Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews

from notes of readings by F. W. Grant.

Division 1 (Heb. 1 — 2:4).

The first division, then, speaks of Christ as the Apostle of our confession, in contrast with the prophets of old with their fragmentary and various communications; as Son of God in the world, and in such sort as to be Heir of all things, of which also He was the Creator; the Outshining of the divine glory, the exact Image of the divine reality. Sustaining all things by the utterance of His Dower, He has now by Himself effected the purification of sins, and taken His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

This is the first section, which, in four verses only, carries us at once into the heart of the book. In the second (to the end of the first chapter) the apostle confirms his statement as to Christ by seven quotations from the Old Testament, which show the Name which He thus inherits — a complete settlement of every question that a Jew could ask as to the pre-eminence of Messiah above angels. They might urge that in the giving of the law the angels had been ministrants (Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Acts 7:53), but to which of the angels did the glory of such a name belong?

The first quotation (from the second psalm) gives the foundation: "Thou art my Son: today have I begotten Thee," are the words of Jehovah to the King of Zion, who claims, upon the warrant of this, the earth as His inheritance. But the powers of earth are combined against Him, and they are warned of wrath to come upon those who do not take refuge in Him in the days of His long-suffering.

Thoroughly does this suit the Christ of Christians, even to the accounting for what was so perplexing to an Israelite (the delay of Israel's blessing) when Messiah was now come. But the point emphasized by the quotation is His being true Son of God in nature, the begotten of Jehovah, though in manhood, and so Heir of all. This is the birthright portion of the "First-born," as in the third quotation He is called, and this prepares us to hear of the "brethren," among whom He is the First-born. Plainly, no angel has a name like this.

The apostle strengthens this by a second quotation, which applied indeed first of all to Solomon, but only typically to him. Even as Builder of God's house, the true Son of David was not Solomon, but a Greater, whose house and kingdom would be both eternal; and we shall find Christ as the Builder further on in Hebrews (Heb. 3:3). But the point for the present is, "I will be to Him a Father and He shall be to Me a Son." These relations shall be on both sides all that they imply.

The third quotation is very full for the apostle's purpose. Here is the First-born brought again into the world. Whatever the force of the "again," it is plainly the appearing of Christ in glory that is referred to; and then all the angels of God are bidden to worship Him.

The fourth quotation shows that these are indeed but creatures of God's hand, made and fashioned by Him for His will. While the fifth, in contrast, shows us God and man united in Him: true God with an eternal throne; and yet true Man, in righteous recompense anointed by God with the oil of gladness above His fellows. Here Emmanuel is found in the full significance of His Name: in Person and by His work joining God and man together.

The sixth quotation (Ps. 102:25-27) , in the application of it by the apostle here, throws a flood of light upon, not that psalm only, but the whole fourth book of the Psalms in which it has a central place. Not only it is a Man, but a suffering, dying Man, who is owned of God to be the Maker of heaven and earth: these limited and changing, but not He, who gives them their limit, and who, though He seem to be at the limit of His days, is Master here as elsewhere. In fact, it is in the Cross that He manifests Himself most truly, gloriously, Master of all, and evil itself receives its limit from Him and owns Him Lord.

One quotation more completes this series: He rests after His work accomplished, awaiting the action of God to make His foes His footstool, but Himself sitting at the right hand of God.

For those who have learned the significance of numbers, and the part they have in Scripture as in nature, as showing the mind of God impressed on every part, it will be easy to see that the series here is significant in this way, every text in its place, and the whole a sevenfold witness to the Lord in accordance with the doctrine in this epistle.

We have now as the third section of this first division (Heb. 2:1-4), the proclamation of these glad tidings: first, as begun to be spoken by the Lord Himself; secondly, confirmed by those that heard Him; thirdly, the witness of God with these in signs and wonders and distributors of the Holy Spirit according to His will.