Friday, November 27, 2015

Why God is Great - Hebrews 1:1-2:4

Hebrews 1:1-2 "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to usin His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,through whom also He made the world."

Hebrews 2:1-4 "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,4 God also testifying with them, both bysigns and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."

When I think of great things in creation, one of the objects that come to mind are the great California Red Woods. It is my own personal dream to someday visit these giants of the plant world. I'm sure pictures don't do justice. The size, scope and age of these trees enable me to consider an uncontested example of greatness in the natural, created order. However, the distance between the greatness of all things in the created order versus the God of revealed scripture is infinite. Hebrews 1:1-2:4 will be the bridge we will cross in answering the question: why God is so great?

Understanding God's greatness in the book of Hebrews
In the opening verses above we see four distinctly great truths that provide Biblical reasons behind the greatness of God. Before I mention what those truths are, it must first be noted that the book of Hebrews is an appeal - most likely a sermon - written to persuade former Jews converted to Jesus to not go back to their former Jewish lifestyle. The Book of Hebrews is all about unfolding the greatness of Jesus Christ, and why it is He is "greater than" anything. If one were to peruse Hebrews 1:1-2:4 (the focus of today's post), the theme of "greater than" or "better than" would emerge (compare Hebrews 1:4; 2:3). The opening seciton of Hebrews underscores the greatness of our God and more particularly - the greatness of Jesus Christ in relationship to the Father with whom He shares the same, eternal, undivided nature (along with the Person of the Spirit).

With that very short introduction - we now turn to the main point of today's post - four reasons why God is great. Notice that God is great because....

1. God is great. Hebrews 1:1
2. God is greatly revealed by the scriptures. Hebrews 1:1
3. God is revealed by the greatness of Christ Jesus. Hebrews 1:2-14
4. God has engineered Great salvation
Hebrews 2:1-4

So lets look at these in short order. Firstly, God is great because.....

God is Great. Hebrews 1:1
This may sound like a stutter - however when it comes to God, greatness is not just an attribute of God - greatness is what God is. God's greatness is synonymous with His glory - that is - the display of His goodness and holiness to His creatures (Exodus 33:18-19). So much Biblical material could be cited about God's greatness as to easily fill dozens of posts. For brevity's sake we will only mention a few premium references. Psalm 99:1-3 extols God's greatness as the King reigning over His people and possessing a marvelous name. Or how about New Testament examples such as Ephesians 2:4 and 1 Peter 1:3 that speak of the greatness of God's love. We read in Jude 1:24-25 that God is so great that He dwells in unapproachable light which no man has seen nor can see. Psalm 147:5 sums up completely our first point here on why God is great - namely because God is great: "Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite." So now let us move on to the second reason why God is so great, not only because He is great, but....

God is greatly revealed by the scriptures. Hebrews 1:1
Hebrews 1:1 states - "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways". Per the time of the writer of Hebrews, the reference to "many portions and many ways" defined the Old Testament scriptures. God's revealed and inspired word was certified by attendant miracles, word-pictures and illustrations through various institutions, personages and events. By extension we could include the New Testament (even though at the writing of Hebrews not all of the New Testament Bible books had been written). For sake of simplicity, God's greatness is specified in the collection of inspired Old and New Testament documents we call "The Bible" - i.e "The Book". 

Like the first point, we could go on and on what makes the books of scripture unique. To think that the infinite great God, who dwells in eternity (Isaiah 57:15; Jude 1:24-25) has stooped down so-to-speak and chosen to communicate via words is truly remarkable. 

Passages such as Exodus 24:4; Jeremiah 1:1-5; Habakkuk 2:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:21 describe the character of scripture as "the voice of God". When the scriptures are unpacked and preached (much like would had been the Epistle to the Hebrews), the Spirit of God speaks through them. The scriptures as written words were composed by the Prophets and Apostles under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). As these books were originally given, they are God's words (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). The church is built upon the foundation of the scripture - which is described as the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). 

No other book in the world can attest nor demonstrate satisfactorily that it is Divinely revealed - save the Bible. Why? The scriptures alone possess two unique qualities: fulfilled prophecy and the unique focus on Jesus Christ. In books such as the Quran or Book of Mormon, their versions of Jesus is but a footnote or appears near the end. In both of those volumes we find no fulfilled prophecy. 

