Category Archives: Jesus in Hebrews

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Jesus, a Better Ministry, a Better Covenant (Heb 8:1-13) – Sonnenberg

We celebrated the Lord’s table and prepare for Holy Week, and Pastor Dan helps us see the connection between the Old Testament priests and their work with that of Jesus.

To listen to the Podcast, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Introduction: Today is Palm Sunday.  On this day in history, Jesus, by his actions, announced that he was the promised Messiah. But he made clear he was a certain kind of Messiah, one that is humble and faithful, not arrogant and self-serving. By entering Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, he announced to believers and unbelievers his intention to go humbly to the cross and rise victoriously from the dead and later to ascend to a place of authority and power next to his Father’s throne – to accomplish all that had been prophesied of him in the Scriptures.

During the season of Lent we have been engaged in a series from Hebrews on the excellencies of Christ.

So far, we have seen that Jesus is superior to angels, superior to Moses, and serves as our faithful high priest in heaven.

This week in Heb 8, we will see in more detail what he has done in history and how and why he is able right now, in the present, to help us from his position in heaven.

Do you ever wonder what Jesus is doing right now in heaven? Is he simply sitting on some kind of heavenly throne next to the Father, watching to see what we will do next, talking with the angels and saints of old, maybe cheering us on or saying a prayer for us from time to time?

This passage tells us two primary things about what he is doing. It tells us

1. The nature of his heavenly ministry as our high priest (vv 1-6)

2. The nature of the new covenant he is mediating (vv 7-13)

Hebrews 8:1-13 (ESV) Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2  a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3  For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4  Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5  They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6  But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8  For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9  not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11  And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12  For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13  In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Let’s look first at

1.     The nature of Jesus’ ministry as our high priest

-We are told it’s a new ministry, and a better ministry

First,

A.    It is a new ministry,

 6 …Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old…

 A few weeks ago in Heb 1 we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, “but in these last days, God has spoken to us through his Son. After making purification for sins, he has down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (vv1-3).

Jesus’ ministry as our high priest became effective in time and space after his ascension at his exaltation in heaven. Just as Aaron went into the holy of holies to offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, Christ went into the heavenly sanctuary to present his offering of himself to God to secure our eternal salvation.

Heb 9:11-12, 15 ESV 11when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)

 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (15) Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant

V 6 tells us that Jesus has obtained a ministry that is more excellent than the old. This ministry was obtained through his own blood and the presentation of that blood before the Father in heaven. We’ll learn more about what this means a little later.

V6 tells us second that

 B.    Jesus’ ministry is a better ministry than the old ministry of Israel’s priests.

– it is a better ministry in two ways – it is a heavenly ministry rather than an earthly ministry, and it is an eternal ministry rather than a temporal one

First,

It is a heavenly ministry, not an earthly ministry;

 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,

 We are told in verse 1 that he is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. His current physical address, so to speak, is heaven.

The point is that Jesus, as our high priest, is no longer on earth, like the Levitical priests, but in heaven. Because he died and rose again and ascended, he is in heaven with his Father. And because he humbled himself and perfectly fulfilled his Father’s will, he was given a position of power and authority above any other than his Father. So his ministry is located in heaven, no longer on earth like the OT priests.

 Second, we are told that he carries out some kind of ministry in heaven.

 2 a minister in the holy places, in athe true tent1 that the Lord bset up, not man.

He is said to be a minister, literally, a liturgist, a servant, minister with special ref. to accountability before God (Ro 13:6; 15:16; Hb 1:7; 8:2).

We saw this word in Heb 1:7 when it speaks of the angels of God. Hebrews 1:7 (ESV) Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” So Jesus is a servant, a minister of God.

And he is located in what the writer calls “the true tent that the Lord set up, not man” to indicate a contrast in the place of Jesus ministry with that of the earthly high priests. Jesus’ ministry in the true tent that the Lord set up is heaven, while the ministry of the OT high priests is on earth, by implication, in an earthly tent that man set up.

The phrase “true tent” does not intend, by contrast, to indicate the tent or tabernacle of the OT priests was false in some way, but rather, imperfect, less valuable, symbolic. Their tent was an imperfect, less valuable copy or symbol of the true tent in heaven, as we will see later.

So Jesus, our high priest is located in heaven, and carries out his ministry as high priest in heaven. By contrast, the high priests of Israel were located earth and were therefore inferior. And their ministry was located in an earthly tent of their own making, which was therefore inferior.

 Third, we are told that although his lineage disqualifies him from an earthly ministry, his character qualifies him for a heavenly ministry.

3 For aevery high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus bit is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.

 Jesus was from the line of Judah, not the line of Levi, and therefore would not have qualified to serve as a high priest in the temple. Jesus, we learn in chapter 7, however, is from the line or order of Melchizedek, who (7:16) “has become a priest not on the basis of…his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.”

Jesus is a priest because God has declared an oath or promise about him through his ancestor David in Psalm 110:1, “You are a priest forever.” And Heb 7 goes on to say, “because of his oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb 7:21).

So Jesus’ ministry is better than the OT priests because it is a heavenly ministry in contrast to their earthly ministry.

Second, Jesus’ ministry is better not only because it is heavenly but also because

 B.    It is an eternal ministry, not a temporal ministry

 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

 Israel’s priests served or ministered in what the author calls a copy or shadow of the heavenly. The word “copy” can also be translated “sketch.” What God showed Moses on the mountain, presumably, was the real thing, a vision of the heavenly reality, but all Moses was able to build by comparison was a sketch of heaven.

Exo 25:40 is quoted here, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” All Moses could do was follow the pattern God gave him. He could not build the heavenly reality. Dress makers can appreciate the pattern metaphor. The pattern is not the real thing, the dress is.

It’s like the difference between seeing the Grand Canyon itself and seeing a sketch of the Grand Canyon. There’s no comparison.

It’s like a simulation of the real thing. The tent and the ministry of the OT priests were like a simulation of the real thing. Have you ever driven in a simulator of a car or a plane or a tank? They’re temporary, intended to train us and prepare us for the real thing and to be replaced by the real thing.

The purpose of the tent and the OT priesthood was to train us, to prepare us, to point forward to the eternal reality of Christ’s priesthood in heaven. They are temporary sketches or illustrations or simulations of the permanent, the real, the eternal reality in Christ.

