Lesson 03: Christ's Superiority to the Angels

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth : July 22, 1897

 Let us take a brief glance at what we have passed over. God has spoken, and still speaks. He speaks to us in His Son, that only begotten Son—the Lord—who was in the beginning with God, and who was God. This Son through whom God speaks to us is the heir of all things, because in Him were all things created. Moreover He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1.15), the very impress of His substance, and the shining of His glory; and because He is all this, and because He bears in His own life all creation with the sins and the curse of the whole world, He has by Himself, and for His own sake, made a reconciliation, a cleansing, of sin, and is seated “on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Hebrews 1.4

“Being made so much better than the angels.” How much better?—So much better as to have a seat on the right hand of the Majesty on high, a place that is infinitely higher than that occupied by the highest angel; and this place He has by right, because “He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

The “More Excellent Name.”—What is the “more excellent” name? It is a name that He has “by inheritance,” and must therefore be the Father’s name. God the Father Himself addresses the Son as God, saying, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” He is as much more excellent than the angels, as the Creator is above the thing created. In Christ were the angels in heaven created (Colossians 1.16), so that it is impossible that any angel should ever equal the Son in rank and power. The place which He occupies He has by right of inheritance, as the only begotten Son of God.

“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?”

To this question there can be but one answer—to none of them. But God has said it to the Son. He has said it to the Son, because it is true of the Son. Angels are sons of God (Job 38.7), but not in the sense that Christ is. He stands in a relation to the Father that the highest angel cannot attain to, because not born to it as was Christ.

We also are Sons.—But “behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God!” “Before the foundation of the world,” He “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Ephesians 1.4, 5. To us God says what He has not said to any angel, but what He has said to Christ, the only begotten Son: “I will receive you, and will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to Me sons and daughters.” 2 Corinthians 6.17, 18, R.V.

There is nothing in this to cause any soul to feel proud and exalted, although the position promised is the highest that is in God's power to bestow. On the contrary, it produces true humility, in that it exalts the infinite love of God, and the infinite power that can take creatures of dust, and fallen creatures at that, and make them “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” It is the inheritance only of the meek. Because Christ possessed, even while yet in heaven, the mind of humility that led Him to take the form of a servant, as He already had the character of a servant; therefore “God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name.” Philippians 2.5-9. It is only in the gentleness and humility of God, that we can be made great. But with all who humbly accept Him, Christ shares all that He inherits,—His character, His possessions, His glory, His name. See Romans 8.17; Revelation 21.7; John 17.22; Revelation 3.12

The Son of Man Exalted.—Jesus sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high—but in what capacity?—As the Son of man; for “now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” Ephesians 4.9, 10. All this happened to “the Son of man.” Matthew 20.17-19. It would be no more than men would expect that God would give to His only begotten Son the place which He had by right from eternity; but here we see the Son of man exalted to that same position,—that Son of man whose “visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52.13, 14), so that He scarcely had the appearance of a man, and who in His utter abasement said, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Psalm 22.6. “This Jesus hath God raised up,” and by the resurrection from the dead it is demonstrated that He is the Son of God as well as the Son of man. Romans 1.4. He was by the resurrection declared to be the Son of God with power “according to the Spirit of holiness,” because it was on account of His holiness through the Spirit, that it was impossible for the grave to hold Him. Acts 2.24. Because Christ was marred and bruised and degraded more than any man, and yet by the Spirit of holiness shown to be the Son of God, and exalted to the throne of the Majesty on high, there is no room left to doubt that the very lowest man may through Him attain to the same position. “He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of gory.” 1 Samuel 2.8

“And again, when He brings in the first begotten into the world, He says, and let all the angels of God worship Him.”

