Companions of Christ and the Heavenly Calling

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 14 - The Superiority of Christ

Yesterday morning we began to consider the superiority of what has come in with this dispensation, to that which belonged to the old. We only made a beginning on this matter - and when we say 'we made a beginning' on the last, but one day, of the conference, it is quite evident that we are going to have twelve baskets full over when we are finished! For really, we have not got into the heart of this letter to the Hebrews, and there is so much more that could extend for a long time. Perhaps that is how it ought to be. We do not want to come to an end, we want to feel that the land is a land of far distances... the land into which the Lord can lead us, even without a conference.

Well, this morning we are now going on a little way into that land - the land of the superiority of this dispensation over all past dispensations.

It may seem to some of you that I am repeating much of what I have already said. If that is so, it is only that we may go beyond it. Perhaps I could say what the apostle said, "It is not irksome to me to say again the things that I have said, but for you it is good". Well now, let us come to this particular matter, for it is the supreme matter, which means that it is the supreme matter in this dispensation: how much higher and fuller is that which has come in with the Lord Jesus than ever came in in old times.

Now you have the letter to the Hebrews open before you, and you will see that right at the beginning this is the dispensation of God's Son. That is, it is the dispensation of God's Son in a new, personal, manifestation. We believe that He was present in the old dispensation and that He appeared to men in other forms, but this letter says that in this dispensation He has come in a new form. So it begins with the manifested presence of God's Son. It says that in the old dispensation men met God in portions and in different ways, the first verse says that it was in "divers portions and in divers manners" and God met men and men met God in the prophets.

Now, the prophets were the servants of God, and men met God through the servants of God. In this dispensation they meet God in God's Son personally. And there is a statement that "God was in Christ". "Son" implies  "Father"; the "Son of God" implies God. So in the Son we meet God, not now in servants, but "in Son". And this reaches absolute fullness in the matter of Divine revelation, "For it pleased God that in His Son should all the fullness dwell". When a thing is full, there is no room for any more. If you are pouring water into a vessel, when it is full, you say it's full; you don't put any more in. It is just full! And it pleased the Father that in the Son should all the fullness dwell and there is nothing more to be added.

Now, do not take these as just words. Do understand that in every fragment there is this truth: In the dispensation in which you and I are now living, God has come to us in all His fullness. There is no more to be added. In His Son we have the absolute fullness of God, and it is out of that fullness that He speaks to us in His Son. And God has only one Son in that sense - it is His only begotten Son, which means that there is no one to come after Him. Therefore, God's last word is in His Son. The Son brings both the fullness of God and the finality of God. It is that that gives the solemnity to this whole letter. It says: "If you fail to hear the voice of the Son there's never another voice for you. God is never going to speak by another voice. God hath spoken in His Son, and He is never going to speak again by any other means." Hence this letter contains this word of warning and this word of exhortation: "Because this is the fullness and this is the end, be sure that you give heed".

But it is not only God speaking in His Son. That is, a way of speaking, God's speaking is always God's acting. In this dispensation God is active in and through His Son. To come into touch with the Lord Jesus is more than to come into touch with a teaching: it is to come into touch with a living, active Person. "It is God with whom we have to do." It is a glorious thing to come into touch with God in Christ - but it says here that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God". No, it is not a book, it is not a teaching, it is not a philosophy: it is a living, positive, powerful Person. It is no other than God in action.

If you have any doubt about that, just remember the book of the Acts. It is called "The Acts of the Apostles", well, everybody knows that that's a wrong name, for the apostles in that book only amount to three or four, most of the apostles are never heard or seen in that book. They are mentioned at the beginning and then you hear no more about them. It is not the book of the Acts of the apostles, it is the book of the Acts of God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit - and indeed it's a book of acts! Whatever teaching there is there, it comes out of the acts.

