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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The True Identity of Jesus Christ
Text:Hebrews 1:1-2:4 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:11/30/2014
Added:2014-12-10
Updated:2015-01-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
11/30/14 – a. m.
“The True Identity of Jesus Christ”
Hebrews 1:1-2:4

It is hard to believe that Christmas is just a few short weeks away. Thanksgiving Day seems to come late; we get bombarded with advertisements and are encouraged to use the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to go on one huge shopping spree.

In the materialistic celebration of Christmas, better known as “happy holidays”, many people in our culture fail to see that Jesus is the reason for the season. Many people, in the rush of Christmas, if they see Jesus at all, see Him just as a little baby in a manger. They see Him as a cute decorative piece to add to the holidays, along with Santa and his sleigh, along with Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer. Unfortunately, many see Him as nothing more. He is just a baby in the manger.

Many others might pause in the rush of the Christmas season to ask the question of the hymn writer, “What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?” But they never seem to get beyond that question. The Sunday newspaper with all its advertisements, all the decorations and activities, all the other excitement, keeps them from delving into the answer to that question, “What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” They never come to the answer in the refrain, “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing: this, this is Christ the King, the Babe the Son of Mary.”

But to any who would seek an answer to that question, “What Child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” would find the answer in our Scripture passage from Hebrews chapter 1.  While Scripture as a whole describes the true identity of Jesus Christ, the author of Hebrews is well known for his succinct and beautiful description of the true identity of Christ Jesus.

The Word Became Flesh

He points out, first of all, that Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate and final Word to us. Verse 1 describes how in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. Just a brief glance at the Old Testament reminds us of that truth. Again and again God came and revealed Himself through the prophets. They spoke at times in unique ways, whether Amos as a shepherd, Hosea with a wayward wife, Jeremiah as a weeping prophet or Ezekiel, Daniel and others who recorded so many of those unique visions from God. But in these last days,­ verse 2 goes on to tell us, (God) has spoken to us by His Son. ­­

There are many references in the pages of Scripture describing Jesus Christ as our final and ultimate revelation from God. One of the best known is found in those opening words of John’s Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And then, in John 1:14 we read, The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

There are many people who are still looking for some future revelation from God. But it is clear from Hebrews 1, as well as many other passages, that the revelation we have from God is complete and final through Jesus Christ. All that we need to know about God and about salvation is in the Holy Bible. That’s how we understand the term “the sufficiency of Scripture.”  We understand that we need no further revelation, for in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.  But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. ­­(Hebrews 1:1-2a).

Heir of All; Creator of the Universe

As verse 2 goes on, the author of Hebrews points out that Jesus Christ is the heir of all things... through whom (God) created the universe.

The concept of being an heir, fits in with the concept of family. When people draw up a will they invariably think of their family. Most Christian parents, in making their will, seek the good of their children as well as the needs of God’s kingdom. As Proverbs 13:22 says, A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.

Because Christ is the eternal Son of God, a concept that we cannot fully grasp in this life, He is therefore the rightful heir of everything. Because of the relationship of the Son to His heavenly Father we should not be surprised that He is described as being heir of all things. What should surprise us is that God is so gracious that when He redeems us from our sin He also makes us heirs with Christ as we are adopted into the family of God by faith in Him who is the eternal Son of God, for the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… (Romans 8:16-17a).

A second reason why Christ is the heir of all things is there in the last part of verse 2 which says through whom He made the universe. When we think of the Trinity we often, and properly, consider certain acts as being done by the Father, by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. Usually we think of the Father as being active in creation, the Son in our salvation, and the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, that is, our spiritual growth. That is a proper understanding of how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit graciously work. But we  recognize that there is an overlap. In fact, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the creation of the world, as revealed in many passages of Scripture.

That Christ was the One through whom God made the universe, - literally, “the ages” -  is clear from a  passage such as Colossians 1:15:  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. This too entitles Christ to be the heir of all things. Not only is He the eternal Son of God, but He is also the Creator of the universe and thus entitled to be its heir, it’s rightful owner, for the earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1-2).

Verse 3 also points out that Christ is the sustainer or the upholder of the entire world. As we look at our world it often seems as though nothing sustains it. It seems to be in a free fall. We have the unrest of nations, the terrorism of ISIS and other sinister forces, anarchy in the streets of our own land. Yet God, through Christ, sustains His creation.

The One who was born in Bethlehem as a baby is also the One who is at the right hand of God the Father Almighty working out all of history according to His plan. History is not a series of meaningless circles, but teleological, that is, all history is going toward a definite and appointed end: the return of Jesus Christ in glory.

It should not surprise us that verse 3 teaches that as Christ sustains all things He does so by His powerful word. It is by His word that God created. God simply spoke and this universe and all that is in it came into being. Should we then be surprised that Almighty God would sustain the world He created simply by the power of His Word?

One day He will speak  “the word.”  The last trumpet will sound and Jesus, the One whom many see just as one Christmas ornament among so many other seasonal decorations, will return in power and glory. On that Day, His true identity will be known by every person who has ever lived.

The Radiancy and Exact Imprint of the Father

Verse 3 also teaches us that Christ Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory; the exact representation of His being. By contrast, we have no radiancy or glory in and of ourselves. You and I are to reflect the glory of God by the way we live our lives, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Just as the moon has no radiancy of its own but rather reflects the radiancy of the sun, so we, by our lives and words are to reflect the radiancy, the glory, of the Son to others.

But Jesus has glory in and of Himself. He is the radiancy of the Father’s glory because He and the Father are one. The Son is the radiancy of God’s glory because He is the exact representation of  His heavenly Father. The term used for exact representation in the original language is taken from a Greek word which describes a mint.  It describes how a coin is the exact representation of the mint from which it was formed. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. That’s why Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” And again in John 14:9 He declared, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”  Representations that we make are not exact, but Jesus is the exact representation, the exact imprint, of His Father.

Last week for lunch I planned to have a fish sandwich with one of those fillets that you bake. The baked filets are healthier than a fried piece of fish and more nutritious than a hamburger. I went to set the oven and noticed that it was already on. I looked in the oven and there were four impressions of hands which my wife had made out of dough.  She had our grandchildren push their hands into some dough. Then she baked the impressions of their hands to make ornaments to hang from the Christmas tree. When the children are older they, or their parents, can look at their hands and say, “That’s the size they were in 2014!”  So I was forced to fry up a hamburger instead of that healthy fish fillet sandwich.

The next day, toward noon, as I grew hungry I thought about that fish filet. I went to the oven to turn it on and noticed that it was already on. I looked in the oven and there were four impressions of  hands in dough, on a baking pan, just as the day before. I said to my wife, “Didn’t you already make your ornaments? How come there are four more impressions of the grandkid’s hands? And she said. “The first set didn’t turn out quite right so I had to make another.”

Our representations are not exact, but Jesus is indeed the exact representation of God the Father and the radiancy of His glory. Many see Him only as a decorative piece among Santa and the elves and the reindeer. To them He is nothing more than an ornament.  So many miss the reality that the Christ child is indeed the exact representation of the Father and the radiance of His glory.  They fail to see that He is truly God in human flesh.

Purification and Intercession

Verse 3 also teaches that after Jesus had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. That verse gets to the heart of why the eternal Christ came to this earth. He came to save sinners from their sin.  As the angel had said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “You are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus came as the second Adam. All that the first Adam failed to do, Jesus did perfectly. But then He did more. Not only was He actively obedient to every precept, ordinance and command of His heavenly Father, but He was also passively obedient.  He allowed Himself to be crucified, and there on that cross He bore the curse of the sins of all who, by grace, believe upon Him.

Failing to see those truths is the greatest tragedy of seeing Jesus just as a Christmas decoration, of seeing Him just as a baby in a manger. The countless millions of people who fail to see beyond the manger to the cross, and the open tomb, will never see and experience Jesus as their Savior from sin and the Lord of their life. There is no greater tragedy than that.

But did you notice that the author of Hebrews describes Christ, after providing purification for sins, as sitting down at the right hand of His heavenly Father in heaven? We understand that Scripture is not describing a literal sitting of Jesus throughout all eternity at the right hand of His Father, but rather is describing the symbolic completion of His work of redemption. The imagery of Jesus sitting down shows us that the work of redemption has truly been completed. In the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished.” The imagery of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father also reminds us that He reigns and rules from the glory of heaven over all things, even as He ever lives to intercede on our behalf. 

Our Response

How are we to respond to the true identity of Jesus Christ? To Him who is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of His Being. How are we to respond to Him?

As many commentaries point out, this description of the true identity of Jesus Christ in the opening verses of Hebrews 1 portrays Him as our Prophet, that He is the final and ultimate Word from God the Father. The passage also portrays Him as our Priest in that He sacrificed Himself for us on the cross and now intercedes on our behalf.  And the passage portrays Jesus as our King who rules and reigns from heaven. How, then, are we respond to Him, our true and perfect Prophet, Priest and King?

First, in the rush of Christmas activities, and always, we are to pay attention to Christ and His Word. After describing the true identity of Jesus, in the opening verses,  the author of Hebrews draws on a number of Old Testament passages to show how much greater Christ is than the angelic host who worship Him. And so perhaps it seems surprising that he uses the word “therefore” in the first verse of the second chapter. He writes, We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

That warning is written to believers. Even though we know by grace the true identity of Jesus Christ, we can so easily drift away. Perhaps at no other time in the calendar year is it easier to drift away from Christ than at Christmas. The world has done an excellent job of giving us a counterfeit Christmas: Instead of the greatest gift the world has ever known, Jesus Christ and His redeeming love, our culture is full Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer and all the materialism that stretches from before Thanks-giving through Christmas. The entire season can become one long black Friday.