So the nature of Jesus’ ministry is new by virtue of his death, resurrection and ascension; and Jesus’ ministry is better because it is heavenly not earthly, and eternal not temporary.

Now, let’s look secondly at

2. The nature of the new covenant Jesus is mediating (vv 7-13)

Even though we speak of the new covenant with Christ and the old covenant with Moses, we are speaking of one covenant. It is the covenant of grace that God established with man to deal with our sin problem after the fall. The covenant of grace is one covenant that has passed through various administrations beginning immediately after the fall with Adam. In Gen 3.15, God promised a deliverer from the sin of Adam through the woman. With Adam, (using Robertson’s terms in The Christ of the Covenants) it can be characterized as the “covenant of commencement;” with Noah the “covenant of preservation;” with Abraham, the “covenant of promise;” with David the “covenant of the kingdom;” with Moses, the covenant of the law;” and with Jesus, the covenant of the consummation.”

In each case, the commands and the promises became more clear. So when Hebrews refers to the covenant of Moses as an old covenant, it’s still the covenant of grace. When he refers to the new covenant in Christ as better than the old covenant administered through Moses and the law, it does not mean that it is an essentially different covenant – it is still the covenant of grace – it means that it is a better and final administration of the covenant of grace, the one to which all of the previous administrations were pointing.

We learn two things about the nature of the covenant. It is a better covenant because: 1) it is based on Jesus’ better ministry and because 2) it is based on better promises

First,

A.    It is a better covenant because it is based on Jesus’ better ministry

6 But as it is, Christ  has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old asthe covenant he mediates is better…

 Verse 6 is transitional between the two sections. It tell us that Jesus’ entrance into the heavenly tabernacle made the new covenant possible and necessary.

A new covenant required a new mediator. The mediator of the so-called old covenant was Moses. The mediator of the new covenant is Jesus:

1) His perfect obedience and death inaugurated a new covenant;

2) his entrance into the heavenly sanctuary guarantees God’s acceptance of his sacrifice and the actualization of the superior covenant he mediated.

Jesus’ ministry is superior because it is effective. It is effective because God has appointed Jesus as our high priest by his oath, his promise, “You are a priest forever.” Heb 7:22 tells us “This makes Jesus the guaranee of a better covenant.” God’s promise is greater than the regulations set down in the law of Moses.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, Gal 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 

 The law was put in place temporarily because of sin, to mediate until the promised mediator-son arrived to take his place as the permanent mediator.

Verses 7 and 8a tell us that God “found fault” with Israel because of their disobedience, and he found fault, as it were, with the Mosaic covenant itself, because it was always intended to be temporary and was meant to be replaced by the new covenant found in Jeremiah 31.

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8a For he finds fault with them when he says (present tense) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with Israel…

Heb 7:11 tells us, Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 

So the new covenant is better because it is based on Jesus’ better ministry.

Second, the new covenant

B.    Is a better covenant because it is based on better promises

1. It is internal, not merely external

2. It provides complete forgiveness of sins

3. And therefore makes the old obsolete

First, it is a better covenant because

 1)     It is an internal covenant, not merely external (10-11)

 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shallall know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

 God promised a new covenant through Jeremiah, one that would surpass and supplant Moses covenant. The people would no longer follow the law mechanically, simply externally, merely going through the motions. The law would be written on their minds and hearts. Paul could write to the Corinthians, 2Co 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 

They would know the Lord because of his indwelling presence by the Spirit because of the work of the mediator of the new covenant. God’s promise to be their God and for them to be his people would become a reality. John could write in his first letter, 1Jo 2:27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie just as it has taught you, abide in him.

Second, God promised the new covenant would

 2)     Provide complete forgiveness for sins.  (12)

 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

(Heb 10:4 ESV) Reminds us that 4 it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

And Rom 3:23-26 ESV reminds us that God had merely overlooked sins until his Son should arrive and deal with sin definitely and finally. In his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins….to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In the new covenant, God promised, sins are completely forgiven, God remembers them no more.

Finally, verse 13 is a sort of summary the passage. It  tells us that the creation of a new covenant makes the old one obsolete.

 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “planned obsolescence?” It refers most often to products we buy like cars and washing machines. It means that those who produce them plan for them to no longer be useful at some point in the future, because they will have a new model ready to take its place. That’s why after a while, you can no longer get parts for an old car or an old washing machine. They planned for it to become obsolete so you’ll have to buy a newer model.  You can’t keep patching up the old one.

That’s what God had in mind for the law, the covenant of Moses. God planned for it to be replaced by the new covenant in Christ. Like an old washing machine, it still works to some degree. We continue to use the law as our tutor to lead us to Christ, and to serve a normative function to tell us what is right and wrong.

But in Christ, we have that law written in our hearts as well. The written word reminds us, but because we are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, we know right from wrong on the inside.

So what Jesus doing right now as our high priest in heaven? (from Berkhof, pp 402-405)

He is doing at least five things:

1.     He is reminding God to pass over us in his wrath against sin. The perpetual presence of the completed sacrifice before God is an intercession like the blood of the Passover of which God said, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Ex 12:13

2. He is defending us against the devil. When Satan accuses us, Christ meets all his accusations by pointing him to his completed work. (Rom 8.33-34)

3. He is accomplishing our sanctification. He sanctifies our imperfect and sinful prayers and presents them to God as holy. He sanctifies our imperfect and sinful service and presents it to God as holy. And He lovingly helps us in our trials and difficulties as our sympathetic high priest.

4. He is praying for us. “He forever lives to make intercession for us.” He is presenting to the Father the spiritual needs that we have not thought to pray; he is praying for our protection against the dangers and enemies that threaten us of which we are unaware; he is praying that our faith may not fail; and that we may come out victorious in the end.

5. He is directing all the work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf.

 Finally, we should remember that he is

  1. Constantly interceding for us. He is always on the alert. He is alive to our every need. None of our prayers escape him.
  2. Authoritatively interceding for us. His are the requests not of a creature to his creator, but of a son to his father, on equal terms.
  3. Effectively interceding for us. “The Father always hears him.”

