DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: Matthew, Hebrews, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Hebrews

Preeminence of Christ

source for questions

Hebrews 1:1 through 4:13

key verse for memorization

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Hebrews 1:8-9)

background

The author of Hebrews, generally presumed to be Paul, pointed his readers in these four chapters to the superiority of Jesus Christ. Although the Jewish people had anticipated the coming of their Messiah for centuries, they had established their own form of worship at the expense of the Word of God. The author addressed this confusion by establishing in the first three verses that both the old (Judaism) and the new (Christianity) were religions “revealed” by God. Then he systematically detailed how Christ was:

  • Superior to the angels (Hebrews 1:4–2:18), 
  • Greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:1–19), and 
  • Provided a better rest (Hebrews 4:1-13), because Christ was supreme and completely sufficient for salvation.

The theme of better, a word used thirteen times in this book, was introduced in verse 4 of the first chapter. The writer contrasted the Old Testament system with the New Testament ministry of grace, bringing out that the Old was the “shadow” and the New was the “substance.” Christ had come to fulfill the Law and the prophets, conquering sin and freely providing eternal life for all who would come to Him.

Angels had been very important in the Jewish religion, mainly because angels assisted in the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. False teachers of the day taught that God could only be approached through angels, and that these heavenly beings should be worshipped. It was critical that the writer of this book denounce such teaching; for that reason, he opened with a lengthy passage concerning Christ’s superiority to the angels. This passage is divided into three sections:

  • First, the writer affirmed the superiority of Christ. 
  • Second, he exhorted the readers to pay earnest heed to the Word God gave through His Son. 
  • Finally, he explained how Christ, with a human body, was still superior to angels who are spirits.
Suggested Responses to Questions
  1. Why do you think the author makes such a point of Christ’s deity to these Hebrew Christians?

    It was important that the Jewish readers understood Jesus to be the incarnate Son of God, who alone had power to purge sins (Hebrews 1:3). His incarnation, atonement, and glorification spoken of in Chapter 1 lay the groundwork for describing a better way than the mosaic system of worship, which foreshadowed Christ. Discuss with your class: In what ways does the deity of Christ come under attack in our day? Why is it important for us to hold firmly to our belief in His divinity?
     
  2. The writer, in beautifully poetic language, described Jesus Christ in the opening verses of our text. Review the facts, attributes, and actions detailed in Hebrews 1:2-3, and write your own description of Christ based on your findings. 

    As your class shares their thoughts, the picture should emerge that Christ is the Son of God, the Heir of the universe, the Creator, Radiance of divine glory, Sustainer of the universe, Redeemer from sin and the Exalted one. What other descriptive phrases could they add about Christ that would expand the picture? (Healer, Friend, Guide, Living Word, Good Shepherd, Bread of Life, Living Water, Alpha and Omega, etc.)
     
  3. Angels are heavenly beings, and many times in Scripture we find where God used them. In what seven ways did the writer show that Jesus was superior to the angels? Hebrews 1:3-14

    Your class should come up with the following thoughts:
    •    He has a more excellent name — the Son of God (verse 4)
    •    He is the firstborn, that the angels were to worship Him (verse 6)
    •    He has an eternal throne and position (verse 8)
    •    He has been anointed above His fellows (verse 9)
    •    He is the Creator (verse 10)
    •    He is eternal (verses 11-12)
    •    He sits at the right hand of the Father (verse 13)

     
  4. In the first four verses of chapter 2, the writer set forth a strong warning against spiritual neglect. Why did he stress the danger of neglect? How might we tend to drift away or fail to pay full attention to what Jesus has said?

    Jesus’ message was interwoven with His person. One could not reject any portion of His message without rejecting Him — so it was a life and death issue! 

    As your students discuss the second question, they may bring up that we could drift away by neglecting our personal devotions or regular church attendance, by not really understanding what we believe and why, by growing complacent in our Christian walk, by undervaluing the great spiritual heritage we have been given, etc. After your students have developed these danger areas, ask what restorative steps they would advise for those who have drifted away from God or have failed to pay attention to His Word. 
     
  5. In Hebrews 2:3-4, how did each Person of the Trinity participate in the delivery and confirmation of the salvation message?

    Eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry recorded His words and passed on His teachings. God the Father affirmed that Jesus’ words were true by sending signs and wonders, along with gifts of the Holy Ghost. 
     
  6. To the Jewish people, Moses was a great hero. He had brought their ancestors out of bondage in Egypt, received the Law from God himself on Mount Sinai, and written the first five books of the Old Testament. Still, in chapter 3, the writer points out the fact that Christ was superior to Moses. What points can be made about both in order to prove this?

    Moses was a mere man called to be a prophet and leader, while Jesus is the Son of God sent by the Father. Moses was called and commissioned by God, but Jesus was sent as God’s own Son to sinful man. Moses was a prophet; Jesus is the High Priest. Moses was not born sinless, but Jesus was. It can be said that both were faithful in the work God gave them to do. 
     
  7. The writer warned the Hebrew Christians to “hear his [God’s] voice” and take heed lest their hearts become hardened and like their fathers. What lessons could be learned from the ancestors of the Hebrews? How can we “hear his voice” today? (Hebrews 3:7-11).

    Though God delivered the Children of Israel from Egypt, their hearts wandered from God and His Word. They had evil hearts of unbelief in spite of the provision and guidance He gave them. When they arrived at their destination, fear and disbelief made them reluctant to proceed and take possession of the land God had promised them. 

    Class discussion of the second question may bring out that we can “hear his voice” by studying and applying His words in the Bible, by listening and learning from the spiritual leaders God has given us, by never neglecting the quiet nudges of the Spirit, and by asking Him to help us stay tuned in and alert to His slightest whisper.
     
  8. Why is it so important for the Christian today to heed the Word and maintain true confidence in Christ? (Hebrews 4:1-3)

    Talk about the blessings that come with faith in God and the spiritual rest we find in Christ when we surrender to Him; in addition, there is a Heaven to gain. It can also be relayed that when a person has an erring heart and a disbelieving heart, the result will be the opposite.
     
  9. We read in Hebrews 4:12 that the Word of God is quick, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. Explain what you think this means.

    The emphasis is on the power of the Word to penetrate and expose the inner heart of man. God sees our hearts (Hebrews 4:13) but we do not always know (or want to acknowledge) what is there. God uses His Word to reveal what is in our hearts. 
conclusion

What the Law could not do because it was weak through the flesh, Jesus has accomplished by the merits of His death and resurrection. The Law could never completely reveal God, but Jesus Christ can. He is the perfect reflection of God.