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Archive for March, 2015

Angels Worship. Jesus Is Worshiped.

Posted in Christmas, Hebrews, Hebrews 1, New Testament

Hebrews 1:6-9
Angels Worship. Jesus Is Worshiped.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Heb. 1:6a (Holman) When He again brings His firstborn into the world,

Jesus is God the Father’s only begotten, His firstborn. This refers to position, not time. Jesus has priority. He is superior to all else in creation.
In ancient thinking, the firstborn son represented his generation, and administered for the good of the family the possessions of the father after his death. Jesus is God’s firstborn Son, handling the Father’s estate. Jesus holds universal pre-eminence over all the creation, including people and angels.

Heb. 1:6b He says, And all God’s angels must worship Him.

Another reason Jesus must be considered greater than angels is; God commanded angels to worship Him. The writer is quoting Psalm 97:7 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Psalm 97 deals with God’s creation rejoicing in the exaltation of God’s Kingdom. Everything is called on to triumph and rejoice. The whole creation is to celebrate the Creator’s glory.
The highest manifestation of God’s glory was Jesus, “the radiance of God’s glory” (1:3). Therefore, our author took the Psalm as referring to Jesus, and viewed the angels as being commanded to worship Christ.
The One being worshiped, Jesus, is greater than the ones worshiping, angels. Learn a good lesson here. If angels worship Christ, shall we humans who are but dust and ashes not worship Him? If those who dwell in Heaven worship Jesus, we earthlings should do the same.

Hebrews 1:7 And about the angels He says: He makes His angels winds,
and His servants a fiery flame;

Psalms 104:4 (LXX) says angels are winds and fiery flames. Therefore, saying Jesus is greater than angels is no small claim. Angels are immeasurably above humans in radiance, and achieve feats far beyond the capabilities of our frail bodies of clay. They are like “winds”, achieving their assigned tasks with speed and agility. They can make themselves invisible, beyond human view, and when they do reveal themselves to us, the sight is terrifying. Their brightness gives them an awesome appearance. They are candles of burning love, fires of pure and perfect devotion to the Father.
An angel as invisible as the winds blocked the path of Balaam and his donkey. The donkey could see the angel, but Balaam’s eyes were covered. The animal ran into a field, smashed Balaam’s foot against a wall, and finally fell down, refusing to budge an inch. Once Balaam’s eyes were opened, he fell down at the angel’s feet as a dead man (NB 22:21-35).
Swift and strong as the winds of a hurricane, an angel descended from heaven on Resurrection Sunday, caused an earthquake, rolled back the stone of Jesus’ sepulcher, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and for fear of him the guards did shake and become like dead men (Matt. 28:2-4).
Let there be no mistake. Angels are glorious and exalted creatures. They have many eminent qualities. However, they are still only creatures subordinate to Jesus, who is God, as the next verse shows.

Heb. 1:8a But about the Son: Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

This quotes Psalm 45:6a. Psalm 45 was universally considered as referring to the Messiah. God the Father is here quoted as acknowledging the Son is God. John Calvin rightly observed, “Whosoever will read the verse, who is of a sound mind and free from the spirit of contention, cannot doubt but that the Messiah is called God.” John MacArthur goes even farther and claims this verse is “the clearest, most powerful, emphatic, and irrefutable proof of the deity of Christ in the Bible – from the Father Himself.”
Jesus is Sovereign, sitting on a throne that will last forever. He is King, a position never given any angel. His throne is everlasting, something never claimed by any human. All earthly thrones totter, and at length tumble.
Alexander’s throne is found in history books. Caesar’s throne fell to the hands of barbarians. Christ’s throne, however, remains forever and ever.
Christ’s throne can never decay of itself, nor can His enemies take it from Him. Evil assails His throne with all its might, but the aggressors are dashed to bits in the efforts. They crumble at Christ’s feet, their rubble becoming a part of God’s footstool (I Cor. 15:24-25).