As we move to the Lord’s Supper, I hope now we can better understand what Jesus meant when he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”

Our Sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) – Sonnenberg

Pastor Dan helped us see just how great a High Priest we have in Jesus Christ. He was fully human, and as such, he experienced all the same kinds of struggles, temptations, frustrations and disappointments that we face today. Yet he did not sin- or “miss the mark” of God’s expectations in his behaviors, reactions, etc.  He understands us. But he is also divine, and so he has the power to help us deal with those things in our lives.

(Sorry, no audio this week. Slight technical problem.)

Hebrews 4:14-16 – 5:10 (ESV) Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,  that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

When you’re suffering emotionally – maybe you just lost a friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe you just failed a test in school or are so behind in your work you think you’ll never catch up, maybe you just lost your job or were passed over for a job, maybe you’re being persecuted for your faith, maybe you’ve been sick or injured for a very long time, maybe you find yourself tempted by or addicted to some kind of substance or some habit, maybe you’re frustrated with how your life has turned out, maybe you’re in a very dark place and you’re not even sure how you got there, maybe you’ve even considered taking your own life.

You may be in so deeply, you don’t know what to do. Maybe you think you’re the only one who has ever gone through this, so no one could understand or help you. Maybe you’ve thought of asking someone for help, but you’re too proud, or too fearful, or too ashamed to ask. Maybe you’ve asked for help before, but no one seemed interested or to be able to help.

This passage tells us three things about these times in our lives. When you’re experiencing temptation, suffering or persecution, it tells us:

1. What we should do;  2. How we should do it;  3. Why we should do it

First, it tells us

1.     What we should do: 

It tells us in v14 to hold on to what we believe

              14  let us hold fast our confession

We are to hold on to our faith in God through Jesus Christ. This means we should hold onto what we have believed, what we have confessed to be true in the past about Christ. We are being told simply to hold on to Christ, to hold on to our faith in Christ, to hold on to what we have believed about Christ in the past in spite of the difficulties we’re going through right now.

But when we’re in pain, it’s hard to do that, isn’t it?

Illustration:

A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued:

“Is anyone up there?”

“I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?”
“Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hang on much longer.”

“That’s all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch.”

A moment of pause, then: “Is anyone else up there?” –Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, p. 3.

We’ve been told what we should do – we’re to hold on to our faith.

Second, we’re told,

2.     How we should do it: 

We find this in v 16. We are to hold on to our faith by confidently drawing near to God in prayer to receive the help we need when we need it.

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The verb here means “to approach,” to move in to God’s presence, to draw near to him.

We are told further to draw near with confidence. This is the same word we saw last week. In this context it means “confident self-expression before God,” especially in prayer. And we are promised when we do this we will receive God’s help in our time of need.

“Mercy” probably refers to our past sins, and “grace” probably refers to our contemporary and future needs.

“Time of need” means that we will receive the help we need in a timely manner, that is, when we need it. However, as we know, God’s time, is not always our time. We may have to wait longer than we expect or wish.

We’ve been told in times of persecution or suffering or temptation we are to hold on to our faith in Jesus by confidently coming to him with our concerns in order to receive the help we need in a timely manner.

But the crux of this passage is the third point,

3.     Why we should do it:

And there are two reasons.

  1. Because Jesus understands our weakness
  2. Because Jesus can help us in our weakness

These two are somewhat difficult to separate, however.

Let’s look at the first reason. When we are suffering or tempted or persecuted we should come to Jesus

  1. Because as our high priest Jesus understands our weakness

Look at verse 15.

15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

The author uses a double negative to emphatically say that Jesus understands our pain. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness” means we DO have a high priest who is able to sympathize.

The phrase “sympathize with our weaknesses” here refers to weaknesses especially that result in sin. Jesus can understand our weakness because he too has experienced the same temptations, yet without sin.

It says that Jesus has “been tempted in every respect as we are.” We may object by saying, “But he was God, so he wasn’t as tempted as I am.” He had the ability to resist that we don’t have.

But what this is telling us is just the opposite. Even though he was God, he was fully man as well, and as man, he was tempted “in every respect” as we are. In order to become our sympathetic high priest, in order to sympathize with our weaknesses, he had to be tempted in exactly the same ways as we are tempted. If he hadn’t he couldn’t understand what we feel. We are being told that Jesus can feel our pain, he can feel our temptation because he experienced the same pain, the same temptation in his earthly life.  He fully participated in humanity during his earthly life.

In fact, he suffered in ways that are greater than any other human because he experienced the full wrath of God on the cross. That’s why he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” And later in Hebrews, we read, Heb 12:3-4 (NAU), “..consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” So it’s not fair or true to say that he can’t understand what we feel because he was God. He was also fully man and therefore can sympathize with us in our time of need.

Have you ever shared one of your weaknesses with someone who had never gone through what you were experiencing? Through no fault of their own, they simply can’t understand what you are feeling. They can’t sympathize with you because they don’t know what it feels like.

They cannot share your pain because they have not experienced your pain. They cannot say, “I know how you feel,” because they have never felt it, or if they do say they know how you feel, it sounds hollow because they really don’t know through their own experience.

But if you’ve shared the same weakness with someone who has experienced it, they can truly sympathize with you because they have had the same experience. When they say they know how you feel, it rings true because they have had the same painful experience.

This is telling us that Jesus has experienced every temptation that you have felt, are feeling and will feel. He knows from experience the temptations you are going through right now, and therefore he can sympathize with you. You can be assured that when you come to him in prayer about this issue, that in his humanity he has experienced the same thing and therefore can sympathize with you.

But this passage tells us, not only can Jesus sympathize with our weakness,

The second reason we should come to Jesus when we are suffering

           2. Because as our high priest Jesus can help us in our weakness

How do we know this?  First, because verse 15 says,  yet without sin. 

He can help us because though he experienced the same temptations as we do, he did so “without sin.” He triumphed over the temptations he experienced. He can help us in our temptations because he learned from difficult experience how to overcome temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) tells us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

And 2 Peter 2:9 (NLT) …the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.

Illustration: the people who have sympathized with you the most are those who have gone through it themselves. They can listen sympathetically to what you are feeling and acknowledge those feelings.

How do we know Jesus as high priest can help us?

We know he can help us second, because verse 14 says, “he has passed through the heavens.” He is exalted to the right hand of the Father because of his sinless life and his sacrificial death and Heb 7:5 “he ever lives to make intercession for us.”

