Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual and involves a person’s good reputation. The Greek word “charakter” first referred to the die used in minting coins, then came to include the sense of an image, stamp, seal, or copy. The Greeks used the word to speak of the typical features of an individual or nation, from which came the idea of “moral character” and then “the “distinctiveness” of a language, the “style” of a writer, or a “type” of philosophy (Kittel and Bromiley, TDNT, 1308). Arndt tells us the word means something produced as a representation or reproduction, and that human beings are formed by God as a representation of His own identity (1078).
The word is only found in the Bible in Hebrews 1:3. The epistle’s writer is describing Jesus, saying, “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” It is an absolutely amazing truth that we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), but the writer of Hebrews is saying something even more powerful about Jesus in Hebrews 1:3. He was not created by God as a reflection of God’s identity. The writer uses this specific word in Hebrews as part of His explanation that the Son is God! The NASB and NIV translate χαρακτήρ (CHARAKTER) as “exact representation.” The ESV has “exact imprint,” the NKJV has “express image,” the NLT says “expresses the very character of God,” and the ASV puts “the very image of His substance.”
The author of this epistle leads out in his overall theme that Jesus is better by establishing the most important reason why. He is God. The writer uses Old Testament Scripture to prove it, citing Psalm 45 and Isaiah 61 to call Him God (Heb. 1:8-9). He then quotes Psalm 102:25 to say of Jesus, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth….” Then, in Hebrews 1:13, he quotes Psalm 110:1, which begins, “The LORD (Yahweh) said to my Lord (Adonai)….”
Let’s not miss the initial point of the letter driven home by the unknown writer. With a multitude of Old Testament passages, he proves this point about the essential character of Jesus Christ. He is God. He is as much God as Father and Holy Spirit. He is as powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, perfect, sovereign, transcendent, self-existent, eternal–He is as Divine as Deity can be.
That makes His willingness to be made a little while lower than the angels to taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9) and to call us His brethren (2:11ff) all the more incredible. God lowered Himself not only to save us but to make us part of His family. We could spend the rest of the day meditating on that profound truth and still not fully grasp it.
Here’s the question. God made us, became one of us, died for us, and then opened the door to us to be His brother. What does that say about His character? As we try to fathom and appreciate that, it should give rise to another question? How should that affect our character?