Jesus: Much Better Than Angels
“Jesus: Much Better than Angels”
Series: Captivated by Christ (Hebrews)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
Praise God. Love watching you all fellowship and greet one another. Please be seated.
Let me invite you to open your Bibles to the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews in the New Testament. Hebrews. It’s the book right before Shebrews. Just kidding. Hebrews is just before James. New Testament, Hebrews chapter 1.
Couple weeks ago we began a new verse-by-verse study of the Book of Hebrews. You know that’s what we do here, preach through Books of the Bible. Occasionally we break and do something different for a few weeks, but our regular, Sunday morning diet of spiritual nutrition is verse-by-verse study of Books of the Bible. We believe the best way to teach the Bible is teach people the Bible. So we read New Testament letters much the same way we read a letter from a loved one, carefully, verse-by-verse, taking care to interpret it rightly. In a similar way, we open God’s Word and read it verse-by-verse, taking care to interpret it rightly, understand it, and then apply it.
Today’s study is primarily verses 4 through 14 of chapter 1, verse 4 to the end of the chapter. And of course that is because we’ve already studied the opening verses and we pick up where we left off. But verse 4 is one of those what I call “hinge verses,” that works like a hinge on a gate swinging both backwards and forwards. Verse 4 goes with the verses preceding it as well as the verses following it. So we’ll read verses 1-4 to refresh our memories.
Now, I happen to really love these opening three verses and I’m a bit saddened that we’re leaving them! They are so good, these opening verses, because they teach such beautiful truths about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So listen for this teaching about our Lord, the eternal Son of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity—Father, SON, Holy Spirit. Listen as the writer proclaims lofty truths about the Son of God.
Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
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.
Amen! And may God add His blessing to the reading of His Word. Please be seated.
One of the major themes of the Book of Hebrews is the heralding of Jesus Christ, the proclaiming of Christ as “better” or “greater” than anyone or anything. The words “better,” “more,” and “greater” occur a combined total of 25 times in this letter.
The writer of this letter knows his audience. They are, of course, Hebrews. That’s the title of the letter. He’s writing to Jewish Christians, believers who came out of a background steeped in Judaism. And because many of these new believers were undergoing persecution for their newfound faith, and, were tempted to turn back to their old ways to avoid Christian persecution, the writer both warns and encourages them to stay the course. Don’t turn away from Jesus. He is vastly superior than the old Jewish, Old Covenant way of living.
Adrian Rogers illustrated this truth years ago by likening the situation to a dog with a bone. He said if there’s an angry, mean dog and that dog has a bone in its mouth, and you try to take the bone away from him, you’re going to regret it and that dog will bite you! If you really want to get that bone away from the dog, then you take a fresh sirloin steak and you just put it down on the ground in front of that dog. And that dog will drop that bone to get that steak. That steak is far better than that old bone!
So the writer of Hebrews is showing these new Jewish Christians that there’s something far better than the old ways of the Old Covenant. The Son of God, Jesus Christ! He is far and way better, much more superior than anyone or anything.
And he begins by showing that Jesus is better than the angels. Now we’ll talk about that in a moment, but before we do just see the bigger picture unfolding in the weeks to come. Jesus is better than—chapters 1 through 4—better than the prophets, better than angels, better than Moses, better than Joshua, better than the Sabbath. Then Chapters 4 through 10: Jesus is greater than earthly priests, greater than the Mosaic Law, greater than animal sacrifices and greater than daily offerings.
Jesus is better. Jesus is greater.
Now, before we look at verses 4 and following, let’s review the first three verses and recall quickly the main teaching of verses 1-3. Here we see, number one:
I. God’s Revelation of the Son (1-3)
Remember that the general term “revelation” refers to God’s revealing Himself to His creation. The writer opens the letter by telling us that Jesus Christ is God’s final and fullest revelation, disclosing of Himself, to His creation:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” God’s revelation by His Son. And we learn something of the person and work of the Son, who He is and what He has done. Continuing in verse 2: “…whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;” verse 3 now: “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person (or the exact imprint of His nature), and upholding all things by the word of His power,” then last week we talked about this next phrase: “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” His atoning work is finished, the cross is our purgatory. Nothing needs to be added to His work or repeated. He “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” verse 4 now:
“having become so much better than the angels (there is our sermon title right there: Jesus, Much Better than the Angels), as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” And that name that is more excellent is the name “Son.”
And then from verses 4 to the end of the chapter the writer expands upon this truth that Jesus is much better than the angels because of His Sonship. So this is the second of two main teachings here in chapter one. The first by way of outline is God’s Revelation of the Son (1-3) and now we move to God’s Exaltation of the Son (4-14), the second main teaching about the Son of God.
