The Expository Files

The Superiority of Christ

Hebrews 1:4-14

The book of Hebrews argues that Christ is superior in all things. Christ as our Great High Priest is superior to the priest who officiated under the Levitical system. The covenant of Christ is superior to the Old Covenant given to the Jews at Sinai. Christ is greater than Moses and Aaron. These arguments are designed to lead to the conclusion that the salvation Christ provides (since it is predicated on His own precious blood and not on the blood of bulls and goats) is indeed great (Hebrews 2:1-4). We ignore or "neglect" this great salvation to our spiritual ruin. Christ is also superior to the angels, which is the theme of Hebrews 1:4-14.

Angels are featured throughout the OT. We generally think of angels of being messenger for God; they did serve that purpose (Genesis 19; 22). Daniel speaks of Michael (Daniel 12:1-2). Angels were a featured part of many Near Eastern religions. The Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that the ancients speculated about the role of angels in service to God. In NT times, the worship of angels has apparently become a problem, probably as a part of Gnosticism (Colossians 2:18). Angels had (have) something to do with Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 11. Today, the New Age Movement has again popularized angels; they are the focus of many books and some movies. What place do angels occupy in Hebrews?

First, Christ is said to be better than the angels "as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they" (1:4). Exaltation by the Father's right hand marks Christ as greater than the angels. Further, His name is greater. In context, this seems to be a reference, as verse five states, to the fact that Christ is identified as the Son (cf. Philippians 2:9-11; here Lord is used). While on earth Jesus was clearly the Son (Hebrews 5:9), but in this exalted position of honor, Jesus is demonstrated to be far above the angels; He is ranked or reputed to be above the angels. The Father never said to the angels: "Thou art my son, This day have I begotten thee" (1:5). This is a quotation from Psalm 2:7, which speaks of the triumph of the King over His enemies. Paul, in Acts 13:33, applies the Psalms passage to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Not only is the name of Christ above that of the angels, but His very essence, His deity, was demonstrated by His resurrection from the grave (cf. Romans 1:4). No angel could make that claim.

Second, did the Father ever say to an angel: "I will be to him a Father, And he shall be to me a Son?" No, but He said that to Christ (1:5). This OT quotation is from 2 Samuel 7:14. King David asked permission to build a suitable house for Jehovah. After telling David no, the Lord said that one from David's loins would come forth and his kingdom would be established forever. Yes, David's son, Solomon, would later build the temple in Jerusalem; God would be a Father to Him. But the ultimate fulfillment could not be possible apart from Christ, the Son, who sits on David's throne (cf. Acts 2:29-36). Could the angels make such a claim of superiority? No, but Christ makes that claim. Is He worthy? Should we listen to Him? The original recipients of Hebrews needed to reminded of Christ's superiority. We need that same reminder today.

By Randy Harshbarger
From Expository Files 8.2; February 2001