Study of the Book of Hebrews
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Christ, Greater than the Angels

(Hebrews 1:4-2:4)

I want to remind you that we must constantly keep in mind the purpose and the theme of this book.  The book of Hebrews is not a theological book. It is a pastoral book written to a group of Jewish Christians who were getting discouraged and who were turning back to Judaism and giving up their faith in Christ.  We are having a similar situation.  Many Adventists are getting discouraged and turning their backs to Christ.  They are giving up their advent hope and so the book of Hebrews is extremely important because it will restore our confidence in Christ.  That is the purpose of the book.

Today we will deal with Heb.  1:4-2:4.  The book of Hebrews like all the writings of the books of the Bible is in units.  These texts form a unit. The theme of this passage is “Christ is greater than the angels.” Please remember that the purpose of Hebrews is to show that Christ is superior to everything that is in the Old Testament.  The key word of the whole book is “better.”  The book of Hebrews is the finest, the clearest explanation of Jesus Christ.

In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is trying to show us that Christ is greater than the angels.  We will see why this is important to the Jewish Christians.  It is because the Old testament prophetic messages came through angels.  In the New Testament period God speaks through His Son as shown in the first three verses.  God’s final word to the human race is Jesus Christ.  Before, He spoke through angels, and it was glorious, says the writer, but now He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

With this in mind, let’s turn to Hebrews chapter one.  In verses four to fourteen Paul tells us that there are three reasons why Christ is superior to the angels:

  1. In verses four and five, it is because Christ has a better name than the angels.  His name is superior to the angels.

  2. In verses six and seven, Christ is greater than the angels because of the demonstration of worship.  When you worship somebody you are admitting that the person you worship is greater than you.  When angels worship Christ they are admitting that Christ is superior.

  3. The third reason is in verses eight to fourteen, in which it is argued that Christ is greater because of His authority.

We will study each of these and then look at the conclusion in the first four verses of chapter two.

Let’s look at the first reason, Christ is superior to the angels because of His name.  Today, names do not mean too much.  We choose names because they are words we like or it reminds us of our parents.  In the Bible times names were very important and significant.

Now the contrast in verses four and five between Christ and the angels is given in the fact that Christ is called “Son.”  Angels are called servants.  Who is greater, the Son or the servants?  The Son.  Let’s read verses four and five:

Being so much better [note the key word, “better”] than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

So Christ is greater than the angels because His name is greater than theirs.

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?

We must look at that word “begotten.”  It has caused problems in the Christian Church and it has caused problems in our own church.  Our pioneers unfortunately, James White, Prescott, E.G.  Waggoner, looked at the word “begotten” and got the idea that Christ had a beginning. We call that Arianism.  We were semi-Arians.  In fact, Waggoner in his Christ Our Righteousness said that Christ had a beginning but it was so far in the distant past that from the human point of view it is like eternity.

So there was a time in our history that we had a problem theologically about the beginning of Christ.  But I thank God that He corrected us through Ellen G.  White.  That famous statement in The Desire of Ages, “In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived,” was to correct our problem.

The problem was not only in our church.  It was also in the early Christian Church.  It comes from that word “begotten.”  In English the word means born or produced.  Now in the Greek we have two words both translated into English as “begotten.”  They have two different meanings.  ”Monogenay” is the word that is translated in your Bible as “begotten.”  The other word comes from the same root word, “monogenaytos.” Now these two do not have the same meaning.  “Monogenatos” means born but that is not the word that is used.  “Monogenay” means ”special.”  So please remember that the word used here does not mean that Christ was produced by the Father or created by the Father but that Christ was very special to the Father.  He’s God’s “Monogenay.”

By the way, that word is also used for us believers.  We are very special to God through Jesus Christ.  “Behold what manner of love God has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.”  We will study that later.

