Sermon from Hebrews 1:4-14

Below are my sermon notes from my series through the book of Hebrews. This is not a manuscript, but it does provide a frame of reference for the thoughts and main intention of the sermon. I’d love to discuss this with you further should you have any questions.

God bless!

15 March 2017 Sermon

Hebrews 1.4-14 Jesus is Better Than the Angels

 

Introduction:

Turn to Matthew 13.51-52. In this passage Jesus is checking with the disciples to ensure they understand what He is teaching. Before our passage He presented seven different parables ranging from topics of soil, wheat and tares, mustard seeds to leaven. In this discussion Jesus is instructed the disciples with new aspects of truth. But in His teaching He also encourages a devout love for the old. And this morning we are going to bring out of the treasure of Scripture things new and old.

A Brief Discussion on Angels

Let us, at the outset, clearly understand that our brief discussion this morning about angels is solely for the purpose of laying the foundation upon which we can better understand the superiority of Jesus. We are reminded that there are dangers in becoming obsessed with angels (Colossians 2.18). We certainly want to keep that in mind, but we also desire to understand the things God has revealed to us through His Word, and especially when we are considering the superiority of Jesus to that of the angels.

Angels were incredible beings of great power. “The angels, as beings worthy to stand in proximity to the Throne of Glory, necessarily were more perfect creatures than man.” (Abraham Cohen, Every Man’s Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, 48) Angels are immortal (Luke 20.35-36), require no physical nourishment, and do not seem to be tempted with the same sinful desires with which humanity is plagued.

They were created along with the rest of the universe during the six days of Genesis chapter one. There are various debates on exactly what day God created these incredible beings. Some suggest the second day with reference to Psalm 104.3. Others suggest that He created them on the fifth day along with the other winged creatures. And some even believe that God creates angels continuously as they serve and praise Him (see Daniel 7.10).

Paul Enns, a theologian, sums up the angels’ nature and attributes:

  • Angels are spirit beings
    • They can take the human form (Genesis 18.3)
    • They are called spirits (Hebrews 1.4)
    • They do not engage in marriage or succumb to death (Mark 12.25; Luke 20.36)
  • Angels are created beings
    • God created them by His Word (Psalm 148.2-5)
  • Angels were created simultaneously and innumerable in number
    • Created in a singular act (Colossians 1.16)
    • An unknown number exist (Hebrews 12.22)
  • Angels are a higher order than mankind
    • Man, including Jesus, was made lower (Hebrews 2.7, Psalm 8.4-5)
    • Angels are not subject to death
    • Angels have incredible wisdom (2 Samuel 14.20 yet is limited (Matthew 24.36)
    • Angels have greater power than man (Matthew 28.2, Acts 5.19, 2 Peter 2.11) and yet are limited in power (Daniel 10.13)

      *Moved a large stone, opened prison doors // Gabriel was withstood by the prince of Persia

There were different views presented in Judaism at the time of Jesus and up to the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews (ca. AD 67-69). One finds the Pharisees, whom we are more than well acquainted with through Jesus’s interactions. We also know of the Sadducees. This group of Jewish people only accepted the Torah as God’s written word. In many cases, they denied the supernatural. And according to Acts 23.8, they denied the existence of any spiritual beings (unlike their counterparts the Pharisees).  There was one other community that had ties with some of the individuals revealed in the New Testament. These individuals were called the Qumran community. Some of the members of this community believed that Michael was a rival or even a superior to the Messiah.

 

Main views:

  1. Jesus is divine and is God’s own Son- 4-6 (section is a chiasm, see your handout)

    When the author of Hebrews cites this verse, he or she, is referencing Psalm 2.7. This recounts a similar expression found in the Davidic covenant (see 2 Samuel 7.8-16, see also 1 Chronicles 17.13). In David’s case he was promised a son (who we know as Solomon), but the future application would be to THE Son. We see in the baptism of Jesus the pronouncement of the name of the Son (see Matthew 3.17; Mark 1.11; and Luke 3.22). Paul, in his sermon to the synagogue at Antioch, references Psalm 2.7 as proof that Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah (Acts 13.33).

