Hebrews 1:2-3 - Homilies By C. New
The surpassing glory of Christ, who is the Substance of type Christian revelation.
I. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE PERFECT DEITY OF CHRIST . If the doctrine of the Trinity is not here, it is at least implied that in the Godhead there are more Persons than one. "God hath spoken by his Son;" "God hath appointed him;" "Through him God made," etc. Then the Father and Son are distinct Persons. But, as clearly, they are one God, for there are statements here with reference to the Son which could not be made of one less than Deity. The Deity of Christ is here set forth in three particulars.
1. In his possession of the Divine nature. "The effulgence of his glory, the very image of his substance." Not "the brightness of his glory," as though there were one point where God's glory is greatest, and that point Christ; but "the effulgence," the shining forth of what else would be hidden. The beams of light are the effulgence of the sun; without them we could not see the sun or know he is there. So Christ is" God manifest in the flesh." Not "the image of God," as though parallel with "Let us make man in our image;" but "the very image of his substance." The idea is that of a showing forth what else would be concealed. "The Image of the invisible God;" "No man hath seen God," …the only begotten … hath declared him." Christ is the showing forth, shining forth on man of God, so that "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." But this would be impossible unless he were himself God. A created being can utter something about God, or bear faint resemblance to him, but he who reveals God perfectly must be God's coequal self.
2. In his fulfillment of the Divine work. "Through whom he made the worlds,… upholding all things by the word of his power." Only God can create. But "all things were made by Christ; without him was not," etc. Take the hundred and fourth psalm, "the natural theology of the Jews," and in every verse in which David speaks of the natural world subsisting on God's bounty you may insert the word "Jesus." Where Coleridge, in his 'Ode to Sunrise in the Vale of Chamounix,' makes snow-clad peak, and thundering avalanche, and mysterious glacier, and verdant valley, and azure sky, echo back the one word "God," we may substitute the word "Jesus." Isaiah heard the angels sing," Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." But "this spake he of Jesus;" that greatness is that of Deity.
3. In his occupation of the Divine position. "Whom he hath appointed Heir of all things." Christ on the throne of the universe, "Lord of all." That involves a right to the homage of all, the position of Controller of all, and the end for which all things exist. That can only be true of God. "Jehovah reigneth; he doeth his will," etc; "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only;" "The Lord hath made all things for himself." Christ can look abroad on everything that is and happens, and say, "It is mine." And when the end comes, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of angels will be heard crying, "Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and. strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing;" and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, will respond, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne."
II. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE UNION OF DEITY AND HUMANITY IN ONE GLORIOUS PERSON . No word about Christ's humanity, but the idea is here. The passage could not have been written had not God become man. For it declares his Godhead. Then he was God from everlasting. But mark the expressions: "Appointed Heir of all things;" "Made better than the angels." Neither of those expressions can you apply to Deity. As God, Christ has an inalienable property in the universe, and cannot be "appointed" heir to it; so, too, he is better than the angels, and cannot be "made" better. He who can be "appointed heir" anti "made better" must be a creature. Here, then, is a great mystery; there must be a sense in which Christ who was God, was also, at some time, a creature. This would be inexplicable but for our knowledge of the Incarnation. See what this points to.
1. The assumption by him of human nature. We depend for our knowledge of that entirely on Scripture; but there it is stated plainly, "The Word was God … the Word was made flesh." He who creates and upholds and is Heir of all things, he who is "the effulgence, " etc., was born, and lived, and suffered, and worked, and obeyed, and died, and was buried as man.
2. The necessity for the union of these two natures for his mediatorial work. Apart from the Incarnation Christ could be no Savior. Since the Law had been given to man, man must keep it if God's moral government is to be vindicated; and since man had broken the Law, by man must the penalty be endured. The Savior, therefore, must be man. But the race had sinned; no man, therefore, could redeem his brother; none, moreover, who was not under personal obligation to fulfill the Law. The Savior, therefore, must be God. The Incarnation alone met the necessity.
3. The reassumption of Divine glory in the capacity of Mediator. Christ ascended to the throne of the universe as God-Man ; that explains his being "appointed" to that position. As God he had an inalienable right to it; his appointment to it was in that twofold nature he had adopted as Redeemer; he was always " Head over all things," but on his ascension he was made "Head over all things to the Church. " He has now received his eternal glory for the good of his people. All he is and has as God, he holds in pursuance of his redemptive work. What a future for the world, when the glory and resources of the Godhead are given over to secure its salvation! What security and benediction for the people of God!
III. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE RELATION OF THIS GLORIOUS PERSON TO A SINFUL WORLD . The worth of dwelling on the glory of Christ is in the fact of the relation he has entered into with regard to men; to cherish the thought of his greatness is to find redemption glow with a new meaning. What is Christ to man as Redeemer? The Old Testament speaks of him as Prophet, Priest, and King. All these are in our text. "God hath spoken unto us by his Son " —there is Christ our Prophet. "He made purification of sins"—there is Christ our Priest. "He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" —there is Christ our King.
1. Think of his prophetic work in the light of his glorious nature. What does he teach? He is not merely the voice, he is "the Word." He himself is what God says to us; the substance of the gospel is just Christ. How much we hear in him when we know that he who, as Jesus of Nazareth, was humbled, sorrowful, bruised, accursed for us, was the God of such surpassing glory! In proportion as we understand that glory will be the force and sweetness of the message heard in beholding Jesus, that "God is love."
2. Think of his priestly work in the light of his glorious nature. The expression, "he made purification of sins," was used in the sense in which the Hebrews would naturally understand it—the sense of cleansing of sin by sacrifice—and evidently refers to Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, "the offering of his body once for all." But what wonderful light beams on that redemption when we know the glory of him who made it! What grace is in it then! what security! It is the glory of Jesus that makes him able to save the worst. It is because he is God that his blood cleanseth us from all sin.
3. Think of his kingly work in the light of his glorious nature. The sitting down on the right hand of the Majesty on high must refer to his mediatorial kingship, for it was after he had made purification of sins. But think of the glory of that kingship. Christ "Heir of all things" for us. For us he is Lord of providence ; then providence is on our side. For us he is Lord of all temporal resources; then the supply of our needs is assured. For us he is Lord of the spiritual world; then no foe above our strength shall assail us. He Who on the highest throne is crowned with glory is as truly there for us as for us he was crowned with thorns. The hand which now wields the scepter of the universe, wields it as truly for us as for us it was pierced at Calvary. What safety, what blessing, that means for the Church!
We cannot speak of the glory of the Son of God as we would, nor think of it as it is; but we may meditate on it, rejoice in it, try to understand it better, and praise him for it, till in the fuller light and with the fuller powers of the higher world—
"We at his feet shall fall,
Join in the everlasting song,
And crown him Lord of all."
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