Tuesday, January 31, 2012
On Hebrews 1:8-9
“The danger that there is unto men unskilled and unexercised in the word of truth, when, without advice, assistance, or direction of others who are able to guide them and instruct their inquiry after the mind of God, they hastily embrace opinions which it may be some one text or other doth seemingly give countenance unto. By this means do men run themselves into the forementioned danger every day, especially where any seducing spirit applies himself unto them with swelling words of vanity, boasting of some misunderstood word or other. Thus have we seen multitudes led, by some general expression, in two or three particular places in Scripture, into an opinion about a general redemption of all mankind and every individual thereof; when, if they had been wise, and able to have searched those other scriptures innumerable setting forth the eternal love of God to his elect his purpose to save them by Jesus Christ, the natural and end of his oblation and ransom, and compared them with others, they would have understood the vanity of their hasty conceptions” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 188-189.
On Hebrews 1:5
“An argument, then, taken negatively from the authority of the Scripture in matters of faith, or what relates to the worship of God, is valid and effectual, and here consecrated forever to the use of the apostle.” – John Owen, Epistle to the Hebrews, volume 3, 131.
“Greater Than Angels: Jesus the King”
January 29, 2012 Second Reformed Church
We continue looking at the author of Hebrews’ argument that Jesus is greater than the angels. We will remember that there were those in the first century church who had begun to wonder if angels might be greater than Jesus. Because Jesus, the God-Man, is fully human, some saw Him then – as some see Him today – as being less than the angels. There were even some, as Paul records, that were worshipping the angles: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,” (Colossians 2:18, ESV).
Let us begin by looking at verse six again: “And again, when he [God] brings the firstborn [Jesus the Son] into the world,”
Let us remember that we saw that the term “firstborn” does not always mean “the first to be born” – it certainly doesn’t mean that here. God was never born. And neither Jesus in His Humanity or in His Divinity was the first born of God on earth. No, the term “firstborn” also means – and it means in this text – “preeminent.” God is saying that He brought the Preeminent One into the world – the Incarnation was of the Preeminent One. The Greatest, the Most Superior, the Highest in Rank – that is what God is – God came to earth in the Person of Jesus.
“he [God] says, “’Let all God's angels worship him.’”
The angels were commanded by God to worship His Son, Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God. Now, God would only command beings to worship Someone Who is greater than they are, right? God would never command us to worship each other, because we are equal in our humanity – no one of us is essentially greater than another.
David wrote, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, (Psalm 8:4-6, ESV).
We, humans, were created “a little lower” than the heavenly beings – including the angels. So, we understand that the angels are “a little greater” than we are. So, we might be tempted – as we see in the Scripture – to worship angels – but God has forbidden that. We are commanded not to worship any created thing (cf. Exodus 20:4-6).
Based on this, we might be tempted to say the angels are greater than Jesus, because Jesus is completely human, and humans are a “little lower” than the angels. However, the Son of God – the Second Person of the Trinity – is said to have preeminence – to be greater – than everything that God created – including humans and angels – and Jesus is God – the Second Person of the Trinity.
Now, we saw last week that Jesus – in His Humanity – was – for a time – in His sinless, but finite and unglorified body – less than the angels – we see in verse four that He became superior to the angels. However, we must understand that He became superior to the angels insofar as His Humanity is concerned. In His Divinity – in the fact that He the Son is God – before, during, and after the Incarnation – Jesus, the Son of God, the God-Man, was and is superior to the angels.
So, we can understand that though Jesus, the God-Man, was – for a time, unglorified in His Body – He was still God, Himself. So, even though Jesus is now still completely human – and glorified – He is, as He always was, completely God, so He is greater than the angels and worthy of worship.
God would sin if He commanded the angels to worship another creature. But since God commanded the angels to worship God – even in human flesh – we can understand that Jesus, the Son, is greater than the angels as evidenced by their worship of Him.