    One theologian writes, “For the same reason David was called the son of God, having been especially chosen to perform great things; but his glory was hardly a spark, even the smallest, to that glory which shone forth in Christ, on whom the Father has imprinted his own image.” (John Calvin, Hebrews, 40)

  2. Jesus is better than the angels because He is the Sovereign Lord- 7-14
    1. The angels were created to be ministers- Hebrews 1.7, 14
      1. The angels were God’s ministers, His servants. An examination of the biblical references to angels would yield an enormous amount of material. It will be better for us to relinquish this as one of the many issues to which we may be sidetracked, but for the sake of time, we will have to focus our attention.

        *The angels helped the patriarchs, they were present at the giving of the Law, used in acts of judgments (Egypt, Israel), brought food to Elijah, killed 185,000 Assyrians, kept the mouths of lions shut (Daniel)

      2. These angels are ministers for those who will be saved- Hebrews 1.4, see also Matthew 18.10.

        In contrast to the angels, who bear a wonderful privilege in serving God and a front row seat to the restoration of Creation, we see Jesus.

    2. Jesus is better because His deity calls for worship- Hebrews 1.6 (see also Deut. 33.43, LXX version; Psalm 97.7; 1 Peter 3.22; and Revelation 5.11-13

      Whereas the angels are ministers, Jesus is to be ministered He is the Son of God, and God never commands anyone to worship angels. On the contrary, God commands all angels to worship Him.

    3. Jesus is better because His rule is without end- Hebrews 1.8-9, 13
    4. Jesus is better because He is the Creator- Hebrews 1.10-12

Application:

Because Jesus is better than the angels, we should:

  1. Focus our attention, our thoughts, and our actions all on Him.
    Our thoughts should dwell on the majesty of Jesus. Our attention should fixate on the Lamb Who was slain. And our actions should be devoted deeds of worship to Jesus.

    One practical way to do this is begin, once an hour and every hour, to speak to God. Praise Him for some good thing He has done for you or given to you. Ask Him for His assistance with whatever deed you may be doing (1 Corinthians 10.31).

  2. Relish in the Sovereign rule of Jesus.
    Since Jesus is seated at a throne, worshipped at all times and for all time by every single creature, we should rest that He is in control. There is nothing that takes God by surprise. There are no limits to His power, His understanding. I say relish, because like a good steak we cannot simply choke it down. I think of the students on our party nights as they devour every piece of food set before them. But a good meal is to be relished, enjoyed. And so the fact that our Jesus sits as a righteous judge faithfully fulfilling God’s Will should be relished, enjoyed, savored.

 

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Hebrews 1:4-14 Study Notes

Below are the notes that I have included with my message covering Hebrews 1:4-14. Some of it may be boring to you, but I find it interesting. Perhaps it will be a blessing! Please share your comments, questions, and thoughts.

 

Additional Notes for Hebrews 1:4-14

The following are notes that I have accrued in my study of this passage. I hope that it proves to be a blessing. I pray that the connections, the emphases, which the overwhelming amount of force the author of Hebrews uses to prove Jesus is Messiah will bless your heart and bring you to worship our incredibly gracious God!

 

Before diving too deep into this lengthy section, I wanted to share one point of linguistic interest. The writers of Scripture (both in the Old and New Testaments) utilized a feature call chiasm. It is a structure where the point of emphasis lies at the center in the form of an ‘x’. (Incidentally, the Greek letter that begins the word chiasm is chi, or c, which looks like an English ‘x’.)

The prologue (verses 1-4) are incredibly important to the rest of the book of Hebrews. The chiasm that the author uses looks like this:

 

So, in this structure the author is emphasizing the Son’s relationship with the Father. In Jewish thought, the struggles of accepting Jesus as divine (in other words, as God) developed into a huge stumbling block. Peter addresses this in 1 Peter 2:1-10. The fact that Jesus is God and that Jesus was crucified was just too much for some Jewish people to believe. Even though Peter provides several Old Testament references to this (see Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22, and Isaiah 8:14).

 

On Angels

I wish we had time to cover all the wealth of information on Jewish views of the angels. The following is taken from Paul Enns work on theology. I encourage you to look up the references provided to see how amazing these angelic creatures are. And keep in mind, Jesus is better. As we move through this passage the author of Hebrews gives reason after reason why Jesus is better.