Well now, we go on to this next thing, the Son is introduced, He is presented, and then He is described. And it's a wonderful description isn't it, of the Son! But we ask: Who is this Son? Because His name is not mentioned until you get into chapter two, verse nine. It is the Son without a name. Who is this Son? Well, verse nine of chapter two tells us and tells us for the first time who the Son is: "But we behold Him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus". Perhaps it seems a very simple thing to say that Jesus is this Son, and this Son is Jesus, but perhaps you don't recognise a certain thing about this: it is very rarely, after His resurrection and ascension, that He is called "Jesus". When He has gone back to heaven He is usually "the Lord Jesus", "Jesus Christ our Lord", "our Lord Jesus Christ". His full title is given when He is enthroned in heaven, and if someone comes right back from that down here and just uses the title "Jesus", you know that they are referring to His humiliation and the purpose of His humiliation. It has to do with His work on earth for our redemption.

So look at verse nine again: "We behold Him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death". The name "Jesus" is the name of the one who suffered death, who tasted death for every man - and it was the Son of God who did that. It was the Son of God who, as Jesus, tasted death for every man, because of the suffering of death. That is the Son who is introduced here. He is identified by His name "Jesus"... "He shall be called Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins".

Then the next thing is the position and function of the Son. Right back at the beginning again, "God hath at the end of these times spoken unto us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds". This Son, known to us as Jesus, is by God's appointment the heir of all things. All things are to come to Him by right of God's appointment.

Please do not be weary with me. This is one of the first things said about the dispensation in which you and I live. It does not look very much like it now, for we do not yet see all things put in subjection under His feet, but it says here emphatically right at the beginning that He is "heir of all things", therefore everything has to come to Him in the end. God is going "to sum up all things in Christ, things in heaven, and things on  earth". He is appointed heir of all things.

If we were speaking in human language there was somewhere in the past eternity, an occasion, when the Godhead had a conference to discuss the future of everything that was going to be made. And the Father said: "I make My Son the heir of all things. I appoint Him My heir, and I decree that all things in the end shall come into His possession."

Now you're dealing with almighty and eternal God, and when He decides a thing like that, nothing can prevent it. "Whom He appointed heir of all things" - but He didn't leave it there. He turned to the Son (of course, this is our way of speaking) and He said: "Now, My Son, I am going to use You as the agent in making all things" - "through whom He made the worlds". This Son, whom we know as our Saviour and Lord, was God's agent in the creation of the worlds.

And then it says a third thing, and this is of course something so difficult to understand. This Son upholds "all things by the word of His power". Things do not collapse because He is holding all things, upholding all things by the word of His power. And things will not collapse until He says they should collapse.

If this is true, it is something very wonderful for us. We are hearing so much about the disintegration of the universe, the blowing to pieces of this world. A lot of people are getting very frightened about this. Well, if it is true what is here, the universe and the world can never go to pieces until Jesus says so! Men may get very near to doing it, and then it recedes. It just doesn't happen. It has got like that several times, but the word of His power has stopped it, and until He says "Now - go!" it won't go. He upholds all things by the word of His power.

May we go as far as to say that should be of personal comfort to us? Sometimes it seems that our own personal little world is going to pieces, and that we have come to the end of our little world. Well, it applies there; not until Jesus says so. He will hold things together until He wants them to go to pieces.

This is the Son identified, this is the Son described. And then we move on into the larger body of the letter: the Son's greatness by comparison with other great things and people.

In verse four: "Having become by so much better than the angels". That is the next highest to thing to God and the Son; the angels. Oh, there is so much said about angels in the Bible! Peter says that, "the angels who are great in power". In the book of the Judges the angel is said to have had a very striking appearance, his face was striking to behold and the person who saw him was afraid that they were going to die. They said: "I have beheld the angel of the Lord, his face was like unto an angel" - Judges 13:6 if you want the reference.

The angels have a very vast knowledge. Jesus said this: "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, not even the angels..." If anybody ought to know this, the angels should, their knowledge is so full and so great, and yet even the angels do not know this. The angels have a vast knowledge.

There is an overwhelming number of angels, Revelation chapter 5 verse 11: "The number of the angels was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands..." that is spoken of angels. They are a vast number.

These angels are very near to the throne of God, they have access into the presence of God. That comes out in one of the beautiful things that Jesus said about little children, He said, "You must not offend one of these little ones, because their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven". Of course, we don't understand that; something very mysterious. But Jesus says that the angels have access to the throne of God, they are very near to God Himself. There is only One who is nearer to God than the angels.

The work of the angels is very varied. Look again because we're keeping very close to Hebrews, verse 13 of chapter 1: "But of which of the angels hath He said at any time, Sit thou on My right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?" And what a lot of work they have to do! All the heirs of salvation, all over the world, in every generation - and this says that the angels have to look after them and to look after their interests! "To do service for them that shall be heirs of salvation." Well, of course we do not see them, but if the Bible is true they are there and they are very busy people. They have very, very much and very varied service. All the various needs of these heirs of salvation are their concern.

So the angels are a very high order - but in this letter the Lord is saying: "But the Son is far greater than the angels". Here it says He has obtained a greater name than they, verse 4: "Having become by so much better than the angels."

Now if you read all that there is about angels in the Bible you will have a very wonderful revelation - and then you come to this fragment about the Son, who is Jesus, "so much better than the angels". That's where the superiority begins.

And we, dear friends, have come into the dispensation of that: the superiority of Jesus to all the angels. Perhaps we haven't made enough of the ministry of the angels, but evidently they are very busy for us. Perhaps many, many things that we are saved from is because they were very watchful.

Well, we begin with the angels and then we go on with Moses. You will notice what it says here, chapter three: "Wherefore, holy brethren, companions of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus: who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also was Moses in all God's house. For He hath been counted worthy of more glory than Moses" - get hold of that phrase - more honour than Moses! "For every house is builded by some one; but he that built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all God's house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; but Christ as a Son over God's house..." The writer is saying: "We are not going to take anything away from Moses. We give Moses honour as a great servant of God, but Christ is greater. The Son is greater than Moses."

Abraham was the father of the nation, Moses was the builder and constitutor of the nation. What a large place Moses had in history! Not only had he a very large place in Israel, but he had a large place in the world. Many of the best legal systems in this world are based upon the economy of Moses, because through Moses it was said: "Thou shalt not steal", we have all the police forces in the world! "Thou shalt not kill", well, we have all the police forces in the world on that, I wish we had a few more forces in relation to some other things that Moses said! But the point is: Moses has come to have a very large world place in history. The Jews in Christ's day always appealed to Moses as the final authority in anything. Their charge against Jesus was that He made Himself greater than Moses. They therefore believed that there was no one greater than Moses. Now this writer of the letter to the Hebrews, with great boldness, says that there is One greater than Moses. Give Moses all the honour that is due to him, but the Son is greater than Moses.

And then he goes on to speak of Aaron. Aaron was the first high priest, and being the high priest, he was the representative of the whole priestly system. Aaron was over all the other priests and Levites, Aaron was over all the sacrifices, Aaron was over the whole sanctuary. Aaron went in alone to the place of the Most Holy. No one but Aaron was allowed to go into the Holy of holies - and the writer here is saying that the Son is greater than Aaron, far greater than Aaron. And he tells us why: Aaron died. Aaron died. And anyone who dies never makes anything perfect. When he dies he has to leave something unfinished. And what the writer is saying is "Aaron died, therefore his work was not perfect. Death cut across it. It was never finished. There had to come a lot of other high priests to try and carry it on". Many more priests and many more sacrifices - all being added to try and make this thing perfect, and chapter nine tells us that they never did make anything perfect. All the priests and all the sacrifices never made anything perfect. And this is the wonderful thing that the letter says: many high priests, thousands of priests, millions of sacrifices, rivers of blood, and never bringing anything to perfection and then the Son came... one Priest for ever, who will never die, therefore His work will never be cut short.

