First, I want to thank your pastors—Ptr. Raffy and Ptr. Kenn—for inviting me to preach God’s Word to you today. Since December, my mind is already set and I’m excited to be able to preach live, in-person, and not through this video recording. So, it’s a little frustrating for me not to be able to see you face to face, and you probably feel the same way because your church is not able to gather physically at this time. But at the same time, I am thankful for this technology, though this is far from ideal, so I can communicate the Word of God to you.
Your pastors asked me to talk about the supremacy of the Word. You should be thankful to the Lord that you are led by men who have a high regard for the Word of God. Lalo na sa society natin ngayon, a lot of people are paying lip service to the Bible as the Word of God. Pero hanggang dun lang. The Bible must really have a high place in your church, hindi lang dahil WordComm ang pangalan ng church n’yo, but because every church must put the Bible on the highest place. We recognize the supreme authority of the Scriptures in our faith and life as Christians, in our churches, and how we live our lives in this world. But, it is one thing to confess that we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is another thing to live that confession out. Madaling magsalita, pero yun ba ang napapatunayan sa buhay natin?
We live in a difficult time. Not just because of this pandemic. This is probably a smaller problem compared to the temptations we face daily. We hear competing voices. Are we going to listen to popular opinions about God, about how we relate to him, how he relates to us, how we relate to one another, about church, about sexuality, about money? Are we going to listen to the world or are we going to listen to God through his Word? If we are not careful, we might find ourselves drifting away from Christ. Ganun ang mangyayari if the Word of God is no longer supreme in our attention, affection and application.
To help you and encourage you to stay anchored in your faith in Christ during these trying times, let me read to you the first three verses of Hebrews. Tama lang, because the original readers of this letter, the early Jewish Christians, were being tempted to go back to their old religion. Their faith was being tested. They were being persecuted. They may doubt whether they were on the right track, o baka yung old life nila is better. So, the author of Hebrews (we are not sure who exactly) preached Christ to them from beginning to end, emphasizing how he is supreme over all—all the angels, the prophets, Moses, the priests, the law, the old covenant, everything! And that is why he is sufficient for our every need. Bakit ka hihiwalay sa kanya? Bakit ka lalayo sa kanya? You cannot find something or someone greater than him.
Opening pa lang, obvious na na yun ang gusto niyang i-emphasize:
Hebrews 1:1–3 ESV
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
This is God’s Word not just to the early church, but also for us today. And there are lessons we can learn here about how we approach the Bible, the written or inscripturated Word of God, with Christ, the incarnate Word, at the center. So when we talk about the Word, don’t just think of your Bible. Think of who is inside that book—Christ. Why is this important? Because many Christians, yes, they read their Bibles, they believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but when they read the Bible, they are just looking for moral principles, things to do, so that they can be a better husband, or wife, or student, or employee, or neighbor. Kung ganyan lang ang approach mo sa Bible, the Word cannot be an anchor for your soul. So, as we look at this passage, try to let this thought sink deeply. The written Word is about the incarnate Word. Christ, how God revealed himself through Christ by the Spirit, should be the focus of our Bible reading, Bible meditation, and Bible application. Jesus is “a sure and steadfast anchor of [our] soul” (Heb. 6:19).
The Bible as the Word of God
If we are in Christ, if the Spirit is inside us, we have this desire to hear and to listen to God. Yes, we admit our many failures to discipline ourselves in the “day and night” meditation of the Word (Jos. 1:8-9), but deep within us we feel that we really need God to speak to us. And the good news is, God does really speak to us. And that is what the author of Hebrews affirmed in the opening verse, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…” (v. 1).
So, God is far from silent. He speaks. But since the fall of Adam and Eve, God doesn’t usually or normally speak directly or face to face to most human beings. Usually with a mediator, like the prophets, “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…” Like Abraham, Moses, Nathan, Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. They speak God’s words—his commands, his judgments, his warnings, his promises. At tayo naman ngayon, we have access to his Word through the Scriptures. His words were written down by the prophets and the apostles. His mighty deeds were recorded. We have access to the unfolding revelation of God’s redemptive purposes.
What is the implication of this for how we read the Bible? The Bible is the Word of God. 1 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” We are not just saying that the Bible contains the words of God, but the Bible is the Word of God. Understood rightly, including human words na nakasulat diyan, they contain what God wants to reveal or communicate to us. And when we talk about the supremacy of the Word, we affirm that this is our highest authority. The Bible trumps all other human voices, including the ones we read and hear daily on social media. We define love not according to what Toni Gonzaga or Oprah said, but according to God’s definition in his Word. We have to listen to the word spoken by God through the prophets and the apostles. If we fail to listen and obey their words, we are disbelieving and disobeying God himself.
