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A View from the Altar / Filed under teacher, good and moral, not just a (Hebrews 1)
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Filed under teacher, good and moral, not just a (Hebrews 1)

There is a trace of Christian pheromone left in our society, just enough so that haters of God feel obliged to nod in the direction of Jesus and say something to the effect of, “good moral teacher.”

Even the least advanced Christian sees this as damnation by faint praise but labors to explain his objections adquately.  Christ was, after all, a teacher, and a moral man, and certainly a good man.  All true.  But to leave things there is to locate the summit of Mount Everest somewhere above sea level.  It’s so far short of accurate that what’s omitted amounts to a lie.

It’s a matter of history that the first Hebrew Christians were persecuted by their fellow Hebrews.  It’s easy to imagine them trying to persuade the Christians to return to the Jewish fold through a deceit-by-delete scheme.  They perhaps spoke of Jesus as highly as they could but in such a way as to omit his essential glory.  Maybe he was an angel, they said, maybe even the greatest of the angels.

And if Jesus were an angel, then everything could go back to the way it was.  The apostates could tranquilize their consciences and quench the Spirit by honoring his teachings.  They could number him among the prophets.  They could declare his courage and power.  They could extol his miracles.  They could glorify Israel as the nation that gave the world its most important and beneficial religious philosophers, now Jesus among them.  Most important, they could go back to being Jews and not have to suffer contempt and persecution from Jewish authorities who kept Christianity “outside the camp.”  Come on back inside.  Call Jesus anything you like.  Praise him to the skies!  But never call him the Son of God nor worship him as Lord.  That was the deal being offered.

So the apostle took pen in hand and wrote his letter to the Hebrews and exploded that whole line of thinking.  He said that Jesus is the heir of all things, that he is our Creator, that he is the exact impress of the substance of God, that he sustains all creation by the word of his power, that he alone has purged our sins (and who can forgive sins but God alone?), that he is seated at the right hand of Majesty on high, that all his enemies shall be made his footstool, that he is better than the angels and not just greater than the angels, that the name of the Son is given by inheritance from God the Father, that within the mystery of the Trinity, God addressed him as God, that he is eternal and would outlast the very heavens.

To honor Jesus at all, you had to speak the whole truth about him: begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, God of very God, of one substance with the Father, the eternal One who is Most High and whose name is above every name that is named — of things in heaven, things in earth, and things under the earth.  In Christ, God was reconciling himself to the world.  To say anything less was to lie about him with way less than half the truth.

Just so in the modern age.  If Jesus is a good moral teacher and nothing more, than we can leave things at that.  Everything can remain as it was.  Nobody has to change anything.  We can all go back to being Jews, secular people, Hindus, Moslems, or even atheists.  Jesus is safely confined in a lock box designed by Al Gore and need not trouble our consciences or direct us to bend a knee before him.

But if he is what the apostle described in Hebrews 1, then he is God Almighty, and ignoring him is no safe option.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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