Jesus is God’s very special Son compared to the angels who are servants.  The word “angels” means “ministering spirits.” Paul is here quoting from several psalms: Ps.  39, Ps.  104 and 102 are here gathered into this one passage:

To 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?

In Bible days, the father-son relationship was very special.  I hope that can be restored in our church.  There must be a clear bond.  The son was very special.  In fact if a wife did not produce a son for her husband she was a failure to him because the son carried the name.  This is how it was in Jewish culture.  Paul is using this relationship to give us an idea of father and son.  Jesus was very special.

So the first point then is that Jesus had a better name than the angels.  He is superior to the angels.  The second point is that He is greater than the angels because of worship.  Look at verse six:

And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.

The words “first begotten” do have a connotation of a beginning. We must remember that Jesus was both God and man.  As God He never had a beginning but as man He did have a beginning.  Now the word firstborn has two meanings.  It could be a title or it could mean the first child.  And here the term really refers to the title, but He also as a man, had a beginning.

When Christ was born in this world, when He took humanity, did the angels worship Him?  Yes, the angels worshipped Him.  They worshipped Him because God said so.

And again when He bringeth in the First Born into the world [i.e., when Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem] he saieth, And let all the angels of God worship Him.

This was one of the signs that God gave the shepherds that this is the Son of God, the Messiah.  In verse seven we are told:

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

Of course, wind and fire are the two elements that man has no control over.  What He is saying is that angels can control wind and fire but Christ is above that.  He is above the angels.  He is greater than the angels who have power over wind and fire.

Let us go to the third reason that Jesus is better than the angels. You see, the first two reasons are mainly geared to the Jewish mind, but the third one, Christ is greater by authority is important to us because of what He is.  It is given in verse eight:

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.

The Father is addressing the Son and how does He address Him?  He calls Him “God.”  By the way, this is an excellent text to prove the divinity of Christ, because God is addressing Jesus Christ as God.  I would like to mention a quotation from John Bunyan, “If Jesus Christ is not God then heaven will be filled with idolaters.”

You see, in the Bible only God can be worshipped.  Now if God says to the angels, “Worship my Son” and He is not divine then heaven is full of idolaters.  The fact that the angels worshipped Christ is also proof of His divinity.  We have then two evidences of His divinity.  The first is that it was the Father Himself Who asked that Christ be worshipped and the second is that the angels were asked to worship the Son.  Note the words of the Father who calls His Son “O God.”  That’s the way He addresses the Son.  “Thy throne, O God is forever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

So Christ is not only divine but He is the God of righteousness. And in verse nine, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.” Now this is in the context of His humanity.  Even among the angels there was failure.  One third of the angels fell, but Christ never failed.  Even as a man He loved righteousness.  So He is above the angels even in terms of His authority over sin.  Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.

There are approximately twelve words in the Bible for sin.  Each word has a specific meaning.  The word “iniquity” in Hebrew means “bent.” That’s the meaning of the word, just “bent.”  When applied spiritually it means bent toward self.  When David said, “I was shapen in iniquity from my birth,” he was saying, “I was born egocentric, or self-centred.”  All of us are born self centred because of the fall. Isa.  53:6 “All we, like sheep have gone astray and we have all turned to our own way.”  That is the meaning of iniquity.

The biggest fight that Jesus had on this earth was the fight against self.  For example in John 5:19 he said, “I have come not to do my will but the will of the Father.”  In Gethsemane He said, “Father, if it is possible remove this cup, nevertheless not my will but Thine be done.” The nature of Christ tried to recall Him from the will of God but He said, “No.”  He did not yield to the pull of self not even by a thought for a moment.  This is what the text is saying, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.”  This is something that you and I will fight all the time.  The greatest battle we will fight is right inside us.  It is the pull towards self.  We thank God that Jesus Christ conquered self and set us free.  Otherwise we would never have made it.  Go to verse ten:

And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.

