Sometimes we might be misled not to give God His due by failing to comprehend what this verse is saying. "Upholding" just does not give the impact of the Greek, giving us the impression of God as a sort of Atlas figure or as a watchmaker who wound His creation up and then walked away. Wuest's Amplified New Testament translates this word as "sustaining," indicating an ongoing operation. Sustaining not only gives the impression of support but also of continuous maintenance and providence. The Amplified Bible also catches the essence by adding "maintaining, guiding and propelling."
What this statement illustrates is the continuous, minute-by-minute, year-by-year, century-by-century, eon-upon-eon generation of the enormous, awesome, prodigious amounts of power necessary to keep His creation operating. The very stability of the creation speaks of His continuing involvement. He did not just create and walk away with everything operating according to impersonal law.
Genesis 1:3 sets the pattern for the revelation of His governance: "Then God said, 'Let there be light;' and there was light.'" His sovereignty over the inanimate creation is stated very simply: He speaks and light appears. In verse 9, He speaks, and the waters are gathered into one place, revealing dry land. Since water seeks its own level, this passage indicates that God determined where He wanted the water to go, thus it shows Him shaping and managing His creation.
God says in Genesis 6:17, "And behold, I Myself am bringing the flood waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; and everything that is on the earth shall die." The Flood was not a natural occurrence. In Genesis 11:5-8, it was God who confused the languages and scattered the families of men over all the earth, and the early chapters of Exodus clearly reveal God's involvement in the plagues on Egypt. In the latter example, God even actively supervises who receives the plague and how they are affected (Exodus 9:22-26).
Exodus 10:21-23 confirms God's active involvement in the affairs of men and His use of the inanimate aspects of His creation to bring about His will:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
Thus the Bible clearly shows that God is now exercising His sovereignty over His creation and will continue to do so beyond the return of Jesus Christ, even in the area of inanimate things like the weather and ground. Blessing or cursing is an act of His sovereignty conditioned to our response to Him. He is not merely passively paying attention and responding as He sees fit, but even more so initiating actions to bring His people to His desired end.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four
"The express image" is from a single Greek word, from which comes our word "character." The word appears only here in the New Testament.
William Barclay explains that it literally describes "the impress that a seal leaves on wax," so he renders that part of Hebrews 1:3 as, "He [Christ] is the exact impression of his [Father's] being, just as the mark is the exact impression of the seal." Physically, a seal can make an impression only by making contact, which is exactly what must happen to us spiritually. For God to make us in His "express image"—to stamp His character on us, to give us the gift of His qualities—requires contact, that we be in His presence. Praying always does just that.
This verse also suggests that godly character is not really the result of battling temptation, a battle we are powerless to win on our own. Rather, character is created by our continual, conscious choice to be in contact with Him, to submit everything we are to Him, to acknowledge that He is the only source of strength, and then to trust—to have faith in (I John 5:4)—His love and willingness to do battle for us, to give us the gift of His character.
Praying always is that first step in overcoming—submitting. Then He can take over to do what we are not able to do on our own. After our decision to submit, He may still require certain actions from us, to take those few steps in faith—our walk with God—but then we have Him on our side, giving us guidance and strength.
Even in the world, we can see the power of character. While character can make an ordinary man extraordinary, a lack of character can make an extraordinary man quite ordinary. Character has power because it connects us with divine wisdom. Without character, we are limited to human intelligence, and most of history is a record of its woeful inadequacy. Character links us to a godly intelligence that can see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). A person who exercises character exercises faith. He may not foresee the good it will bring, but he trusts that the divine intelligence behind his faith knows more.
If we are not continually praying, we will be using human intelligence with the same ratio of success that history has shown it to have. Praying always, striving always to be aware of His presence, allows His Spirit to rub off on us. God has chosen praying always as a primary method to allow us to get to know Him, to receive His character as a gift, to overcome, and to receive eternal life and salvation.
If God has given us this powerful tool, why do we not use it more? Why do we not seek God for every decision, every thought?
Praying Always (Part Four)
The apostle is extolling the present power of the One we worship. His authority and abilities have returned to what they were before He became a man. One of the ideas we are to take from this statement is that, if God were somehow to die, everything would shortly fly apart, so that even the physical life we now possess would end. Thus, anyone who believes God is confronted with an issue of clear, biblical logic about who sits at the controls of the universe under the Father.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)
Christ, by inheritance, has obtained the promises. Are we not co-heirs with Christ? Will we inherit the same things that He did? Verse 4 says, ". . . by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they [angels]." Is He greater than angels? There is no comparison between what He is now and an angel! He is their great Creator.
The writer of Hebrews is tracing the inheritance of the promises from the standpoint of Jesus, the Man, dying, being resurrected from the dead, and ascending to heaven. He is the inheritor of the promises that came to Him as the result of meeting the terms of the covenant given to Abraham. He became the heir, and what was His inheritance? This passage says that His inheritance was to become God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 13)
The first chapter of Hebrews lays the foundation for the theme that will run through the entire book. The author begins with the truth that Christ is superior to angels. He wants his readers to focus on the message, which is important, not only because it is thrilling and of weighty content, but also because of its Source. In times past, the message came through agents or intermediaries—either angels or prophets were sent. This message, however, came right from the top—through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is greater than or superior to any angel or prophet. All of those who came before Jesus Christ are "inferiors."
Thus, when God sent His message through His Son, it introduced by the very highest Source that it could possibly come from. The author intends us to understand that this message requires us to give it the highest priority of our lives. Nothing supersedes the message that came through the Son of God. No one can present a message anywhere near as great.
The message that Moses gave was, of course, right and true and powerful, but it cannot even be compared to the message that came through the Son of God. That is the theme! Christ and what He has to give us—be it words, His ministrations as High Priest, His efficacious death, His covenant, etc.—are far superior to everything else. Absolutely nothing in life can compare. He has given us the most awesome gifts that any human being could possibly be given.
This is how the author begins his treatise—as if firing a cannon to get our attention! How dare we be apathetic toward this message! That is what he implies. Do we not realize where the gospel came from? It came from the One for whom all things were created and by whom all things were created. He created Adam and gave him the breath of life—and He right now sustains us with His power! Yet the world and the pressures that it puts on us have a way of turning our attention toward other things, do they not? Unfortunately, we give into them so often, so easily.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Hebrews 1:3: