10.02.2016: Thank God for Jesus

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Hebrews 1:1-9

I think I’d believe in God even if Jesus hadn’t come.

I seem to assume that God exists. That assumption appears to be a vital part of who I am, but I can’t tell if it’s the product of nature or nurture. Maybe it’s one of the results of the evolutionary processes that led to me. Maybe it’s because of what my parents told me from the moment I was born. Maybe it’s both.

Without Jesus, I think I’d be a theist rather than a deist. A deist and a theist both believe that God created the universe, but a theist believes that God stays involved with it while a deist believes God doesn’t.

I think I’d be a radical theist. I’d believe that God not only gets involved in the universe, but also in our lives. Most self-respecting theists would probably consider me an extremist. They’d try to avoid me.

I think I’d just have this sense that God cares—even that God cares for me.

As it is, though, Jesus did come. And I’m glad he did, because he shows me—he shows us—how involved God is in our lives and how much God cares for us.

“He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being,” the writer of Hebrews proclaims (1:3a). If I want to know who God is and what God is like, I can look at Jesus. When I do, I see that God cares enough to get involved. I see that God cares enough to intervene on our behalf.

I see that God loves us. I see that God loves us with a love that gives. I see that God loves us with a love that gives self up for us.

When I look at Jesus, I see that the God who rules creation is also the God who submits to crucifixion. When I really want to see who God is, I look at Jesus dying on the cross.

And I am overwhelmed.

Yes, I think I’d believe in God if Jesus hadn’t come. I think I’d even believe that God cares.

But I thank God that Jesus came to show us what we most need to know about God: that God is love.

Discussion

1. The author of Hebrews says that God had previously spoken through the prophets. Why did God need to speak through God’s Son? How does God still speak through the Son?
2. Compare Hebrews 1:1-9 with Colossians 1:15-20 and John 1:1-18. Taken together, what do these texts teach us about Jesus’ role in revealing God to us?
3. Why do you think Hebrews stresses Jesus’ superiority to angels?
4. Hebrews 1 says that God brought about both creation and salvation through Jesus. Why do you think it talks about Jesus’ roles as Creator and Savior? How do those two roles go together?

Reference Shelf

Verse 4 brings the prologue to a climactic conclusion. It also introduces the first major section of the letter, a section designed to show that the eternal Son is also the high priest who has achieved his exalted status through suffering (1:5–2:18). The section is developed by means of a comparison between Christ and the angels that is introduced in v. 4. Comparison is an important strategy in Hebrews, with the word “superior” being one of the book’s most characteristic adjectives (see 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24).

Tension exists between a temporal perspective whereby the Son becomes superior to angels and inherits a more excellent name and an eternal perspective whereby the Son has a primordial relationship with the Father. The tension is not resolved here or elsewhere. At this point in Hebrews, the emphasis is not upon the temporal achievement of Christ’s position but in the fact of the superiority of his position. This position is related to the possession of a special “name.” The name is not specified. The reader will know that the name “Son” is intended, and this is confirmed by the questions in v. 5: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’?”

But the sonship is not simply the eternal sonship; it is a sonship that involves priesthood and suffering. Therefore, the tension between the temporal and the eternal, the human and the divine, the eternal word and the word become flesh must be maintained. We may begin from above with the eternal or we may begin from below with the temporal, but to do justice to the Christian message and to the message of Hebrews in particular we must see the relationship of each to the other. Hebrews will continue to challenge the reader as it moves from one perspective to the other and back again.

Edgar McKnight, “Hebrews,” in Hebrews–James, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2004), 36.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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