Better Than…

Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
    and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:7-14 ESV

For the author of Hebrews, the theme of his letter is simple, yet profound. He spends the vast majority of his treatise supporting his premise that Jesus is superior to anything that has come before Him, including every aspect of the Levitical system. He is attempting to dissuade the Jewish audience to whom he wrote from abandoning their faith in Christ and returning to their former dependency upon the Mosaic Law and their vain attempts to earn favor with God through human effort. At the core of his message is a warning to avoid any attempt to supplement their faith in Jesus.

These Jewish converts to Christianity were under a lot of pressure from their Hebrew peers to return to Judaism. But to do so would require these new Christians to demote and devalue the worth of Christ and His gift of salvation. It was only natural for these Jewish believers to hold their former faith system in high esteem. After all, they had spent the majority of their lives attempting to keep the Mosaic Law and fulfilling the various sacramental and sacrificial requirements placed upon them by God. Yahweh had clearly told them, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6 ESV).

These people had been raised to believe that their obedience was the key to their ongoing relationship with God. Strict adherence to His laws and a faithful commitment to the covenant they had made with Him were essential to remaining in good standing with Yahweh. But when Jesus appeared on the scene, all of that had changed. He offered another way and, according to the author of Hebrews, a superior way. In fact, he will spend the rest of his letter comparing Jesus to every other element of Judaism that they tended to revere and to which they were tempted to return.

He began his letter with an unapologetic defense of Jesus superiority, even placing Him on a higher plane than the angelic beings. These divine creatures had played a significant role in the history of the people of Israel. They had served as God’s messengers and even as agents of destruction. But the author wants his readers to understand that Jesus, as the Son of God, was far superior to any angel.

Angels are ministers. They are servants of God. Like the wind, they blow according to His will. They are worshipers and are never to be worshiped by men. But the Son of God is different. As the author expressed earlier, “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” (Romans 1:3 NLTa).

He holds a “place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” (Romans 1:3b NLT), and as a result, “the Son is far greater than the angels” (Romans 1:4 NLT).

Using the Old Testament Scriptures as a proof text for his thoughts, the author of Hebrews presents the Son of God as having a royal pedigree, ruling over an everlasting kingdom that is marked by righteousness. He is eternal, having always existed as God and having no beginning or end. Rather than having been created, He is the creator of all that exists. And, as God, His nature is unchanging. The fact that He came to earth and took on human flesh in no way diminished or altered His divinity in any way. He sits at the right hand of God the Father, ruling in righteousness over all that exists.

For the writer of Hebrews, the deity of Jesus is essential and non-negotiable. He is the Son of God and, as such, He shares the nature and character of God. He is royal, immutable, all-powerful, sovereign, righteous and, ultimately, the victor in the battle over sin, death, and Satan.

Part of what the author is attempting to do is promote the superiority of the new covenant over the old one. And since the average Jew believed the old covenant was brought to them from God by angels, they held angels in high regard. But the point of this letter is to establish the superiority of Christ in all things. He is greater than angels. The new covenant in His blood is superior to the old covenant which was based on works. His service to men through the offering of His life as a payment for sin is far superior to any service the angels may offer up.

The angels, while important, pale in significance when compared with Christ. In fact, they exist “to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14 ESV). In other words, they exist to serve God’s people, and we serve Christ. He is the head of the body of Christ. He alone deserves our worship and full attention.

Angels could bring “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10 ESV). But they could not save anyone. They could announce the arrival of Jesus on the scene, but He would still have to sacrifice His own life to make salvation possible to men. And while angels were the ones who told the women at Jesus’ empty tomb, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6 ESV), they were simply messengers of some very good news. Without Jesus, there would have been no news at all.

Apart from Jesus, salvation would be impossible for all men. Had Jesus not died and rose again, there would have been no victory over sin, Satan, and the grave. But Jesus DID come. He DID die. He WAS resurrected from death to life. He HAS ascended back to heaven. And He WILL return one day.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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