We shouldn’t be deceived by the size and seeming vulnerability of the baby in the manger. Jesus Christ is the creator and ruler of the entire universe—and His incarnation didn’t alter that. Even in His infancy, He was supreme to everything else, in every possible way.
That’s the central thesis of the book of Hebrews. In the opening verses of that epistle, the writer outlines seven facets of Christ’s preeminence in his opening statement:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1–3, emphasis added)
We examined the first four of those aspects—Christ’s role as God’s heir, Creator, radiance, and image—in the previous post. Today we’ll take a look at the last three.
Christ Has Ultimate Authority
Jesus Christ has always been upholding “all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). Last time we considered His role as the Creator of the entire universe, material and nonmaterial. But Christ’s authority goes far beyond that: He upholds and sustains all that He has created.
No scientist, mathematician, astronomer, or nuclear physicist could do anything or discover anything apart from the sustaining power and authority of Christ. The whole universe hangs on His powerful arm, His infinite wisdom, and His ability to control every element and orchestrate the movements of every molecule, atom, and subatomic particle.
For example, if the size of the earth’s orbit around the sun increased or decreased even the slightest amount, we would soon fatally freeze or fry. If the earth’s angle of tilt went beyond its present range even slightly, that would drastically disrupt the familiar four-season cycle and threaten to end life on the planet. Similarly, if the moon’s orbit around the earth diminished, the ocean tides would greatly increase and cause unimaginable havoc. And if our atmosphere thinned just a little, many of the thousands of meteors that now enter it and harmlessly incinerate before striking the ground would crash to the surface with potentially catastrophic results.
Jesus Christ prevents such disasters by perfectly maintaining the universe’s intricate balance. The most astronomical distances and largest objects are not beyond His control. The most delicate and microscopic processes do not escape His attention. He is the preeminent power and authority who nevertheless came to earth in human form, assuming a servant’s role.
Christ Removes Our Sins
The sixth aspect of Christ’s preeminence deals directly with our salvation. Hebrews 1:3 expresses it this way, “He had made purification of sins.” Jesus, by His atoning death, brought about the purification or cleansing of our sins.
The Old Testament priests offered animal sacrifices over and over, but none of those could ultimately remove the people’s sins. Those repeated sacrifices instead merely pointed to the desperate need for a once-for-all sacrifice that could finally take away sins. And God provided such a sacrifice in the person of Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews later wrote, “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28); “for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
In keeping with the Old Testament Law that the sacrificial lamb had to be spotless, the final New Covenant sacrifice had to be a perfect, sinless substitute. To pay the price of sin for others, He had to be perfect or He would have had to pay the price for His own sin. And since no one in the world is without sin, the substitute had to be someone from outside the world. Yet He still needed to be a man to die in the place of men and women.
Of course, the only person who could meet those requirements was Jesus Christ. He was the sinless man who could be the perfect substitute for sinners. By offering Himself to die on the cross, He took the full wrath of God for sinners like you and me. That wrath, which was originally directed toward us, was then satisfied. Thus God can forgive you because Christ paid the penalty for your sin.
So one of the preeminent glories of Christ is that, as the God-Man, He came to die for sinners. And He died on the cross to accomplish redemption. Immediately prior to His death, Jesus uttered these profound words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30); once and for all He paid the price for sins for everyone who would ever believe in Him.
Christ Is Exalted in Heaven
The author concludes his marvelous outline of the preeminence of Christ by affirming His exaltation: “[He] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
Christ’s ministry on earth ended forty days after His resurrection when He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). And when He returned there, God seated Him at His right hand (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), which always symbolized Christ’s power, authority, prominence, and preeminence (Romans 8:34; 1 Peter 3:22). Paul says that at that point God gave Him a name above all names—“Lord,” which is the New Testament synonym for Old Testament descriptions of God as sovereign ruler (Philippians 2:9–11).
When Jesus went into heaven, He did what no Old Testament priest ever did—He sat down. They never sat down while ministering because their work was never done. But Christ’s work was done; He had accomplished the work of redemption on the cross, and therefore it was appropriate for Him to sit down. He remains on the right hand of the throne of God as the believer’s great High Priest and Intercessor (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24).
When you read and study Hebrews 1, the wonderful truth of Jesus Christ’s preeminence and superiority shines forth from every verse. You can’t miss it, whether it’s in His inheritance of all things, His agency in creation, His essential nature as God, His atoning death for sinners, or the various ways in which He is superior to the angels. The entire chapter effectively proclaims the Messiah’s true identity and rightful position.
It ensures that when you consider the baby in the Bethlehem shelter, you don’t merely see an adorable child who grew up to be a good teacher and compassionate healer. The passage points you beyond that and to an accurate understanding of the person and work of Christ. The writer, through careful, Spirit-inspired argumentation, declares irrefutably that the Child born to Mary was indeed God in the manger. He truly was the Son of God, miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit yet born naturally to a woman in Israel. And without doubt He was the Lord and Savior who lived a perfect life and died as a perfect sacrifice so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.
(Adapted from God in the Manger.)