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A Look at Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 22

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Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

We now turn to the final verse of the chapter however we stress in this last commentary that the argument of the writer does not end here. It carries on into chapter 2 and when one studies the entire letter with time and passion, there is much blessing that accompanies its examination.  Here the writer now returns to speaking of the angels once again similarly to v.5 and is contrasting the angels with the Lord Jesus. This should come to no surprise taking into consideration the audience to which he is writing. He wants to take the time to emphasize the point he has been making since the beginning of the chapter.

The ministering work of these angelic beings is captured in the testimony of scripture and was quite admired by these Hebrew believers. They would not have forgotten their roots! Their labors of the angels consist of protection (2 Kings 6:15-17), deliverance (Acts 5:17-19; 12:6-9) and taking an individual to heaven (Luke 16:22).[1]  The question that might come to mind is: why even mention this verse? The simplest reply we can give is that it keeps with the context to exhibit Christ’s superiority over the angels. The application here is to show the roles of both beings in that Christ is the one sitting on the throne as Prophet, Priest and King while the angels function as those who were sent forth as servants. It must be noted carefully that these angels are servants while the Lord Jesus Christ became a servant by His voluntarily taken on flesh. 

Even though these angelic servants had historically displayed many tasks, the writer defines a particular work which is given to these servants in that they are to be ministers “for those who will inherit salvation”. There is particularity within this statement in that this labor they partake in is not for each and every individual who ever existed in history but to a specific group of people. They are those who have a future hope in the kingdom of the Lord! As genuine believers who are being sanctified in the Lord Jesus Christ, there should be a great comfort that comes to those who are the Lord’s people in that we have powerful servants ministering and watching over us even in our greatest afflictions. On our own accord we would fail miserably but the Lord who bought us with His own blood is the one who sees to our preservation and perseverance.

 


[1] Also see Exodus 23:20; 1 Kings 19:5; Psalm 91:11 and Mark 1:13

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August 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

A Look at Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 21

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But to which of the angels has He ever said: “ Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?

The argument in order to offer a distinction between the Son and the angels continues. His intent is to make certain the reader is has well understood the urging he has presented.  The writer now draws from his previous thoughts in v. 5 when he stated For to which of the angels did He ever say then continuing with quotations from Psalm 2 and 2 Sam. 7.  The emphasis here is to make a reiteration from the previous thoughts in vs. 5-7. This is quite popular in Hebrew thought along with the technique of repetition for emphasis. Once again we have in this case a question asked which must be answered in the negative sense.

The writer proceeds to once again consistently cite OT passages to substantiate his claims. This time around he quotes from the 110th Psalm which is a very well known Psalm since it is the most quoted Psalm in all of the New Testament scriptures. This passage is corresponding back to v.3 where the writer states that the Son sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high once again pointing to the enthronement of the king. The fact that anyone could ever sit on the throne of God was foreign to Jewish thinking since it brought the concept of equality with God. This is exactly what enraged the High Priest during the Lord’s mock trial.

 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. (Mark 14:62-63)

There has been some controversy surrounding the word till (Heos) where there seems to be a time of ending to His sitting on the throne. There have been those who would submit that Christ couldn’t be God since His reign on the throne will come to an end. To hold to this position in any logical terms would mean that one would have to ignore the previous 12 verses that demonstrate His divinity with clarity. Sadly this is the case, in our experience, with those who have a religion to defend. The earthly reign of Christ is in view here when He will leave the throne in heaven to make rule over the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 19:11-12; cf. Isaiah 63:1-3) What a glorious day this shall be!

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August 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

A Study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 20

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They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail 

Nothing last forever is a slogan I have heard much in my life by those who feel the need to live their life in a careless fashion. Even though we feel their paradigm leads to the wasting away of the existence given to us by grace, we concede that there is much validity to the statement as well. We spoke of the heavens and the earth as a part of the creation of the Lord. The writer continues to quote the Psalmist and by doing so indicates much more concerning the heavens & earth (creation) in contrast to the uniqueness of Jehovah (creator).

The third argument for the uniqueness of Jehovah is found in that God is an unchanging God. This is what is called the doctrine of immutability. The writer within the Psalm argues from the standpoint of what is mutable and what is immutable. The first contrast in this case is found in the fact that the heavens will perish and they will be changed. The great prophet Isaiah agreed with the Psalmist in that All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree (Isaiah 34:4). As for the Son however there is absolutely no alteration to His being since by nature these created things change but the Lord Jesus cannot change For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6) There should be a joyous moment that comes upon us when reading these words since the thought of a changing God would suggest an uncertainty of the fulfillment of the promises given to us as His people. The Lord is deserving of our praise and adoration since this is not the God of the bible and we can be certain that due to the precious attribute of immutability we can find hope in a world where hope is tremendously lacking. 

