If you go to a ‘Christian’ bookstore you will find legions of books, jewelry, and trinkets celebrating angels. As Richard Phillips notes, “These winged spirits are ‘in.’” When it comes to the media, angels surely are ‘in.’ Of course, who of us is not familiar with the angel in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ right? And then, there are ‘angels in the outfield’ and more widely known was the 1990s television show ‘Touched by an Angel.’ In these media productions, viewers encountered all too human angels serving as “heavenly psychologists, proclaiming a soothing message of love from an all-embracing, nonjudgmental God.” How unlike the biblical presentation of angels, “who are anything but advocates of a morally loose, tolerant deity,” Phillips. He then poignantly declares, “Angels appeal to our age because they seem to offer us access to heavenly blessings without having to deal directly with heaven’s God himself.”
Ours is not the only time when false or inappropriate attitudes toward angels were held. Among many Jews in the first century there was an unhealthy emphasis on angels, in part because of the excellent things said of them in Scripture. Their name means ‘messenger,’ and nobody will deny that at times they were wonderfully used as God’s heralds. They were prominent not only in Old Testament Scripture but also in New Testament experience.
Jesus was strengthened by angels, both in the wilderness at the beginning of his earthly ministry, and in the garden of Gethsemane at its close. They did not only come alongside the Lord Jesus in moments of crisis as messengers of God’s love and strength, but they also came to the help of Christ’s people when they entered the hostile realms of adversity and peril. They were sent by God to release prisoners, to instruct preachers, to encourage believers, to judge blasphemers and to help travelers (see the book of Acts). But “inspiring as all these events were, the angels concerned were but messengers; that was their name and that was their function” (Raymond Brown). Christ has a name superior to the best of angels. Christ is far more than a mere messenger. He is the Son of God.
However, the author of Hebrews probably needed to emphasize Christ’s superiority to the angels because of the angels’ association with the old covenant given at Mt. Sinai. In Hebrews 2:2 we see an example of this teaching, where it is said that the Old Testament law was ‘declared by angels.’ Acts 7:53 tells us that the law was ‘delivered by angels,’ so that their mediation of the law at Sinai does have biblical support.
In saying that Christ is superior to the angels, the author is again emphasizing the superiority of the new covenant over the old, and therefore the folly of turning back from the gospel. He makes the point here by means of seven Old Testament quotations, a pattern repeated all through the book of Hebrews. (The writer also sets an example for us in his understanding of the authority of Scripture.)
I hope you can join us this week as we look at Hebrews 1:4-14 on the glorious truth that Christ is Greater Than Angels; therefore, look to Jesus and run the race of life.
For His Glory,