Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Angel…or Jesus?

I don’t think I ever watched a full episode of the nine-year CBS television series Touched by an Angel.

I haven’t missed it. But I do remember seeing snippets of the show. It seems the good angels always show up at just the right time, and do just the right thing.

If someone were to ask me who is better, Jesus or an angel, the question would be an obvious moot point. But for those who accept a vague spirituality, or who just have an exaggerated view of angels, that question is a challenging one that they must get right.

This is why the section in Hebrews 1.4-14 was written. In the first century, those who were God-fearing Jews had a very high view of angelic beings. Some of them also had not yet committed to being followers of Jesus, and were essentially riding the fence on that decision. It was into this context that the writer says emphatically: Jesus is superior to angels. But why, specifically?

The writer of Hebrews simply makes basic points about the claims of Jesus. And he wisely uses texts from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) to prove a few points. Take a look at Hebrews 1.4-14, and note these important distinctions.

Jesus Christ is better than angels because He is the Son of God. (vv. 4-5)

In verses 4-5, when he quotes from the Psalms and 2 Samuel, he is saying that Jesus automatically has a higher rank simply because He is the Son of God. It’s a very basic, but important argument. Look at how God the Father is blessed by and pleased with His Son:

…and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven:
“You are My beloved Son.
I take delight in You!”
(Luke 3.22, HCSB)

Jesus Christ is better than angels because He is the object of worship. (v. 6)

Next the writer again quotes older Scriptures and points out that even the celestial beings are to worship Jesus, showing that He is better and more important than they are. Paul writes that one day every single creature will worship Jesus:

For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
(10) so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
(11) and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2.9-11, HCSB)

Jesus Christ is better than angels because He is the Ruler of creation. (vv. 7-12)

Then the writer describes the distinction between Jesus and the angels as vast due to His remarkable power over all creation. He rules it with a “scepter of justice.” He has been anointed as the one who established the earth and heavens. Again, note how Paul reiterates this:

For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
(17) He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.
(Colossians 1.16-17, HCSB)

Jesus Christ is better than angels because He is the King of glory. (vv. 13-14)

Simply put, verses 13-14 declare that Jesus is better because He deserves the glory, since the angels work to point people to Jesus and His saving gospel. He is the King of Glory:

Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
(10) Who is He, this King of glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of glory.
(Psalm 24.9-10, HCSB)

I know Someone who showed up at just the right time and did just the right thing, once and for all.

Jesus. And He’s better than all the angels.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Greatest of All, Part 2

Last time we began by talking about being the greatest, or at least knowing the greatest. And we looked at the biblical book of Hebrews, since its main theme is that Jesus truly is the greatest, and it was written as an encouragement and warning to keep trusting and progressing in Jesus.

In short, Jesus is better. He’s the best. He’s the greatest of all. So trust in Him.

It all begins with an amazing intro that essentially summarizes the book.

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. (2) In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. (3) The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1.1-3, HCSB)

The writer of Hebrews says that although God spoke to humanity at different times and in various ways, in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son.

God spoke to us in a Son. His unique, amazing Son.

He really is the Greatest. Let’s look briefly at why Jesus is supreme over all, according to these first verses in Hebrews.

1. Jesus Christ is superior over all because He is the perfect messenger. (vv. 1-2)

In the first two verses the Holy Spirit inspired writer tells us that God the Father spoke in God the Son. So we see all three members of the Trinity at work here. And we are told that although the Father spoke to and through the forefathers and prophets, He has now ultimately and finally spoken in a Son. He sent the perfect messenger. Jesus perfectly fulfills and replaces the work of the forefathers and prophets since among things He is infinitely more personal and authoritative, being Himself the divine Son of God. Jesus, the perfect messenger, actually said that He only said what the Father wanted Him to say:

“For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak. I know that His command is eternal life. So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12.49-50, HCSB)

2. Jesus Christ is superior over all because He is the perfect message. (vv. 2-3)

In addition to being the perfect messenger, Jesus is Himself the perfect message. No other supposed religious leader can even try to make this claim. Jesus is the perfect messenger of the gospel—the good news. But not only that, Jesus is Himself the good news. He is the perfect messenger and message: He Himself is the Word of God, and He came here to reveal Himself to us. John’s Gospel describes Him this way:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning. …
The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
(John 1.1-2, 14, HCSB)

3. Jesus Christ is superior over all because He is the perfect model. (v. 3)

Here is yet another reason is the greatest: since He is a Son, Jesus is the best example for us to see what God the Father is like. The writer of Hebrews says He is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature….” If you want to see and know God, then look no further than Jesus, since He is the perfect model for us. Jesus is God, who took on skin and bones, so He gives perfect clarity for us to understand God. Notice how clearly the Apostle Paul describes Him in Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
(Colossians 1.15, HCSB)

4. Jesus Christ is superior over all because He is the perfect mediator. (vv. 3-4)

Even though in Jesus, the Son, we have the perfect messenger, message and model, we still cannot be with God unless He makes us clean. We need purification from sins, and verse 4 says that Jesus, our perfect mediator, does just that. He bridges the gap between God and us. He died in our place. He was raised for our justification. He brings us to God. Look at these amazing truths:

But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8.6, HCSB)

For there is one God
and one mediator between God and humanity,
Christ Jesus, Himself human,
who gave Himself—a ransom for all,
a testimony at the proper time.
(1 Timothy 2.5-6, HCSB)

Since He is the perfect messenger, message, model, and mediator, Jesus Christ really is the Greatest.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Greatest of All, Part 1

At times, you just have to wonder what our obsession is with being the greatest. The greatest at anything, really. As a child of the 1970s, I remember famed boxer Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) being referred to as The Greatest. He is quoted as saying: “I knew I had him in the first round. Almighty God was with me. I want everyone to bear witness, I am the greatest! I'm the greatest thing that ever lived.” He later acknowledged he wasn’t the greatest thing, “just the greatest boxer.”

Still, we like to dream about being really good at something, and perhaps becoming the greatest. If we can’t be the greatest, maybe we can know the greatest. So we tend to worship the stars in Hollywood. Or the very best athletes. Or top government leaders.

In the Scriptures there are many ways that God is set apart as truly the greatest of all. And when it comes to people who have walked the face of the earth, one Man stands out above all else. He has first place in everything. He is Jesus. Look at how the Apostle Paul describes Him in the letter known as Colossians.

…He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.
(19) For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,
(20) and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross—
whether things on earth or things in heaven.
(Colossians 1.18-20, HCSB)

That idea is all over the Bible, and it certainly is on display in the letter to the Hebrews. This book of the Bible is rich in helping readers to see the connection between the Hebrew Scriptures, otherwise known as the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament. Originally addressed primarily to Jews who had joined the Christian faith community, the letter offers gracious warnings regarding falling away from faith in Jesus alone, by pointing out how much better Jesus is than anyone or anything.

In short, Jesus is better. He’s the best. He’s the greatest of all.

It all begins with an amazing intro that essentially summarizes the book.

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. (2) In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. (3) The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1.1-3, HCSB)

The writer of Hebrews says that although God spoke to humanity, and to His people, at different times and in various ways, in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son.

Did you catch that? God spoke to us in a Son. His unique, amazing Son.

In the next post we’ll look briefly at how and why Jesus is supreme over all. He really is the Greatest.