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The Son Superior to Angels February 27, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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I’ve recently started reading through the Epistle to the Hebrews with the aid of a commentary by John Owen. I should note that I’ve previously read through Hebrews. As in my recent stroll through the book of 2 Peter, I hope to comprehend Hebrews as a whole. In particular, I would like to improve my understanding as to how the superiority of Jesus Christ should compel me to correctly worship Him.

I plan to blog about this experience as I read through both the epistle and Owen’s commentary. Each post will correspond to a specific section in the NIV translation.

For starters, here are my thoughts on Hebrews 1.

Summary: The author begins by asserting that from the giving of the law of Moses to the close of public prophecy in the days of Malachi, God gradually revealed His will to the faithful of the Jewish church through the prophecies and sermons of those who were divinely inspired. In contrast, during the end of the Jewish church, God revealed His Gospel message to its members through Jesus Christ, whom He made the lord of everything – as Christ made everything. Jesus Christ had dwelt among them and represented God to them; moreover, He has divine power to rule over everything and uphold everything. He also atoned for their sins by offering Himself as a sacrifice, and then He was glorified. Thus, He is preferred above the angels, and God made Him the lord of the angels.

The author then bolsters this point – that Christ is preferred above the angels – by quoting from the following passages:

  • Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14, where God gives Christ a name that distinguishes Him from everyone else
  • Deuteronomy 32:43, where God asserts that Christ – whose power and dignity were displayed from His conception to the preaching of the Gospel message – is worthy of being honored by the angels
  • Psalm 104:4, where God makes the angels swift and powerful to accomplish their appointed tasks
  • Psalm 45:6-7, where the psalmist asserts that Christ displays His glory through His eternal rule over His kingdom; His Gospel message is characterized by justice and truth, and so God has glorified Him
  • Psalm 102:25-27, where the psalmist asserts that Christ created heaven and earth; moreover, while heaven and earth will gradually decay, He is eternal
  • Psalm 110:1, where God glorifies Christ as He subdues those who oppose His reign.

The author concludes by asserting that angels are actually servants and created spirits who act on behalf of elect believers.

Thoughts: When I was in graduate school, I briefly discussed Hebrews with one of my college friends. We concurred that Hebrews was a strange book that was rather difficult to understand. Over the last few years, I occasionally pondered this observation, and I eventually determined that our initial confusion regarding Hebrews stemmed from the following factors:

  • there is significant debate regarding the authorship of this epistle – unlike most of the other New Testament epistles – lending it an air of mystery
  • this epistle includes a seemingly inordinate amount of Old Testament references; in particular, I had never carefully studied those Old Testament passages
  • I had never made a serious attempt to understand the context of this epistle, which would have helped me grasp its central point.

Hopefully this stroll will improve my comfort level with Hebrews.

The major theme of this passage is the superiority of Christ to all created things, including the angels themselves. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verses 8 and 9:

The throne does not simply denote the kingdom of Christ, or his supreme rule and dominion, but the glory also of his kingdom. Being on his throne, he is in the height of his glory. And thus, because God manifests his glory in heaven, he calls that his throne, as the earth is his footstool…

I thought about the current reign of Christ, and this brought me to one of the key difficulties of the Christian life: since the reign of Christ will be made complete at His Second Coming, we are living in a period where He has not fully revealed His glory. Thus, there is a strong temptation for Christians to focus on tangible short-term pleasures, as the long-term benefits of the completion of His reign appear rather distant and abstract. We must maintain our focus on Christ in the midst of the myriad distractions that the world – especially First World countries – offers us; this requires us to make difficult short-term sacrifices so that we can eventually claim our divine inheritance.

In light of the superiority of Christ, a believer might ask, “what kinds of short-term sacrifices can we make in order to properly worship Him?” This is a challenging question; one thought is that we should use our time wisely and profitably. In particular, it is good to consider how our daily activities bring honor and praise to Him; moreover, how can we bring more honor and praise to Him? Now this sounds rather abstract, so I will cite a specific example from my own experience: I believe that maintaining this blog is actually an act of worship, as I could use the time that I spend writing and editing posts to engage in relatively unprofitable activities such as watching TV. I assume that other Christian bloggers view their blogs in a similar light; we can be thankful that we have an opportunity to worship Him in this way.

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