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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Jesus Christ: The Radiance of God's Glory
Text:Hebrews 1:1-3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2021
Added:2022-04-26
Updated:2022-04-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Join All the Glorious Names
From Out of the Depths
Fairest Lord Jesus
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

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


06/20/2021
“Jesus Christ: The Radiance of God’s Glory”
Hebrews 1:1-2:4; text Hebrews 1:1-3
 
In the first century people were mystified by the identity of Jesus. When He performed His miracles, they were astounded and asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph and Mary?” The Pharisees mocked Him and charged Him with blaspheming for saying that He is one with the Father, the true and eternal God in human flesh. And later, before crucifying Him, Potiphar also questioned the true identity of Jesus Christ.
 
And ever since those first skeptical questions, people throughout the ages have sought to identify Jesus. Many see Him as the example of a good man. They point out that He is a good example to follow, especially in the way He cared for the poor and healed the sick, but they want no part of a bloody Jesus. Others see Him as nothing more than a crutch for weak people; they view Him as an “imaginary friend” to those who believe in Him. Still others, especially at Christmas, see Him as nothing more than an ornament, nothing more than a quaint decoration; to them He is a small but picturesque part of the “happy holiday” season.
 
But the passage before us gives us a description of the true identity of Jesus Christ. Far from being an ornamental decoration or imaginary friend for weak people, Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit and yet, although divine, He willingly took on human flesh. He came to this fallen world and suffered immensely as He laid down His life for the salvation of all who by His grace have saving faith in Him alone. We see that truth throughout Scripture, and we certainly see the true identity of Jesus Christ in these opening verses of Hebrews 1.
 
The Holy Spirit points out, first, 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. Time and again God came and revealed Himself through the prophets. They spoke 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 the 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 is 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” ­­(1-2a). And His Son is revealed in the pages of Scripture, Old Testament and New.
 
Heir of All Things; 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…” (Rom. 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. It describes Jesus this way: “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, its rightful owner.
 
Verse 3 also points out that Christ is the One who sustains and upholds 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, wars and rumors of wars, and 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 as every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God 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 radiance 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 radiance of its own but rather reflects the radiance of the sun, so we, by our lives and words are to reflect the radiance, the glory, of the Son to others.
 
But Jesus has glory in and of Himself. He is the radiance of the Father’s glory because He and the Father are one. The Son is “the radiance 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 is 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. 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 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 the cross He bore the curse of the sins of all who, by grace, have saving faith in Him alone.
 
Failing to see that truth is the greatest tragedy for all who see Jesus as nothing more than a good example, an imaginary friend for weak people, or see Him just as a Christmas decoration. 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.
 
The work of Christ in redeeming sinners from their sin is complete. Its completeness is portrayed in verse 3 which describes how after providing purification for sins, Christ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty. 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.” If by God’s grace you have saving faith in Christ alone, then you can be certain that your salvation is complete, secure, and eternal!
 
The imagery of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Majesty – His Father in heaven – 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 Creator and Sustainer of the universe, 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; it portrays Him as 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, we are to pay more careful 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 of Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer and all the materialism that stretches from before Thanksgiving through Christmas. The entire season can become one long black Friday.
 
But the same distractions of the world can side track us throughout the year. No matter what day, no matter what season of the year, the world puts before us all its attractions. The world entices us with its allurements in an effort to take our focus away from Christ. That is why Scripture warns us in 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
 
Instead, Scripture repeatedly calls us to “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 1:1, 2). Or, in the words of Hebrews 12:2, 3: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector 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."
 
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?”  The Holy Spirit is referring back to the giving of the law at Mount 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 and allurements of the world, with both its cares and pleasures, that we neglect the greatness of our salvation?
 
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.'”?
 
Everyone one who truly knows Christ by saving faith will worship Him. Even those who have doubted, when convicted by the Holy Spirit and brought to saving faith, rejoice to worship the Lord. With Thomas even the skeptic will joyfully exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” But then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28, 29)
 
By God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power 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, have saving faith in Him alone. 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
 
                            “Jesus Christ: The Radiance of God’s Glory”
                                 Hebrews 1:1-2:4; text: Hebrews 1:1-3 1-3
 
I. Throughout history, many have questioned the identity of Jesus (Matt. 12:23; 13:55
    27:11). 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. Seeing who Jesus is must cause us to:
     1) Pay attention to Christ and His Word (2:1)
 
 
     2) Not ignore the greatness of our salvation (2:2-3)
 
 
     3) Believe in Him, worshiping and praising Him (John 20:28, 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 2021, Rev. Ted Gray

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