The following is a manuscript of a sermon preached by Matthew Emadi at Crossroads Church. We apologize for any grammatical errors it may contain.
God has Spoken in His Son
We are starting a new series this morning through the Book of Hebrews. We considered some issues pertaining to the government for 3 weeks, and I am eager to get back into an expository series through a book of the Bible. There is nothing wrong with occasionally looking at topics and expositing texts of Scripture about those topics, but we should be devoted as our primary method of preaching to letting the Bible set the agenda for what is preached and what we focus our attention on. God’s Word needs to be heard in its fullness. God knows what we need to hear. And without the regular practice of expositional preaching, we will get distracted with whatever is popular.
I want to read you this quote from C.S. Lewis from his book “Screwtape Letters” as we begin our series on the book of Hebrews. Screwtape is the senior devil who is writing to his nephew Wormwood. He is instructing his nephew how to be a good demon and deceive people and destroy Christianity. Screwtape says that what they need to do is get Christians to get fixated on social justice.
The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. . .. Fortunately, it is quite easy to coax humans around this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that ‘only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilizations’. Do you see the little rift? ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game… (https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Reflections_Christianity_And_Politics)
My point is not to critique social justice now. I’ve talked about that a couple of weeks ago. Why do I read that? I read that because of what Lewis said there at the end, “Believe Christianity not because it is true, but for some other reason. That’s the game.” He wants Christians to value Christianity for something it produces. That is the game that Satan is playing right now. He doesn’t care if people fill churches or call themselves Christians as long as their commitment to Christianity isn’t rooted in the bloody substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross under God’s wrath against sin. He wants people to be Christians for some other reason: for the sake of social justice or community or better family life, or whatever. As long as people profess belief not because the gospel is true, but for some other reason. Satan doesn’t care if pastors preach two-hour sermons on Sunday if those sermons are not about the Holiness of God, the sinfulness of sin, the salvation that is in Christ, and the truth that is in him alone. He doesn’t care if pastors preach 2 hours sermons about prosperity or family values or pop-psychology. He doesn’t care if pastors preach two-hour sermons about Jesus as long as it is all about the cultural transformation Jesus, not the crucified king Jesus. He wants people to value Christianity for some other reason than because of the truth that is in Christ to save your soul.
The author of Hebrews doesn’t play those games.
Hebrews doesn’t begin where much talk in the churches begin today.
· It doesn’t begin with God has a wonderful plan for your life.
· It doesn’t begin with your feelings and worries.
· It doesn’t begin with marital problems or family problems or financial problems and then giving you a dose of morality or even better Jesus therapy to fix that problem.
No, Hebrews begins with theology. The revelation of God, the divinity of Christ, his providence, atonement, exaltation, and supremacy. The author does not want his audience to stay faithful to God for any other reason than Jesus is the truth, the salvation in him is certain, and you can bank your eternal soul on his sacrifice.
Hebrews doesn’t read like the other NT epistles. It has the feel of a sermon. Who is the author? David Allen has made a compelling case that the author is Luke, Paul’s companion. Luke would have been very familiar with Paul’s preaching and theology.
We don’t know for certain, this letter reads like a sermon. In fact, the author identifies his letter as a Word of Exhortation.
Hebrews 13:22 (ESV) — 22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
Briefly!!! If I ever wrote an email as long as Hebrews to exhort you, I would have to apologize at the beginning for the length of my email.
But this is a brief exhortation when you consider the gravity of the author’s goal.
What’s the goal? The goal is not merely to wax eloquently about theology even though this is a masterpiece of biblical theology. There is nothing wrong with doing theology for theology’s sake because God is worthy of the life of the mind. But that’s not what the author is doing here. His theology is driving at a purpose. That purpose is to keep his audience from backsliding. His exhortation is quite simple: Do not give up on following Jesus. His concern is a pastoral one. Do not go back to Judaism and it’s forms of worship.