 

  • Angels are spirit beings
    • They can take the human form (Genesis 18.3)
    • They are called spirits (Hebrews 1.4)
    • They do not engage in marriage or succumb to death (Mark 12.25; Luke 20.36)
  • Angels are created beings
    • God created them by His Word (Psalm 148.2-5)
  • Angels were created simultaneously and innumerable in number
    • Created in a singular act (Colossians 1.16)
    • An unknown number exist (Hebrews 12.22)
  • Angels are a higher order than mankind
    • Man, including Jesus, was made lower (Hebrews 2.7, Psalm 8.4-5)
    • Angels are not subject to death
    • Angels have incredible wisdom (2 Samuel 14.20 yet is limited (Matthew 24.36)
    • Angels have greater power than man (Matthew 28.2, Acts 5.19, 2 Peter 2.11) and yet are limited in power (Daniel 10.13)

[Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 300-302.]

Jewish Thoughts On Angels

It seems a little odd, that while discussing the prophets and the coming of Jesus, the author then moves to comparing the angels to the superiority of Jesus. Jewish teaching on angels is quite extensive. Some believed that Michael, the archangel, exceeded the Messiah in power. They believed the Law had been given by angels (as Scripture indicates in Galatians 3:19. I also recommend reading Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2 as well). They also are higher, in the created order, than humanity (see Psalm 8 for this).

On the Deity of Jesus

We have already noted the point of emphasis by the author of Hebrews concerning the Jewish views of the deity of Jesus. It was extremely difficult for them to accept Jesus as God. Now, before we look down on them for not believing, I think it would be helpful for us to remember that the Jewish people were monotheistic, i.e. they worship one God. Based on the teachings of Deuteronomy 6.4 (which is a part of the Shema) the Jewish people were taught that God was one. Now, we are going down the rabbit hole, so hold on! There is a lot to this teaching. Genesis 1-2 which recounts the creation story provides an interesting view on monotheism and the Trinity. Throughout the account the word used for God (Elohim) is plural (any time you see the ‘-im’ ending a word it is typically a plural form, i.e. the Emim and Anakim in Deuteronomy 2:10 and the rephaim (or giants) in Deuteronomy 3:11). Typically, a subject (such as God) would agree with its corresponding verb in number (meaning if the subject is one individual the verb is singular). However, in  the creation account God (Elohim) is always used with a singular verb. When we reach Genesis 1:26, however, God begins to speak about the creation of man and says, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”. Rather than using a singular pronoun the writer carefully chooses plural pronouns.  But how do we reconcile this with the teaching found in Deuteronomy 6:4? Again, this is fascinating. The Hebrews have two words for one: ached (or eched) and yachid (there are a few other words used, but these are the two primary ones in Scripture). The interesting thing about ached, or eched, is that it does not mean one in a singular sense. Commenting on this very passage, Jewish-Christian Craig Hartman writes, “In Hebrew, verse 4 ends with echad, which appears elsewhere in Scripture to represent not a singularity of one but a unity of two. For example, a man and a woman become one flesh, yet they remain two distinct persons within that union (Gen. 2:24). That is echad.” [Craig Hartman, Through Jewish Eyes (Greenville: BJU Press, 2010), 17.] So we see that both Scripturally and linguistically, the Trinity does not violate the fact that God is one. However, imagine you are a Jewish individual with a history of idolatry (seriously, I would fill up pages with references, a quick glance through the Old Testament will yield more than enough evidence to support this). After years of fighting and defeat, bondage and captivity, monotheism began to sink into their hearts. It is understandable that when presented with the belief that a man (Jesus) was God would be met with difficulty. The Pharisees in particular had difficulty accepting this (see John 8:12-59 for an example of this. If you have access to the New King James translation, pay special attention to verse 58 and compare it with Exodus 3:14).

All of that being said (or more accurately, written) sets the backdrop of why the author of Hebrews then discusses the superiority of Jesus to the angels with a focus on the Deity of the Son. If you, as a Jewish individual, were struggling with the thought of whether Jesus truly was divine, then it would be so helpful to look at the seven references the author of Hebrews uses to encourage you to accept the Deity of Jesus.

Utilizing the stylistic emphasis of connection, the beginning of the author’s description of Jesus in Hebrews 1:2b to Psalm 2:7 connects the idea of being an heir; the throne mentioned in Hebrews 1:3c to Psalm 110:1.

