God incarnate

Hebrews: Jesus is Greater  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:36
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Hebrews 1:1–3 ESV
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Let’s pray


How do you choose what to buy? Do you base your decision on...
There are so many factors that impact our purchases.
What about faith? When it comes to what you and I believe, what draws us to those beliefs?
comfort - does it fit with our preferences
consistency - does the faith system work in every circumstance
truthfulness or veracity
Scripture teaches that it is ultimately God who draws people into belief and into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ - so our choosing could also be seen as a compulsion.
But what about when those doubts begin to set in? What about those times when the difficulties of life seems to muddy the lines of a clearly defined faith?
Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be considering the book of Hebrews as we seek to wrestle with the truths and challenges of our faith.
The anonymous writer of Hebrews to a group of believing Jews in the 60s AD - we might call them messianic Jews today, who were undergoing persecution. Some were remaining true to the faith, but others were turning back to their old ways, to the old covenant. The entire book, in many ways, is an argument supporting the premise that Jesus is greater.
Here at the outset, the author stakes his claim that Jesus is greater than all of the other elements of the old ways. He makes a bold truth claim, or as Raymond Brown noted in his commentary - 8 truth claims about Jesus, and then backs them up throughout the letter. These 8 claims all seem to point to one clear truth - and that truth is the foundation to our faith.
First of all, we see that…

1. Jesus is God’s Word (1:1-2a)

Hebrews 1:1-2a “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...”
God is a communicating God. From the earliest days of creation, God has been in fellowship and has communicated with His people. In the Garden of Eden he communicated directly with Adam and Eve. Later, God seemed to communicate directly to certain people called prophets in order to convey his message to His people. This was sort of a representative Theocracy.
Those prophets of old would speak and write the messages they received from God.
The writer of Hebrews here doesn’t seem to be saying that prophets were incorrect in what they spoke, but they were incomplete. Now that Jesus has come on the scene, He is the revealed, spoken and lived word of God!
The Gospel of John highlights Jesus as the Word of God - or the Word made flesh by stating: John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Jesus, as the Word of God, is revealing God to humanity. He is speaking God’s ways, and fulfilling what the prophets foretold.
But not only is Jesus God’s word, we see that...

2. Jesus is God’s Son (1:2)

“…he has spoken to us by his Son...”
There are some people who want to reduce Jesus to being a good man or a good teacher. Others want to call him simply another prophet - a man who was uniquely gifted, but still just a man.
Brown notes in his commentary:
“Those Jewish Christians whose faith in Christ was faltering may have come to regard him merely as a good man, a captivating teacher, or an impressive leader. He was all that, but much more.”
As the Son, His authority and position far exceed that of any prophet or leader.
Jesus even alludes to this status in one of his parables (consider summarizing or skip):
Matthew 21:33–38 NLT
“Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same. “Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ “But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’
The son has a special standing. Jesus told that parable as a means of communicating to the religious leaders about their own standing and how they have often been working against the plans of God.
Because Jesus is God’s Son, His position implies and the writer of Hebrews delineates that...

3. Jesus is God’s Heir (1:2)

Hebrews 1:2 “...whom he appointed the heir of all things....”
Just as a child is the logical and rightful heir of his or her parent’s possessions, Jesus is that appointed or really rightful heir. All that their is belongs to Him.
Michael Kruger writes: “…the whole world, all of creation, belongs to Jesus; he is the King.”
It’s quite possible that the author of Hebrews was reflecting on Psalm 2:8 as he considered the role of Jesus as God’s heir: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” (Brown)
Abraham Kuyper, a theologian from the 1800s, reflected on the sovereign implications of Jesus by stating:
“there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” (Carson)
There is a sense in which Jesus’ inheritance is a work in progress. Wiersbe notes in his commentary that throughout the book of Hebrews, there is an attitude of expectation. There is a distinction between what is and what is to come - an already and not yet. As the Kingdom of God gradually permeates the kingdoms of this world through the citizens of heaven, then what is here will more fully represent the realities of heaven. Jesus as God’s Word proclaims His message. As God’s Son, Jesus is the rightful heir. But the writer of Hebrews claims there is more:

4. Jesus is God’s “Creative Agent “(1:2)

Hebrews 1:2 “... through whom also he created the world.”
Raymond Brown summarizes the implications of this argument in this way: “If the chaos before creation could be overcome, surely he could control their destiny and provide their immediate needs.”
Jesus is the means/the word by which God created the universe.
In the Gospel of John, we see this attitude affirmed:
John 1:2-3 “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
The apostle Paul also notes:
Col. 1:16 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
But Jesus is more than simply an instrument - as though God said to his son - go and build this or go create that. He is that creative agent the means by which God created, but we also see that...

5. Jesus is God’s Glory Personified (1:3)

Hebrews 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God...”
Throughout the Old Testament, the glory of God was often described as being mysterious and illusive. God’s glory would descend like a fog. There was often a thick darkness (Ex. 33:9). It was as though the glory of God was inexpressible and incomprehensible.
But in Jesus - God’s glory is personified. We get to see what holiness and purity look like in human form. We get to see love and grace. The disciples so longed to see God the father...
John 14:8 “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.””
To which Jesus replied:
John 14:9 “...Whoever has seen me has seen the Father...”
When we see Jesus, when we read about him, when we watch his actions, and hear his teachings - we see the glory of God personified.
But this is not a replacement or a substitute for God....

6. Jesus is God’s Essence Revealed (1:3)

Hebrews:1:3 “He is … the exact imprint of his nature,....”
Have you ever heard someone say “She is the spittin’ image of her mother.” Or “He is the spittin’ image of his dad.” We say that to represent that the mother and daughter or father and son look or act alike, or at least similarly. As children, we bear in our bodies the physical markers of our parents - a little of mom and a little of dad. As we grow, we begin to learn their characteristics and qualities. We begin to talk like them, walk like them, stand or sit like them. But we are still independent and distinct. I love getting to see how my kids blend the attributes, qualities, and quirks of both Danielle and me.
But in Jesus - we are not seeing a mockery or an imitation of God. We are seeing the “exact imprint” (ESV), the “very character” (NLT), “exact representation” (NASB), the “impress of his substance” (YLT), the “exact likeness of God’s being.” (GW)
There are some who would say that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. I think that in Jesus (of course, in the NT), we get to see the true nature and character of God.
Dane Ortlund, in a talk he gave at this year’s TGC conference, argues from the old testament that God’s heart is for his people. I mentioned in the midweek that we have a gift for you. That gift is the book Gentle and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund. In fact, we have enough for each person in your family can have one - I realize some of the kids can’t read - so feel free to take enough for your family - read it together, give some copies away to others.
Without stealing the thunder of the book, let me walk you through a bit of this argument. Remember - Jesus is the exact imprint of the nature of God. What does he say about his heart? Let me encourage you to write down these references and turn back to them later.
Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - his heart is gentle and lowly.
You might say, “but that’s Jesus” - but the God of the OT is angry and vindictive.
Is that God’s heart? We can read over 40 times in the OT that God was provoked to anger. But what does God say about himself?
Ex. 34:6-8 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands (or thousands of generations), forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.”
Isa. 55:6-9 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” - God’s different way of thinking is in his compassion to those who are far from him.
In the very middle of the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah writes: Lam. 3:31-33 “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.”
Finally, as you have time, go and reflect on the whole chapter of Hosea 11. Let me just read for us a couple of highlights:
Hos. 11:4 “I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.”
Hos. 11:8-9 “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? .... My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”
God’s heart - as he spoke of it himself - is toward compassion. Jesus revealed that in his ministry on earth. His discipline toward His people is because he was provoked by their rebellion.
Jesus - being the essence of God revealed is that He is gentle and lowly at his core!
We could dive into that so much more, but we’ll save that for another time.
The writer of Hebrews continues his introductory argument by stating that...

