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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:God's Revelation and Our Response
Text:Hebrews 1:1-2a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Break Thou the Bread of Life

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Wonderful Words of Life   

God Hath Spoken by His Prophets

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

“God’s Revelation and Our Response”
Hebrews 1:1-2:4; Text: verse 1, 2a
As you read the New Testament letters you almost always read a salutation. For instance, in the letters written by the apostle Paul, he identifies himself in the beginning of the letter and then the addresses the person, or church, that he is writing to. His opening salutations include a blessing for those who read the letter, such as in 1 Timothy 1:2, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
­But you probably noticed as we read the opening chapter of Hebrews, that the human author of the letter never identifies himself. Neither does he identify a specific group or a specific church to whom he is writing, though it is clear that he is writing to Jewish people who were having difficulty in transitioning from an Old Testament way of worship to the New Testament realities of worshiping in spirit and in truth and not just in form and ritual.
Although the human author of Hebrews is unknown, there is no shortage of theories as to who wrote this book, or letter. Some believe it was Clement of Rome. Others believe it was Barnabas. Luther thought that it was probably Apollos, and he undoubtedly has quite a few in agreement with him. Still others, including Guido de Bres, in Belgic Confession Article IV, attributes it to the apostle Paul.
Those who attribute Hebrews to Paul reasoned that he would keep his identity secret since he was the apostle to the Gentiles and this letter is written to Jews. Some who believe that Paul wrote it also refer to Peter's mention, in 2 Peter 3:16 how Paul writes things that are hard to understand, and they point out that Hebrews can be a hard book to understand, in at least some notable places!
But it really doesn't matter who the human author of Hebrews is. We know that the Holy Spirit inspired whomever he pleased to write this letter. The Holy Spirit recognized the great need for this portion of Scripture, not only for those who were living in the first century, but for believers like us in the twenty-first century. 
Among the many reasons the Holy Spirit inspired the letter to be written is to reinforce upon us the total superiority of Jesus Christ. The original readers of the letter, being Jewish Christians, were still steeped in the teaching of the Old Testament. They appear to have put great significance on the Old Testament sacrifices, feasts, and commands for worship.
Because of that, the author of Hebrews points out repeatedly and dramatically that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is far greater than all the Old Testament sacrifices put together. And he points out that having Jesus as a high priest in the order of Melchizedek is far greater than having all the Levitical priests of the Old Testament era. (Heb. 7:1-28)
In this first chapter, the author also points out the superiority of Jesus Christ over the angelic realm. He will show the superiority of Jesus Christ over Moses, and all the prophets. One of the main points that this book makes is that Jesus Christ truly is superior over all powers and principalities. He is superior over everything and all earthly glory is nothing in comparison to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another prominent theme of Hebrews is that we who believe in Jesus Christ must continue to persevere in our faith. Many believe that this letter was written just before the destruction of the Temple in the year 70. They point out it was written not only to remind the readers of that day that Jesus is the Messiah, but also to encourage Jewish Christians to persevere through a very difficult time in history. In the year 70 the Temple was destroyed and Old Testament ritual and sacrifices, as performed in the Temple, came to a violent and sudden conclusion.
Jesus described the agony of those days in Matthew 24 this way: “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.” (19-20)
While we may not see quite that conflict in our lives, we also face many discouragements. We live in a culture that has become increasingly hostile to our faith. Many of you can remember a time when it was socially acceptable – in fact, even social expedient – to be a member of a church. Today Christians are looked upon by many in our society as extremists who cling to antiquated views from an ancient book filled with myths and legends, a book that cannot be trusted.
And yet in whatever adversities we face in our lives, we too must persevere. That point is made repeatedly throughout the book:
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 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? (Heb. 2:1-3)
Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a Son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Heb. 3:5, 6)
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Heb. 3:14)
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Heb. 10:35, 36)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-4)
And the well-known 11th chapter of Hebrews describes the perseverance of God’s people as it devotes the whole chapter to God’s grace in the lives of those who persevered by faith in Christ.
A Motive for Perseverance
One of the main incentives for us to persevere in our faith is written about in these opening verses. In the first two verses we are reminded of a truth that is amazing, in and of itself: God has spoken to us!
Since God has spoken to us, it might seem logical that we would want to communicate with him. When trying to resolve a problem, or trying to get help, we want to go “right to the top.”  Those who are in sales, no matter what they are selling, know the importance of getting to “the decision-maker.”  From the human perspective it would make sense that we would want to speak to God. Unfortunately, however, because of our sin, rather than desiring to communicate with God, we are by nature hostile to him. Like Adam and Eve, we would rather hide from God than communicate with him.
