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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30am service, 2003-09-07

Text: Hebrews 1:1-14

It is a joy and privilege once again to be able to bring the Word of God to all of you. Many of us here may perhaps have come to church today feeling a little discouraged because of all the news in the past week over the CPF and wage cuts that will be implemented soon to enable Singapore to compete with the rest of the world. Coupled with this is the news of more retrenchments in the months to come, businesses not doing well, houses being taken over by banks. Add to that the fear of a resurgence of SARS in the coming cold season, and the cloud of terrorism that still hangs over this region - with all these, one can easily feel overwhelmed with fear. What will become of me? How will I cope with my own problems? Those among us who have been retrenched may be wondering when you will be able to have a successful job application. Those of you who are students and taking important exams soon may be wondering how you will do in your coming exams. If you are in such a state right now, there is one thing that you need to do: Keep looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Dearly beloved, in times like these we must heed these words. In an age where the church at large and individual Christians in particular are losing their focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, there is an urgent need for us to regain and maintain our focus on Christ. In whatever sphere of life we can think of, Christ should always be at the very centre of it. He must be the central aim and object of everything, whether it is of creation, of knowledge, of wisdom, of teaching, of the Church and even of the whole of life itself!

At the risk of becoming too repetitive, we too must keep on making that same emphasis again and again. Why? Because of the danger that we might get tired of Jesus Christ, and be distracted away from Him. People are always initially excited with something new (e.g. car, house or dress), but after the novelty wears off, they become tired of it and go on to seek after something else that is new to them. But if we were to leave Christ for something else, then we stand to lose everything that really matters in life! 

We must therefore resolve to focus our vision, our thoughts, our meditations, our hopes and desires, yea, even our life upon Jesus Christ. And to help us to do this, I propose to study a Book of the Bible with you which presents Christ to us in His full glory - the Book of Hebrews. It is my hope that this study of the Book of Hebrews in about eight messages may be used of God to help us all to be deeply rooted and built up in Christ. Let us begin with an:

A. Introduction to the Book of Hebrews:

Do you know that the Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the most magnificent books of the Bible? Firstly, it ranks with the Book of Romans in Importance While Romans focusses on God's Plan of salvation, Hebrews focusses on the Person of salvation. Sometimes it is regarded as 'the fifth gospel' since it takes up what Jesus did after His ascension - reigning at the Father's right hand and interceding for us! Secondly, It ranks with Luke's Gospel in literary perfection. The Greek of Hebrews more closely resembles the classical Greek epics like Illiad and Odyssey (600-300 BC). Someone has said that in the treasure chest of God's Word, the Epistle to the Hebrews is a gem among gems: It soars to heights of doctrine, leaving the reader almost breathless. Then it plunges to depths of practical application, compelling the Christian to greater piety and practice.

One question that has often been asked about the book of Hebrews is: Who wrote it? (This is because the writer did not identify himself) Traditionally it is believed that the writer must be Paul the Apostle, since he mentions Timothy in chapter 13 (13:23), and was in prison (10:34). But on the other hand, the style and vocabulary of this book are quite different from Paul's epistles.It is unlike Paul to leave out identifying himself as the writer. Other possible writers that have been suggested for this book are: Luke (Calvin), Silas (Selwyn), Barnabas (Tertullian), Philip (Ramsay), and Apollos (Luther). Conclusion: As Origen stated 'Who wrote the Epistle God only knows' This should not be a cause for worry to us, because there are other books of Bible where the also human writer is unknown - Esther, Job 1&2 Kings, and 1&2 Chronicles. But every one of them bears the marks of divine inspiration, and so does the book of Hebrews.

Who was it written to? The title and content shows that it was meant for Jews who were Christians. They were likely to be members of a Church in Rome around AD 65-70. These Jewish believers had apparently been Christians for a long time, but they had failed to grow, and were now in danger of going back to their old ways of Judaism because of severe persecution. For this reason, one of the purposes of the writer of Hebrews was to warn them against leaving Christ. And he included five passages of warning altogether (2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11-6:3; 10:26-31; and 12:25-29) and they are interspersed between the writer's exposition of the doctrine of Christ. These passages of warning are also useful for us - to help us to examine our own spiritual lives to see if we are leaving Christ. We will be seeing more of this in the latter part of the message.

Now, the central theme of our study of the book of Hebrews is 'Christ, Supreme in Our Lives' And for our first message, we will begin with the topic of 'Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God.' 