We find in the statement that the “years” of Jehovah are “throughout all generations”. We have here a statement known as anthropomorphism[i] where God is defining His eternal nature.[ii] The text is appealing to a continuance in that from generation to generation and so forth, His years are. We find the Psalmist establishing this thought in other psalms as well in stating that Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. (Psalm 93:2) and Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psalm 90:2) Throughout time itself Jehovah simply exists and His entire nature is outside of our existence. If He bears the nature of eternity and is outside of time then there can be no variation of change. He does not grow old or see any sort of decay hence from start to finish He simply exists and is God. He abides for ever and ever; unchanged and unchangeable; eternally independent; independently eternal. He is, beyond any question, greater than His creatures and therefore greater than angels[iii] What a lovely contemplation that the one who bore our sins on Calvary so long ago is the same one whom the Psalmist could express His admiration in presenting His uniqueness only in the sum of three short verses

 


[i] Anthropomorphism is when God uses human terms about Himself when attempting to teach a truth regarding Himself. This is very similar to a parable when we use a common expression or story to reiterate a deeper truth.

[ii] See Micah 5:2; John 8:58; John 17:5, Colossians 1:17; Revelation 22:13

[iii] What The Bible Teaches: Hebrews, J. Flanigan, J. Ritchie, Page 35

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August 21, 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

A Look at Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 19

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And:“ You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

The crescendo of the writer’s argument to these confused Hebrews who were in consideration of defecting back to their former religion is now upon us. These last four verses embellish and elucidate the previous passages. It is imperative that we take note of the opening term of this verse found in a little three letter word “and”. The term is a translation from the Greek kai which is used to demonstrate the continuation of the Father’s address of the Son. The flow of the address was initiated previously in v.8 with the expression “but to the Son He says”. The whole point of the term “And” is that the Father is not finished speaking of His Son!

The writer maintains the same line of argumentation by quoting from another Psalm; mainly the 102nd Psalm. We must emphasize the importance of understanding that this quote that is attributed to the Son is one of great importance. Scholar F.F. Bruce gives a brief description of the motives of God in this Psalm:

The Psalm, which begins “Hear my prayer, O Yahweh,” is truly described in its superscription as “a prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint, and pours out his complaint before Yahweh.” Both he and Zion, his city, have experienced the judgment of God, but he makes confident supplication for mercy and restoration for himself and Zion, that men and women may assemble there once more to give praise to God. He is oppressed by a sense of the brevity of his personal span of life, with which he contrasts the eternal being of God. IN comparison with his short life, heaven and earth are long-lived; yet heaven and earth must pass away. They had their beginning when God created them, and they will grow old and disappear one day; but the God who created them existed before they did, and he will survive their disappearance. As one man in his lifetimes outlives many successive suits of clothes, so God has seen and will yet see many successive material universe, but he himself is eternal and unchanging.[i]

The significance of recognizing that the God of the scriptures is a unique God is vital to our argument. Jehovah is a God that possesses characteristics that make Him God that no other being can possess no matter how exalted they might be. What makes Him God is found in the verses of the Psalm and here attributed to the Son.

The first unique trait of Jehovah is found in the exclusiveness of His name.  Notice an often-missed expression “You, LORD” which, since it is quoting the OT Psalm, could be rendered “ You, Jehovah”[ii]. The most unique characteristic of God is found in His name, the name that was set apart as a token of expressing His being and Holiness. The Father applies to His Son the very name that is never used of a mere creature.

The second divine attribute is that of creatorship. This we have dealt with previously in verse 2. The expression sought to be articulated by the writer in based upon the word “Beginning” and should be taken as a parallel expression to that found in other portions of Holy scripture. God created “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) while the Father and Son were together (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1). The uniqueness of this attribute can be examined in the trial of the false gods found in Isaiah 40-48 which argues for the sole deity of Jehovah, the God of Israel especially in v.44:24. 

 


[i] The Epistle to the Hebrews, F.F. Bruce, Eerdmans Publishing, Page 61-62

[ii] It should be noted that in the Psalm the writer refers to this portion as “You my God” which is paralleled with the term “You, LORD”.