The author of Hebrews continues by pointing out a Scripture about the angels, themselves: “Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’”
The angels were made by God, and here we see that the angels are servants of God. God makes the angles to be what they are. And what are they? They are like wind and fire. They are quick, agile, powerful beings that do the work God has given them. They are ministers – they carry out God’s Will – they affect the works of Providence. But they are merely servants.
The rest of our text is a quotation from one of the Psalms of the sons of Korah in which they praise God for His Sovereign Kingship. We read: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;” (Psalm 45:6-7, ESV).
“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,’”
Let us notice first, here, that God calls the Son, God. “But of the Son [God] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” The author of Hebrews continues to emphasize that Jesus is not merely a real human being, but He is the Son of God – God, Himself, in the Second Person – Incarnate as the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Incarnate God is still God. The Son of God is God, and the Son of God taking on flesh – a real human Person – did not make Him any less God.
Notice, then, that God, the Son, is enthroned, and His Reign is eternal. God the Son is the Eternal Sovereign King over all. And if the Son is God the King, then the Incarnate Son, Jesus, is God the King, because God does not become less than God by taking on flesh.
We recognize this in texts that we read often during the Christmas season, such as: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7, ESV).
So, it is not strange to us to think of Jesus as being God, the Eternal King.
Now, a king is greater than his servants. So if Jesus is God, the King, then Jesus is greater than the angels, because the angels are servants of God. Jesus, the King, is greater than angels.
What kind of King is Jesus? If He is not a holy and perfect king, wouldn’t the holy angels be greater than Jesus, then? It would, but it is not so.
The author of Hebrews, quoting the Psalmist, continues, “the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”
The scepter is the symbol of the administration of rule. And we see here that His Rule is Righteous – Holy and Perfect in every way. That makes Him the final authority on all matters, and so, God’s Word is the final authority in all matters.
Since our God and Savior reigns in this way, we are compelled to live in a way that follows after His Righteousness. Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” (Titus 2:11-12, ESV).
We who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation have been saved by His Grace Alone – as a free gift to us, and in so doing, we recognize we are under the Sovereign Righteous Rule of Jesus, and we receive training from Him. Jesus teaches us through His Word and through God’s discipline of us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions – all of the sins we so joyfully have participated in in the past – we now cast them away for the joy that we have received through salvation and now in living under His Reign. And now we strive to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives – we strive to live according to all the commands of God in holiness – understanding that we will not be perfected in this life, yet not using that as an excuse but fighting with everything we have to live holy lives like Jesus – by the Work of God the Holy Spirit in us – because any good we do is done by God working through us.
We see this perfectly portrayed in Jesus: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;” The reason that Jesus reigns in righteousness is because He is God and God loves righteousness and hates wickedness.
God is delighted and rejoices when we do good and live righteously by Him Who lives and works in and through us. God loves to see Himself portrayed in us and our actions. But God hates – yes, hates – wickedness. God is furious, livid, enraged when one of His creatures – including us – does something contrary to His Will.
Do we understand that when we sin, we are committing cosmic treason? Do we understand that when we sin, we are trying to overthrow the government of Jesus? Do we understand that when we sin we are telling our Holy God Jesus, Lover of Righteousness, Giver of Joy and Salvation, “I know better how to live my life than You!”
“How dare we!”
That’s why God came down to earth in the Person of Jesus. We had become a plague of evil in God’s presence, but God, in His Mercy, chose to make some right with Him by Himself. And here we have the Gospel: God came to earth – incarnated – in the Person of Jesus, lived, died for the sins of all those who would believe, physically rose from the dead, and ascended back to His throne, where He reigns in Glory.
Jesus is King, and we are saved. Jesus is greater than angels.
Our text ends: “therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Hebrews 1:6-9, ESV).
Therefore: Since Jesus the Son is God. Since Jesus is eternally seated on His Throne – Eternal King of Kings, ruling over all of Creation. Since Jesus administers His Rule in righteousness. Since the administration of His Rule proceed from a love of righteousness – holiness – and a hatred of all wickedness.
Therefore – the consequences of Jesus’ Holy, Righteous Rule over all of Creation is that God anoints Jesus.