Whenever we consider the Bible - the fact of the matter is that hundreds of fulfilled prophecies exist and Jesus Christ dominates the prophetic anticipation of the Old Testament and the pages of the New Testament. God is the dominate figure of the Bible and is greatly revealed by it. God is great because He is great. Since we have already been talking about Jesus, lets talk briefly about the third reason God is great, namely....

God is revealed by the greatness of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:2-14
This particular point is the main point of this opening section of Hebrews. In one of the most robust statements concerning the Deity and humanity of Jesus - we discover that because Jesus is great, we see God's greatness. By definition - God exists in the Three Persons of the Father, Son and Spirit. Of the Three Persons - the Son operates as the Executive branch representative of the Trinity. Whenever we see the Son, we see the full-orbed revelation of the Father. Though both are to be distinguished for sure regarding their respective identities - nevertheless the Son makes visible and accessible the very essence of God by way of the veil of his flesh (see John 1:14; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 10:19).

So much could be said on how we see God's greatness through the Son. Perhaps an illustration is in order, along with a short outline of Hebrews 1:2-14 in unfolding this truth. Whenever I worked at a production plant years ago, I tried learning how to weld. I never got into it too much due to other committments, however, whenever I watched others weld, I would look through a welder's helmet. I could witness the master welder and his torch at work through that helmet. The welder and the torch operated together - with the light of the torch illuminating the welder, and the welder being able to be such by means of the torch. Moreover, because of the helmet, I could watch all of this occur. Now the illustration is of course meant to convey that without the Son assuming humanity, we could never behold the unapproachable light of His Deity. Moreover, you cannot have the Son without the Father, not the Father without the Son. 

The Son greatly reveals God because He is God. He is God in human flesh.
The writer of Hebrews brings this out in Hebrews 1:2-14,

1. Person of the Son 1:2-4
2. Pre-immenence of the Son 1:5-7
3. Pre-existence of the Son 1:8-12
4. Power of the Son 1:13-14

So much more could be said, but we must hasten. God is great because God is great (1:1); greatly revealed by scripture (1:1) and revealed by the greatness of the Son (1:2-14). Now let's consider one more reason why God is great...

God engineered great salvation. Hebrews 2:1-4
Hebrews 2:3 states - "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard." Here is a question? What makes salvation so great? Without a doubt there are great benefits (forgiveness Ephesians 1:7; peace Romans 5:1; reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:15-21; hope Ephesians 2:12-13; Romans 5:5). Furthermore, salvation is great due to the change wrought in our hearts (2 Cor 5:17) and the promise of an eternal home (John 14:1-3). Yet, unless our salvation brings us to God - it is not so great. The whole point of the opening of Hebrews is to show that God is the "point A" of salvation, with us being at "point B" and Jesus Christ being the only line that connects the two. Lest we "connect points 'A' and 'B' with Jesus, there is no great salvation. Salvation's greatness is due to the great God that engineered it. The Father planned it; the Son provided it and the Spirit applies it. God is involved from eternity past in the choosing of the believer to the sending of the Son to achieve it on the cross in history. The present reality of salvation is applied by the Spirit to all who believe as a result of responding to His calling in saving faith. 

1 Peter 3:18 states - "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to deathin the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." So many other texts speak of the greatness of God revealed through the greatness of salvation. Salvation is not only viewed as referring to the salvation and reconciliation of believers to God, but the restoration and transformation of the created order (Romans 8:21-25). This of course does not mean that there will be universal salvation, but what it does entail is the bringing about of a New Heavens and Earth at Christ's appearing (2 Peter 3:13) as well as all those who by grace through faith believed on Him.

I feel like today's post was a thumbnail sketch as to why God is so great. Nonetheless, I hope the reader comes away in awe of God. God is great because....

1. God is great. Hebrews 1:1
2. God is greatly revealed by the scriptures. Hebrews 1:1
3. God is revealed by the greatness of Christ Jesus. Hebrews 1:2-14
4. God has engineered Great salvation
Hebrews 2:1-4

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