Hebrews #01: an exposition of Hebrews 1:1-4. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 30, 2014.
The United States Supreme Court heard arguments this week in what is said to be, “the most important religious liberty case to come before the court in a quarter of a century.” The specific issue has to do with the mandates of the affordable care act and the rights of private businesses owned by people with deeply held religious convictions. But the issue is really much larger than that. At stake is religious liberty. If you’ve been paying attention in recent years you’ve noticed that the language has changed. There are those who no longer talk of freedom of religion but rather freedom of worship. That is an important distinction. Freedom of worship says, “Sure worship as you please – in your church and leave it there.” Freedom of religion is that you are free to live out your religious convictions within society. It is no secret that the culture in general has shifted. The place of religion is being pushed from the public to the private sector. Your faith is your private business it has no place in public life. Your faith says homosexuality is a sin? You had best keep that to yourself. Your faith demands that salvation is found in Christ and in Christ alone? You might want to rethink that. Orthodox Christianity, once the dominate faith of our country, is being marginalized. Church attendance is shrinking. Our message is being denounced as bigoted, outdated and culturally backwards. I watched last week as Stephen Corbert spoke of dwindling church attendance by saying, “Here’s the church; there is the steeple; open the door and where are all the people?” as his audience howled.
What do you do when your faith is lampooned? How are we to react when what we hold dear is mocked and ridiculed? How do we stand when the tide of public opinion is against us? Worse yet, where do we turn when our faith is on the wrong side of the law?
They were second generation believers. They did not hear Jesus himself rather they believed his message as delivered by those who heard him. As Jews they had longed for Messiah. Now they had come to believe that Messiah had come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Their new found faith cost them dearly. Family and friends turned on them. The government outlawed them. They were struggling to continue in the faith. Some had already turned back. Others were contemplating it. The writer of Hebrews says to them, “Don’t turn back. Christ is better than the best the world has to offer.” Our text this morning is found in the first chapter of Hebrews.
Text: Hebrews 1:1-4
The book of Hebrews is different. It doesn’t begin like a letter but it certainly ends like one. It is not addressed to a specific individual or group yet clearly is written with a specific group in mind. It most likely began as a sermon or series of sermons. As for who wrote it, I think Origen was right when he declared, “God only knows who wrote this!” What we do know about the author is that he was well educated, was extremely well versed in the Greek Old Testament and that he wrote with great eloquence. Most likely the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (references indicate the sacrifices where still being made). Probably written to Jewish Christians living in Rome.
We do know that those who received this letter faced a very real threat: But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,
33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:32-34)
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4)
Martyrdom was a real possibility for these believers. What would the writer of Hebrews say to encourage these beleaguered saints? What would he say to bolster their faith? Two themes dominate the book. Who is Jesus? What did Jesus do? He preached Christ. He pointed to Jesus.
What is it that will enable you to stand against unbelief? What is it that will sustain you when buffeted by doubt and hounded by those who refuse to believe? When the winds of persecution begin to blow what will enable you to persevere? Not doctrine. Not as statement of faith. Creeds and confessions will prove inadequate. Your faith must rest squarely on the person of the Lord Jesus and His glory as revealed in God’s holy Word.
As these opening verses make clear…
Thesis: In the face of great adversity sustaining, enduring, overcoming faith demands a clear, unobstructed view of the exalted Christ.
No doubt these believers where asking some hard questions. “Does God know what we are going through? Does He care? Where is He? Why doesn’t He answer our prayers? Why is God silent?”
The writer of Hebrews responds, God is not silent, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son…”
1:1-2 tell us that through the Old Testament God revealed himself in true yet incomplete ways. Various fragments or pieces of the puzzle supplied by the prophets. Further God spoke in a variety of ways. He spoke to Moses through the thunder and lightening at Sinai. He whispered to Elijah at Horeb with a still small voice. Ezekiel saw visions, Daniel dreamed dreams. God appeared in human form to Abraham while He spoke through an angel to Jacob. But in these last days God has spoken his final, ultimate word through His Son.
What follows is a glorious picture of the Lord Jesus. Setting forth the reasons why we should look to him in times of crisis. In chapter 12 the writer tells us to “fix our eyes on him” as the author and finisher of our faith.
- In times of crisis look to Jesus as the heir and goal of all things. (1:2a)
- When overwhelmed by the power of your enemies look to Jesus as the sovereign creator of all things. (1:2b)
- When you feel wholly inadequate look to the One who is God of very God. (1:3a)
- When you reach the end of yourself look to Him who is your Savior and Lord. (1:3b-4)
I’ve no doubt there are dark and troublesome days ahead. I’m afraid we are heading into unchartered territory for us but I’m confident of this my hope is not in a doctrine, confession or creed but in the Lord Jesus himself.
- Who is the heir and goal of all things.
- Who is the sovereign Creator of all things.
- Who is God of very God.
- Who is Savior and Lord.