The Surpassing Greatness of Christ: Reflections on Hebrews 1

Below is my article recently published in our church’s newsletter, with some minor edits.

Dear congregation,

Ultimate reality is that Christ is exalted above all things.  During times of change – especially during times of unplanned, unsettling, and maybe even scary change – it is so important to keep our eyes focused on what does not change: Christ is exalted over all things, and nothing, and no one, can usurp His rule and authority.  

Of course, this means that COVID-19 is under His rule and authority, and therefore it has come about because He decreed it to come about.  Far from being a surprise to Him, it was something He ordained.  Often what unsettles us is, our Lord does not always explain His reasons to us for what He decrees.  We like to be in the know, but He often keeps us out of the Trinitarian loop, and so we must live by faith.  

Even though we don’t always know why He does what He does, and even though changes like this one can throw us off emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, we need to be reminded He is exalted over all things.

The author of Hebrews spends much time making this point in chapter 1 of his Epistle.  Really, the whole Epistle is about how Christ is “greater.”  But chapter one focuses on His exaltation.  

For example, it was through Christ that everything was created.  Not only was it through Him that everything was created, but “He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (1:3).  Certainly He is exalted as Creator and in His providence.  But, there is another aspect of His exaltation having to do with Him as our Redeemer.  In order for Him to achieve this ultimate exaltation, He first had to experience ultimate humiliation, which He did when He made “purification for our sins” on the cross (1:3). (There is another sense in which the crucifixion was actually an aspect of Christ’s exaltation as well. See John 12:32-34 and Isaiah 52:13.)  After He made purification for our sins on the cross, the author tells us “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:4).  Then, from the end of verse four through the end of the Epistle, the author of Hebrews will compare our Lord to the angels and will highlight His surpassing greatness over them.  

Let me highlight some of the author’s other statements pertaining to Christ’s exaltation.  In verse 5, the author quotes Psalm 2:7: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’?”; Romans 1:4 suggests this declaration of Christ’s sonship occurred at His resurrection.  In verse 6, we are reminded that even now, during this pandemic, the angels on high our worshiping our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.  In verse 8, the author reminds us of the eternal reality of Christ’s rule over all things: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  Christ is God, and his rule cannot be broken.  In verse 12, quoting Psalm 102, we are reminded that Christ never changes.  Do our circumstances change?  Absolutely.  Can these changes make us uncomfortable?  They certainly can.  When I look at my own heart, I realize that the extent to which changing circumstances impact my faith is tied directly to how much faith I put in my circumstances (rather than in my Lord).  Our circumstances do, and will, change.  This is not the first time, and this certainly won’t be the last time.  But Christ, our Lord, never changes!  He continues to rule over all things.  

One final thought.  His absolute rule is for us!  This does not mean, as we well know by this point, that our lives are always going to be pleasant.  This does not mean that He is going to orchestrate everything the way we want them to be orchestrated or the way we think they should be orchestrated.  Christ will not allow Himself to become an idol we fashion to do our bidding.  It does mean, however, He is working all things for our salvation, as Heidelberg Catechism 1 says.  This means we will experience sanctification.  It means we will draw near to Him – has your prayer life increased during this time?  What about listening to sermons online and reading your Bible?  It means we will learn to be content and rejoice in whatever our circumstances.  “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).  Being content in any circumstance by Christ’s strength is what Paul meant by this verse.

As we continue to face various uncertainties during this pandemic, there is one thing that is absolutely certain: Christ is risen and is ruling over all things for our sake.  No one and nothing can overthrow or thwart His rule.  Let us continually set our minds on things above where Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand (Colossians 3:1-2).

In our Exalted King,
Pastor Soud

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