During my high school years, a few of the men in my life frequently told me I was a gentleman and a scholar. I don’t know if they were repeating a line from The Catcher in the Rye, thinking highschoolers would be familiar with it, or if they picked it up from another source, but I naturally assumed they were right. I was part of the cream of the crop. Many years later, I heard it again from one of these men and began to wonder if this line was more charge than accolade. Maybe he hadn’t been telling me I was a gentleman and a scholar, but had been urging me to take up these roles.
The book of Hebrews begins with a number of descriptive titles for our Lord Jesus Christ. If any of these can be considered charges, they are charges to us to understand the man Jesus of Nazareth in these ways. The author attributes these things to Jesus:
1. Voice of God
2. Heir of all things
3. Creator of the world
4. Radiance of God’s glory
5. Exact imprint of God’s nature
6. Upholder of the universe (by his powerful words)
7. Purifier of sins
8. Seated at God’s right hand
9. Superior to angels
10. Excellent in name
The old Scottish preacher Thomas Boston said, “God gives no empty titles, nor will empty titles answer the necessities of believers. As his name, so is his nature; the name truly expresses what he is. He manifests himself to be what the name bears. What he is called, he is found to be in the experience of saints.”
These things are improper for a man. No created being, not even an angel, could share the splendor of God or be said to have purified sins. Jesus alone is equal to the great I Am, the one who said, “If you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 8:19 ESV) and also, “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14 ESV). The one, true God did not raised up Jesus of Nazareth as the last and greatest prophet. He sent him as if sending himself.
These titles for Jesus are unimaginably marvelous, and there are more incredible things about him. He charges us to live in his name, as if he is sending himself to the world through us.
1. The Voice of God calls us to surrender our wisdom to his, choosing his words and his reasons over ours.
2. The Heir of All Things invites us to share in his wealth, because only his unearthly treasure will last.
3. The Creator of the World bids us to follow him with creative, life-affirming acts of our own.
4. The Radiance of God’s Glory wishes to blind us so that we may see the world and everyone in it through God-bedazzled eyes.
5. He who bears the exact imprint of God’s nature in the flesh has placed his image on us, instructing us to notice and respect that image in everyone else, no matter what our society forbids.
6. The Upholder of the Universe has established his kingdom over all the earth, raising his banner over every worldly allegiance, denying all competing claims in favor of his supremely good will.
7. The Purifier of Sins knows no limit to his authority and calls us to seek out the tax-collectors and sinners with his refining love.
8. The One who sits at God’s right hand invites us to pray in his holy name, making our requests as if we too sat at the Father’s right hand.
9. The One who is superior to angels teaches us to reject superficial spirituality and receive the rest only he can deliver.
10. The One whose name is more excellent than any other names us as his brothers and fellow heirs of the kingdom, sending us out with the charge that if the world hated him, they would also hate us.
To be a Christian is to live in the unparalleled name of Christ Jesus. His name isn’t a mere cultural label, but the title of the most powerful king alive today. By understanding his name, we understand him; by hiding in his name (Zephaniah 3:12), we experience him.