Good Morning Church,
OK, several things before we get started. As Nicole already mentioned this Saturday is our annual pig roast and baptisms. If you are interested in getting baptised and you haven’t yet spoken with me, please do that today after the service. Just to answer a couple of quick questions, no, you don’t have to kill a pig for the ordinance of baptism, we just do that as a part of our annual picnic because they are delicious. Secondly, what is baptism and is it required for salvation? Some of you grew up in a church tradition that taught things like baptismal regeneration. Or perhaps you were baptised as a baby because that is what your church taught. Sort of an insurance policy to get you into heaven.
Those things are taught in several churches, however they are not taught in the Bible. Salvation is not based upon our baptism, circumcision, communion, or anything else that we do, other than accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. The Philippian jailer asked the question, “What shall I do to be saved?” The response that he received then, has not changed for us today, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved...” I like that my translation says on, and not just in.
Throughout our lifetime we get asked if we believe “in” several things. But all of those questions, whether it concerns miracles, the tooth fairy, Charlie Brown’s Great pumpkin, or the curse of the Great Bambino, relate to the existence of those things. Believing on the Lord Jesus means more than just that you believe He existed, the Devil and his angels believe and know that, but it means that our faith and trust and hope of Heaven is based solely upon what He did on the cross. That He came, and lived a sinless life, He died a sacrificial death to satisfy the price, or the penalty, of our sin, and He rose again, defeating death, so that we could spend an eternity with Him.
That is something that we do personally. Right? We aren’t a Christian because our mom or dad was a Christian, or your grandmother was a Christian and prayed for you. A Christian is one that has said, God, I confess that I am a sinner, I know that I can’t get myself into Heaven, no matter how much good that I do, so I am believing on what You did for Me on the cross, forgive me and save Me, and now forevermore be the Lord, or the boss of my life. Baptism is simply the outward expression of that. In 2 Cor 5:17 says this...
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
We sometimes talk about baptism being a water grave that demonstrates that. That the old you is being buried, and the new you is being raised up in Christ. Baptism is the public expression that I now identify with Jesus. One other thing...Some of you have asked if you were baptised as a baby, or baptised under the pressure of well intending parents or friends, but it didn’t mean anything to you, can you get re-baptized? Absolutely! The Bible tells us to believe and be baptized in that order. So we do it, not as a requirement, but out of obedience to Jesus, who was baptized as a model for us. So, if you need to do that, obey the Lord and get it done this Saturday. If you did that at another time in your life, and after that you walked away from Christ, or maybe you understood the salvation part, but never really let Him be the boss or Lord, but now you are all in so you want to do it again, let’s do that on Saturday as well.
Next Sunday, we will have a guest with us, our Brother, friend, and co-laborer in the Lord, Pastor Josh Lawrence will be joining us. Josh and his family planted a church in Eldoret, Kenya, that has grown incredibly. With many more people gathering each week than what we have here this morning. Through their ministry there, they have been faced with several challenges, and the Lord has directed them to start a new chapter called Great Commission Ministries. If you search for it on-line it is not the same one that you might find in the Bahamas. I strongly encourage you to join us next Sunday, to hear about what the Lord is doing in Africa and how you can get involved in practical ways. If you’ve always wanted to be a snowbird and escape the Maine winters to Florida, forget Florida and Josh will put you to work for Jesus in Africa. I’ve got a short video here from GCM that I hope will encourage you to come....
One more thing....I know those of you that are on our prayer vine are aware of this, but some of you may not be. Our friend Jim Ellis, who many of you started to get to know and build a relationship with over the past couple of months died unexpectedly on Monday of this week. There will be a service of remembrance for Jim tomorrow at the Anah Shrine Center, 1404 Broadway, Bangor at 11am. Please continue to pray for Jim’s immediate family as well as his extended family of first responders.
We will be starting a new book this morning, so if you will turn with me to the book of Hebrews we will get started. There are books in the bible that are easier to understand than others, personally I love being in the Gospels and would probably camp out right there, if we as a church were not committed to giving priority to the full counsel of God. Hebrews is one of those books that is rich in doctrine. When you hear that word you might automatically think boring, or hard.
I’ve joked with some of you that Hebrews is my favorite Old Testament book that got put in the New Testament, because it speaks much to us about those things and assumes a great deal of knowledge on behalf of the reader of the Old Covenant system, of the priesthood, of animal sacrifice, the tabernacle, and the law of Moses. So we may have to slow down a bit as we go through it to help us understand why it is here and why it remains important for us. The Old Testament is heavily quoted in the Book of Hebrews with 86 OT references within it’s pages, but not as many as Matthew with 96, or the book of Revelation which contains 249.
Let’s read through the first few verses and then break it down a little bit. Hebrews 1:1-4
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Let’s pray: Father we worship you this morning through song, through our giving, and our desire to know you more. Would you give us greater understand of who Jesus is Lord as we read this together? It’s in His name we pray, amen.
Several of the books we have read lately begin with Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Last week it was "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother as we read the letter to Philemon. Before that in Titus it was "Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…the letters to the Thessalonians begin, "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, …so guess who wrote the letter to the Hebrews? Your guess is as good as mine! It has been a topic of debate for 2,000 years, that alone should tell you that nobody knows for sure. Many say that it was Paul, as he was the only one that would have had this level of knowledge of both the Old Testament covenant and practices within Judaism as well as a command of the Greek language that it was written in . To that I say a definite maybe. Some in that camp claim that it was Paul who wrote it originally in Hebrew and Luke then translated it into Greek. Others say that it was Luke, or Apollos, maybe Barnabas, or perhaps even the husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquila. That certainly wouldn’t have gone over well with many in the early church, a woman being used to write the Scriptures.
Here is what the bible tells us about the bible 2 Tim 3:16
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
All scripture is given by what? Meaning the human instrument doesn’t really matter, what we have on the page was inspired by the Holy Spirit thousands of years ago when it was scratched onto a scroll, and the same Holy Spirit is the one that illuminates it today over the span of time to give us understanding as we read it. So, I don’t care who held the pen, but I love that it starts simply with God. Heb 1:1
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
I also love that if you study the book of Hebrews, you will learn more about Jesus and fall deeper in love with Jesus. I think it matters that we understand who the Letter was written to. The title gives that away a little bit. It was originally written to Hebrew Christians or those that were Jews. Jews that were familiar with the entire back half of your bible the Old Testament, and all that it said about the coming Messiah. When Jesus came, they recognized that it was Him. Sort of. When we look at when this book was written, it was probably close to 67-69 A.D., so 35 years or so AFTER Jesus was crucified on the cross.
So several of these Hebrews would have been second generation believers. Meaning that they had not been the ones that walked with Jesus as his disciples, but would have come to faith in Christ directly through their ministry and testimony. But 35 years later, the excitement was waning with some, the persecution continued and was relentless, and to many of these believers, it seemed easier to just quit and go back to what they once knew. The book of Hebrews is their encouragement not to.
It is all about the Supremacy of Christ. In plan language, it reminds them over and over again, that Jesus is better. Jesus is better than your old ways, Jesus is better than the old covenant, better than the angles and the books of the law, better than Moses and the promised land, better than their old system of religion and the sacrificial laws. The Two major points of emphasis in this book is Jesus is better than any thing and any one and should be elevated above all. And Secondly, that despite the challenges, despite the persecution they should remain faithful to Jesus and not abandon their faith.
This book is important to us for the same reason. It is a great reminder for us not to turn back when times get tough for us. Or the circumstances of life have us shook. See when it was written, the Temple where they used to worship was still standing, the animal sacrifices were still happening, so for many the road back looked easier than the one ahead.
A life sold out and fully submitted to Jesus is not an easy one today. It’s probably not going to be popular with your friends. But I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that Jesus is better.
Again our text starts with God, and then states that at various times and in various ways, He spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets. That is what much of this book is, is the writings of the prophets. We have been reading the prophet Isaiah on Wednesday nights and seeing how clearly Jesus is revealed in that book. Some of the prophets were heard and received by man, and others spoke forth for God and no one listened. Imagine poor Jeremiah who was faithful, but had not a single convert, no wonder they call him the weeping prophet. But in the past, this is how God spoke.
But not just through men, it says at various times and in various ways. The book of Romans tells us that God reveals Himself to us through His creation, Romans 1:20
20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
He spoke through a flood, through a rainbow, He spoke through a burning bush, yet, even when without excuse. men refused to hear God, not alot has changed. But today it is no longer through just the prophets that He speaks, but now through His Son Jesus, look at verse 2 again. Heb 1:2
2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
Really what we have here is this very cool, multifaceted description of who Jesus is. So this is God the Father speaking about God the Son. What I think is so powerful about this is that it all just further validates that Jesus is in fact God. You parents that are here this morning, maybe you have been asked one of those simple questions by your kids like what is God like? We should know this right? Well kid, let me grab my systematic theology book, and block off about 4 days for lesson one.
The book of Hebrews tells us if you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus. I’ll show you that in our next verse, but lets look at this first. It says He is heir of all things - Old Testament context guys …Who received the inheritance? The First Born. Jesus is above all things and before all things. Colossians does a pretty good job of laying this out for us. Col 1:15
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
He makes invisible visible…What we see in Jesus is God. When asked by Philip, the Gospel of John 14:8-9
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
The image of the invisible God. He is to God what the raise of sunshine are to the sun, that which we can see. You don’t learn about the God of eternity unless He reveals Himself to us and He does that through his Son, yes creation, yes the prophets, yes in various ways in various times, but today it is through Jesus.
How does God view the poor? With the compassion we see in Jesus. How does God feel about the sick. He desires to love, heal, and restore as we saw in Jesus. What about the weary, the broken? Jesus said, Matt 11:28-29
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
God is revealed in Jesus. He is the image. At the time this was written coins were made by punching an image into a piece of metal, bronze, or silver. It’s the same as the stamp and the image on the coin, or the signet ring and the seal pressed into the wax of a king. They are the same, but yet are different. One God, in 3 persons, Father, Son and Spirit. But what God is like, His image is seen in Jesus.
Again the firstborn, and through whom he made the worlds…Heb 1:2
2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
This might be confusing to you bible students…I mean if you turn to page one and verse one of the book that sits in your lap it says Gen 1:1
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
We have to remember that God exists outside of time. We have to remember that Jesus wasn’t a creation of God who was born on Christmas morning 2,000 years ago. He has always been. When He came to earth, what theologians call the incarnation occurred, where God took on humanity. He didn’t leave His Godness up in Heaven and was down here as just a man. He was fully God and fully man. Deity without subtraction took on, or added, humanity. That is so important for us to understand because it is what makes Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
SO here we have God created and if we continue on in our passage in Colossians 1:15-17
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
One God, in three persons. I don’t have a perfect analogy for this because I’m with Timothy when he writes, Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: but I have heard it described as God the Father being the architect, with the inspiration and perfect design, The Son being the contractor through whom the actual creation was done, empowered by the carpenter, the Holy Spirit of God. I’m not sure that holds up, but what I do know is that the Bible tells us that all three are involved in the process.
Now I want you to consider the end of verse 17 here, in Him all things consist as we look at Hebrews 1:3
3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, that’s tracking with Jesus saying if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father, He is the express image, God in the flesh. What is God like? Look at Jesus, study Jesus, get to know Jesus. Let’s keep going, just a couple of hours left. I’m kidding we will land this plane soon.
See this with me, the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, that sounds like our verse in Colossians, in Him all things consist. Upholding all things by the word of his power. This pulpit, this building, the chair you’re sitting in. He holds all things together. The atoms in the walls of this building that the roof is sitting on, He is upholding all things.
Again this is written to a group of people that are being tested and tried. Life has become more difficult, not less, and they are reminded here, as are we, that when we are shook and feel scrambled, Jesus holds us together. When we are weary, it is Jesus that holds us together. We may be tempted to turn to other things, but Jesus is better.
Continuing on…when He had by Himself purged our sins…two fold meaning here the first meaning that He purged our sins without our help. It didn’t take a whole lot of hail mary’s and good works, or acts of contrition, it took Jesus. He did it by Himself. This also means that the method by which He purged our sins was by means of Himself, through Himself, He laid down His life for mine, for yours if you know Him as Savior. It was through Him, His completed work on the cross.
The verse concludes with sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Ever wonder what Jesus is doing now, sitting at the right hand of the father? I’m waiting for Him to return for His church, but what about now? What about today? For this group that was struggling, or for us today that might be thinking about turning back, or looking somewhere else? In the book of Romans we read…Romans 8:34-37
34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Hebrews proves the Love of God through Jesus. Hebrews proves the deity of Jesus, right in this first chapter. Read the rest of it ahead for next week, and you’ll discover that God calls Jesus God in the 8th verse. Stick with us through this study and you will see that Jesus is Better. Let’s pray....
Grace and Peace