A high priest is a mediator between God and man. Because of Jesus’ continuing ministry as our high priest in heaven on our behalf, we have direct access to God and all the resources at his command. Therefore, we can count on his promise of help.

Illustration: the people who can help you the most are those who have overcome the difficulty.

Summary:

This passage tells us three things about these times in our lives. When you’re experiencing temptation, suffering or persecution, it tells us:

1. What we should do – hold fast

2. How we should do it  – by confidently drawing near to God through Christ in prayer to find help in time of need

3. Why we should do it –a) because Jesus sympathizes with our weakness; b) because Jesus can help in our weakness

 

Jesus Superior to Moses (Heb 3:1-6) – Sonnenberg

Jesus’ superiority to Moses gives Christians a basis on which to live confidently in a world where we are challenged, sometimes persecuted, and tempted to turn away. Listen to Pastor Dan as he continues his series in Hebrews.

To listen to the Podcast, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Hebrews 3:1-6 (ESV) Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,  2  who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3  For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4  (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)  5  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6  but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

What does it take to stand up for Christ to the end under fire?

Chuck Swindoll writes: “Chuck McIllhenny, pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the Sunset District of San Francisco for over twenty years, has written a book titled When the Wicked Seize the City. When I first met him, I expected to find the man in a chrome helmet with loaded weapons all around him and double bars on the door. Here’s a man whose home has been fire-bombed, whose bedroom for the children is built like a bunker (it’s so fireproof) so his children can survive as he stands actively for Christ. He is now ministering a great deal in the hospitals to those dying of AIDS, but standing firm for the truth, that the only hope beyond this life is a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He told a wonderful story of how he was sitting, reading the newspaper one day. And there was a council meeting being held the next day in San Francisco, and he thought he’d go to the city council and hear this particular issue. It was a homosexual rights issue. He thought, I can’t just sit here and let that pass . . .

He sat there and heard the legislation. The council was about to take a vote. The chairman said, ‘Is there anyone who has anything to say?’ No one moved. Then he stood up and said, ‘I would like to say something.’ He walked to the platform, stated his name, that he was a citizen residing in the Sunset District, San Francisco. ‘What would you like to say?’ He replied, ‘Well, I would like to say nothing for myself, but I would like to quote three individuals that I’ve respected for years.’ And he read to them from Moses in Leviticus, from one of the psalms by David, and from Paul in Romans 1. Didn’t preach, didn’t scream, didn’t sermonize––just closed it. They said, ‘Wait. Before you sit down, who are those people––Moses and David and Paul?’ And someone said, ‘You’re reading from the Bible, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I am.’ And one of the council members then said, ‘I vote no,’ and another and another. And it didn’t pass. He sat down. That is straight thinking and courage.” (Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotations, page 121)

How can we stand up for Christ under fire? There are three ways found in today’s text:

  1. Knowing who you are in Christ
  2. Considering who Christ is
  3. Holding onto Christ who holds onto you

Let’s look first at

1.     Knowing who you are in Christ

1a Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling

aHoly – in Christ, set apart for God.

bBrothers (and sisters) – in Christ, members of God’s adopted family.

c. Share in a heavenly calling – in Christ, we are participants, not just observers, in a calling that comes from God, not from ourselves, not from the world. We are sharers in what God is doing in the earth.

You can stand up for Christ under fire, second, by

2.     Considering who Jesus is

 1b consider Jesus…

 This is the same word we see in…

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

 Luke 12:27-28 Consider the lilies, how they grow… how much more will he clothe you…

Heb 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds

Heb 12:3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It means to think deeply about Jesus, to mull over in your mind who he is and what he has done, to ponder it long. Not to just skim over it. It’s the difference between, perhaps reading poetry and reading a novel. With a great poem you consider each line, each word, because you know the writer did so – he had to condense his thoughts into just a few choice words.

Consider Jesus in the same way, taking the time to think about where he came from, what he said, what he did, where he is now and what he’s doing. It will make all the difference.

What should we consider about him?

First, we should consider that

a.     He is the apostle and high priest of our confession

1b  the apostle and high priest of our confession,

 He is the one who we confess as our apostle. An apostle is one who is sent, usually to deliver a message. So Jesus is a prophet sent from God to deliver a message, the good news of salvation.

Second, he is the one we confess as our high priest. The high priest under the old covenant presented himself once a year on the Day of Atonement before God in the holy of holies to bring a sacrificial blood offering of an animal for his own sins and the sins of the people. He represented the people to God and he represented God to the people.

Jesus presented himself in his death as both the high priest and the sacrificial blood offering to make atonement once for all for our sins. And today in heaven, as our great high priest, he ever lives to make intercession for us.

Second, we should consider that

b.     Christ was faithful just as Moses was faithful

2  who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.

We are told that Christ was at least as great as Moses. But who was Moses?

  • Considered greatest man that ever lived by the Jews
  • Saved from death by Egyptian mid-wives
  • Raised in Pharoah’s court as the son of P’s daughter
  • Was a great administrator and leader among the Egyptians
  • Defended a fellow Israelite by killing an Egyptian soldier
  • Therefore, forced to flee to the desert
  • Spent 40 years in the Midian desert tending sheep, found a wife and raised children
  • Called by God in the burning bush in the desert
  • Was initially rejected by his own people when he went back to Egypt
  • Stood up to Pharaoh, telling him to “Let my people go”
  • Administered the first Passover, protecting the Jews from the death angel
  • Delivered Israel through the Red Sea
  • Received the 10 commandments on Mt Sinai
  • Led Israel through the desert 40 years
  • Spoke with God face to face
  • Led them to the edge of the Promised Land
  • Prepared them to enter in with a covenant renewal in Deut

So Jesus is at least as great as the greatest man who ever lived. When we see Moses we should see Jesus.

Like Moses, Jesus was rescued from death as an infant; like Moses, Jesus was prepared for his subsequent ministry in the desert; like Moses, Jesus delivered his people from bondage; as the living Word, like Moses, Jesus brings the Word to guide his people; like Moses, Jesus contends with his people in the desert of their unbelief; like Moses, Jesus leads his people to the promised land; like Moses, Jesus is a great deliverer and prophet.

