Saturday, 4 August 2018
…having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:4
The author now introduces the first of many “greater thans” that will be seen, either explicitly or implicitly, in the book. This one is Christ in comparison to the angels. The word translated as “better than” is kreittón, and it signifies that which is stronger or more excellent. It is in the comparative form and so it expresses “what is better because more fully developed, i.e. in reaching the needed dominion (mastery, dominance); ‘better’ after exerting the power needed to ‘plant down God’s flag of victory” (HELPS Word Studies).
This is now applied to Christ as He has “become so much better than the angels.” What seems peculiar is the abrupt nature of suddenly introducing angels here. The author was speaking of Christ, and all of a sudden He notes Christ’s superiority to angels. It is possible that the letter is written in response to a request concerning Christ’s nature, and he is simply and clearly answering each question. Or it could be that a note of introduction was given with the letter which was not included as a part of the epistle. Either way, the obvious connection to a Jewish audience is seen right here with the comparison.
Angels are noted throughout the Old Testament in many prominent ways. They were considered to have great power and authority, but – without any delay – the author shows the supremacy of Christ over these greatest of heavenly beings after God Himself. Understanding this, the words, “having become so much better,” are not speaking of a development in Christ that was actually lacking. Rather, the words are tied to the thought of having “sat down” after the purification of sins mentioned in the previous verse. The exaltation of Christ was conditioned upon his having fulfilled the human aspects of His ministry. It is what is referred to in the 8th Psalm –
The lower state of Christ’s humanity is then contrasted with His exaltation. It is not that Christ was essentially lower than the angels in His being at any point, but that His work had to be accomplished in His human state before He was known to truly be the Son of God. This is what the author is now emphasizing. In the accomplishment of this work in and among humanity, He was shown to be “better than the angels,” meaning superior. In this proof, “He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
An inheritance is something which is bestowed upon an heir. Christ claimed to be the Son of God, a title which granted Him all the rights and inheritance of the Father. In the successful completion of His task of redeeming man through the purification of sin, He showed forth His right to that inheritance, being truly the Son of God. If He were merely a man, He would have inherited sin through His father. Upon His attempt to purify sin (meaning a substitutionary atoning death), He would have died and remained dead. The wages of sin is death; having inherited sin would mean He too would remain dead. Only the sinless Son of God could go on forever without the permanent effect of death. This explains the dumbfounded question of the Jews when speaking to Jesus –
“We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” John 12:34
The anticipated Messiah (Christ) was expected to live forever. But Jesus, who claimed to be this Messiah, said that He would die. It made no sense to them. But they had missed the connection between His humanity and His deity. As a Son of Mary, He is fully human. As the Son of God, He is deity. In both states He was, and remains, sinless. When He died, it was not for His own sin, but for the sin of others. Thus, in His resurrection to eternal life, He “has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” No angel could ever claim to be the Son of God in the way that Christ is THE SON OF GOD. The full inheritance of the Father belongs to Him, and it is His name which is thus more excellent than theirs. This is what Paul spoke of in Philippians 2 –
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11
Paul explained Jesus’ work, and then he cited Isaiah 45:23 where the Lord (Yehovah) stated that to Him every knee would bow. Paul directly equated Christ Jesus, upon the completion of His work, to Yehovah the Lord. Everything tied up in the name I AM THAT I AM belongs to Jesus. To understand that glorious and exalted name, this sermon is a must; click here.
Life application: Jesus Christ is the Lord (Yehovah) incarnate. No other being is superior to Him as He sits at His place within the Godhead. What Jesus have you called on? There is the true Christ, and there are antichrists. The true Christ is the One described in the Bible. He is very God of very God. To deny this is to deny Christ. To deny Christ is to be condemned. Call on Christ Jesus the Lord and be saved. All beings, even all of the heavenly host, shall bow before Him.
Heavenly Father, the one inescapable truth of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. Any other view is a false Jesus and a false gospel. As the Son of God, He has obtained the full inheritance granted to Him, and so we honor You by honoring Him. Praises to You, O God, for what You have done in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.