 

On the Use of Seven

Each of the references is unique. In fact, the number of references is interesting. There are seven quotations drawn from the Old Testament (Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14, Deuteronomy 32.43; Psalm 104:4, 45:6-7, 103:25-27, and 110:1). This mirrors the seven statements that are developed in the prologue about Jesus (He has been appointed heir of all things, He created the worlds, He reflects God’s glory, He bears God’s stamp, He upholds the universe, He made purification, and He sits at God’s right hand). The author of Hebrew, being Jewish, utilizes numbers as symbolic features. The number seven is found throughout Scripture indicating completeness. For a brief example of the different uses of seven, see: the Sabbath (God rested on the seventh day), circumcision occurred after seven days, seven days were needed for purification (see Leviticus 4:6-17, 8:11, 33, and Numbers 19:12); the Israelites were instructed to march around Jericho for seven times on the seventh day, Naaman was instructed to dip into the Jordan river seven times, every feast in the nation of Israel revolved around seven, there were seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Egypt during Joseph’s stay, there are seven beatitudes, 7 petitions of Jesus on the cross, 7 petitions in the Lord’s prayer, 7 deacons chosen in Acts chapter 6, seven characteristics of wisdom in the book of James, and we haven’t even reached the book of Revelation! Seven has enormous importance in Scripture, and the author’s choice of using seven descriptions of Jesus in Hebrews 1:1-4 and then the following seven Old Testament quotations is rich with Hebraic symbolism.

On Hebrews 1:5

This section begins a statement that stretches all the way to the end of the chapter (verse 14). The author quotes two verses simultaneously: Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. I encourage you to glance back at those.

As mentioned above, the author uses a literary device known as chiasm to emphasize the Father. The verses quoted can be arranged as follows:

 

 

 

Notice the structure and the emphatic position of the Father. This draws our attention to the action of God found in Hebrews 1:1, “God…spoke”.

Another interesting fact is that three groups of people referenced these two verses are regarding the Messiah: “the Qumran community, the Jewish people, and the apostolic writers.” [David L. Allen, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture Hebrews (Nashville: B&H, 2010), 171.] So from two Jewish groups and the New Testament believers, the application of these verses shows that the Messiah would be called Son of God (for a sample of the use of the phrase ‘Son of God’, see: Daniel 3:25; Matthew 4:3, 6; 8:29, 27:54; Luke 22:70; John 9:35; Acts 8:37; Romans 1:4; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 3:8; and Revelation 2:18).

Another interesting note is that no singular angel is ever referred to as ‘Son of God’. Now, in some passages angels are referred to as ‘sons of God’, but notice the use of the plural ‘sons’. For examples of this see: Genesis 6:2, 4 ((this passage is debated whether it actually refers to angels or to the godly line of Seth, but for the purposes of distinguishing between angels and Jesus I believe it to be helpful)); Job 1:6; 2:1; and 38:7).

The second reference occurs in this verse as well. This is a reference drawn from 2 Samuel 7:14. It is the establishment of what is called the ‘Davidic Covenant’ where God promised David that his seed would remain on the throne of Israel for ever.

On Hebrews 1:6

One of the interesting topics of the book of Hebrews it the author’s use of the Septuagint (hereafter LXX, or seventy, referring to the tradition that seventy Rabbis translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek). There are some interesting differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament, and one of them is found in the reference our author uses in Hebrews 1:6. It is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:43. Now, in our English Bibles you will not see the phrase, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’ But in the LXX that phrase is found. There are discussions about the validity of this, but our author uses it to prove the deity and greatness of Jesus over the angels. Another reference in Scripture is Psalm 97:7, but the rather than the normal word for angels the Psalmist uses the word for gods/God, Elohim. Either way, Jesus is God and is better than the angels, for the angels are commanded to worship Him.

Additionally, some rabbinic teaching indicates that the Messiah would worship the angels, but our author claims otherwise.

On Hebrews 1:7

This is a quotation from Psalm 104:4. In this Psalm God has created angels to do His bidding. You can check the outline provided by Mr. Enns above on what that actually entails. However, Jesus was not created for any purpose, but according to Hebrews 1:2-3 and 1:10-13 Jesus is the Creator.

I like how David Allen sums up Jesus’s superiority to the angels, “Three reasons the Son is superior to the angels. First, the Son has been inaugurated as the Davidic king by the Father at the Son’s exaltation (vs. 5). Second, this new position is a permanent position or dynasty (vs. 6a). Third, as a result of this exaltation, all the angels are called by God to worship the Son (vs. 6b); thus, he has complete authority over them.” [David L. Allen, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture Hebrews (Nashville: B&H, 2010), 175.]