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August 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

A Study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 18

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Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You. With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

The humble work of the Lord Jesus has always brought much awe to the hearts of those who have spent any time meditating on its totality. The thought of one who was exalted above all and fully God in Nature dwelling in the heavenly paradise leaving His Father and taking on the form of a man in all its weaknesses and dying such an extraordinary death to save undeserving sinners from the wrath of God is overwhelming indeed. To miss this is to fail in many fronts even to lack in the understanding of the Trinity.[i]

The text we will examine in v.9 has received some controversy throughout the years which is unfortunately nothing new however when we examine the true nature of the idiom presented by the writer; we feel there is much unwarranted speculation in this debate. There are those who have attempted to gather an argument against the deity of Christ in the preceding passages by stating that this text is a proof that in fact the Lord Jesus couldn’t have been God since He refers to the Father as His God. This type of argumentation is very weak in its approach since it does not take into consideration the willful subjection of the Son to the Father from a positional standpoint. The Son bowed the knee in obedience to fulfill perfectly what humanity had failed so often to do in always putting God ahead of Himself. The thought of the Son referring to the Father as “His God” is really not unnatural even in light of the equality of their nature. This has as its stem a reference back to His human nature and position (Philippians 2:6-8). One must wonder if the Father stating that the Son is God just a verses earlier stands to make the assertion that the Father cannot be God since the Son is referred to as God.

The anointing of the Son by the Father is continuing to reference the Kingship of the Lord Jesus. The anointing with oil is without any challenge referring to the OT crowning ceremony of the King of Israel (1 Sam. 10:1; 16:13) The reference here however seems to suggest a greater anointing than they since it is with the oil of gladness. The thought here is that of the satisfaction of the Father with the perfection of the work of His precious Son during His first advent which brought a sweet aroma to the Father and salvation to His elect. This anointing with the oil of gladness could certainly be corresponding with His resurrection. The Father placed His seal of approval and demonstrated His satisfaction of the work of the Son by raising Him from the dead.

The promulgators of controversy have placed a strange interpretation upon this verse in that it has been said that the Son has been placed in a position of honour even though His is equivalent with his “companions”. The identity of the “companions” is said to be referring to the angels however we feel that this interpretation fails in light of considering the point of this passage which is the anointing of a king. This has never been said of the angels in scripture. The writer, in speaking of the OT coronation ceremonies, is referencing the former kings that were anointed to rule over Israel. The thought here is not nature but position and quality of the kingdom that He will rule.

A.W. Pink gives an excellent summation of the previous three verses:

It is indeed striking to see how much was included in the ancient oracle concerning the Messiah which the Spirit here quoted from Psa. 45. Let us attempt to summarize the content of that remarkable prophecy. First, it establishes His Deity, for the Father Himself owns Him as “God”. Second, it shows us the exalted position He now occupies: He is on the throne, and there forever. Third, it makes mention of His Kingship, the royal “scepter” being wielded by Him. Fourth, it tells of the impartiality of His government and the excellency of His rule: His scepter is a “righteous” one. Fifth, it takes us back to the days of His flesh and makes known the perfections of His character and conduct here on earth: He “loved righteousness and hated iniquity.” Sixth, it reveals the place which He took when He made Himself of no reputation, as Man is subjection  to God: “Thy God.” Seventh, it announces the reward He hath anointed thee”. Eight, it affirms He has the pre-eminence in all things, for He has been anointed with the oil of gladness “above His fellows”.[ii]

 


[i] The means by which I have explained the doctrine of the Trinity is based upon these three important points: (1) Within the being of the one true God, there are three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-eternal and co-equal in nature and are the one true God. (2) The three persons differentiate themselves only in a positional or functional aspect due to the willful subjection of the Son to the Father because of the eternal plan of Salvation. Difference in function does not mean inferiority in nature. (3) The Son possesses perfectly two natures, the nature of God and of man hence, in essence, function and possesses attributes of both natures

[ii] An Exposition of Hebrews, A.W. Pink, Baker Book House, Page 66-67

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August 19, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

A Study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 17

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A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness
      

The realm of the human justice system has suffered tremendously over the years. Although many would see it as having gained much ground from a humanitarian perspective (and we certainly would agree) however there is much to be desired regarding its efficacy. Our slogan of “ it is better to let 100 guilty men go than wrongly convict an innocent man” has produced some remarkable injustices especially towards the victims and their families.  Thankfully, this will not always be since He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). The comforting thought that we should dwell upon in the study of the throne of Christ is that the one sitting upon it is the king of righteousness (Hebrews. 7:2) and His justice is one that is perfectly executed. There will be nothing imperfect in His judgment.

