Hebrews 1:5-6 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Throughout Advent, as a means of expanding our appreciation and celebration of the Incarnation—that is, as a means of fighting to see and savor Christmas for all it is—we’re looking at Hebrews 1, its portrayal of the supremacy of Christ, and the implications of these things for us today.
Specifically, we’re looking at nine aspects of the supremacy of Jesus as they show up in Hebrews 1. We looked at three last Sunday in 1:1-4 (Jesus as the Word of God, the sin purifier, and superior to angels). We’ll look at one more this morning (with two remarkable implications) in 1:5-6. Next week Pastor Mike will help us see another one in 1:7-9 (Jesus as the radiance of the glory of God). And then I’ll address the final three on the 23rd in 1:10-14 (creator of the world, upholder of the universe, and seated at the right hand of God).
In this morning’s text the author of Hebrews cites three OT passages as a means of highlighting the supremacy of Jesus over all the angels of heaven and earth. In particular, he quotes Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14, and Psalm 97:7 to demonstrate that in a way that is entirely unique, Jesus is the One True Son of God, and as such is uniquely worthy of worship and the heir of all things. Again, our aim in stepping away from Hosea and into Hebrews is to help all of us rejoice in the highest this Christmas. Let’s pray that it would be so.
JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD
So…how are you doing at keeping your mind and heart focused on Christ this Advent? If you’re like me, I imagine you’ve already had a few ups and downs and could use a bit more help. To that end, the author of Hebrews invites us to consider the absolute supremacy of Jesus, the subject, center, and heart of Advent.
This morning’s text (along with the rest of Hebrews 1) is meant to help God’s people rightly orient themselves to Jesus in light of who he is: infinitely superior to the angels. Verses 5-14 describe various ways in which that is true. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll look at one of them today (along with two significant implications). Let’s consider the author of Hebrews’ claim, then, that in a way that is entirely unique way, Jesus is the Son of God.
Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
As I mentioned last week, the argument seems to be something like this: Following Jesus is difficult. It has already cost you a great deal. However, you’ll find great strength to persevere in the understanding that nothing you lose on account of your obedience to Jesus will come within a million miles of what you gain. This is true because Jesus is infinitely glorious. Would you be willing to lose 10 pennies to get 10 billion dollars? Of course! You wouldn’t even think twice about the loss of the ten pennies if you truly believed it’d gain you 10 billion dollars.
In the same way, all the suffering this world has to offer cannot compare to a moment in heaven with God. That is why the apostle Paul wrote, (Romans 8:18) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Therefore, look not to avoid or escape the suffering of obedience, but to the glory of Jesus. And one particular manifestation of the glory of Jesus is his superiority over all creation, including the glory of angels. You think angels are impressive (and they are)? Wait until you hear about Jesus. He is all that they are and infinitely more. And one such example is the fact that he is, the Son of God.
To be clear, the angels (collectively) were called sons of God. We see this in Deuteronomy 32:8 and Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7, for instance.
Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
In addition, Christians are called “sons of God”. We see that in passages like Matthew 5:9, Luke 20:36, Romans 8:14, 19, and Galatians 3:26.
Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Galatians 3:26 …in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Likewise, Genesis 6 might refer to another category of created beings as “the sons of God” (although scholars disagree on exactly who the sons of God were in this passage).
Genesis 6:1-2 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive.
Indeed, various groups of created beings have been referred to as “sons [plural] of God.” The author of Hebrews’ point, however, is that Jesus alone is called the “Son [singular] of God.” To make this clear he quotes Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14.
Psalm 2:7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
This Psalm was most likely originally a part of the coronation service of the kings of David’s line. It called the people of God to rejoice in the futility of God’s enemies attempting to stand up to God’s anointed one. Gradually it came to be understood by the Jews to refer to the descendent of David who would give ultimate victory. And eventually Christians understood Jesus to be the ultimate subject of this Psalm. It is in that last sense that the author of Hebrews quotes the Psalm as a demonstration of the unique sonship and supremacy of Jesus.
Similarly, the author of Hebrews quotes 2 Samuel.
