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The Image of the Invisible God

 

Hebrews 1:1-14

 

James R. Davis

 

We have beheld the eminence of kings and queens when television cameras have taken us into their palace courts. Of late many have paid to visit the royal castle in London. We have seen the eminence of royalty at royal weddings and royal funerals. Before anyone is allowed into the courts of royalty they are instructed on how to act before royalty. Most of us will never witness the personal presence of such royalty from such earthly monarchs. We are much too common to enjoy the presence of such royalty.

 

Yet, the eminence of this world fades into insignificance when compared to Jesus Christ. For Christ is pre-eminent. The word "pre-eminence" means having paramount rank, dignity, or importance. John proclaims Jesus "King of king and Lord of lords." (Revelation 17:14) The Bible consistently proclaims Jesus Christ as pre-eminent.

 

Colossians 1:15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. NIV

 

Hebrews 1:8

But to the Son He says:  "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.

 

Ephesians 1:18-23

18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. NIV

 

Jesus Christ is "the image of the invisible God.... For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him" (Colossians 1:15, 19).

 

Hebrews 1:1-4

1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. NIV

 

I. Jesus Incarnate.

 

A.  We all have heard of reincarnation, but Jesus Christ was the incarnation of deity.  Incarnation is the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form; the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ.  God actualized his presence among mankind in a human body.

 

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "This great Prince entered our abode. This little planet of ours was made to burn with a superior light among its sister stars while the Creator sojourned here in human form.  If for the first time you had heard of the visit of the Incarnate God to this world, you would be struck with a wonder, which would last throughout eternity.  This is the heart of the Gospel--the incomparable fact of the incarnation of the Son of God, His dwelling upon the earth, and His presentation of Himself as a sacrifice unto God for the sins of mankind."

 

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

John 1:14 And the Word became 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. 

 

B. Jesus Christ was God's Son.

 

1. Christ is the sovereign Lord over the universe it was through him the worlds were made.

  

Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

 

2. Jesus Christ is the exact representation of God's nature.

 

John 14:9-10

9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? NIV

 

C. Jesus Christ is superior.

 

1. Superior to the prophets.

 

Hebrews 1:1-2

1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

 

The Scriptures are full of expressions like "the word of the Lord came unto me,” and "God spoke all these words."  Someone has counted such phrases and says that they appear 680 times in the Pentateuch, 196 times in its poetical books, 481 times in the historical writings, and 370 times in its prophetic portions.  Never did the Lord communicate to us more clearly, however, than in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ; for He is the brightness of the Father's glory, "the express image of His person."  One writer has aptly commented, "Jesus is the best photograph God ever had taken."

 

2. Jesus Christ is superior to the angels.

 

Hebrews 1:13-14

But to which of the angels has He ever said:  "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool"?  Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

 

a. Angels provide the Lord with every conceivable service we can imagine. They carry His messages and perform His will among us -- warning, protecting, helping, and rescuing us. These supernatural creatures do not provide the type of service rendered from man to man.  Rather, their service is from heaven to earth, originating from the very throne.

 

There was a time when the thought of angels held a much larger place in the minds of men than they do today. If you visit a gallery where there is a good collection of religious art, you will find that the painters of former days loved to crowd their work with representations of angelic beings. Modern man, however, has almost banished the thought of them from his mind.  While it is true that some have believed too much concerning these messengers of God,   (Hebrews1:14),   our temptation is to consider them too little.

 

b. But as remarkable as these supernatural beings are, they are dwarfed when placed back-to-back with the Son.

 

Hebrews 1:4-5

4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

 

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

 

"You are my Son;

today I have become your Father"?

 

Or again,

 

"I will be his Father,

and he will be my Son"? NIV

 

c. The angels worship the Son.  As soon as the Son was presented to the angels, their spontaneous response was to worship him.

 

Hebrews 1:6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him." 

 

Revelations 5:11-14

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

 

d. The angels are not sitting; they are ministering. They are not ruling; they are serving.  They are not exalted; they are subordinate.

 

Galatians 1:8

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

 

3. Yet, the pre-eminent Christ comes to us as one of us. He came as a servant.

 

Matthew 23:8-12

8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.   11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. NIV

 

II. Jesus Christ is our High Priest.

 

A.  Back in the sixties Simon Garfunkel.  Wrote a song "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

 

1. Priest-- bridge builder

 

A train filled with passengers was speeding along its route that crossed a number of rivers.  Looking out the window, a child saw the treacherous waters in the distance and was afraid they could not reach the opposite bank.  But as they came closer, a bridge appeared and soon the "danger" was behind them.  Each time this occurred the youngster was very much disturbed until they had safely crossed to the other side. Finally, however, she leaned back and said with confidence, "Somebody has put up bridges for us all the way!"

