Mightier than the Angels

  • Text: Hebrews 1:1-14
  • Series: Christ in the New Covenant, Pt. 2
  • Date: Sunday, April 29, 2018 – AM
  • Venue: Trinity Baptist Church – Seminole, Oklahoma
  • Speaker: Jared Byrns
  • Audio: mp3

Two weeks ago, we began our series on the book of Hebrews by looking at chapter 1 and focusing in on the first four verses. These four short verses are incredible for how much they tell us about Who Jesus is. They paint a picture of Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God’s nature—which He is. They tell us how He embodies and fulfills thousands of years of Old Testament prophecies. They call Him the Image and Glory of the Father. They describe Him as the sovereign Creator, Sustainer, and Lord of the Universe. They teach that He singlehandedly purged the sin of man. And they identify Him as the Son and Heir of the Father—not an Heir in the sense that He lacked something He would later inherit, but an Heir in the sense of being the Father’s only begotten Son and the possessor of every attribute that belongs to the Father.

As I said last time, we don’t know with any certainty who the writer of Hebrews was; only that he was an apostle or one of their close associates. Our writer, whoever he was, was addressing a group of people who had trusted in Jesus Christ but who were nevertheless tempted to draw back to the old covenant of works. The words he wrote were to remind them of precisely Who Jesus Christ is. If they wanted to know the Father, they needed to look no further than the Son. If they wanted access to the Father, they had to approach Him through the Son. Jesus is just like His Father, so He revealed a flawless picture of Who the Father is, and His new covenant unfolded as a perfect plan for reconciling man to the Father.

Those four verses present Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God. Now, if He’s the ultimate revelation of God, we would be foolish to settle for anything less. Imagine you went to a steakhouse and ordered the finest cut of meat on the menu, cooked just the way you wanted it, with all the right trimmings. Now imagine they brought you a tin of Vienna sausages instead. I doubt very many of us would settle for that and say it was good enough.

So when we have the Son of God willing to bear our punishment, to stand in our place, to plead our case before the Father, and to reconcile us to Him, why would we settle for anyone else and say that their efforts are good enough? The writer of Hebrews made that point abundantly clear in the next ten verses, as he showed how even the angels pale in comparison to Jesus. Hebrews, chapter 1, starting in verse 1, says:

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

“For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”

In case the original audience didn’t fully understand the point in those first four verses, the writer spent the next ten verses comparing Jesus to the angels and driving the point home. The Sadducees considered themselves too elite and too educated to believe in the more supernatural elements of their religion. Other than them, the Jewish people believed in and revered the angels. As I told you last time, that doesn’t mean that they worshiped the angels; they merely gave them the respect that was deserved by the messengers of the Most High God. After all, the angels had regular access to the throne of God and had a history of bringing messages on God’s behalf. Throughout the old covenant, they were ministers and messengers of God Himself.

They weren’t wrong for revering the angels, but the writer brought up this comparison with the angels to make a more significant point about Jesus Christ. He expressed his surprise that people who were so firm in their reverence of the angels could be so unsure of their faith in Christ. Yes, the angels were messengers of God—but Jesus Himself was the message. Yes, the angels were ministers of God who came to carry out the tasks He assigned them, but Jesus humbled Himself and took on the role of a servant not just to carry out a job here-and-there, but to completely fulfill the redemptive plan that the Father had formulated before the foundation of the world. In other words, while the angels played a role in God’s plans, Jesus is the very heart of God’s plans.

Look at verse 5. It says, “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” This verse quotes two verses from the Old Testament: Psalm 2:7 and II Samuel 7:14, respectively—parts of which speak of the Messiah. He was asking these wavering believers a couple of rhetorical questions. He asked, ‘Which angel was called God’s begotten Son?’ Of course, God has never called any angel that. And he asked them, ‘Which angel has a Father-Son relationship with God?’ Again, none of them have any such relationship. In asking these questions, he was reminding them that Jesus is the Son of God and the angels are not.

Then the comparison goes a step further. Verse 6 says, “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” That verse tells us a few things about Jesus. Calling Him the first begotten doesn’t imply that there are others begotten after Him. Every believer is an adopted son or daughter of God, but there is only One begotten Son of God. There are many sons of God by adoption, but only One by nature. Six verses in the New Testament refer to Jesus as the only begotten Son of God: John 1:14, John 1:18, John 3:16, John 3:18, Hebrews 11:17, and I John 4:9. He is the only begotten Son of God. The Greek word πρωτοτόκος, used here means firstborn. And, again, before we think this means there were others who came after Him, consider the context of what this passage is saying about Jesus. This whole chapter is intended to point out the unique place that Jesus occupies in this new covenant as the Son and Heir of God. To twist that into saying that He’s just One of many is to misinterpret the chapter and make it say the opposite of what’s intended. Being the firstborn in the ancient world meant holding a position of double honor, obtaining a double share of the inheritance, and being the next in line to the throne. By calling Jesus the firstborn of the Father, the writer of Hebrews was doing nothing more than using every phrase at his disposal to point out the unique nature and position of Jesus Christ. By saying the Father brought Him into the world, it’s not implying that Jesus was a created being or that He had a beginning. This bringing into the world describes how the Father introduced Jesus to the world at Bethlehem. And as this verse says, the angels worshipped Him.

