Today we are beginning a new study in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I preached through it years ago, I’m not sure how long ago now. In fact, I can’t find my old notes. So I’m approaching it this time with a completely fresh perspective, hopefully one that has been enriched after preaching through the whole New Testament which we just finished with the book of Mark last week.
Many, many years ago, I used to have a part time job on the beach right over there every morning for a few hours. My job, for which I hope I was over qualified, was to chase people off the beach who wanted to walk their dogs. It was not a very fulfilling job to say the least. But I was attempting to supplement my income while I was starting this church and that seemed to be something I could do. The good part of it though was I was able to spend a lot of time talking with the Lord and meditating on his word. I used to bring my Bible and read it between canine interlopers. And for some reason, as I was reading and praying, I felt moved to try to memorize the entire book of Hebrews.
Well, I was unsuccessful. Ambition alone is not a guarantee of success, I’m afraid. But I did manage to get about as far as chapter 4. Chapter one is not that tough. In fact, the first few verses are considered as some of the greatest prose in the Bible. But as you move along, and start encountering all of those Old Testament quotations, which seem to repeat themselves, it can be quite a challenge to keep it all straight in your mind. And I’m afraid that my mind has been scrambled a few too many times back in the days of my youth.
Today, I think I would be lucky to even quote the first three verses correctly. But still, I think there is great benefit to memorizing scripture. I can’t tell you how often I have called up some phrase or even a complete verse by memory that perfectly fits into a situation that I am experiencing. I think God can use that to speak to you. And I believe there is a special blessing of God that accompanies memorizing His word. I would encourage you to make a practice of it as part of your regular devotions. Psalm 139 says, “your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
I would also encourage you over the next few months to read the book of Hebrews through. It is a phenomenal sermon that teaches so much doctrine, and connects the story of redemption in the Old Testament with the New Testament in a way that other books of the Bible do not. There are more Old Testament quotations in Hebrews than in any other New Testament book. About 29 quotations and 53 allusions from the Old Testament. I believe you will be particularly blessed if you read through this book as we are studying it. We are going to be in it for a number of weeks, perhaps about a year or so. So you will hopefully have read it through many times during that time period, and I think you will get a lot more out of the messages.
Now I could spend the whole time today introducing the book, but I don’t want to do that. I will say by way of introduction that the author of Hebrews is unknown. Who the author might be has been the subject of intense debate sense the second century. Conservative commentators agree that it was probably written around AD 67, before the destruction of the temple, because the author speaks so much of the temple, and he does so without any indication that it has been destroyed. The temple was destroyed in 70AD, so it would seem from that, as well as from other internal as well as external evidence that it was written before that time.
As to the question of who wrote it, I can only tell you who others have thought was the author. Clement of Alexandria said that Paul wrote it in Hebrew and Luke translated into Greek. But many commentators believe that the language does not suggest Paul’s style. It seems to be someone who was educated in classical Greek. Paul was a Hebrew, and his Greek, by his own admission, was considered as rough.
Others have suggested that Apollos wrote it, I believe that was Martin Luther’s suggestion. That sounds intriguing, but no other writings exist from Apollos to compare it to. Barnabas was another very early suggestion. My favorite, I suppose, would be Luke. As a doctor, he would have had the classical education, He was a natural born Greek, and He would have been uniquely equipped to the style of argument that was popular with Paul, since he was the constant companion of Paul for many years. But the fact is, we do not know who wrote it. However, we do know that the book was widely accepted by the earliest of the church fathers as part of the canon of inspired scripture, and thus ultimately authored by the Holy Spirit.
Now there is much more that can be said in introduction, but I am going to leave that as it stands this morning, and dive into the book. You can do your own homework and pursue some of the background information further if you want. But I want to get into what God has said in this book of Hebrews in the short time we have left this morning.
Jesus said in John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” But how do we know the truth about God? Paganism is man determining god as he imagined him. Virtually all religions, ancient and modern, ascribe to God an invisible nature, at least as far as mere mortals are concerned. And so recognizing that He is invisible, immortal, they then imagine various attributes of God, according to their own imagination, which is nothing more than superstition. The point is, unless God chooses to reveal himself to us, we cannot know him. We may realize certain invisible attributes of God by studying what the creation reveals about it’s maker. For instance, we might learn a little about the nature of an artist by studying his artwork. And the greater the amount of art we have to study, then the more we might infer regarding the artist. And such is true with God. Romans 1 tells us that creation itself teaches us certain attributes of God, mainly his eternal nature and that He exists. Some people stop right there. They essentially worship nature, rather than the Creator. And that too is paganism. But even if we have all of creation to study, we will still fall far short in really knowing God, so that we might worship him in truth. The only way we might really know Him, is if He decides to reveal himself to us.
