Hebrew’s Study 2
A wolf pack hierarchy is made up of one alpha male and an alpha female. Next in line is the beta, and the omega is the lowest member of the pack. The other pack members fall in between the alpha and omega. The alpha male is the only one who leads and makes all the decisions that the entire pack follows, such as when and where to hunt, and when the rest of the pack can eat. Without a leader and parameters, a dog pack is confused, unstable and in constant conflict. This is similar to the Church. The Church is a hierarchy with only one head–Jesus. When his leadership is forgotten or lost, then confusion and instability result.
The author of Hebrews established the authority of Jesus in Chapter 1:1-4 by teaching us that God the Father had spoken in the past by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken by His Son who is greater. The author continues to establish Jesus’ authority by showing us that Jesus Christ is greater than all philosophies.
A TITLE CONFERRED
“having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:4)
Honor is a thing conferred as a distinction, e.g. the highest military honors. When an honorary distinction is conferred, a title of honor is usually given. For example, if the people elect a judge, then he will be titled, “your honor.”
God the Father conferred the greatest honor upon Jesus. Verse 4 states, “… He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:4). God the Father has granted a title to Jesus that indicates His superiority. The supremacy of this grant is signified by a title or greater name than even the angels.
John Owen, the 15th century vice chancellor of Oxford and chaplain to Cromwell reasoned that,
“A name given by God to that end and purpose doth truly declare the nature, state, and condition of him or them to whom it is given; but unto Christ the mediator there is a name given of God himself, exceedingly more excellent than any that by him is given unto the angels: which undeniably evinceth that he is placed in a state and condition of glory far above them, or preferred before them.
In other words, the author of Hebrews is saying, “If you want to know if Jesus is greater, than the angels, then look at the names that the Father decreed for Him. Do his titles excel the titles of angels? Then this points to a God ordained reality.”
If you observe the name that the Father gives Jesus in contrast to the angels, then you will learn the differences between them. For example, verse 5 states, “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”?” (Hebrews 1:5)
The Scriptures not only testify to the honor conferred on Jesus, but also His dignity. Dignity is an innate quality of excellence or worth. Jesus in his person, his identity is of greater dignity than all others. This is confirmed by several Scriptural citations:
- A simple self-evident statement in verse 6. “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6). Who is greater the person being worshipped, or the person worshipping? The point is that he who is worshipped is obviously of more dignity, than those who worship.
- Jesus’ dignity is further confirmed by comparing the identity of angels and His identity. The angels (v.7) are created spirits and are ministers or servants. Jesus, the Son, (v.8) is not created, (his throne has existed forever) but is the creator (v.10). He created the first heavens and earth and will dissolve them to create the new heavens and earth.
- The angels are God’s servants to the elect Church of God (v.14). Jesus is God and the angels serve Him as he rules the elect Church of God.
Thus, you can see that Jesus is greater in honor and dignity. Now, what is the author’s purpose in proving this? He proves this to show that Jesus has pre-eminence above all philosophies.
Jesus’ greater dignity and honor proves his pre-eminence above all philosophies. The word ‘Philosophy’ is defined in many ways. For instance, as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.” Philosophy is usually considered a waste of time and impractical. However, it can also mean a system of ideas which are the foundation for all of life.
For example, think of the philosophy of Communism. This philosophy is meant to engulf and determine all of life. I met with a woman at the bank the other day. She is from Russia. Communism to her was not impractical. It changed the life of her grandparents and still affected her today.
If we define philosophy that way, then Christianity is a philosophy. It is a rule for all of life. It swallows and determines all existence. Abraham Kuyper famously stated this saying,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Thus, Christ installs Christianity as an ideology which competes with other ideologies installed by men or even angels. The author of Hebrews holds this truth before our face: Jesus is above all other ideologies, even the ones given by God prior to Jesus’ advent.
Remember the beginning of this chapter. The author compares Jesus to Moses. This group of people, the Hebrews, are being tempted to return to Moses’ philosophy of worship and obedience. In addition, Stephen in Acts argued that the Jews, “…received the law by the direction of angels….”” (Acts 7:53). The author’s point is that Jesus is greater- his philosophy and administration are greater than even angels. Moses and the angels are creatures that God used to communicate His philosophy of worship, but in these latter days, God has sent His Son with a philosophy which supersedes them all.
LET ME BE CLEAR
Jesus supersedes Moses and the Angels who gave the Law. This can be misunderstood in two ways. Some take that to mean that the moral law is destroyed. Others say that the moral law except what Jesus or an Apostle explicitly teaches was destroyed.
However, this passage is only discussing the Levitical laws. Remember, Hebrews is written to warn the Hebrews against returning to the Jewish temple system of worship. Flip through Hebrews and see that all the topics are temple topics: High Priest; New Sacrifice of Lamb of God; etc.
WHAT ABOUT ROMAN CATHOLICISM?
Since the author is speaking against resurrecting the old priestly temple system, then he is speaking directly against Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism has unlawfully established a priesthood which only Jesus should occupy. Therefore, the Roman Catholic priesthood is in error.
Moreover, they claim to offer a literal sacrifice during mass. The bread and the wine look the same, but the underlying substance transforms into Jesus’ literal body and blood, says the Roman Church. “The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1971 reached agreement on Eucharistic doctrine, relegating the term ‘transubstantiation’ to a footnote, in which it is said to affirm the fact of the ‘mysterious and radical change’” They, then, offer this radical change as a sacrifice to God.
However, Jesus has given his sacrifice once for all and is no longer in his state of humiliation, but is exalted at the right hand of God. Therefore, the Catholic Church, again, is in error.
BUT WE LOVE EACH OTHER!
Lastly, whatever other philosophies compete with the authority of Jesus, then they are by his authority wrong. Our culture is seductive. They make their philosophies look attractive. I often hear students giving into the following temptation: “If two people love each other, then why do we have to wait for marriage to be intimate?”
Parents try to give all kinds of reasons to their students. The student says, “Well, what you’re saying doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t feel wrong.”
Notice what is being said here: You are saying that whatever my emotions or feelings tell me, that is what is true and authoritative. At this point, your feelings compete with Jesus. Your feelings are your greatest authority. The parents are at a loss on how to convince their children, because, I mean, who can control how others feel. Here the passage tells us that all that really needs to be known is that Jesus has the authority to direct our lives whether we understand or not, whether we feel it or not. Why do I have to do that? The best answer and the simplest is, “because Jesus said so.”
- Read Isaiah 9:6,7; Luke 1:32,33. Explain these Old Testament prophecies in terms of an inheritance from the Father as seen in Hebrews 1:4.
- Is Christ the only one to inherit a title from God the Father? Have you inherited a title?
- The Hebrew congregation was tempted to return to Moses. Why was the temptation so great? Have you ever been tempted to return to an “old” life? Explain.
- The application of the sermon spoke of the authority of the emotions. Do your emotions rule? Is that appropriate?
- Does Christianity need to make emotional sense before it can make rational sense? Read Owen Strachan’s interview of Tim Keller. Let me know you thoughts in the comment box.
- What are the authorities or philosophies that compete with Christ in your life? How can you make them servants to Christ?
 Linda Cole, “Understanding Dog Pack Hierarchy, and Why It Matters,” n.d., http://www.canidae.com/blog/2009/06/understanding-dog-pack-hierarchy-and-why-it-matters/.
 John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. W. H. Goold, vol. 20, Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1854), 127.
 Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
 F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1649.