So Christ was not only the One who is righteous, He is not only God but He is now the Creator of this earth and the heavens.  That is why Jesus is called the “Word of God.”  Who spoke when God created this world? It was Jesus Christ.  He is the Word of God.

Here are several texts in the New Testament to remind us that Christ is the Creator.  Verses ten through twelve in Hebrews one brings this out. We will read verses eleven and twelve first.

They shall perish [that is this creation will come to an end because of the fall] 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.

Isn’t it wonderful that even though the creation has been ruined by the fall and it will have to come to an end, Christ has not been affected by the fall.  He has never changed and He never will.  He is to rule this world forever.  “Thy throne is forever.”  Christ is Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer.  The fact that He created is the foundation of the other two. That is very important.  Now to John 1:1-3:

In the beginning [i.e., from eternity, in the Greek there is no “the,” it is literally, “in beginning”] was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Not “a god” like the New World Translation puts it because the indefinite article “a” does not exist in the Greek language. It says “The Word was God.”  It is a copulative word.  You can interchange the subject and the object.  You can say “The Word was God” or “God was the Word.”

The same was in the beginning with God and all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. [In Him was Life, unborrowed, underived.]

Col.1:16: For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him.

The third text is a very relevant text to us in the Laodicean message. It is in Rev.  3:14 where Christ is referring to Himself, He calls Himself the beginning of the creation of God in the last part of verse fourteen. The word “beginning” there means the source or the origin.  So Christ is the source of creation.  The word “create” in our language can mean many things.  I can create an idea.  I can create a picture.  I can create a model.  I can create many things but man creates by depending on pre-existing material while God created by depending on nothing.

That is what Paul will bring out in chapter eleven of Hebrews verse three.  By faith we believe that the world was created without any pre-existing matter.  Do you know what that means?  That God’s word, Christ’s word is energy.  He can speak and it will happen.  That means that He can do in us that which is impossible for us to do.  God’s word is energy! So when He promises us something His Word itself is POWER! When He spoke it happened.

The only thing in which He used His hand to create was man.  He made him out of mud.  Do you know why?  Because I think He knew he would fall. In fact the Bible says He knew.  Our fall would bring pride.  Because man has become proud he needs to remind himself that he is made of dust.  We are told by Ellen G.  White that the work of justification by faith is to take the glory of man and bring it down to the dust.  The gospel is not I but Christ.  Christ is the One who gets all the glory.  Now let us go to the closing verses of chapter one:

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

In other words, God is saying to His Son, “You sit here; I have given you all authority.”  He never said that to the angels.  The angels are simply ministers as given in verse fourteen:

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

God has ordained angels to communicate His blessings to us in Christ. Above the angels is Jesus Christ.  And now comes the conclusion in the first four verses of chapter two:

Therefore, [in view of the fact that Christ is above the angels] we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Is it possible for a Christian, for a born-again Christian to drift away from Christ?  Yes! Nowhere in the Bible does it ever teach once saved always saved.  Here is a clear passage.  “Therefore, we...”  Who is the “we”?  The believer or the unbeliever?  To the believer who has accepted Christ, who has experienced the new birth, who has a hope in Christ, he said, “Please, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward....

God was very clear in His presentation in the Old Testament through the angels and remember that when God gave the law to Moses it was given in the hands of the angels.  Gal.3:19 brings this out clearly:

Wherefore then serveth the law?  It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. [Moses was that mediator.]

What Paul is saying here in Hebrews is that if what God promised and what God said in the Old Testament was taken very seriously and anyone who disobeyed God’s rules was punished, even though it was given by angels, then as Heb.2:3 asks:

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.

There are many Christians today belonging to the school of Calvinism who teach that if a Christian backslides and gives up Christ because he is a part of the elect he will be saved.  Nowhere in the Bible is that taught. It is possible for you to lose your hold on Christ.  Paul’s concern here is “Please do not give up your faith in Christ.”

