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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Hebrews 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-14

Division I. Hebrews 1:1-14; Heb_2:1-4 The Glories of the Son of God

Section A. Hebrews 1:1-4

God Speaking in the Son

“God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

As we begin our study of this sublime Epistle, we are brought face to face with God Himself, ever yearning for the love and confidence of the race created in His own image and after His own likeness, but which in the person of its first head was scarcely placed in a position of authority before departing from the Creator, obedience to whom ever means blessing, and disobedience, misery and remorse. Sin had no sooner come into the world than God came in grace seeking the sinner, and so from the first question, “Adam, where art thou?” on to the incarnation, God has been speaking to man. In many places and in many ways in former times, He made known His mind through divinely inspired men, prophets who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” But while in this way God was revealed in measure, that revelation could be, in the nature of things, only fragmentary. Now in the fulness of times, at the end of the probationary ages, in these days of blessing, He has spoken to us not through a mere human agency, but in the Person of the Son. In other words, it is not now God sending a messenger to man to make known His will and to call him back to Himself, but it is God coming out to man in the Son. This is the same as that of which the apostle John speaks in the first chapter of his Gospel, verses 14 and 18:(John 1:14; John 1:18) “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” God is no longer hidden nor at a distance. He has come down into His own world seeking those who have wandered from Him, manifesting Himself in all His infinite holiness and righteousness and yet with all His matchless love and compassion. In Christ, God is fully told out. None need say now, “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!” or, “Show us the Father and it sufficeth us,” for the Eternal Son who became flesh to make God known has said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. I and My Father are one.”

It is of all importance that we grasp this tremendous fact. The Son is one with the Father and with the Spirit. All are co-equal and co-eternal. When the Son became incarnate, He was the same Person that He had been from eternity, but by His incarnation He took humanity into union with Deity and so became Son in a new sense as man born of a virgin. Having no human father, God alone was the Father of His humanity as truly as of His Deity. I admit the awkwardness of the last expression, but this is a mystery almost unlawful for man to utter, and of necessity our poor language is a most imperfect vehicle to convey to the mind such sublime truths. Yet there can be no question as to the truths themselves, for one who accepts the testimony of the Word of God.

It is the Son whom God has established Heir of all things. This, of course, refers to Him as having become Man, for it is as Man He will rule a redeemed universe in righteousness. But the apostle immediately adds, “By whom also He made the worlds,” and this brings us face to face with God Himself, God the Creator of all things. It is the same Person who made the universe who will reign over it. It is interesting to note that the original for “worlds” is here literally “ages” (tous aionas), an expression which actually means the time worlds, but as is well known, was frequently used for the universe. Perhaps it might be correct to say, “By Him also the ages were fitted together;” that is, Christ the Son is the center of all God’s thoughts, and it is He who planned the ages and who created the world upon, or in which, the dispensations would be manifested.

He is the forth-shining of the divine splendor, or the effulgence of His glory. J. N. Darby, in commenting on this word “effulgence,” speaks of it as that which fully presents the glory which is in something else, as light makes us know what the sun is; the tabernacle, what the pattern in the mount was. So as we become acquainted with the Lord Jesus as set before us in the Gospels, we learn what God is in all His fulness. For Christ is the exact expression of His character, or as we have it in our version, “the express image of His Person.” It is the divine character perfectly manifested in the Man Christ Jesus. This is the very opposite to the modern thought of an apotheosis. Jesus was not a Godlike Man, striving after holiness and piety. He was God Himself come down to earth in flesh, reconciling the world unto Himself. Nothing like this is known in any human religious system. It is unique because it is divine, and divine because it is unique. Man could easily think of becoming God. This was the devil’s lie at the beginning, “Ye shall be as Elohim,” and is the foundation principle of all false religious systems. In Christianity alone do we learn that God became Man, and this for our redemption.

He who was crucified through weakness was the One who, at that very moment, was “upholding all things by the word of His power.” Never for one instant did He take His hand off the control bar of the universe. What a marvelous suggestion of power there is in these words, and how our thoughts of Him are magnified as we realize who it was who stooped in grace to make purification of sins!

