SERMON TITLE: Greater than Angels
TEXT: Hebrews 1:1-14 (NLT); Luke 2:8-20
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here.
As I mentioned earlier — it’s a joy to be with all of you for this evening’s communion service. And there’s one thing I want you to know — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re beginning our Christmas series this evening. With everything else that’s going on — a business meeting — baptisms and child dedications — and communion to come — this is one packed evening. But let’s jump right into God’s Word as — this Christmas — we’re going to see how Jesus is Greater. “Greater than what,” you may be asking. A great question. We’ll begin this Christmas series by seeing that Jesus is greater than angels.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
So let’s turn to our passage for today. If you have your Bible please turn with me to Hebrews chapter 1. We’ll be looking at the entire chapter this evening — verses 1-14. We’re in Hebrews chapter 1. Beginning in verse 1.
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 4 This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. 5 For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” God also said, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” 6 And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, “Let all of God’s angels worship him.” 7 Regarding the angels, he says, “He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire.” 8 But to the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. 9 You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.” 10 He also says to the Son, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. 12 You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” 13 And God never said to any of the angels, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” 14 Therefore, angels are only servants — spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:1-14 NLT)
Jesus is greater than angels. This isn’t meant to be a knock against angels or to downplay their importance. In fact — angels would agree with the statement that Jesus is greater than them. But — in order to appreciate Jesus’ greatness — let’s remind ourselves of what we discover about angels throughout Scripture. Now — if you’re not a Christian — my guess is you still have an interest in angels. I say that — because — angels are still popular in books, TV shows, movies, and in culture — in general. So — if you don’t think of yourself as a religious person — whatever appreciation you have for angels — I hope — will open you up to considering why Jesus is greater than the angels you have an interest in.
AN OVERVIEW OF ANGELS
First, what are angels? One definition I found is that “angels are intelligent, moral, and spiritual beings created by God who worship him and carry out his will.” (Lexham Theological Survey) And — throughout the Bible — we find a variety of terms used to describe angels: hosts, sons of God, holy ones, and spirits. The primary role of angels — as found in Scripture — is to “engage in the worship of God in Heaven and to carry out his purpose on earth.” (Lexham Theological Survey) Including — at times — protecting certain people, giving divine messages, and encouraging followers of God.
An example of angelic protection is found in a story most of us have heard of before — the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. Daniel’s thrown into a lion’s den because he refused to obey the king’s law requiring him to pray only to the king — instead of praying to God. The king actually got tricked by some guys who hated Daniel into making this ridiculous law and the king was sorry when he realized how it was all a ploy to kill Daniel. Well — when Daniel gets thrown into the lion's den — “Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:19-23 NLT)
Other examples of angelic protection are found in the story of Lot (Genesis 19) — when Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be destroyed. Jacob — as he blessed Joseph’s sons — gave credit to an angel keeping him from harm (Genesis 48:16). And the Israelites — having just been freed from their slavery in Egypt — are told that an angel would go before them to protect them on their journey (Exodus 23:20).
An example of an angel communicating a message on behalf of God would include the verses we heard read earlier from the Christmas story — and the angelic messengers who told the shepherds about the birth of Christ. In fact, angelic messages are sprinkled throughout the birth of Christ narrative. Not only do the shepherds receive an angelic message, so do Mary and Joseph, as does John the Baptist’s father — Zechariah.
Examples of angels encouraging followers of God — and often these are messages as well — would include the angel who met Hagar in the wilderness ( Genesis 16:7) and the angel who spoke to Paul to encourage him — and all on the ship with him — that not one life would be lost (Acts 27:23).
If you’re interested in learning more about angels, I’d encourage you to check out our podcast episode number 127 where we respond to a question sent in about angels.
FIFTEEN REASONS WHY JESUS IS GREATER THAN ANGELS
Now that we’ve briefly looked at angels — what they are and what they do — let’s see why Jesus is greater than angels. And there are actually fifteen reasons given — in our verses — as to why Jesus is greater than angels. So — this is the sermon that all books on preaching say not to preach — for this is a sermon with so many points we’re bound to forget some of them — but all of them are found in this dense text that’s meant to increase our view of Christ and how he’s greater than all things — including angels. So — are you ready? Fifteen reasons why Jesus is greater than angels. Kids — feel free to keep count for me — you can even shout out what number we’re on if I forget. Your parents will love it — you shouting out at me.
Number one. Jesus is greater than angels because he is God’s Word. We’re back in verse 1.