It’s likely that his audience was Jewish Christians. Though we know from Galatians that even Gentile Christians were tempted to adopt circumcision as necessary for their salvation. So maybe the author is writing to Jews and Gentiles that were tempted to throw in the towel with Christianity and embrace Judaism and avoid persecution. So, the author gives them an exhortation again and again and again to remain faithful:
· Hebrews 2:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
· Hebrews 3:7–8 (ESV) — 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
· Hebrews 3:12 (ESV) — 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
· Hebrews 4:14 (ESV) — 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
· Hebrews 10:23 (ESV) — 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
· Hebrews 12:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
· Hebrews 12:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Pay attention, don’t drift, do not harden your heart, don’t fall away, hold fast our confession, run with endurance, don’t grow weary! You see why this is a word of exhortation?
Why would anyone walk away from Jesus? Because when opposition and persecution arise, it is easier to capitulate and assimilate than it is to follow the biblical Jesus.
· In our day it’s okay to follow a non-judgmental, inclusive Jesus that just cares about social justice and affirming the moral autonomy of individual people. That’s fine. But the biblical Jesus is going to get you in trouble with the world.
These Christians knew it. They were suffering for their faith:
Hebrews 10:32–34 (ESV) — 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
Suffering. Public affliction. Your property plundered! Is it worth it? Is Jesus worth it? Let’s just go back to the temple and circumcision and sacrifices.
· Wouldn’t it be so much easier just to let go of Jesus, be accepted by the culture, and not have your stuff taken?
· Wouldn’t it be easier to just avoid gathering with other Christians so as not to invite scrutiny and use your time on Sunday mornings for other things?
· Wouldn’t it be easier if we didn’t keep up the struggle against sin day after day after day?
· Wouldn’t it be easier if we didn’t draw such a hard line on moral issues? I mean there are scholars who disagree. Maybe Matthew 19 isn’t clear.
· Wouldn’t it be easier for churches in China to have a state-run church and avoid the public affliction?
It would. It would be easier, but it wouldn’t be better! No way! You see the author doesn’t just warn them negatively: Don’t fall away, don’t give up, he gives them a positive motivation for holding on. What is it? Jesus is better! Whatever you can think of that you might want, Jesus is better.
It’s amazing how the promise of a little ice cream enables the little child to persevere in eating his vegetables, isn’t it? For some reason telling them, “If you don’t eat vegetables, you’re not going to be healthy doesn’t quite work. But man promise something better than vegetables as the reward and he’ll eat them all!
What’s my point? Jesus is better than ice cream, kids. Really. He’s better than everything you can think of. That’s a major theme of this epistle:
In Jesus you have:
· A Better hope (7:19)
· A better covenant (7:22)
· A better priesthood (Heb 7)
· Better promises (8:6)
· A better sacrifice (9:23)
· A better possession (10:34)
· A better country (11:16)
· A better resurrection life (11:35)
· A better blood than blood of Abel (12:24)
Jesus really is better than the easy life.
Are we ever going to get to chapter 1? So where does the author begin with this word of exhortation to encourage faithfulness to the end? He begins with a breathtaking, sweeping sentence about the supremacy of Jesus.
Hebrews 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Case closed! What more needs to be said. That settles it in four verses! We could just close up right here. In one sweeping statement we are given 8 incredible statements about Christ:
· 1 – He is the climax of God’s revelation (v. 2)
· 2 – He is the messianic heir of the world (v. 2)
· 3 – He is the agent of creation (v. 2)
· 4 – He is the divine human son sharing in God’s full divinity (v. 3)
· 5 – He is responsible for providentially sustaining the world day by day (v. 3)
· 6 – He has made atonement for sins (v.3)
· 7 – He has been exalted in the heavens on God’s throne (v. 3)
· 8 – He is superior to angels (v. 4)
Are you sure you think it would be wise to leave Jesus behind?
Let’s turn our attention to these verses. We are really on going to cover verse 1 and half of verse 2 today. Notice where the author begins.