7. Jesus is God’s Sustainer (1:3)

Hebrews 1:3 “...and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. ...”
Where the ESV says that he upholds the universe, the Greek uses the word that means everything or all things. Jesus, by his word, upholds all things.
I have to admit, I’m a bit puzzled by this point apart from the overall point that the writer is making. So often, we think of Jesus as the man who taught, he lived a perfect life, and died the death that he did not deserve on our behalf - but I often picture him as a human - 5’10”, olive skin, dark eyes, dark hair. How can this human figure sustain all things?
Isaiah 40 says that God can measure the universe by the span of his hand.
Colossians 1:17 “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Does that mean Jesus is God?
Let’s hold on to that for a moment. The writer of Hebrews has one final argument for us.

8. Jesus is God’s Perfect Sacrifice (1:3)

Hebrews 1:3 “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
For many of his first century readers/listeners, the temptation was for them to go back to the old sacrificial system. At the time Hebrews was written in the 60s AD, the Temple was still in existence. Sacrifices were still being made - daily, weekly, and at the special festivals. But it would not be for long. In AD 70, shortly after Hebrews was written, Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple was destroyed. The sacrifices basically stopped.
I believe, this is because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He died once and for all and sat down. He finished his work. We don’t have to keep getting saved. We don’t have to keep returning to an altar. We don’t have to offer sacrifices. Jesus said on the cross “it is finished.”
So the writer of hebrews is arguing several very profound things as he opens this letter to Jewish background believers.
Jesus is God’s:
Creative Agent
Glory personified
essence revealed
sustainer of all things, and
perfect sacrifice.
In short, we could say finally that...

Jesus is God Incarnate

Jesus is God in the flesh - fully God, fully human. He was a great teacher - and more. He was a great leader - and more.
Looking back at Colossians once again, the apostle Paul writes:
Col. 1:19-20 “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Here in his opening argument, the writer of Hebrews seems to be begging us to ask the question, why would we turn to anything less? Jesus is greater than all things! Jesus is God incarnate.

So what

What difference does this make?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope that this gives us a joyous confidence to walk forward in faith. I pray that we are assured of who Jesus is and what he has done. He is sufficient for the task that he completed and the work that he is continuing to do. When you and I are tempted to doubt, I pray that we would reflect on the greatness of Jesus.
I think that this also means that when Jesus’ teachings and our culture‘s values oppose each other, then we should willingly and even joyfully align with Jesus - in how we think, in how we act toward others, in how we use our money and our time.
If you’re just checking Jesus out, or if you’re stuck in a religious system that seems to be lacking wholeness , then let me encourage you to consider the founder of our faith. He is not a mere man with an ego to boost. He is God incarnate who speaks for God, created with God, sustains all things, and ultimately gave his life to pay for those things in you and me that run counter to his ways (sin). He lived what He taught and died so that we might live in Him.
Early on in Jesus ministry, he gathered quite a crowd and taught things that seemed to be upside down from the conventional thinking of the world. In response, some people left him. Jesus turned to his closest followers - the twelve - and asked if they would go too.
John 6:68-69
John 6:68–69 ESV
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
There is no priest, pastor, shaman, imam, guru, rabbi, or spiritual guide who can compare to Jesus. Jesus is greater, because Jesus is God Incarnate.
Let’s pray.
Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Discussion Questions:
What surprises you about the opening arguments from the writer of Hebrews?
What difference does it make that Jesus is all of these things?
How is Jesus different than other religious leaders or founders of other faiths?
Brown, Raymond. The Message of Hebrews. The Bible Speaks today. Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982.
Carson, D. A. Christ and Culture Revisited. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. Print.
Hewitt, Thomas. The Epistle to the Hebrews. TNTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1975.
Kruger, Michael J. Hebrews for You. The Good Book Company, 2021.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Confident: Live by Faith, Not by Sight. NT Commentary: Hebrews. Colorado Springs, David C. Cook: 1982
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