Agonizomai: Heb 1:3-4 - Christ - Is How God Magnifies His Name

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heb 1:3-4 - Christ - Is How God Magnifies His Name

Heb 1:3-4 Christ - Is How God Magnifies His Name

3-4 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, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Speaking of Jesus, the writer makes sure that his readers hear who Christ is. He is not an angel. He is not just a man. He is the very Creator of all things Who at this moment, and even when He walked the earth, upheld all things by the word of His power. This phrase, "word of his power" is loaded with meaning. The power of the logos is the means by which God effectuates both existence and events. God speaks and it is so, as we find repeatedly in Genesis. Unmistakably, then - and especially to a Jewish audience - the writer is identifying the Son as God. He is simply using a Hebraism, stating the first part of the verse in a new way in the second part. Hebrew writers did this all the time. "God is good; His mercies endure forever." "Jesus the incarnate Son is the exact representation of the Almighty God; when he speaks it comes to pass, as in the upholding of the universe." And nobody could dispute the fact that the universe was certainly holding together.

But it was this same Almighty God, manifested in Son, who was himself the One that suffered and died as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was the perfect, the true, the only effectual sacrifice for sin. The purification, the catharsis, the expunging, the cleansing of this pestilence to which all men are enslaved - namely sin, which is rebellion and lawlessness arising from disbelief in the Name of God - was made by Him in His life and death. This was accomplished in history. Note that purification was made - it does not say that purification was made possible. This has implications for what we believe, but this is not the place to expand upon that.

Now in what sense did this Eternal Son Who created the worlds and Who was Himself God become superior to angels, who are themselves created beings? Was he ever actually inferior to them? If so, in what sense? We must wait for the next chapter before this becomes clear. {see Heb 2:9-10} For now, the writer is embarking upon a long argument, supported from the Hebrew Scriptures, proving that Jesus was not an angel - a created being. Obviously, for him to spend time here establishing this fact ought to draw our attention to its importance for the Jews of the first century.

Not only is the natural man resistant to the idea of God becoming a man, but the Jews were particularly vulnerable to being scandalized by the idea of their long awaited Messiah becoming a lowly peasant, who was rejected by all the leaders of the nation, ultimately dying a shameful death as a criminal. Alongside this tendency there were the nascent seeds of Gnosticism, which would fit well into the mindset of the Kabbalah. Gnosticism spoke of secret and hidden knowledge available only to the initiated, which would reveal complex hierarchies of angelic beings called demiurges. This sort of heresy threatened the early church and grew in influence well into the second century. Much of the New Testament’s teaching is devoted to refuting this growing heresy, which affected not only the Jewish brothers, but also the Gentile believers.

Jesus was not an angel. He was not a creature. He was not a man who became an angel because he "earned" it through some sort of life of merit. He wasn’t graduating on the eternal evolutionary spectrum to a higher form of life, like the Father and the Son of Mormon theology. Something did happen - something unique, and something about which the powers of darkness never cease to invent twists and corruptions that will mislead people. The aim is to prevent belief. But a close second priority is to induce wrong belief, leading to ineffectual witness.

What is going to be explained here is the incredible passage of the Son from heaven to earth to heaven again - and all that was accomplished by this unendingly glorious series of events that unfolded out of the eternal purposes of God. The Hebrews needed to be reminded of this because, like all the saints, their faith was constantly under attack. The liar and murderer will never rest from tormenting the saints until he is put away forever. All saints need to be reminded of the gospel constantly. The gospel is not to be preached solely to unbelievers. It is also for those who believe. It is, in fact the power of God for salvation to everyone that believes (literally "is believing") {Ro 1:16}. I speak here of the fullness of the gospel, the deeper and more mature aspects, which include a growing understanding of this very "journey" of Christ, and its ramifications from eternity to eternity for all of God’s creatures, men and angels included. The deeper the understanding of what has been revealed, the richer the potential for living it out.

We spoke briefly in the commentary on the previous verses about inheritance. In that context it was about how our inheritance is indissolubly linked to Christ. Apart from him we have no inheritance. In him we inherit all things because all things are His and He is ours. {So 2:16-17} Some commentators link that reference to the one in verse 4, making them one and the same. I tend to agree that they are aspects of the same thing but the previous reference is to "all things" and this is specifically in reference to "His Name". It is a Name that no one can read but Himself, {Re 19:12} yet it is the Name written on the white stone of victory that no one can know, except the one who receives it. {Re 2:17} It is a Name that is more excellent (surpassingly, infinitely more so) than mere "messenger" or "angel." It is a Name that belongs only to the Son of God, Who laid aside His glory in order to take it up again, having wrought salvation for lost men through His blood.

What is that name? Every believer knows it. Do you? It is the name that encompasses all the glories that God purposed, displayed and accomplished in the Incarnate Son. Grace, redemption, mercy, love. It is also a Name by which all will be judged - by which the reprobate will be confirmed as condemned and damned eternally, to the glory of God. It says Author, Creator, Redeemer, Friend, Emmanuel, Almighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Judge of all the World. It is an infinite and eternal Name to which is attached all the meaning and glory that these things convey. Thus it is known only to He who is infinite and eternal - yet is made known to those who are in Him, and He in them. And it will be made known in increasing revelation to His finite saints forever and ever.

So how was this inherited? It was inherited by Jesus, the God-man where much of what it represented had formerly belonged to the Eternal Son. But by his actions in redemptive history through his taking unto himself a human nature forever, unspeakable glories, untold and ravishing glories have been revealed for all of creation to witness. Had God not come, he would still have been loving and merciful and gracious - just not visibly, to undeserving human sinners. (Remember, there is no redemption for fallen angels.) These virtues existed eternally in God, but by exercising them in his creation in the Person of Christ they are inherited visibly by the God-man. Something more of God is manifested in Christ than was apparent to his creatures beforehand. So, as Son of God incarnate, He emptied himself of his glory - but when His work was finished, He inherited and took up a greater glory in the eyes of His whole creation because of what He had accomplished. Thus, the incarnation and the redemption were manifested firstly for the glory of God, and to that end and purpose for the benefit and enjoyment of men.

{As a footnote for the sake of right theology, God never changes. He cannot be increased or added to. He doesn’t learn new things. He doesn’t grow in any respect. He is infinite, complete and perfect as he ever was and will be. But He desires that His name be glorified and that He be enjoyed by His creatures, and the incarnation-redemption-atonement increases for His creatures the visible extent of that glory, that they may appreciate, adore, worship and enjoy Him the more.}


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh, words of life. The cult followers need to grasp this. I tried telling this to the Watchtower tract society people a few weeks ago, but they are so deceived by their leaders' scripture twisting, that they just couldn't see it. I am blessed to hear correct theology and that my pastor preaches the gospel to the saved as well as the unsaved. These words of life bring freedom and thanksgiving to my spirit. Thank you.

9:43 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...


Thanks. I would say that "we aim to please" so long as everyone understands that it is God we aim to please, and not men. I'm glad that your pastor goes that route, too. So many don't.



12:49 pm  

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