God's Last, Best Word

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Hebrews 1:1-4

In Christ God has spoken to us fully, decisively, finally and perfectly. The truth is uncovered and offered to us and we either accept or reject it.

Think of the amazing revolution in communications we have witnessed over the past hundred years. First was the telephone towards the end of the nineteenth century. It enabled people to speak with one another directly even though they were separated physically. Then, in the early years of the twentieth century, came radio, and a generation later, television, and now in our own day we have satellites and computers, cellular phones, fax machines and all the rest.

What’s next? All of these gadgets and devices are so marvelous, and the things they can do so amazing, that they strike us as nothing less than miraculous. But of course they aren’t. There is no miracle involved in any of them. They are all just machines, clever machines to be sure, but invented and built by people and operating according to the known laws of nature. There has only been one true miracle of communication in human history – the one that the writer to the Hebrews talks about, the one that is the result of another miracle – the Incarnation of God himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.

This is the opening paragraph of the book of Hebrews:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4, nrsv

GOD HAS SPOKEN

Hebrews 1 opens with a series of fundamental affirmations; “fundamental,” that is, in the literal sense of the word, for these truths constitute the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built. The first affirmation is that God has spoken: “Long ago,” says the writer, “God spoke . . .” (v. 1). This statement is, in its simplest and most straightforward form, an expression of the doctrine of revelation.

Just imagine if God had not chosen to speak to us about himself. We would know almost nothing about him. God would remain shrouded in darkness, wrapped in secrecy and mystery, and all we could do would be to guess at what he’s like. After all, God is not like us. It’s not as though especially smart people like philosophers or theologians can figure out who he is through sheer brainpower, or trained specialists can track his movements and investigate his habits like scientists studying animals.

God is spirit and we are human; God is in heaven and we are on earth. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. . . .” (Is. 55:8). Above all, God is holy, and we are sinful. He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). The only way we can know anything meaningful about him is if he tells us. Apart from revelation, God is unknowable.

One of the common images people use for finding God is the metaphor of climbing a mountain. Religions are the different pathways up the mountain, so they say, and people hopefully assert that they all meet eventually in the same place.

But the biblical understanding of the way to know God is completely different. There is no pathway up to God. We cannot find him or reach him or even know anything about him by our own searching and seeking. The literal meaning of the Greek word for revelation is “to uncover or unveil” that which is hidden. In the Biblical understanding, knowledge that is hidden such as knowledge of God can never be discovered by human effort or investigation. It can only be known if it is made known – in other words, it has to be revealed. With revelation we do nothing but receive. The truth is uncovered and offered to us, and we either accept or reject it.

IN THE BIBLE

The second affirmation made by the writer to the Hebrews is that God has spoken in the Bible. “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,” says the writer of Hebrews (v.1). Biblical religion is not only revelatory. It is responsive. It does not presume to discover the truth about God on its own. Rather, it begins with the presupposition that the God of the universe has spoken and he’s spoken through specially appointed human messengers who convey the truth about him to the rest of us.

In the Old Testament these people are called prophets, and the Bible contains their messages in written form. The biblical writers have disclosed God’s nature, and his purposes and his character in a way that anyone can understand. In the Bible we actually learn the truth about the living, transcendent Creator of the universe because he himself has spoken through the prophets to make himself known.

The Bible is God’s word to each of us, not just generally but individually. “I read the Bible,” Luther once remarked, “as if it had my name written on the cover.” What a great statement! The Bible is God’s word to me, and not only to give intellectual knowledge or information about God but to establish a personal relationship between God and me. And so I need to respond to the Bible’s message about God with faith and obedience.

Miles Smith, one of the translators of the King James Bible, wrote this in the preface to that translation when it was first published almost 400 years ago:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; but a blessed thing it is, and will bring us to everlasting blessedness in the end, when God speaketh to us, to hearken; when he setteth his word before us, to read it; when he stretcheth out his hand and calleth, to answer, “Here am I, here we are, to do thy will, O God.” May the Lord work a care and conscience in us to know him and serve that we may be acknowledged of him at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .

AND IN HIS SON

And here’s the third affirmation of Hebrews 1. It goes beyond the first two and asserts that God has spoken not only through the prophets but in and through his Son (v. 2). This is the real difference between the Old and New Testaments. The same God speaks in both the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The same message runs through both; salvation by grace through faith is the theme of the Old Testament as much as it is of the New Testament. But there is a difference.

Revelation is progressive; not from less to more true, but from less to more full and clear from promise to fulfillment. Hebrews 1 points out the differences between God’s revelation then and now. “In the past,” it says, “God spoke in many and various ways through different prophets, but now, in the last days [and by that phrase the New Testament means the time from Christ’s first coming into the world until his return in glory] God has spoken through his one and only Son.”

In Christ, God has spoken to us fully, decisively, finally and perfectly. (That is why all subsequent writings or statements that claim to teach the truth about God must agree with the New Testament’s revelation of Jesus Christ.) In Christ, all that was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament is gathered up into the unity and fullness of truth. Jesus the Son is God’s final word. Jesus is God in person, the ultimate in revelation from a God who is himself personal.

The next verses in Hebrews chapter 1 delineate the things about the Son that make him God’s last and best Word to humankind. He is the heir of all things. He is the Father’s agent in creating and sustaining the universe. He is the radiance of God’s glory, the visible sign of God’s presence. He bears the very stamp of the divine nature, making him distinct from, but not different than, God the Father. He is the one who worked our salvation, who, when he had accomplished the sacrifice, the atonement for sin, was seated in glory, exalted above all angels at the right hand of the majesty of God.

It is not possible to know anything more about God or anything other about God than what we see in Jesus Christ. In his life, words and actions we see revealed before us all that we can understand of the life and being of God.

As long as we hear prophets and poets speaking about God, we can still picture him as distant, walking about on the battlements of heaven and sending long-distance letters with information about himself down to earth. But when we hear that “he has spoken to us by his Son,” we know that God himself has come down to us, entering our world as one of us and allowing us to look upon his very face.

Now what could make God known to us better than that? So here’s the question: Do you accept this ultimate revelation, God’s last, best Word, or do you reject him?