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. ” (Hebrews 1:1-2a NLT)
Jesus Christ is the Word of God and he’s the Word through whom God has spoken to us most clearly and compellingly. Thus to listen to Jesus is to listen to God. To disobey Jesus is to disobey God. To reject the words of Christ is to reject the words of the God who has spoken all things into existence. But — even more so — we read in John’s gospel, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NLT) Jesus and Scripture are so closely linked that they’re both called the Word of God. God speaks to us through the Scripture and he speaks to us through his Son. And Jesus is greater than angels because he is the Word of God.
Number two. Jesus is greater than angels because he is the heir to his Father’s inheritance. Continuing in verse 2 we read…
“God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance...” (Hebrews 1:2b NLT)
No angel has been promised to be the recipient of everything that is God’s. None of us have either. Only Jesus Christ — the Son of God — has been given this promise. Yet — because of our faith in Christ — though we don’t deserve to be an heir of God — a child with a promised inheritance — Scripture tells us, “when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” (Ephesians 1:13b-14 NLT) This promise is guaranteed only for those who believe in Christ. Everything in God’s creation — unaffected by sin — perfect as it was created to be — will be yours because it is Christ’s. Jesus is greater than angels because he is the heir of his Father’s inheritance.
Number three. Jesus is greater than angels because the Father created all things through him. We’re still in verse 2.
“And through the Son he created the universe.” (Hebrews 1:2c NLT)
Not only is all of creation Christ’s inheritance — everything owes its existence to Christ — for everything has been created through him. This includes the stars in the farthest galaxies, the creatures at the bottom of the oceans, the planets and black holes, the plants and animals, you and me — everything exists because of Christ. As the apostle Paul writes, “for through him (that’s Jesus) God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see — such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16 NLT) Jesus is greater than the angels because they are part of creation and he is not.
Number four. Jesus is greater than angels because he radiates his Father’s glory. We’re in verse 3 where we read…
“The Son radiates God’s own glory...” (Hebrews 1:3a NLT)
If the glory of God is like the sun shining at its brightest — Jesus is the light shining forth. As Scripture says, he is “The light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5 NLT) The light of God — his holiness, his perfection, his beauty — shines in the darkness of our world that’s full of the profane and imperfect — the destructive and death. Jesus — in coming to earth — brought God’s glorious light into creation to pierce the darkness. And Jesus is greater than angels because he radiates his Father’s glory.
Number five. Jesus is greater than angels because he expresses the character of God. Continuing in verse 3 we read…
“And expresses the very character of God…” (Hebrews 1:3b NLT)
I appreciate how other Bible translations capture this verse. Jesus is the “representation of God’s essence.” (NET) Jesus is the “exact representation of God’s being.” (NIV) Jesus is the “exact representation of God’s nature.” (NASB) Jesus is the “exact imprint of God’s nature.” (ESV) Know that — when you read about Jesus — in Scripture — you’re seeing all that God is in him. If you want to know, “What is God like?” Don’t look to angels — look to Christ. If you think, “We can’t know what God is like!” Look to Christ and see if you come to a different conclusion. Jesus is greater than angels because — in being God — he expresses the very character of God to us.
Number six. Jesus is greater than angels because he sustains everything. We’re still in verse 3.
“And he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” (Hebrews 1:3c NLT)
Similarly, the apostle Paul writes this about Jesus. “He holds all creation together.” (Colossians 1:17 NLT) This is both humbling and amazing. Every single part of creation — is doing what it’s doing right now — because Christ is sustaining it. Your heart is beating because Christ is commanding it to beat. A bird — somewhere on the other side of the planet — is flapping its wings — because Christ is commanding it to. The sun is still burning and giving our planet heat because Christ is commanding it to. And this is meant to be comforting to us. There’s nothing outside of his control. Jesus is greater than angels because he is sustaining everything.
Number seven. Jesus is greater than angels because he cleanses us from our sins. Still in verse 3 we read…
“When he had cleansed us from our sins…” (Hebrews 1:3d NLT)
Praise God that Christ has cleansed — all who believe in him — from their sins! This is why Jesus was born that first Christmas morning. To seek and save those who are lost. To die on a cross for the sins of all who will believe in him. To pay the price we could not pay for an infinite debt we owed due to our sin. And he did so because he loves us — loves you so much — that he was willing to cleanse you of your sin at the cost of his life. No angel died to cleanse you of your sin — Jesus did. Thus, he’s greater than angels.
Number eight. Jesus is greater than angels because he sits at the right hand of the Father. We find this in verses 3 and 13 where we read…
“He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven… 13 And God never said to any of the angels, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”” (Hebrews 1:3e, 13 NLT)
This seat is a seat of honor. It’s a seat of authority. It’s a seat reserved for One — for only One is worthy of it. And that is Jesus. We spend our days trying to earn honor and to be recognized by others. Even the disciples did this as — one time — James and John asked Jesus if they could have seats of honor in his kingdom — which upset the other disciples. But Jesus is greatest of all and this is shown to us even by the seat that’s been reserved for him since before the beginning of time.
