Hebrews 1:4-6, Made Higher Than The Angels, part 1.

[4] by so much having become better than the angels, as having received a more excellent name than they. [5] For to which one of the angels did he ever say at any time, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”?  And again, “I will be to him a father, and he himself shall be to me a son”?  And when he again shall introduce the firstborn into the world, he says, “And worship him, all angels of God.”  [author’s translation]

“God has spoken.”  This is the opening thought of Hebrews.  God hasn’t just left us to muddle through life, trying to figure out what’s going on and if there is something more than what we can see.  He has told us – about Himself and about the world around us, as well as the world to come.  He’s also told us about ourselves, things which no psychiatrist or psychologist could ever figure out, things which they deny.

In v. 1, the writer summarizes the OT revelation and contrasts it with the NT revelation.  In addition, and in particular, he contrasts the messengers through whom God spoke.  The OT messengers were just men, like those to whom they spoke.  Jesus Christ, the NT messenger, was also a man, but, as the writer shows in a succinct yet comprehensive statement in vs. 2, 3, He was and is much more than a man.  He was and is God, the God-man, God incarnated and manifested in human form and personality.

At present this One is seated “at the right hand of the majesty on high” – His humanity elevated to the dignity and honor of His deity – a reward for His voluntary humility and humiliation, as well as a restoration of that glory which He laid aside in order to become Man.

In addition, Hebrews tells us that Christ is “better” in a variety of other ways.  Essentially, the writer takes everything in the OT, things which were very dear to his readers, and shows that Christ is better than all these things, because these things all pointed to Him.

The writer continues, not only is Christ better than the OT prophets, vs. 1-4, He is better than angels, 1:6-2:18.

What we often overlook is the great role angels played in the OT in bringing messages from God to men, as well as in other ways.  Even the NT tells us that the Mosaic Law was ordained by angels in the hands of a mediator, Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:53.  Angels blocked the way back into the Garden of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:24.  Though some of these may have been appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ, angels appeared to Abraham, Genesis 18; to Lot, Genesis 19; to the parents of Samson, Judges 13; to Daniel, Daniel 8:17, 9:21, and, still in “OT times,” though we think of them as NT, to Zechariah, to Mary, to the shepherds tending their flocks, Luke 1, 2.

In addition, an angel killed 185,000 of Israel’s enemies in one night, 2 Kings 19:35; slew the first-born in Egypt, Exodus 12:23; slew 70,000 men when David sinned, 2 Samuel 24;15, 16; protected Elisha and his servant, 2 Kings 6:17; came to carry Elijah into heaven, 2 Kings 2:11.  Angels were very important to Israel.

Nevertheless, in this section the writer maintains that Jesus Christ is superior to angels, and he quotes seven OT references to prove it.  These references list four areas of the Lord’s superiority over angels.  In this post, we will look at the first three references, then in the next post, Lord willing, the other four references.

In the first three references, the writer asserts that Jesus Christ is superior to angels in His person, and this in two ways.

1.  He is Superior by Nature, “Son”, v. 5

In this verse, the writer quotes Psalm 2:7.  In Acts 13:32-34 and also in Romans 1:4, Paul quotes this same Psalm as referring to the Resurrection of our Lord.  The Resurrection was God’s seal of approval, if you will, on the claims of Christ to be the Son of God, claims which were ignored by Israel’s leaders and for which He was ultimately crucified, John 19:7.  Paul’s reference isn’t so much to the fact that Jesus is God the Son as it is to the truth that He is the Messiah, the “sign” and proof of which to Israel was to be the Resurrection:  Matthew 12:38-40; 16:1-4; Luke 11:16, 29-30; John 2:18-22.

We must pay close attention to what v. 5 says:  “to which one of the angels did he ever say at any time, ‘You are my Son…’?”  In other places in the OT, angels are called “sons of God”, Psalm 29:1; 89:7; Job 1:6, by virtue of their creation by God, but nowhere is any one angel singled out for the honor given to Jesus Christ.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is really Michael the archangel.   In another venue, a Jehovah’s Witness kindly pointed out verse 5 to me as evidence that Jesus was only an angel.  However, from the construction of the original language, the answer the writer clearly expected is that there is NO angel so honored.  Even the JW translation (1984 revision), which I certainly do not recommend, says this:  “For example, to which one of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son; I have become your father’?”

2.  He is Superior by Proclamation:  “Worship”, v. 6

So far from Jesus merely being an angel, and if only a creature like them, must worship God alone, here angels are commanded to worship Him.  And it is a command.

O measureless might!
Ineffable Love!
While angels delight
To hymn Thee above,
The humbler creation,
Though feeble their lays,
With true adoration
Shall lisp to Thy praise.

– Sir Robert Grant, 1839.


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