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Christ Superior to Angels.
(Hebrews 2:1-4 )
The title of this article is based upon the fact that the opening verses of Hebrews 2:0 contains an exhortation based upon what has been said in chapter 1. Thus, our present portion continues the second section of the Epistle. Inasmuch as it opens with the word "Therefore" we are called upon to review that which has already been before us.
The first section of the Epistle, contained in its first three verses, may be looked at in two ways: both as forming an Introduction to the Epistle as a whole, and as a distinct division of it, in which is set forth the superiority of Christ over the prophets. In what follows, to the end of the chapter, we are shown the superiority of Christ over angels. This is affirmed in verse 4, and the proofs thereof are found in verses 5-14. These proofs are all drawn from the Old Testament Scriptures, and the completeness and perfection of the demonstration thus afforded is evidenced by their being seven in number. Thus, centuries before He appeared on earth, the Word of Truth bore witness to the surpassing excellency of Christ and His exaltation above all creatures.
As an analysis and summary of what these seven passages teach concerning the superiority of Christ over the angels, we may express it thus: 1. He has obtained a more excellent name than they verses 4, 5. 2. He will be worshipped by them as the Firstborn, verse 6. 3. He made them, verse 7. 4. He is the Divine throne-sitter, verses 8, 9. 5. He is anointed above them, verse 9. 6. He is the Creator of the universe, immutable and eternal verses 10-12. 7. He has a higher place of honor verses 13, 14.
It is striking to note that these same seven quotations from the Old Testament also furnish proof of the sevenfold glory of the Mediator affirmed in verses 2, 3. There He is spoken of, first as the "Son:" proof of this is supplied in verse 5, by a quotation from the 2nd Psalm. Second, He is denominated the "Heir:" proof of this is given in verse 6, where He is owned as the "Firstborn." Third, it is said in verse 2 that He "made the worlds:" proof of this is given in verse 10 by a quotation from the 104th Psalm. Fourth, He is called "the Brightness of God’s glory:" in verse 9 an Old Testament Scripture is quoted to show that He has been "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." Fifth, He is the "express Image" of God’s person: in verse 8, Scripture is quoted to show that the Father owned Him as "God." Sixth, in verse 3 it is said that He has "purged our sins": in verse 14 we have mention of "the heirs of salvation." Seventh, in verse 3 it is affirmed that He has "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high"; in verse 13 the 110th Psalm is quoted in proof of this. What an example is this of "proving all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21 ), and that, by the Word of God itself!
Having set forth the excellency of Christ’s Divine nature and royal function, the apostle now, in chapter 2, proceeds to show the reality and uniqueness of His humanity. In passing from one to the other the Holy Spirit moves him to make a practical application to his hearers of what he had already brought before them, for the two things which ever concern and the two ends at which the true servant of God ever aims, are, the glory of the Lord and the spiritual good of those to whom he ministers. God’s truth is not only addressed to our understanding, but to our conscience. It is designed not only to instruct, but to move us and mould our lives.
In one sense the first four verses of chapter 2 form a parenthesis, inasmuch as they interrupt the apostle’s discussion of Christ’s relation to angels, which is resumed in verse 5 and amplified in verse 9. But this digression, so far from being a literary blemish, is very beautiful. When is it that a well-trained mind ceases to think logically? or an instructed preacher to speak in orderly sequence? Is it not when his heart is moved? when his emotions are deeply stirred? So was it here with the apostle Paul. His great heart yearned for the salvation of his brethren according to the flesh; therefore, did his mind turn for a moment from the theme he was pursuing, to address himself to their consciences. He who said to the saints at Rome, "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Hebrews 10:1 ), could not calmly write to the Hebrews without breaking off and making an impassioned appeal to them. This, we shall, D.V., find he does again and again.
That which is central in our present parenthesis is an exhortation to give good heed to the Gospel. This admonition is first propounded in verse 1, and then enforced in verses 2-4. Two points are noted for the enforcing of this duty; one is the danger; the other, the vengeance, which is certain to follow on the neglect of the Gospel. The danger is intimated in the word, "Lest we should let them slip." The vengeance is hinted in the question. "How shall we escape"? This is emphasized by a solemn warning, namely, despisers of God were summarily dealt with under the law; therefore, those who shut their ears to the Gospel, which is so much more excellent, are, without doubt, treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath (Romans 2:4 , Romans 2:5 ). We are now ready to attend to the details of our present portion.
"Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (verse 1). In this verse, and in those which immediately follow, the apostle specifies a duty to be performed in regard of that most excellent Teacher which God sent to reveal His Gospel unto them. This duty is to give more than ordinary heed unto that Gospel. Such is the force of the opening, "Therefore," which signifies, for this cause: because God has vouchsafed so excellent a Teacher, He must be the more carefully attended unto. The "therefore" looks back to all the varied glories which set forth Christ’s excellency named in the previous chapter. Because He is God’s "Son," therefore give heed. Because He is "the Heir of all things," therefore give heed. Because He "made the worlds," therefore give heed; and so on. These are so many grounds on which our present exhortation is based.
"Therefore is equivalent to, ‘Since Jesus Christ is as much better than the angels, as He hath received by inheritance a more excellent name than they since He is both essentially and officially inconceivably superior to these heavenly messengers, His message has paramount claims on our attention, belief, and obedience’," (Dr. J. Brown).
The eminency of an author’s dignity and authority, and the excellency of his knowledge and wisdom, do much commend that which is spoken or written by him. If a king, prudent and learned, takes upon himself to instruct others, due attention and diligent heed should be given thereunto. "The Queen of the South came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon" (Matthew 12:42 ), and counted those of his servants who stood continually before him and heard his wisdom, to be happy (1 Kings 10:8 ). But a greater than Solomon is here referred to by the apostle: therefore, we ought "to give the more earnest heed." It was usual with the prophets to preface their utterances with a "Thus saith the Lord," and thereby arrest the attention and awe the hearts of their hearers. Here the apostle refers to the person of the Lord Himself as the argument for hearing what He said.
"Therefore we ought." "It is striking to see how the apostle takes the place of such as simply had the message, like other Jews, from those who personally heard Him; so completely was he writing, not as the apostle magnifying his office, but as one of Israel, who were addressed by those who companied with Messiah on earth. It was confirmed ‘unto us,’ says he, again putting himself along with his nation, instead of conveying his heavenly revelations as one taken out from the people and the Gentiles to which he was sent. He looks at what was their proper testimony, not at that to which he had been separated extraordinarily. He is dealing with them as much as possible on their own ground, though, of course, without compromise of his own" (William Kelly).
"We ought to give the more earnest heed." Here the apostle addresses himself to the responsibility of his readers. Here is an exhortation to the performing of a specific duty. The Greek verb is very strong and emphatic; several times it is translated "must." Thus, in 1 Timothy 3:2 , "A bishop must be blameless"; that is, it is his duty so to be. That to which the apostle here pointed was a necessity lying upon his readers. It is not an arbitrary matter, left to our own caprice to do or not to do. "Give the more earnest heed," is something more than a piece of good advice; it is a Divine precept, and God has commanded us "to keep His precepts diligently" (Psalms 119:4 ). Thus, in view of His sovereignty, and His power and rights over us, we "ought to give the more earnest heed" to what He has bidden us do. Descending to a lower level, it is the part of wisdom so to do, and that for our own good; we "ought to earnestly heed the things which we hear" in order to our own happiness.
"To ‘give heed’ is to apply the mind to a particular subject, to attend to it, to consider it. It is here opposed to ‘neglecting the great salvation.’ No person can read the Scriptures without observing the stress that is laid on consideration, and the criminality and hazards which are represented as connected with inconsideration. Nor is this at all wonderful when we reflect that the Gospel is a moral remedy for a moral disease. It is by being believed it becomes efficacious. It cannot be believed unless it is understood: it cannot be understood unless it is attended to. Truth must be kept before the mind in order to its producing an appropriate effect; and how can it be kept before the mind, but by our giving heed to it" (Dr. J. Brown).
"The duty here intended is a serious, firm, and fixed settling of the mind upon that which we hear; a bowing and bending of the will to yield unto it; an applying of the heart to it, a placing of the affections upon it, and bringing the whole man into conformity thereunto. Thus it comprises knowledge of the Word, faith therein, obedience thereto, and all other due respects that may any way concern it" (Dr. Gouge).
"To the things which we have heard." To "hear" is not sufficient, there must be prayerful meditation, personal appropriation. No doubt the wider reference was to the Gospel, which these Hebrews had heard; though the more direct appeal was concerning that which the apostle had brought before them, in the previous chapter concerning the person and work of God’s Son. To us, today, it would include all that God has said in His Word.
"Lest at any time we should let slip." There is a difficulty here in making quite sure of the Spirit’s precise meaning. The expression "we should let slip" is one word in the Greek, and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The absence of the pronoun seems to be designed for the allowing of a double thought: lest we "let slip" the things we have heard, and, or, lest we ourselves slip away apostatize.
"Lest at any time we let them slip." The danger is real. The effects of sin are stamped on our members; it is easy to recall the things of no value, but the things of God slip out of our mind. The fault is our own, through failing to give "the more earnest heed." Unless we "keep in memory" (1 Corinthians 15:2 ), and unless we are duly informed by them, they slip away like water out of a leaky utensil.
"Lest haply we drift away." Understood thus, these words sound the first warning-note of this Epistle against apostasy, and this verse is parallel with 3:14; 4:1; 12:25. Perseverance in the faith, continuance in the Word, is a prime pre-requisite of discipleship, see John 8:31 ; Colossians 1:23 , etc. Many who heard, and once seemed really interested in spiritual things, "concerning the faith have made shipwreck" (1 Timothy 1:19 ).
Thus, in the light of the whole context four reasons may be mentioned why we should give the more earnest heed to the things which God has spoken unto us: First, because of the glory and majesty of the One by whom He has communicated His mind and will, the Son. Second, because the message of Christianity is final. Third, because of the infinite preciousness of the Gospel. Fourth, because of the hopeless perdition and terrible tortures awaiting those who reject or let slip the testimony of God’s wondrous grace.
"For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward" (verse 2). The apostle here advances another reason why the Hebrews ought to attend diligently to the Gospel. Having shown that such attention should be given because of the excellency of its Author and Publisher, and because of the benefits which would be lost through negligence, he now announces the certain vengeance of Heaven on its neglecters, a vengeance sorer than even that which was wont to be executed under the Law.
The opening "for" indicates that what follows gives a reason for persuading the Hebrews. The "if" has the force of "since," as in John 8:46 ; John 14:3 ; Colossians 3:1 , etc. The "word spoken by angels" seems to refer to the Mosaic law, compare Acts 7:53 ; Galatians 3:19 . "The only difficulty seems to arise out of the express declaration made by the sacred historian, that Jehovah spake all the words of the law. But the difficulty is more apparent than real. What lies at the foundation of the apostle’s whole argument is God spake both the Law and the Gospel. Both the one and the other are of Divine origin. It is not the origin, but the medium of the two revelations which he contrasts. ‘He made known His will by the ministry of angels in the giving of the law; He made known His will by the Son in the revelation of mercy.’ It seems probable from these words that the audible voice in which the revelation from Mount Sinai was made, was produced by angelic ministry" (Dr. J. Brown).
Because the word spoken, ministerially, by angels was the Word of the Lord, it was "steadfast" firm, inviolable, not to be gainsaid. Proof of this is furnished in the "and every transgression," etc. The distinction between "transgression" and "disobedience" is not easy to define. The one refers more to the outward act of violating God’s law; the other, perhaps, to the state of heart which produced it. The words "receive a just recompense of reward" signify that every violation of God’s law was punished according to its demerits. The term "reward" conveys the thought of "that which is due." Punishment for the breaking of God’s law is not always administered in this life, but is none the less sure: see Romans 2:3-9 .
This verse sets out a most important principle in connection with the governmental dealings of God: that principle is that the Judge of all the earth will be absolutely just in His dealings with the wicked. Though the direct reference be to His administration of the Law’s penalty in the past, yet, inasmuch as He changes not, it is strictly applicable to the great assize in the Day to come. There will be degrees of punishment, and those degrees, the sentence meted out to each rebel against God, will be on this basis, that every transgression and disobedience shall receive "a just recompense of reward." In brief, we may say that punishment will be graded according to light and opportunity (Matthew 11:20-24 ; Luke 12:47 , Luke 12:48 ), according to the nature of the sins committed (John 19:11 ; Mark 12:38-40 ; Hebrews 10:29 ), according to the number of the sins committed (Romans 2:6 , etc.).
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (verse 3). This verse evokes a number of questions to which, perhaps, no conclusive and final answers may be furnished. Who are referred to by the "we"? How shall we escape what? Exactly what is in view in the "so great salvation?" In pondering these questions several considerations need to be steadily kept before us. First, the people to whom this Epistle was directly addressed and the circumstances in which they were then placed. Second, the central purpose of the Epistle and the character of its distinctive theme. Third, the bearing of the context on this verse and its several expressions. Fourth, light which other passages in this Epistle may shed upon it.
The relation between this verse and the preceding ones is evident. The apostle had just been pressing upon his brethren the need of their more earnestly giving heed unto the things which they had heard, which is more or less defined in the second half of verse 3: "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord" the reference being to His preaching of the Gospel. By a metonymy, the Gospel, that reveals and proclaims God’s salvation, is here meant. In Ephesians 1:13 it is styled "The gospel of your salvation," in Acts 13:26 the "word of this salvation," in Romans 1:16 it is called "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," and in Titus 2:11 , "the grace of God which bringeth salvation." The Gospel dispensation is denominated "the Day of Salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2 ). Ministers of the Gospel are they "which show unto us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17 ).
That under this word "salvation" the Gospel be meant, is also evident from the contrastive expression in verse 2 "the word spoken by angels." That word was spoken before the time of the Gospel’s publication (note that the term "Gospel" is never once found in the Old Testament), and obviously signified the Law. Fitly may the Gospel be styled "salvation:" first, because in opposition to the Law (which was a "ministration of condemnation" 2 Corinthians 3:9 ), it is a ministration of salvation. Second, because the Author of the Gospel is "salvation" itself: see Luke 2:30 , John 4:22 , etc., where "salvation" is synonymous with "the Savior." Third, because whatever is needful to a knowledge of salvation is contained in the Gospel. Fourth, because the Gospel is God’s appointed means of salvation: see 1 Corinthians 1:21 . True, in Old Testament times God’s elect had and knew the Gospel Galatians 3:16 ; Hebrews 4:2 yet it was not publicly proclaimed and fully expounded. They had it under types and shadows, and in promises and prophecies.
The excellency of this salvation is denoted by the words "so great." The absence of any co-relative implies it to be so wondrous that its greatness cannot be expressed. Upon this Dr. J. Brown has well said: "The ‘salvation’ here, then, is the deliverance of men through the mediation of Jesus Christ. This salvation is spoken of by the Apostle as unspeakably great: not merely a great salvation, nor even the great salvation but ‘so great salvation’ an expression peculiarly fitted to express his high estimate of its importance. And who that knows anything about that deliverance can wonder at the Apostle using such language?