Number nine. Jesus is greater than angels because his name is greater. We’re in verse 4.
“This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.” (Hebrews 1:4 NLT)
There is no angelic name at which all people will one day bend their knee and bow their heads. For God “gave Jesus the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9b-11 NLT)
No other name — in heaven or on earth — will receive such honor and glory and recognition. Only the name of Jesus.
Number ten. Jesus is greater than angels because he is God’s Son. In verse 5 we read…
“For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” God also said, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.”” (Hebrews 1:5 NLT)
This has been alluded to already — Jesus is the Son of God. He’s the second person of the Holy Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the voice of God the Father spoke, and said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3:17b NLT) This has happened at only one baptism — Jesus’ baptism. It didn’t happen at my baptism. It didn’t happen earlier in our service. Only once did God the Father speak from Heaven to show us that Jesus is greater than angels and all of us — for he is the Son of God.
Number eleven. Jesus is greater than angels because he is worshiped by angels. Verse 6 states…
“And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, “Let all of God’s angels worship him.”” (Hebrews 1:6 NLT)
The one who is worshiped is greater than the one who worships. The angels — like God’s people — worship Christ because he is greater than angels and us.
Number twelve. Jesus is greater than angels because he is King. We’re in verse 7.
“Regarding the angels, he says, “He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire.” 8 But to the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. 9 You love justice and hate evil.” (Hebrews 1:7-9a NLT)
This — too — has been referred to already. Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father — on a throne — because he is the King of kings. He is the Lord. And he’s a King who rules justly. And he loves justice and hates evil. And he will protect his people and will defeat his enemies. For this is what Jesus — the King — does.
Number thirteen. Jesus is greater than angels because he is anointed. Finishing verse 9 we read…
“Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”” (Hebrews 1:9b NLT)
When Jesus was baptized — not only did his Father speak from Heaven — but the Holy Spirit came down and rested upon Jesus — anointing him for his earthly ministry and empowering him to accomplish the work assigned to him. This was not because he was deficient — Jesus is God, afterall! But because Jesus — to be our substitute — didn’t use his divinity as a cheat code to live the perfect human life. Instead — in his humanity he lived by the power of the Spirit of God — the same Spirit of God that lives in all who believe in Christ — to show us what it means to live the Spirit anointed life of joy that we’ve been called to.
Number fourteen. Jesus is greater than angels because he lives forever. Beginning in verse 10 we read…
“He also says to the Son, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. 12 You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” (Hebrews 1:10-12 NLT)
Again — something we’ve caught glimpses of already. Jesus’ throne is an eternal throne because he will live forever. And — not just future forever — but Christ is eternal — meaning he’s always existed no matter how far back you go in time. Why? Because he’s the Creator of time. And not only is Christ eternal — he does not change. And this is good news for us for the Jesus we read of in Scripture — is the Jesus we worship today. His love hasn’t changed. His compassion hasn’t diminished. Nor his mercy or kindness or faithfulness to his people. Nor his wrath and anger towards his enemies. How encouraging it is to know that our Savior has and will always be the same.
Last one — number fifteen. Jesus is greater than angels because he came, not only to serve, but to save. In verse 14 we read…
“Therefore, angels are only servants — spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14 NLT)
Angels are servants. Similarly, Jesus once said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NLT) And that’s the difference. Angels serve, but their service doesn’t include them giving their life for the salvation of God’s people. But Jesus — in serving us — did include him giving up his life — on the cross — so that we could be saved. And this makes Jesus greater than angels. Even the way in which he served us is greater than the ways in which angels serve us and the ways in which we serve each other. We serve because we’ve first been served by Christ. We love because we’ve first been loved by him. We give our lives for the sake of others because Christ — the greatest of all — gave his life for our sake first.
It’s usual — in a sermon conclusion — to recap your sermon points — but we’re not gonna do that! Just know that these fifteen points are just the beginning of why Jesus is greater. As we continue in this Christmas series — over the next few weeks — we’re going to learn that — not only is Jesus greater than angels — he is the greatest ever to be born — which is what we celebrate every Christmas. Let’s pray.
Jesus, thank you for being greater than angels and greater than us. Thank you for being the greatest of all. As we prepare to feast on the grace that you’ve made available to us — as we celebrate your Supper together — may we be in awe of your greatness. Be inspired by your greatness. Be humbled by your greatness. And be compelled to live holy lives in response to your greatness. We pray for all of this in your great name. Amen.