By Mike Willis
The book of Hebrews contains one of the most comprehensive expressions of the doctrine of Jesus to be found in any New Testament book. The book is designed to demonstrate the all-sufficient salvation which is available to men in Jesus Christ, our all-sufficient Savior. The threat which the author was facing was that of some Hebrew Christians who were reverting to Judaism as a means of salvation or as supplemental to faith in Jesus. The author demonstrates the superiority of salvation through Jesus Christ to the priesthood, sacrifices, and promises of the law of Moses. He demonstrates that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient Savior who is able to save to the uttermost those who call upon Him (Heb. 7:25). We can be benefitted by considering Jesus our Savior.
Jesus Was God With Us
There are a number of declarations of the deity of Christ in the book of Hebrews, some of them conspicuous and some not so conspicuous. I would like to list several of them to remind us that Jesus, who was born to Mary, was no other than Jehovah God of the Old Testament. Let us begin by looking at the opening verses of the book:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 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 on the . right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1-3).
We begin our study of Jesus as “God with us” by listing the affirmations of these verses.
1. Jesus the Son of God. The author begins;-by stating that God now speaks to us through “his Son” (1:2). This is placed in contrast to the manner in which God spoke to the fathers byAhe prophets. The prophets of the Old Testament were men who spoke under the direction of the Holy Spirit – inspired men. Jesus is more than a good thinker, a good teacher, or even an inspired man. He is the “son of God.” The Jews understood what “son of God” meant when they heard Jesus state that He was the Son of God. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18). Some sectarian denominations have stated the “son” indicates that Jesus derived His existence from the Father. This is not so.
An eternal relation subsisting between the Son and the Father in the Godhead is to be understood. That is to say, the Son of God, in His eternal relationship with the Father, is not so entitled because He at any time began to derive His being from the Father (in which case He could not be co-eternal with the Father), but because He is and ever has been the expression of what the Father is . . . . Thus absolute Godhead, not Godhead in a secondary or derived sense, is intended in the title . . . . The words, `Father’ and `Son,’ are never in the N.T. so used as to suggest that the Father existed before the Son . . . . (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. IV, pp. 48-49).
Hence, the statement that Jesus is the “Son of God” indicates that Jesus has the same nature as God the Father. He is deity.
2. Jesus the Heir of all things. In Hebrews.1:2 Jesus is further described as the “heir of all things.” This is also stated about Him in Hebrews 2:10 (“for whom are all things”) and Colossians 1:16 (“all things were created. . . for him”). This implies “all things being subjected to his sway” (Thayer, krronomos, p. 349). Jesus is Lord over all, having dominion over everything which has been created.
3. Jesus the Creator. Jesus is further described in Hebrews 1:2 as the one “by whom also he made the worlds.” Jesus is also asserted in other passages. John wrote, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). Paul added, “. . . for by him were all things-created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16). The only way that this statement can be harmonized with Genesis 1 is to understand that Jesus is the God of Genesis 1:1 who, in the beginning, created all things.
4. Jesus the Brightness of His glory. Jesus is further described in Hebrews 1:3 as “the brightness of His glory.” In commenting on this phrase, Moses Stuart wrote,
If God be represented to us under the image of splendor, or of a luminary or source of light, then is Christ the radiance of that splendor, or the light emitted from that luminary. That is, as a luminous body becomes perceptible in consequence of the light radiated from it, so God has manifested or exhibited himself to us in the person of his Son. To the same purpose John says, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him, John 1:18.” So again, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father, 14:9;” and again, “He that seeth me, seeth him that sent me, 12:45.” In Col. 1:15, Christ is called “the image of the invisible God,” i.e. he by whom the invisible God is, as it were, presented to our inspection. In him God has exhibited to man the perfections of his character, i.e. has exhibited ten doxan autou (the glory of him,-. MW), which word is figuratively used to designate the divine perfections (Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 285).
5. Jesus the Express Image of His Person. Hebrews 1:3 also describes Jesus as the express image of God’s person. The word “express image” is translated from charakter which was used; first of all, to describe the instrument used in engraving and carving and then to describe the mark stamped upon that instrument. Hence, it means “the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect” (Thayer, p. 665). Jesus is the exact expression of God’s hupostasis – “the substantial quality, nature, of any person or thing” (Thayer, p. 645). “The phrase then teaches that Christ was the representation of very God, so to speak; and finds its best parallel and illustration in Col. 1:15, which has been already adduced, image of the invisible God (translated from Greek by me, mw)” (Francis S. Sampson, A Critical Commentary On The Epistle To The Hebrews, p. 49).