2 Samuel 7:12-14 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.
In this 2 Samuel passage Nathan delivered God’s promises to David that his son would forever succeed him on the throne of Israel, and that his son would be the one to build God’s house. While Solomon fulfilled this in part, it was understood by the Jews to be a messianic reference and by Christians to refer to Jesus, who is the Messiah. And again, the author of Hebrews picked up on this fuller meaning and used it to help his readers see the supremacy of Jesus, the ultimate and unique fulfillment of the Psalm.
Clearly, in citing each of these two passages, the Hebrews’ author intended to convey the message to his readers that Jesus is the singular Son of God. In addition to Hebrews 1, we see this throughout the NT as well.
Before his birth we hear the Father say of Jesus…
Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…
At his baptism we hear the words of the Father…
Matthew 3:17 … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
In similar language, at the Transfiguration we hear the Father say…
Luke 9:35 … “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
The apostle Paul picked up on this and highlighted the unique, singular Sonship of Jesus in Romans 1.
Romans 1:1-4 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
And of course, Jesus himself said, (John 3:16) “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Again, Grace, the point to see here is that Jesus alone is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity and that makes Him supreme above every created thing, including the angels. Angels are called sons of God, all who hope in God are called sons of God, but Jesus alone is called the Son of God.
And the point of sharing that with you this morning is to help you see that we do not need to add anything to Christmas to make it special. In fact, anything we might add to Christmas can only distract from its awesomeness. I’m not arguing that we turn our Christmas celebrations into wholly spiritual affair (nothing but singing and prayer and contemplation). I’m not arguing that we should avoid physical things in our celebration. That would miss the point of Christmas entirely! Christmas is about the spiritual putting on the physical. What I’m arguing instead is that whatever we do in preparation for celebrating Jesus’ birth and whatever we do to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s make sure those things only serve to highlight the sufficiently glorious reality of the Incarnation. Let’s make sure that whatever food and drink we serve doesn’t replace Jesus, but intentionally point to Jesus. Let’s make sure that whatever gifts we give don’t replace Jesus as our highest desire, but give expression to it. And what I’m arguing is that because of the glory and supremacy of Jesus—as seen in part in his unique sonship—let’s make sure that whatever parties we attend in the name of Christmas don’t distract from Christ, but put him more fully on display to delight in.
If we rightly understand that Jesus is the Son of God and all that means, we have great, great help to persevere in our faith (the author of Hebrews point) and great, great help to celebrate Christmas in a manner consistent with its true meaning and for the glory of God (my point this morning).
But that’s not all. There’s more. In this passage there’s more clarity on the supremacy of Christ and therein more help to remain strong in our faith and more help to celebrate Christmas with fullness of joy. The fact that Jesus is uniquely the Son of God means at least two things: (1) Jesus is worthy of our worship (which is what Christmas celebrations ought to be) and (2) Jesus is the heir of all things. Let’s briefly consider each.
As the Son, Jesus Is Worthy of Worship
Look with me at v.6.
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Much has been written and said about when “when” is (“…when he brings the firstborn into the world…”). Was it at the incarnation (when Jesus first came to earth), the exultation (when he ascended to the right hand of God after his resurrection), or will it be at his return? The fact is, we cannot be sure. However, while we cannot be sure of the time, we can be sure of the point: Jesus is supreme above all.
That Jesus is called the “firstborn” is not about the time of his birth in relation to other births. It is not even about the fact that he was actually born. “Firstborn” is an expression of preeminence; of supremacy. “It has nothing to do with time. It refers to position. It is not a description but a title, meaning ‘the chief one.’…Might, strength, dignity, and power–…describe the meaning of first-born” (TMNTC, Hebrews, 30).
Just as Jesus is called the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1:18) even though others had been raised before him (even by him), Jesus is called the firstborn of God even though countless millions had been born before him. Again, in both cases the point is that Jesus is supreme above all others who have experienced what he experienced. Many had been raised from the dead, but Jesus is first in value and honor and worth above them all. And many had been born, but Jesus is supreme over every other fruit of the womb.
It is for that reason that all the inhabitants of heaven and earth are commanded to worship him, and him alone. That’s the author’s point in v.6 and that’s his point in quoting Psalm 97:7.
Psalm 97:6-7 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. 7 All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you [angels]!
This Psalm picks up on the song of Moses found in Deuteronomy 32:43 (which Moses sang just before his death, Joshua’s succession, and the taking of the Promised Land). In both cases the original point was the sovereign glory of God and his unique worthiness to be worshiped by all creation.
