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Happy Christmas to my readers!

Readings for Proper III at Christmas can be found here.

The Epistle for Proper III follows (emphases mine):

Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)

1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,

1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

1:3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

1:4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

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 his Father, and he will be my Son”?

1:6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

1:7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.”

1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.

1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

1:10 And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

1:11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing;

1:12 like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur summarises the purpose of the Book of Hebrews, written for a Jewish audience of converts and those not yet converted. These Jews lived in the Diaspora, therefore, not in or near Jerusalem:

In the book of Hebrews, there is confidence and assurance to the Christian. In the book of Hebrews, there is warning to the intellectually convinced that he must receive Christ or his knowledge will damn him. And finally there is a convincing presentation to the unbelieving Jew who is not intellectually convinced that he indeed should be and should believe in Jesus Christ.

And thus, to do this, was Hebrews written. It is simply, then – mark it – a presentation of Christ, the Messiah, the author of a new covenant, greater than the old one that God had made in the Old Testament. Not that the old one was wrong, it was only incomplete.

Now, the theme of the book, then, is the superiority or the preeminence of Christ. That He is better than anything they’ve got. That He is better than anything that is. He’s better than the Old Testament persons. He’s better than the Old Testament institutions. He’s better than the Old Testament rituals. He’s better than the Old Testament sacrifices. He’s better than everything.

The author of Hebrews — undetermined — says that God spoke to the Jewish ancestors in many and various ways through the prophets (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

The order in which God spoke to men in those times that went before the gospel, those past times: he spoke to his ancient people at sundry times and in divers manners. (1.) At sundry times, or by several parts, as the word signifies, which may refer either to the several ages of the Old-Testament dispensation–the patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the prophetic; or to the several gradual openings of his mind concerning the Redeemer: to Adam, that the Messiah should come of the seed of the woman,–to Abraham, that he should spring from his loins,–to Jacob, that he should be of the tribe of Judah,–to David, that he should be of his house,–to Micah, that he should be born at Bethlehem,–to Isaiah, that he should be born of a virgin. (2.) In divers manners, according to the different ways in which God though fit to communicate his mind to his prophets; sometimes by the illapses of his Spirit, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by an audible voice, sometimes by legible characters under his own hand, as when he wrote the ten commandments on tables of stone.

However, in the last days, He spoke to us through His Son, His appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the worlds (verse 2).

Henry tells us what this means:

II. God’s method of communicating his mind and will under the New-Testament dispensation, these last days as they are called, that is, either towards the end of the world, or the end of the Jewish state. The times of the gospel are the last times, the gospel revelation is the last we are to expect from God. There was first the natural revelation; then the patriarchal, by dreams, visions, and voices; then the Mosaic, in the law given forth and written down; then the prophetic, in explaining the law, and giving clearer discoveries of Christ: but now we must expect no new revelation, but only more of the Spirit of Christ to help us better to understand what is already revealed. Now the excellency of the gospel revelation above the former consists in two things:–

1. It is the final, the finishing revelation, given forth in the last days of divine revelation, to which nothing is to be added, but the canon of scripture is to be settled and sealed: so that now the minds of men are no longer kept in suspense by the expectation of new discoveries, but they rejoice in a complete revelation of the will of God, both preceptive and providential, so far as is necessary for them to know in order to their direction and comfort. For the gospel includes a discovery of the great events that shall befal the church of God to the end of the world.

2. It is a revelation which God has made by his Son, the most excellent messenger that was ever sent into the world, far superior to all the ancient patriarchs and prophets, by whom God communicated his will to his people in former times. And here we have an excellent account of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1.) The glory of his office, and that in three respects:– [1.] God hath appointed him to be heir of all things. As God, he was equal to the Father; but, as God-man and Mediator, he was appointed by the Father to be the heir of all things, the sovereign Lord of all, the absolute disposer, director, and governor of all persons and of all things, Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:7. All power in heaven and earth is given to him; all judgment is committed to him,Matthew 28:18; John 5:22. [2.] By him God made the worlds, both visible and invisible, the heavens and the earth; not as an instrumental cause, but as his essential word and wisdom. By him he made the old creation, by him he makes the new creature, and by him he rules and governs both. [3.] He upholds all things by the word of his power: he keeps the world from dissolving. By him all things consist. The weight of the whole creation is laid upon Christ: he supports the whole and all the parts. When, upon the apostasy, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, bound it up again, and established it by his almighty power and goodness. None of the ancient prophets sustained such an office as this, none was sufficient for it.

MacArthur explains the Greek in the original manuscript:

“By whom also He made the worlds.” That is, Christ is the agent through which God created the world; bydia  – means through. The agency through which God created is Christ. John 1:3 says, “All things were made by Him; without Him was not anything made that was made.” Jesus Christ is the agent of creation. Now, my friends, I’ve said this many times, and to me, it’s a great single proof of who Jesus was. Jesus had the ability to create, and that set Him apart from man …

That establishes His absolute superiority over everything. He created everything material. He created everything spiritual. And man has stained His creation with sin, but Christ made it good originally, and even the creation, according to Romans 8, groans to be restored to what it knew in the beginning. Now, I want you to catch a little thought here, that’s kind of hidden if you don’t understand the Greek. At the end of verse 2, it says, “By whom also He made the worlds.” The common Greek word for world is kosmos, but that is not the word that is here. The word that is here is aiōnas.

It does not mean the material world, it means the ages; it means the ages. And he is not saying that Jesus Christ is only responsible for the physical earth. He is saying that Christ is responsible for creating the very concepts of time, space, force, action, and matter. Christ is responsible for creating the whole universe of time and space; that’s what he’s saying. He does not use the word kosmos, restricting it to this earth, but He makes Christ the creator of the universe, of the ages, of all concepts, and bounds of existence. Christ made it all, every bit of it, without effort.

Christ is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, sustaining everything by His powerful word; when He reconciled us to the Father at the Crucifixion, He sat — and continues to sit — at His right hand (verse 3).

Henry tells us:

He that hath known the Son hath known the Father, John 14:7-43.14.9. For the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son; the personal distinction is no other than will consist with essential union. This is the glory of the person of Christ; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, but really, in him …

From the glory of his sufferings we are at length led to consider the glory of his exaltation: When by himself he had purged away our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, at his Father’s right hand. As Mediator and Redeemer, he is invested with the highest honour, authority, and activity, for the good of his people; the Father now does all things by him, and receives all the services of his people from him. Having assumed our nature, and suffered in it on earth, he has taken it up with him to heaven, and there it has the high honour to be next to God, and this was the reward of his humiliation.

The author of Hebrews then discusses Christ’s superiority to the angels, which held a very high place in the Jewish mind of the day.

The author says that Christ is superior to the angels and the name He inherited is far superior to theirs (verse 4).

MacArthur explains why the author wrote that verse and the following three:

their views had begun to wander from the basic Old Testament context, because of all the Talmudic writings and the rabbinical feelings and ideas, they began to wander off the main biblical points of angels. And they came up with some interesting views of angels, so that when the writer of Hebrews is writing, He is writing not only with a true backdrop of a biblical view of angels, but he’s writing against a backdrop of the Jewish common concept of angels.

The author asks to which angels did God ever say “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” (verse 5), which is pointing to the pre-eminence of Christ.

Henry looks at the language used in the ancient manuscript:

When it is said that Christ was made so much better than the angels, we are not to imagine that he was a mere creature, as the angels are; the word genomenos, when joined with an adjective, is nowhere to be rendered created, and here may very well be read, being more excellent, as the Syriac version hath it. We read ginesthe ho Theos aletheslet God be true, not made so, but acknowledged to be so

1. It was said of Christ, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Psalms 2:7), which may refer to his eternal generation, or to his resurrection, or to his solemn inauguration into his glorious kingdom at his ascension and session at the right hand of the Father. Now this was never said concerning the angels, and therefore by inheritance he has a more excellent nature and name than they.

2. It was said concerning Christ, but never concerning the angels, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son; taken from Hebrews 2:7. Not only, “I am his Father, and he is my Son, by nature and eternal promanation;” but, “I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, by wonderful conception, and this his son-ship shall be the fountain and foundation of every gracious relation between me and fallen man.”

The author points out that when Christ came to earth, God said that the angels should worship him (verse 6), thereby making Him superior to them.

Henry says:

God will not suffer an angel to continue in heaven who will not be in subjection to Christ, and pay adoration to him; and he will at last make the fallen angels and wicked men to confess his divine power and authority and to fall before him. Those who would not have him to reign must then be brought forth and slain before him. The proof of this is taken out of Psalms 97:7, Worship him, all you gods, that is, “All you that are superior to men, own yourselves to be inferior to Christ in nature and power.”

The author says that God makes His angels winds and, as His servants, flames of fire (verse 7).

Henry explains:

What does God say here of the angels? He maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. This we have in Psalms 104:4, where it seems to be more immediately spoken of the winds and lightning, but is here applied to the angels, whose agency the divine Providences makes use of in the winds, and in thunder and lightnings. Observe, [1.] The office of the angels: they are God’s ministers, or servants, to do his pleasure. It is the glory of God that he has such servants; it is yet more so that he does not need them. [2.] How the angels are qualified for this service; he makes them spirits and a flame of fire, that is, he endows them with light and zeal, with activity and ability, readiness and resolution to do his pleasure: they are no more than what God has made them to be, and they are servants to the Son as well as to the Father.

In the remaining verses, the author indicates the power and superiority of Christ over all creation.

His throne endures forever, the scepter of God’s kingdom (verse 8).