It is evident that the ordinary version does not quite give the thought here. We read, “Having by Himself purged our sins;” but there are many whose sins are not purged, and this the Epistle to the Hebrews clearly takes into account. The words “by Himself” are not found in the original at all, but they are implied because the verb is in the middle voice, which reflects the action back upon the subject. On the other hand, the word “our” must be omitted altogether. It is the act of making an available means for purgation that is here stressed, “Having accomplished the purification of sins (by Himself).” That is, upon the cross He finished the work whereby the sin question is settled to the divine satisfaction, so that that question, as such, no longer comes up between God and men, but all who trust in Him are, upon the basis of that work, actually purified or purged from all their sins before God.

This work having been completed, He took His seat as Man on the right hand of the eternal Majesty on high. None but a divine Person could sit down there upon the throne of the universe. But there He sits as entitled to share that throne with His Father. And He is there, be it observed, as Man in a glorified body, but a real body nevertheless, the same body that was nailed to the cross and that lay in Joseph’s tomb, but now transfigured as when His disciples beheld Him upon the Holy Mount.

“Now seated on Jehovah’s throne,

The Lamb once slain, in glory bright,

’Tis thence Thou watchest o’er Thine own,

Guarding them through the deadly fight.”

So by taking this place, He has made it manifest that His is a name far more excellent than that of any created angel. They are but ministers and servants. He is Son. Here for the first time we get the word “better,” a term that occurs frequently in this Epistle as already indicated. The Son is so much better than the angels because by inheritance He has a name superior to their names. It is not what He wins by His devotedness, it is that which is His by right because of His relationship to the Father from eternity.

Section B. Hebrews 1:5-14

The Son Greater than the Angels

“For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son? And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him. And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son, He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”

The apostle here proceeds to marshall an array of Old Testament scriptures to show the superiority of the Son to the angels, and to prove particularly to those who, like his Jewish readers, reverence the Old Testament, that He is not teaching anything contrary to what was therein revealed.

Let us look at these scriptures in order. The first one gives us His incarnation. The quotation is from Psalms 2:7 : “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” The expression “this day” forbids the thought that it is eternal generation that is here referred to, true as that is. It is as begotten of the virgin that the Father addresses Him as Son. I know it is sometimes said that the reference is to His resurrection, based upon the authorized reading of Acts 13:33, where we read, “He hath raised up Jesus again, as it is also written in the second psalm,” etc. But the word “again” is an interpolation as any carefully edited text would show. It is simply, He has raised up Jesus, in accordance with the words, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” thus agreeing perfectly with the angel’s message to the blessed virgin Mary: “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

In the second quotation we have His walk of faith here upon the earth: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son.” This is evidently the promise made to David as recorded in 2 Samuel 7:14 and celebrated in Psalm 89. At first sight, it might seem to have reference to Solomon, but it is evident that a greater than Solomon was in view, He who even from His childhood could say, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?”

The third quotation is taken from Psalms 97:7, where it is rendered in our English Version, “Worship Him, all ye gods.” This psalm celebrates Messiah’s triumph over all the enemies of Jehovah and His appearing in glory to reign over all the nations. The reference is clearly, I take it, to His second coming. It is not exactly, “When He brought His first begotten into the world,” but “when He brings” Him again into the inhabited earth. In that day all will recognize Him as the supreme object of worship. In contrast to this, it is said of the angels in Psalms 104:4, “Who maketh His angels spirits; His ministers a flame of fire.” They are created beings, and never occupy any other place than that of servants.

The next two verses are taken from Psalm 45, where in verse 6 (Psalms 45:6) we have before us the Eternal Son, and in verse 7 (Psalms 45:7) the Son become Man. In the first instance He is directly addressed by the Father as God from eternity: “Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom.” He is called directly “The God” (Ho Theos). It would be impossible to indicate His full deity in any more conclusive way than this. But the next verse shows that He has walked through this world as Man, displaying the divine character, loving righteousness and hating iniquity. And as Man, God is His God and has now anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His companions.

The next quotation requires most careful attention in order not to miss the force of it. It is taken from Psalms 102:25-27. In verses 23 and 24 of that psalm (Psalms 102:23-24), the Son is heard addressing the Father in view of the cross. He cries, “He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days: Thy years are throughout all generations.” The verses that follow might seem at first glance to be a continuation of His plea, but with the light that this divinely inspired commentary throws upon them, we see that they are the answer of the Father to the Son. God replies to the Sufferer of Calvary: “Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.”

Thus the apostle has established the full deity of our Blessed Lord in contrast with whom, angels, however glorious, are but creatures, ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, and who themselves worship the Son of God.

 

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/hebrews-1.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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