The Supremacy of Christ
by R.C. Sproul
I wonder if it is proper to have a “favorite” book of the Bible. The idea scratches like fingernails on a chalk-board. What would induce us to prefer one portion of the Word of God to another? It would seem that to hear God say anything would be such a delight to the soul that every word that proceeds from His mouth would excite the soul to the same degree. Perhaps when we reach glory, our delight in Him and in His Word will be such that it will know no comparative degrees.
In the meantime we are left with our varied inclinations. When I think of “favorite” books of the Bible, I always place Hebrews near the very top. Why? In the first instance, this book masterfully connects the Old Testament and the New Testament. What Augustine said is true: “The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.” The bridge between the two is Hebrews.
Hebrews is a book of comparisons and contrasts. The New Covenant is seen against the backdrop of the Old. The New is seen as being better. “Better” is the operative word. The New Covenant is better because it is more inclusive (it includes Gentiles); it has a better Mediator; a better High Priest; a better King; and a better revelation of God.
What the New Covenant has that the Old Covenant lacked is the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. In a word, we have Jesus — the Word made flesh.
Indeed, as the author of Hebrews (whom I believe was Paul, possibly through an amanuensis) describes the person and work of Jesus, the comparative quickly changes to the superlative. It is not enough to see Jesus as simply being “better” than what came before. He is more than better; He is the best.
In this regard, Hebrews focuses on the supremacy of Christ. To speak of “supremacy” is to speak of that which is “above” or “over” others. It reaches the level of the “super.” In our language it refers to that which (or who) is greatest in power, authority, or rank. It is also used to describe that which (or who) is greatest in importance, significance, character, or achievement — the “ultimate.”
In all these areas of consideration, Jesus ranks as the ultimate or supreme — supreme in power, rank, glory, authority, importance, etc.
The high Christology of Hebrews is set against the background of the Old Testament. Hebrews begins with the attestation of Christ as the supreme revelation of God: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Heb. 1:1–3a NKJV).
Here the supremacy of Christ is His preeminence over the Old Testament prophets. Those prophets spoke the Word of God — but Christ is the Word of God. He is not merely a prophet in a long line of prophets. He is the Prophet par excellence. This supreme revelation comes from Him, the One who is more than a prophet — the very Son of God. In this opening passage of Hebrews there is enough weighty Christology to occupy the most astute theologians for their entire lives without exhausting its richness. Here Christ is seen as the Creator of the world and the One who upholds it by His power. He is the Creator of all things and the Heir of all things. He is the very brightness of the glory of God. Again, it is not enough to say that He is the supreme reflection of divine glory. Nay, He is the brightness of that glory. He is the express image of God’s person, the one who bears the imago dei supremely.
Next, Hebrews sets forth the contrast between the person and function of angels to Jesus. No angel rises to the level of the only begotten Son of God. Angels are not to be worshiped — yet the angels are commanded to worship Christ. The Kingdom is not given to angels; it is given to Christ who alone is seated at the right hand of God the Father in the position of cosmic authority. In every way Christ has supremacy over the angels and is not to be confused as being one of them.
Then the author of Hebrews details the supremacy of Christ over Moses. Surely Moses is the most exalted person of the Old Testament in his role of Mediator of the Law. We read, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, … but Christ as a son over His own house, whose house we are… .” (Heb. 3:1–6a NKJV).
The contrasts here are among the servant of the house, the builder of the house, and the owner of the house. The builder and owner are supreme over the servant of the house. Moses could lead the people to the earthly promised land but could not lead them into their eternal rest.
Next, Christ is seen as the supreme High Priest. The high priests of old offered shadows of the reality to come. The sacrifices of old were offered regularly — Christ offers the true sacrifice, once for all. The old priests offered objects different from themselves. The Supreme High Priest offers Himself — a perfect sacrifice. He is both the subject and object of the supreme atoning sacrifice.
Finally, Christ’s priesthood differs from the old in that Christ serves both as High Priest and as King. In the Old Covenant, the king was ultimately to come from the tribe of Judah. The priests were to be consecrated from the tribe of Levi (following Aaron). But Jesus was not a Levite. His was a different priesthood from a different order — the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek makes a strange appearance to Abraham as both king and priest to whom Abraham gives obeisance. Hebrews argues that as Abraham is greater than Levi, and Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, then manifestly Melchizedek is greater than Levi. The eternal high priesthood and kingship is given to Christ in fulfillment of Psalm 110.
These references are but a few of the riches set forth in Hebrews that declare the supremacy of Christ.