1) God has spoken
Hebrews 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
Can I just point out the obvious? God spoke. God spoke! We are too used to that. God spoke. He is a speaking God. He begins with the doctrine of revelation. God has spoken. And if God has spoken, you can have certainty. Certainty of truth. Absolute, unchanging, unshakeable truth. Even in 2020.
Everyone keeps calling 2020 a year of uncertainty. Of course, that’s true to some degree in terms of world events.
· The pandemic. It’s going to kill 10’s of millions, it’s not going to kill millions. It’s very serious; no, it’s just media hype. Don’t be afraid, be very afraid. There’s abundance of toilet paper; there’s no toilet paper, maybe we’ll get some next month. Who do we believe?
· Vaccines. Is it ready is it not? Safe or not safe? Is Bill Gates behind it or not?
· Our presidential election, we don’t have certainty of who are next president is and what’s going to happen.
So, 2020 is a year of uncertainty, but every year is for a lot of people. I’ve just mentioned current events, what about answers to life’s ultimate questions that leave so many people feeling uncertain? Who are we? Why do we exist? What is life about? Why do we die? Who is God? Which religion is true? Is any religion true? Look at our world. It’s awash in relativism. World religions abound. Eastern religions, western religions, cults, new age, humanism, postmodernism, wokeism, Marxism. Everyone is an expert and they are all telling you to follow them.
Every year is a year of uncertainty for so many people.
But not so Christians for us. We are here to remind one another and proclaim that what really matters in this world is not uncertain because God has spoken. We have just as much certainty in 2020 about what really matters as we do in any other year. WE may not know who our next president is, but we know who rules the universe! God has spoken, Christ is king, he reigns in heaven, there is salvation in his name, he will raise your dead body from the grave on the last day!
This is where Hebrews begins. Not with felt needs, not with how are you feeling, not with why you have anxiety about your job or family or whatever. No, Hebrews begins with this fundamental truth. God has spoken. And God has spoken definitively, climactically, and with finality in his Son.
2) Really the big point for today: Jesus as the final, definitive Word from God.
So notice the logic of his argument here. Jewish Christians tempted to forsake Christ and go back to OC forms of worship, the author says to them. The OT revelation has reached its goal in Jesus. Why would you go back to old revelation that was a work in process when the final revelation to which all of that pointed has come in the Son? You see the logic?
Notice the contrasts he presents:
· God spoke long ago now he has spoken in the last days
· God spoke to the fathers now he has spoken to us
· God spoke by prophets now he has spoken by his Son
· God spoke in many ways, but now he has spoken definitively in Jesus
So, here’s the big point: God has spoken in these last days definitively and climactically in his Son.
Hebrews 1:1 (ESV) — 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
Read the OT and what you find is that God spoke to his people in many ways: He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke to Moses through a burning bush. He sent an angel to talk to Daniel. He spoke through Elijah and sent fire from heaven. He revealed himself in dreams and visions. In all kinds of ways, God spoke to his people in the OT era, mainly through prophets who delivered the word of the Lord to the people. The Old Testament era was a period in history where God made himself known through his mighty acts of redemption and his speech interpreting those acts.
Hebrews 1:2 (ESV) — 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
So, you see. Jesus is not only the final definitive Word of God, Jesus has ushered in a whole new era in redemptive history. It’s what the author here calls the last days. Did you know we are living in the last days? We are? Yes, the last days have been going since the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The last days refer to the time period that Jesus Christ has ushered because of his cross and resurrection. We are not in the age of promise; we are now in the age of fulfillment. We are not in the age of types and shadows, we are in the age of substance.
The Old Testament anticipated the “last days.” The OT authors looked ahead to the last days as the time when God’s saving promises would be fulfilled.
Isaiah 2:2 (ESV) — 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
Hosea 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.
Now, with the coming of Christ, his resurrection, the last days have commenced. All of God’s saving promises have begun to unfold in Christ. So, the NT authors speak of the time we are in now, post-resurrection and ascension as the last days:
· Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2 was a fulfillment of what Joel identified as the “last days.”
· John told his readers in 1 John 2:18 that it is the last hour.
· Paul warned Timothy of the kind of deception and sin that would characterize the last days even though Jesus is reigning at God’s right hand. Read 2 Timothy 3:1–9 and you will see it describes the days in which we live.
2 Timothy 3:1–9 (ESV) — 1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Avoid them! They are around in these last days.
But you see the point from Hebrews 1. You’re going to go back to Old covenant forms of worship when God’s revelation was in progress? You want to go back to shadow now that we have the substance? You want to go back to what characterized the former days now that we are in the last days? You want the revelation that was a sign-post, but you don’t want the destination to which the sign was pointing?
It would be like taking a trip to Hawaii, and then when you’re on the beach looking at the Sunset, walking in the water, you say, “You know, I’d rather be on the airplane flying here looking at the little map on the screen on the back of the chair that shows how far we have flown. That’s where it was really at. That’s what this vacation was all about.
No, the map on the screen was pointing you with eager expectation to the destination which is so much better!
The OT was making promises point to a future time. WE are now in the last days. We are in the time of fulfillment. The tabernacle, the temple, the priesthood, the kingship, the sacrifices, the exodus, the conquest, all of it pointed us to Jesus. Now we are in the last days waiting the consummation when Christ returns again.
Hebrews 9:26–28 (ESV) — 26 . . . But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
So here’s the big point: WE live in the time of redemptive history when God has given us his final definitive word in Jesus.
Let me make a couple applications here:
Application #1: We have no need and no place for modern day prophets to give us a fresh new revelations from God.
This is very important in our own context here in Utah. And if someone is here today or listens to this sermon that is following modern-day prophets, I just want to encourage you to understand what Hebrews 1 is saying.
We live in a period of time when there is nothing more to say. Maybe that sounds like an overstatement, but let me explain. God has been revealing himself in various ways through history. In former times he spoke through prophets during the Old Covenant period, but now God has brought his special revelation to completion in Jesus and the apostolic witness about him. We are in the last days because there is nothing else to say.
We should not listen or follow modern day prophets that add to or subtract anything from what God has revealed in Christ and made known to us through his apostles in the Bible. Christ fulfilled the promises of the OT and the apostles viewed their writings in the stream of OT scripture now bringing it to completion as they unfolded the mystery of Christ. I won’t unpack that entire argument here, but There is nothing more to be said. That’s the point. The final, definitive, climactic revelation has come. We have the words of Christ and we have the apostolic testimony of Christ from the ones who were with him and learned from him.
In Old Testament times God spoke through prophets, many of them. So, God even gave his people a standard to tests prophets because certainly false prophets would arise:
Deuteronomy 18:20–22 (ESV) — 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
So, in the OC covenant, you had this standard test for a prophet. If what he says doesn’t come to pass, don’t follow him. Now you can use that as a benchmark for prophets today. If some self-proclaimed prophet gives you a prophecy and it doesn’t come to pass, then by God’s standard don’t believe him. But I’m even going a step farther and saying if someone comes to you as a prophet claiming to give you direct revelation from God, don’t believe him period.
Why? We are in the last days. Jesus fulfills the prophetic office, but he is better than prophets of old because he is unique as the Son. He is better than them all. God has spoken climactically and definitively in Christ, there is no need for it, don’t follow him. What should you do instead? Go to the Bible. Here you will find what God has spoken with certainty. Absolute, unchanging, unshakeable truth! Right here in the OT and NT. This is sufficient. You don’t need the subjective, words of self-proclaimed prophets, you have certain in the Bible.
2) Just a word of encouragement to Christians: If God has spoken finally, definitively, and climactically in Christ, then the Bible is sufficient for your spiritual life.