"What are the evils from which it saves us? The displeasure of God, with all its fearful consequences in time and eternity; and ‘who knows the power of His anger?’ We must measure the extent of infinite power, we must fathom the depths of infinite wisdom, before we can resolve the fearful question. We can only say, ‘According to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath.’ The most frightful conception comes infinitely short of the more dreadful reality. A depravity of nature ever increasing, and miseries varied according to our varied capacities of suffering limited in intensity only by our powers of endurance, which an almighty enemy can enlarge indefinitely, and protracted throughout the whole eternity of our being these are the evils from which this salvation delivers.
"And what are the blessings to which it raises? A full, free, and everlasting remission of our sins the enjoyment of the paternal favor of the infinitely powerful, and wise, and benignant Jehovah the transformation of our moral nature a tranquil conscience a good hope down here; and in due time, perfect purity and perfect happiness for ever in the eternal enjoyment of God.
"And how were these evils averted from us? how were these blessings obtained for us? By the incarnation, obedience, suffering, and death of the Only-begotten of God, as a sin-offering in our room! And how are we individually interested in this salvation? Through the operations of the Holy Spirit, in which He manifests a power not inferior to that by which the Savior was raised from the dead, or the world was created. Surely such a deliverance well merits the appellation, a ‘so great salvation!’"
But this great salvation, which is made known in the Gospel, may be "neglected." While it is true that salvation is not only announced, but is also secured to and effectuated in God’s elect by the Holy Spirit, yet it must not be forgotten that the Gospel addresses the moral responsibility of those to whom it comes. There is not only an effectual call, but a general one, which is made unto "the sons of men" (Proverbs 8:4 ). The Gospel is for the sinner’s acceptance, see 1 Timothy 1:15 ; 1 Timothy 2:0 Corinthians 11:41. The Gospel is more than a publication of good news, more than an invitation for burdened souls to come to Christ for relief and peace. In its first address to those who hear, it is a Divine mandate, an authoritative command, which is disregarded at the sinner’s imminent peril. That it does issue a "command" is clear from Acts 17:30 ; Romans 16:25 , Romans 16:26 . That disobedience to this "command" will be punished, is clear from John 3:18 , 1 Peter 4:17 , 2 Thessalonians 1:8 .
The Greek word here rendered "neglect" is translated "made light of" in Matthew 22:5 . In this latter passage the reference is to the King making a marriage for His Son, and then sending forth his servants to call them which were bidden to the wedding. But they "made light of" the King’s gracious overtures and "went their ways, one to his family, another to his merchandise." The parable sets forth the very sin against which the apostle was here warning the Hebrews, namely, failure to give earnest heed to the things which were spoken by the Lord, and neglecting His great salvation. To "neglect" the Gospel, is to remain inattentive and unbelieving. How, then, asks the apostle, shall such "escape?" "Escape" what? Why, the "damnation of Hell" (Matthew 23:33 )! Such, we take it, is the first meaning and wider scope of the searching question asked in verse 3. Should it be objected, This cannot be, for in the "we" the apostle Paul manifestly included himself. The answer is, so also does he in the "we" of Hebrews 10:26 ! That the "we" includes more than those who had really believed the Gospel will be clear from verse 4.
Coming now to the narrower application of these words and their more direct bearing upon the regenerated Hebrews whom the Holy Spirit was specifically addressing, we must consider them in the light of the chief design of this Epistle, and the circumstances in which the Hebrews were then placed; namely, under sore temptation to forsake their espousal of Christianity and to return to Judaism. Looked at thus, the "so great salvation" is only another name for Christianity itself, the "better thing" (Hebrews 11:40 ) which had been brought in by Christ. Judaism was about to fall under the unsparing judgment of God. If, therefore, they turned from their allegiance to Christ and went back to that which was on the eve of being destroyed, how could they "escape" was the question which they must face?
Hebrews 2:3 must be interpreted in harmony with its whole context. In the opening verse of chapter 2 the apostle is making a practical and searching application of all he had said in chapter 1, where he had shown the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, by proving the exaltation of Christ the Center and Substance of Christianity over prophets and angels. In Hebrews 1:14 , He had spoken of the "heirs of salvation" which, among other things, pointed to their salvation as being yet future. In one sense they had been saved (from the penalty of sin), in another sense they were still being saved (from the power of sin), in still another sense they were yet to be saved (from the presence of sin). But God ever deals with His people as accountable creatures. As moral beings, in contrast from stock and stones, He addresses their responsibility. Hence, God’s saints are called upon to give diligence to make their "calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10 ) sure unto themselves, and unto their brethren. This, among other things, is done, by using the Divinely-appointed means of grace, and by perseverance and continuance in the faith: see John 8:31 ; Acts 11:23 ; Acts 13:43 ; Acts 14:22 ; 2 Timothy 3:14 , etc.
The Christian life is likened unto a "race" set before us: 1 Corinthians 9:24 ; Philippians 3:13 , Philippians 3:14 ; 2 Timothy 4:7 ; Hebrews 12:1 . A "race" calls for self-discipline, personal exertion, perseverance. The Inheritance is set before us in promise, but it is written, "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36 ). The "promise" is secured by faith and patience, by actually "running" the race set before us. In the light of this, "neglect" would signify failure to "give diligence" to make our calling and election sure, failure to "press forward" and "run the race." If then we "neglect," how shall we "escape?" Escape what? Ah, note how abstractly the apostle worded it. He did not specify the "what." It all depends upon the state of the individual. If he be only a lifeless professor and continues neglecting the Gospel, Hell will be his certain portion. But if he be a regenerated believer, though a careless and worldly one, then lack of assurance and joy, profitless and fruitlessness, will be his portion; and then, how shall he "escape" the chastening rod of the holy Father? Thus, the question asked in our verse addresses itself to all who read the Epistle.
"Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard" (verse 3). This need not detain us long. Its central design is to emphasize the importance and need of heeding that which had been spoken by Christ: with it should be carefully compared Deuteronomy 18:18 , Deuteronomy 18:19 : Luke 9:35 . Incidentally, the words "at the first began" intimates that Christ was the first Gospel-Preacher! The reference is to that which was preached first by Christ Himself, recorded in the Gospels; then, to that which was proclaimed by His apostles, reported in the book of Acts. The title here given to the Savior, "Lord," emphasizes both His dignity and authority, and intimates that the responsibility of the Hebrews was being addressed. Till Christ came and preached, "the people sat in darkness and in the shadow and region of death;" and when He began to preach, they "saw great light" (Matthew 4:16 ). With the "confirmed unto us" compare Luke 1:1 , Luke 1:2 . The apostle was calling the Hebrews’ attention to the sureness of the ground on which their faith rested.
"God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will" (verse 4). The reference here is to the miracles wrought by God through the apostles in the early days of the Christian era. The book of Acts records many examples and illustrations of what is here said: see 5:9, 10; 13:11; 3:7; 9:40; 19:12, etc. The Gospel was first preached by the Lord Himself, then it was confirmed by the apostles, and then again by God Himself in such works as could not be performed by a Divine power. "Bearing witness with" is a single word in the Greek, but a double compound. The simple verb signifies to witness to a thing as in John 1:7 ; the compound, to add testimony to testimony, or to add a testimony to some other confirmation; the double compound, to give a joint-testimony or to give-witness-together with one another. A similar compound is used in Romans 8:16 .
The means employed by God in thus confirming the witness of His servant are described by four terms: signs, wonders, miracles, gifts. The first three refer to the same things, though under different aspects. "Signs" denote the making more simple and evident that which otherwise could hardly be discerned; compare the use of the terms in Matthew 12:38 ; Matthew 16:1 , and note the "see" and "show." "Wonders" points both to the striking nature of the "signs" and to the effects produced in those who beheld them: compare Acts 2:19 ; Acts 7:36 . "Miracles" refers to the supernatural power which produced the "signs" and "wonders." The Greek word is rendered "mighty deeds" in 2 Corinthians 12:12 . Thus, "miracles" are visible and wondrous works done by the all-mighty power of God, above or against the course of nature. Our text speaks of "divers miracles": many sorts of supernatural interpositions of God are recorded in the Acts.
An additional means employed by God in confirming the Gospel was "gifts of the Holy Spirit." The Greek word here rendered "gifts" means "divisions" or "distributions"; in the singular number it occurs in Hebrews 4:12 , where it is translated "dividing asunder." In its verbal form it is found in 1 Corinthians 7:17 , "God hath distributed to every man." Because these distributions of the Holy Spirit originated not in those by whom they were exercised and through whom they were displayed, they are not unfitly translated "gifts"; the reference being to the gifts extraordinary, manifested through and by the apostles. These "gifts" may also be seen in the book of Acts the day of Pentecost, e.g., also in 1 Corinthians 12:4 and what there follows. We may add that these "divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit" were given by God before the New Testament was written. Now that the Scriptures are complete they are no longer needed, nor given.
"According to His own will." The fore-mentioned divers miracles and distributions of gifts were ordered and disposed according to the sovereign pleasure of Deity. The act of distributing is attributed to God the Father in 1 Corinthians 7:17 , to the Son in Ephesians 4:7 , to the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:11 . The Greek signifies, "according to His own will." The will of God is the one rule by which all things are ordered that He Himself doeth, and whereby all things ought to be ordered that His creatures do. Scripture distinguishes between the secret and revealed will of God, see Deuteronomy 29:29 , where both are referred to. The secret will of God is called His "counsel" (Isaiah 46:10 ), the "counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11 ), His "purpose" (Romans 8:28 ), His "good pleasure" (Ephesians 1:9 ). The revealed will of God is made known in His Word, and is so called because, just as the ordinary means by which men make known their minds is by the word of their mouth, so the revelation of God’s will is called "His Word." This revealed will of God is described in Romans 12:2 , and is primarily intended in the second clause of the Lord’s prayer. Here in our text it is the secret will of God which is meant.
In these days of creature-pride and haughtiness, we need reminding that God is sovereign, conferring with none, consulting none; doing as He pleases. God’s will is His only rule. As He creates, governs, and disposes all things, so He distributes the gifts of His Spirit "according to His own will." Should any murmur, His challenge is "Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own?" (Matthew 20:15 ). It is important to note that these gifts of the Spirit were distributed not "according to the faith" of those who received them just as in the parable of the talents the supreme Sovereign distributed them unequally, according to His own good pleasure. May Divine grace bring both writer and reader into complete subjection to the secret will of God and obedience to His revealed will.
What has been before us in verses 2, 3 tells us how firm and sure is the foundation on which our faith rests. In giving earnest heed to the Gospel, notwithstanding its unique and amazing contents, we are not following cunningly devised fables, but that which comes to us certified by unimpeachable witnesses. First, it began to be spoken by the Lord Himself. Though this was sufficient to make the Gospel "worthy of all acceptation," God mercifully, because of our weakness, caused it to be "confirmed" by those who had heard the Lord for themselves. The witness of these men was, in turn, authenticated by Divine displays of power through them such as was never seen before or since. Finally, additional attestation was furnished in supernatural outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God has graciously added witness to witness and testimony to testimony. How thankful we should be for these many infallible proofs! May this consideration of them result in the strengthening of our faith to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.
Christ Superior to the Angels.
(Hebrews 2:5-9 )
The scope, the order of thought, and the logical bearings of our present passage are not so easily discerned as those we have already gone over. That it, the first part at least, picks up the thread dropped in Hebrews 1:14 and continues to exhibit the superiority of Christ over angels, is clear from verse 5; but when we reach verse 9 we read of Jesus being "made a little lower than the angels." At first glance this seems to present a real difficulty, but, as is generally the case with such passages, in reality verse 9, taken as a whole, supplies the key to our present portion.
In Hebrews 1:4-14 the Holy Spirit, through the apostle, has furnished a sevenfold proof of the superiority of Israel’s Messiah over the angels. This proof, taken from their own Scriptures, was clear and incontrovertible. In Hebrews 2:1-4 a parenthesis was made, opportunity being taken to give a solemn and searching application to the consciences and hearts of the Hebrews of what had just been brought before them: the authority of the Gospel was commensurate with its grace, and God would avenge the slightings of that which was first proclaimed by His Son, as surely as He had the refractions of that law which he had given by the mediation of angels. Now here in Hebrews 2:5 and onwards an objection is anticipated and removed.
The objection may be framed thus: How could supremacy be predicated of One who became Man, and died? As we have shown in a previous article, the Jews actually regarded the angels with a higher veneration than the greatest of the "fathers" Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David. And rightly so; their own Scriptures declared that they "excel in strength." Thus a real difficulty was presented to them, in the fact that He whom the apostle affirmed had, by inheritance, obtained "a more excellent name" than angels, was known to them as "the Son of man," for man was a creature inferior to angels. Moreover, angels do not die, Christ had; how, then, could He be their superior?
The method followed by the Holy Spirit in meeting this objection and removing the difficulty is as follows: He shows (in verse 9) that so far from the humiliation and suffering endured by Christ tarnishing His glory, they were the meritorious cause of His exaltation. In support of this a remarkable quotation is made from the 8th Psalm to prove that God has placed man, and not angels, at the head of the future economy the "world to come." The design of God in that economy is to raise "man" to the highest place of all among His creatures, and that design has been secured by Christ’s becoming Man and dying, and thus obtaining for Himself and His people that state of transcendent dignity and honor which the Psalmist prophesied should be possessed by man in the Age to come.
Thus, those commentators are mistaken who suppose that in Hebrews 2:5 the apostle begins to advance further proof of Christ’s superiority over angels. Complete demonstration of this had been made in chapter 1, as the seven Old Testament passages there cited go to show. True it is that what the apostle says in verse 5 makes manifest the exaltation of the Savior above the celestial hierarchies, yet his purpose in so doing was to meet an objector. What we have in our present section is brought in to show that the evidence supplied in chapter 1 could not be shaken, and that the very objection which a Jew might make against it had been duly provided for and fully met in his own Scriptures. Thus may we admire the wisdom of Him who knoweth the end from the beginning, and maketh even the wrath of man to praise Him.
"For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak" (verse 5). In taking up this verse three questions need to be duly pondered: What is here referred to in "the world to come?" What is meant by its being "put in subjection?" What bearing has this statement upon the apostle’s argument? Let us endeavor to deal with them in this order.
Commentators are by no means agreed on the signification of this term "the world to come." Many of the older ones, who were post-millennarians, understood by it a reference to the present Gospel dispensation, in contrast from the Mosaic economy. Others suppose that it refers to the Church, of which Christ, and not angels, is the Head. Others look upon it as synonymous with the Eternal State, comparing it with the Lord’s words in Matthew 12:32 , "Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." The objection against this last view is that the Greek word for "world" is quite different in Hebrews 2:5 from that which is used in Matthew 12:32 .
We believe the first key to the right understanding of this expression is to be found in the particular term used here by the Holy Spirit, translated "world." It is neither "kosmos," the common one for "world," as in John 3:16 , etc.; nor "aion," meaning "age," in Matthew 13:35 , Hebrews 9:26 , etc. Instead, it is "oikoumene," which, etymologically, signifies "habitable place"; but this helps us nothing. The word is found fifteen times in the New Testament. In thirteen of them it appears to be used as a synonym for "earth." But in the remaining passage, namely, Hebrews 1:6 , light is cast upon our present verse. As we sought to show in our exposition of that verse, the words "when again He brings in the Firstborn into the world" (oikoumene) refer to the second advent of Christ to this earth, and point to His millennial kingdom. This, we are satisfied, is also the reference in Hebrews 2:5 .
The "world to come" was a subject of absorbing interest and a topic of frequent conversation among all godly Jews. Unlike us, the object of hope set before them was not Heaven, but a glorious kingdom on earth, ruled over in righteousness by their Messiah. This would be the time when Jerusalem should be no more "trodden doom by the Gentiles," but become "a praise in all the earth"; when heathen idolatry should give place to "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord," filling the earth as the waters do the sea. In other words, it would be the time when the kingdom-predictions of their prophets should be fulfilled. Nor had there been anything in the teachings of Christ to show these expectations were unwarranted. Instead, He had said, "Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration (Millennium) when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold," etc. (Matthew 19:28-30 ). Those who had believed in Him as the Savior from sin, eagerly awaited the establishing of His kingdom on earth: see Acts 1:6 .
The "world to come" is the renovated earth under the reign of the Messiah. In the spiritual arithmetic of Scripture the number of the earth is four, a number plainly stamped upon it: note the four seasons of the year, the four points to its compass. How striking is it to note, then, that the Word speaks of exactly four earths, namely, the pre-Adamic, the present, the Millennial (delivered from the curse), the new earth. The "world to come" is the time when Israel shall dwell in their own land in peace and blessing, when wars shall be made to cease, when oppression and injustice shall end, when all the outward creation shall manifest the presence of the Prince of peace.
Not unto the angels hath God "put in subjection" this world to come. "Put in subjection" is the translation of a single compound Greek word, meaning "to put under." In its simple form it signifies to appoint or ordain; in its compound, to appoint over. Note the relative "He": God places in subjection whom He will and to whom He will. Because God hath not put the world to come in subjection to angels, therefore angels have no authority over it. "It is the good pleasure of God to use an angel where it is a question of providence, or law, or power; but where it comes to the manifestation of His glory in Christ, He must have other instruments more suited for His nature, and according to His affections" (W. Kelly). To whom, then, hath God subjected the world to come? Instead of supplying a categorical answer, the apostle leaves his readers to draw their answer from what an Old Testament oracle had said.
Ere taking up the point last raised, let us now consider the bearing which the contents of this 5th verse has upon the apostle’s argument. It opens with the word "for," which intimates that there is a glance backwards to and now a continuation of something said previously. This casual particle connects not with the first four verses of our chapter, for, as we have shown, they are of the nature of a parenthesis. The backward glance is to what was said in Hebrews 1:14 , where we are told, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" The Inheritance will not be governed by angels; they are but ministers to its "heirs." "For He (God) hath not put in subjection to angels the world to come" (the earthly inheritance) whereof we speak. Thus the connection is clear. The "whereof we speak" takes us back to Hebrews 1:14 , and is amplified in Hebrews 2:6-9 .
Before turning to that which follows, let us summarize that which has been before us in verse 5. In Hebrews 1:14 , the apostle had affirmed that the angels are in a position of subjection to the redeemed of Christ; now he declares that, in the Millennial era also, not angels, but the "heirs of salvation," shall occupy the place of governmental dominion. The "world to come" is mentioned here because it is in the next Age that the Inheritance of salvation will be entered into and enjoyed. In view of what follows from Psalms 8:0 and Hebrews 2:5 , may possibly set forth a designed contrast from the pre-Adamic earth, which, most probably, was placed under the dominion of unfallen Satan and his angels. The practical bearings of this verse on the Hebrews was: Continue to hold fast your allegiance to Christ, for the time is coming when those who do so shall enter into a glory surpassing that of the angels.
"But one in a certain place testified, saying, ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?’" (verse 6). In seeking to discover the relevancy of this quotation and its bearing upon the apostle’s argument, the scope and details of this remarkable and little-understood Psalm from which it is taken, need to be carefully studied. But observe, first, how the quotation is introduced, "But one in a certain place testified, saying." It suggests that the Hebrews were so familiar with the Holy Scriptures that it was not necessary to give the reference! The "But" intimates that the apostle is about to point a contrast from the angels: not "and," but "but!"
Before proceeding further, let us ponder the doctrinal teaching of Psalms 8:0 . Upon this we cannot do better than reproduce the summary of it given by Dr. Gouge: "The main scope of the Psalm is, to magnify the glory of God: this is evident by the first and last verses thereof. That main point is proved by the works of God, which in general He declares to be so conspicuous, as very babes can magnify God in them to the astonishment of His enemies, verse 2. In particular He first produceth those visible glorious works that are above; which manifest God’s eternal power and Godhead, verse 3. Then He amplifieth God’s goodness to man (who had made himself a mortal miserable creature, verse 4), by setting forth the high advancement of man above all other creatures, not the angels excepted, verses 5-7. This evidence of God’s greatness to man so ravished the prophet’s spirit, as with an high admiration he thus expresseth it, ‘What is man?’ etc. Hereupon he concludeth that Psalm as he began it with extolling the glorious excellency of the Lord."
The force of the 4th verse of Psalms 8:0 , the first here quoted in Hebrews 2:0 , may be gathered from the words which immediately precede: "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained What is man, that Thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" In view of the magnitude of God’s creation, in contrast from the heavenly bodies, What is man? This is confirmed by the particular word which the Holy Spirit has here employed. In the Old Testament. He has used four different words, all rendered "man" in our English version. The one used here is "enosh," which signifies "frail and fallen man." It is the word used in Psalms 9:20 ! What is man, fallen man, that the great God should be mindful of him? Still less that He should crown him with "glory and honor?" Ah, it is this which should move our hearts to deepest wonderment, as it will fill us with ever-increasing amazement and praise in the ages yet to come.
"What is man that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou visitest him?" (verse 6). The latter clause seems to be added in order to emphasize the preceding thought. "Son of man" is added as a diminution for "man": compare Job 25:6 for a parallel. Another reason why this second clause may be added to verse 6 is to show that it is not Adam who is here spoken of. From the contents of verses 5-7 many have thought that Psalms 8:0 was referring to the father of the human family (see Genesis 1:26 ); but this second part of its fourth verse seems to have been brought in designedly to correct us. Certainly Adam was not a "son of man!"
"Thou madest him a little lower than the angels" (verse 7). This supplies additional proof that it is not Adam who is here in view. Both the Hebrew word used in Psalms 8:5 and the Greek word in Hebrews 2:7 signify the failing or falling of a thing from that which it was before. "The word ‘made lower’ does not signify to be created originally in a lower condition, but it signifies to be brought down from a higher station to a lower" (Dr. J. Brown). The Hebrew word is used to denote the failing of the waters when Noah’s flood decreased (Genesis 8:4 ); and, negatively, of the widow’s oil that did not fail (1 Kings 17:14 , 1 Kings 17:16 ). The Greek word is used of the Baptist when he said, "I must decrease" (John 3:30 ).
But to what is the Holy Spirit here referring in our 7th verse? First, it should be pointed out that both the Hebrew and Greek word here for "little" has a double force, being applied both to time and degree. In 1 Peter 5:10 it is rendered "a while," that is, a short space of time; so also in Luke 22:58 and Acts 5:34 . Such, we believe, is in force here, as it certainly is in the 9th verse. Now in what particular sense has God made frail and fallen man a "little while" lower than the angels? With Dr. J. Brown we must answer, "We cannot doubt that man, even in his best estate, was in some respects inferior to the angels; but in some points he was on a level with them. One of these was immortality; and it deserves consideration, that this is the very point referred to when it is said of the raised saints, the children of the resurrection, ‘Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels’" (Luke 20:36 ). Thus, for a season, man, through being subject to death, has been made "lower than the angels."
"Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands" (verse 7). Just as in the first part of this verse reference is made to the humiliation of man, so the second part of it speaks of God’s exaltation of man.
"The verbs being expressed, not in the Future, but in the past tense, will not be felt as an objection to its being considered as a prediction, this being quite common in the prophetic style. Most of the predictions, for example, in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah are expressed in the past tense" (Dr. J. Brown). To this we may add, all prophecy speaks from the standpoint of God’s eternal purpose, and so certain is this of accomplishment, the past tense is used to show it is as sure as if it were already wrought out in time: compare "glorified" in Romans 8:30 , and see Romans 4:17 . Thus we understand the second part of this 7th verse as referring to the coming glorification of Christ’s redeemed.
"Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands." This is applied by the Spirit to the redeemed, the "heirs" of Hebrews 1:14 , "whereof we speak" (Hebrews 2:5 ). That the redeemed are to be "crowned" is clearly taught in the New Testament. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:7 , 2 Timothy 4:8 the apostle says, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give be at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." So also James declares, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (James 1:12 ).
They are to be crowned with "glory and honor." In Scripture "glory" is put for the excellency of a thing: hence, what is here predicted is, that the dignity which God will place upon His saints will be the most excellent they could be advanced unto. The Hebrew word means that which is real and substantial, in contrast from that which is light and vain. The word for "honor" implies that which is bright: and in Psalms 110:3 is rendered "beauty." Its distinctive thought is that of being esteemed by others. Thus we have here a striking word upon the glorification of the redeemed. First, they are to be "crowned," that is, they are to be elevated to a position of the highest rank. Second, they are to be crowned with "glory," that is, they will be made supremely excellent in their persons. Third, they are to be crowned with "honor," that is, they will be looked up to by those below them.
"And didst set him over the works of Thy hands." This has reference to the rule and reign of God’s saints in the Day to come. In Daniel 7:18 , Daniel 7:27 we read, "But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever . . . And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him." So also in Revelation 2:26 we are told, "And he that overcometh and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations."
"Thou hast put all things under his feet" (verse 8). The language here employed shows plainly the connection between this quotation from the 8th Psalm and what the apostle had declared in verse 5. There he had said, "For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak." Here we learn that unto "man" will the world to come be placed in subjection. Here we learn that "man," frail and fallen, but redeemed and exalted by the Lord, will have, in the world to come, "all things" put under his feet. It is the blessed sequel to Genesis 1:26 the earthly Paradise regained. The absoluteness of this "subjection" of the world to come unto redeemed man, is intimated by the figure which is here used, "under his feet"; lower a thing cannot be put. It is not simply "at his feet," but "under." The scope of the subjection is seen by the "all things." This goes beyond the terms of Psalms 8:7 ,Psalms 8:8 , for the last Adam has secured for His people more than the first Adam lost. All creation, even angels, will then be "in subjection" to man.
"For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him" (verse 8). This is the apostle’s comment on his quotation from Psalms 8:0 . "Thou hast bestowed on man such honors as Thou hast bestowed on none of Thy creatures. Thou hast set him at the head of the created universe. From this passage it appears that, with the single exception of Him who is to put all things under him, i.e., God, all things are to be put under man. In the world to come even angels are subordinate to them. Man is next to God in that world" (Dr. J. Brown). In Revelation 21:7 we read, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son." Our joint-heirship with Christ (Romans 8:17 ) will be manifested in the world to come. What a prospect! O for faith to lay hold of it and enjoy it, even now. Were it more real to us, the trifling baubles of this world would fail to attract us. Were it more real to us, the trials and troubles of this life would be unable to sadden or move us. May the Lord enable each of His own to look away from the things seen to the things unseen.
"But now we see not yet all things put under him" (verse 8). This is the language of an hypothetical objector, which confirms and establishes what was said in the opening paragraphs of this article. The "him" here is the "man" of verse 6. Anticipating the objection that Jesus of Nazareth could not be superior to the angels, seeing that He was Man, the apostle met it by showing that one of God’s ancient oracles declared that he who, for a short season, was made lower than the angels, has been crowned with glory and honor and set over the works of His hands; yea, that all things, and therefore angels, have been "put in subjection under him." But how can this be? says the objector: "Now we see not yet all things put under him." What you have said is belied by the testimony of our senses; that which is spread before our eyes refutes it. Why, so far from "all things" being in subjection to man, even the wild beasts will not perform his bidding! Unanswerable as this difficulty might appear, solution, satisfactory and complete, is promptly furnished. This is given in our next verse.
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels . . . crowned with glory and honor" (verse 9). It is most blessed to observe how the apostle meets the objector: he does so by pointing at once and directly to Him who is the Center of all our hopes and in whose Person all our interests and blessings are bound up. "The following appears to me to be the track of the apostle’s thoughts: ‘In the world to come, men, not angels, are to occupy the first place. An ancient oracle, which refers to the world to come, clearly proves this. The place to be occupied by man in that world is not only a high place, but is the first place among creatures. The words of the oracle are unlimited. With the exception of Him who puts all things under man, everything is to be subjected to him. This oracle must be fulfilled. In the exaltation of Christ, after and in consequence of His humiliation, we have the begun fulfillment of the prediction, and what, according to the wise and righteous counsels of heaven, were necessary, and will be the effectual means of the complete accomplishment of it in reference to the whole body of the redeemed from among men" (Dr. J. Brown).
"But we see Jesus." What is meant by this? To what was the apostle referring? How do we "see Jesus?" Not by means of mysterious dreams or ecstatic visions, not by the exercise of our imagination, nor by a process of visualization; but by faith. Just as Christ declared, in John 8:56 , "Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad." Faith is the eye of the spirit, which views and enjoys what the Word of God presents to its vision. In the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelation, God has told us about the exaltation of His Son; those who receive by faith what He has there declared, "see Jesus crowned with glory and honor," as truly and vividly as His enemies once saw Him here on earth "crowned with thorns."
It is this which distinguishes the true people of God from mere professors. Every real Christian has reason to say with Job, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee" (Job 42:5 ). He has "seen" Him leaving Heaven and coming to earth, in order to "seek and to save that which was lost." He has "seen" Him as a sacrificial Substitute on the cross, there bearing "our sins in His own body on the tree." He has "seen" Him rising again in triumph from the grave, so that because He lives, we live also. He has "seen" Him highly exalted, "crowned with glory and honor." He has "seen Him thus as presented to the eye of faith in the sure Word of God. To Him the testimony of Holy Scripture is infinitely more reliable and valuable than the testimony of his senses.
