Friday, June 21, 2013
Hebrews Chapter One Part 4
1:3 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 on the right hand of the Majesty on high
Since the subject of verse 2 is Christ we know that the thought is carried on here in verse 3. To recap, Jesus is said to be the perfect revelation of God and the means by which He revealed Himself to us in these latter times. Also, Jesus is the heir of all things and the vehicle by which God created the universe. Following this train of thought we learn that Jesus is, more than these things, the sum expression of God. Jesus is the brightness of God’s glory (John 1:14) and the express image of His person, Colossians 2:9.
The phrase “express image” is the Greek word “charakter” where we obviously derive the English word “character” from. It means “an engraving or figure stamped i.e. an exact copy or representation.” Clearly the author, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, was moved to use this word to express that whatever else Jesus Christ is He is the perfect manifestation of deity on earth and in the flesh. When Philip told Jesus that seeing the Father would suffice him, Jesus answered “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” John 14:9. Earlier He put it more succinctly when He declared “I and My Father are one,” John 10:30. Some give argument that Jesus only meant one in purpose at this point, but the Greek language suggests the word one simply means “one essence.” The Son was implying equality with the Father, and the Jews understood this. It was the sole purpose they attempted to kill Him right after this saying, John 10:31, 33.
Others argue, “the Son can do nothing apart from the Father.” True, Christ did say this, and this demonstrated the great humility and filial love of His perfect humanity. But such proponents quickly forget that the Father has committed all things to the Son; there is a reciprocal relationship, so that no one member of the Godhead acts or thinks apart from the others. There is, as we have seen from John 10:30, a unity of essence more than the assent of congruent wills.
In short order, or in rapid succession, the writer informs us that not only is Jesus Christ God incarnate but that He is the one who holds all things together by the word of His power. Colossians, which is an epistle that likewise was written to explain and expound on the person and work of Jesus Christ, touched on this topic as well for our benefit: “[Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things consist,” Colossians 1:17. The idea that Jesus is before all things suggest His preeminence above nature and the created order. He is above it, and by His word He sustains it.
The writer moves on to greater heights of glory in describing the person of Christ in this single, awesome verse. He is God expressed in a form man can comprehend. He is the one who upholds all things, that is, the whole of the universe, by the word of His power (He is the Word of God, John 1:1; Revelation 19:13). Next we are told that Jesus purged our sins by Himself; and that this was a single, complete act, for after that He rested, sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Greek for the term “purged” is a pair of words. The first is “katharismos” and denotes cleansing. The second word is “poieo” and means “to make or to do.” Translated in the bluntest English then, the verse could be rendered “when He had by Himself made us clean…” This cleansing is in direct reference to the Levitical ritual of sacrifice, in which an innocent substitute is killed in the suppliant’s stead, thereby atoning for (covering) their sin.
The writer of our epistle will go on to reveal how the Levitical priesthood could never expiate sins, since the blood of animals cannot actually cleanse spiritual guilt; therefore the sacrifices and rituals were constant reminders of that guilt, rather than a perfect satisfaction that it had been put away, i.e. cleansed. But Jesus with one sacrifice did what endless rounds of ritual foreshadowed and anticipated: putting away sin forever so the guilty suppliant can finally draw near to God. That is why the Old Testament saints waited in Abraham’s Bosom prior to Jesus’ atonement: their sins too were put away by the sacrifice of the Son, Ephesians 4:8-10; Hebrews 11:40; 1st John 3:2.
To understand the implication of why Jesus sat at the right hand of the Father after making a sacrifice of Himself for our sins we need only peer ahead in Hebrews. We read: “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had made one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:11-12. Christ sitting reflects the fact that He needed only to do this once, and that having done it He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26. No priest sat in the temple during the days of Israel’s kingdom and the old covenant; there was always another sacrifice for sin that needed to be made for both priest and people. Jesus rested at God’s right hand because the infinite merit of His sacrifice was accepted to “put away” all of mankind’s sin; whereas the endless repetition of animal sacrifices and ritual (i.e. human effort) could not accomplish this. The writer of Hebrews is attempting to show us that the issue of sin has been settled in Heaven. It is no longer an issue of sin; it is an issue of whether or not one accepts the perfect payment Jesus made for us on our behalf. Rejection of Jesus and His gospel is the unforgivable sin which leads to perdition.
To summarize: we see Jesus Christ as God, as sustainer of reality, as heavenly Redeemer and as the perfect High Priest who satisfied God’s justice and pleased His Father. Christianity has an amazing founder who is the point of our confession. He is its focus, its pinnacle, its pillar, its very fabric. As the apostle Peter warned the men of Israel in his day, “that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Messiah, Savior),” Acts 2:36. With a list of criteria this impressive as to His qualifications, why hesitate to trust this Man with your eternal welfare? There is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.