So many people are hungry for a fresh word from God. We have denominations within Christianity that focus so much on getting a word from God, or a prophecy, or some supernatural experience. So many Christians long for prophecies and are enamored with people who give prophecies. So many people think, well if God spoke to me audibility, then my Christian life would be so much better.
It’s unpopular to say it, but God has nothing more to say to you this side of heaven. The Bible is sufficient. But you are putting God in a box saying he can’t speak through prophets anymore. No, God can do whatever he wants. But God has chosen not to make us rely on the words subjective to any individual, but he has given us a final, sufficient, objective word in the Bible that stands outside of us.
What about the Muslims who are having dreams of Jesus? Well, maybe they are, but how do they come to faith in Christ. They meet a missionary or Christians who proclaim the truth and they are saved through the gospel.
Beloved, we are in the last days. We don’t need prophecies. God has spoken in his Son. The apostles were eyewitnesses of his ministry and we have their Holy-Spirit inspired writings of God’s final, definitive revelation that has come in Christ.
Some Christians are hungering for the old age of prophecies and dreams and visions, when we have what the prophets themselves were longing for.
1 Peter 1:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
We have the gospel of Jesus which the prophets so diligently predicted! The end of the ages has come in Jesus.
Understand this: I feel absolutely no deficiency in my Christian life or spiritual stuntedness or emptiness because God has never spoken to me audibly or appeared to me in a vision or given me some supernatural sign. Why? Because I have Jesus and the apostolic Word of God revealing him in his glory. I have the Spirit of Christ that bears witness with my Spirit that I am a child of God, and if a child then an heir, heir of God and fellow her with Christ. I have every promise of God as my own in Christ and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is min! What is a prophecy going to do for me? What is a vision going to do for me? Jesus is better and I’ve got Jesus. Isn’t that the whole point of Hebrews? Jesus is better.
Christian, God has given us his Word, the Spirit, and the Church. Are you longing for something else, something more glamorous or exciting or novel this side of heaven? You shouldn’t be. God has spoken to us in His Son.
What has God spoken to us in Christ?
How should I answer that question? If you come to Crossroads for a while, you will often hear me say before reading the text for the sermon that when we read the words of the Bible, they come to us with the same authority as if Jesus Christ were standing here speaking to us. That is true. Because the Scripture is God’s Word, inspired by the Spirit of our Lord Christ.
What has God spoken in his Son? Well read the Bible. It’s about him and the redemption that is found in him.
But let me be more specific in closing: What has God spoken to us in his Son.
Answer: That your sins can be forgiven in Christ and you can inherit with Christ an eternal city with glorified body free from death, pain and suffering where you will glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Here’s the reality: Everyone knows God exists. Everyone already knows true things about God even if they deny him altogether. God has revealed himself in creation. He has made his eternal power and divine nature clear in what has been made. And God has given a conscience, he has written his law on our hearts. We know God has made us and we know of him and about him. But our problem is sin. Our problem is we are dead in sin, separated from God, we don’t worship God, we rebel against him, we violate his law. We stand condemned by God. There is no hope.
But into our dark, bleak, hopeless rebellion, God has spoken in his Son. And God has revealed in his Son that you can have forgiveness and reconciliation to God through his Son. God has made himself known in Christ. God has spoken of his holiness in Christ as we see Jesus crucified on the cross under the wrath of God for sin. God is holy. God has spoken of his grace, and kindness, and love as we see God in Christ crucified on a bloody cross under the wrath of God for our sin. God has spoken of his love in his Son in that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God shouts his love in that while we were enemies Christ died for us. God has spoken of his power in his Son as he raised him from the dead and guarantees our redemption.
You can know God, but you must listen to what he has said. How do you do that? Believe in Jesus. Repent of your sin and believe what God has spoken in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. The truth. Absolute, unchanging, unshakeable truth in Jesus. Believe the gospel because it is true, not for some other reason. Believe it because it is true and it is our only certain hope in a world of uncertainty.