The name by which God’s Son is here called is that of His humiliation. "Jesus" is not a title; "Savior" is an entirely different word in the Greek. "Jesus" was His human name, as Man, here on earth. It was as "Jesus of Nazareth" that His enemies ever referred to Him. But not so His own people: to the apostles He said, "Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am" (John 13:13 ). Only once in the four Gospels do we ever find any of His own speaking of Him as "Jesus of Nazareth" (Luke 24:19 ). and that was when their faith had completely given way. It was the language of unbelief! That He is referred to in the narratival form in the Gospels as "Jesus" is to emphasize His humiliation.
When we come to the Acts, which treats of His exaltation, we read there, "God hath made this same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36 ). So in the Epistles: God has "given Him a name which is above every name," and that name is "Lord" (Philippians 2:9 , Philippians 2:10 ). Thus, it is either as "Christ" which is a title, or as the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is commonly referred to in the Epistles: read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:3-10 for example. It is thus that His people should delight to own Him. To address the Lord of glory in prayer simply as "Jesus," or to speak of Him to others thus, breathes an unholy familiarity, a vulgar cheapness, an irreverence which is highly reprehensible.
After the four Gospels the Lord Christ is never referred to in the New Testament simply as "Jesus" save for the purpose of historical identification (Acts 1:11 , e.g.), or to stress the humiliation through which He passed, or when His enemies are speaking of Him. Here in Hebrews 2:9 , "Jesus" rather than "the Lord Jesus" is used to emphasize His humiliation: it was the One who had passed through such unparalleled shame and ignominy that had been "crowned with glory and honor." May Divine grace enable both writer and reader to entertain such exalted views of this same Jesus that we may ever heed the exhortation of 1 Peter 3:15 : "But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord" (Revised Version).
Now that which it is of first importance for us to observe is the use which the apostle here makes of the Savior’s glorification. The exaltation of Jesus is both the proof and pledge of the coming exaltation of His redeemed. The prophecy of Psalms 8:0 has already begun to receive its fulfillment. The crowning of Jesus with glory and honor is the ground and guarantee of the ultimate glorification of all His people. Christ has entered Heaven as the "First-fruits," the earnest of the coming harvest. He passed within the veil as the "Forerunner" (Hebrews 6:20 ), so that there must be others to follow.
Here, then is, we believe, the true interpretation and application of Psalms 8:0 . The verses quoted from it in Hebrews 2:0 refer not to Adam, not to mankind as a whole, nor to Christ Himself considered alone, but to His redeemed. The Holy Spirit, through the Psalmist, was looking forward to a new order of man, of which the Lord Jesus is the Head. In the Man Christ Jesus, God has brought to light a new order of Man, One in whom is found not merely innocence, but perfection. It is of this "man" that Ephesians 2:15 speaks: "To make in Himself of twain (redeemed from among the Jews and from the Gentiles) one new man"; and also Ephesians 4:13 : "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." As God looks at His incarnate Son He sees, for the first time, a perfect Man, and us in Him. And as we, by faith, "see Jesus crowned with glory and honor," we discover both the proof and pledge of ourselves yet being "crowned with glory and honor."
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels . . . crowned with glory and honor," as the ground and guarantee of our approaching exaltation. Here then is the Divine answer to the question asked by the Psalmist long ago: "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast made What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" Ah, brethren in Christ, when you go out at night and view the wondrous heavens, and then think of your own utter insignificance; when you meditate upon the glory of God’s majesty and holiness. and then think of your own exceeding sinfulness, and are bowed into the dust; remember that up there is a Man in the glory, and that that Man is the measure of God’s thoughts concerning you. Remember, that by wondrous and sovereign grace, you have been not only predestined to be conformed to His image, but that you should, as a joint-heir with Him, share His inheritance. May the Lord grant each Christian reader that faith which will enable him to grasp that wonderful and blissful prospect which the Word of God sets before him.
Christ Superior to Angels.
(Hebrews 2:9-11 )
In our last article we were obliged, through lack of space, to break off our exposition of Hebrews 2:0 in the middle of a verse; to have continued further would have required us to go to the end of verse 11, and this would have made it much too long. However, the point at which we left off really completed the first thought which the apostle establishes in our present section. As we sought to show, at verse 5 the apostle begins meeting an objection which might be, and most probably was, made against what he had set forth in chapter one, namely, the immeasurable superiority of the Mediator, Israel’s Messiah, above the angels. Over against this, two difficulties stood in the way, which needed clearing up.
First, How could Christ be superior to angels, seeing that He was Man? Second, How could He possess a greater excellency than they, seeing that He had died? The difficulty was satisfactorily removed by an appeal to Psalms 8:0 , where God had affirmed, in predictive language, that He had crowned "man" with glory and honor and put "all things in subjection under his feet." To this the objector would rejoin, "But now we see not yet all things put under him" (verse 8), how, then, does Psalms 8:0 prove your point? In this way, answers the apostle, In that even now, "we see (by faith) Jesus crowned with glory and honor," and in His exaltation we find the ground and guarantee, the proof and pledge, of the coming exaltation of all His people.
In the remainder of this most interesting portion of Hebrews 2:0 , we shall see how the Holy Spirit enabled the beloved apostle to meet and dispose of the second difficulty of the Jews in a manner equally convincing and satisfactory as He had dealt with their first objection. Though it be true that angels do not and cannot die (Luke 20:36 ), and though it be a fact that Jesus had died, yet this by no means went to show that He was inferior to them. This is the particular point which the apostle is here treating of and which it will now be our object to consider.
First, he shows why it was necessary for Christ to die, namely, in order that He should taste death for every son, or, as it reads in the A.V., "for every man" (verse 9). Second, he declares that God had a benevolent design in suffering His Son to stoop so low: it was by His grace that He so "tasted death" (verse 9). Third, he affirms that such a course of procedure was suited to the nature and honoring to the glory of Him who orders all things: it "became Him" (verse 10). Fourth, he argues that this was inevitable because of Christ’s oneness with His people (verse 11). Fifth, he quotes three Old Testament passages in proof of the union which exists between the Redeemer and the redeemed. Let us now turn to our passage and attentively weigh its details.
"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, should taste death for every man" (verse 9). The central thought of this verse was before us in the preceding article, namely, the exaltation of the once-humbled One. Now we must examine its several clauses and note their relation to each other. Really, there are five things in this verse, each of which we shall consider First, the humiliation of the Mediator: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels." Second, the character of His humiliation: "For," or much better "by the suffering of death." Third, the object of His humiliation: to "taste death for every man," better "every son." Fourth, the moving cause of His humiliation: "by the grace of God." Fifth, the reward of His humiliation: "crowned with glory and honor."
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels." How these words should melt our hearts and move our souls to profoundest wonderment! That He, the Creator of angels, the Lord of them, the One who before His incarnation had been worshipped by them, should be "made lower" than they; and this for our sakes! Our hearts must indeed be dead if they are not thrilled and filled with praise as we ponder that fathomless stoop. As was pointed out under our exposition on verse 7, the Greek word here for "little" is used in the New Testament in two senses: sometimes where it is a matter of degree, at others where it is a case of time. Here it is the latter, for "a little season." In what particular sense the apostle is here contemplating Christ’s being "made lower" than the angels, the next clause tells us.
"For the suffering of death." Many have experienced difficulty with this clause. That which has exercised them is whether the words "for the suffering of death" state the purpose for which Christ was "made a little lower than the angels," or, whether "for the suffering of death" gives the reason why He has been "crowned with glory and honor." Personally, we are fully satisfied that neither of these give the real thought.