On Hebrews 1:8-9

Again the comparison is made between the angels and Jesus. In verse 7 they are said to be God’s ministers or servants, but Jesus is said to possess a throne (from which we can infer sovereignty). This is a reference to Psalm 45:6-7. This Psalm, written by the sons of Korah, is a praise of the king-groom. If you look at the surrounding verses you can easily see that this is the case. But our author of Hebrews connects it beautifully to the Messiah. Note between verse 6 and 7 that this King is called God (vs. 6) but then a reference is made to His God (vs. 7). He is called God by God, given sovereign reign (as opposed to service like the angels) and is given an eternal rule (‘forever and ever’).

The anointing (from which we get the name Messiah, ‘anointed one’) of oil is an interesting concept in Scripture. In Exodus 29:7 God commands Moses to anoint the high priest and his sons. Interestingly, they served as mediators between God and Israel (Jesus also is mediator, see 1 Timothy 2:5). The Tabernacle was to be anointed with oil to signify its sanctity and holiness in Exodus 40:9. At the time of cursing for disobedience to God’s law they were forbidden to anoint themselves with oil (see Deuteronomy 28:40). David, the king of Israel (and other kings throughout Israel’s history) received anointing by oil (see Psalm 89:20). Another interesting point, besides the priests being anointed with oil, so were the kings. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (see Revelation 19:16). Finally, to complete our small discussion on anointing with oil, prophets also received this, see 1 Kings 19:16 and 1 Chronicles 16:22. Connecting this once again to Jesus, Jesus also served as a Prophet to His people (Matthew 21:11). Jesus is the Priest, King, and Prophet of God.

On Hebrews 1:10-12

This lengthier quote comes from Psalm 102:25-27. There is a rich amount of material in these verses, and I hope that some of the intricacies prove to be a blessing to your soul.

To begin with, the author of Hebrews describes the following verses to apply to Jesus, the Son. Now, this is incredibly important, for Jesus is God. It is vital to understand that God the Father and God the Son are one. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, do not believe that Jesus is Jehovah. Similarly to the Jewish people, they see this equality as being a violation of Exodus 20:2-3. For a little more detail about the deity of Jesus, see the section bearing that name in the above section. However, our reference to this Psalm is applying to Jehovah (or Yahweh, or more courteous to our Jewish friends, Adonai). Whenever we see (most likely in the Old Testament, although some New Testament references include this) ‘LORD’ with all capital letters, it is the Hebrew word hwhy, or YHWH (from whence we get Yahweh, though the Hebrew pronunciation does not necessarily justify this or the rendering Jehovah). This word hwhy only applies to God the Father throughout the Old Testament. However, our New Testament authors constantly connect verses that use hwhy and apply it to Jesus. But if you go back to Psalm 102:25 you may not see the word ‘LORD’. While it is not included in verse 25, the context clearly applies to ‘LORD’ based on verse 22. Our author, then, connects this Messianic Psalm to Jesus which equates Jesus with Adonai.

The connection is only beginning, for the Psalmist then describes the eternality of Jesus and His involvement in creation. While creation will eventually cease to exist, Jesus never will. God made the angels along with the rest of creation (Hebrews 1:7).

On Hebrews 1:13-14

The final reference provided by our author is from Psalm 110:1. This is a Psalm of David and one that the Jewish people knew referred to David (Jesus used this passage to silence His opposition, because the words have a depth of meaning that can easily be missed, see Matthew 22:42-46).

As we have already noted, when one looks to the Old Testament and sees ‘LORD’ it is the Hebrew word hwhy, or YHWH (from henceforth, Adonai). The Adonai speaks to Lord (notice the absence of all capital letters) which is the actual Hebrew word Adonai, commonly used to refer to kings and other rulers, in addition to God Himself. The author of Hebrews connects this verse to the sovereign reign of Jesus. The picture of a King sitting on his throne with his enemies as his footstool is a common one depicting absolute victory. Unlike the angels who are servants of God, Jesus sits on the throne ruling creation. The author ends this chapter with a reference to the angels as being servants once again.

Much can be said about guardian angels with this verse. God certainly uses His angels for His glory but also for a help to us. A brief excursion through the Old Testament would yield many examples of how the angels help humanity. Matthew 18:10 gives an interesting aspect to guardian angels.