But third, we are told that not only is Jesus just as faithful as Moses, we should consider that

c.      Jesus is greater than Moses just as the builder of a house is greater than the house, and just as God is greater than the creation

3  For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.

Simply a logical argument. A builder is greater than the house he builds. Then he extends the comparison a little further. Christ is greater than Moses, just as a builder is greater than the house he builds, just as

4  (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

Another simple logical argument. He is not trying to say that Jesus is God here. He says that elsewhere. Simply drawing a comparison between Jesus and Moses.

Jesus is greater than Moses, as builder is greater than his house, just as God is greater than his creation.

Fourth, we should consider that

d.     Jesus is greater than Moses as a son who presides over the household is greater than the servant who serves in the household

5  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,

6  but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.

Notice two comparisons here.

First we see a comparison between the son and the servant. Jesus the son and Moses the servant. A son has greater status than a servant and greater privileges. The son, as the administrator or steward of the house sits while the servant stands. The son is served first, then the servant has his meal. The son will inherit the house, while the servant is simply a member of the household.

Second a comparison between over the house and in the house. Jesus presides over the household, while Moses, serves in the household. The one who presides over the household is greater than the one who serves in the household. The son decides how things will be done, the servant simply does what he is told.

Therefore, though they are both faithful to God, Jesus, the son who presides over God’s household, is greater than Moses the servant who serves in God’s household.

How can you stand up for Christ under fire?

You can stand up, not only knowing who you are in Christ and by knowing who Christ is, but third, by

3.     Holding onto Christ who holds onto you

We do this in two ways.

Verse 6 says, “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Like Moses, we are members of God’s household, by grace through faith, not of our own works lest we should boast in ourselves. We are his house, members of the family of God, even stones in the house as we saw in 1 Peter.

We can KNOW, we can be assured of our salvation, that we are members of his house if we continue to hold onto Christ to the end. And we will hold onto Christ if he his holding onto us.

This is what we call the doctrine of perseverance. Wayne Grudem says it this way, “The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.” –Wayne Grudem from Systematic Theology (pg. 788)

Another writer says, The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints does not [say] that all those who profess the Christian faith are certain of heaven. It is saints – those who are set apart by the Spirit – who persevere to the end.

It is believers – those who are given true, living faith in Christ – who are secure and safe in Him.

Many who profess to believe fall away, but they do not fall from grace for they were never in grace.

True believers do fall into temptations, and they do commit grievous sins, but these sins do not cause them to lose their salvation or separate them from Christ.

The Westminster Confession of Faith says it this way:

“Those whom God has accepted in his Son and has effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit can never completely or finally fall out of their state of grace. Rather, they shall definitely continue in that state to the end and are eternally saved.” (17.1)

So Christ holds onto us to the end, but in the process we are commanded to hold onto him, not because it is finally up to us, but because that is the way we express our faith in him.

It’s like a child holding onto his mom or dad while in their arms. Mom or dad are not going to drop you, but you hold on anyway.

How do you hold onto Christ who holds onto you?

First, it tells us, you

a.     Hold onto your confidence in Christ

This word in the original refers to our access to God. In Eph 3:11-12 “in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.”

And in  Heb 4:16, we find the invitation, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.”

It literally means “freedom of speech.” We have freedom of speech before God. Scripture says we can come boldly before the throne of grace. We have direct access to God in Christ that in the old covenant was granted only once a year to the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

He entered into the holy of holies, into the presence of God, but not without blood. The people did not enter the presence of God at all. They did not have access.

However, in Christ, we have direct access to the throne. Because, he entered once for all shedding his own blood on behalf of our sins, we have access to God in and through Christ.

That’s why we pray in the name of Jesus – because we can’t enter God’s presence or ask for what we need on our own.

We hold onto Christ by holding onto the access, the freedom of speech we have before the throne to receive what we need to continue in trials.

Second, and finally, you are to hold fast not only to your confidence but also you are to

b.     Hold onto your boasting in Christ

You hold fast to boasting, not in your own works, but in Christ’s work on your behalf. Eph 2:8-9for by grace are you saved through faith, not of works lest any man should boast.”

If we do any boasting, if we have any pride, it should be boasting or pride in what God has done in Christ for us.

Invitation:

Maybe you’re here today and you’ve never grasped ahold of Christ by placing your faith in him. When asked on the day of Pentecost what his audience should do in response to his preaching Christ, 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  (Act 2:38-39 NAU)

Summary: How can you stand up for Christ to the end even under fire? By…

  1. Knowing who you are in Christ
  2. Considering who Christ is
  3. Holding onto Christ who holds onto you

Jesus Superior to Angels (Hebrews 1:4-14) – Sonnenberg

Pastor Dan continues his Lenten series from the letter to the Hebrews. Jesus Christ is better than the angels.

To listen to the podcast, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Introduction: At the end of the passage last week we read in Hebrews 1:3, 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,

And our passage today begins where we left off in mid-sentence.

Hebrews 1:4-14,

4This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names

5For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus:

“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” (Psa 2:7a)

God also said,

“I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” (2 Sam 7:14b)

 6And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said,

“Let all of God’s angels worship him.” (Deu 32:43c)

7Regarding the angels, he says,

He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire.” (Psa 104:4d)

8But to the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. 9You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.” (Psa 45:6-7e)

10He also says to the Son,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. 11They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. 12You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” (Psa 102:25-28f)

13And God never said to any of the angels,

“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” (Psa 110:1g)

14Therefore, angels are only servants– spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.

A modern day parable

A man and his son, who was somewhat of a genius like his dad, started a business together. Think of a business like Best Buy or Target, a large retail store in its beginning stages.

The father wanted the son, even though he had helped start the business, to work on the inside of business and one day to become the CEO of the company in addition to being co-owner.

But the condition was the son had to start at the bottom, and to work his way up through every single job in the company and then, when the time was right, he would be appointed CEO of the company. The father and the son agreed it was a good plan.

The father wanted the son to understand the business inside and out so that the customers would receive the best products and services the company could provide.

The employees of the store understood the plan, and they were loyal to the owner and his son because they had given them their jobs.

The son began by sweeping floors, stocking the shelves, running the cash registers, and helping the customers.

The customers saw him working and didn’t know who he was, but in every publication of the store – every piece of advertising or information that went out to the customers, the owner gave some hint that his son would someday become the CEO of the company.

And as the son did his job, some of the customers – the haughty ones, who thought they were important – looked down on him and spoke to him harshly because he was just a worker in a retail store – no one special – to them!

