The Expository Files


Christ In Hebrews

Hebrews 1:1-4; 3:1-6, 8:1-2 & 12:1,2

I recall, in my early years of preaching, as I was struggling to become a good Bible student. It was my thinking then that the three most difficult books in the New Testament were, Revelation, Romans and Hebrews. I can honestly tell you for years, I was afraid of the book of Revelation; and when called upon to say something about it I would repeat what I read in the two commentaries I had on that book - More than Conquerors, and Worthy is the Lamb.

The book of Romans was next on my list of difficult NT books and instead of digging in myself, for many years I simply followed R.L. Whiteside's commentary.

The book of Hebrews was one of my first breakthroughs into what I considered "difficult books," and here's what helped me most: not a commentary, though Milligan's commentary was of great value to me. What really helped me get into the book of Hebrews and grasp the message was reading the Old Testament; in particular, the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Now why would that be? Because the book of Hebrews was originally written and sent to people who were young in their faith in Christ, and being tempted to abandon Christ and resume their practice of the Mosaic Law.

So if we read the Old Testament and learn about the Jewish nation and their law, that's a giant step forward in getting through the book of Hebrews. All the references in Hebrews to Moses, to the sacrifice, to the tabernacle and so forth, have their roots in the Old Testament system, that Christians were tempted to go back to.

The more we read and know about the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, the better prepared we are to grasp the book of Hebrews.

Let me insert here, when you come to any part of the Bible you have difficulty with, there is something somewhere else in the Bible that will help you! This applies to Revelation, Romans, Hebrews, or any other part of the Bible you find difficult. Overcoming that difficulty, finding your breakthrough, is always facilitated by reading some other part of the same book.

Back to Hebrews, there was something else that gave me a better understanding of Hebrews. Observing the focus on Jesus Christ in Hebrews. At strategic places in Hebrews the inspired writer affirms some great truth about Jesus Christ, and when you take note of that . . . Well, that's another breakthrough in your understanding.

We're going to study four passages in Hebrews. The first three focus on who Jesus Christ is. Then the fourth is about how we should live, as His people. Three passages about Him; one directed to us, concerning how we should live.

Heb. 1:1-4

"God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purified our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

Can you imagine, being in your high school English class and the teacher puts this sentence on the board and says, Diagram This. I'd be ready for recess. What a challenge. This is one sentence in the NKJ. The ESV helps - three sentences.

Here's the best way I have found to understand a sentence like this. Pick out the simple main idea. Look for subject and predicate; noun and verb. Start without even looking at the modifying phrases - just fix your mind on the main idea, as expressed in the fewest words.

In this passage, that would be: God Has Spoken! Three words. In the old King James: God Hath Spoken.

Once you get that, go back to the passage and phrase by phrase, discover what the writer says about God speaking. God has spoken, by His Son. Who is His Son? What is the truth about His Son?

He is:

Heir of all things

Through Him the worlds were made

He is "the brightness of" God's glory

He is the Express Image of God's person

He upholds all things by the word of His power

When He had by Himself purged our sins,
He sat down at the right hand of God

Then verse 4 - So Much Better Than Angels.

You no longer have a complex sentence. You have all the parts listed and related. God has spoken through Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? He is described, in His Deity and Glory and Perfection in verses 2-4. When you decide you are going to be a follower of Jesus Christ, please do not regard that as anything but the most important decision of your life! And in making that decision; in acting as a follower of Christ, it is vital to know who you are dealing with . . . who you are subject to . . . who made it possible for you to be saved.

Let's do this about these verses. Bring into this, good people you have become acquainted with in your Bible reading: Abel, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, John the Baptist, the apostle Paul. You can't really bring them into this, because they do not qualify.

It cannot be said of these men, though they were good men - -

Heir of all things

Through Him the worlds were made

He is "the brightness of" God's glory

He is the Express Image of God's person

He upholds all things by the word of His power

When He had by Himself purged our sins,

He sat down at the right hand of God

Then verse 4 - So Much Better Than Angels.

These descriptions are the singular, absolute claims that pertain to only One - Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, this is who you are dealing with. This is the One you serve. This is the head of the church. This is the One who gave His life, for you to be saved.

When you are baptized, you are baptized into Him, who is exalted by this writer. This is the rank, this is the dignity, this is the Deity, this is the One God speaks to us through and this is the One who ordained and provided for the writing of the New Testament.

Heb. 3:1-6

"Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end."

To understand this statement, it is necessary to remember the historical context of this letter we call Hebrews. As I mentioned earlier, this was written to Christians, who were being tempted to abandon Christ under pressure, and relapse back to their former religion, the institution of Judaism, that claimed allegiance to Moses. From their perspective, it could be stated in terms of - leaving Christ, and going back to Moses. We may not think it was that simple, for some who claimed allegiance to Moses were really zealous for the ways of Judaism and the Pharisees. Nevertheless, from their perspective, it would be like this - leaving Christ, and going back to Moses.

I want to point out here that Moses would not condone that, and would regard it as apostasy. How do I know that? I know that because Moses, during the time of his authority, told the people he served, to look for Christ! Deut. 18:18. Moses told the people what God had said to him. "I will raise up for them a prophet like you, from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him." Moses never claimed eternal authority over the people. He was really their teacher, to lead them to the Messiah, to Jesus Christ.

