Bible Notes Online - Hebrews 1 - ESV
Commentary

The letter was written to Hebrews (Jews), a mixture of Christians and unbelievers. It reflects the first century transition from Judaism to Christianity; see Acts 15.1-5; 21.20-21, and Gal 2. There were such issues as temple worship, sacrifices, the priesthood, and circumcision, to be addressed. The various issues are all answered by drawing attention to Jesus Christ. The principles found here may equally be applied to other major religious beliefs.

v1: God speaks; His sovereignty is seen in revelation; He speaks to whom He chooses, in whatever way He chooses, in the time He chooses.

God speaks to men through men, especially to Israel, "our forefathers", through the prophets. The readers would be familiar with the Old Testament.

God always speaks in a way consistent with His character. As we understand His character better, we learn to recognise His voice more clearly.

v2: God has now spoken by His Son, Jesus Christ. The past is not criticised, for the people of Israel had enormous privileges (Rom 9.4), but the new is better, since through the Son is the full and perfect revelation of the Father.

The writer declares the supremacy and deity of Jesus Christ; like Mark and John, who make such declarations at the start of their gospels. This is a fact to be believed; only after can we seek to understand more fully and explain to others.

'God has spoken in Son'; Through Christ, God has been revealed; Christ is the message and the messenger.

He is the heir of all things; all things were made for Him; Eph 1.10; 2.22; Col 1.16.

He is appointed; since He is worthy, He is made both Lord and Christ.

Through whom He has made the worlds; it was through God the Word that creation came into being, Ps 33.6; John 1.3.

These verses also indicate the perfect unity and agreement between Father and Son; they are not just two independent persons doing the same things, but the two are one, doings things as one.

v3: Jesus Christ is the brightness (radiance) of God's glory; a luminous, shining light; not reflecting God's glory, but transmitting and declaring it; 2 Pet 1.16 refers to "His majesty"; John Baptist was the burning and shining light (John 5.35), but Christ has a greater light.

Jesus Christ is the exact representation (the express image), as on a coin. If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus Christ. No man, however godly, can be any more than an imperfect representation.

"Sustaining all things by His powerful word." Creation came into being through the Word of God. The same creation continues by the same Word.

By Himself, He provided salvation; He had no need of man's help to accomplish salvation. He is utterly self-sufficient and omnipotent. We are therefore foolish to do anything except trust in Him.

He has provided purification for our sins; this is a thorough cleansing; His death was more than a martyr's death, but a death of real power and effect.

Jesus Christ sat down, His work of salvation complete. The O.T. priest stands ministering, since his work could never be complete, see 10.11.

Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father, the place of honour.

v4: We have seen that Jesus Christ revealed the character and mind of God; that He is Lord in creation, in revelation, and in salvation. None of these things are true of angels. Thus, Christ is declared to be better than angels; He has inherited a more excellent Name than they.

Nevertheless, angels are real, and have a God-given role, which the writer explains in v5-14.

v5: Words descriptive of Jesus Christ are inappropriate for angels. To clarify the issue, and to avoid confusion, the writer carefully explains;

Christ is begotten, not created; in Acts 13.33, the same quotation (Ps 2.7) is used with reference to Christ's resurrection rather than His incarnation. No angel is the Son of the Father.

(The relationship was always Father and Son, so the NIV may seem misleading here.)

v6: The angels of God must worship Jesus Christ; they are distinct from Him, and subservient to Him. Ultimately all of creation will submit to Jesus Christ, as to the Father, Is 45.23; Phil 2.10.

v7: The angels were made spirits (or winds), a flame of fire; instruments in God's hands; very different from the exalted words used of Christ. They are created spirits, and thus distinct from Jehovah. Job 38.6-7 perhaps describes the time of their creation.

v8: The Son is the eternal king, with a sceptre of authority. The writer is bold here, applying the Psalmist's words directly to Jesus Christ, addressing Him as "O God."

v9: Christ's perfect character; our definition of righteousness is in Him. God has therefore exalted and anointed Him. Although the man of sorrows, Christ is full of joy.

v10-12: Words addressed to Christ, "O Lord"; all things were made by Him and through Him. The foundations of the earth, and the heavens themselves, are the work of His hands. Creation will perish, but He will endure. In 12.26-29 we see the distinction between the created order, which will be shaken, and eternal realities, which will endure.

v13: The authority of the Son of God; all people will bow the knee before Jesus Christ; Phil 2.10; God will insist that this is so.

v14: The important role of angels, ministering spirits, for the benefit of those chosen by God to inherit salvation. The Hebrew readers would generally have accepted this concept; angels appeared in a number of O.T. incidents. Their role had not changed. Thus, the blessing of angels, as received by Abraham, Jacob, etc., is also our blessing.

In 2.2, the word spoken through angels proved faithful, see Acts 7.53. Thus, angels are not demeaned in any way, but they are given their proper place.