But other customers treated him well even though he was just a worker in a retail store, because these customers didn’t think they themselves were all that important. They saw him as a good worker and wanted to see the young man succeed.

Over the years the son worked in every aspect of the business. He knew what it was like to be an employee and he knew what the customers needed and wanted because he had helped and spoken to thousands of them over the years. He had paid his dues.

Finally the day came, and because he had paid his dues, his father appointed him CEO of the company. From now on he would run the company and his father would continue to be his partner in the business for many years to come.

It was announced in every publication of the company – the son, who had worked his way up in the company, who had paid his dues, was now not only co-owner but also the CEO of the company. The father and the son wanted everyone to hear the good news because the plan they had devised long ago was working out.

But this business had a twist to it. The plan from the beginning was that not only would his son become CEO, but also one day this company would go public, but not in the normal way.

Not investors, but their loyal customers would become co-owners with the father and the son. Not because they invested money in the company – they didn’t have anything to contribute to the business – but they would be made co-owners because they treated the son with respect and love while he was still working on the floor – before he became CEO, before he moved into the big office.

And the customers who treated him with disrespect – the haughty ones who thought they were better than he was – they will not receive anything from the man and his son.

What about the workers? They will keep their jobs working in the store and they will enjoy watching the father and his son and all the new co-owners in the biggest and best store ever.

If you haven’t figured it out already, the Owner is God, the Owner’s Son is Jesus, the Employees in the company are the angels, the Loyal Customers are believers, the haughty customers are unbelievers.

Our passage today, and the entire Book of Hebrews, represents the time between when the Son is appointed as CEO and the company goes public. The loyal customers have been promised they will become co-owners.

But the promise hasn’t yet been realized. The loyal customers – the believers in Rome in the first century, and you and I – are tempted to give up on the son, the new CEO who has promised to make them co-owners one day. They, and we, are tempted to go back to business as usual, thinking maybe the Son and his plan are not all they’re cracked up to be.

Why is Jesus compared to the angels in this passage? The Jews had a high view of the angels because they delivered the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai as we read in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:37, “You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.” Angels were one of the mediators of the old covenant.

The purpose of letter to the Hebrews was to encourage a group of Jewish converts to Christianity in Rome, not to fall back to their former way of life in dependence on the old covenant in which their relationship to God was mediated by angels, by the law and by the Levitical priests and their animal sacrifices.

Instead, they should continue to trust in Christ, God’s final word, in whom they had come to believe. Jesus is God’s final word, spoken of throughout the pages of OT, who, after his exaltation would serve as the mediator of a better covenant because he would be superior to the angels, superior to Moses and the Law, and superior to the Aaronic priesthood and to the sacrifices they brought to God.

This passage tells us three ways Jesus is superior to the angels by way of comparison.

It tells us that God has said,

  1. Jesus was appointed to be God’s son, but the angels were appointed to worship the son
  2. Jesus was anointed to rule the creation, but the angels were sent to serve the creation
  3. Jesus was appointed to reign in heaven, but the angels were appointed to serve on earth

It uses a technique called a catena or chaining of OT references together sometimes called a “string of pearls” to make the point that God has been saying these things about his Son throughout the OT. Here in just ten verses, seven quotations from the OT are like pearls strung together to demonstrate the Jesus is better or superior to the angels.

Verse 4 introduces the theme, 4This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. 

First, it tells us that God has said,

1.     Jesus was appointed to be God’s son, but the angels were appointed to worship the son.

5For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus:

“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” (Psa 2:7a)

God also said,

“I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” (2 Sam 7:14b)

 6And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said,

“Let all of God’s angels worship him.” (Deu 32:43c)

 The writer of Hebrews points out that the OT has said God and Jesus would have a special relationship, that of Father and Son. Quoting the psalmist in Psalm 2:7 and Nathan’s prophecy to David in 2 Sam. 7.14 – both of which were considered Messianic passages – he points out that God has called and appointed the coming Messiah, who he identifies as Jesus, to be his unique son and has called himself his Father.

But the angels, according to Deu 32:43, he has appointed to worship the Son.

Therefore the Son, Jesus, is superior to the angels and should be trusted to fulfill his plan to make believers co-heirs of his kingdom.

It tells us second that God has said,

2.     Jesus was anointed to rule the creation, but the angels were sent to serve the creation

7Regarding the angels, he says,

“He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire.” (Psa 104:4d)

Psalm 104:4 says the angels are sent by God’s command, in whatever form he chooses. They may be manifested as wind or flames of fire, but they serve his purpose in his time and in his way, in the created order.

But the Son has a special relation to the Father.

8But to the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. 9You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.” (Psa 45:6-7e)

 He is anointed to rule the creation. When a man was anointed to serve as the king in Israel, he was set apart for God. He had a blessed relationship to God that was unique to him. Likewise, Jesus, because he loved justice and hated evil, he was anointed to rule eternally.

 A second point can be made here.

B. Jesus is the eternal unchanging creator, but the angels are part of the perishable changeable creation

The Son, according to Psa 102:25-28, is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He laid it out in the beginning and he will roll it up like old clothing when he is finished. He was before the creation and he will continue beyond the present creation.

10He also says to the Son,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. 11They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. 12You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” (Psa 102:25-28f)

But the angels are merely part of the perishable, changeable creation. They are “like the winds, like flames of fire,” all part of the created order.

Therefore Jesus is superior to the angels.

It tells us third that God has said,

3.     Jesus was appointed to reign in heaven, but the angels were appointed to serve on earth

 13And God never said to any of the angels,

“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” (Psa 110:1g)

14Therefore, angels are only servants– spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.

The author quotes Psa 110:1, a famous royal Messianic psalm to say that Jesus, the son, is reigning – seated at the right hand of God as we saw also last week in verse 3. He is seated there for two reasons:

First, because he accomplished his father’s will. He died in our place so that we might live. He followed the plan, he suffered the pain, he was obedient unto death on a cross to pay for our sins. Therefore he is exalted to the highest place of honor by the Father.

Second, he is seated because God the Father has seated him there. He did not seat himself. He was invited by the Father to be seated in the place of honor and authority.

The angels, by way of contrast, are “only servants.” They do not reign as Jesus does. They are not seated beside the Father. They, like servants, stand ready to serve at the master’s call.