But just as God sought Adam and Eve and called them to himself, so the Lord seeks out and calls his people in every era of time. This revelation from God – that he has spoken to us, through the prophets at many times and in various ways, and in these last days by his Son – should be a truly remarkable encouragement to us!
Athanasius tells of Anthony, a man of respect and high reputation who frequently received letters from powerful Roman emperors. Many people were impressed that he would receive letters from those “at the top” of the Roman Empire. But Anthony said, “Do not be astonished if an emperor writes to us, for he is a man. Rather wonder that God wrote the law for men and has spoken to us through his Son.” (Athanasius, Life of St. Antony)
What a wonderful encouragement we have in the pages of Scripture! In both the Old Testament and the New Testament God speaks to us and reveals himself to us!
The way God spoke to us in the Old Testament era is described in verse 1: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” Since God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times, we see that the nature of God's revelation is progressive. Throughout the Old Testament the news of the coming Messiah became increasingly and progressively clear.
For example, Adam knew that a Redeemer would come from the seed of the woman and crush the serpent. Abraham knew that the seed of the woman would come from his family, even though he was close to one hundred years old and his wife Sarah was barren. And as God revealed more and more of himself, Jacob realized the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. David realized that the Messiah would come from his family. God revealed through Isaiah that the seed of the woman would be born of a virgin. Through Micah it was revealed that he would be born at Bethlehem.  All through the Old Testament there was a progressive amount of knowledge given by God to his people – and to us today – revealing truth about the eternal Christ.
The various ways that God revealed Himself through the prophets included dreams, visions, or directly, as to Moses. God even spoke through a donkey to Balaam. And if all that we had was the Old Testament Scriptures, we would still be greatly encouraged, knowing that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent. And we would be encouraged in knowing that God graciously reveals himself to his people in many various ways through the prophets. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to write what they wrote, for they were looking ahead to Christ, just as Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:10-12.
Also, if we only had the Old Testament, we would still have enough knowledge for salvation. We see that clearly in the parable of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. You recall that the rich man had died and gone to hell where he was in great torment.  Meanwhile, Lazarus had died and was in glory at Abraham’s side.
In the parable, Jesus described how the rich man saw the glory of heaven and realized the horror of hell. He called out to Abraham, “‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
And, as Jesus said to the Pharisees, in John 5:21, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” Today, many professing Christians skim over the Old Testament, and many others don’t read it at all. Yet the Old Testament points us clearly to Christ as it is a powerful revelation from God who “In the past…spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” (1).
Yet verse 2 goes on to say, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” When God spoke through the prophets it had to be, by necessity, “at many times and in various ways” because the prophets, although inspired by the Holy Spirit, were yet sinful men. They could not convey the full message the way the sinless Son of God conveys the message of salvation. Consider Isaiah, who having seen that vision of the Lord in all his glory, called out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isa. 6:5)
The Old Testament prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but they were not the Word become flesh (John 1:14).  Likewise, the Old Testament prophets could serve as types or shadow of Christ, but only in a fragmentary fashion. For example, godly Abel's death, at the hand of jealous Cain, was a prefigurement of Jesus’ death by the ungodly. Enoch's translation into heaven was a shadow of the glory of the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Noah and the seven saved with him prefigured the salvation of a remnant from the flood of God's wrath by the ark of Christ.
But all these pictures from the Old Testament are fragments. The complete picture is in Christ: He is the suffering servant. He is the risen Savior. He is the ascended the Lord. He is the one who will return to judge the living and the dead.
Although the Old and New Testament differ in these ways, they are both the inspired word of God and they both fit together. There is an old expression that perhaps many of you have heard before: “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.”
These first two verses are telling us an astounding thing. God has spoken to us! Over the centuries of the Old Testament era, he spoke to us through the prophets at many times and in various ways. And now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.
Responding to God’s Revelation of Himself
What then should our response be? Since God has spoken to us how should we respond? Since God has revealed Himself to us, we must give careful attention to His Word as Hebrews 2:1-3 tells us. Part of that careful attention to the Word of God includes deep and sincere gratitude that God has revealed himself to us.
In Psalm 8 (which we read responsively), David rejoiced at God’s revelation of himself through the world he has created. He writes:
When I consider your heavens,
  the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place,
 what is man that you are mindful of him,
   the son of man that you care for him?
 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.

