Superior To Angels

Superior To Angels

“In Defense of Being Average”, Mark Manson encourages his readers to accept that they won’t be extraordinary at most things they do, if anything. He writes:

“There are over 7.2 billion people on this planet, and really only about 1,000 of those have major worldwide influence at any given time. That leaves the other 7,199,999,000 +/- of us to come to terms with the limited scope of our lives and the fact that the vast majority of what we do will likely not matter long after we’ve died. This is not a fun thing to think about or accept.”

His point is that once you accept average, you might actually be emotionally free to appreciate the simple and mundane aspects of life, which take up most of our time. As far as secular advice goes, it’s actually not that bad.

But what happens when you are below average? What happens when you fail at the one thing you have devoted your life to? What do you do then? Hold onto that thought for a moment.

Apparently, there were some false teachers promoting the worship of angels, or attempting to place Christ on par with angels. If they held to the teaching of the Qumran/Dead Sea Sect, they believed the Archangel Michael would hold a higher office than the Messiah in glory.

Paul warned the Colossians of false teachers who were “insisting on asceticism and worship of angels” (Col 2:18). Even John was tempted to worship the angel who showed him the revelation of God’s final judgment and glory. Twice the angel rebuked John for bowing down before him (Rev 19:1022:8-9). There is a universal temptation to worship inferior glories.

Do you underestimate the value of Jesus and elevate the importance of a vague spirituality? Are you seeking to know Christ and Him crucified, or is there some deeper, more mysterious spiritual experience that you are after? For too many believers, Christianity is less about Jesus and more about increasing their own intellectual knowledge, developing their own eschatological vision, or having their own spiritual experience.

When we know that Jesus is superior to everything we can be content when He is all we have. When you hit rock bottom, Jesus is enough!

Read Hebrews 1:1-6.

A Better  Name  (4)

Highlighting the uniqueness of the Son requires some clarification. Since Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:3), isn’t his status much like the angels who are said to surround the throne of God? So the author highlights the superiority of the Son of God. 

Although the Son has always been superior to angels—participating in their creation (v.2)—in the course of redemptive history, Jesus became man and was exalted in his glorified humanity. As the Son of God, his redeeming work brought many sons to glory (Heb 2:10).

The superiority of the name of the Son is a common theme for Paul as well. He told the church in Ephesus that Christ was exalted—raised and enthroned in heavenly places—“far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:20). Paul told the church in Philippi that, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Phil 2:9-11).

Names Mean Something

Sometimes we can place too much emphasis on the importance of a name. The billionaire Elon Musk and musician Grimes named their son X Æ A-Xii (pronounced ‘Ex Ash A Twelve’) and their daughter Exa Dark Sideræl (known as ‘Y’). Their nicknames are ‘X’ and ‘Y’. There is no doubt that our names do have an impact upon people’s perceptions. A bad name might get skipped in a stack of resumes while a likable name receives preferential treatment.

When Carrie and I were considering baby names for the first time, if it were up to me, Madelynn Paige might have been Heather Rain. Who knows what she could have been if we had gone with that name instead?

Many of the people we meet in Scripture have names that reflect their character or calling in life. For example, Isaiah means “God saves”—a great name for a prophet. Hosea’s children represented the opposite. Jezreel, Lo-ruhama (‘No Mercy’), and Lo-Ammi (‘Not My People’) anticipated God’s judgment.

The name of the Son of God reflects his redemptive accomplishment. To believe in the name of the Son of God is to place our faith in his Person and work (Jn 3:181 Jn 3:23). We are “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 6:11). It is this redeeming aspect of the Son’s name that the author of Hebrews wants us to know.

A More Excellent Name

If the Son has inherited a name that is more excellent than angels, then to worship angels or to elevate any of them above the Son, is to miss the point of redemptive history!

Since God has established the name of the Son above all other names, then he alone is worthy of our praise. Jesus is better than every alternative to which we might give our lives.

This also means that rather than living to make a name for ourselves, we are actually fulfilled by making much of God! When we have learned to do that, we can endure the loss of everything else. 

We are enabled to persevere not because we have developed such an unshakeable faith—but because the object of our faith has inherited a more excellent name! And it is by the power of God that we are kept united to the name of God forever (Jn 17:11)!

› Not only does the Son have a better name, but he also has…

A Better  Claim  (5)

This verse combines two OT passages (Ps 2:72 Sam 7:14) to form a chiasm (A B B’ A’). Notice how the quotes are bracketed by the word “son” and the relationship between the father and son is emphasized in the second and third lines.

While angels were called “sons of God” (Ps 29:189:6), none of them were called “my Son”. His relationship with the Father was superior to any of the heavenly creatures. This is precisely what got him into trouble with the religious authorities during his ministry. He made himself equal with God by taking to himself such an intimate familial relationship with God.

Psalm 2:7 refers to the Lord’s Anointed (v.2) which is both an immediate reference to the King of Israel (v.6) as well as a future reference to the coming Messiah (v.7-9). The Lord will establish his Anointed on the throne (v.6) and the nations will become his heritage (v.8). Those who do not fear him will be judged, but “blessed are all who take refuge in him” (v.9-12).

This Messianic psalm depicts a future King, in the line of David, who would come in wrath as well as blessing. Paul explicitly applied this psalm to Jesus—based upon his resurrection (Acts 13:32-33). It is referring to the point of the Son’s enthronement, when his Father openly expressed his relationship with the resurrected and ascended Son.

The author of Hebrews also quotes 2 Sam 7:14. This passage is a direct reference to Solomon who would build the temple. God says he will punish Solomon when he commits iniquity, “but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you,” (2 Sam 7:15). Maybe the context is not such an obvious parallel to Jesus, but there is a reason why the author cuts his quote where he does. He is not suggesting that every aspect of 2 Samuel 7foreshadows Jesus, but the particular reference to the father/son relationship does. Considering the devastating division that followed Solomon’s reign, it was apparent that a future King would establish David’s house, kingdom, and throne forever (2 Sam 7:16). The verse finds initial and partial fulfillment in next Davidic King, but it would find ultimate and complete fulfillment in the Messiah.

Begotten Not Made

This reference specifically emphasizes the Anointed as the Lord’s begotten Son (Acts 13:33Heb. 1:55:5). The Son is superior to the angels because he is begotten not made. These terms have been treated as synonyms by heretics and cults. Arius taught that the Son was the first created being, there was a time when he did not exist. To beget a child is to give birth. How should we understand this reference?

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis brilliantly explains the statement in the Nicene Creed—that the Son of God is “begotten, not made”:

When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs, which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue, which is very like man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.

The Son is the Way to the Father

Those who committed to worshiping angels would never know the Father. They worshiped creation, rather than the Creator. They rejected what Jesus declared about his own authority. “I am the way, and the truth,and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (Jn 14:6).

The Son’s exaltation proves the truth of his gospel. His claim was vindicated by the Father’s approval. No one should expect to enter into a relationship with the Father apart from the Son.

› Jesus possesses a better name, a better claim, and we will conclude with…

A Better  Fame  (6)

Doesn’t it imply that the Son was created if God “brings the firstborn into the world”? No, it is a reference to his rank not his order of birth (cf. Col 1:15). But there was a time when the second person of the Trinity did not exist in his humanity. He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). 

The quote does not come directly from the Hebrew Masoretic Text, but it does match the Greek LXX translation (either from Deut 32:43 or Ps 97:7). The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls supports the LXX. In Deuteronomy, Moses writes about God. And the psalmist praises the Lord. In either case, the object of the angelic worship is God—but the author of Hebrews, without qualification or hesitation, applies it to the Son. 

In other words, the author expected the audience to understand that whatever worship was offered to the Father, was equally appropriate towards the Son. If the Son was worthy to receive worship from angels (Lk 2), then He is clearly superior to them. When we know that Jesus is superior to everything we can be content when He is all we have.

And once we have been united to the Son by faith, why would we look beyond him or turn elsewhere for some deeper, more mystical experience of God? No horoscope or Enneagram assessment will give you more than you already have in the Son. Such a development is unthinkable in light of redemptive history. Since Jesus is superior to everything, we know that nothing less than him will be ultimately satisfying. And if we have him, then we have infinitely more than anything else on offer.