B. Proofs of the Deity of Christ (Chapter 1)

The main emphasis of this chapter is the divine nature of Jesus Christ. His equality with God is assumed throughout. Here we find that Christ is, indeed, the 'fullness of God' (Col 1:19; 2:9). If one were to ask the writer of Hebrews, 'How do you know for certain that Christ is truly God Himself?' he would cite five great proofs of his deity, and they are the ones given in this chapter. 

1. His Divine Names

Christ is called 'the Son' (vv.2,5,8). God has many sons (that's what we are called in John 1:12), but He has only one Only-begotten Son. (cf John 3:16). One may then be tempted to think that He is then not God Himself, since He is called the Son of God. But the second name given to Christ is the one in v.8 'God' Here the writer quotes from Psalm 45:6,7 'But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever' The third name of Christ is the name 'Lord' that is found in v.10 'And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands'). This name reveals that Jesus is none other than the Lord Jehovah, the one who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and who said 'this is my name forever' (Exodus 3:15). Having seen the three divine names given to Jesus as proof of His deity, we go on to look at the second proof which is:

2. His Divine Works

There are three works of Christ given here: The first divine work that shows the deity of Christ is His work of creation. V. 2 'by whom also He made the worlds' Verse 10 tells us that Christ laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the works of His hands, Col 1:16 'For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.'

The second work of Christ that proves His deity is His present ongoing work of upholding all things by the word of His power. This means that Christ is all the time sustaining all that He has created. Colossians 1:17 puts it this way 'by Him all things consist (hold together)'. If Christ should cease His work of upholding all things and holding all things together for just one moment, everything would disintegrate instantly! When He was on earth, at His powerful command the angry waves and wind were stilled; at His powerful command disease and death loosed their hold on man, and demons fled away. And even right now all things are sustained by His Word of power! As we gaze into the starry sky and look at the galaxies and stars in their positions and orbiting with mathematical exactnessfor thousands of years, we know it is all by the upholding power of the Son of God, our Saviour!

The third work of Christ that is proof of His deity is His glorious work of salvation (v.3 - 'purged our sins') As none but God can create and sustain the universe, none but God Himself can purge away our sins. This is the word of Christ that we should be most thankful for - for by it we are delivered from sin and eternal death. Now we turn to the third category of proof of Christ's deity: 

3. His Divine Character

This is stated in the main sentence of the first three verses, 'God hath Spoken by His Son' According to the first 3 verses, God the Father has revealed His character to men through many revelations and using different modes of communication, e.g. dreams, visions, but the final complete revelation is through Christ. There are two significant terms used in v.3 to describe how Christ reveals the Father. The first is 'The brightness of His glory...' (v.3a) This term brings out the extern!l equality of Christ with the Father in outward glory. The second term 'The express image of His person...' shows that the equality is not only external but internal as well. In Jesus we have the expression of the essential nature of God. If we want to know precisely what God is like, we must look to Jesus. Cf. John 14:9 'he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father;'. 

4. His Divine Position or Rank

He is heir of all things (v.2). The word 'heir' here indicates possession. He is the Sovereign owner of the universe. All things belong to Him (v.2, Ps 2:7, John q6:15). Men may claim to own lands, properties and objects and produce title deeds to prove their ownership. But in reality all are only on loan or lease to them. All things belong to Christ and will be returned back to Him!

Secondly He is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on High (v.3) (Ps 110:1). The right hand of God is the closest position to God. This exalted position in heaven is His right to have, and His alone.Thirdly He is higher than all the angels, vv.4-14. Angels are an order of created spiritual beings whose chief attributes are strength and wisdom (2 Sam 14:20; Psa 103:20; 104:4). They are exceedingly numerous (Mat 26:53; Psa 68:17: Rev 5:11). Their power is great (2 Kings 19:35); and their place is about the throne of God (Rev 5:11; 7:11). But as powerful and wise as the angels are, and as high as their rank is, Jesus is far better. He is called the Son (vv.4,5, not angel); He is worshipped (v.6, unlike any angel); He is ruler of the world to come (v.3,7-9, angels are subjects, not rulers. He is the creator (vv.7-12, angels are creatures).

5. His Eternal Existence

Vv.10-12 teach us that Christ's existence is eternal. He transcends time. He was with God at the beginning (John 1:1) and shall remain the same throughout eternity (Hebrews 1:8). Thus we have seen from the whole chapter, five great proofs of the deity of Christ. When we combine all these proofs of Christ's deity, we can have no more doubts about His deity. We can see Him now as our supreme Lord and our God, in all His heavenly glory! 

C. A Warning To Lukewarm Christians

But now we must come to the first four verses of chapter two where the whole discourse on Christ as the Divine Only Begotten Son is wrapped up with strong words of warning. The thrust of this warning is this: Now that we know that Christ is God's only Begotten Son, by His divine names, works, character, position and eternal existence, we must take special heed to the Word that He has spoken to us: 2:1-4 'Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?'