God revealed in the Old Testament that if you turn your back on God you will receive a recompense of reward according to the way you have acted. How much more if you neglect the gift of God?

Now why is he saying, “How much more”?  Is it easy to keep God’s law or is it hard?  Be honest with me.  Is it hard to obey God’s law?  Yes.  Let us be honest.  Is it easy to accept God’s gift?  Is it easy to receive a gift?  Sure! If you are punished in the Old Testament for disobeying a law and it was hard to keep it, how much more if you reject His gift.

At least you could say about the law of God, “I really tried but I failed.”  You cannot say that about the gift because you cannot say, “I tried to fulfil the gift” because the gift is easy to receive.  So you can’t say to God, “I tried to work my way to heaven.” He’ll say, “I didn’t ask you if you tried or not.  I gave it to you as a gift.  Why did you reject it?  Why did you turn away from it?” You’ll have no excuse, in other words.

I want to conclude with this very important fact.  The real issue in the judgment is, “What did you do with My Son?  I gave Him at tremendous cost to Me but I gave it to you as a gift.”  And for those who turn their backs to the gift of Jesus Christ there is no way of escaping, because salvation is a gift.  I want to remind you of the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:18:

He who believes shall not be condemned but he who believes not shall be condemned because he believeth not in the only begotten Son. [Look also at Mark 16:15,16.] Go into all the world and preach the gospel. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.  He who believes not will be damned.

With this in mind, read Heb.  10:26, a verse that has caused endless problems in our church and in the lives of many Christians.  We will not deal now with the details but what Heb.  10:26 is saying is exactly what Heb.2:3 is saying.  We will come to Heb.10:26 some other time but I am only giving it as a cross reference:

If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.

You see we depend on only one definition of sin and that is that sin is the transgression of the law.  But the word sin is not used in that sense here.  Sin here, is used in the sense of John 16:9, the Holy Spirit will convince the world of sin “because they believe not on me.” Remember, unbelief is also sin.  In our next two studies we will see that the reason that the Jews did not enter into God’s rest was because of unbelief.

If you deliberately reject God after you know the gospel and deliberately reject Christ after you know the truth there is no one who will die for you.  The only sacrifice that saves you is the sacrifice of the cross.  If you deliberately reject that there is no hope.  That’s what Hebrews is saying.  Heb.  2:3 says if you neglect the gift that God has given you, if you refuse and turn your back on Christ and say, “I don’t want Him any more,” then there is nothing that you can look forward to but the judgment.  You can’t escape the judgment if you...

...neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord [when He said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”], and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him [which were the apostles].

How can you escape it?  One of the most valuable things you possess is your faith in Jesus Christ.  Don’t you ever give it up no matter how discouraged you become.  The devil will do everything to destroy your faith in Christ.  Don’t you ever give it up because if you do you will end up with this result, you cannot escape the judgement of God.  That is why we need to establish our people in Christ that they don’t give up their faith.  This is why Paul is saying to these Jewish Christians, “You were very firm in the Old Testament, you accepted everything you were taught in the Old Testament.  This was given through angels but Christ is greater than the angels therefore you should listen to Him more than you listen to angels.  You must give the more earnest heed to what Christ says.  Christ says “He who comes to me in no wise will I cast you out.”

So our anchor is Jesus Christ.  The Devil will do everything to destroy your faith.  Don’t give it up.  It is the most valuable thing you have. It’s true, you can’t see it.  It is something inside you but it is the most valuable thing.

In chapter eleven he will show us how the people in the Old Testament were willing to die for Christ rather than to give up their faith.  We must do the same.  When the crisis comes don’t give up your faith.  You will lose everything else, your property, your house, your bank account.  Give it up, but don’t give up your faith in Christ because you will never escape the judgment if you do.  Salvation is a gift but man has a part to play.  He has to accept the gift.  Having accepted it he must hold on to it. Jesus said, “He that endures unto the end the same shall be saved.”

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