What does that mean?
It means that God rejoices to have His Son rule. God is glorified through the Righteous Rule of Jesus over the Creation, and God takes pleasure in being glorified, in working as Trinity to accomplish all things according to His Plan.
It means that the Father enables the Son to do His Work. And we wonder how that can be, if the Father and the Son are the same One God. And the only answer we can give is to say that there is a priority of action in the Godhead. Which doesn’t really answer the question does it? But that is what we see in the Scripture, and that is as far as we can go with that point.
It means that Jesus is symbolically marked as triumphant and exultant. The Son accomplished His Purpose in the Incarnation and now reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So, we can see that Jesus is greater than angels.
What does this mean for us – to know that Jesus is King of the created order?
It means we have a duty and a joy to rejoice in the Kingship of Jesus. Is it not wonderful news to know that the One True God Who came to earth to save everyone who will believe – you and me – is the Same One God Who rules over everything and every moment of history – everything is in His Hands and occurs according to His Will? Ought we not obey and rejoice in such a great God as this God, Jesus, the Son?
And it also means that we may have comfort and security in Jesus’ Kingship. If the Same God Who died and rose for us is the King of everything, and all things work together according to His Will, don’t we have every reason in the world to trust Him and to take comfort in Him and to know that if He did this for us – Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, ESV).
John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, ESV).
As Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30, ESV).
Beloved, take comfort and rejoice – obey all the commandments of our Savior and King – the Sovereign of all. For He has done all the work. He has returned to the Thorne of the Son. And though He came to us in human form – that He could be our Substitute – He is not a creature – He is the Only God, the King, and greater than angels.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and King, we bow before You as Your humble subjects. We come before Your Throne as children before their Father. We give thanks for the Son Incarnating for our salvation. Help us to understand that He is not just a human being – He is the Almighty God, the King – and to Him Alone belongs all glory and praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.e H
"Live as if you thought that Christ might come at any time. Do everything, as if you did it for the last time. Say everything, as if you said it for the last time. Read every chapter in the Bible, as if you did not know whether you would be allowed to read it again. Pray every prayer, as if you felt it might be your last opportunity. Hear every sermon, as if you were hearing once and forever. This is the way to be found ready. This is the way to turn Christ’s second appearing to good account. This is the way to put on the armor of light." ~ J.C. Ryle (Gently lifted from: http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/01/30/live-as-if-christ-will-appear-today/)
Friday, January 27, 2012
“I say, then, that mortification is the work of believers, and believers only. To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead (as all unbelievers, the best of them, are dead), sin is alive and will live.” -- John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, 37, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: Temptation and Sin.
Tomorrow -- Saturday -- D.V., we plan to have our second free winter coat give-away of the season. If you could use a winter coat, please come to the church between 10 AM and 12 PM. One coat per person. You must come to the church to receive a coat.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
“Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no physic for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation. Spiritually sick men cannot sweat out their distemper with working.” -- John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, 18, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: Temptation and Sin.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
“This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature is given to us, -- that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust. ‘The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.’ Well! and what then? Why ‘The Spirit also lusteth against the flesh,’ Gal. v. 17. There is a propensity in the Spirit, or spiritual new nature, to be acting against the flesh, as well as in the flesh to be acting against the Spirit: so 2 Pet. i. 4, 5. It is our participation of the divine nature that gives us an escape from the pollutions that are in the world through lust; and, Rom. Vii. 23, there is a law of the mind, just as there is a law of the members. Now, this is, first, the most unjust and unseasonable thing in the world, when two combatants are engaged, to bind one and keep him from doing his utmost, and to leave the other at liberty to wound him at his pleasure; and, secondly, the foolishest thing in the world to bind him who fights for our eternal condition, [salvation?] and to let him alone who seeks and violently attempts our everlasting ruin. The contest is for our lives and souls. Not to be daily employing the Spirit and new nature for the mortifying of sin, is to neglect that excellent succour which God hath given us against our greatest enemy. If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold his hand from giving us more. His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with. Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who hath furnished us with a principle off doing it.” -- John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, 12-13, in The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: Temptation and Sin.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
“Greater Than Angels: Jesus the Son”
January 22, 2012 Second Reformed Church
Angels exist, and angels are powerful. What do you believe about angels?
