Sunday School Lesson

October 2

Lesson 5 (KJV)

The Brightness of God’s Glory

Devotional Reading: John 1:1-5, 10-14

Background Scripture: Hebrews 1

Hebrews 1:1-9

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Key Verse

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power. -Hebrews 1:3

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Identify key terms that set forth Jesus’ identity and status.

2. Explain Jesus’ position as the climax of God’s saving plan.

3. Describe one way he or she can exhibit greater submission to Jesus as supreme king and make a plan to do so.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Who Is the Greatest?

B. Lesson Background

I. Revealer of Truth (Hebrews 1:1, 2)

A. That Was Then (v. 1)

B. This Is Now (v. 2)

II. Revealer of Glory (Hebrews 1:3, 4)

A. Person and Work (v. 3)

Jesus Is Nice; God Is Mean?

B. Status and Name (v. 4)

III. Worthy of Worship (Hebrews 1:5-9)

A. Status of Angels (vv. 5-7)

The Great and Powerful

B. Status of the Son (vv. 8, 9)

Conclusion

A. The Crucified King

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

 

A. Who Is the Greatest?

A good way to start a lively discussion is to ask people who is the all-time greatest in a particular field. The greatest athlete, the greatest artist, the greatest political leader, the greatest singer, the greatest writer-everyone who has an interest in the activity will have an opinion. And most of those interested will have opinions that differ.

Our text for today begins to make a case for the greatest. It states that Jesus is the climax of all that God has done in history, that He is the greatest in God’s plan because He is the divine Son of God. Those who wonder who is greatest in God’s plan have their answer; and on this question, no one can afford to be indifferent. Everything in life is at stake in this most important matter.

B. Lesson Background

The letter to the Hebrews is a book with an origin shrouded in mystery but with a message of enormous influence. Hebrews does not name its author, unlike other New Testament letters. In the early centuries of the church, some believed that it was written by Paul. But although it does show a connection with Paul’s circle (his associate Timothy is mentioned in Hebrews 13:23), the treatise is written in a style very different from that normally seen in Paul’s letters.

In fact, the style of Hebrews is different from all other books of the New Testament. We can say with some confidence that the letter was written by someone who was influenced by Paul or his associates, but who wrote no other book that survives to the present. Some have suggested Apollos, Barnabas, or Priscilla as possible authors, but these remain mere speculation.

Even so, we can infer much about the circumstances that this letter addresses. Hebrews emphasizes Christ’s supremacy, His fulfillment of the Old Testament, and the utter necessity of continuing in faith in Him. Thus it seems likely that Hebrews was written to Jews who had put faith in Jesus when they heard the gospel, but who then faced intense social pressure to renounce that faith and return to the practice of Judaism.

Conversations between these Christians and their Jewish families and friends are easy to imagine. Perhaps the unbelievers had said that while Jesus may have been an important person, perhaps even an angel, he simply did not fit the prophecies about God’s promised king. Returning to the old ways would mean continuing to be part of God’s “chosen people” while no longer experiencing the ostracism that faith in Jesus prompted.

Hebrews offers a sharp correction to that line of thinking. Yes, God had been at work in Israel to fulfill His promises. But those promises were indeed fulfilled-in a deep, thorough, and unexpected way-by Jesus. Because God’s divine Son, Jesus, is the greatest in God’s plan, then to reject Jesus is to reject God and His plan. But to hold to Jesus is to experience the fullness of God’s promises and the inauguration of God’s eternal blessings.

I. Revealer of Truth

                                                                 (Hebrews 1:1, 2)

A. That Was Then (v. 1)

1. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.

Many people view the long-ago events of the Bible as having little connection with them personally today. But for the original recipients of this letter, the distant past of biblical history is their own past. God had communicated with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who came before the prophets. That communication continued through centuries that spanned the conquest of the promised land and the eras of the judges and the kings, during the exile, and into the restoration after exile.

Over those periods God made promises, protected the helpless, orchestrated victories, appointed leaders, gave laws, and issued warnings. How God was at work and what it meant was declared by His prophets. They were empowered by His Spirit to speak authoritatively for Him.

How to Say It

aeons (or eons)ee-unz.

ApollosUh-pahl-us.

BarnabasBar-nuh-bus.

patriarchspay-tree-arks.

PriscillaPrih-sil-uh.

The words of the prophets and the inspired history of God’s dealings that they provided was Israel’s heritage. In these the people of Israel could truly say that they had heard God’s voice and understood His will. The book of Hebrews affirms that God had indeed been at work through Israel’s prophets. But now a page of that history turns to one who brings about the intended fulfillment.