The author tells us that God spoke in ancient times to the fathers in the prophets, in various times and various ways. God revealed himself partially, progressively down through the ages, successively adding revelation upon revelation. Undoubtedly, the greatest father was no less than Adam, who after the fall must have been able to relate to several generations after him the glories of God. Adam actually lived 930 years, within a generation of the time of Noah. And then God spoke through Noah, then to Abraham, to Moses and then a host of minor prophets, adding revelation upon revelation. God spoke in various ways, through dreams, through a burning bush, through smoke and fire, but always through His prophets. However, for thousands of years, this revelation was still only a partial revealing of God, and of His plan to redeem man from the fall. There remained a better way, a more complete revelation of God, and that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God spoke most completely, through Jesus Christ.
What the author of Hebrews is telling us in these opening verses, is that God has chosen to reveal himself, and He revealed Himself in His incarnation in human flesh, who is Jesus Christ. God has spoken to us in His Son. John makes the same argument in his gospel in chapter 1 starting in vs 1, identifying the Son as the Word, who was with God in the beginning, who was God, and through whom the world was made, and then who came to the world, revealed in human flesh, and dwelt among us on earth. It isn’t so much that Jesus brought a message from the Father; He is a message from the Father. The idea is that Jesus is far more than the latest or best prophet. He has revealed something no other prophet could.
Also we should take note that the author says, “in these last days He has spoken to us in His Son…” Don’t be confused by the phrase, last days. It’s as if it is a two act play, the first act, and the last act. Jesus Christ ushered in the last act, or the last days. God’s word, God’s revelation to man is complete, given to us in these last days.
Notice also, that God does not bother to argue for his own existence. He simply declares to us that He is. That He has existed from eternity past. God does not stoop to defend His existence. The author simply begins with God’s existence and then extrapolates from that fact; “God, comma, after He spoke to the fathers in the prophets, in many portions and in many ways, in these last days have spoken to us in His Son…” The author presupposes a belief in God, but then what he does is he gives us an argument for believing in Jesus Christ.
Why? Because Jesus Christ is the way we come to know God. John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” And because Jesus Christ is the means of salvation. John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father but through Me.” So Jesus Christ is the way we come to know truth, and to worship God in spirit. John 6:63, “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
Now there are seven reasons given in these opening three verses that compel us to listen to the Son, and believe that He has the authority to speak the truth of God. These seven attributes elucidate the greatness and the character and the nature of the Son of God.
The first one is that God has appointed Jesus the heir of all things. We believe in One God. But we believe the one God subsists in three persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The great historic creeds of the Christian Church affirm this. This is what Christians believe the Bible teaches; one God, who exists in three persons. So the Son possesses the nature of the Father; one divine nature in our Godhead, but he’s a different person, and He has a different role.
So we read, “He, the Father, has appointed Him heir of all things.” Heirship rests upon sonship. Only a son can be an heir. Individuals who are not in the family can receive bequests, but heirship and sonship go together. And, later on in the epistle he will make that very plain. All things are eternally His, because the Father, the first person of the Trinity, has appointed
him heir of all things. So the inheritance of all things belongs to the Son of God, all things are eternally his. All things belong to Him. He is King of all, Lord of all.
Secondly, all things were made by Him. And in John 1:3 we read “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Worlds not only refers to the planets, to the universe, but also to the ages. The ancient Greek word here translated worlds is aion, from which we get our English word “eons.” It means that Jesus made more than the material world, He also made the very ages – history itself is the creation of the Son of God.
Colossians 1:16 says virtually the same thing; “all things were made through Him and for Him.” So that means all things, all physical things in the universe, and all the history of the ages, is made through Him and for Him. That means we were made for Christ. We were made to be the bride of Christ, to have fellowship with Him, to be in communion with Him. And so it stands to reason that we will not find contentment or fulfillment in life apart from Him. Some of you here today may see a relationship with God as a hindrance to fulfillment and happiness in life. But in fact, the scripture says the opposite is true. We cannot find fulfillment apart from Him because He made us for a relationship with Him. As Paul preached to the Greeks in Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and exist.”
The third attribute of Christ the author says is “And He is the radiance of His glory.” Athanasius, a preacher who lived in the third century said concerning the Light of Christ; “Who does not see, that the brightness cannot be separated from the light, but that it is by nature proper to it and coexistent with it and is not produced after it.” In other words, you cannot separate the source of light from the light it radiates. We don’t think of the sun as having been created and then given light later on. Light is inherent to the sun. It’s part of its being. Another early church father, Ambrose said, “Think not that there ever was a moment of time when light existed without radiance.” So we read here that the Son of God is the radiance of the glory of God. There never was a time in which the glory of God did not have brightness. Jesus is the visible expression of God’s glory.