But the author of Hebrews is saying a lot more than that. Siyempre, the role of the prophets as God’s messengers is absolutely important. Pero merong higit na mahalaga. Look at verse 2, “…but (crucial, indicating contrast) in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” And what I am arguing is that this has a huge implication for how we read our Bibles. But keep in mind that I’m not pitting the written Word of God against Jesus the incarnate Word of God. Ganun kasi ang ginagawa ng iba. They say the Bible is not the Word of God, Jesus is. We affirm both. Hindi natin pwedeng paghiwalayin. You cannot cling to Jesus without the Bible. For how can you know him? That is why a lot of people are coming up with their own versions of Jesus, recreating the Son of God in their own image. And we cannot, and we dare not, read our Bibles and set aside Jesus. That is to misread the Bible. We must read our Bibles with Jesus at the center, for Jesus is at the center of the Bible. So we affirm the supremacy of the Word—the written Word—because of the supremacy of the Word—Jesus the incarnate Word.
There are several reasons why God’s revelation in Jesus is greater than the prophets, and we will see how that orients how we read Scripture.
Jesus the fulfillment of prophecy
First, Jesus is the fulfillment of the words of the prophets. He is the ultimate prophet spoken by Moses:
Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (ESV)
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen…And the Lord said to me, ‘…I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’”
Peter used this passage in Acts 3:22 to indicate that Jesus fulfills this text. There is a sense that Jesus was a prophet. He said in Luke 4:18-21 that he fullfils Isaiah 61:1-2 in that God anointed him to proclaim the good news of God. And that is what he’s doing at the outset of his ministry, “proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14). But he’s a lot more than just a messenger of God’s revelation. He is the fulfillment of all that the prophets in the Old Testament spoke and wrote about. This has huge implication for Bible reading. Not only must we read the Old Testament (not just the New), but we must also read it with Jesus as its end goal.
This is after all what Jesus himself taught his disciples how to read the Scriptures. How did Jesus explain the Scriptures to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after he rose from the dead?
Luke 24:27 ESV
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
The Old Testament is about Jesus. Not just the prophecies about the coming Messiah, but all of God’s promises, all the stories, all the sacrifices, the perfections of God, God’s intent for humanity, and the sufficiency of the Mediator we need, they are all fulfilled in Jesus. He said to the rest of his disciples:
Luke 24:44 ESV
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
We misread an Old Testament story, or any part of Scripture for that matter, if we fail to see Jesus. The Old Testament, and our Bible reading, is incomplete without Jesus.
Jesus the Son
Another reason why Jesus is supreme over all the prophets is because he is the Son. Hebrews 1:2, “In this last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” Because Jesus is the Son of God, he is greater than all. No one is greater than him. And because God speaks to us today “by his Son,” according to John Piper, “God’s communication now is better and greater than before.” We have a better Word in Jesus.
Question, how is God’s communication of himself through the Son is greater than other means of revelation like that of the prophets in the Old Testament? We can see five answers from our text:
1. God created everything through the Son. “Through whom also he created the world” (v. 2). When God speaks, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). There would be no creation without the Son. He is not part of creation. He is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15). Firstborn doesn’t mean first to be created. It means he has supremacy over all creation. Col 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
2. God appointed the Son “the heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). If all things were created by and through him, all things belong to him. If that is true, why won’t you listen to him? Why won’t you take hold of all his promises, especially when he said that all who are in Christ are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). “All things are yours” because you belong to Christ (1 Cor. 3:22-23).
3. The Son is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). The word “radiance” came from the word (Gk. apaugasma) that is used only here in the New Testament. It means that Christ is not a mere reflection of who God is. He is the perfect reflection of the image of God. Yes, we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27). But Jesus is uncreated. He is the Creator. And he is the perfect image of God the Father because he is God the Son. “The glory of Christ…is the image of the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). That is why he is “the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). This word, “exact imprint” came from another Greek word used only here in the New Testament, character. This does not refer to the character played by the actors on screen or on stage. Rather, the reference is on the impression or image on a coin. Jesus fully represents who God is because he is God himself. Hindi lang siya messenger of God’s revelation, he himself is God’s Revelation of himself, because he is God himself! Do you want to know God? Look to the Son. Do you want to know the Son? Read his Word.
4. The Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). The word of Christ does not just bring us a message from God. This same word holds all creation together. Everything! Everything in creation is under his command. Without his word, everything will crumble, everything will cease to exist. The word we have in Christ is a matter of life and death.
5. The Son saves us from our sins. “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (v. 3). No mere human can save us from our sins. The Son of God, fully God, became incarnate, fully human, so he can accomplish the salvation we cannot accomplish for ourselves. He came not just to preach the Word. He came to die in our place. This is the gospel—the gospel of what the Son accomplished—that is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16).
Jesus the Word
So far, we have seen two reasons why Christ is greater, or supreme, over all the prophets. First, because he is the fulfillment of everything the prophets spoke about. Second, because he is the Son.