Not only does this verse reinforce what the previous verses have already taught us about Jesus being the Son and Heir of the Father, but this verse also tells us that because of Who He is Jesus is deserving of the angels’ worship. No angel was begotten by the Father, is called ‘Son’ by the Father, or is worthy of anyone’s worship—but Jesus is all of those things. He is begotten of the Father, He is called ‘Son’ by the Father, and He is so worthy of worship that even the angels bow down before Him.

Now, look at verse 7. It says, “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.” This verse is a direct quotation from Psalm 104:4, where David described the angels as created spirits who serve God. They are incredibly powerful, as forceful as fire. But they are not eternal like Jesus, because they were created and had a beginning. They also don’t call the shots like Jesus, because they exist to serve Him and minister on His behalf. We have to compare this with what verse 8 says: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” This verse quotes Psalm 45:6 about Jesus Christ. So, while the angels are created spirits, Jesus is the eternal God—God the Son—Whose kingdom goes on without end. And while the angels serve, Jesus rules over them with a scepter of righteousness.

The very next verse from Psalm 45 is quoted here in verse 9. It says, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Jesus, like His Father, is incomprehensibly holy. Jesus loves righteousness and hates sin because it is in His nature to do so. Because of this, this verse says that the Father has anointed Jesus with the oil of gladness above all others. Just like kings and high priests received anointing under the old covenant, the Father anointed Jesus in the new. This anointing is another way of showing us how the Father sees Jesus Christ. Though He was rejected and crucified by sinful men, He is wholly acceptable in the Father’s eyes.

The Old Testament references continue with verse 10, which draws from Psalm 102:25. It says here, “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” Again, the writer of Hebrews was reminding his readers that if they were to draw back from Jesus Christ and re-embrace the old covenant they would be turning their backs on the Creator of the Universe. We see here, yet again, this chapter identifies Jesus as the Creator—not only of the Earth itself but all the heavens. It says they are the work of His hands. And if these early wavering Christians thought there was anything too big for Jesus to handle and that they needed to go back to the old covenant to be secure, they were confronted here with the reality that there is nothing beyond the scope of Jesus’ abilities to handle. The hands that created the Universe have the power to save anyone in it.

So He was here before the Universe existed, and He brought it into existence Himself. Likewise, He’ll bring it to a conclusion, and He will be here long after the Earth as we currently know it has ceased to exist. Verse 11 says, “They shall perish; but thou remainest […].” All the planets and stars that He ever made, all of these celestial objects that seem so permanent from the standpoint of our brief human existence, they will all someday come to an end. And when they do, Jesus will still be there—unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable. Notice how the writer of Hebrews said it in verses 11 and 12. He wrote, “[…A]nd they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.”

Just as an article of clothing gets old—it wears out, decays, or even goes out of style—someday this world we live in will also reach its expiration date. But at the end of the world, Jesus is no passive observer. Verse 12 says that He will fold all things up like an old garment, but not to put it away or throw it away; He will transform the world as we know it. Just as He created the heavens and the Earth, He will someday create a new Heaven and a new Earth. But as significant as these events are going to be, the way the Bible refers to them here and the words the writer used tell us even more about Jesus than about the circumstances. Whether we look at the grammar in English or the original Greek, it’ll show us the same thing. Look at all the phrases in these two verses that refer to events: “shall perish,” “shall wax old,” “shalt […] fold them up,” and “shall be changed.” Each of these refers to some specific but uncertain point in the future when our current world will come to an end, and Jesus will transform it into something better. Everything we know changes—except for Jesus Christ, Who is, according to Hebrews 13:8, “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Now, look at the phrases in these two verses that speak about Who Jesus is: “thou remainest” and “thou art the same.” Both of these statements are in the present tense, because regardless of what has changed or will change He is always Lord.

The writer moved on to another rhetorical question in verse 13. It says, “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” These words came directly from Psalm 110:1, and the answer to the question is, of course, none of them. The Father never said that to an angel. On the other hand, Jesus does occupy a place of highest honor at the Father’s right hand and will one day see His enemies subdued. Then, verse 14 says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” This verse means that while Jesus rules from Heaven, the angels do His bidding and minister to those of us who through Him have become heirs of the salvation provided at the cross.

Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews drew comparison after comparison between Jesus Christ and the angels so that he could make it clear to his readers that Jesus far surpasses any created being. Some of the early Christians who came from a Jewish background were starting to have second thoughts about whether they should put their faith entirely in Jesus or draw back to the old covenant. Here he reminded them that if they could revere the angels, they should cling to the Son of God Who created those angels, gave them their marching orders, and sent them to minister to God’s people in the first place. There was no need for them to look to the angels to connect them to the Father when the Son is a far greater Advocate.

