David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Jesus, Our Elder Brother
A. Therefore: Because of the superiority of Jesus to the angels, we must pay attention to Jesus.
1. (1) The lesson of the first chapter is applied: listen and don't drift away.
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
a. Therefore: The use of therefore in Hebrews makes us pay attention to a point of application after the writer developed a principle. The Scriptural fact of Jesus' superiority over the angels has life-changing application - and now we consider the application.
b. We must give the more earnest heed: This is what we must do in light of Jesus' superiority over angels. We must give more earnest heed to the words of Jesus. It's easy to think this exhortation is directed to unbelievers, but this letter was written to Christians.
i. Give the more earnest heed: This has not only the idea of hearing carefully, but also in doing what we hear - and we must give the more earnest heed.
c. Lest we drift away: If we do not give the more earnest heed, we will drift away. Drifting naturally happens without an anchor to something solid. If we are not securely set in the superiority of Jesus, we will drift with the currents of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
i. The ancient Greek phrase for drift away comes from the idea "to slip" (Dodds). It was used for an arrow slipping from the quiver, for snow slipping off a landscape, or of food slipping down the windpipe to cause choking. It happens easily. One doesn't have to do anything to drift away. Our backsliding usually comes from slow drifting, not from a sudden departure.
ii. According to an old story, an ungodly farmer died and it was discovered in his will that he left his farm to the Devil. In the court, they didn't quite know what to do with his bequest - how do you give a farm to the Devil? Finally, the judge decided: "The best way to carry out the wishes of the deceased is to allow the farm to grow weeds, the soil to erode, and the house and barn to rot. In our opinion, the best way to leave something to the Devil is to do nothing." We can leave our lives to the Devil the same way - by doing nothing, by drifting wherever the current drive us.
2. (2-4) The lesson emphasized: how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
a. The word spoken through angels: This is a way to describe the Mosaic Law, which was received . . . by the direction of angels (Acts 7:53). The idea is that the law was "delivered" to Moses by the hands of angels.
i. The idea that angels had a role in bringing the Law to Moses is found in Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, and in Galatians 3:19. Josephus also repeated this idea in his ancient history (Antiquities, 15.53).
b. Proved steadfast: The Mosaic Law was steadfast and strict (every transgression and disobedience received a just reward). It demanded to be taken seriously.
c. How shall we escape: If we must take the word which came by angels seriously, then we must take the word that came by the Son of God even more seriously. The Son is proven to be greater than the angels, so His message should be regarded as greater.
i. A greater word brought by a greater Person having greater promises will bring a greater condemnation if it is neglected.
d. If we neglect so great a salvation: The word ancient Greek word translated neglect is amelesantes, also used in Matthew 22:5 (they made light of it). This refers to those who disregarded the invitation to the marriage supper. It means to have the opportunity but to ignore or disregard the opportunity.
i. This is a word to believers, not to the unsaved. The danger described isn't rejecting salvation (though the principle certainly applies there also), but the danger is neglecting salvation.
ii. Remember that Hebrews was written not primarily as an evangelistic tract, but as an encouragement and warning to discouraged Christians. It was written to those who neglected an abiding walk with Jesus.
e. So great a salvation: When we consider something great, we will naturally pay attention to it and not neglect it. If we do not consider something great, we leave it to convenience rather than to commitment.
i. Therefore, if we neglect something, we probably do not consider it great. Yet our salvation is great, because:
We are saved by a great Savior.
We are saved at a great cost.
We are saved from a great penalty.
ii. A reason many neglect their salvation is because they never see it as salvation. They see it merely as receiving something, not as being rescued from something.
f. Spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed: This word was spoken by Jesus and confirmed by eyewitnesses (those who heard Him). Then it was confirmed with signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit given by God.
i. In saying and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, the writer shows that he was not a "first generation" Christian. He heard the message second-hand through the apostles and eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry.
ii. Hebrews 2:3 is one reason some believe the Apostle Paul did not write Hebrews. In other passages, Paul clearly set himself on an equal level with the apostles and other eyewitnesses of Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-11).
g. God also bearing witness: God does confirm His word with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. But He does it all according to His own will, not on the command of man.
i. Jesus said miraculous signs would follow those who believe (Mark 16:17). If there is no element of the miraculous, one may question whether there is true belief in Jesus or if the word of God is truly being preached. The preacher must give God something to confirm.
ii. On the other hand, the Spirit brings such miracles and gifts according to His will. Genuine miracles can't be "worked up" and brought about by human effort or emotion. Much damage is done by those who don't think enough miracles are happening, and want to "prime the pump" with the enthusiasm of the flesh.
iii. It's hard to say which is worse - the denial of miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit or the fleshly counterfeit of them. Either error is dangerous.