Henry says the verse comes from Psalm 45:

Psalms 45:6; Psalms 45:7, where God declares of Christ, First, His true and real divinity, and that with much pleasure and affection, not grudging him that glory: Thy throne, O God. Here one person calls another person God, O God. And, if God the Father declares him to be so, he must be really and truly so; for God calls persons and things as they areSecondly, God declares his dignity and dominion, as having a throne, a kingdom, and a sceptre of that kingdom. He has all right, rule, authority, and power, both as the God of nature, grace, and glory, and as Mediator; and so he is fully adequate to all the intents and purposes of his mediatorial kingdom. Thirdly, God declares the eternal duration of the dominion and dignity of Christ, founded upon the divinity of his person: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, from everlasting to everlasting, through all the ages of time, maugre all the attempts of earth and hell to undermine and overthrow it, and through all the endless ages of eternity, when time shall be no more. This distinguishes Christ’s throne from all earthly thrones, which are tottering, and will at length tumble down; but the throne of Christ shall be as the days of heaven. Fourthly, God declares of Christ the perfect equity of his administration, and of the execution of his power, through all the parts of his government: A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom,Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 1:8

As Christ has always hated wickedness and loved righteousness, God anointed Him with the oil of gladness beyond that of His companions (verse 9).

Henry explains:

2. This anointing of Christ was with the oil of gladness, which signifies both the gladness and cheerfulness with which Christ undertook and went through the office of Mediator (finding himself so absolutely sufficient for it), and also that joy which was set before him as the reward of his service and sufferings, that crown of glory and gladness which he should wear for ever after the suffering of death. 3. This anointing of Christ was above the anointing of his fellows: God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Who are Christ’s fellows? Has he any equals? Not as God, except the Father and Spirit, but these are not here meant. As man, however, he has his fellows, and as an anointed person; but his unction is beyond all theirs.

The author goes on to discuss Christ’s eternal power.

In the beginning, He founded the earth and the heavens — the universe — are the work of His hands (verse 10).

Henry tells us:

He was not only above all things in condition, but before all things in existence; and therefore must be God, and self-existent. He laid the foundations of the earth, did not only introduce new forms into pre-existent matter, but made out of nothing the foundations of the earth, the primordia rerum–the first principles of things; he not only founded the earth, but the heavens too are the work of his hands, both the habitation and the inhabitants, the hosts of heaven, the angels themselves; and therefore he must needs be infinitely superior to them.

Earthly creation will perish like clothing, but Christ will remain (verse 11).

Like clothing, earthly creation can be rolled up and changed, but Christ will remain as He is, His years never ending (verse 12).

Henry elaborates:

This our visible world (both the earth and visible heavens) is growing old. Not only men and beasts and trees grow old, but this world itself grows old, and is hastening to its dissolution; it changes like a garment, has lost much of its beauty and strength; it grew old betimes on the first apostasy, and it has been waxing older and growing weaker ever since; it bears the symptoms of a dying world. But then its dissolution will not be its utter destruction, but its change. Christ will fold up this world as a garment not to be abused any longer, not to be any longer so used as it has been. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the betterChrist is immutable. Thus the Father testifies of him, Thou remainest, thy years shall not fail. Christ is the same in himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever, and the same to his people in all the changes of time. This may well support all who have an interest in Christ under all the changes they meet with in the world, and under all they feel in themselves. Christ is immutable and immortal: his years shall not fail. This may comfort us under all decays of nature that we may observe in ourselves or in our friends, though our flesh and heart fail and our days are hastening to an end. Christ lives to take care of us while we live, and of ours when we are gone, and this should quicken us all to make our interest in him clear and sure, that our spiritual and eternal life may be hid with Christ in God.

MacArthur concludes with this prayer and a hope for unbelievers:

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You for Jesus Christ, the superiorities that we’ve learned about tonight. Thank you that we’re not worshipping a religious leader who was human. We’re not worshipping some ethical teacher. We’re worshipping Christ, Who is God the creator. And to think that He lives within us, and the person of the Spirit empowers us and loves us with a personal love, cares about us, sends His angels to minister to us, and Father, these things overwhelm us.

But God, having presented all these truths of Jesus Christ, our hearts shudder and shake to know that there will be some people who would turn away, and walk about of this place tonight neglecting the salvation that they’ve heard. Who would fail to take earnest heed to that which they have heard. Who would turn their back on Jesus Christ, and walk out into a night of sin. God, it’s almost beyond belief. Lord, if Jesus Christ is God, as the Bible says, then He has a claim to lay on our lives. We’re to receive Him, to believe in him as Lord and Savior.

And we pray to that end, Father, tonight, that there may be no one in this place who would leave not having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some have come doubting, some have come questioning, some have come wondering whether it’s all so. Father, may they be willing to put Jesus to the test, that He said, “If you really desire to know My will, you will know the truth.” So, Father, we pray that the honest, seeking heart will be found by You, and open to receive Christ tonight.

May those of us as Christians see Him all the more beautiful, because we’ve seen what the writer has taught us in this marvelous chapter. May we be better equipped to witness for Christ, with more power and boldness, because we know the facts. Bless us as we close, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May everyone reading this have a most blessed and joyful day.

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