Hebrews 1:1-4 Jesus Christ: The Final Word WC McCarter
You will notice that, for the book of Hebrews, there is no formal introduction as in a letter. There are no greetings, there are no prayers, and no name is stated for the sender or the recipient. For this reason, many have called this a sermon. We actually do not know what man wrote this book or to whom he was writing it. Many suggestions have been made for the sender and recipient. It is reasonable to believe that Apollos wrote it to congregations in
Apollos was a well spoken, educated, and influential man who knew the
Scriptures and believed in Christ. The city of Rome had many congregations by the time this
was written (maybe in the AD 60’s), and there were many Jewish Christians
living in the Empire’s capital. What we can be certain about is the fact that
the document known as Hebrews was uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews
has made it into the New Testament, the canon of Holy Scripture, because of
what it declares. Isn’t that an awesome thought? The book is powerful in many
ways, but especially in its proclamation of the excellency and preeminence of
Christ in all things and its exhortations to believers to continue on in what
they have heard. Rome
From the beginning of the sermon, the author dives head first into the deep end of theology and doctrine. These believers had heard the Gospel and believed; now they needed to mature in it. The same is true of us today. You have heard the Gospel. You have believed it. Now there is a great need for you to spiritually mature in the faith you heard from the beginning. This is called discipleship and sanctification. Discipleship is to leave the milk of the word behind in order to move on to solid meat. It is to press on in your learning. The Christian life is not about hearing and believing in the beginning only. It is to become a life-long learner of Jesus Christ, an eternity-long student of the great I AM. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy. In the beginning of your Christian life, when you first believed and were united to Christ, you were placed in a position of holiness “in Christ.” God the Father looked at you and said that you are holy. Now, for the rest of your life, the Lord calls you to move toward actually becoming holy. This is called progressive sanctification. God has called you holy, now you must become holy. The book of Hebrews will help us, encourage us, warn us, and equip us to press on in discipleship and sanctification. There is much to learn and apply to ourselves.
In today’s sermon, there is one thing that you need to know from the passage: Jesus Christ, the Son of God is the final word. He is God’s final revelation. The first four verses make up one long sentence in the Greek New Testament. This one long sentence is written to demonstrate how God has always been a speaking God, but now His speaking is complete. His final word has been spoken. The final revelation has been made manifest. The Word has put on flesh, dwelt among us, purged our sins, and has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Speaking God (1-2a)
God is not a silent God. He has not remained in a heavenly place, far away from His creation. He has constantly spoken and revealed Himself. From the beginning, God spoke the worlds into existence. He spoke and heaven and earth were created. He spoke and light came into the world.
God spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets. He revealed himself to our ancestors long ago. He did so at various times and in various ways. The Old Testament covers much of human history, especially in relation to the formation of the Jewish people. It was written over a long period of time as well. Think, also, about the variety of ways that God revealed Himself in the Old Testament period. He did so by dreams, visions, mighty acts, appearances, commands, promises, and more. As glorious as those revelations and events were, they are now seen as incomplete when compared to the final revelation that has come through the One who is Son.
Descriptions of the Son (2b-3a)
The Son is heir of all things. The Son has entered into the fruition of His Sonship as heir of all things in His heavenly place. To be Son and Heir is to fulfill a role. In that role, our Lord became flesh, was obedient on earth, offered Himself for sins, and is now exalted. This is what it means to be the Son of God which is why He is unique.
The Son made the worlds (universe). The One who is heir of all things is the One who made all things. The word “worlds” can also mean “ages.” He is the Creator of the ages. As Creator, He is sovereign over all things.
The Son is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the Son is the express image of the Father’s person (the exact representation of His being). “Brightness” means “radiance.” This is a great picture of how Christ is the full revelation of God. It is not a reflected glory. He IS the glory of God. He is not like the moon which is a mere reflection of the sun. He is the radiance of the sun. To be even more exact, no one has ever actually seen the sun, but we have seen the radiant beams of light which emanate from the sun. No one has ever seen God, but Christ has made Him known. Christ has shown us God. When you see Him, you see God. When you hear Him, you hear God. When you worship Him, you worship God. “Thus the Son is a perfect ‘imprint’ of the ‘very being’ of God” (Cockerill, 94). Together, these two phrases, “. . . preserve the distinctness of the Son while affirming that the finality of his revelation is based on his identity with the God he reveals” (Cockerill, 94).
The Son upholds all things by His powerful word. The One who is heir of all things is the One who has created all things. He is the same One who sustains all things. The wording actually tells us more than His sustaining work. He is the One who directs the ages. He is orchestrating all things to bring them to their intended purpose, God’s purpose. His ultimate purposes are to make purification for sins and return to rule with His people in a restored and cleansed kingdom. “Bearing all by His powerful word” is a phrase referring to deity.
The Son’s Work is Complete (3b)
The Son’s mission on earth was to purge our sins, to make purification for sins. “Purged” means “cleansed.” He intends to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, to remove all of the pollution of sin, and to remove the barrier between humanity and God. He completed that mission and afterward sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He has done what we cannot do. He has paid the price for sin that was far too lofty for any of us to pay. The debt is clear. The wrath of God is satisfied for all those who are in Christ. He has borne the penalty for our sins as our substitute.
Better than the Angels (4)
Christ has always been far better than the angels, but “became” much better in a new way when He sat down after completing the plan of redemption. As great as you may think that the angels are, Christ is far greater. The author of Hebrews begins his letter (sermon) by declaring that Jesus Christ is far better than the angels. The Jews of the first century had an obsession with angels much like our culture today. Angels are considered awesome beings, superior, elegant, authoritative, and much more. However great you may think angels are, the book of Hebrews says, Christ is considerably more excellent.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) The entire letter to the Hebrews was written with one reason in mind: to encourage Christians who were faltering in their faith. It is a call to endure. Those Christians in the first century were facing brutal persecution from the Jews and later even the Romans. The message they needed to hear was that they had made the right choice by coming to Christ. We need to hear the same message today. No, we have not faced the same persecution that they did, but this world is alluring. But listen, the truth of the matter is that God has spoken in these last days by His Son. We do well to listen. If not, we are only building up wrath for ourselves for the last day.