There is a third reason: because he is the Word. This is implicit in the phrase “he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2), but explicit in John 1. This is the reason why I keep saying earlier that when we talk about the supremacy of the Word, we don’t just think of the supreme authority of the Scripture in our lives, but also of the supremacy of Christ over all things. He is the Word, the Logos. “In the beginning was the Word (Gk. logos)” (John 1:1). And who is that Word? “The Word became flesh (the Son incarnate) and dwelt among us, and we have see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). The Son is the Word. He is none other than Jesus. He was the Word even before creation (“in the beginning,” 1-2), in his first coming (“the Word became flesh,” v. 14), and in his return (“the name by which he is called is The Word of God,” Rev. 19:13).
Why is he called the Word? Why not just that his word is the word of God, or that he is teaching the word of God? Because not only are his words words from God but because all of his being reveals who God is because he is God himself. God communicates himself to us not just throught the words of Jesus but through the very person of Jesus. Jesus himself—not just his spoken words, but his coming, his works, his death and his resurrection—is, according to Piper, the “final and decisive Message of God.” He is not just the messenger of God, he himself is the Message of God. That is why he also said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6), not just, “I speak the truth.” He is “the first, final, ultimate, decisive, absolutely true and reliable Word” (Piper).
The fact that he is called the Word already sets him apart from all the human prophets. But here in John’s prologue to his Gospel, we can see several ways why his being called the Word sets him apart as far superior than all the prophets.
1. John 1:1-2, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” He is God himself. God the Father is with God the Son (along with God the Spirit) from eternity past. Because he is God, the Word is far superior than any human prophet. God said about him, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7).
2. John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” We have already seen that earlier in Hebrews 1. God created everything though the Word, through his Son.
3. John 1:4-5, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Darkness indicates evil, our sinfulness, our separation from God the Light, and death. We are totally hopeless without Jesus. Jesus the Word is our Light and Life. John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are in desperate need of this Word, this Jesus, this Savior.
4. John 1:14, he is “full of grace and truth.” He is everything that we need. John 1:16-17, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
5. John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The word “made known” is from exegeomai. This is the word “exegesis” came from, referring to the process of exposing the original meaning of the Scriptures. That word simply means “to explain.” Jesus exegetes or explains God, who God is. He is the revealer of God. Only Jesus can reveal God fully because only he knows God fully. And our greatest need is to see God. Theologians call this “the beatific vision.” The invisible God is seen through Jesus. The incomprehensible God is made known in Jesus. There is no greater joy compares to that of seeing God face to face. Kaya nga sinabi ni Philip kay Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Ano ang sagot niya? “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). And we do that by faith when we behold the glory of the Lord, of how Jesus reveals God in the gospel (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:4, 6). To know Jesus is to know the Father. He is the Word.
If Jesus is greater than all the prophets, and is supreme over all, how should we then respond? Let me give three applications.
1. Make knowing the Word your life’s pursuit. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that is written by the prophets, the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Word of God. There is no one greater than him. You cannot find someone greater. There is no greater thing than to know him. There is no greater pursuit in life than knowing Jesus. Compared to knowing Jesus, all other things garbage, according to Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1). ‘Yan din ba ang pinakahahangad ng puso mo?
2. Meditate on the Word in the written Word. If you desire to know Jesus more and more—and I pray that you do—how can that happen? Because there are times we complain, “It seems like he’s now making himself known to me. It seems like I do not hear him speaking to me.” But how can you know him, how can you hear him speak, if you are not reading the Bible? How can you know him more kung mas mahalaga sa ‘yo ang oras mo sa ibang tao, o sa trabaho, o sa social media? And when you open and read the Bible, it is not enough just to read for the sake of reading, or just to look for “principle for living for today.” When you read the Bible, look to Jesus. Desire to know him from every page of the Old and the New Testaments. For every story, every chapter, every verse is about Jesus or pointing to Jesus. When you read the written Word, listen to Jesus the Word and, sabi ni John Piper, “meditate on it and study it and memorize it and linger over it and soak in it until it saturates us to the center of our being.”
3. Make it your life’s mission to proclaim the Word. If our greatest pursuit in life is to know the Word—the incarnate Word in the written Word—then to make him known is our greatest mission in life. To proclaim the Word must be our highest ambition. We live and give our lives for this ambition—to preach the gospel to all nations. This is the only life worth living for. Not to draw attention to ourselves—sa personal conversations, sa Facebook posts natin, and anything we do in life—but to draw and focus attention to Jesus. Ang misyon natin ay ang sabihin sa mga tao, “Look to Jesus!”
But, you cannot say that to others, “Look to Jesus,” and your life cannot bear witness to the supremacy of Christ in all things if you yourself are not looking to Jesus. At ikaw mismo, you cannot look to Jesus more closely if you are not looking at the Book about Jesus, the Bible. Pagbulayan mo ang Bibliya, kilalanin mo si Cristo, at ipakilala siya sa iba. Araw at gabi. That is what it means to believe in the supremacy of the Word.