Superior to the Angels – Hebrews Part I

Reference: Hebrews 1 & 2

At a time when the followers of the way were mercilessly persecuted, with many of them either being killed or thrown into prisons all across Europe and West Asia, this letter serves as a reminder to them, of the salvation that they had received and to hold on to their faith. The author of the book of Hebrews starts off their letter by introducing the Son, who is the radiance and the exact representation of God’s glory. Though God spoke to the Israelites in the past through His prophets having sent His Son to purify and redeem us of our sins, he now speaks to us directly through Jesus.

Need for the Son

The prophecies during the Old Testament days were occasional and did not reveal God’s greater plan for humanity. God used men and women who themselves were sinners to communicate with His people. It would have been easier for the people to connect with God via mediums but this resulted in the middlemen mixing up their own ideas and concepts rather than delivering the pure word of God. His people were not getting the real message through the prophets so God sent His Son to be our brother and repair the broken relationship that we have with our Father.

Jesus is the appointed heir of all things as He has created everything in the universe with God. Jesus was part of the new covenant that God has made with mankind. While previously man was dependent on the laws and periodic sacrifices to come closer to God (or escape His wrath), by sending His Son, God bridged the gap that had been created because of our sins by offering us gratis salvation.

The Angel of the Lord

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

Hebrews 1:4 (NIV)

The sightings of Angels were even rarer than the word coming through the prophets but it was a miraculous event that would be engraved in the hearts and minds of the Israelites for generations to come. Jewish audiences would have read or heard about the angels sent to Abraham, Hagar, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob, Gideon and Manoah and highly regarded these messengers of God. So it makes sense for someone addressing the descendants of the same people to start from the biggest mental roadblock that the people had toward expecting Jesus as the ultimate messenger of God.

Jesus came as a common man and His countrymen did not see the same glory in Him. Even the angel Gabriel who brought the news of the Lord’s coming, exhibited more radiance to Joseph and Mary than their son Jesus would. The author starts quoting from David’s Psalms to draw comparisons between Jesus and the angels.

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”?

Hebrews 1:5 (NIV)

The author calls all the angels ministering spirits sent to serve the ones who will inherit salvation. They are merely instruments in God’s hand whose purpose is to help the lost spirits find their way back to Jesus. But the Son is the one whose throne will last forever as He has set him above all the other heavenly beings by giving Him a seat on His right. He was there, in the beginning, laying the foundations of this earth and He will be there at the end when it is destroyed to make way for the new Kingdom.

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation

Hebrews 2:2-3 (NIV)

The Old Testament laws were about purifying oneself but now we have someone who has purified us by spilling His own blood. God gave His people the laws through the angels to make them realize how much we need Him. But we took those laws at face value and disguised our disobedience for righteousness. Even today we fail to accept our salvation that was freely given and have traded it in for a religion that we follow to keep God at arm’s length. The fate of those who ignore their salvation will be much greater than the punishment prescribed in the laws.

God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2:4 (NIV)

The author acknowledges that God alone distributes the gifts of the Spirit according to His will. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifestations of the Spirit through us. There is no higher or lower manifestation but whatever is the need of the hour according to that God will enable His Spirit to provide us with His power.

Fully Human

While the angels have a direct connection with God, they are merely errand spirits and do not question God on any matter. On the other hand, God made mankind a little lower than angels, but He gave us the freedom to choose our own path either back to Him or away from Him. God gave mankind dominion over every other living creature but due to our disobedience, we relinquished our position in His kingdom. Instead, we had to settle for a life where we are subjected to every evil in this world.

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:9 (NIV)

Unlike the angels, Jesus chose to descend into this fallen world foregoing all His glory and became fully human. That was the only way that the Son of God could experience death by becoming a man and giving up His immortality. By His death, He has broken the power of the evil one as the ransom for our lives was paid on the cross. Now sin and death, which are the instruments of destruction by the evil one, both have no hold over us.

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

Hebrews 2:18 (NIV)

Some actors undergo rigorous training and make changes in their lifestyle to align it with the part they will be playing. This is commonly known as method acting, applied by actors who want to relate more to their characters so that they can do justice to their portrayal of them. Does God have to go through our problems to understand them?

God knows everything even before the creation and knew each one of us by name even before we were born. Knowing us and our weaknesses, He came to this earth to strengthen us and encourage us that He is not a God of words but action. He comes to us when we call on Him to not only encourage us but to show us a way out of our problems. Our fellow believers might give an ear to our problems, but it is only in God that we find the solution.

Discussion Questions

  • 1:1 – Why is God switching from conveying through the prophets to speaking through His Son?
  • 1:14 – Why does the Author want to establish that Jesus is superior to the angels?
  • 2:4 – How does God Testify about our salvation today?
  • 2:4 – The author acknowledges that God alone distributes the gifts of the Spirit according to His will. Why then do people encourage each other to ask God for ‘high’ powered gifts?
  • 2:18 – Does God have to go through our problems to understand them?


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