Bible Book Studies: Hebrews 1

Since I finished the Chronological Bible blog series last week (in which I spent a year reading through and commenting on the Bible in chronological event order), it’s time for me to start another series of Bible commentary blogs. I’ve had a couple of readers suggest some ideas. One suggested that I blog through a series of studies on the book of Hebrews. Another suggested that I comment on the Bible and its connections to science, evolution, the age of the earth, etc. I like both of these ideas and plan to do them. So, I’m initiating two Bible study series called the Bible Book Studies and the Bible Topical Studies. I’ll link the studies together using these two descriptors as Categories so it will be easy to find other parts of the series. In my own personal reading, though, I still will be re-reading the Chronological Bible again, as I’ve done for about the past six or seven years.

I mentioned in a blog a few weeks ago a passage from Hebrews 12 and discussed the authorship of the book. Hebrews is a New Testament book in which no author clearly claims authorship. Historically, Paul has been suggested, as well as some of the other individuals associated with Paul, namely Priscilla, Apollos, and Barnabas. I don’t think it matters too much who the author is as long as we rely on the historical stance of the early church that the book bears the marks of authenticity and inspiration by the Holy Spirit. I personally lean toward Paul as the author. Paul said, regarding his fellow Jews in Romans 10:1-3, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Earlier, in Romans 9:3-5, he also said “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Paul had an earnest desire to see his fellow Jew repent and recognize their Messiah. Yet when he wrote the letter to the Romans, he was about to head to Jerusalem knowing how much the Jews hated him and his message. It makes sense to me that he could have written the book of Hebrews, a treatise on the deity and messiahship of Jesus, and purposely avoided linking the book to himself in hopes that more Jews would be willing to read it with an open heart and mind.

Regardless of the author, let’s dive into the beginning of this important text. Hebrews Chapter 1 says

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 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. 3 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, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”

8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Jesus is superior over all created things

The author begins his treatise by asserting the superiority of Jesus over all things. He first asserts that Jesus is superior to the Jewish prophets (vs. 1-2). Then he points out that Jesus (cf. John 1:1, in which Jesus is equated with God’s Word) was the means through which everything was created and through which everything is able to hold together (vs. 2-3). Jesus is equated with God Himself, identified as both the radiance of God and the exact imprint of Him (vs. 3). Finally, he identifies that Jesus completed the task of providing purification for sin (we’ll discuss this at a later time) and is now seated at the right-hand of God (vs. 3).

The rest of chapter 1 focuses on Jesus’ superiority over angels. First century Jews held special reverence for angels as God’s chosen messengers (they are), their protection on behalf of Jews (they do), and their role in pronouncing God’s judgments and laws (they did). So, the author spends extra time here building the case that Jesus is superior to any angels. The author quotes Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 89:26-27 (in vs. 5); Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 97:7 (in vs. 6); Psalm 104:4, Psalm 45:6-7, Isaiah 61:1-3 (in vs. ,   7-9); Psalm 102:25-27 (in vs. 10-12); and Psalm 110:1 (in vs. 13). The significance of this flow of argument is two-fold. First, the author demonstrates his own familiarity with the Jewish scriptures, bolstering his credentials for being able to speak intelligently from the scripture. Second, he is able to show that the scriptures themselves clearly make a distinction between angels and someone who would be deemed superior to the angels, and yet someone who is not an angel but equates with God Himself.

Chapter two (which I’ll discuss next week) begins with the word “therefore”. Anytime you see this word in scripture, it’s important to be clear on the arguments that have just been made. I’ll discuss this again next week, but the “therefore” is going to rely on this argument that Jesus is both separate from and superior to the angels, and that Jesus is key to the creation and operation of the universe.

This is the key point for this week. Jesus is superior to EVERYTHING. Don’t just call him your friend – he is God. Don’t just call him a good teacher (although he is) – he is the AUTHOR of all wisdom and all that exists. Don’t call him one rabbi among many – he is the ONLY one that carries the distinction of being the son of God, the incarnation of God, the word of God, the exact imprint of God’s eternal, holy, nature. Jesus is THE most important and significant human (yes, he is both human and God, simultaneously – we’ll look at this later as well) ever to have lived, and he is still alive today, having died once and risen from the dead.

It’s important to point out that this is not the end of the argument about the superiority of Jesus. In fact, that’s what the entire book of Hebrews is really about. We should look at this first chapter, and the “therefore” section of Chapter 2, as the opening statement in a court case. The premise of the case to be presented is laid out here. Then, we’ll begin to examine in more detail the evidence and eyewitness accounts from which our conclusions should ultimately be drawn.

As I write these blog posts, I encourage you to examine them carefully and do your own research. Don’t just take what I say, but examine it, test it, question it, and then apply what you learn. I hope you apply today’s central theme – Jesus is superior to EVERYTHING and should be treated as such. I encourage you to comment with your thoughts, questions, or challenges to what I write.

2 thoughts on “Bible Book Studies: Hebrews 1

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