God’s Word and the Pastor’s Authority (Hebrews 1:1-4)

Pastor, why should anyone listen to your words? What is the basis of your authority? The answer is both simple and demanding: people should listen to your words to the extent that your words express the word of God.

I have been too busy to blog for a month now, which doesn’t sit well with me at all! But (a) this too shall pass, God willing, after we are settled properly into our Atlanta house, and (b) I can’t help sharing a little nugget this morning.

First, a happy random note: I’m sitting here in our new kitchen as I blog. In the past five minutes, right here in our own backyard, I have seen both a great blue heron and a hawk! Much nicer than the baby snake (harmless variety) I found in our basement yesterday morning. The wrens nesting in our basement will need to be removed after this season, too, despite the cheer they bring. Truly we are moving to an urban jungle!

Back to God’s word and ours. I have just begun reading Gareth Lee Cockerill’s recent Hebrews commentary as part of my morning Bible time. I’m really liking his insights and assessments so far.


Here is the passage from his commentary introduction that provoked this little post today. Enjoy!

The pastor’s authority rests on the gospel message (2:1-4) that he holds in common with his hearers and on the persuasive quality of his exegesis.

I’ll interrupt briefly to say “Read that again!” When Cockerill says “pastor,” he is describing the author of Hebrews. But his words are equally valid for pastors today! Back to the quote:

Heb 1:1-4 enunciates the fundamental principles that underlie his interpretation of the OT. First, the God who “spoke” through the OT has now “spoken” in one who is Son. The inclusion of the OT under the rubric of “the prophets” (1:1) indicates that it anticipated God’s ultimate self-revelation. Thus this final word in the Son is both continuous with, and the fulfillment of, all that God said before the Son assumed humanity. Second, to the continuity of the divine Speaker one must add the continuity of the human recipients. Those to whom God spoke through the prophets were the “fathers” of those he addresses in his Son (1:1-2). God’s people have always consisted of those who hear, embrace, and persevere in the word of God. Both those who live before and after Christ have received the same call, the same promise, the same “gospel,” and are on pilgrimage to the same heavenly “city,” which all the faithful will obtain through Christ. There is one God and one people of God.

This firm confidence in the continuity of the divine speaker and of the human addressees underlies the pastor’s sense of the immediacy of God’s word. Thus it is no surprise that he prefers OT passages that are in the form of direct address and that he introduces them with verbs denoting speech rather than with “it is written.” What God has said in the past is of more than antiquarian interest. God “speaks” to his people in the present both by the words that he spoke to his people of old (Heb 3:7–4:11; 10:36-39) and by his conversations with his Son concerning the Son’s incarnation and exaltation (1:1-14; 2:11-13; 7:1-28); 10:5-10). God’s final revelation embraces more than what the Son has said. God’s final revelation is found in the fully adequate Savior he has become through his incarnation, obedience, self-offering, and session. The work of the Son enables God’s people to grasp his previous revelation more clearly and obey it more diligently. (Pp. 43-45)

Nearly every sentence there deserves meditation, helping us think more clearly about topics as varied as preaching, biblical interpretation, monotheism, and the identity of the people of God. God bless you as you listen to, obey, and proclaim the word of God today!

Share your insights in the comments below. Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “God’s Word and the Pastor’s Authority (Hebrews 1:1-4)”

  1. I was listening to R. T. Kendall recently speaking about the divorce that has occurred within Western Christianity between two integral parts of Revelation–the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible. For some people, the Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. Those Christians are suspicious and guarded about the work of the Holy Spirit. For others on the opposite divide, they focus almost exclusively on training themselves to listen to the Holy Spirit, and neglect the ministry of the Word of God. His premise in that short talk was that Revival can only happen when we embrace the Ministry of the Word and the Ministry of Spirit together–fire breaks out!

    With that context in mind, I was reading the commentator’s thoughts and realized again that I am grateful for God’s revelation in the New Testament. It is not just limited to a small passage, but includes 27 books that reveal more of His will, His character, His desires, and His commands, with the foundation on Christ and on His previously revealed Word in the Old Testament, and with the outworking of that revelation happening through the guidance and infilling of the Holy Spirit.

    “God’s final revelation embraces more than what the Son has said. God’s final revelation is found in the fully adequate Savior he has become through his incarnation, obedience, self-offering, and session. The work of the Son enables God’s people to grasp his previous revelation more clearly and obey it more diligently.”

    1. Amen to Kendall and Schwartz! Good words all around. In a somewhat similar vein, I was glad to notice as I read Cockerill that he doesn’t assume an overly narrow definition of “word of God,” as if the phrase only and always refers to the written Scriptures. His words in the first sentence I quoted mentions “the gospel message,” which is actually much closer to how the NT often uses the concept of the “word” (i.e. “message”) of God. I am curious how he will discuss this idea in his commentary on chapter 4. We need all of God’s revelatory work—in the Scriptures, in the life and words of Christ, in the gospel message whenever it is proclaimed, and in the work of the Spirit both past and present. May all the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God!

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