It’s always a mistake to put our faith in any created being rather than in the Creator. Romans chapter 1 paints a picture of what the world looks like when we do this. Bitterness, deceit, violence, sexual perversion, and every other kind of wickedness have always run rampant at any time when we have, as verse 25 says, “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” The creature is no substitute for the Creator. The people described here in Romans chapter 1 worshipped idols sculpted to look like birds, beasts, and creeping things. The people addressed in Hebrews chapter 1 were tempted to look to the angels to find their way to God. People today put their faith in themselves and their own efforts.

It’s easy to talk about what others do, but when we see how emphatic the Bible is about the supremacy of Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t just walk away thinking that thosepeople need Jesus. We would do well to inspect the dark corners of our own hearts in light of what the book of Hebrews has said. So, here’s my question for you. Do you find yourself putting your faith in someone other than Jesus Christ?

Do you find yourself putting your faith in someone other than Jesus Christ?

Are you trusting in someone other than Jesus to save you from your sins and take you to Heaven? Are you trusting in yourself and your own effort? Are you trusting in who your parents or grandparents were and how they served Him? Are you trusting in this church? Are you trusting in a particular preacher or teacher? Are you trusting in anything other than Jesus Christ for your salvation?

If you are, I want you to consider the Scripture that we’ve studied this morning and what it says about Jesus Christ. Knowing all that we’ve read—that He’s the Son and Heir of the Father, that He’s the all-powerful Creator, that He’s mightier than all the angels, and that He came to die for your sins—do you honestly believe there’s anybody you should trust to save you besides Jesus? When these early Christians had second thoughts about Jesus and His new covenant and questioned whether they should go back to the old covenant and try to work for their own salvation, the Bible made it clear that there is no one but Jesus who can redeem us and reconcile us to the Father.

Maybe you’re a believer this morning, and you’ve put your faith in Christ alone already—so you’re thinking, ‘No, of course, I’m not trusting in someone else for my salvation.’ But your Christian life only begins at salvation. We were made for fellowship with God. Faith in Christ doesn’t end with salvation. Sometimes, after we’ve come to Christ for salvation, we get hung up on our works again. Now, we should strive to be obedient to God, but we can start to think that if we just acted a certain way, God might love us more. Or we can become fearful that we can mess up and cause Him to love us less. Sometimes, we can even convince ourselves that God couldn’t possibly still love us after the times we’ve failed Him. Do you know why we feel that way? It’s because we start thinking that the relationship depends on us. In other words, we stop trusting Jesus the way we should and start trusting in ourselves for the relationship with God.

So, let me ask you again, do you find yourself putting your faith in someone other than Jesus Christ?

If you find yourself in the same boat with the original readers of Hebrews, don’t despair. The Scriptures we’ve looked at today show us the answer as they remind us that the creature is no substitute for the Creator. The remedy to our spiritual poverty is Jesus Christ! But you must believe that He is Who God’s Word says He is. Don’t look to Him as just a good example or a great moral teacher. Believe in Him as the only begotten Son of God Who created the Universe and holds it together, Who was foretold by the prophets for thousands of years, Who lived a perfect life so that He could be our sinless sacrifice, Who died on the cross to pay for your sins in full, Who literally and physically rose from the dead three days later, Who is now seated at the right hand of the Father where He makes intercession on your behalf, and Who will one day return to judge the living and the dead.

If you’ve already put your trust in Him for salvation, don’t you forget Who He is! He paid for your salvation in full at the cross. He reconciled you to the Father and holds you secure in your relationship with Him to this very day. And there is nothing in your life that He can’t handle and use, for your good and His glory, to mold and shape you as He transforms you into the child of God that He created you to be.

And if you haven’t put your trust in Him for salvation, this Jesus Who is spoken of in such awe-inspiring terms in Hebrews stands not only able but willing to save you today. But you have to admit that you’ve disobeyed God—that you’ve sinned. Everything you’ve ever done wrong, and every good thing you’ve ever failed to do, has just confirmed that you are a born sinner and shown how far you fall short of God’s standard of absolute sinless perfection. Our sin keeps us from living up to God’s standards and separates us from Him. That’s why He sent Jesus Christ. He’s offended by our rebellion against Him, but He still loves us and knows we can never save ourselves from our sin. As a righteous Judge, He has to impose a penalty. Rather than have you separated from Him forever in Hell, Jesus came to bear that penalty and to pay the price for your sins.

When He was nailed to the cross, He shed His blood and died so that He could pay the price for your sins in full. And when Jesus rose again three days later, He proved Himself to be everything He said He was and demonstrated His ability to do everything He claimed—including forgiving your sins. Today, He offers you salvation, but you have to stop trusting in the creature instead of the Creator. Stop thinking you can be good enough. Stop relying on your own efforts, church connection, or family ties, and trust Jesus. Admit that you are a sinner who’s in need of a Savior because you can’t save yourself. Believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins in full and rose again. And ask God’s forgiveness for your sins. When we recognize the gravity of our sin and turn to Him in faith, He promises to forgive us, receive us into His family, and give us eternal life with Him in Heaven.

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The above text is a rush transcript of the message and may contain errors.

© 2018, Jared Byrns. All rights reserved.