Christians can become so busy in the secular activities of Christmas that they can drift away from the true meaning of the season. Oh, we know the true meaning in our head, but is it possible that sometimes in our heart we still have that Christmas list of shopping gifts: What will we buy for the children or the grandchildren? Where will we get our tree? Have we forgotten anyone on our list, whether for a present or a card? Is it possible that often, like the Innkeeper, we get so preoccupied with all the business of this season that we drift away from the true meaning of the season?

There’s nothing inherently wrong in those activities – gifts, decorations, Christmas cards. All those things can be blessings, unless they distract us to the point that we drift from the true identity of Jesus Christ and the real purpose of His birth, to save sinners like ourselves.

The author of Hebrews goes on in Hebrews 2:2-3 to point out that we are not to ignore the greatness of our salvation. He says, For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? He is referring back to the giving of the law at Mt Sinai. Although it was God who gave the law, Deuteronomy 33:2 tells how He came with myriads of holy ones. In other words, He was accompanied with angels. Acts 7:53 and Galatians 3:19 also teach that the law was put in effect with angels.

Since the message spoken by angels was binding, how much more binding is the message from the final Prophet, from God Himself in human flesh? The question of Verse 3, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” puts a challenge before each one of us. Are we so busy with the activities of the season that we neglect the greatness of our salvation?

The question of verse 3 also puts a challenge before those of us who have loved ones who are ignoring the greatness of salvation. We have those in our family for whom we pray. We pray specifically that they would not ignore the greatness of the salvation that they have heard about, and were taught in their childhood, and yet now have drifted from.

Perhaps many of you are in the same situation. Perhaps you have unsaved family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or classmates. Christmas is an excellent time to witness. Christmas is an excellent opportunity to point people away from the materialism of our culture to the true identity of Jesus Christ and the great need to believe in Him alone as Savior and Lord.

And then a third response, written throughout the Scriptures, is that we who believe in Him are to worship and praise the eternal Christ. Did you notice in Hebrews 1:6  how it  says, “And again, when God brings His firstborn into the world, He says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him.'”?

As the Christmas season moves forward the song of the angels and their adoration for Jesus Christ will ring out. Consider how many Christmas carols focus on the praise and adoration given by the angels to the Christ child: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!  Angels We Have Heard on High. The First Noel, the Angels Did Say. These carols, and many more, follow the teaching of Scripture: there is angelic worship and praise for the eternal Christ! In your life and in mine, not only in the Christmas season but always, we are to echo that same praise and worship, – not just on Sunday but each and every day that we have breath to live.

Everyone one who truly knows Christ by saving faith will worship Him: We see that in the response of the shepherds as they left their flocks to see the marvelous thing the angels had told them about: the birth of Jesus Christ. We also see worship in the response of the wise men. They too knew the true identity of Jesus, and before presenting their gifts to Him, they bowed down and worshiped Him. We see worship in the marveling of Mary, as she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). And as we treasure up the truths of who Jesus is and why He came to earth to be born in the manger - we too, are to worship Him, all the days of our lives.

In the materialistic celebration of Christmas, better known as “happy holidays”, so many people in our culture fail to see that Jesus is the reason for the season. Many people, in the rush of Christmas, if they see Jesus at all see Him just as a little baby in a manger. To so many He is nothing more than a cute decoration to add to the holidays.

But by God’s grace may you and I always see, with the eye of faith, the true identity of Jesus Christ. And then may we in every day of our lives worship and praise Him for who He is and for the redemption that He has brought to all who, by grace, believe in Him. Amen.

 

 


- bulletin outline - 

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. – Hebrews 1:3

“The True Identity of Jesus Christ”
Hebrews 1:1-2:4
I.  Many see Jesus just as a baby in the manger, a quaint decoration among the reindeer, elves and Santa.  But the true identity of Jesus Christ is described in   
     Hebrews 1:1-3.  He is:

                              1) God’s ultimate and final Word to us (1-2a)

 

                               2) Heir of all things (2b); Creator (2c) and Upholder (3c) of the universe

 

                                3) The radiance of God’s glory; the exact representation of His being (3a,b)

 

                                4) The One who provided purification for our sins and now intercedes for us as He rules and reigns (3d,e)

 

II. In the rush of Christmas activities, and always:

                               1) We are to pay attention to Christ and His Word (2:1)

 

                                2) We are not to ignore the greatness of our salvation (2:2-3)

 

                                3) We are to believe in Him, worshiping and praising Him (1:6; Matthew 2:11, Luke 2:13, 19, 20)

 

11/30/2014 – a.m.








 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 11/3, Rev. Ted Gray

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