II. God’s Exaltation of the Son (4-14)
So the hinge on the gate of verse 4 swings forward now to show how the Son is exalted over all creation, over everything, beginning first with the angels. Jesus is much better than the angels.
The first century Jewish readers held angels in high regard. Literature from the intertestamental period—the years between the Old and New Testaments—literature from this time period indicates some level of fascination with angels. And this helps us understand why the writer of Hebrews addresses the matter of angels.
To be truthful, our own popular culture has something of a fascination with angels. They’re everywhere: figurines, nursery decorations, on get well cards, TV shows, and movies. Remember “Clarence” in the Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Clarence was George Bailey’s so-called guardian angel. Clarence, a sort of bumbling, childlike, softie of a man. I always liked that line where Jimmy Stewart looks at Clarence and says, “Well, you look about the kind of angel I’d get!”
Pop culture typically portrays angels as sweet, harmless looking ladies with wings. Actually not at all the way Scripture portrays them. In fact, usually when people encounter angels in the Bible, the first thing they do is fall down and shudder in fear. Remember the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? An angel appeared to them and they started quaking in their boots! More than once we read that the first thing out of an angel’s mouth is, “Don’t be afraid!”
So there was this fasciation with angels and the writer of Hebrews sets out to correct the faulty exaltation of angels over the Son, over Jesus. Verses 4 and following throughout the chapter are simply the writer’s way of demonstrating that Jesus is superior to the angles, demonstrating this fact by using the Old Testament, something those early Jewish believers also held in high regard. So in verses 5 through 14, the writer cites seven different passages from the Old Testament to make the case that Jesus is far and away superior to the angels.
And he begins by calling attention to Jesus’ peerless, matchless name, the excellent name, of Son, Son of God. The pre-existent Son of God, the eternal God who took on flesh in Jesus Christ. Son. Verse 5:
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”?
See the argument? To which of the angels did God the Father address as Son? Answer: none. No angel has ever been addressed this way.
Then the writer defends his truth by using Old Testament quotes and citations, the first two from Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7. Some of you have a Study Bible that shows you those Scriptures in the margin and you can look them up later.
And when you look up those Old Testament passages you will note that they are prophetic words that find a dual fulfillment, they are prophecies fulfilled in two ways. There is a more immediate fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment. The words in verse 5, for example, from Psalm 2, these words “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” find a more immediate fulfillment in an earthly king—an heir of King David—and an ultimate fulfillment in an eternal king—King Jesus.
This is common in the Bible, this dual fulfillment of prophecy in both present time and future time. And it shouldn’t really surprise us given the nature of God. He is timeless. As the Creator of time, He is not bound by time. He is outside of time, yet He does act in time. So to a timeless God, His timeless word has both immediate relevance in present history and fuller, ultimate relevance in future history. This why Peter could say in his second letter: “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).”
The writer understands the word “begotten” in verse 5 not in the sense of the Son’s being created or made, because the Son was not created or made. The writer taught as much in the opening verses. The Son is the agent of creation, the very One through whom the worlds were made (Hebrews 1:2). He is not created, He has created all things. So He is Son not by virtue of creation, or adoption, but by nature.
The word “begotten” refers to the paternity of God in relation to the Son, the unique Father-Son relationship without specific reference to any particular moment in time. It’s a matter of status. The writer’s point in verse 5 is that no angel ever heard these words. God the Father never said to an angel, “You are My Son.” Never. Only the Son “has by inheritance” this “more excellent name (Hebrews 1:4),” the name “Son.”
6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
Here is a quotation from the Old Testament that may cause a little scratching of the head when you try to look up the references. Sometimes when we look up the references in the Old Testament, the words are a little different. One reason is because people of Jesus’ day often quoted not from the Hebrew Old Testament directly, but usually they quoted the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It’s what is called the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
It seems this quotation, “Let all the angles of God worship Him” is a Holy Spirit inspired interpretative citation from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible—the Septuagint—most likely referencing Psalm 97:7 and Deuteronomy 32:43. Some of you may wish to explore that a bit further, but let’s not miss the author’s primary point.
The author’s primary point is: the angels worship the Son of God. The Son of God is far and away better, much better, vastly superior to the angels.
The word “firstborn” here is used as a title, an honorific title stressing preeminence in family lineage, describing the one who is rightful heir of all things.
Here a reference to the incarnation, as the Son of God takes on flesh in Jesus Christ. The angels of God worship Jesus. The Son is superior to the angels.
7 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.”
That’s from Psalm 104.