The author of Hebrews interpreted these passages in a Messianic sense (that is, he understood Jesus to be main point of the songs). He did so since Jesus, the Son of God, is the supreme revelation of God’s glory and the sole reason God accepts the worship of sinful people. Again then, Moses and the Psalmist rightly demand that everyone in heaven and earth worship the Messiah, Jesus Christ, for He is the Son of God.
What’s more, the author of Hebrews rightly pointed out that God has never required this for anyone but his one and only Son; he does not command (or permit) the worship of any created thing—people or angels. This exclusive worship is due to the fact that Jesus is the Son and supreme overall.
And so we find more help here. We find more help to put Christ—and his first coming—in his proper place in our hearts and minds and lives. We find fuel for worship and Christmas celebration.
If (when!) you find yourself distracted this week, if you find your mind wandering away from Christ and toward the desires of your flesh (a 95″ 12k TV for $80!), if you feel yourself more driven by the stress of the season than the reason for it, if you end up struggling to appreciate the awesomeness of the reality of Christmas, force your mind back to Hebrews 1:6 and Psalm 97:7, remember that Jesus is the firstborn Son of God who alone commands the worship of countless heavenly beings, and insodoing you will find help to make sure your Christmas celebrations are about joining the angels in their worship. What else does it mean to celebrate Christmas?!
As the Son, Jesus Is Heir of All Things
Finally, then, we flash back to Hebrews 1:2 to see another implication of the unique sonship of Jesus.
Hebrews 1:2 …[God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things…
Because Jesus is the firstborn Son of God, he is heir of all things. Look back with me to Psalm 2(:7-8) to see this connection even more clearly.
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage [inheritance], and the ends of the earth your possession.
Jesus, as the Son of God, is the heir of all that God possesses. Typically an inheritance is everything that parents leave behind to their children when they die. Clearly that’s what the author of Hebrews has in mind. The Father will not die, but he will hand all things over to the Son when he comes again.
Indeed, as we’ll see in Hebrews 1, all things were created through Jesus. But as important as it is to realize Jesus role in creation, it’s equally important to realized that all things were also created for him (Colossians 1:16). Creation is the Father’s gift to the Son to rule over in power and glory and goodness forever and ever.
What an awesome reality. What an amazing truth. Jesus Christ, as the one and only Son of God, has authority over and possession of everything that has been made. In that we find help to rightly worship Jesus. Again, as you find yourself battling against the materialism that advertisers are paying billions of dollars to get you to embrace, remember that all of it belongs to Jesus! It’s all his! There is no atom in the universe which Jesus cannot claim for his own! Let that perspective wash over you and you will find help to rightly orient your heart.
But it gets better. What’s more amazing still is that God has made us co-heirs with Jesus through faith.
Romans 8:16-17 we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
Not only do all things belong to Jesus, but God has determined to unite us with Jesus in his inheritance.
Grace, please hear this: Christmas isn’t just the story that Jesus was born. It isn’t just the story that he was born as the Son of God. It isn’t just the story that as the Son he is uniquely worthy of worship. It isn’t just the story that as the Son of God he is heir of all things. It’s the story that the One through whom all Creation came and to whom all Creation belongs, set that aside (made himself “nothing”), “taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:7-11).
Christmas is the story and celebration of the Son of God coming to earth as a kind of man in order to rescue mankind and invite him into His inheritance and everlasting worship. What a story! What help!
We are in Advent—a time of preparation for our celebration of the birth of God. To celebrate well we need to prepare well and to prepare well we need to keep the truth in front of us. The truth is that the one whose birth we are preparing to celebrate is supreme over all. We’ve seen that he is supreme in that he is the Word of God, the sin purifier, superior to angels, and the one and only Son [singular] of God. And we’ve seen that as Son he is uniquely worthy of our worship and heir of all Creation (and us with him through faith).
Please take these things, treasure them in your heart, use them to defeat other things that would set themselves up against Jesus in your affection, and find help and fuel to celebrate Christmas for all it is.
It is only by the grace of God that Christmas happened and only by the grace of God that we will be able to appreciate and celebrate it in a manner pleasing to God. But the good news of this passage is that the grace of God is free for all who would receive it through faith in Jesus. Amen.