I. Christ is God’s revelation to the world (1-4)
II. Christ is exalted above the angels (5-14)
I. Verses 1-4
Background of the Book
1. This is the only New Testament book which we don’t know the author of. There have many attempts to deduce the author of this book, yet nothing definitive has been concluded. Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Peter, Apollos, and others have been proposed. The early church fathers didn’t know who wrote this book and at the end of the day we have to admit as well that we just don’t know. In reality, it doesn’t matter so much because the Holy Spirit is the ultimate author.
2 Peter 1:21 – For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2. The book was written to the Hebrews. The Gentiles are not mentioned, nor is the conflict between Gentiles and Jews, which occurred so often in many of the early churches. The book includes many references to the Old Testament which Jews would have been familiar with as well as many references to priesthood, ceremonial laws, and the Levitical Priesthood (see, there is a reason to study Leviticus because it also helps us understand Hebrews!)
3. The chief underlying theme is the superiority and pre-eminence of Christ. It is rather fitting that the author is anonymous because the book is all about how Christ is above everything else and everyone else in glory and power. While there are many deep doctrines in the book, recognizing Christ’s supreme position is of vital importance. It also will have a deep impact on our lives if we live our life with Christ on His throne and submit our will to Him.
• Who is the author of Hebrews? Why do you think he chose to remain anonymous?
• Who was it written to?
• What are the major themes in the book?
• Why would God choose to speak to people differently in different ways?
• In what different ways has God chosen to communicate to people? How does God primarily speak to us today? What are the benefits of this method?
• What should we do knowing that God communicates to us in this way?
• What does it mean that Christ is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature?
• What does it mean that He upholds all things?
• What impact should it have on our lives knowing that Jesus actually upholds everything by His power?
• Where is He now and what is He doing there?
• What does it mean that He has “become” better than the angels? Was He ever ranked lower than the angels?
2 Peter 1:21 – For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 1:10-12 – Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
1 Peter 1:20 – He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
1 Corinthians 10:11 – These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
John 1:3 – Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Colossians 1:15-20 – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
1 Peter 3:22 – Who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Romans 8:34 – Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The author starts right in on his main point that will be repeated over and over throughout the book: the superiority of Christ. In this chapter we will see several ways that Christ is superior and exalt Him for this.
2. God has spoken in many times and in many ways. In the Old Testament, He primarily spoke through prophets. Christ is supreme because these prophets were sent by God to prepare the way for Christ. John the Baptist, as the last of the Old Testament era prophets, came to prepare the way for the Messiah. All the others did as well. They prepared the way by showing people their lost state and need for help from God. They prepared the way by showing that people can’t get to God by their own effort. In addition, they prepared the way with prophecies (hundreds of them) about the future Messiah.
This is really the key of the entire Old Testament. The Old Testament shows us God’s grace and man’s sin. It shows us that we have no hope on our own and need God to send a Savior to us. While Jesus’ name is only mentioned in the New Testament, to truly understand His supremacy we need to recognize that the entire Old Testament is preparing people for Christ’s coming as the culmination of God’s plan for the world.
3. God has spoken in many ways. This includes visions, dreams, angelic messengers, “out of body” experiences, prophets, Scripture (by way of inspired human authors) and His Son, Jesus. God created people with a spirit and a need to have a relationship to Him. By nature, we are spiritual and God created us to be this way. People seek to fill the void in their hearts by trying to understand the supernatural aspect of the universe. The problem is that since we are the created beings, we cannot by ourselves understand who God is, what His character is like, or what His plan is for the world and for our own lives.
Philosophers sit around their tables or under a willow tree or under the stars contemplating the meaning of the universe, but in the end can only speculate upon these issues. Every now and then a person will come along who seeks to bridge this gap and understand the supernatural by creating a new religion. But this is only a guess, one’s manmade system for understanding the world.
The problem is that a created being can never understand the infinite Creator unless the Creator reveals Himself to the creation. The good news is that God has done exactly that! He didn’t create the world and then leave and allow us to fend for ourselves and guess about the meaning of life (which is what deists believe about God). He HAS revealed Himself to us. Parents want to educate their children and God also wants to teach us truths about Himself. He does not want us to walk in the darkness. Instead, He reveals Himself, His purposes, and His plans to us in a way that we can understand.
It is an amazing privilege and blessing that God has condescended to reveal Himself to us. What application should we get from this?
Application: We must do everything in our power to learn this revelation (by studying the Word) and obey it.
4. These last days – We are in the last days of the world. God’s revelation and plan is progressive and we are in the last phases of it. This too is a great blessing for us since we can understand the whole picture much more clearly than the people who came before. For whatever reason God did not choose to reveal His entire plan all at once. He chose to do it step by step. Everything He has revealed is 100% true, but it is not 100% complete.
He has progressed from promise to fulfillment. But even now, not everything has been fulfilled and not everything is understood. Sometimes we will come upon a difficult question for which there seems to be no answer (for example: what is the star that the wise men followed?) and just file it away content to understand when we can ask Christ face to face. For our own lives too, often God does not always reveal to us what we should do far ahead of time. It is enough to know the next step. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It is a light to our feet. Though He shows us the next step we need to take, He may not show us the next ten steps into the future. He tells us what we need to know when we need to know it.
5. He has spoken to us through His Son. Jesus is the very mouthpiece of God. Even as a 12-year-old boy in the temple, He was able to answer the tough questions of Scripture that no one else could understand. Once I saw a movie where a young man was doing business with a partner for his family. The partner wanted to talk to his parents to make the deal. The man said, “I speak for my family.”
Jesus speaks for the Father. He is His representative. Jesus not only spoke the words of God, He lived as God. He showed us a perfect example of how to respond in numerous situations. His actions were 100% perfect and wise every time. The common phrase “WWJD” is a good one. When we face a problem and we don’t know what to do just ask: “What would Jesus do?” Then do that. Many times, we can know what He would do because He already did it. Jesus is the Greatest Messenger.
6. Verses 2-4 go on about the supremacy of Christ. This is the main theme of the book of Hebrews and the author doesn’t waste any time to lay out his “thesis.” There are several proofs mentioned just in these verses for why Christ is supreme (see cross-references and discuss one by one):
a) He is the heir of all things.
b) He made the world. John 1:3.
c) He is the radiance of His glory.
d) He is the exact representation of His nature.
e) He upholds all things by the word of His power.
f) He made purification for sins.
g) He sat down at the right hand of God.
h) He is better than the angels.
II. Verses 5-14
• What is the main point or points of verses 5-14?
• Why do you think the author spends so much time showing that Jesus is superior than the angels?
• What proofs does the author use to show that Jesus is indeed superior to the angels?
• What was Jesus’ attitude toward sin? How about yours?
• How does the Old Testament testify of the Messiah’s deity?
• What should our attitude be toward Christ?
• How will our actions and lives change if we truly recognize and live by the fact that Jesus is Supreme over all things?
Psalms 2:7 – I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.”
2 Samuel 7:14 – I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.
Psalm 97:7 – All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols — worship him, all you gods!
Psalm 45:6-7 – Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9.)
2 Peter 3:10-12 – But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The author approaches his “thesis” on Christ’s supremacy in a very systematic way. Basically, he uses proofs to show that Christ is superior to many things that people would have a very high opinion of. If Christ is superior to all these things, then He is indeed pre-eminent. An example would be a person who believes that a certain teacher is the best teacher of all time. To prove this, the person takes all of the widely accepted top teachers and proves that his candidate is better than each of these individually. If he can prove this, then it is logical that that teacher is indeed the best teacher of all time.
2. The writer starts off with proving that Jesus is superior to angels. Western culture now has a certain infatuation with angels. There are movies and books about angels. For a while, there was a popular television series “Touched by an Angel.” Many people collect angel figurines. People are just fascinated with the concept of guardian angels. In history and at various times, people have paid a lot of attention to angels.
Angels are very amazing. In the Bible we see that angels have great power. One angel killed 185,000 trained soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35). Another time, an angel killed every firstborn child in Egypt. Angels are fearsome. Most of the time when an angel appears the person he appears to is frightened and even falls down to worship the angel (because the angel is supernatural). Angels can appear and then disappear. They can even appear as ordinary people (Hebrews 13:2). They fight God’s battles. They are in the very throne room of God.
What is more, angels are still very active in this world fulfilling God’s plans, protecting His people, fighting off demons, being used by God to answer prayer, etc. We should not get pre-occupied with angels (Satan did this already and exalted himself instead of God). The angels that truly serve God often reminded people of this when they told people not to worship them, but instead, to worship God alone. Yet it is only recognizing a fact to see that they are one of the most amazing parts of all of God’s creation. If Jesus is greater than the most powerful thing IN creation, than it would stand to reason that He can only be the Supreme Creator.
3. Verse 5 – Jesus has a special relationship with God as His one and only Son. The angels were created by God, but they do not have a Father/Son relationship with God.
Psalms 2:7 – I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
4. Verse 6 – The angels of God are to worship the Messiah so God puts them under the Messiah.
5. Verse 7 – Angels indeed have a high and important position, but the characteristics ascribed to them are nothing like the characteristics ascribed to the Messiah.
Psalms 104:4 – He makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.
6. Verses 8-9 – Christ is the King. He is on the throne. His dominion is forever and ever. He loves righteousness and hates sin. We should follow Christ’s example to hate sin as He does.
Psalms 45:6-7 – Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.
7. Verses 10-12 – Christ created the world. This fact is affirmed many times in Scripture. From this simple fact we can see His supreme position. When you look at the world you can see how amazing it is. Some of the times when I feel the closest to Christ is when I am blessed to be able to travel and see some of the most amazing places in all of Creation. Beautiful beaches, colorful forests, rugged mountains, starlit skies, teeming corals, and crystal lakes all remind me of Jesus’ amazing creative ability, supernatural power, and orderly character. When I see these sites, I recognize the fact that nothing so complex could ever come about by random chance.
It has must have a designer who is infinite in wisdom and power. Yet Christ did not only create the world. One day He is going to destroy the world. This world will not last forever. One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth. (2 Peter 3:10-12 and Revelation 21:1) Everything we see around us will not exist anymore; Christ will still exist forever completely unchanged. Before this world was here, He already existed forever. After this world is gone, He will continue to exist unchanged forever.
8. Verse 13 – He sits at God’s right hand. This shows that He has the very top position. No angel sits at God’s right hand.
9. Verse 14 shows us what angels are doing. They are ministering spirits, who are sent out to serve all members of God’s family. This shows us too how much God loves us that He even sends out angels to minister to and serve us. We should not focus on the angels, but we should give glory to God for His kindness and compassion in using angels to help us.
Application: Ask and discuss potential applications for this chapter. How does it impact you that Christ is supreme? Is there anything you need to obey from what you have learned? Is there anything you need to change or start doing so that Christ will be the priority in your life as He deserves?
Comment: What are your thoughts on this Hebrews 1 Bible study? We would love to hear your insights below in the comment section.
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