1:1-2a

Hebrews 1:1-3

This letter is not a diet for “spiritual babes” who want to be spoon-fed and coddled (Heb. 5:11–14). In this letter you will find “strong meat” that demands some “spiritual molars” for chewing and enjoying. The emphasis in Hebrews is not on what Christ did on the earth (the “milk”), but what He is now doing in heaven (the “meat” of the Word). He is the great High Priest who enables us by giving us grace (Heb. 4:14–16). He is also the Great Shepherd of the sheep who equips us to do His will (Heb. 13:20–21). He is working in us to accomplish His purposes.[1]

 

One prominent NT scholar has called Hebrews "the riddle of the N.T." [E.F. Scott, quoted in Barclay, p.xvii]  Normally when begin study of book in Bible, especially a NT letter, we explore such issues as who wrote the letter, to whom was it written, when was it written, and why was it written.  We will just briefly touch on each of those issues:

·         Who wrote Hebrews? – The text does not mention the name of the author, so there has been much speculation about this.  Among the suggestions are Paul, Peter, Apollos, Luke, Philip, Mark, and Priscilla &Aquila.  Various arguments have been advanced for different people but none are convincing enough to settle the matter. Origen, one of the early church fathers who lived in the late 2nd century and early 3rd century, concluded that no-one knows and I tend to agree with him!  It is obvious that the writer had a very strong Jewish background.

 

WarrenWiersbe argues for Pauline authorship:  The writer is obviously a Jew, since he identifies himself with his Jewish readers (1:2; 2:1, 3; 3:1; 4:1; etc.). He also identifies himself with Timothy (13:23), which certainly Paul could do. The closing benediction of grace is typical of Paul (see 2 Thes. 3:17–18). The writer has been in prison (10:34; 13:19). The matter seems to be settled by 2 Peter 3:15–18, where Peter clearly states that Paul had written to the same people Peter wrote to, the Jews of the dispersion (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1). Furthermore, Peter calls Paul’s letter Scripture. Now, if Paul wrote an inspired letter to the Jews scattered abroad, and that letter has been lost, then a part of God’s inspired, eternal Word has been destroyed; and this is impossible. The only writing in Scripture that is addressed to Jews and is not credited to another author is Hebrews. Conclusion: Paul must have written Hebrews. Those who argue that the style and vocabulary are not typical of Paul must bear in mind that writers are free to adapt their style and vocabulary to their readers and topics.[2]

·         To whom was Hebrews written? – John MacArthur, in his excellent commentary on Hebrews, identifies three distinct groups who are addressed in this letter, all of whom come from a Jewish background:  Hebrew Christians, Hebrew non-Christians who believe the essential facts of the gospel but who have yet to trust Jesus for their salvation, and Hebrew non-Christians who did not believe the essential facts of the gospel. 

·         When was it written? – Clement of Rome, who lived in the late 1st century, quoted from Hebrews, so the letter was certainly written before the end of the 1st century.  Hebrews 10:1-2 indicates that when the letter was written sacrifices were still being offered in the temple, it would seem that the letter was written before the temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D.  It is also obvious from the letter that it was written to people who had and who continued to experience persecution (cf. 10:32-39; 12:4).  This has led many to conclude that the letter was written after 64 A.D. when the Neronian persecution of Christians began and before 70 A.D. when Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed.

·         Why was Hebrews written? - The main message of Hebrews is summarized in 6:1: “let us go on unto perfection [spiritual maturity].” The people to whom Hebrews was addressed were not growing spiritually (5:11–14) and were in a state of second childhood. God had spoken in the Word, but they were not faithful to obey Him. They were neglecting God’s instruction and drifting away from His blessing. The writer seeks to encourage them to move ahead in their spiritual lives by showing them that in Christ they have the “better” blessings. He is the “author and perfecter [finisher] of our faith” (12:2). The book presents the Christian faith and life as superior to Judaism or any other religious system. Christ is the superior Person (1–6); His Priesthood is superior to that of Aaron (7–10); and the principle of faith is superior to that of law (11–13).[3]

If familiar with the letters of the New Testament, you will immediately recognize that Hebrews begins in rather unusual way.  There is no small talk, no personal greetings, no salutation, no words of explanation.  Instead, Hebrews begins with a great theological discussion about the nature of God.  It is easy to conclude from opening paragraph that the writer of this letter had strong Jewish background.

 

Jews would never argue about or try to justify or try to defend the existence of God.  The basic assumption of Hebrew theology is that God is.  That can be seen in very first verse of OT which says, "In the beginning God..."  And so at the very beginning of Hebrews, rather than attempting to prove the existence of God, the writer begins by stating a great truth about God.  Look at Hebrews 1:1-2a (text)...

 

In the B.C. comic series by Johnny Hart there is the following comic strip:

·         Frame 1 - A man is on knees praying on what is obviously bright, sunshiny day, "God, the Bible says you created light."

·         Frame 2 – The man, still in the bright light of day, continues the prayer by asking God, "How do we know the Bible is true?" 

·         Frame 3 – The man is in total darkness and all that is visible is the whites of his eyes.  And in that total darkness the man says to God, "Okay.  That's good enough for me."

 

Don't you wish God always spoke to us that clearly?  Well, the book of Hebrews begins with the assertion that God has indeed spoken and spoken clearly to us.  God has made Himself known.  Theologians call this activity of God revelation.  Christianity is a religion of revelation.  God has taken the initiative to make Himself known to us.  He has spoken.

 

If look carefully at Hebrews 1:1-2 will see the writer of Hebrews refers to two major time frames in which God has spoken.  In verse 1 he says that God spoke "long ago" and in verse 2 he says that God has spoken "in these last days."  Hebrews was written to Jewish people.  Jews, especially in the first century world, divided all of history into two periods -- the days before the coming of the Messiah and the days after the coming of the Messiah.  Following that division, "long ago" refers to all the days before Christ and "last days" refers to all the days after Christ.

 

With that in mind, want you see what these verses say about how God has spoken...

 

I.  Long ago God spoke through the prophets

1.   Hebrews 1:1 refers to God's self-revelatory activity in the OT.  The writer tells us that in times past God spoke through "the prophets in many portions and in many ways."  That phrase is rich in meaning.  In the most general sense, a prophet was anyone who spoke for God or through whom God spoke. 

   The Jews believed that prophets wrote Scripture. This is why Moses was considered a prophet (cf. Deut. 18:15) and why the Jews labeled the historical books of Joshua through Kings as the “former prophets.” Therefore, this phrase does not refer to the OT prophets only, but to all the OT writers.

   The phrase “in (en) the prophets” (v. 1) is parallel to “in (en) His son” (v. 2). There is an obvious contrast between the two means of revelation. One was a servant and one is a family member. The first was only partial but the second is full and complete (cf. Col. 1:15–17).[4]

2.   The verse is saying that God revealed Himself to and through the writers of the Old Testament in a variety of ways.  Sometimes He used visions, other times parables, other times symbols.  And the prophets used a variety of literary devices to communicate these revelations of God.  Sometimes they used poetry, other times narrative, other sometimes law, and sometimes prophecy.  But no matter what the form of the revelation or what the form of the literary device used to communicate it, it was always God speaking.

3.   What does God's self-revelation through the prophets of the OT say to us about God today?  Well, among other things, it is a reminder of God's great patience toward us.  The OT spans a period of 1500 years written by some 40+ writers.  But when you read it through eyes of faith, you can see it is all pointing toward the Christ event.  But God allowed the revelation to unfold a piece at a time so the people could understand it.

4.   Just as children are first taught letters, then words, then phrases, then sentences, and then paragraphs, so God allowed His revelation to unfold a piece at a time.  Genesis reveals some truth, Exodus more, and so forth and so on until the time was right for God to reveal Himself fully and completely in Jesus Christ.

4.   And even though the revelation of God in the OT was necessarily incomplete and fragmentary because that is all the people could comprehend, God never lost patience or gave up on His creation.

 

II.  In the last days God has spoken through His Son

1.   The tense of the verb "has spoken" in v.2 describes an action in its entirety.  In the coming of Christ --His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection -- God has spoken His full and final word to the world.  The idea is, “God having spoken in the prophets, has now spoke fully and completely in His Son.”

2.   This is what makes Christianity different from all other world religions.  All other religions represent humanity's attempt to discover God.  Only Christianity speaks of God bursting into our world to reveal Himself.  And that's why it is foolish for someone to say, "It doesn't matter what you belief or what religion you follow, as long as your sincere."  It most certainly does matter.  It matter's because we are incapable of identifying, understanding, and knowing God on our own strength.  For us to know Him, God had to come to us and make Himself known.  And that's exactly what He did in Jesus.

 

1.      In 1963 Karl Barth, the famous theologian, was asked to give the Princeton Lectures at Princeton University.  A student asked him, "Sir, don't you think God has revealed himself in other religions and not only Christianity."  According the reports of the meeting, Barth shocked those who were present by saying, "No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity.  He has revealed himself in his Son."  I think the writer of Hebrews would say “amen” to that!

 

1.   The implications of that for us are staggering.  Because God has revealed Himself to us, the way to knowing God is not discovery but acceptance.  Some people think the way to God involves some long, difficult, mysterious journey.  They speak of "finding or discovering or searching" for God.  But God does not need to be found for He has never been lost.  He is not playing some game of celestial hide and seek with us.  The way to God involves accepting what He has already shown us about Himself in Jesus Christ.

2.   That is why Jesus said:

--to some Pharisees who were questioning His authority to teach, "You know neither Me, nor My Father; if you know Me, you would know My Father also." (John 8:19)

--to Thomas, one of His disciples, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." (John 14:7)

--to Philip, another disciple, who requested that Jesus show him God, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?"

3.   What's the point?...the point is that in Jesus Christ God has revealed Himself fully and completely to us...and if you want to know God, the way to know Him is through Jesus...

 

CONCLUSION

 

1.   What an amazing statement!..."God, after He spoke long ago to the father's in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son..."

2.   That is the foundation of everything else we believe as Christians...

 

 

 



[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Heb 1:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (674–675). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (674). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Utley, R. J. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (8). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

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