 The writer parallels this throne to that of a scepter. The scepter, much like the throne, is an emblem of authority (Ester 5:2) and this particular scepter is in its very essence one of “righteousness”. The term for “scepter” would refer to a scepter that is totally straight without any curbs or slants. The scepter is one of justice in which all evil, seen or hidden, will be brought to light and judged by one who is fit to judge. All crimes that have occurred and victims that have been unfairly treated will finally be able to utter that they have received the justice they had demanded in this life. This is the righteousness that will be His kingdom. The scepter is also a symbol of His Kingship for which He shall rule over all things in the final things to come.

The phrase You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness is in the past tense. We believe this is referring back to his first coming since this expression was substantiated in His time on earth through His testimony.  It should be noted that there are interchangeable terms used by the writer to reflect upon the nature of righteousness in that the one who loved righteousness is also the one who hated lawlessness. If we would for a moment examine this in a practical sense we would be right in saying that believers should examine themselves in that if they are professing to love the righteousness of their Saviour then there must be alongside this affection the hatred of all that is unrighteous. Oftentimes people associated the hatred of ungodliness as a form of judgment however this is not necessarily correct since it is not the act of judgment in question but the heart being repulsed by that which is wicked. This is oftentimes a natural thing in light of being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29)

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August 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

A Study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 16

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But to the Son He says:“ Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

We can almost feel the overwhelming excitement when the writer penned these next phrases. The contrast in regards to the Son to the angels begins with the small conjunction “but” (de) which is meant to bring about the thought of distinction. Jesus Christ the Son of God is no angel or archangel. Our great heavenly Father after having expressed Himself regarding His angelic creation now turns His attention towards a much better and greater being; mainly the Son. The entire focus of the next few verses will be on demonstrating the superiority of the Son to the angels in both being and function.

What the Father says regarding the Son is certainly one of the most blatantly clear evidences to the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ ever written in the New Testament or anywhere in scripture. The Father now makes reference to the grounds by which the Lord Jesus is contrasted to the angels. In His first statement to the angels He makes reference to their being and in v.8 parallels this by explaining the nature of the Lord Jesus in referring to Him as “God” (ho theos). 20th Century writer A.W. Pink writes:

This supplies us with one of the most emphatic and unequivocal proofs of the deity of Christ to be found in the scriptures. It is the Father Himself testifying to the Godhead of Him who was despised and rejected of men.[i]

But with such a clear statement how then are there so many in our generation past and present who still deny this glorious biblical truth? Much like any other passage of scripture there is an attempt to deny the plain meaning of this text. There are two different methods that are produced in their disagreement: firstly that the term “God” (Theos) shouldn’t be taken literally in this case and merely defined as a demi-god or secondly there are those in liberal circles who would challenge the translation of the text.

The first argument truly has no basis since when we examine the terminology used by the writer[ii] we must come to the conclusion that he is referring to full deity and not merely a likeness of God.[iii] The thought that Christ would have held a nature that is “in between” God and angels is not compelling since these Jews would have found great comfort in this. The reason for their console is because they could have held both views and escaped persecution however the writer makes it clear throughout the epistle that there couldn’t merely be a compromise and these believers were forces in a “all or nothing” situation.

The second argument however carries with it a little more weight. Some have translated the opening words of v.8 as “God is thy throne” instead of the traditional “thy throne, O’ God”. The difference is in how we interpret the writer’s intention when quoting the psalm. Some have come up with some strange arguments to hinder the traditional translation that we feel should be ignored.[iv] If the writer meant to use the nominative case then “God is thy throne” is the proper translation however if the vocative is used then the traditional translation should be rendered. Some scholars have expressed that there is some uncertainty as to how exactly the Greek should be deciphered[v] however we feel as many other scholars[vi], that the evidence for the vocative is stronger because of certain points.

