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Hebrews 1:5-2:9: Jesus Is Greater Than Angels Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 September 2016

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Yesterdayís faith will never be enough to save us. No one who fails to persevere in their belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord will make it to glory. Heaven will not be populated with people who Ďhad a religious experienceí when they were young and lived the rest of their lives for themselves and for their sin. These are statements that make us uncomfortable. Yet, they are at the heart of the message of the book of Hebrews. The author is writing to some Jewish Christians who are being tempted to return to Judaism and abandon their faith in Christ. Over and over again he warns them to not make that horrible mistake. Why? We must persevere in the faith because it is necessary for salvation. One of my commentatorís writes: ďThe NT nowhere teaches that an initial acceptance of the saving message is sufficient without perseverance in faith. We must not drift from the faith or neglect our great salvation.Ē1

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As we will see in the coming weeks, the author gives several exhortations in the book to persevere in the faith along with warnings about not persevering. We see the first of those warnings in our passage this morning. Look at 2:1-4 with me. The command is simple: we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. What is he talking about drifting away from? The good news of the gospel. The message that Jesus declared and the apostles preached and God confirmed through signs and wonders and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The good news of Jesusí death and resurrection for our sins. The author is warning against drifting away from this message.

The language of drifting is like that of a boat in a lake that does not have an anchor. It may seem fine at first, but it can eventually drift to shallow waters and be in trouble. Such drift can happen to those who make a profession of faith in Jesus but do not persevere in the faith. The author of Hebrews has written this book to encourage and warn his readers to not make that mistake. And why should we not do that? Because apart from the gospel we will not be able to escape the judgment that is to come. In order to drive this message home, the author builds an argument for why Jesus is superior to angels. The issue was not that the Jews were necessarily tempted to worship angels. Rather, they were tempted to value the message that they delivered over that of the message of Christ. In order to discourage this, the author gives several reasons in our passage why Christ and His message are superior. What does he say? How is Jesus (and His revelation) greater than angels?

He is Godís Son (1:5)

Building upon what he has already argued in 1:1-4, the author of Hebrews goes on to quote several Old Testament passages that demonstrate Christís superiority. The first two (Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14) are quoted to show that Christ is superior because He is the Son. Look at verse 5. Jesus is Godís Son. He is the Anointed One spoken about in Psalm 2, the great King who will reign forever. The prophecy from 2 Samuel was immediately fulfilled by Solomon but it ultimately pointed to Jesus as the true Son of God. And as the Son, He is greater than the angels.

He is superior to creation (1:6-12)

The next few quotations are used to demonstrate that Christ is greater because He is not part of the creation, unlike the angels. The angels worship Christ. Look at verse 6. This is probably a reference to Christís exaltation after His death and resurrection. When He sat down at the Fatherís side, He was worshipped by angels. The angels serve Christ. Look at verse 7. The angels do His bidding and accomplish His purposes. Not only that, but the author goes on to apply statements about God and His rule over creation to Jesus. Look at verses 8-12. The author of Hebrews is applying these statements to Jesus, which again implies that Jesus is indeed divine. His throne is forever for He has loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the world (see 1:2-3). The world will pass away, but Jesus will not, for He is changeless. In all of these ways, the author is demonstrating that Jesus is superior to creation and therefore superior to angels.

He is ruler over creation (1:13-14)

Once again the author returns to the idea that Jesus sat down at Godís right hand. Look at verses 13-14. When Jesus sat down at the Fatherís side, He sat down as the ruler over all. His work of paying for our sins was done. His labor of bearing the wrath of God for our rebellion was complete. He created the world and redeemed the world, all who would turn from their sins and trust in His finished work. As the author will go on to note, everything is subjected to Him, even if it does not look like it in this sin-polluted world. Jesus is the ruler over all, sitting at Godís right hand. And what of the angels? They are servants to the saints. God has sent them to serve His people, those who are to inherit salvation. As the ruler over all, Jesus is greater than the angels. They minister to Godís people in service to Christ.

He is in control of all creation (2:5-9)

After the author exhorts the readers to persevere in the faith (2:1-4), he comes back to show even more how Christ is superior to angels. And it seems that he is perhaps anticipating an objection. Maybe one of the readers would say: ĎBut Jesus was just a man, a human being. How could He be greater than angels?í The answer to such an objection is that God created man to rule over all of creation. This is what is celebrated in Psalm 8a, which the author quotes in 2:5-8. Look at that with me. God has put everything under the subjection of men. But there is a problem. Because of Adamís sin, mankind has not faithfully exercised that rule. God has been gracious and kind to men, showing them love and favor. But sin has constantly been a problem for every human. Every human, save One.

The author goes on to apply Psalm 8 to Jesus. Look at verse 8b-9. The Lord left nothing outside of the control of the true Adam, Jesus Christ. He reigns and rules over all. Granted, we donít see everything in subjection to Him yet, but that Day is coming. His kingdom has already been inaugurated, but it has not yet been consummated. Jesus is the new head of the human race, and unlike Adam, He was perfect in all that He did, even His death on a cross. For this reason, He is crowned with glory and honor, a phrase that he borrows from Psalm 8. And how is this good news for us? Jesus, the perfectly obedient Adam, died on a cross to taste death for everyone. He tasted death for you at Calvary. He breathed His last for you. He bled and died for you. For His great work of our salvation, He is crowned with glory and honor. Indeed, all praise and glory and honor belong to Jesus, the true Adam to whom all things have been subjected.

The author of Hebrews leaves no doubt in our minds that Jesus is indeed greater than angels. Thus, His revelation is greater than theirs as well. If that is true, then the question becomes obvious: how could you abandon Jesus for the revelation of angels? How could you value what they have revealed over what He has revealed? These are the questions that the author is pressing home in 2:1-4. Look at those once again with me. Under the Old Covenant every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution. It was a weighty matter to disobey the Lord and reject His covenant under the former revelation. If Jesus has brought a greater revelation, then how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? The author is encouraging his readers to avoid this mistake, to pay much closer attention, to persevere in their faith in Jesus.

Of course, we might be thinking: ĎI am not tempted to put myself under the Law. I am not wrestling with the revelation of angels. Why do I need such a warning?í The truth is that we are all tempted to drift away from the faith. We may not be lured by another religion, but we are all tempted by our former way of life. Some of us are tempted to rest in yesterdayís faith and not really worry about what we believe today. Or maybe the way to say it is that we are not that worried that our actions and attitudes are perhaps revealing that our faith was never true. If that is you, then you need to hear this warning. And even if your faith is active, we still need to guard ourselves from drifting in the faith. How do we do that? The book of Hebrews tells us to see and value Jesus above all else. The One who reigns over all and rules over all tasted death so that we could be forgiven. The One who sustains the world is the One who paid for our sins. The One who created us all is the One who bore our condemnation on that tree. Donít lose sight of that. Donít lose sight of who He is and what He has done for you. Spend your life learning how to treasure Him more and more. Amen.

1 Thomas R. Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews BTFCP (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2015) location 2096

~ William Marshall ~

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