What are some of your favorite things? What do you hope to accomplish in this life? What are the things you believe are worthwhile? In the First Century, just as we see today, many people who claimed to be Christians were tempted to add human works to the finished work of Christ. Though it took a different form and was probably justified using a different specific reason, the tendency was the same. In order to fit in or accommodate the overall culture, the sufficiency of Christ was not realized. It is not surprising that, in the organized church today, we experience the same struggle with Christ’s sufficiency that the organized church did within only forty years of Christ death, burial, and resurrection. There is nothing new under the sun. This sermon to the Hebrews has the same message and application in our own society because we do the same things, trying to add to Christ in any number of ways.
The book of Hebrews is a sermon written to both Jewish and Gentile believers. If God is really God, then there is nothing that people can possibly offer God. So, the religious worship of many Christians was actually idolatry because they sought to elevate themselves. Our early Christian brothers and sisters needed to know this truth and needed to know their need for a Messiah. Hebrews was probably written before 70 A.D. The name of the human author is not given in the text but was accepted by the early church as Pauline. Other possible human authors or contributors include Barnabas, Apollos, and Luke. There is not much evidence to support any other proposed author or contributor. The author(s) was close with Timothy (13:23), and this sermon was included, by the Third Century, in the collection of Pauline letters. Hebrews was quoted from by Clement before the close of the First Century. In 180 A.D, Hebrews was claimed to be both Pauline and canonical. It is almost definite that Paul was the primary human author of this sermon even though it does not bear his signature or the style of his letters. Hebrews was not written as a letter but, instead, a sermon. It was not written specifically to the Gentiles, Paul’s regular audience, but to the Hebrews. The theme of this sermon is Christ Alone.
As we work through this sermon, we ask, Do we really and truly believe that Christ is entirely sufficient?
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
God’s word through the prophets (v. 1)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways…
This sermon begins with a reference to the Old Testament prophetic office. As we begin looking at this sermon, we must understand what the Old Testament prophetic office was and why it existed. We see the what and why of the Old Testament prophetic office and gift in Deuteronomy 18:15-18:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’
The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’”
As God was giving the Law through Moses, the nation God had chosen to be His physical nation on this earth complained because they did not want to hear God directly like they did when God was giving the Law to Moses on in Horeb. They were afraid that they would die. So, by God’s providence, He raised up several prophets through the Old Testament to speak on His behalf. The reason people needed a prophet was because they were afraid to hear directly from God. So, God chose to speak through prophets.
The Old Testament gift of prophecy can be defined in this way: God dictating His word to a prophet to be delivered to a particular audience. It was informal prophets (like Moses and Joshua) and those who held the prophetic office (beginning with Samuel) who were given this specific gift of prophecy. The Old Testament prophetic gift was exercised under the Law in conjunction with God’s covenant with Israel and because of the hardness of people’s hearts.
God’s word in Christ (v. 2a)
…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…
The author(s) of this sermon identify the time they are living in as the last days. There is something different about these last days when compared to the days of the Old Testament prophets. The time of the Old Testament prophets had ended and the word of God was no longer spoken through the Old Testament prophetic office. In fact, no prophet had spoken for more than 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptist. Now, instead of speaking through the Old Testament prophetic office, God has spoken to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. So, according to Scripture, in fact is is the first theological truth explained in this sermon to the Hebrews, God no longer dictates to people something to be written or spoken on His behalf. The only reason we might desire such a gift of prophecy in our day is because our hearts are hard to the word that God has spoken in Christ. According to Scripture, people choose Old Testament-type prophets because they do not want to hear directly from God.
The prophetic office in the Old Testament was meant to reveal the insufficiency of people and their hardness of heart. The Old Testament prophetic gift was meant to foreshadow Christ and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. If there were still Old Testament prophets or people with the Old Testament prophetic gift, then the work of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament covenant would have been ineffective. He would have failed. Jesus Christ is the one who holds the prophetic office perpetually.
This means that Christ’s word is the word that is entirely sufficient for all of life and ministry. Everything that God has for us regarding salvation and sanctification has been revealed in Christ. There is no need for further revelation. If we disagree with that, then we disagree with what the Bible claims explicitly. Academics can be good, but they can only get us so far. Athletics are good, but they can only get us so far. Science is good, but it can only get us so far. Philosophy is good, but it can only get us so far. Success can be good, but it can only get us so far. The words of Christ are what we need and profit us more than any other pursuit in this life or any.
Christ’s identity and why His word is sufficient for all of life and ministry (v. 2b)
…whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
God, the Father, appointed Jesus heir of all things. So, Jesus was the heir of this Old Testament prophetic office. He was also the heir of the covenant prepared through Moses and of the priesthood prepared through Aaron and of the throne prepared through David. Here, we catch a glimpse of the relationship between the Father and Son. The Father explicitly ordains all things. The Son reveals the things of the Father and is exalted. The Son is even the person of the Godhead who revealed the Father’s word to the prophets (Isaiah 48:16). This means that both the Old Testament and the New are the explicit words of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ position has always been the revealer or the word of the Father. Even in Genesis 1, we see that God spoke all things into existence. All of creation was made through Jesus. Jesus, who is one with God and is God (co-equal and co-eternal), has always had this position as prophet within the Godhead and among God’s people. The prophetic position in the Old Testament was not only given to foreshadow Christ but, also, as a parable revealing who Christ has always been. Jesus fulfills the prophetic office because it was always a picture of Him. The same is true for the priestly office and the throne.
From the outset of this sermon, the author(s) are establishing that the word they are preaching, Christ’s word, is entirely sufficient for all of life and ministry. In a culture where Christians were returning to and elevating religious tradition or neglecting their meeting with the church, Christians were either adding something else to Christ’s word or hiding part of His word away. Christ is greater than the prophets, than religious tradition, than dogma, than the catechisms, than cultural Christianity, and He is greater than anything or anyone else claiming to benefit us in this life or any.
- How do you prioritize your time? Does anything take precedence over hearing the explicit words of Christ correctly explained and rightly applied?
- What idol keeps you from being with the church or causes you to participate in a local church that does not accurately preach and teach Christ’s words?
- If the Father no longer speaks through the prophetic office, can any religion that is based on the word of a modern-day prophet be consistent with the Bible?
- What is your response when someone claims to have the Old Testament prophetic gift?
- What are some of your favorite things? What do you hope to accomplish in this life? What are the things you believe are worthwhile?