 

2. Jesus Christ is humanities "bridge over troubled water." It is through Christ that we have access to God.

 

Many years ago an elderly gentleman sat outside the main gate to the White House in Washington, DC.  His threadbare clothes were covered with dust, and his eyes were filled with tears.  A young boy stopped and sympathetically asked why he was crying.  The man said that his son was in the Army and was condemned to be shot because he had deserted his post.  "The guards on the White House grounds will not let me see the President," said the distraught man.  "Mr. Lincoln is so kind and generous.  If he heard the full details of my son's desertion, I feel sure that he would pardon him."  "I can take you to the President," said the boy.  "You?" asked the man with surprise.  "Yes, he's my father.  He lets me come in and talk with him anytime I feel like it."  The little fellow took the man into the White House; and after Lincoln heard the story, he did indeed pardon the condemned soldier. In this incident we see a number of striking parallels to the believer's relationship to the Heavenly Father.  But the one that stands out is this:  Through Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, we can freely enter God's presence.

 

B. God has appeared in various ways in the past. But now God has identified with humanity through his Son.

 

A man was struggling with despair as he slumped into the chair in a tiny hotel room in New York City.  His world was falling apart, and he wondered to himself, "Does God really care?" He felt as if his faith was almost shipwrecked.  As he sat in bewilderment, wondering why God would allow him to encounter the problems he was facing, he thought of his Bible.  Pulling it from his suitcase, he opened it to John 11, and noticed two words:  "Jesus wept" (v. 35).  This two-word sentence awakened his heart.  He said to himself that if this is the Son of God, here at Lazarus’ tomb with these two brokenhearted sisters, and He is weeping, then God does care.

 

Hebrews 2:18

18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. NIV

 

Hebrews 4:15-16

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. NIV

 

1 Timothy 2:3-6

3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time. NIV

 

Hebrews 8:6

6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. NIV

 

III. JESUS CAME TO FULFILL THE PURPOSE OF GOD.

 

A. Jesus' birth was pre-eminent.

 

Matthew 1:21-23

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

 

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us." NIV

 

B. Jesus' life was pre-eminent.

 

Philippians 2:1-11

2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

 

6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death —

even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. NIV

 

1. Jesus' life was full of grace and truth.

 

John 1:14-18

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. NIV

 

2. Jesus' life was designed to salvage our lives from sin.

 

Matthew 1:21

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

 

3. Philip came asking, "Show us the Father."

 

John 14:8-14

8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

 

9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. NIV

 

B. Jesus' death was pre-eminent.  The cross of Jesus Christ was no accident.  Jesus went to the cross in accordance with his own plan. When God skinned the first animal in Eden to make clothes to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness, Jesus stood by realizing what he must do to have the nakedness of our sin clothed with his righteousness

 

Acts 2:22-23  "Men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know--  "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 

 

John 3:16-21

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.   19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." NIV

 

1. This explains why John the Baptist introduced Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.

 

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

John 10:15 "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

 

2. We are clothed with his righteousness.

 

Romans 3:23-26

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

 

Romans 5:21

That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

2 Corinthians 1:1

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

 

To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: NIV

 

Ephesians 1:1-2

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

 

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

 

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. NIV

 

C. Today all of this is what makes Jesus' voice pre-eminent

 

1. God proclaimed Jesus as his spokesman at Jesus' baptism.

 

Matt 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"

 

15 Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.

 

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." NIV

 

2. God proclaimed Jesus as his spokesman at the Mt. of Transfiguration.

 

Matthew 17:4-8

4 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

 

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

 

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid."  8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. NIV

 

3. Nothing declares the pre-eminence of Christ like his death upon the cross. It was at the cross that God took the vilest sin of man, that is the crucifixion of God the Son, and by his power turned humanities vilest sin into a means of salvation.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV

 

5. After Jesus' resurrection he proclaimed his pre-eminence.

 

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

Mark 16:15

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

 

CONCLUSION:

 

Christ wants to share his pre-eminence with us. He wants to lift us up to reign with him in heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:5-7) It is amazing that the God of heaven has chosen to make his pre-eminence known through the weakness of men.

 

Revelations 1:4-6

 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

 

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. NIV

 

1 Peter 2:9-10

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. NIV

 

But we can only share in his pre-eminence when we make Christ pre-eminent in our lives.

 

Hebrews 12:22-29

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens."   27 The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken — that is, created things — so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

 

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our "God is a consuming fire." NIV

 

  

Bible Study Questions

 

1.     What does it mean that Christ is the firstborn above all creation?

2.     In what way is Christ the image of the invisible God?

3.     Why is it important to understand Christ is superior to the prophets and the angels?

4.     How does Christ’s superiority contrast with his image as a servant?

5.     What is Christ’s function as our high priest? (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

6.     What was saying through his incarnation? (Philippians 2:1-11)

7.     How was Christ’s death pre-eminent? (Acts 2:22-23)

8.     What significance was there in John the Baptist calling Jesus the “Lamb of God”? (2 Corinthians 5:21)

9.     Why is it important to understand that Jesus is ruler of the kings of the earth? (Revelation 1:4-6) What does this make us? (Revelation 1:6)

10.   Why does the Hebrew refer to Christ’s kingdom we are receiving as a kingdom that cannot be shaken? (Hebrews 12:22-29)

 

 

 

 

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