Recently I’ve been wanting to do a bit of study on the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. Initially, I planned to simply read it as part of my daily devotions, but I decided instead to do a series of blogs through the book.
My hope in this series of posts is to gain a better understanding of the book of Hebrews; its core message and how it applies to us as followers of Jesus today. Perhaps as you journey with me, you will as well. This isn’t going to be an in depth commentary; it’s going to be a journey which I hope will be accessible to just about anybody.
Let’s dive in.
Hebrews 1:1-4 (NLT)
‘Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.’
Hebrews is considered by many to be a letter. It definitely ends like one, although this opening looks nothing like a letter. There’s no greeting; no identification of who it’s from and who it’s written to.
You had me at hello, right?
Sometimes what you need is to dispense with any preamble and just get right to the point. In these opening verses, which in the original Greek were one long sentence, the author lays out the entire purpose of the letter (/book/sermon/piece of writing – we’ll call it a letter to keep things simple!).
The premise of Hebrews is very simple: Jesus is better than all of y’all.
Just imagine for a moment that you’re a 1st Century Christian and you’re hearing this letter read out for the first time.
“Okay guys, we’ve had a letter, which I’m going to read out to you now… that’s weird, there’s no name on it. Never mind, here we go.”
You’d probably want to hit ‘pause’ after those first few verses, just to check you’d understood them right.
At this point in time, there was no such thing as the Old Testament and the New Testament; there were just the Scriptures – what we now call the Old Testament. Depending on when Hebrews was written, there would also have been a number of the letters written by Paul and others, but while they were considered to be scripture (2 Peter 3:16) the Bible as we know it had not been officially compiled yet.
Here’s this author – who was presumably known to the original recipients but remains a mystery to us – saying that Jesus’ words were not just authoritative (Mark 1:22, etc.) but they were greater than the words God spoke through the prophets!
Jesus wasn’t simply born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, he was also present at the very beginning of all things. He was involved in the creation of the universe, and by his power, he holds it all together!
He has cleansed us – permanently – from our sins and now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
Not only is Jesus greater than the prophets (and by extension the whole of Scripture), he is also greater – far greater – than the angels!
If you were in any doubt about who Jesus is, you wouldn’t be after this introduction!
The author goes on to justify this stunning introduction by quoting Scriptures that prove Jesus is greater than anything or anyone. Go ahead, read the rest of chapter one.
It’s interesting to me that these quotes seem to be verses used outside of their original context. That’s something we tend to try and avoid these days, and yet here it is in the Bible!
We avoid it because it’s so easy to quote a verse in isolation and twist it to fit whatever point we want to make. At best that’s lazy hermeneutics (Bible interpretation), and at worst it’s false teaching.
My feeling on this is that when it’s done inspired by the Holy Spirit, it’s okay. Profound, I know. So how do we know when a quote out of context is actually a prophetic message from the Spirit? I’d say the same way we know anything is a prophetic message from the Spirit – test it against the rest of Scripture. God won’t contradict himself.
Anyway, back to Hebrews.
There’s a reason why the author wants to hammer home this message of Jesus being ‘better than.’ Throughout the rest of the letter, that theme is going to be developed and applied to key areas of thought and belief, all to show that Jesus is indeed better.
We’re in for a bit of a journey!
I’d love to get your thoughts as I go through this letter. What are you noticing as you read? What is God saying? What does it all mean for us in the 21st Century? Talk to me in the comments!