  1. Stemming from the issues surrounding the LXX translation of Psalm 45:7 which seems to point to the vocative reading.[vii]
  2. The vocative seems much more natural due to the word order utilized by the writer.
  3. A study of the evidence relating to legein proV is more naturally rendered as “say to” than “spoken about”.
  4. The context has as it primary point to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over the angels which would be ineffective.
  5. When we look further at vs.10-12, the reading of “thy throne, O’ God” is more probable given that the writer uses the Psalm 102 to define God with His unique attributes.[viii]

The writer quotes from the very well known 46th Psalm, which would have certainly been recognizable to his audience. The 46th psalm was written for the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of the king of Egypt. When dealing with the terminology surrounding the throne we are venturing on the grounds of sovereignty and authority. Dr. R. Bowman Jr. writes:

The Psalm speaks in the immediate “horizon” about the Jerusalem king who also prefigured the Messiah, the ultimate descendant of David and the true eternal king. We should note that the Psalm does not identify the specific king, and the whole psalm may be interpreted messianically…the nuptial imagery that dominates the second half of the psalm (vv 8-15) is window dressing (likely occasioned by an actual wedding of the king) for a messianic vision of the future. The richest representatives of the nations of the world will attend to and bow before the Davidic king, and the peoples of the world will attend to him (note especially vv. 9-12, 17). Language about the king that would be hyperbolic in reference to any of Israel’s merely human kings ultimately applies to the Messiah. Thus, although none of those kings was literally God, Psalm 45 points forward to a coming king who really would be God[ix]

The thought of the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ isn’t a foreign idea conjured up by Christians. The Lord Jesus shall sit on the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31) which is the same throne He shares with the Father and by which He will be worshipped by all creation (Revelation 22:1). It is truly fitting to read these words and meditate upon the great conquering authority of our God expressed mainly in these passages as the Father and the Son.

 


[i] An Exposition of Hebrews, A.W. Pink, Baker Book House, Page 58-59

[ii] The writer uses o qeoV with the definite article. There is no question that the writer’s words are meant to present pure deity and that which is the Father in nature.

[iii] This would have been the view of the early heresy that was challenging the church in its primitive years called gnosticism. Paul refutes this heresy in his letter to the Colossians by stating that “in Him all the fullness (pleroma) of deity dwells in bodily form” (2:9) which was a sharp rebuke to their belief system.

[iv] Some have attempted to argue for the traditional view from the analogy that Christ would have been sitting on God if the rendering “God is thy throne”. This is very poor argumentation especially when we see this type of peculiar language used in other areas of scripture (Psalm 90:1; 91:1-2,9)

[v] Robertson notes that “it is not certain whether ho theos is here the vocative (address with the nominative form as in John 20:28 with the Messiah termed theos as is possible, John 1:18) or ho theos is nominative (subject or predicate) with estin (is) understood “God is they throne” or “thy throne O’ God”. Either makes good sense. -Word Pictures of the New Testament, A.T. Robertson, Broadman, Page 339 

[vi] D. Wallace writes: “there are three synthatical possibilities for qeoV here: as a subject (“God is your throne), predicate nom. (your throne is God), and nom. For voc. ( as in the translation above). The S and PN translations can be lumped together and set off against the nom. For voc. approach. It is our view that the nom. For voc. view is to be preferred for the following reasons: (1) It is an overstatement to argue that if a writer wanted to address God he could have used the vocative qee, because no where in the NT is this done except in Matt 27:46. The articular nom. For voc. is the almost universal choice. (2) This is especially the case in quoting from the LXX (as in Heb. 1:8; cf. Heb 10:7), for the LXX is equally reticent to use the voc. form, most likely since Hebrew lacked such a form. (3) The accentuation in the Hebrew of Ps. 45:7 suggests that there should be a pause between “throne” and “God” (indicating that tradition took “God” as direct address). (4) This view takes seriously the men…de construction in vv7-8, while the S-PN view does not adequately  handle these conjuctions. Specifically, if we read v.8 as “your throne is God” the de loses its adversative force, for such a statement could also be made of the angels, viz., that God reigns over them.— Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel Wallace, Zondervan, Page 59

[vii] Dr. Morey writes: “o qeoV is found sixty-three times in the vocative in the Psalms. Why then deny it here? Nowhere in Scripture is God ever said to be someone’s throne. The language “God is your throne” is rather odd and out of place in Psalm 45 and Hebrews 1. How does such a phrase prove that Jesus has a superior name and nature to the angels?– The Trinity: Evidence and Issues, Robert Morey, Christian Scholar’s press, Page 349

[viii] For a full treatment of the grammatical and synthaxical issues surrounding this text, see “Jesus as God” by Murray J. Harris, Baker Book House, Pages 187-227

[ix] Putting Jesus in His place, R. Bowman jr. and Ed. Komoszewski, Kregel Publications, Page 149

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August 13, 2009 at 8:41 am

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1