They are at the beck and call of God the Father and the Son.

A second and final point can be made here as well.

B. Jesus is anticipating the consummation of salvation, while the angels are merely assisting the heirs of salvation.

 “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” (Psa 110:1g)

 God has promised to consummate the kingdom he has given Jesus giving him final victory over his enemies. When Christ returns, he will pronounce and send his enemies to their final judgment for eternity. The salvation that Jesus inaugurated, which announced and accomplished, will come to its consummation, it completion at the appointed time. His and our enemies will be finally defeated for all time.

But the angels, they are merely “spirits sent to care for the people who will inherit salvation.”

They are sent to assist believers, Jesus’ fellow-heirs, the co-heirs of the salvation he has accomplished in his death and exaltation.

Therefore, Jesus is superior to the angels. Therefore, we should put our trust in him above all.

 

 Summary:

 

God’s has said About Jesus About the angels
  1. Vv 5-6
-Appointed unique Son of the Father -Appointed to worship the Son
  1. Vv 7-12
-Anointed to rule-Eternal unchanging creator -Sent to serve-Perishable changeable creation
  1. Vv 13-14
-Seated supreme in heaven-Anticipating the consummation of salvation -Standing to serve on earth-Assisting the heirs of salvation

Footnotes: 

Old Testment quotations in Hebrews 1:5-13

a.     Psalm 2:7 The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father.

b.     2 Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do.

c.      Deuteronomy 32:43 “Rejoice with him, you heavens, and let all of God’s angels worship him. Rejoice with his people, you nations, and let all the angels be strengthened in him. For he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take revenge against his enemies. He will repay those who hate him and cleanse the land for his people.”

d.     Psalm 104:4 The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.

e.     Psalm 45:6-7 Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice.You love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.

f.      Psalm 102:25-28 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them.But you are always the same; you will live forever.The children of your people will live in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.”

g.     Psalm 110:1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”

 

God’s Final Revelation in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3) – Sonnenberg

We are in a new sermon series during this Lent Season. Pastor Dan is taking us on a short series in the book of Hebrews. A wonderful book which highlights the greatness of Christ – whose suffering we are contemplating during Lent.

To listen to the podcast scroll to the bottom of the page.

Introduction: Since medieval times, Lent has been observed in the church as the 40 day period from Ash Wed to Easter Sunday symbolic of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. It has been a time of preparation for the observance of Holy Week and Easter, Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Historically, some in the Reformed tradition have rejected the observance of Lent because in its earlier forms, some of its components, such as fasting were compulsory – all believers were required to fast meat and dairy products. This smacked of a “works righteousness” mentality that existed in the medieval church. What all the Reformers rejected in the medieval church was the belief that the celebration of the sacraments was a means of salvation – that simply being baptized, whether a person had faith or not, for example, saved a person. The Reformers said that we are saved, not by our works – whether fasting, other good works, or observing the sacraments. Rather, we are saved by grace through faith in the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ alone. This is what we believe as well. We are saved by faith in Christ, not by good works. Good works are a result of our salvation not the means to achieve salvation.

So we hold the observance of Lent to be voluntary, not compulsory. Some years, we may continue in our current sermon series right up to Holy Week and Easter, and other years, like this one, we will do a separate series that prepares us for observing Jesus’ death and resurrection in Holy Week.

We will be doing a short series from the book of Hebrews during this season because it celebrates the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ in his life, death and resurrection on our behalf.

  1. The author of Hebrews is unknown
    1. Although many of the church fathers initially accepted the apostle Paul as the author, internal evidence has shown there is a significant difference in his style of writing and the vocabulary used.
    2. Among the Reformers, Calvin was convinced that it was not written by Paul, but did not speculate on who the author might be. Luther also believed Paul was not the author but speculated that it might have been written by Apollos. But the bottom line is that we don’t know for sure who authored the letter.
    3. However, in spite of that, it was accepted as canonical very early. By 96 AD it began appearing in lists accepted as canonical books by the church fathers.
  2. The recipients, date and occasion
    1. The recipients, most likely, were Jewish Christians living in Rome around 64 AD, who were familiar with the OT and were undergoing persecution for their faith, and thus being tempted to revert to Judaism or to merge the gospel and Judaism.
    2. The purpose of the letter was to articulate the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as redeemer and mediator of God’s grace, and therefore to encourage and warn the readers not to turn back to or continue in the Jewish system under the old covenant.
    3. The style is not typical of a letter, but rather that of a first century sermon or so-called “word of encouragement.” That’s why we don’t find the typical greetings from the author to the saints in the first few verses.

The first three verses, which we will look at today, serve as the general introduction to and summary of the message of the book. We may not be able to cover everything in it in detail but we will at least give an overview of it.

This passage tells us three things about God’s final revelation in his Son

  1. How God spoke before the coming of Messiah
  2. How God spoke since the coming of Messiah
  3. What God has spoken by his Son

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV) 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.

Let’s look first at

1. How God spoke before the coming of Messiah

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

First, we are told God spoke

1.1  Long ago

Long ago indicates the time past, during the OT or old covenant dispensation, the time before the advent of the Messiah. It is intended to set up a contrast in time with what we will see in the next verse. Long ago indicates the period of time before the coming of Messiah.

Second, we are told God spoke

1.2  To our fathers

To our fathers also indicates the past, before the coming of Messiah. It refers to the time past when the author and readers’ ancestors were still alive. It is also intended as a contrasting parallel to what we will read in the next verse. To our fathers indicates the period of time before the coming of Messiah.

So here we are talking about the period of time before the coming of Messiah – long ago when the author and readers’ fathers were still living.

Third, we are told God spoke

1.3  At many times and in many ways

These are intended to set up a contrast with the one time and one way God has now spoken through his Son.  Before the coming of Messiah God spoke in many times and many ways, but when Messiah came he spoke one time and one way.

Fourth , we are told God spoke in the OT period

1.4  By the prophets

This phrase is a shorthand way of referring to all the OT writers. Every dream, vision, mighty act, story, command, exhortation, angelic appearance and appearance of God himself as found written by the various writers of the OT. All their writings pointed forward to Messiah. However, the view through them was still shadowy. Jesus, after his resurrection, had to explain to his disciples in two different situations how all the OT writings referred to him.