The television picture of angels in “Highway to Heaven” and “Touched by an Angel” and other such pieces, portray angels as beings that help us. They almost are conceived as wish-granters – another type of leprechaun or fairy.
The first century Jews and Christians believed in angels, as well.
At Stephen’s martyrdom, he accused those who were about to stone him: “you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:53, ESV).
And Paul wrote, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary” (Galatians 3:19, ESV).
God has used angels to bring His Word and the Law to humans and to carry out the blessings and punishments of the Law. But some in the first century church had begun to believe that the angels were greater – more powerful – more to be revered – than Jesus.
The author of Hebrews tells us that God spoke to and through the prophets and then His Son. Last week we saw his argument that Jesus, God the Son, is God Himself – not something less than God.
As we continue, he begins to address those who say that Jesus is less than the angels, and he argues that Jesus is greater than the angels. In this first section, he argues that Jesus is greater than the angels because Jesus is the Son of God.
“having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Last week we saw that Jesus is God because He is seated at the Right Hand of God on His Throne. We understood this to mean that Jesus – fully God and fully Man – has been granted all the Authority and all the Power of God.
In receiving the Authority of the God, the Son became superior to the angels.
“Wait a minute,” some of you are thinking, “If Jesus is God, hasn’t He always been superior to the angels? How can we say Jesus, the Son, became superior to the angels? That sounds like we’re saying the Father is greater – superior – more God – than the Son.”
The author of Hebrews is not saying that: the Son is completely God and the Father is completely God – They are both the same One God – utterly equal in Their Divinity.
But the Son Incarnated as the Person of Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth was sinless, but His Body was fallen – it aged and decayed and got sick. And those who should have recognized Jesus as God the Son, rejected Him, as Isaiah tells us: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV).
God the Son, as the Incarnate Jesus, was not seen as superior to the angels – He was mocked, and despised, and crucified. Jesus was named a thief, a heretic, someone that God and man rejected.
But that changed when Jesus rose from the dead – when Jesus stood up and the stone rolled away, and He visited with over five hundred people, and then ascended before their eyes up into the heavens, to sit on the Throne of the Son, exalted and glorified, the Victorious Messiah – Savior – Christ. The Son of God in His Flesh became superior to the angels in Person and Name. The word angel means “messenger.” Jesus is the Messiah – the Savior – the Christ.
As Paul writes, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11, ESV).
Jesus is greater than the angels because He has been glorified and proved His Name to be Messiah – Savior – Christ.
“For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?”
David wrote the Psalm about himself, which also continues this Truth about Jesus: “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel’” (Psalm 2:7-9, ESV).
God promised David that he would inherit the nations – the earth – figuratively, as the king of Israel – that he would be victorious over all his enemies. Yet, as we look at this and God calling David His “begotten,” we understand that this cannot mean that God gave birth to David – begotten means something else – that David became a Son to Him, but not in the manner of birth associated with created creatures.
Similarly, we see this scripture fulfilled as a description of Jesus, and God saying that He has begotten Jesus and that He has become a Son to Him. Again, God does not give birth, so we are talking about something different here – becoming a Son but not through the manner associated with created creatures. God did not become pregnant and give birth to Jesus, much less God the Son in His Divine Person.
In the special relationship God the Father and God the Son have, first both being the One God, and then through the Incarnation, we see an eternal begetting of the Son. God the Son was begotten of God before the Creation and before time – it is an eternal begetting – this relationship between the Two Persons of the Trinity has always existed, and they continue to exist as God the Son put on human flesh and Incarnated as the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, was glorified in His Body, and resumed sitting on His Throne.
Jesus is greater than the angels because He is begotten of the Father.
“Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’?”
The third reason Jesus is greater than the angels builds on the second: God is Father to His Son.
The scripture quoted comes out of a discussion God had with David. David had desired to build God a temple, and God told him that his son – Solomon – would be the one to build the Temple. And God told David that He would care for Solomon: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,” (2 Samuel 7:14, ESV). The first part of this verse is quoted in fulfillment about Jesus, the Son of God.
Again, God did not give birth to David, and God did not give birth to Solomon, and God did not give birth to God – to Jesus.
The One God has always existed. The One God has always existed as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Three Persons. In becoming human, God the Son remained God and remained in the same relationship with God that He had before the Incarnation. The Son has always been the Son and will always be the Son.
Although the Father and Son are equal in Divinity – in being the same One God – the Persons execute Their Priority in matters. For example, although the Triune God created everything that is, and each Person is cited as creating everything that is, in God speaking to us in our words – in our language – in a way that we could understand, God gives the Father priority in the creation of all things. This is not to say that the Father is greater – the Father and Son are equally God – this is part of the mystery of the Trinity.
However, we can say this, God has never called or considered an angel to be His son. God the Son has a relationship with God the Father – a standing with Him – that the angels never have. And He is the same One God.
Jesus is greater than the angels because God is His Father, and He is God’s Son.
“And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world,”
Jesus is the firstborn into the world.
Paul repeats this witness, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”
(Romans 8:29, ESV).
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15, ESV).
“and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5, ESV).
And so we find ourselves asking, “How can God be the firstborn? Wouldn’t this make God the Son less than God? If God always existed, and the Son was born at some time, doesn’t that make the Son a lesser creature or a lesser god?”
What we must understand is that “first” does not always mean “first in order.” For example, David, who became king, was not the firstborn child of his parents, but he was the firstborn as far as the choice for king. David had preeminence over his brothers and was chosen to be king.
When we read that the Son is the firstborn, it cannot mean that He is the oldest of the children, because God does not get pregnant and give birth. So we understand “firstborn” to mean “having preeminence.” The Incarnate Son is the greatest in the world. He is the greatest of His brothers and sisters. He is the greatest over Creation. His victory over death is the greatest.
Jesus is greater than the angels because He is greater than anyone and anything in all of Creation.
“he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him’” (Hebrews 1:4-6, ESV).
The author of Hebrews, finally, quotes Moses as he sings a hymn about God and His works on behalf of Israel: “Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people's land” (Deuteronomy 32:43, ESV).
Here, the reason given to worship God – and the Son – is that God is vengeful – God will avenge His children and punish His enemies. God will bring absolute justice to pass, and that is one reason that God is worthy of worship.
The author of Hebrews may also have David in mind, as he writes in the Psalms: “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!” (Psalm 97:7, ESV).
Here, David says that God is worthy of worship because idols are worthless – idols can do nothing. Whereas God is the God of the Creation. The Creator and Sustainer of all things.
God tells the angels to worship God the Son, because God is worthy of Worship. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. The angels understand that and forbid humans to worship them, as John records: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’” (Revelation 22:8-9, ESV).
The angels are shown to us as worshipping God – worshipping Jesus – God the Son: “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:11-12, ESV).
Jesus is greater than the angels, because the angels worship Him.
The author of Hebrews is seeking to persuade some who have gone astray from orthodox teaching that Jesus is greater than the angels. Jesus is not a lesser creature because He is the Son or because He was begotten or because He Incarnated. In our text, the author of Hebrews gave five reasons that Jesus is great than the angels:
Jesus is greater than the angels because He has been glorified and proved His Name to be Messiah – Savior – Christ.
Jesus is greater than the angels because He is begotten of the Father.
Jesus is greater than the angels because God is His Father, and He is God’s Son.
Jesus is greater than the angels because He is greater than anyone and anything in all of Creation.
Jesus is greater than the angels, because the angels worship Him.
Let us understand that Jesus is greater than the angels – both our perception of what the angels are and the reality of what God reveals to us. Jesus is greater. Jesus is God, so He is worthy of all worship. Let us, with the angels, worship God the Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Let us pray:Almighty God, we are humbled as we try to consider what it means that there is One God Who is Three Persons. We only grasp at what it means that God is Father and Son, and that the Father begat the Son. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us, and though we do not fully understand how all these things are, we are convinced that You are God and Jesus is God, and He is worthy of all worship.