B. The glorious humanity of Jesus Christ.
1. (5-8a) We know Jesus is human, because God put the world in subjection to man, not angels (quoting from Psalm 8:4-6).
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him.
a. You have made him a little lower than the angels: In chapter one, the writer to the Hebrews brilliantly demonstrated from the Scriptures the deity of Jesus and His superiority over all angels. Now he demonstrates the humanity of Jesus from the Scriptures and applies the implications of Jesus' humanity.
i. It is Biblically wrong to think of Jesus as merely God or merely man. It is wrong to think of Him as half God and half man (or any other percentage split). It is wrong to think of Him as "man on the outside" and "God on the inside." The Bible teaches Jesus is fully God and fully man, that a human nature was added to His divine nature, and both natures existed in one Person, Jesus Christ.
ii. Significantly, the first false teaching about Jesus in the days of the early church did not deny that He was God, but it denied that He was really human and said He only seemed to be human. The heresy was called Docetism, coming from the ancient Greek word "to seem," and was taught by Cerinthus, who opposed the apostle John in the city of Ephesus and whose teaching is probably the focus of 1 John 4:2 and 1 John 5:6.
b. He has not put the world to come . . . in subjection to angels: God never gave angels the kind of dominion man originally had over the earth (Genesis 1:26-30). Angels do not have dominion over this world or the world to come.
c. What is man: The quotation from Psalm 8:4-6 shows both the smallness of man in relation to the God of creation and the dominion God gives to man, even though he is a little lower than the angels.
d. He left nothing that is not put under him: The writer emphasizes the point that God put all things (not some things) under subjection to human beings. This shows that Jesus must be human because God gave this dominion to humans, and Jesus exercises this authority.
2. (8b-9) A problem and its solution.
But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
a. But now we do not yet see all things put under him: By all appearance the promise of Psalm 8:4-6 seems to be an unfulfilled promise. We do not see that all things are subjected to man.
b. But we see Jesus: The promise is fulfilled in Jesus, who is Lord over all. Through Jesus man can regain the dominion originally intended for Adam (Revelation 1:6, 5:10 and Matthew 25:21).
i. There are many things we will not understand until we see Jesus. The answers to life's most perplexing questions are not found in asking "Why?" The greatest answer is a Who - Jesus Christ.
c. Who was made a little lower than the angels: This promise of dominion could only be fulfilled through the humility, suffering, and death of Jesus. The Son of God defeated the evil Adam brought into the world - which was death (Romans 5:12).
i. God gave man dominion over the earth, but man forfeited his power (not his right or authority) to take that dominion through sin, and the principle of death took away the power to rule. But Jesus came and through His humility and suffering He defeated the power of death and made possible the fulfillment of God's promise that humans will have dominion over the earth - fulfilled both through Jesus' own dominion and the rule of believers with Him (Revelation 20:4).
3. (10-13) We know Jesus is human, because He calls us brethren.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You." And again: "I will put My trust in Him." And again: "Here am I and the children whom God has given Me."
a. For it was fitting: It was more than necessary - it was fitting for the sovereign God - for whom are all things and by whom are all things to be made perfect through sufferings in the task of bringing many sons to glory.
i. Conceivably, God could have engineered a way to save us that did not require the suffering of the Son of God. But it was fitting for Jesus to save us at the cost of His own agony.
ii. This is the ultimate illustration of the fact that real love, real giving, involves sacrifice. As David said: nor will I offer . . . offerings to the Lord my God which costs me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). God's love for us had to show itself in sacrifice and God could not sacrifice unless He added humanity to His deity and suffered on our behalf.
b. The captain of their salvation: Jesus is the captain - the leader, the advance - of our salvation. This has wonderful implications:
A captain makes all the arrangements for the march, and Jesus makes the arrangements for our progress as Christians.
A captain gives the commands to the troops - "Go" or "Stay" or "Do this." Jesus commands us as our captain.
A captain leads the way and is an example to his men, and Jesus does this for us.
A captain encourages his men, and Jesus encourages us.
