physical reality to be touched and tasted and seen and enjoyed is because Christ made it and upholds it in being.
Perhaps we should pause and catch our breath.
(6) Jesus made purification for sins (v. 3d)
We could spend an entire sermon on this one statement alone, but let’s briefly note several things. First, “he” made purification for sins. The forgiveness that we experience isn’t the product of some natural law built into the physical creation. And it wasn’t an angel who dealt with our sins. No mathematical formula or philosophical theory could accomplish this. Jesus did it. And what did he do?
He made purification for sins. Note the past tense: “made”. As John Piper has reminded us, he isn’t “making” purification now. It’s not as if each time you mess up and commit some sin that Jesus has to rush back into the scene and provide yet another sacrifice. Nor does it say that he “will” make purification, as if we are left hanging and wondering if our sins will be among those that are purified. No. He “made” purification: this is finished, final, once-for-all atonement. Everything required by an infinitely holy God to overcome and remove the barrier that your sin had created between you and him has been done. It’s over. It only remains for you to repent and believe it and lay hold of Christ by faith.
And it was from our “sin” that we needed purification. Jesus didn’t come to bail us out of financial distress. He didn’t come to provide a curriculum of study to improve our education. He didn’t come to articulate a psychological formula that would help us feel better about ourselves. Financial distress and ignorance and low self-esteem are not our greatest problem. The single greatest threat to the well-being of our souls now and for eternity is our sin: our unbelief, our idolatrous trust in things other than God, our self-indulgent efforts to make life work without him, our prideful arrogance in thinking that we can make it on our own and don’t need anyone else’s assistance.
Our sin has defiled our souls. It has soiled our hearts. It has rendered us morally filthy and unclean in the sight of an infinitely beautiful and holy and righteous God. And the one thing we needed most to be done has been done fully and finally by Jesus: by the shedding of his blood on a cross in the place of sinners he has rendered them pure and clean. He has done everything necessary to make it possible for them to stand before God guiltless, righteous, pure, and holy.
Some mistakenly think along these lines: “I sinned a whole lot before I came to know and trust Christ. I lived a miserably rebellious life of immorality and self-indulgence. And it’s so good to be assured that the guilt of all my past sins has been wiped clean. But I’m still a bit concerned about tomorrow and next week and ten years from now. Will Jesus be there to cleanse those sins too?” Listen: all your sin, past, present, and future has been purified by the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Yes, that sin you committed 12 years ago and that sin you’ll commit 26 years down the road. Christ died for them all. The penalty has been paid.
This, by the way, is the gospel! The gospel is the simple but breathtaking truth that Jesus Christ has provided for sinners a perfect sacrifice for sin that will cleanse and purify them and provide for them a righteousness in which they can stand.
Let the author of Hebrews forever seal this truth on your soul:
“He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb. 7:27).
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:24-26).
And what did he do once this task was complete?
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).
Which brings us to our seventh and final reason why Jesus is better. Come back tomorrow!