God does nothing arbitrarily. Whatever He does stands fast for ever and ever, because it has in it the very substance of eternity, namely, truth. He does not, as men do, place persons in a position that is purely artificial, and demand that they shall receive homage because of their position and surroundings; but with God the character makes the position. He did not demand that all the angels should worship Christ because He had arbitrarily placed Him over them, but because Christ was worthy of worship; and the angels saw in Him that which commanded their adoration. In Christ’s deepest humiliation, when haggard and worn with the burden of sin and the conflict with Satan, when battered and bruised, His face covered with shame and spitting,—even then He carried with Him kingly authority and dignity, that was felt even by those who mocked Him because of His appearance, but who would have done homage to Him if He had come with the outward pomp and trappings of a king. He was king by force of character, and therefore to Him was accorded the homage due to a king, even while arrayed as a degraded criminal. In His most humiliating position He had royal honor, to show us that in the most truly exalted position there must be humility. The truly noble does not exalt himself—he has no need to. Only in the absence of greatness is there the vaunting of names and titles, and the arrogation to one's self of position and homage. Jesus demonstrated His right to be highest over all, and to receive the adoration and homage of the universe, by the possession in the deepest poverty and abasement of a character that compelled the adoration of the highest angels of God.

“And of the angels He saith, Who makes His angels spirits [winds, R.V.], end his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy follows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they shall all wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou told them up, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” Hebrews 1.10-13

God has not exalted the Son at the expense of the angels. Human pride and ambition overreaches itself, by seeking to exalt self at the expense of others. It is a common failing with men, to depreciate others, in order that self may stand highest. When we do that, we do not think that the very fact that we must depreciate the worth of others in order that our worth may be seen is evidence that ours is very small, smaller than that of those whom we seek to depreciate. Only true worth can recognize worth. The chapter before us shows Christ's infinite superiority to the angels, but it does not in the least give the angels a low position. Of their greatness and work, however, we will speak in the next article. Let as now note what is said of the Son.

Christ is God.—“Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever.” Who says this? -God, the Father. To whom does He say it?—“Unto the Son.” The Father, therefore, addresses the Son as God, thus showing that He is worthy of all worship. This is to give Him the very highest position in the universe, or, rather, to recognize His right to it, the position which He has at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

The Word of God.—It is worth while in passing to learn a lesson as to how we should read the Scriptures. The words, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” are quoted from Psalm 45.6. One who reads that Psalm would naturally say that they are the words in which David addresses God. That is all true, but it is not all the truth. The truth, as we see from the first of Hebrews, is that the words are God’s own words, showing us that when we read the Scriptures, we should read them, not as the words of men, but as they are in truth, the words of God, This is an illustration of the statement in the first verse: God spoke in the prophets.

A Kingdom of Righteousness.—“A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” What is a scepter?—It is a symbol of power. It is the emblem of kingly power and authority. The fact that the scepter of Christ’s kingdom is a scepter of righteousness shows that the kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. Christ rules in righteousness. He wins, “not by might or by power,” as men understand those terms, but by the inherent righteousness of His cause. “Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of Thy throne.” Psalm 89.14, R. V. The margin of the common version has “establishment” or “foundation.” God’s throne--Christ’s throne—is for ever and ever, because it is founded on righteousness,—it is righteousness. Whatever is right must stand for ever. In this we have a lesson to learn: We need not concern ourselves about defending ourselves and our cases; all we have to do is to leave ourselves in God’s hands that He may work His righteous will in us, and our case must stand, no matter what is said and done to overthrow it. “The world passes away, and the lust thereof; but he that does the will of God abides for ever.” 1 John 2.17

Loving Righteousness—Hating Iniquity.—“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” Men are wont to transpose the terms, to put hating iniquity first. And then too often they forget the second term. Loving righteousness must precede hating iniquity. When that is the case, there is no danger that hating iniquity will be omitted; for the first includes the second. If one really loves righteousness, that is of itself hatred of iniquity; “for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6.14. Righteousness is light; unrighteousness is darkness. Light has no communion with darkness, not because it arbitrarily decides to exclude darkness from its fellowship, but because darkness cannot possibly come where light is. Where light is, there darkness cannot be. There is a way common among men, of declaiming against iniquity, in order to show one's hatred of it. It is as though a candle should continually cry out against darkness in order to show that it has no fellowship with darkness, but the fact that it must be always talking against darkness, in order to show its abhorrence of it, is proof that it itself is nothing but darkness. The man, who has no way of showing his own goodness except by talking against the evil deeds of others, has not righteousness enough to be seen. Light has nothing to do but to shine; by so doing it drives darkness away, and that is far better than declamations against it.