What Do You Think?

What stories of God’s work in Old Testament times are especially meaningful to you? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Stories of deliverance

Stories of judgment

Stories of transformation

Stories of promise

Other

B. This Is Now (v. 2)

2a. Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.

The past holds the story of God’s work, but recent days hold something more. The phrase in these last days indicates the recent past, but it also implies that in such days God has been bringing His plan to its climax. What the past has promised, these last days have seen fulfilled. God had indeed spoken through many prophets, but in these last days He has spoken through one who is greater than a prophet.

As the book unfolds, Hebrews will paint a detailed portrait of what it means to be God’s Son. Here at the beginning, the book’s Jewish-Christian readers understand the term against its Old Testament background. God’s “son” in Israel’s Scriptures is sometimes Israel itself (Hosea 11:1, quoted in Matthew 2:15 to apply to Jesus). But more often the “son” was God’s appointed king (1 Chronicles 22:6-10). The idea of a promised king is a keystone in the foundation on which Hebrews builds its case for the superiority of Jesus.

What Do You Think?

How does knowing Jesus provide you with a sense of nearness to God and His work? How should that affect the way you think and live?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Providing assurance

Providing challenge

Providing example

Provoking gratitude

Reorienting priorities

2b. Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.

The appearance of this kingly Son is indeed the high point of all that God has done. As God’s king of fulfillment, He is God’s heir, figuratively inheriting all of creation as God appoints Him ruler. The king whom God promised through the prophets is described as the one to exercise God’s righteous rule over all things (Isaiah 9:6, 7). This Son of the last days fulfills that promise.

But this Son is not king simply by God’s recent appointment. The Son assumes the throne by right of His very nature. In affirming that God made the worlds through the Son, the writer uses an expression that suggests all of time and space (literally aeons or eons). All creation, including humanity, is subject to the rule of this Son because He is the Creator of all (compare John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).

Already we hear an unmistakable, emphatic declaration. The writer and the readers agree that the world was created by the one true God. Now the writer says that God created the world through His Son. This can mean only that God’s Son is indeed divine, by nature God. He is by appointment and by nature God’s greatest spokesman because He is God. To submit to Him is to submit to God; to reject Him is to reject God.

II. Revealer of Glory

                                                                  (Hebrews 1:3, 4)

A. Person and Work (v. 3)

3a. Who being the brightness of his glory.

Because of His divine identity, the Son, who came in the flesh (John 1:14), has revealed God as He has never before been revealed. It is the Son who brings the prophets’ revelations to the high point of completeness and fulfillment. God’s glory is the full expression and revelation of His being. Everything that God is, His glory expresses. The divine Son was able to bring the brightness of his glory because the divine Son is that brightness. God’s glory was revealed to a certain extent in Israel’s history (Exodus 16:6, 10; 24:15-17; 33:18-23; etc.). In Jesus it has been revealed as fully as it can be until He returns (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Titus 2:13; Revelation 1:7).

3b. And the express image of his person.

This phrase makes a point similar to the above. The word image, like brightness, does not refer to a revelation of God’s physical appearance, of course, since God has no physical body. Rather, it means the making clear of God’s true nature or essence (compare 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15). In the Son, God’s nature is fully revealed. He shows us fully who God is (John 14:9).

Jesus Is Nice; God Is Mean?

“Oh, I just love Jesus. Jesus is nice. But God-now He’s mean.” My acquaintance must have read the confusion on my face because she elaborated as she continued: “Oh, you know-He’s always destroying nations and sending plagues and all of that stuff.”

So that was it. To her, God the Father-the God of the Old Testament description-is the punishing deity. Jesus, on the other hand, is the God of mercy-the one who forgives and heals.

Those who think that the God of the Old Testament is all about wrath have apparently never read the book of Jonah! The book of Hebrews is also a lens through which to see the true nature of God-the one God of both the Old and New Testaments. If we want to have the best, clearest picture of God that has ever been given, we need to look at Jesus (compare John 14:9).

People of the first century encountered God in Jesus. When they did, He blew up their preconceived notions. They watched Him shock the experts, melt hard hearts, restore hope, and touch those considered “the least” of humanity. What a clear, beautiful picture of God! What held true in the first century still holds true today: if you want to understand God, look to Jesus. -V. E.

3c. And upholding all things by the word of his power.

The Son-the radiating, revealing image-bearer-is central to all that exists. His sovereign word carries the created world to its God-appointed destiny. In all ways Jesus is God’s king who fulfills His purpose.

3d. When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

But simply ruling is not the entirety of God’s purpose. The sovereign God seeks to forgive rebellious humans. So the Son who is king is also the Son who is high priest (Hebrews 4:14-5:10, lesson 7). His work, what Hebrews reveals as His offering of His own life as a sacrifice, is to cleanse the rebels of their guilt. He reconciles as well as rules.

Having accomplished His work of reconciliation, Christ assumed the position of authority on the throne of divine power. So the alternatives for humanity are clear: (1) acknowledge the Son as king and receive the cleansing that His death offers or (2) reject His offer and His authority, thereby persisting as His enemies and being subject to His punishment.

B. Status and Name (v. 4)

4. Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Angels are of great interest to Jews of the first century. Such spirit-beings, who appear occasionally in the Old Testament as God’s messengers, had become the subject of much well-intended speculation. But the Son of God is fundamentally greater than any angel. For one thing, He has an inheritance, bearing the authority of God himself. The Son’s name-how He is to be known to all-is superior to that of any angel because He has acted to bring God’s plan to its intended fulfillment (compare Philippians 2:8, 9).

The text does not tell us how the original readers viewed Jesus in relation to angels. But the author slams the door on any attempt to equate them.

What Do You Think?

What mistaken beliefs about angels have you heard? How do we correct these?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Concerning angelic power

Concerning angelic authority

Concerning angelic communication

Other

III. Worthy of Worship

                                                                 (Hebrews 1:5-9)

A. Status of Angels (vv. 5-7)

5a. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?

At this point, the letter begins a series of quotations from the Old Testament. These serve as reminders of God’s promises to Israel concerning the great king whom He would send. As the writer quotes these texts, He expects the readers to remember the contexts from which the quotes are taken and to think of how those contexts put the kingly Son’s role in perspective. It is a role greater than that of any angel or other created being.

The first text quoted is Psalm 2:7 (also in Acts 13:33; Hebrews 5:5). This psalm asserts that God’s king will bring righteous peace to a world overwhelmed with arrogant human rebellion. With verse 7, God pronounces that His Son will rule with all the power and authority of God himself.

5b. And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

Now the writer draws on 2 Samuel 7:14 (retold in 1 Chronicles 17:13), which is part of God’s promise to David that his “seed” or descendant would be the Son, the king to build God’s true temple and whose throne God would establish forever. Hebrews goes on to state that as God’s Son, Jesus’ death constituted the true sacrifice; and as high priest, He carried His own blood to the true tabernacle (the temple’s precursor) of Heaven (Hebrews 9:11, 12). Neither is ever said of angels.

6. And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

Visual for Lesson 5. Start a discussion by turning this statement into a question: “In what ways does Jesus reflect God’s glory?”

The last eight words translate a phrase from the old Greek version of Deuteronomy 32:43. This is the version familiar to the writer and the first readers of Hebrews. The eight-word phrase does not appear in English translations of the Old Testament that are not based on that old Greek version. Psalm 97:7 is similar.

The writer of Hebrews applies the action of this phrase to the Son as God’s firstbegotten. This term in context means not “first one created” but “authoritative one” (compare Colossians 1:15, 18). So, argues the writer, God’s designated authoritative one, who himself is fully divine, holds the authority of God and deserves worship as God. The implication is clear: if this Son receives worship from angels, surely He must receive worship from us as well.

7. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

Angels are indeed mighty, awe-inspiring beings. With a quote from the ancient Greek translation of Psalm 104:4, the author reminds the readers that angels are spirits who can be compared in their power and immateriality with fire. In context, that description exalts not angels but the God to whom they submit. Great as angels are, there is one who is greater.

The Great and Powerful

A memorable scene in the classic film The Wizard of Oz takes place in the basilica-like hall where the great and powerful wizard holds audience. Billowing smoke and terrifying sounds accompany his thunderous voice and larger-than-life visage. Who wouldn’t be impressed? Who could stand in that hall without being in awe of the wizard’s manifest powers?

Angelic appearances result in similar reactions in the pages of Scripture. Angels sometimes must help humans overcome terror before completing the task of delivering God’s message to them (examples: Daniel 10; Luke 1:11-17; 2:8-12). We may be tempted to smirk at ancient believers for being overly impressed by these celestial beings when we remember that humans are the ones created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that we will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Doctrinal errors, ancient or modern, regarding the nature and status of angels are indeed important to address. But in so doing, we must not overlook the need to humble ourselves before the Creator of all: Jesus the Christ.

Which impresses you more as you read the Bible: angelic appearances that inspire awe and fright or the lowly appearance of the baby Jesus in a manger? Although He could have come to earth in radiance and power far outshining that of angels, He chose not to. Jesus did not come to terrify us into submission by means of His mighty power. He came, rather, to die for us. How will you model this humility before others this week? -V. E.