"You may have rare intellectual gifts, and high mental attainments — you may sway kingdoms by your counsel, move millions by your pen, or keep crowds in breathless attention by your tongue — but if you have never submitted yourself to the yoke of Christ, and never honored His Gospel by heartfelt reception of it — then you are nothing but chaff in His sight." -- J. C. Ryle. (Gently lifted from http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/01/23/are-you-chaff-in-the-sight-of-god/.)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The information about Banner of Truth's May US Conference, it's new location, registration materials, brochure, etc., are available at http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/events/usconfexhib.php Get thee to the Banner!
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
“Jesus is God”
January 15, 2012 Second Reformed Church
A few weeks ago we began looking at the letter to the Hebrews, and we saw that the author of Hebrews begins by telling his readers that God spoke. Over history, God spoke in many ways and at varying times, and God spoke through the prophets – the authors of the Old Testament.
The Word that we have written down for us from Genesis to Malachi is not merely human writing but it is the Word of God. God did not merely dictate what He wanted to say to humanity, but God inspired human authors who would write in their own styles – but write without error – everything we need to know. It is the history of God’s interaction with humanity. God explains that He created us, but we turned away and sinned against Him, yet He kept His Covenant – His Promises, because He is God and He cannot lie and He cannot sin.
But, now, the author of Hebrews explains, God has not merely inerrantly and infallibly inspired the prophets to write His Word, but in these last days – beginning with Jesus – we are in the last days – God spoke by His Son. And, again, God mercifully inspired the Gospel writers and the other writers of the New Testament, so they would write down – infallibly and inerrantly – the life and history and salvation that God promised and gives to everyone who will believe through His Son, Jesus Alone.
We saw that since He is the Same One God Whose Word comes to us through the Old and the New Testaments – the Old and the New Testament tell us the same thing – there is no contradiction between them. Humans sinned, and the only way for humans to be right with God was for God to come to earth as a real human being, live, die for our sins, and physically rise from the dead, and ascend back to His Throne. That is the Gospel from Genesis to Revelation.
So this book – this Bible – is the Whole Word of God – everything God has mercifully revealed to us. Everything we need to know to live and be made right with God. All of it God gave us to know. All of it God gave us to follow and to hold on to and to rejoice in – because there is no other hope for humans. And we should read it.
We cannot be healthy, faithful, obedient Christians if we don’t know what God has said. Yes, there are difficult parts. Yes, there are parts that are less interesting. But God has given us His Word to know Him and to know how to live as His people – and most of the Bible is straightforward. I am using the yearly Bible reading schedule I keep putting in our bulletin. This morning I read about Joseph interpreting dreams and being given a powerful job because of it. I read about Jesus telling the Pharisees that for the sake of mercy and necessity, there are exceptions to the Law. Pretty clear passages. Did you read your Bible today?
If you have questions about what the Bible says, ask me. If you don’t have a Bible, ask me for one. If you don’t understand the translation you have, we’ll find a better one for you. Just don’t not read!
We saw that Jesus is the Word of God Incarnate. He is the Answer to humanity’s sin. He is the Creator, Heir, and Owner of all things. But we said that strange ideas had come into the Church, and people doubted the importance and the necessity of Jesus. So, the author of Hebrews explained that Jesus is greater than the angels, Jesus is greater than Moses and the Law, and Jesus is greater than the priests and the sacrificial system.
We continue our look at the introduction to this letter, as the author explains with five points that Jesus is God:
First, “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God.”
When we look at Jesus, we see the Glory of God. The Glory of God the Father and the Glory of God the Son is the same Glory, because They are the Same One God. Humans can see the Glory of God mediated through Jesus in His Humanity, but humans cannot look directly at the Glory of God the Father – or God the Holy Spirit. God said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20b, ESV).
The Father is God and the Son is God. God is All-Glorious. The Glory of God shines from God outward – drawing attention to Him. But we cannot look at the unmediated Glory of God or we will die. However, since Jesus is God, He is All-Glorious, but since He is also Human, we can look upon Him and see God’s Glory and live.
For example: we are told not to look directly at the sun because it can hurt our eyes. However, if we wear sunglasses, we can look at the sun. In a similar way that sunglasses mediate the rays of the sun, so Jesus’ Human Body mediates the Glory of God. Just as putting on sunglasses does not make you less than who you are, God becoming human did not make God less than God. God is still completely God in the Incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is completely God and completely human at the same time in One Person.
John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known” (John 1:14-18, ESV).
John explains that God came to earth in the Person of Jesus. Jesus has the Same Glory as God the Father. No one can look at God the Father and live. But we can look at God, the Only God; the God Who is at the Father’s Side, Jesus, because Jesus makes the Glory of God visible to us through becoming human – through His Humanity. In the Incarnation, God makes us able to look upon His Face and see His Glory and live. No one has ever seen God the Father and no one ever will. We see God in His Glory in the Person of Jesus.
Paul explains, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV). Since Jesus is God and bears God’s Glory, and we can look at Jesus and live – God’s Glory is visible to humans. However, God has allowed the devil to blind humans so they can’t see God’s Glory in Jesus – unless and until God gives them sight.
The author of Hebrews continues, secondly, “and [Jesus is] the exact imprint of [God’s] nature,”
When the author of Hebrews tell us that Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s Nature, he is telling us that Jesus has the same nature, the same essence, the same being, the same substance as God. Jesus has exactly the same everything in Him that makes the Father God. Everything that is necessary for God the Father to be the One God is present in Jesus – as well as in the Holy Spirit.
What is it that makes God God? God’s Divinity. God is Divine, and Jesus is Divine. Only God is Divine, so Jesus is God.
For example: Carol and I are both human beings – just take my word for it for the sake of the example. Now, Carol and I don’t look the same. Carol and I are different genders. Carol and I have lived different lives and have different experiences and memories. But there is still something about both of us – something necessary about both of us – that makes both of us humans. We both have the essence of humanness. We both have that without which we would not be humans. (A mouthful, I know.) Whatever it is that makes a human a human – Carol and I both have it. And most of you do, too.
Jesus and the Father – though the Father remains Spirit and the Son took on the human person of Jesus – Jesus and the Father both have everything that is necessary for them to be the Same One God. They both have Godness. They both have Divinity. Jesus and the Father both have exactly the same everything that makes Them the One God.
And it is only in Jesus that we understand the Form of God. We do not see God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. Each of those Two Persons is Spirit. The Son, Who was only Spirit until the Incarnation, took on the Person of the human Jesus. So we can see God’s Nature as it is seen in and through the Person Jesus.
As we read the accounts of the Gospels and even the letters, we can see Jesus – we can see that there is something in Him beyond mere humanity. We read that the crowds listened to Jesus teach: “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29, ESV). The people heard Jesus speak and they knew that He was greater than the greatest of their religious leaders; He had an authority that far exceeded the religious leaders. They were seeing the Nature of God in Him – just as we see the Nature of God in Him through reading His Word.
Third, “and [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
Jesus, by His Word – by His Power, holds the Creation together. Jesus sustains the Creation. If Jesus did not uphold the universe, everything would fall apart. Gravity would fail. The stars would crash into the earth. The earth would fly into the sun. Our bodies would melt or, perhaps, turn to stone. Nothing would work; nothing would survive, if Jesus did not uphold the universe.
Paul explained: “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17, ESV).
Jesus created everything that is for Himself, by Himself, for His Reasons, and nothing can remain without His Influence. If Jesus we not immediately involved in every moment of history, we would be lost – we would collapse into Hell.
Who but God has the power to hold all things together? Who but God can cause all life to proceed as it always has? Who but God could cause the seasons to come, the plants to grow and mature and bear fruit, to form humans in the womb and bring them forth into the world? If Jesus – God – did not hold the universe together, everything would be chaos.
