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Hebrews 1:2-3 - The Supremacy of Christ

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heb 1-1-3
Hebrews 1:1–3 NASB95
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. ()
The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were Jews who had either fully trusted in Christ, or had at least been confronted with the truth that Jesus Christ had initiated the New Covenant promised in Ezekiel and Jeremiah. They recognized that following Jesus required turning away from the Temple and its practices, which at best were just shadows of things to come. But they found themselves missing what took place on Mount Zion.
The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were Jews who had either fully trusted in Christ, or had at least been confronted with the truth that Jesus Christ had initiated the New Covenant promised in Ezekiel and Jeremiah. They recognized that following Jesus required turning away from the Temple and its practices, which at best were just shadows of things to come. But they found themselves missing what took place on Mount Zion.
The truth was that the Temple and its practices were complex and impressive. The Temple mount in Jerusalem occupied 35 acres, roughly 1,500 feet by 1,000 feet. By comparison, the temple to Athena in Athens, Greece – the Parthenon – occupied about 6.5 acres, and the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece, less than one acre. It was roughly the same size as the White House grounds in Washington D.C.. It was twice as big as Husker Memorial Stadium and its surroundings.
Within those 35 acres hundreds of priests served. They offered sacrifices, oversaw liturgies, taught, lectured, and mediated the Law of Moses, and administrated the wealth of Israel. There were chambers and rooms and halls – the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of 71 men, met at the Temple in a great hall. And of course, the sanctuary itself was the center of Israel’s life and faith. Services began at dawn, and continued throughout the day, until after night fall, following complex liturgies.
When a Jew believed in Jesus and was joined to His church, they left all the splendor and magnificence of the Temple, and entered into what seemed to be a much smaller, less impressive, common, plain, unadorned world. They met in homes, not the Temple. There was no priesthood or priestly garments or incense. There was no mediator present, just a man in plain clothes who read the Scriptures and explained them, calling upon those present to continue in faith, grow in sanctification, and persevere in the Lord. Psalms and hymns were sung, without accompaniment. They prayed together. They shared bread and wine in the name of Jesus – the very same bread and wine they ate at each meal. The gathering of Jesus’ disciples was unimpressive, plain, ordinary, common. Nothing made anyone ooh or aah.
They met in homes, not the Temple. There was no priesthood or priestly garments or incense. There was no mediator present, just a man in plain clothes who read the Scriptures and explained them, calling upon those present to continue in faith, grow in sanctification, and persevere in the Lord. Psalms and hymns were sung, without accompaniment. They prayed together. They shared bread and wine in the name of Jesus – the very same bread and wine they ate at each meal. The gathering of Jesus’ disciples was unimpressive, plain, ordinary, common. Nothing made anyone ooh or aah.
For some Jews, the change from splendor to simplicity was hard to take, and they were tempted to turn away from Jesus and back toward the religion into which they had been born.
This was not a minor issue for them; nor is it a minor issue now. Turning away from genuine faith in Christ for the sake of religion and ritual and tradition is a deadly error. The book of Hebrews was written to urge us not to fall away, but to persevere in the Lord Jesus.
The first and greatest reason to not fall away, but to press on in Christ, is Christ Himself. Much of the book of Hebrews is focused on the greatness of Jesus in a variety of ways. The author gives us a summary of the Lord in these opening verses.
This morning we are going to see the surpassing greatness of Jesus as Lord.
Next week we will continue and see the perfection of Jesus’ saving work.
Then we will finish the first chapter of Hebrews as it declares the supremacy of Jesus as King.
We’ll also take a week and look at what , and the rest of Scripture, tell us about angels.
We begin, then, with the surpassing greatness of Jesus as Lord.

Jesus is the Appointed Heir of All Things

of All Things

The word heir is not a special word. Many of us have inherited something from our parents: money, jewelry, perhaps a house or land, or some small heirloom.
It is not being an heir that makes Jesus special, but what He is heir to: all things. The language here is specific; it’s not merely that Jesus inherits everything in a general way, but that each and every specific thing belongs to Him, every single object in Creation.
The entire universe is His possession. Everything in the universe is His possession. I am His possession. You are His possession. My clothing belongs to Him. Your jewelry belongs to Him. The food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, all belong to Him.
What’s more, Jesus is appointed heir of all things. His inheritance is not merely a reward, but a responsibility. He has been made a steward of all creation, placed in the position of Lordship by the express will of the Father.
In the Father says to the Son,
psa 2 8-9
“Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” ()
Psalm 2:8 NASB95
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
says,
says,
For by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through [Jesus] and for [Jesus]. ()
Colossians 1:16 NASB95
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Moses is not the heir of anything. Israel does not inherit the Kingdom of God. It’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is made the heir of all things by the Father.
Moses is not the heir of anything. Israel does not inherit the Kingdom of God. It’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is made the heir of all things by the Father.
It is only reasonable that Jesus is appointed the heir of all things, because, after all …