6. Jesus the Sustainer of Creation. The Son of God is also described as the one “upholding all things by the word of his power” in Hebrews 1:3. This phrase describes the work of Jesus Christ as the one who sustains the creation which He had made. “Even as He is the effluent brightness and image of God, so is He also the ground of existence to the world: He upholds all things, i.e. God, who is . . . `the Sustainer of the worlds’ . . ., upholds all things by Him: not only was the world originally created, but its government is still carried on through His mediation” (Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 1, p. 53). Paul wrote, “. . . by him all things consist” (Col. 1:17).
7. Jesus is God. As the epistle develops in chapter one, the author of Hebrews wrote, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom (Heb. 1:8).” Jesus is here expressly called “God.” This reminds us of the opening verse of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is not an affirmation that Jesus is the Father; it is a statement of the deity of Jesus Christ. He has every attribute characteristic of deity. The contrast of the passage is between the angels who are God’s ministers (Heb. 1:7) and the Son who is here called “God.”
8. Jesus is Jehovah. The next reference to the deity of Jesus is not so obvious as the preceding one. However, the implication is there nonetheless. In Hebrews 1:10, the author continues to describe the Son, citing several Old Testament texts as having reference to Him. In verse 10, he began a quotation which continues through verse 12 which relates to this and the next two points. He wrote,
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail (Heb. 1:10-12).
This usage of this quotation of Psalm 102:25-27 is to show the superiority of Jesus to the angels. Hence, the words of this psalm are here applied by the author to Jesus. In the original psalm, the “Lord” being discussed is Jehovah (see Psa. 102:21, 22; the AV designates that Jehovah appears in the original by writing the word “lord” by LORD instead -of Lord). Hence, to apply this passage to Jesus, the author had to believe that Jesus is the one known as Jehovah of the Old Testament. This simply means that the word Jehovah, like the word God, is applied to all members of the Godhead.
9. Jesus is Eternal. The purpose of the quotation was to indicate that Jesus possesses divine attributes. In the psalm quoted by the author of Hebrews, Jesus is contrasted with the heavens. In the first place, he said, “They shall perish; but thou remainest” (Heb. 1:11). Jesus is an eternal being. Before the heavens were created, He existed (Heb. 1:2) and He will continue to exist after they are destroyed. Elsewhere in the epistle His eternity is described (7:16-17, 24-25).
10. Jesus is Immutable. The psalm also presents Jesus as an immutable person (one who never changes). He is described as follows: “. . . and they (the heavens) shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (Heb. 1:12). Elsewhere in the epistle Jesus is described as being the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). This is another characteristic of deity.
11. The Word of Scripture Is The Word of Jesus. In two places in the book of Hebrews, the words of the Old Testament Scripture are quoted as the words of Jesus (Heb. 2:11, 13; 10:5ff). When one remembers that the words of the Old Testament were considered to be the “word of God” (Matt. 15:3-9; cf. Heb. 1:5, 7), the affirmation that Jesus spoke these words of Scripture can be nothing less than a statement of the deity of Jesus, as identification of Jesus with Jehovah of the Old Testament.
These references do not exhaust what the book of Hebrews has to say about Jesus. However, they are sufficient to prove that Jesus is “God with us.” There can be no doubt that Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Creator and Sustainer of our universe. He was of the same nature as the Father, possessing every attribute of Godhood even as I possess every attribute of humanity.
Even as I possess every attribute of humanity (I am a man) just as does my father, though I am not my father, Jesus has every attribute of God, although He is not God the Father.
Any concept of Jesus which makes Him less than on an equality with God (Phil. 2:6) results in this false concept: it creates a system of polytheism. The polytheism of the Old Testament was one which believed that there were levels of godhood. One god controlled the sun, another the moon, another the stars, another rain, another controlled the mountains, etc. Each god was different in nature from the other gods. A doctrine of God which has levels of deity is nothing but polytheism. The doctrines of God as taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism, which treat God as a created being, are polytheistic to the core.
Let us remember that Jesus who died for us was none other than “Immanuel” – the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). He is worthy of our adoration, worship, and praise (Rev. 5:12-13), in spite of the fact that no created being is worthy of worship (neither man [Acts 10:25-26] nor angel [Rev. 22:8-9]). He is worthy of our worship because He is God! (Continued next week.)
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 14, pp. 418-420
July 21, 1983