Fourth, “[Jesus] ma[de] purification for sins,”
The author of Hebrews explains later, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, ESV), and “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV).
Humans are born sinners. We are born with a sin nature – inclined towards doing sin. Although the Law provides the sacrifice of animals for the forgiveness of sins, this was merely a temporary measure to expose us to the fact that we could never offer enough to cover all of our sins, because we sin day after day, hour after hour, minutes after minute. We are idol-makers. We seek at every turn to not do what God has said. And even in offering up the sacrifice of animals, God exposes that the sacrifice was given with mixed – not holy – motivation. Humans have no hope in-and-of themselves.
My friend, Stan, who claims to be an atheist, understands this. We were talking one day and he said to me, “Hope is unrealistic.” And he’s right – humanly speaking. We look at what God has said, and we see that no matter how much we do, no matter how much we sacrifice, it will never be enough, we will never be forgiven, we will never earn our peace with God.
In order for a human to be forgiven, two things have to happen: Someone has to take the eternal punishment for his debt – and survive. And Someone has to credit him with a perfect keeping of God’s Law, so He will be seen as righteous by God.
What did Jesus do? Jesus paid the debt for every sin every person who will ever believe will commit. If you believe savingly in Jesus Alone, Jesus paid the debt for your sins from your past, from your present, and from your future. Jesus paid your debt by suffering an eternity in Hell in a moment on the cross on Good Friday.
But that would not be enough. God requires that His Law be kept perfectly to receive the Kingdom. We have to have Jesus’ Perfect keeping of the Law credited to our account, so that when God looks at us He sees Jesus’ Work.
Paul wrote: “And [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 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.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death [that’s the paying our debt part], in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him [that’s the crediting us with His perfect keeping of God’s Law], if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:18-23, ESV).
Here again we see what God had to come down in the Person of Jesus – a real human being: if Jesus were not fully human, He could not take our place and pay the debt for our sin, but, if Jesus were not God, He could not survive an eternity in Hell for one person, much less for everyone who will every believe. If Jesus were not fully God, He would be a sinner and unable to keep God’s Law, but since He is the One God, Himself, He was able to keep His Law and choose to credit that perfect keeping of the Law – His righteousness – to our accounts.
Jesus, being both completely God and completely Man, did what centuries of priests could never do, in making us right with God, not just temporarily, but eternally.
Finally, “[Jesus is seated] at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
Luke also writes, “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69, ESV).
Being seated at the right hand means that He has all the authority of the Sovereign. Jesus has Supreme Authority. He governs all things. The fact that He is seated, indicates that His Work is finished – just as He said on the cross, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30, ESV) . Our Salvation has been accomplished. God has made His people right with Himself, by Himself, for Himself, and to His Glory.
The author of Hebrews opens his letter by telling us that God has spoken, first through the prophets and now through His Son. We have the record of God’s “speaking” in the Bible, and in it we find the only hope for humanity through Jesus.
And to all those who claim to have faith in the Law or in angels or in sacrifices, the author of Hebrews states that Jesus is greater. And the first reason Jesus is greater is because Jesus is God, Himself, and there is no one greater than God.
Jesus is God because His Glory if the same as the Father’s.
Jesus is God because the Father and the Son have the same Nature – the have the same Divinity.
Jesus is God because the universe exists or collapses by his Word – His Power.
Jesus is God because He paid the debt for our sins and credited us with His perfect keeping of God’s Law – something only God could do.
And Jesus is God because He reigns Sovereign over all form His Throne in Heaven.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we are so easily distracted by other things that are offered up to take your place. We have angels on our lapels to protect us. We think magic handkerchiefs can save us. We pray to saints. We have chain letters from miraculous missionaries. We think we’re good enough. We even think that You will wink at our sin – as if it was anything less than rebellion against You when we sin. Lord, help us to know You are God. Help us to know and live with You Greater and always before us. Thank You for letting us see God and for saving us for Yourself when all hope was lost. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.