Luke 24:26-27 On the road to Emmaus

Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”  Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Vv 44-46 to the disciples in the upper room.

Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.

Before Messiah came, God spoke through prophets – through all the OT writers as they were moved to do so by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NLT) …no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. …those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

The Psalms, the first and largest book of the writings section, is often used to refer to all of the writings which include Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

So first we are told how God before the coming of Messiah

  1. Long ago
  2. To our fathers
  3. In many times and many ways
  4. By the prophets

Second, we are told

2.       How God spoke since the coming of Messiah

 2a but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son

First, we are told that he has spoken

2.1  In these last days

In these last days, in contrast to “long ago” in verse 1, indicates a more recent time, the time after the coming of Messiah. The last days, according to Scripture, are the period of time between the first advent of messiah and his second coming. It is the period of time that some called the continuation of the kingdom between the inauguration of the kingdom at Christ’s birth and the consummation of the kingdom at Christ’s second coming in power and glory. So we are living in the last days right now. It may continue another day or week or a thousand years. In any case, we are to be working for the Lord and by faith, ready for his return at any time.

Last days also indicates the finality of God’s word, as if to say, since these are the last days, this is God’s final word.

Second, we are told he has spoken

2.2  To us

He spoke to our fathers before the coming of Messiah, but since his coming now he has spoken to us  – to the church in Rome in the first century, to the church in Perrysburg, to the church worldwide today.

Third, we are told he has spoken

2.3  By his Son

He is no longer speaking in many times and many ways. In these last days he has spoken one time and one way through his Son. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except through me.” No longer are the OT sacrifices offered over and over, year after year for the remission of sins. Christ offered himself once for all time to remove our sins.

Also, God is no longer speaking primarily through the prophets, the OT writings. In these last days he has spoken by His Son. Now the gospel is crystal clear for everyone to see. He lived, he died, he rose again. The NT writings record his actual words and deeds and provide instruction in how to live in response to what he has done.

We are told in this passage not only how God spoke before and after the coming of Messiah, finally we are told

3. What God has spoken by his Son

In the original language, verses one through three are all one sentence and the subject of the sentence is the Son. I’ll read the remaining verses as one sentence.

 2b [the Son] whom he [God] appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world, [who being] the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and [upholding] the universe by the word of his power [having made] purification for sins,  sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

What God has spoken in these last days by his Son, along with our response to him, is the subject of the rest of the book of Hebrews. But first, in vv 2b-3 the writer outlines the various topics he will cover in the rest of the book.

We’ll go into these in more detail in the weeks ahead, but we’ll touch on each one briefly now before we go to the Lord’s Table.

First, we are told the Son is

4.1  God’s heir 

whom [God] appointed the heir of all things

The author likely had in mind Psalm 2:8 when he wrote this(ESV) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, (or inheritance) and the ends of the earth your possession.

The inheritance of the Son is not limited to earth; in includes the universe and especially the world to come. We see this again in Hebrews 2:5-9 where Jesus, the last Adam, has all things put under his feet.

Because he has been appointed heir of all things, all who believe in him are fellow heirs with him. Romans 8:17 (ESV) and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  Romans 8:29 (ESV) For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

Second, we are told the Son is

4.2  God’s co-creator 

through whom also he created the world

This agrees with what we read earlier in John 1:3 (ESV) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  And also with Colossians 1:16 (ESV) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 

Also, in Prov 8.22-31 the creation is said to be accompanied by the Divine Wisdom, and we know that in the early church, Christ was identified with that Divine Wisdom who is co-creator with God.

Third, we are told the Son is

4.3  God’s glory 

 [who being] the radiance of the glory of God

As the brilliance of the sun is inseparable from the sun itself, so the Son of God’s radiance is inseparable from God himself, since he is God, the second person of the Trinity. As the radiance of the sun reaches the earth, so in Christ, the light of God shines into the hearts of men and women and children. As we read earlier in John 1:14, 18 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God, who is at the Father’s side, he [Jesus] has made him known. The Son is the radiance of the glory of God.

Fourth, we are told the Son is

4.4  God’s image 

the exact imprint of his nature,

Another translation says, “the exact representation of his being.” This phrase expresses the Son’s unity of essence with the Father and the distinction of divine persons. The Son’s being exactly corresponds with the Father, so that he accurately reveals him. Jesus is not merely an image or reflection of God, because the Son is himself God.

Fifth, we are told the Son is

4.5  God’s power

 [upholding] the universe by the word of his power

Christ not only creates the universe by his word, but he also sustains that same universe by his power. Colossians 1:17 says (ESV) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  2 Peter 3:4-7 (NLT) says, They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”  They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command… And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment. The Son of God is upholding the universe by his powerful word.   

Sixth, we are told the Son is

4.6  God’s sacrifice 

[having made] purification for sins

Here we shift from Christ’s cosmic role to his relationship with men and women and children. The point here is that by making purification for sins he has accomplished something that no one else could accomplish. Because this is in the past tense, this purification is continually applied to believers by Christ’s priestly intercession.  Hebrews 7:25 (NLT) says, Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 9:14 (NLT) says, Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. And as a result of this accomplishment…

Seventh, we are told the Son is

4.7  God’s exalted

sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

This exaltation was promised in Psalm 110:1 (NLT) The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”  His superiority is revealed in two ways: 1) at the “right hand” of the majesty, he ministers in the true, heavenly sanctuary, no in the earthly copy; 2) he “sat down” because he had died once for all time, unlike the continual offerings of the Levitical priests.

Finally, we find Jesus’ exaltation as a reward for his obedience also in Philippians 2:8-9 (ESV)  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…

How should we respond? Not by falling away because of persecution or other temptation. Not by giving up, but by pressing more and more into Christ, through whom God has spoken fully and finally in these last days. Have you looked deeply into who he is and what he has done for you? Have you seen him in every page of both the Old and New Testaments, in every writer’s words, in his creating power, his sustaining power , in his sacrifice for our sins, and in his exaltation and as your faithful high priest in heaven?

As we go in a few minutes to the Lord’s Table, re-consider, re-member who he is and what he has done for you.

Summary: God has spoken in these last days, finally and fully in Christ who is: God’s word – God’s heir – God’s co-creator – God’s glory – God’s image – God’s power – God’s sacrifice – God’s exalted.