A captain rewards his troops, and Jesus rewards His followers.
i. "Now, seeing that it is the will of the Lord to lead us to glory by the Captain of our salvation, I want you to be worthy of your Leader. Do you not think that, sometimes, we act as if we had no Captain? We fancy that we have to fight our way to heaven by the might of our own right hand, and by our own skill; but it is not so. If you start before your Captain gives you the order to march, you will have to come back again; and if you try to fight apart from your Captain, you will rue [regret] the day." (Spurgeon)
c. Perfect through sufferings: There was nothing lacking in the deity of Jesus. Yet until He became a man and suffered, God never experienced suffering.
i. "To make perfect does not imply moral imperfection in Jesus, but only the consummation of that human experience of sorrow and pain through which he must pass in order to become the leader of his people's salvation." (Vincent)
ii. "We know that had he only been God yet still he would not have been fitted for a perfect Savior, unless he had become man. Man had sinned; man must suffer. It was man in whom God's purposes had been for a while defeated; it must be in man that God must triumph over his great enemy." (Spurgeon)
iii. The point is that it was fitting for the Father to do this, in the sense that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10), to do it for the sake of bringing many sons to glory.
d. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one: Therefore we are sanctified by One who has been sanctified. We are all of the same human family, so Jesus is not ashamed to call them (that is, us) brethren. He could not be our brother unless He was also human like us.
i. Being sanctified: "Well, then, dear friends, are you sanctified? I have heard some make a jest of that word, and jeer at certain persons as 'saints.' They might as well call them kings and princes, and then mock at them, for there is nothing mean or despicable in the name 'saint.' It is one of the most glorious titles that a man can ever wear." (Spurgeon)
ii. It is not remarkable that I am unashamed to associate with Jesus. But it is remarkable that He is not ashamed to call us brethren.
e. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: The writer cites three proofs that Jesus the Messiah calls His people His brethren from Psalm 22:22, Isaiah 8:17, and Isaiah 8:18.
i. In each of these examples the Messiah is willing to associate Himself with His brethren, whether it be in a congregation of worship, a community of trust in the Father, or in the declaration of a common family association.
f. In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You: This wonderful quote from Psalm 22:22 (from the ancient Septuagint) reminds us that Jesus sang, singing worship to His Father among His brethren.
i. "Behold, then, in your midst, O Church of God, in the days of his flesh there stood this glorious One whom angels worship, who is the brightness of his Father's glory in the very heaven of heavens; yet when he stood here, it was to join in the worship of his people, declaring the Father's name unto his brethren, and with them singing praises unto the Most High. Does not this bring him very near to you? Does it not seem as if he might come at any moment, and sit in that pew with you; I feel as if already he stood on this platform side by side with me; why should he not?" (Spurgeon)
g. Here am I and the children whom God has given Me: The phrasing of this quote from Isaiah 8:18 shows how precious Jesus' people are to Him. "He likes to dwell on that fact. They are precious to him in themselves, but far more precious as the Father's gift to him. Some things are valued by you as keepsakes given by one you love; and so are we dear to Christ because his Father gave us to him." (Spurgeon)
4. (14-16) What Jesus did as our Brother.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.
a. He Himself likewise shared in the same: For Jesus to truly fulfill the role of "Elder Brother" for the family of the redeemed, He had to take on flesh and blood. He had to enter into the prison to free the captives.
b. Through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil: Some take this as meaning that Jesus destroyed Satan's "right" to rule over man, which was presumably given to him in the garden of Eden through Adam's rebellion. The idea is that Jesus took away Satan's "right" to rule by allowing Satan to "unlawfully" take Jesus' life on the cross, and Satan's "unlawful" action against Jesus forfeited his right to rule over man. In this thinking, the end result is that the devil has no right over those who come to God through Jesus' work on the cross.
i. Since death only has dominion over those who are born sinners or who have sinned (Romans 5:12), Satan had no "right" to take the life of Jesus, who had never sinned nor was born a sinner - and the devil then committed an "unlawful" murder, according to his nature (John 8:44). Jesus allowed the devil to bruise His heel so that He could bruise his head (Genesis 3:15).
ii. The problem with this approach is that we know the devil did not take Jesus' life. Jesus laid it down of His own accord, and no one took it from Him (John 10:17-18).
iii. However, one might say the devil is guilty of "attempted unlawful murder" over someone he had no rights over because there was no stain of sin on Jesus. Satan certainly wanted to murder Jesus and tried to, and Satan is guilty of that.
