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The Lord's Deity And Humanity (Part 1)

The letter to the Hebrews was evidently written to disciples in one or more of the early churches of God, disciples who had been brought up in the Jewish religion until the gospel reached and changed them. In the days of their first enlightenment they were subjected to great persecution, both in their home lives and in imprisonments. They took it all with joy, with minds fixed on the eternal (10:32-34).

But now, some years later, they were plagued with false teachers who in various places were trying to entangle the disciples again in a yoke of bondage to the law of Moses. Potential danger signs were showing, which called for such warning expressions as drifting away (2:1), neglecting so great salvation (2:3), falling away from the living God (3:12), and, casting away their boldness (10:35).

Hence then this letter of detailed confirmation of the reality of the "better things" whereby the worshippers were now invited to serve God in the actual heavenly sanctuary rather than in the earthly copies of the heavenly things. Hence this choice treatise on the absolute superiority of the New Covenant, into the blessings of which they had come, over the Old Covenant, from the judgements of which they had been delivered.

It was necessarily, therefore, a letter of contrasts. In relation to the New Covenant stood "Jesus, the Son of God" (4:14). As the Son of God He had accepted the responsibilities of that covenant before times eternal. As Jesus, He had come to earth to take Manhood to Himself, and thus through death bring the covenant into effective operation in the Once-for-all remission of sins; then in His priestly work in resurrection He would lead His people into the rest of God and into the sanctuary service within the veil.

By contrast, in relation to the Old Covenant which could never take away sins, stood the angels through whom it was ordained at Sinai; Moses who mediated it on behalf of the people; Aaron who attended to its Tabernacle service; the law with its ordinances and its need for continual sacrifice; Joshua who brought the people into the land but could never give them rest; the prophets through whom God spoke to the people. They all came into the contrasting review.

Only one comparison was made; that was Melchizedek, who by reason of his remarkable appearance, ministry and then disappearance in the

Genesis record, was viewed by the author as "made like unto the Son of God". It was after his order Christ took His priesthood. But even this one comparison was inadequate. Jesus, the Son of God, stood supreme, howsoever viewed.

Right at the outset, in the first chapter, the author placed before the Christian Jews the glorious Person of the Son of God. First in relation to His own inherent majesty, and then in the excellency of His superiority over the angelic beings.

It was the glory of the Son to reveal the Father. It was His Spirit who guided the prophets as, from time to time, they conveyed the thoughts of God to the fathers of Israel. So He was Himself transcendently greater than all the prophets from the days of Samuel, and all the fathers from the days of Abraham. And when He Himself came down to speak with men, there was absolute finality in all that He said. "God... hath spoken unto us in His Son".

Well might these Jewish disciples marvel greatly and appreciatively, as we do today, at the sublime dignity of the One who in infinite grace came down to speak to us. Everything in the vast, far-reaching workings of Deity are vested in the Son. By reason of His Sonship He was appointed by the Father, far back in the eternal counsels, as the Heir of all things. It was He who acted for the Godhead in bringing the worlds into being, including, as Alford so aptly puts it, all "the reaches of Space and the ages of Time".

He possessed all the Father's glory; all His divine attributes, His spiritual excellencies, His moral beauties, all the brilliant shining of the Divine Being. All this He was, and radiated. "Of the full Deity possessed, eternally divine", the very nature and essence of the Father found full expression in Him, the Son. As a consequence it was a small matter to Him, who in the beginning spake, and it was done... commanded and it stood fast" (Psa. 33:9), to maintain in perfect poise the whole universe He had created, as it appears to move forward to some destined end and goal.

In such a setting of majestic Deity, the writer moved swiftly to his climax, portraying the Son, in supreme grace, going to the cross, where in personal mediation He offered Himself without blemish to God, and made purification of sins on behalf of the human race. Then in the glory of atonement made, reconciliation established, He passed back through all the heavens and "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high", in confirmation of a completely finished, acceptable work.

Such were the glories of the Son. And more - He was the Only Begotten from the Father. Of none other did the Father ever say: "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (1:5). The eternal Spirit is described as proceeding from the Father; the eternal Son, who was "in the beginning with God", is described as begotten by the Father. Here is the "timeless act" in a relationship between the Father and the Son which is beyond our tiny comprehension.

So not only is the Son greater than those prophets who served as His mouthpiece, and the fathers to whom His word came, but He is also greater than the angels, who were present by His command at the ordaining of the Old Covenant. Angels, though themselves great in power, are ceaseless in the service of their Creator God, as they "fulfil His word, hearkening unto the voice of His word... ministers of His, that do His pleasure" (Psa. 103:20,21). But as touching the Son, when the Father in due course brings Him to His millennial reign; brings Him in as the Firstborn, that is, the Only Begotten in the glory of complete authority, then the angels will be called upon to worship Him. Yes, greater by far than the angels.

This was the Son, great in His Messianic glory, of whom the prophets had written. The writer of the letter recalled how in Psalm 45 the sons of Korah foresaw Him as the coming King, marching in the greatness of His strength, the nations falling before Him. It was King Messiah. Of Him, by the Spirit they wrote: "Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever". And again: "He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him". Great was the glory of the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel (1:7-10).

How graphically too the psalmist had written of Him in the "Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed" (Psa. 102). He viewed Him as the Creator of a perishable earth and heavens, Himself unaffected by the passing of eons of time (1:10-12). The incomparable Son of God of whom David, beloved of all Israel in all generations, wrote: "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Psa. 110:1). It was Jehovah addressing David's long-expected Messiah. A thousand years later He was to appear- David's Lord come in the flesh as David's Son. David foresaw Him seated glorified at the Father's right hand (1:13). How infinitely greater must He be than the angels who, before the throne, minister to Him, whom He sends forth on ministries of help to the inheritors of salvation (1:14).

To the early Jewish disciples the message of this letter, in the richness of its original Greek form, must have come as a powerful anchor to which they could hold fast in the swift drift of perverse teaching. Our own brief paraphrase of the first remarkable chapter may serve to impress us afresh with the choice excellencies of our beloved Lord and Master; and produce within us a reflection comparable to Paul's appreciation of "the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me".