We are not sent into the world to chase after sin,—to hunt it out, trace it to its den, investigate it, attack it, and expose it to view to be hated—and then loved. What are we then to do with sin?—Let it alone; simply love righteousness; be a positive force instead of merely negative. If one goes toward the north, he necessarily goes away from the south. So one cannot love and seek righteousness without fleeing from iniquity.

A Kingdom of Joy.—“God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” What does anointing signify?—Separation to a special office. Priests, prophets, and kings are thus inducted into office. Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King, but above all, King, His power as Prophet and Priest is derived from His authority as King. But what is the nature of His kingdom? We have already seen that it is a kingdom of righteousness; now we see that it is a kingdom of joy, for the anointing oil shows the character of the kingdom. Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Acts 10.38. So the kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14.17

The subjects of Christ’s kingdom must therefore be glad and joyful. Not, they ought to be, but they must be. Not to be joyful in God is evidence that Christ is not acknowledged as King. He who accepts Christ, and the righteousness of God which necessarily comes in Christ, cannot be otherwise than glad in the Lord. “Thou hast loved righteousness;”—therefore God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness. Gladness accompanies righteousness just as surely as light accompanies the rising sun.

But mark; we are not to make ourselves glad. We have not to force gladness; nor to simulate it. If joy is not spontaneous, it is not joy. In the world gladness is often fictitious; it is either the result of passing events, and so but momentary, or it is put on to cover up real unhappiness. That is the way the world gives peace and joy. But Christ gives not as the world gives. He gives joy that cannot be affected by surroundings. Jesus Christ was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and He says that His disciples shall have tribulation in the world: yet He was a man of joy, for He said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15.11. And even when saying that tribulation must come, He says, “Be of good cheer.” John 16.33. Joy that is unaffected by tribulation and affliction is worth having. Among the many libels published against Christ, is the statement that He never smiled. As if a man of long visage and doleful countenance could ever attract children to him! No; “the joy that was set before Him” enabled Him to endure the cross. Hebrews 12.2. He had the Lord always before His face, in whose presence there is “fullness of joy;” and because He was “full of joy” from the countenance of the Father, our joy can be full in Him. God’s countenance is full of joy. Compare Psalm 16; Acts 2.25-28; John 15.11. Because of His anointing by the Spirit, He gives us “the oil of joy for mourning” (Isaiah 61.1-3), so that although we may be “in heaviness through manifold temptations,” yet, believing in Him, we are able to “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1.5-8

New Heavens and New Earth.—Read Hebrews 1.10-12 again carefully. They tell, what we have already learned, that Christ is Creator. The Father Himself bears witness to the fact that Christ laid the foundation of the earth, and that the heavens are the work of His hands. When He made them they were as a matter of course new; and they would always have remained new, if sin had not come into the world; for righteousness is eternal and the characteristic of eternity is perpetual youth. But because of sin they have become old and threadbare, like a long used garment. So, like a garment, they shall be folded up and changed. When a garment is worn out, and therefore is changed, what follows?—A new garment. If the old garment were not to be replaced by a new one, there would be no reason for changing it. Therefore in the words, “They all shall wax old like a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed,” we have the promise of the “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.” The same word that in the beginning caused them to stand forth from nothingness, still abides to “create all things new.”

Jesus Christ For Ever the Same.—“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Hebrews 13.8. “They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they shall all wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” Glorious assurance! Everything else about us may change; we ourselves change; but He is unchangeable. Often in our changing moods we imagine that Christ has changed. Not so; we have been looking at ourselves, instead of at Christ. All the sin and misery in this world comes from putting self in the place of Christ. We rejoice for a season in the pardoning love of God; but, looking away from Christ, we fall into sin, and then we imagine that His feelings have changed towards us. Impossible! “If we believe not, yet He abides faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2.13. We wander away in sin, but we need not despair, for we cannot go so far away that we cannot find Him if we wish to. He “is not far from every one of us,” and He is always the same. He loves “with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31.3. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3.22. And “this God is our God for ever.” From everlasting to everlasting He is God, and in all generations He is our dwelling place. Psalm 90.1, 2. The heavens may vanish away like smoke, and the earth may be removed, yet we may abide secure, for the eternal God is our refuge, and “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33.27. “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” He changes not, therefore “they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount, Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever.” Psalm 125.1, 2

“Change and decay in all around I see;

 O, Thou who changes not, abide with me.”