Heb. 1:8b-9a And the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

These words also quoted Psalm 45 (vv. 6b-7a). It is good that Jesus reigns. His presence on the throne assures a reign of justice. He rules with rectitude, uprightly. He governs fairly, without respect of persons. All His laws are holy and just.
Jesus rules with righteousness because He loves righteousness, and hates lawlessness. To love righteousness is more than doing righteousness.
Obedience can be marked by reluctance. God’s will often conflicts with ours, and frequently our service to Christ is joyless and unwilling. This was never the case with Jesus. He not only does righteousness, He loves it.
Jesus so loved righteousness and so hated iniquity that He was willing to give His own life to help sinners become holy again. He was willing to die for a guilty world to reconcile us to God. Loving righteousness, He took on Himself the work of our redemption that we might be made righteous.
We, too, need to love righteousness and hate lawlessness. We should have the same desires Christ has. To do so would be a powerful motivation to holy living in our own lives. Also, it would make us desire to win others to Jesus in order that lawlessness might decrease and righteousness increase.

Heb. 1:9b This is why God, Your God, has anointed You, rather than
Your companions, with the oil of joy.

This quotation, also from Psalm 45 (v. 7b), depicts the scene in Heaven on Christ’s return there. God anointed Him, as being Sovereign over all others in Heaven. In Israel, God’s chosen king was inaugurated in office by the pouring of oil upon his head. This act pictured a special endowment from God, a bestowal of divine authority, a setting apart to a specific task.
A king’s coronation was a festive time of revelry and celebration. Such was the scene in Heaven when Jesus ascended there. There was jubilee over Christ’s finished work. Saints and angels rejoiced at His exaltation.
In this assembled elated throng, One was supreme, above all others. Only One would be anointed. Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Job, Noah, Samuel, and other heroes of Israel were there, but each was passed over for this honor.
Michael and Gabriel were there, but the Lord of Heaven did not move toward them or any of the other angels. Without hesitation, the Father found His Son, and poured on His head the oil of gladness. His Firstborn was promoted above all others. Jesus is Messiah; “the” anointed one – Prophet, Priest, and King in one person. He alone received a throne that lasts forever.
These thoughts of King Jesus compel us to turn our attention toward the most pressing consideration of all. Is His throne of grandeur and magnificence established in our hearts? Is Christ the Prophet who teaches us, the Priest who pleads for us, and the King who rules us? Nothing else in this world matters but that we know Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The Manger: A King Size Bed (4)

Posted in Christmas, Hebrews, Hebrews 1, New Testament

Hebrews 1:4-5
The Manger: A King Size Bed (4)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Hebrews 1:4a (Holman) So He became higher in rank than the angels…

Hebrews 1:1-3 taught us Jesus is greater than any other person who ever lived. People are this world’s highest creation, but in another world there are created beings superseding humans in radiance, strength, and glory.
These celestial beings are called angels. Angels are distinct from human beings on earth, and from human beings gone on to heaven. Angels are glorious and elevated above humans, but even they are subject to Jesus.
Many doubt angels exist, but Scripture plainly teaches there are such beings. John McArthur points out, there are 108 direct references to angels in the Old Testament, 165 in the New Testament. Angels are real, existing for two purposes: to serve God, and to serve people.
Angels serve God by doing His bidding. Angels surround Yahweh. They are His entourage, His army of warriors, and His messengers. They have through the ages helped communicate God’s word and will to us.
Angels also serve God as He administers our planet. God does not move the world merely by laws, by unconscious, inanimate, and unfeeling forces, but rather by living beings full of His wisdom and love.
In addition to serving God, angels also serve humans. We know they love us because they rejoice when one of us is saved (LK 15:10). Even little children have their own watchful angels (MT 18:10). At critical moments in the Bible, angels often appeared, and ministered words of encouragement.
Many in Israel came to think too highly of angels. Veneration became superstition. We too can be tempted to overestimate the role of angels. They are not to be worshiped or prayed to. They are servants of God and people.
Let nothing take our eyes off Jesus. He is the One who loves us most. He alone is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is better than angels.

Hebrews 1:4b … just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs.

The favored position of Jesus is not His by reward, but rather His by right. It is His heritage, His inheritance. He has been exalted above angels by virtue of His very Being itself. They are created; He is Creator. They are glorious; He is the Glory itself. They surround the throne; He is on the throne. His taking on flesh and blood made Him appear for a while to be “lower than the angels,” but His return to Heaven revealed His superiority.
Christ’s exaltation to God’s right hand pictured the reality that had always existed. Angels have always been subservient to Him. An angel came to the virgin to announce Jesus’ birth. An angel told Joseph not to fear taking Mary as his wife. Angels told shepherds near Bethlehem of a manger that had become a king size bed. An angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt.
By announcing Jesus’ coming, angels showed their inferiority to Him. Heralds precede the King, not vice versa. The lesser announces the greater.
In the Temptation, angels ministered to Jesus. At Gethsemane, they provided Him comfort. On Resurrection morning, angels told the story of His return from death. At His ascension, angels escorted Him into the glory, and when He returns to earth to reign, the angels shall follow him. Angels have always served Jesus. He has ever been their Lord and God. Jesus has a more excellent name than the angels. And what is this excellent name?

Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say, You are My
Son; today I have become Your Father, or again, I will be
His Father, and He will be My Son?

The excellent name is “Son.” Angels as a group are called sons of God (PS 29:1; 89:6), but the title “Son of God” is given to no individual angel. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, the only One of the same nature as the Father. Neither God the Father nor God the Son is more or less God than the other. They have the same nature; they are equally divine.
Our writer wanted all to know this idea was not outlandish or new. The concept of Messiah being God’s Son was outlined in the Old Testament.
The Jews always deemed Psalm 2 as referring to Messiah. In this very Psalm (v. 7), God said Messiah was His Son. Our writer also called attention to 2 Samuel 7:14, where the prophet Nathan spoke of David’s kingdom.
The first, immediate intent of Nathan’s words was Solomon, but not all of God’s promises to David were fulfilled in Solomon. Hence, later prophets began looking for a descendant of David greater than Solomon, and interpreted this passage as a prediction of the coming Messiah. The Christ of Old Testament expectation would be One called “Son” by God Himself.
This One was none other than Jesus of Nazareth. He fulfilled Old Testament expectation. His virgin birth showed His nature was not confined to being human. His sinless life and resurrection proved He truly was “Son of God.” His ascension into Heaven made his royal ancestry obviously visible, and proved His manger truly had been a king size bed. His life demonstrated His superiority to all people, angels, and other created beings.
Christians have always worshiped Jesus as being God. In the early days of the Church, Pliny, a Roman governor, wrote to tell the Emperor that Christians in his province regularly met to sing praises to Christ as God. The early Church did not simply admire and venerate Christ. They adored Him.
Their mighty chorus has continued to swell through the ages. Saints of every generation have lifted the song of adoration to Jesus. Let the believers of our day join the celebration. Worship Jesus. Praise Jesus.
The best way to honor the Father is to honor the Son. Some 300 years after Christ ascended, a church leader named Arius began to teach Jesus was divine, but created and secondary, less than God the Father. Arianism, like a cancer, weaved its way into the thoughts and minds of countless believers.
Many, including a bishop named Amphilochus, vigorously fought the heresy, and were dismayed at the lenient spirit Emperor Theodosius showed toward Arianism. His lackadaisical attitude encouraged those who were undermining the full Deity of Christ. On the day Theodosius elevated his son Arcadius to serve as co-emperor, Amphilochus was among the throng of well wishers. The crowd processed by, congratulating the two rulers. The bishop spoke only to Theodosius and completely ignored his son. The angry father snapped at Amphilochus, “Do you take no notice of my son?”
At this, the bishop said to Arcadius, “The Lord bless thee, my son.” This did not satisfy Theodosius. “Is this all the respect you pay to a prince I have made of equal dignity with me?” Amphilochus curtly replied, “Sire, do you highly resent my neglecting your son by not giving him equal honor with you? What must God think of you, who has let His co-equal and co-eternal Son be degraded in His proper Deity in every part of your empire?”
The reproof achieved its desired result. God help us never to indulge a creed holding Jesus to be anything less than God of true God. Jesus is Lord.
Our greatest champion in this early struggle was Athanasius, the first person to list the 27 books as we have them in the New Testament today. His list, done in 367 AD, was confirmed at the Synod in Carthage in 397 AD.
This was not his main claim to fame. He is most famous for the crime that exiled him five times. He served as Bishop of Alexandria for 45 years; 17 of these in exile due to Roman opposition. His crime was; an unrelenting battle against the heresy that God the Son was less God than God the Father.
Athanasius often stood alone, thus giving us the Latin phrase for which he is famous, “Athanasius contra mundum” (Athanasius against the world). Emperors feared him as powerful, but could not kill him due to the love of his people. In his 17 years of exile, they never acknowledged anyone else as their bishop. He was humble, and single minded in his love to Christ. He refused to embrace anything less than the full deity of Jesus, and he carried the Christian world with him. Thank You, Lord.