Now in the first century - after the day of Pentecost - there are Christians, of Jewish background, really feeling the pressure from their countrymen to abandon Christ and return to Moses, as they might express it. The inspired writer, here in chapter three, simply says this You need to be faithful to Christ, not Moses!!

Moses had his place and he was "faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things, which could be spoken afterward." But "Christ" is "a Son over His own house, whose house we are ... if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope, firm to the end." And you heard, in verse 3, that "this One," Jesus Christ, "has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses."

Let's put things into good, biblical perspective, about Jesus Christ. Abraham played an important role, as God built a nation for His future purposes. Moses gave that nation their law. The prophets sought to expose and correct their wrong conduct and point them to God's plan for the future. John the Baptist came to prepare the way; the apostles delivered the message we have in the New Testament.

But, Jesus is the One. God has spoken through Him. And He is "worthy of more glory than Moses."

The book of Hebrews is a rich book of instruction - about who Jesus Christ is, and how important our response to Him is.

"THE main object of the epistle is to commend the Christian religion to those who were addressed in it, in such a way as to prevent defection from it. This is done, principally, by showing its superiority to the Mosaic system. The great danger of Christians in Palestine was of relapsing into the Jewish system. The imposing nature of its rites; the public sentiment in its favour; the fact of its antiquity, and its undisputed Divine origin, would all tend to that. To counteract this, the writer of this epistle shows that the gospel had higher claims on their attention, and that, if that were rejected, ruin was inevitable. In doing this, he begins, in this chapter, by showing the superiority of the Author of Christianity to prophets, and to the angels; that is, that he had a rank that entitled him to the profoundest regard. The drift of this chapter, therefore, is to show the dignity and exalted nature of the Author of the Christian system-- the Son of God.

-- Albert Barnes

Heb. 8:1,2

"Now this is the main point of the things wee are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord erected, an not man."

When you see this expression in Heb. 8:1, "High Priest." And when you see this phrase, "the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," Think - Access to God! Here's what has helped me: think of the two offices, PROPHET and PRIEST. The prophet spoke for God, to man. The priestly office moved in the other direction - from man to God, and it was all about man's access to God.

The affirmation of Heb. 8:1 is, in Jesus Christ all men have the perfect, the ultimate High Priest! Through Jesus Christ, people who have sinned can be forgiven, and brought into fellowship with God! Access to God, for Christ is there; He is "seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." And you'll notice here this is a process or system "which the Lord erected, and not man."

Men have, over the span of all time, attempted to invent, to create or erect their systems, to give men access to God. All such human systems fail because they are human. Whether you are talking about popular, evangelical religion, modern protestant denominationalism, Catholicism, religious sects, new age, mystical, eastern systems or whatever else has been made by men and/or denominated - All such human systems fail, because they were made by men.

Access to God is available only through Jesus Christ; we have such a High Priest, "who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Jews who became Christians might have been under some pressure and might have entertained the thought: We no longer have a High Priest!! We've always had a priesthood. We've always been able to access God through the High Priest. I think - there is no doubt - they missed their old religion, and the book of Hebrews was written to help them overcome that. Those temptations could be defeated, to the extent they understood and appreciated and obeyed Jesus Christ.

So at this point in the epistle, the inspired writer affirms - WE DO HAVE A HIGH PRIEST! Jesus Christ, "who is seated," not in an earthly building or tent but "at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens!"

So What?

What should this all mean to me today? Jesus Christ died to purge our sins; He is "at the right hand of the Majesty on High." He is the Apostle of our confession, and worthy of more glory than Moses. "We have such a High Priest." What should all this mean to me today? So What?

Heb. 12:1,2
"Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

In Bible reading and Bible study - you discover a certain sequence over and over. Here are the facts; here is the truth. Now, here's what you do with it. God speaks through Jesus Christ, as revealed in the New Testament; He is worthy of more glory than Moses, indeed, He is the High Priest through whom we can have access to God.

So What? Let us lay aside all the weight of sin, previous attachments, worldly allegiances, and ignorance. Let us, by faith, develop endurance and strength and motivation - to run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

NOT looking to Moses . . . . not looking to human religious leaders and creed writers and clergy . . . . not even looking to faithful elders and good preachers (who have a role or function under Christ) ... LOOKING UNTO JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith.

The daily practice of discipleship, must be grounded in our faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ; our reverence for who He is, and clear view of what He provides. All the truth packed into the book of Hebrews, all the truth about Jesus Christ - - is written to lead us to this point, of motivation - to lay aside sin and run the race.

If I am not consistently laying aside sin; if I am not vigorous in running the race, it will be of value for me, to go back and re-introduce myself to the Savior. It will always help, to read again what the Bible says about who He is . . . what He did . . . what He taught. He is presented to me and to you in Hebrews, as "the author and finisher of our faith." I believe, if Moses could speak to us today in person he would tell us to look to Christ, who is worthy of more glory. He is superior to the angels. He is the ultimate, perfect High Priest. And He is not someone you remember on two holidays every year.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 14.7; July 2007