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Dual Titles, Offices and Attributes of Christ (2)

J Griffiths, Treorchy

The brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person (Heb 1.3)

The book of Hebrews was written to convince first century Jews that they had lost nothing in leaving Judaism for Christ. Christ eclipses all Old Testament personalities. The writer begins with Christ’s supremacy over the prophets. God spoke through the prophets in a partial and piecemeal fashion, but through His Son He speaks with finality and clarity.

Christ is "the brightness of his (God’s) glory"

Synonyms for brightness are effulgence, radiance and outshining. As a ray of light from the sun is of the same substance as the sun and reveals the sun’s glory to us, so Christ is of the same substance and essence as God and reveals God’s glory to believers. How do we define the glory of God? Secular dictionaries and Biblical commentaries all struggle to come to terms with this concept. "Glory is the outward, visible revelation of an inward, intrinsic excellence" may be as accurate as it gets. No wonder we struggle with such truths!

Christ is "the express image of his person"

"Express image" is one word in the text and equates with our word "character". This is the only use of the word in the New Testament and is to be distinguished from eikon, the popular word for image. The "express image" was the impression made by a die-stamp, seal or signet ring in wax or metal. It was a distinguishing mark. It bore the authenticity of its user and left an impression that was a perfect reproduction of the original.

Christ is the authentic Son of God and in incarnation has left an impression that is the perfect reproduction of the original – His Father God. All other forms of revelation of God have their limitations but Christ is the complete and accurate representation of God.

Dr F B Meyer is worth quoting. "These two images complement each other. You might argue from the first, that as the ray is only part of the sun, so Christ is only part of God; but this mistake is corrected by the second, for an impression must be co-extensive with the seal. You might argue from the second, that the impression might be made on very inferior material, so that Christ’s nature was a very unworthy vehicle of the divine glory, but this mistake is corrected by the first, for a beam is of the same texture as the sun. Co-extensive with God, of the same essence as God – this is Jesus Christ."

The first phrase emphasises His radiance: "I proceeded forth and came from God" (Jn 8.42). The essential identity of Jesus with God. The divine Person.

The second notion emphasises His reproduction: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (Jn 14.9). The essential independence of Jesus in God. The distinct Person.

Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Heb 3.1)

The writer has portrayed Jesus as superior to prophets, to angels, to Adam and now to Moses. He addresses his readers according to their holy character and heavenly calling, underscoring their dignity and destiny before riveting their attention upon Jesus. "Christ" is left out of the better manuscripts we are told. The emphasis is upon "Jesus". Jesus is, at once, both God’s Apostle and High Priest. Moses could only lay claim to being His apostle. His brother Aaron was the high priest.

The Apostle

God spoke with Moses: "Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt" (Ex 3.10).

Of the Lord it is recorded that "the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (1 Jn 4.14). Indeed, it is John who characteristically speaks of Jesus as the sent One on many occasions in the fourth gospel. The idea behind the title "Apostle" is greater than simply that of a messenger. The rabbinical thought is expressed thus: "The one whom a man sends is the equivalent of the man himself", and again, "A king’s ambassador is as the king himself". The apostle was regarded as a delegate acting in all the power and authority of the sender. The Jews claimed four envoys, namely, Moses, Elijah, Elisha and Ezekiel.

Christ as Apostle is supreme: Moses was the apostle, delegate or envoy to Pharaoh to secure the release of Israel from bondage; Christ was the Apostle charged with delivering us from the bondage of sin and of Satan.

In the passage in Hebrews we are exhorted to consider "the Apostle…of our profession". There follows a comparison with Moses and then the inevitable contrast. Is this the only comparison in Hebrews? The whole book is one of contrast!

The fidelity or trustworthiness of Christ and Moses are compared. In their relative spheres both were faithful. The contrast lies in this: Moses was a servant in his house but Christ is the Son over His own house. Moses bore testimony prophetically to "those things which were to be spoken after". "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me" (Jn 5.46). On the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter wished to build three tabernacles for Moses, Elijah and Jesus, God the Father intervened to prevent any suggestion of equality – "This is my beloved Son: hear him" (Mk 9.7). Moses was a household servant of some rank but there is an ocean of difference between a servant however exalted and the Son of the house. Furthermore, the architect and builder of a house has more glory and honour than the house and its servants. The statement, "but he that built all things is God" (Heb 3.4), is very true.

In this context it seems clear that Christ the builder is equated with God the builder, hence Christ is God. Christ’s glory persists; Moses’ glory paled. Christ’s glory is of a different order altogether. This is the only use of the title "apostle" in relation to Christ in Scripture. Just as the apostle comes out from God’s presence, so the high priest goes into God’s presence. It is to this title we turn next.

The High Priest

"Consider the ‘Moses’ and ‘Aaron’ of our profession", one commentator paraphrases to make a point. However, the emphasis is not on Moses and Aaron but on Jesus, whose priesthood is superior to that of Aaron. He eclipses the Aaronic priesthood in regard to status. His priesthood is after the pattern of Aaron but its order or rank is that of Melchisedek. This is the king-priest who predated Aaron, and gave bread and wine to Abraham before he met the King of Sodom (Gen 14.17-20). He was a man without recorded birth or death and thus "made like unto the Son of God" (Heb 7.3). In Abraham, Levi paid tithes to Melchisedek, hence Melchisedek, who received the tithes, is greater than Levi and his descendants who paid the tithes. "Consider how great this man was" (Heb 7.4).

Not only is Christ greater in His status – "after the order of Melchisedec" (Heb 6.20), but He is greater in His style. He is the only High Priest to be called great in the Bible. The only possible exception is to be found in the margin of Zechariah 3.1 (Newberry) where Joshua the high priest is viewed as the representative of the nation in a context that could well be prophetic of our Lord.

Further, our Great High Priest serves in a superior sanctuary. His place of service is not one of the holy places made with hands (of human origin) but heaven itself. He is "A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man" (Heb 8.2). The tabernacle in the wilderness was but the shadow; the true tabernacle, the substance, is in heaven.

He is greater in regards to sacrifice. The Aaronic high priest had to offer for his own sins first before he offered for the sins of the people. Christ did not offer for His own sins at all as He was completely and utterly sinless. Virgin birth circumvented the inheritance of a fallen, Adamic nature. The only nature Christ possessed was the divine nature which is incapable of sin. Christ’s sacrifice was of a "once-for-all" kind. It never needed repetition, unlike the annual, repetitive sacrifices of Judaism. The blood Christ shed was of infinite value. His person gave value to the blood that He shed.

He is greater in respect of His service. Christ lives in the power of an indissoluble life. His Great High Priesthood is therefore untransferrable. The mantle was only passed on from Aaron to his descendants because death intervened. Not so our blessed Lord.

His priesthood, unlike that of Aaron, was made with an oath. "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek" (Ps 110.4).

He is able to succour and sympathise and keep us in fellowship with God because as man He understands us and all the vicissitudes of life. Equally, He is God and understands the heart and mind of God. Humanity and deity are perfectly and harmoniously united in Him. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest…let us hold fast our profession" (Heb 4.15).

To be continued.


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