iv. We know that the devil loves death and murder. "I think death is the devil's masterpiece. With the solitary exception of hell, death is certainly the most Satanic mischief that sin hath accomplished. Nothing ever delighted the heart of the devil so much as when he found that the threatening would be fulfilled, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' " (Spurgeon)
v. Satan repeatedly tried to kill Jesus. He tried through the murderous intent of Herod when Jesus was a baby. He tried at a synagogue where they tried to kill Jesus. He tried to starve Jesus and tried to drown Him. None of these plans worked, until Jesus stood before Pilate and received the sentence of execution - what joy there was in the counsels of Hell! They were convinced they finally had Jesus where they wanted Him. Yet the death of Jesus became defeat for the devil.
c. Release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage: The fear of death rules as a tyrant over humanity. Some try to make peace with death by calling it their friend. But Christians have no fear of death (though perhaps a fear of dying), not because death is their friend but because it is a defeated enemy that now serves God's purpose in the believer's life.
d. He does give aid to the seed of Abraham: The Father's work in Jesus was not primarily for the sake of angels (though it is for the angels in a secondary sense according to Ephesians 3:10). The work was for the people of faith (the seed of Abraham).
i. Seed of Abraham is used here in the sense of those who are Abraham's children inwardly, not ethnically (Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 3:7).
4. (17-18) Therefore: Jesus is our faithful High Priest.
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
a. Made like His brethren: If Jesus were not like us He could not be our High Priest, representing us before the Father and making atonement (propitiation) for our sins.
i. Neither the Deity nor the Humanity of Jesus is negotiable. If we diminish either, then He is unable to save us.
b. That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest: The High Priest wore a breastplate with stones engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel on both his chest and his shoulders. The High Priest was therefore in constant sympathy with the people of God, carrying them on his heart and on his shoulders.
i. Jesus did not wear the High Priest's breastplate. But the wound in His chest and the cross on His shoulders are even more eloquent testimony to His heart for us and work on our behalf - to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
c. He Himself has suffered, being tempted: Some wonder if Jesus was really tempted. After all, since He was God (they reason), He could not sin - so His temptation could not be real. The writer to the Hebrews insists that not only was Jesus' temptation real, but it was so real that He suffered under it.
i. We can even say that Jesus' temptation was more real and difficult than any we could face. When the pressure of temptation builds, some only find relief by giving into the temptation - but Jesus never did this. The pressure of temptation only built and built upon Him.
ii. Jesus knew the temptations of power and the temptations of pain. He knew the temptations of riches and the temptations of poverty. He knew the temptations of popularity and the temptations of rejection. He knew the temptations of the boy and the temptations of the man. He knew temptation from His friends and temptation from His enemies. He knew temptation from His family and temptation from strangers.
iii. "Many persons are tempted, but do not suffer in being tempted. When ungodly men are tempted, the bait is to their taste, and they swallow it greedily. Temptation is a pleasure to them; indeed, they sometimes tempt the devil to tempt them . . . But good men suffer when they are tempted, and the better they are the more they suffer." (Spurgeon)
d. He is able to aid those who are being tempted: Because Jesus added humanity to His deity and experienced human suffering, He is able to help us in temptation. He knows what we are going through.
i. We have two advantages - knowing the example of Jesus in temptation, but also having His active assistance from heaven, providing strength and a way of escape. With these we can find victory in the midst of temptation and come out better from being tempted. Jesus did not lose anything from being tempted - He only gained in glory and sympathy and ability to help His people. In the same way, we do not have to lose anything when we are tempted.
ii. "This is the most powerful preservative against despair, and the firmest ground of hope and comfort, that ever believing, penitent sinners could desire or have." (Poole) "Were the rest of the Scripture silent on this subject, this verse might be an ample support for every tempted soul." (Clarke)
iii. "Moreover, do not make it any cause of complaint that you are tempted. If your Lord was tempted, shall the disciple be above his Master, or the servant above his Lord? If the Perfect One must endure temptation, why not you? Accept it, therefore, at the Lord's hands, and do not think it to be a disgrace or a dishonor. It did not disgrace or dishonor your Lord, and temptation will not disgrace or dishonor you. The Lord, who sends it, sends also with it a way of escape, and it will be to your honor and profit to escape by that way." (Spurgeon)
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