We have one priest forever... Of course there, that wonderful paragraph about Melchizedek comes in. And everybody is wondering who Melchizedek was, I have been asked this week: "Who was Melchizedek?" You can go to the Bible and you will never find the answer, and you will certainly not find the answer outside of the Bible. This mysterious man comes in from nowhere, and where he goes to no one knows. He has not beginning nor end, that is, so far as the record is concerned, neither beginning nor end and that is taken up as illustrating the Lord Jesus as the High Priest: neither beginning of life nor end of days, He is an eternal High Priest.

I like to see that High Priest in John chapter 13, that High Priest rising from supper and taking the priestly girdle the towel, and going to the spiritual laver (you remember the laver in the tabernacle don't you?) and it was as though this One went to the laver and filled the basin with water, came and washed the disciple's feet. A symbolic act of cleansing. It's the High Priest doing it and it's very beautiful because over that incident there are written these words, just look at those men, what kind of men they were, and then right over them this: "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end". That end is not in time; if eternity ever ends, that's where it is. He loved them with an everlasting love... this High Priest, this greater than Aaron, who ever lives, "who lives forever to make intercession". That is what it says here.

And then with one sacrifice forever... they used millions of sacrifices and never, never made anything perfect. He, with only one sacrifice, did it. It's done forever, and He was the Sacrifice as well as the Priest. As Priest He offered Himself without blemish unto God.

If we go on like this, dear friends, you will begin to believe that there's something better here - better than Moses, better than Aaron. Do you know why God put those two men together? They were brothers, Moses and Aaron were brothers, but they were very different brothers, and yet they had to live together and work together. Why was that, what was the difference? Moses was the governor, Moses represented government and authority. Well, we know that. What came through Moses was "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not". Moses governed Israel. Moses exercised authority in Israel. But God is not only like that. Aaron was the man of love, the man of sympathy. Priesthood means that you know - priesthood means love and sympathy: love for the poor sinner, love for the poor sinning world, sympathy with men. And God puts these two things together. It would not do to have all of one. It would never do to have only an autocrat. You must unite with him, the governor and the authority, a heart of compassion. And if you get that, if you have those two things put together you have a very good Israel.

Now here in this letter you see it's saying that Jesus, the Son, is better than Moses and better than Aaron. On the one side He can say: "All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and in earth". The Father said: "Sit thou on My right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet".

Here are two pictures in this letter, two wonderful pictures. The one is of Jesus "crowned with glory and honour", having "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens" waiting, until His enemies are made the footstool of His feet, with all authority in His power. He is in the place of government. And alongside of that is this other beautiful picture: "We have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" ... "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." Not only authority and government, but love and sympathy - and so much greater than Moses and Aaron. Yes, His authority is a greater authority than that of Moses, His government is a greater government than ever Moses exercised, but His sympathy and His love is far greater than that of Aaron.

I think you may have had enough for this morning. I haven't finished with the superiority of the Son. We haven't touched upon His work - the work of making purification for sins, but you can read it. And I'm afraid that that's where we have got to stop this conference. Perhaps it is just like a window opened into heaven. If you get the right window you can see quite a lot! You can see great things and you can see far things, and the best that I can hope is that this has just opened a window, and that as you look through this window you are seeing one thing: how superior is Jesus Christ to all else, and how superior is the dispensation into which we have come, and how superior are all the resources at our disposal to all that ever was before!

Now, dear friends, this is not just a conference subject. There is one thing that I am strongly convinced of, that if we are getting near to the end of this dispensation (and many of us believe that we are) the one thing that is needed to be known is the greatness of Christ. And this is the thing that God will emphasise at the end. All other things are going to prove to be very small. All other things are going to pass away, but Jesus is greater than all. He'll abide forever. That will be the only strength of God's people in the end time, so that more than being just a subject for a conference, it's God's message in the day in which we live. Dr A. B. Simpson, to whom I referred last night, said over fifty years ago, "I believe that the last movement in this dispensation will be a movement back to Jesus Christ". Perhaps that is why the Lord has led us to consider Jesus Christ. You can take it from me, dear friends that you are going to need this Christ, you are going to need to know how much greater He is than all other things.

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