B. Status of the Son (vv. 8, 9)

8. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

To contrast the Son with angels, the writer quotes from Psalm 45:6, 7 in this verse and the next. This psalm appears to have been written as a celebration of the wedding of Israel’s king. As the psalm invites those gathered to admire and congratulate the king as he appears for the ceremony, it reminds the audience that Israel’s king rules under the authority of God. It is God’s throne that endures for ever and ever. His authority, symbolized by a sceptre, enforces His right way, not the personal interests of a selfish king.

What Do You Think?

What difference should it make that the heavenly king died for you rather than being an earthly king who would not do so?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Difference in trust

Difference in priorities

Difference in relationships

Difference in values

Other

9a. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.

To love righteousness and hate iniquity are two sides of the same coin. The king’s commitment in this regard must be absolute. The ideal king who rules under the true God will never reverse that love/hate outlook, no matter what the situation. And Jesus never has, does, or will.

9b. Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Kings in ancient Israel were recognized as such by being anointed with oil (examples: 2 Samuel 2:4; 5:3). Since Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit instead of oil (Acts 10:38), the expression the oil of gladness is used figuratively to signify the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless His people with a worthy king (compare Isaiah 61:3, lesson 4).

The quoted psalm describes the ideal king, and that ideal is fulfilled in Jesus. Even the best of Israel’s ancient kings failed in various ways at times. But Jesus is the king whose throne God establishes forever (2 Samuel 7:13). Jesus, the only one without sin (Hebrews 4:15, lesson 7) in Israel’s line of kings, is the only one who can bring about God’s righteous rule. He stands apart as the unique, singular king of God’s kingdom.

Conclusion

A. The Crucified King

The letter’s opening connects Jesus with the great history of God’s dealings with His people. Jesus does not break with that history but brings it to God’s intended climax. Today’s passage begins an extended explanation of Jesus’ fulfillment of every aspect of God’s promises. Yet remarkably, Jesus is not mentioned by name in today’s text; He will not be mentioned by name until Hebrews 2:9. But our author knows that the first-century readers are quite familiar with the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He wants to make sure that they understand its implications.

The familiarity of this story should give us pause. The one whom Hebrews proclaims as the greatest figure in God’s plan is the divine Son who experienced all the tests to which humans are subject. He is the one who died a tortuous, humiliating death on a Roman cross. The king who is exalted above even angels is the crucified one, raised again to triumphant life as He bears the marks of His death (John 20:27; Revelation 5:6).

The subjects of this king suffer rejection and persecution as He did. They are pressured to give up the path of submission to God as was Jesus when challenged to come down from the cross (Matthew 27:40-42). But the stakes are too high ever to give in to such pressure. The Son stands above angels and earthly kings in authority, exalted to the very throne of God. To belong to Jesus is to belong to God and gain eternal life; to reject Him is to reject God and forfeit that life.

What Do You Think?

Which accounts from Jesus’ life illustrate best for you that He is God’s righteous king? How do these shape how you live?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Accounts of action (preaching, teaching, etc.)

Accounts of reaction (response to critics, etc.)

Accounts of passivity (allowing himself to be crucified, etc.)

B. Prayer

Father, along with all creation we bow before Your Son as our king. May He lead us to submit to Your supreme authority in every aspect of our lives. We pray this in His name. Amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Seek the guidance of the Son.


October 9

Lesson 6 (KJV)

Builder of the House

Devotional Reading: Hebrews 10:19-25

Background Scripture: Hebrews 3:1-6; Matthew 7:19-29

Hebrews 3:1-6

1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.

5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Matthew 7:24-29

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Key Verse

For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. -Hebrews 3:3

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. List some implications of the fact that Jesus is the greatest and final authority because of His identity as God’s divine Son.

2. Compare and contrast the significance of the word house in the Matthew and Hebrews segments of the lesson text.

3. Identify the part of Christ’s spiritual house(hold) that is most in need of repair and commit to helping to correct the problem.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. The Presence of Greatness

B. Lesson Background

I. Faithful Builder (Hebrews 3:1-6)

A. Like Moses (vv. 1, 2)

B. Greater than Moses (vv. 3-6)

Side-by-Side Comparisons

II. Faithful Teacher (Matthew 7:24-29)

A. Wise Plan (vv. 24, 25)

B. Foolish Plan (vv. 26, 27)

C. Ultimate Authority (vv. 28, 29)

Cite the Highest Source

Conclusion

A. The Greatness of Jesus

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2016-2017 (KJV): StandardLessonCmy2016KJV.

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless