Sunday, 2 September 2018

Introduction to Hebrews - Heb 1:1 - 4

We start our new series diving into the book of Hebrews. We have to scratch our heads because we don't know the author, nor do we really know who it is addressed to. Yet regardless of this we will find the letter is a gold-mine all about Jesus. Many times the author's logic is 'Jesus is greater than <something>, therefore <some application>'. In fact the word 'therefore' occurs no fewer than 10 times, and we will use these as the decision points through the series.

The author dives in at verse 1 with the fact that God Speaks! He reveals in various ways through the ages. Yet now God has spoken very very clearly: loud and clear through His Son - Jesus. Hence the whole letter is about Jesus and the reason for us to study it. In theological speak it covers the subject 'Christology' - all about Jesus Christ.

Straight away it makes cosmic statements about Jesus: He is the heir, the one who inherits all things - all of creation, the universe, the heavenlies, the whole shabang - it all goes to Him! AND through Him it was all created. To get our head round this we must realise that Jesus was with God at the beginning: there is no 'God existed and then later came along Jesus'. The Father, Son and Spirit were all there, as God, relating together in the beginning. They decide to create (the universe, planet earth, us humans) and do that through the Son.

So it was all created through Him at the beginning, and will all return to Him at the end of it all - He inherits it, it is rightfully His. What we can take from this is that God doesn't just create as a task, but in relationship (between Father, Son and Spirit). That is why relationships are so important to us, and why we must always be careful to put people over task and not the other way round.

In verse 3 we are told the Son is the radiance of God's glory. Earlier this year NASA launched a space probe to explore the Sun (as in the star in our solar system). It will do that by flying in orbit as close as they dare, measuring all those solar flares and activity around the star. By doing this scientists hope to learn about the centre of the star. Of course they can't fly too close or straight to the centre without burning up!

As Christians we have a sense that to be faced with God directly would be too much for us - we would surely combust or die in the direct presence of His majesty. The Bible has verses to this effect! Yet there is something we can do: we can go to the Son (Jesus), we can see and experience His radiance, realising it is the radiance of God Himself. So by going to Jesus we can learn about God Himself!

Hence our straight-forward understanding that 'If you want to see God, look to Jesus'. Stick to that principle with friends and neighbours to help others encounter God!

Verse 3 also tells us He is the exact representation of His being. A Roman governor sending a letter would close it with wax imprinted with his very own seal: a mark showing his authority and authenticity. This is the meaning of the greek word used here: so everything about God is imprinted on Jesus. The essence of God (the very stuff of God) is in Jesus.

As Christians we therefore conclude that Jesus is fully God: what is in God is what is in Jesus and vice versa.

The author then tells us a couple of things that Jesus does. Firstly He sustains all things. The fact that you currently have breath is down to Jesus sustaining you! Secondly He provides purification for our wrongdoings - anything bad in us, spoilt in us, He provides for it to be cleaned up, sorted and put behind us where no-one needs to go. It is because of who He is and what He does that gives us good reason to put Jesus no. 1 in our lives. Hence the key question and challenge:

[UP] Is Jesus no. 1 in all aspects of your life?
Challenge: Help the phrase 'If you want to see God, look to Jesus' go viral

The letter asserts over and over that Jesus is superior. The author starts with 'angels' (more on this next week), but we have already read enough to know that Jesus can't be just some kind of angel or spiritual being that is less than God. That is where we differ from groups such as Jehovahs Witnesses, Mormons, Christadelphians etc. - our Christology differs (who we understand Jesus to be).

One last thing in the author's words. We are told that after providing for our purification Jesus 'sat down'. How massively important these two words are! The point is that having done this, there is now no more to be done. The work of Jesus in providing for salvation is complete, it is all done in Him. It is on this basis in which we make Him our number one and we worship Him.

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