This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.
The Deity and Superiority of Christ
The book of Hebrews unfolds the gospel in at least five ways: it shows the connection between Christ’s person and his work, shows his superiority to Old Testament persons and institutions, underscores humanity’s need for redemption, warns of apostasy, and exhorts professed believers to persevere.
First, Hebrews remarkably combines the person and work of Christ. Chapter 1 teaches the deity of Christ as powerfully as any place in Scripture. Chapter 2 highlights Christ’s humanity. Chapters 7–9 constitute the most extensive teaching on Christ’s priesthood and atoning sacrifice. What is the point? The person of Christ as God and man constitutes the basis for his saving work. His identity undergirds his performing the unique saving deeds of dying for sinners and rising from the dead. Because he is God, he is able to save us, for only God can save. Because he became a man of flesh and blood, he is able to save us, for one of our human race died in our place and overcame death and the Devil in his resurrection.
We are needy sinners in need of a gracious and mighty Savior.
Second, Hebrews shows Christ’s superiority to Old Testament persons and institutions. He is the great and final Prophet, far surpassing Old Testament mediators of revelation—prophets and angels (Heb. 1). Therefore, the gospel that he brought is even more important than the law that was given to Moses through angels (Heb. 2:1–4; Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19). He is superior to Moses, Aaron, and all Israel’s subsequent high priests (Heb. 3:6; Heb. 5; 7). This is because Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek who, unlike the sons of Aaron, lives forever and thus has a perpetual priesthood. He is the Great High Priest who presents himself as the final offering, bringing the end to sacrifice and saving to the uttermost those who come to God through him (Heb. 9–10).
Need for Christ
Third, Hebrews underscores humanity’s need for redemption. As children of Adam we are fallen, and we do not exercise proper dominion over creation (Heb. 2:8). We are held in bondage by the fear of death and by him who had the power of death, the Devil (Heb. 2:14–15). Left to ourselves, like Israel of old, our hearts are unbelieving and rebellious (Heb. 3–4). We are unclean and need Christ’s purifying blood, his violent death, to be cleansed to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14, 23; 10:22). Even as believers we are prone to wander from our first love and thus we need God’s warnings, exhortations, and grace to persevere. In a word, we are needy sinners in need of a gracious and mighty Savior. And that is just what God has provided in his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.
Fourth, as strongly as any place in the Bible, Hebrews warns of the danger of apostasy—in five passages: Hebrews 2:1–4; 3:7–4:13; 5:11–6:12; 10:19–39; and 12:1–29. Plainly, the original readers of Hebrews were in danger of turning from the faith they had formerly professed. However, Hebrews also asserts that God not only saves his people from their sins but also keeps them saved to the end (Heb. 6:13–20; 7:23–25). And one of the means that God employs to keep us is to warn of the folly of deserting him who saves us freely by his grace. There is nowhere else to turn.
The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.
Fifth, Hebrews exhorts professed believers to persevere (Heb. 2:1; 4:14; 6:1–3; 10:23, 36; 12:1–2). It is true that God saves us once and for all. But that salvation is not static but dynamic. It is as dynamic as the living relationship between God and his people (made formal in the new covenant; Heb. 8). The covenant is God’s pledge to be God to us and to make us his own. Because he loves us, he not only assures us of his love with both promise and oath but also exhorts us to keep on living obediently in the faith, to keep on gathering with other believers for worship, and not to harden our hearts against him in rebellion.
While Hebrews clearly makes its own unique contribution, it joins other New Testament books in exulting in the same amazing grace in Jesus that forms the Bible’s main message. The message of Hebrews is, at its core, the gospel: the good news of redemption for struggling sinners.
This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.
Genesis • Exodus • Leviticus • Numbers • Deuteronomy • Joshua • Judges • Ruth • 1–2 Samuel • 1–2 Kings • 1–2 Chronicles • Ezra • Nehemiah • Esther • Job • Psalms • Proverbs • Ecclesiastes • Song of Solomon • Isaiah • Jeremiah • Lamentations • Ezekiel • Daniel • Hosea • Joel • Amos • Obadiah • Jonah • Micah • Nahum • Habbakuk • Zephaniah • Haggai • Zechariah • Malachi
Matthew • Mark • Luke • John • Acts • Romans • 1 Corinthians • 2 Corinthians • Galatians • Ephesians • Philippians • Colossians • 1 Thessalonians • 2 Thessalonians • 1 Timothy • 2 Timothy • Titus • Philemon • Hebrews • James • 1 Peter • 2 Peter • 1–3 John • Jude • Revelation