1. The Danger: 'Letting Them Slip'

The warning here is: Let us give more earnest heed to His Word from now on! Because of Who the Lord Jesus is, we cannot take Him and His Word lightly any more! To do so would be a great insult against Him! Christians need to receive warnings like this from time to time, because we have the tendency to get so used to the things we hear from the pulpit, that we forget their importance and gravity. We lose the initial excitement we once had for them, and our spirits are dampened. We lose our firm hold on them and so we 'let them slip' into a place of secondary importance in our lives. 

2. The Result: A Lukewarm Spiritual Life

One of the problems of Christians today is this light-hearted attitude toward Christ and the things of Christ. Many people come to church on Sundays, they go through the motions of worship, prayer and even Bible study, but their hearts are not fully in it. Christ Himself said, 'This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.' (Matthew 15:8)

Dearly beloved, if you find that this accurately describes your present life now, please be careful. Perhaps you have grown light-hearted toward the things of Christ, and you are not even aware of it. Perhaps you have been coming to church more out of a sense of duty than of love, just because you feel that you have to do it each Sunday, and not really because you want to. If your heart is cold and not really present here in the worship service; If you find that you are just going-through-the-motions when people around you are singing and praying; If you do not find great delight in the things of God and have to force yourself to pray and read His Word, please be very careful. This is a very dangerous situation to be in.

3. The Possibility: A False Security

Do you know that a person who calls himself a Christian but does not show it in his life may be in greater peril than he can imagine? He may be having a false sense of security. The scriptures make it very clear to us that the grace of God must naturally produce lives that are devoted to God. If your attitude toward the Lord is light-hearted and lacking in serious devotion, this may be an indication that you are not saved at all! One of the warning passages in the Hebrews speaks about this (6:4-6): 'For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.'

This does not mean that a person who is saved can lose his salvation. Salvation is of the Lord, and therefore it can never be lost. But some people can appear to be in Christ, and yet not really be in Christ at all. They claim to have a part in Him and profess to be like the rest of the branches that are joined to the true Vine. They may even call Jesus 'Lord', as Jesus said in Matthew 7:22 'Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.' But their true unsaved condition becomes evident after some time, when their lives display no real transformation, or when they deny the Lord and fall away from following Him. This is mentioned in another of the warning passages in the book, namely, Hebrews 10:26,27 'For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.'

On the day of the Lord's Judgment, their false profession of faith in Christ will not be of any help to them at all. They will have no part at all in the wonderful bliss of eternal life, but will be cast into the outer darkness. This is really a most frightening prospect, so frightening that I would urge all of you to make very sure today that you have not been deceiving yourself into thinking that you are saved, that you have a part in Christ, when you actually do not have a part in Him at all.

4. The Probability: A Backslidden State

Now, while that frightening prospect may be true of some of us, and we ought to make sure that it is not, it may also be true that we are already genuinely saved, but who just have backslided into an unhealthy spiritual state. Perhaps there was a time when you were more zealous and did much more for the Lord, a time when your heart was burning hot with love for Him. But what has happened since then? You have left your first love. You have backslided, and if you are not careful, you may one day stop coming to church.

What has caused you to backslide to such a state? One cause of backsliding comes from the cares of this world and other pursuits. A Christian backslides when he allows these things to overtake his devotion to the Lord, and his walk with the Lord. You are living for the thingskon this earth and not for things above. You have become too occupied with your work and with your own interests. The question you should ask yourself is: Is it worthwhile? Can you do all this without compromising at all on your devotion to the Lord, and your walk with the Lord? Is it worthwhile to do all that you can to assure yourself and your children of the best security and comfort this life can afford, but end up as a spiritual shipwreck? Dearly beloved, if you are convicted that this describes your present situation, then you need to learn how to get out of it. Let us now consider:

5. The Remedy: Return To Your Fir3t Love

The first thing you need to do is to repent of your backsliding. Take careful stock of your life now, and remove all the idols you have been serving - whether it is your wealth, your comfort, or your career. Make nothing else but Christ supreme in your life. Think about what Jesus means to you. He is none other than the only begotten Son of God, who is called 'God' and 'the Lord', the one who has created all things, and who upholds all things by the Word of His power, the one who purged away our sins, who is heir to all things and sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Remember also that He is your Lord and your Saviour who died for you and gave Himself for you. No love can ever surpass the love that Christ has for you. Let that love draw you close to Jesus right now to rekindle your first love for Him!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25