Jesus is the One through whom God made the world

The word translated “world” can have different meanings, depending on the context. The context here makes it clear that “world” means “the universe itself and everything in it.” Jesus is the agent of creation, the means by which God created the universe and everything in it.
says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ()
John 1:1 NASB95
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So clearly, Jesus – the Word – is God Himself, Yahweh.
So clearly, Jesus – the Word – is God Himself, Yahweh.
All things came into being through Him [Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. ()
John 1:3 NASB95
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
So Jesus, the eternal Word is the agent of Creation for everything that has been made.
So Jesus, the eternal Word is the agent of Creation for everything that has been made.
says,
By the word of the Lord [Jesus] the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth [Jesus] all their host. ()
Psalm 33:6 NASB95
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host.
The New Testament continues this theme. says,
The New Testament continues this theme. says,
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God [Jesus], so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. ()
Hebrews 11:3 NASB95
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
Some false religions, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, teach that Jesus is the first created being, who created everything else. But the Bible clearly says that “what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” That is, no created being created anything. God created everything.
Some false religions, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, teach that Jesus is the first created being, who created everything else. But the Bible clearly says that “what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” That is, no created being created anything. God created everything.
Moses is not God. The Temple is not God. But Jesus Christ is God in human flesh.
In fact …

Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God

As with the word heir, the word radiance by itself is not special. Light radiates from the sun; heat radiates from a flame. The light is not the sun; the heat is not the flame.
But no analogy – even biblical analogies – can perfectly depict the nature of God. The light from the sun is not the sun, but Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God, IS God. He is called the radiance of the glory of God because it is only in Him that we can understand and know God. Jesus is not merely a means of knowing God, but the only means of knowing God.
John writes,
John 1:14 NASB95
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And the Word [the Son of God] became flesh [Jesus of Nazareth], and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth … and … No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father [the Son of God = the Word of God = Jesus], He has explained Him. (, )
John 1:18 NASB95
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, who revealed the glory of God, and explained God to us as fully as we can comprehend Him.
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, who revealed the glory of God, and explained God to us as fully as we can comprehend Him.
God’s glory is equal to God Himself.
Exodus 33:18 NASB95
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” But [Yahweh] said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (, )
Exodus 33:20 NASB95
But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
Do you see the theological math that takes place here? God’s glory = God’s face = God.
Do you see the theological math that takes place here? God’s glory = God’s face = God.
As the radiance of God, Jesus is the full and perfect manifestation of God, God the Son who reveals God in His fullness to Creation.
Jesus can do that because …

Jesus is the exact representation of the nature of God.

The word translated exact representation was used to describe the die used to make a coin in the ancient world. The same terms are used today. When the US Mint makes a quarter today, it begins with an approved carving which is much larger than a coin. That carving is reproduced at the size of a coin by a computerized milling machine, which creates a die called a master hub. The master hub is used to make a working hub, and the working hub is used to make the dies used to stamp quarters. Each of these is identical to the original, a perfect reproduction.
Likewise, Christ is the perfect, exact representation of God. But again, the analogy breaks down. When making coins, the dies must be identical to the master image in appearance. But when we speak of the three Persons of the Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – they are more than identical in appearance. They are identical in nature and essence. They are One God in Trinity, One God who is Three Persons.
This is why, when Philip asked to see the Father, Jesus responded,
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? ()
John 14:9 NASB95
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
The Athanasian Creed describes what we see in Scripture:
The Athanasian Creed describes what we see in Scripture:
We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity … All the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is … the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty, and yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty … so the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet they are not three Gods, but one God … and so the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord, and yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
All the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is …
the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty, and yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty …
so the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet they are not three Gods, but one God …
and so the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord, and yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
Being fully God, being the appointed heir of all things, being the very radiance of the glory of God, and the exact representation of all that God is, it shouldn’t surprise us that …

Jesus is the One who upholds all things by the Word of His power.

The word upholds means that Jesus actively maintains and carries each and every thing in creation, all the time.
We are fond of saying things like “God intervened,” or “things were going bad, and then God showed up!” These statements are wrong, though. They give the impression that God is largely away, absent, hands-off His creation, just passively watching, and occasionally reaching down to make an adjustment.
The Bible gives a radically different picture. God is active, all the time. He is constantly at work. He never ceases; He never stops; He never slows down; He never takes a break.
Jesus said that God the Father feeds the birds of the air, and clothes the grass of the field (, ). He said that not one sparrow is ignored by God, who even numbers the hairs on our heads ().
And He does even more. He doesn’t just provide for the creation that is here; He upholds creation itself. In Him – in Christ – all things hold together (). He holds the smallest particles of atoms together. And He holds the largest known star, NML Sygni, which would fill more than half of our solar system.

Bringing it Home

The original recipients of this letter missed the pageantry of the Temple, the glitter, the ceremonies and rituals, of the religion in which they were raised. They were tempted by the grandeur of the Temple, the drama of the priesthood and offerings, and the complex liturgy of the old religion.
They confused outward spectacle with inward substance, and they wondered if the unimpressive nature of the church meant that Jesus Himself was less than Moses.
Jesus Christ is God, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is Creator of each and every thing, the Heir of each and every thing, and the Sustainer of each and every thing.
He created all things by His Word, and He Himself IS the very Word of God; He also upholds each and every thing by the Word of His power.
So Hebrews reminds us of the greatness of our God and Savior, and warns us not to be fooled by the empty show of human religion.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. but my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. ()
Hebrews 10:35–39 NASB95
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
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