And verses 8 and 9 are from Psalm 45:6-7:
8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
And then verses 10-12 are from Psalm 102, the writer citing the Septuagint again, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In that translation of Psalm 102, these words in verses 10-12 are spoken by God (Psalm 102:23-28). And the writer of Hebrews is applying Psalm 102 to the Son of God, finding fulfillment in the nature and being of the Son. He is the agent of creation and timeless.
10 And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
Here again, the Son of God is the agent of creation. He is eternal. He has always been. He created all things. Everything is “the work of His hands.”
11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment;
12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.”
He’s talking about the Son of God here! He created all things, heavens and earth, and He will re-create all things, new heavens and earth.
13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?
Answer? No one. No angel has ever heard these words from God the Father. All things belong to the Son. He is rightful heir, rightful ruler, Lord.
So the writer concludes with a question about angels in verse 14:
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
And the answer is “Yes.” Yes, angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Angels are servants commissioned to serve those who receive Jesus Christ, to help them, to serve them.
So the main point of the passage: Jesus is much better than the angels. Don’t worship angels, worship Jesus. He is much better!
Now, truth is, it seems highly unlikely that many, if any, of us worshiped angels this past week. And I think it’s reasonable to believe that most of this congregation knows theologically that Christ is superior to angels. There may be some of you today for whom this was news, but I should think the vast majority of us knew that before we entered the sanctuary this morning; Jesus Christ is superior to the angels so we’re not to place angels before Jesus.
But I’ll bet few of us, if not all of us, were not guilty of placing something else before Jesus. I’ll bet few of us did not, at times, value something or someone greater than we value Jesus.
Jesus is much better than the angels, yes, but do you believe He is much better than your secret sin? Do you really believe that? That He is more gloriously beautiful and more supremely wonderful than anything else?
There are things we believe to be true that we find hard to believe (voiced in prayer by Ligon Duncan). Do you know what I mean by that? We believe this is the Word of God, you know. We believe it to be true from cover to cover, but the way we live once we’ve walked out these doors may indicate that we find this passage hard to believe.
Yes, theologically, we affirm Jesus is much better than the angels and much better than anyone or anything. Amen, preacher! So all is well—so long as we’re talking about angels. So long as we’re talking about something easy to affirm. So long as we’re talking about something that doesn’t really challenge us or require change from us.
Imagine someone walked around with you every day last week. Spent Monday morning, afternoon, evening with you. Just watched you, observed you every day—Monday, then Tuesday, Wednesday and on through the week. And then somebody asks this person who was with you all last week, someone asks them, “What did he value most? The way she spent her time, what he talked about, how she lived, what was his, what was her superior satisfaction?”
If you have little desire for Jesus, competing desires will triumph. Worldly desires, sinful desires, desires of the flesh—the old you—they will win out. You’ve got to cultivate greater desires for Jesus Christ, believing Him to be a superior satisfaction over all things.
Remember: “You can learn to love Jesus better, but you will never love anything better than Jesus.”
Pray to Jesus at the beginning of each day. Ask in prayer like the psalmist in Psalm 90: “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days (Psalm 90:14).”
This week can be such a good week! It can be a great week spiritually as long as you and I don’t value anything greater than Jesus. So long as you and I don’t allow anything to so occupy our minds and hearts that we begin to idolize that thing—whether it is some human being, a relationship, man or woman, parent, child; so long as we don’t allow something else to capture the gaze of our eyes and hearts; our personal safety, our health, worldly friendships, job recognition, success as measured by worldly metrics, money and investments, our house, our car, the car we don’t have, the house we really want, the approval of others. Fear can be an idol if we allow it to dismantle our trust in God. Even peace can be an idol if it’s peace as the world defines peace: absence of all trouble, that can become an idol, too. Let go! Let go of sin. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
Fix your eyes on Jesus and be captivated by Him alone.
You may need to repent today. Right where you are. If you are clutching something or someone more than Jesus, let go of it. Turn from your sin and turn to Him.
You may need to be saved this morning—receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Come in a moment as we sing, you come. Make your way up front here. I’ll be standing here and you simply say, “I want to go God’s way today.” I will pray with you right after the service and give you some helpful information to take home with you.
Or maybe you have other spiritual questions or you want to know more about the church, you can come during this time and I’l meet with you here.
This is our time to respond in song. You can right where you are repent, worship, trust Christ, love Christ!
Let’s pray. “Jesus, we believe you are much better than the angels. And in our hearts we know you are much better than anything or anyone else. But the things we believe to be true are often hard to believe. Hard to live. Help us, Jesus. Cultivate in us a greater desire for you, that we would love and cherish you more than anything this world affords. In Your name we pray, amen.”
Now stand and sing to our Lord—and you respond however you need to respond.
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
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