Jesus himself said of this light in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John’s gospel says the same thing. John 1:9 “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” And there we have a clear indication that light represents truth and life. Jesus would say, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.” Light is the wisdom of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, which gives us eternal life.
Fourthly, “He is the exact representation of God’s nature.” He is the very image of the essence of God. Just as an image on a coin is the exact imprint of the die, so Christ bears the very stamp of God’s nature. As Jesus himself stated; “I and the Father are one.” And again He said to Philip, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
What this means is that though God is invisible, a Spirit, we have the image, the exact representation of the invisible God stamped in the earthly flesh of man, that we might know Him as a person. That we might know His personality, that we might know that He understands our frame, who emphasizes with us, because He became one of us.
The fifth attribute of Christ is that “He upholds all things by the word of his power.” He is the One who bears all things along, that’s the meaning of the Greek word. He’s the Lord not only of history, but of prophecy. He is the Lord not only of the past, but the future. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is bringing about the completion and fulfillment of God’s plan and prophecy concerning the world.
Col.1:17 says, “by Him all things hold together.” I firmly believe that the only reason this world does not detonate like an atomic bomb is because Jesus Christ holds it together. “By Him we live and breathe and exist.” Scientists have developed something called The Large Hadron Collider which is a 17-mile underground ring between France and Switzerland. The purpose of this underground tunnel is that it speeds protons to within a hair’s breadth of the speed of light before they crash into each other. Scientists then comb through the debris field of these micro particles in hopes of finding the source of life in the universe. What they call the God particle. Well, the Bible tells us the source of life, and that is Jesus Christ. By Him all things exist and have their being and hold together. Just think of the billions of dollars that could be used for greater things if they just believed the Bible.
In the sixth attribute, the author moves from the cosmic functions of the Son of God to His personal relationship with mankind. “He made purification of sins.” God has now accomplished something that man was unable to do for himself. After the fall, man inherited a sin nature, which resulted in sin, and sin brought forth death. God through Christ has provided a divine substitute, to die in our place, that we might be saved. 1John 1:7 says “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins.” Christ has performed the high priestly function of purging away sins, but not as the high priest of Israel did, year after year, but He has made a once for all sacrifice, and sat down at the right hand of God, because His sacrifice was so much better than all the other sacrifices which were done year after year by the earthly high priests. Such a sacrifice speaks beyond the eternal, immortal and potentially aloof attributes of a Holy God, to declare other marvelous attributes of His character, that of His love and mercy towards His people, that He would lay down His life for His friends.
On this Memorial Day holiday, we recognize and remember the sacrifice men and women made for this country in laying down their lives. How much more should we memorialize the greatest sacrifice of the Son of God, in laying down His life for us.
The seventh attribute we already made mention of, “He has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Majesty on high obviously refers to God. However, it’s not necessarily a reference to a location. God’s throne is in heaven, in the spiritual realm, above all other power and authority. At his right hand denotes the supremacy and exaltation of Christ to the place of authority and favor. That Christ is seated there speaks to the excellence of His high priestly work, and the fact that His atonement was sufficient and complete and contrasted as so much better than that of the Levitical high priests who continuously stood and made sacrifices again and again.
At the Father’s right hand speaks to His authority, and position, and supremacy, as stated in Eph. 1:20-21 which says God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
So the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is expressed to us in seven affirmations, that we might know that He possesses all the qualifications to be the perfect mediator between God and man. He is the greater prophet through whom God has spoken His final word, He is the great High Priest who has accomplished man’s reconciliation with God through purification from sin, and He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who ascended to the Father’s right hand, far above all rule and authority.
What then must our response be to Him? If we believe in who He is, and what He has accomplished for us, there should be a response of worship and a duty to serve Him. To have faith in Him, to believe in Him, is to worship Him as Lord God. To submit to HIs authority over our lives, and live in service to Him. Romans 12:1-2 tells us what this worship looks like. Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Jesus said that whoever believes in Him would be saved. Belief or faith in Christ incorporates accepting all that the author of Hebrews has said concerning who Jesus is, and what He came to do. Believing in Him is trusting in Him, that He can save you, if you will just submit to Him as Lord and God. Romans 10:8-11 says, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
You can receive forgiveness, you can receive righteousness, and you can receive eternal life through believing in Jesus Christ. God has spoken in HIs Son. Believe in Him and be saved.