 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under his feet:
 all flocks and herds,
    and the beasts of the field,
 the birds of the air,
    and the fish of the sea,
 all that swim the paths of the seas.
 O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
But we have not only that “general revelation” of God in nature, but also the “special revelation” of God in both Testaments of his Word. Yet, isn’t it true that instead of having David's awe, we often take the revelation of God, both in nature and in his Word, so lightly? In the busy schedules of life, with so many things going on, the Bible can become a dust collector, even in the home of a Christian.
Seeing that God has spoken to us through the prophets at many times and in various ways, and in these last days by his Son, how grateful we should be, and how eagerly we should delve into his Word to us!
Our gratitude for God’s revelation of himself must also include praise that God sent his Son as the ultimate revelation of himself. Hebrews 1:3 tells us how the Son is the exact representation of the Father. That verse echoes the truth of John 1:14: “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.”
And God the Father, as well is God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, knew the outcome from the very beginning:  John 1:10-11: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  Yet Jesus Christ willingly came to suffer and die for sinners, and in the process, he revealed to us our heavenly Father. John 1:18 declares, “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” And in John 14:9 Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” What praise we should have for the revelation of the Father that is given through the gift of his Son!
A third response to God’s revelation of himself is obedience to God’s revealed will. In the second chapter of Hebrews, we read a serious admonition to heed the revelation that God has given to us. It is a serious reminder that we are to be, not only hearers of the word of God, but doers of his word.
There will always be some things in his Word that we cannot grasp. The Lord's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. No matter how well we know the Lord in this life, there will still be so many things that we do not know until the life to come, and even then we will spend all eternity discovering the richness of our Lord’s love, mercy, grace and power. As Deuteronomy 29:29 puts it: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
Scripture is clear, Old Testament and New, in describing how we are to live in obedience out of gratitude for what God has done. In this life our striving for obedience always falls so far short of what it should be. Yet the true believer will always strive for obedience, recalling the words of Jesus, “If you love me, you will obey command.” (John 14:15)
In a former church, the oldest member had received birthday greetings from then President Ronald Reagan. He had the highest regard for President Reagan and so he framed the greeting and put it in a prominent place on his living room wall. He showed it to everyone who came to visit.
I share his sentiments about President Ronald Reagan, but one far greater than any human king has spoken. He has sent more than just a birthday greeting, he has revealed himself through the prophets at many times and in various ways and through the giving of his Son, the Word become flesh. May you and I always respond to his Word – his revelation to us – with joyful praise, saving faith, and obedience springing from deep and sincere gratitude! Amen.
Sermon Outline:
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
                              “God’s Revelation and Our Response”
                                                  Hebrews 1:1-2a
I. The human authorship of Hebrews is unknown. Among the reasons the
    Holy Spirit inspired the letter to be written is to:
     1) Reinforce upon us the total superiority of Jesus Christ (2-13)
     2) Encourage us to persevere in our faith (3:6, 14; 10:35-36; 11:1-12:3)
II. The opening verses remind us:
      1) God revealed Himself in the Old Testament era in many ways (1)
      2) In the New Testament era (last days) He has revealed Himself
           through Jesus Christ (2a; John 1:14)
III. Since God has revealed Himself to us, we must give careful attention
      to His Word (2:1), responding with:
      1) Gratitude that God reveals Himself to us (1-2, Psalm 8:3-9)
      2) Praise that He sent His Son as the ultimate revelation of Himself
           (2-4; John 1:18; 14:9-11)
      3) Obedience to His revealed will (Hebrews 2:2; Deuteronomy 29:29)

* 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 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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