The difficulty mentioned above is self-created. It is occasioned by failure to rightly define the reference to Christ’s being made "a little lower than the angels." As already stated, we believe this signified "for a little while." If the reader will turn back again to our comments on Hebrews 2:7 he will see we have adopted the suggestion of Dr. J. Brown to the effect that the specific reference is to mortality, the angels being incapable of dying. This, we are assured, is the meaning of the verse now before us. All ambiguity concerning this clause of verse 9 disappears if the first word be rendered "by" instead of "for." The English translators actually give "by" in the margin. The Greek preposition is "dia," and is translated "by" again and again, both when it governs a noun in the accusative or the genitive case.
Thus by altering "for" to "by" it will be seen that in this third clause the Holy Spirit has graciously defined His meaning in the second. (1) "But we see Jesus;" (2) "who was made a little season lower than the angels;" (3) "by the suffering of death." It was in this particular that Jesus was made for a season lower than the angels, namely, by His passing through a death of sufferings an experience which, by virtue of the constitution God had given them, they were incapable of enduring. Therefore, the point here seized by the Holy Spirit in affirming that Jesus had been made lower than the angels, was His mortality. But here we must be very careful to explain our terms. When we say that Christ, by virtue of His incarnation, became "mortal," it must not be understood that He was subject to death in His body as the fallen descendants of Adam are. His humanity was holy and incorruptible: no seed or germ of death was in it, or could attack it. He laid down His life of Himself (John 10:18 ). No; what we mean is, and what Scripture teaches is, that in becoming man Christ took upon Him a nature that was capable of dying. This the angels were not; and in this respect He was, for a season, made lower than they.
"By the suffering of death." This expression denotes that Christ’s exit from the land of the living was no easy or gentle one, but a death of "suffering"; one accompanied with much inward agony and outward torture. It was the "death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8 ). It was a death in which He suffered not only at the hands of men and of Satan, but from God Himself. It was a death in which He fully satisfied the demands of infinite holiness and justice. This was a task which no mere creature was capable of performing. Behold here, then, the wonder of wonders: Christ undertook a work which was far above the power of all the angels, and yet to effect it He was made lower than them! If ever power was made perfect in weakness, it was in this!
"Crowned with glory and honor." This is the dominant clause of the verse. Concerning it we cannot do better than quote from Mr. C.H. Welch: "The crowning with glory and honor is the consecration of Christ as the Priest after the order of Melchizedek. ‘And no man taketh this honor unto himself . . .So also Christ glorified not Himself’ (Hebrews 5:4 , Hebrews 5:5 ). We shall find an allusion to this in Hebrews 3:3 , ‘for this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who builded the house hath more honor than the house. Thus we find Christ superior in honor and glory to both Moses and Aaron; and when we see Him crowned with honor and glory we are indeed considering Him who is the Apostle (Moses) and High Priest (Aaron) of our profession."
Here, then, is the first part of the apostle’s answer to that which was, for the Jews, the great "stumbling block" (1 Corinthians 1:23 ). He who by the suffering of death had been made, for a little season, lower than the angels, has, because of His humiliation and perfect atoning sacrifice, been "highly exalted" by God Himself. He has been "raised far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Ephesians 1:21 ). It is not simply that this exaltation followed the Mediator’s suffering and death, but, as the "therefore" in Isaiah 53:12 and the "wherefore" of Philippians 2:9 plainly denote, were the meritorious reward thereof. Thus, so far from the Cross needing an apology, it has magnified the Savior. So far from Christ’s degradation and death being something of which the Christian need be ashamed, they are the very reason why God has so signally rewarded Him. The "crown of thorns" which man gave Him, has been answered by the "crown of glory and honor" that God has bestowed upon Him. The humbled Christ is humiliated no longer; the Throne of the Universe is where He is now seated.
Ere passing on to the next verse, let us ask the reader, Have you "crowned with glory and honor" Him whom the world has cast out? Do you, in a practical way, own Him as your Lord and Master? Is His glory and honor ever the paramount consideration before you? Is He receiving from you the devotion and adoration of a worshipping heart? "Worthy is the Lamb." O may He, indeed, occupy the throne of our hearts and reign as King over our lives. In what esteem does the Father hold His once humiliated Son: He has crowned Him with glory and honor; then what must He yet do with those who "despise and reject" Him?
"That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Here is the second part of the apostle’s answer to the Jew’s objection. God had a benevolent design in permitting His Son, for a season, to become lower than the angels. The end in view fully justified the means. Only by the Son tasting death could the sons of God be delivered from the ruins of the fall; only thus could the righteousness and mercy of God be reconciled. This, we take it, indicates the relation of this final clause to the remainder of the verse: God’s design in making His Son lower than the angels was that He might become the Redeemer of His people. The opening conjunction "that" (hopos, meaning "to the end that"), expressing purpose, is conclusive.
There has been considerable discussion as to the precise import of the expression "tasted death." Here, as ever in Scripture, there is a fullness in the language used which no brief definitions of man can ever embrace. The first and most obvious thought suggested by the language is, that the Savior consciously, sensibly, experienced the bitterness of death. "The death of our Lord Jesus Christ was a slow and painful death; He was ‘roasted with fire’ as was prefigured by the Paschal lamb. But it was not merely that it lasted a considerable time, that it was attended with agony of mind as well as pain of body; but that He came, as no finite creature can come, into contact with death. He tasted death in that cup which the Lord Jesus Christ emptied on the cross" (Saphir).
He tasted that awful death by anticipation. From the beginning of His ministry (yea, before that, as His words in Luke 2:49 plainly show), there was ever present to his consciousness the Cross, with all its horror, see Matthew 16:21 , John 2:4 , John 3:16 , etc. At Calvary He actually drained the bitterer cup. The death He tasted was "The curse which sin brings, the penalty of the broken law, the manifestation of the power of the devil, the expression of the wrath of God; and in all these aspects the Lord Jesus Christ came into contact with death and tasted it to the very last" (Saphir).
"That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." The opening words of this clause set forth the efficient cause which moved the Godhead in sending forth the Son to submit to such unparalleled humiliation: it was free favor of God. It was not because that the ends of Divine government required mercy should be shown to its rebels, still less because that they had any claim upon Him. There is nothing whatever outside God Himself which moves Him to do anything: He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11 ). It was solely by the grace and good pleasure of God, and not by the violence of man or Satan, that the Lord Jesus was brought to the Cross to die. The appointment of that costly sacrifice must be traced back to nothing but the sovereign benignity of God.
"For every man." This rendering is quite misleading. "Anthropos," the Greek word for "man" is not in the verse at all. Thus, one of the principal texts relied upon by Arminians in their unscriptural contention for a general atonement vanishes into thin air. The Revised Version places the word "man" in italics to show that it is not found in the original. The Greek is "panta" and signifies "every one," that is, every one of those who form the subjects of the whole passage every one of "the heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14 ), every one of the "sons" (Hebrews 2:10 ), every one of the "brethren" (Hebrews 2:11 ). We may say that this is the view of the passage taken by Drs. Gouge and J. Brown, by Saphir, and a host of others who might be mentioned. Theologically it is demanded by the "tasted death for every one," i.e., substitutionally, in the room of, that they might not. Hence, every one for whom He tasted death shall themselves never do so (see John 8:52 ), and this is true only of the people of God.
What we have just said above is confirmed by many Scriptures. "For the transgression of My people was He stricken" said God (Isaiah 53:8 ), and all mankind are not His "people." "I lay down My life for the sheep," said the Son (John 10:10 ), but every man is not of Christ’s sheep (John 10:26 ). Christ makes intercession on behalf of those for whom He died (Romans 8:34 ), but He prays not for the world (see John 17:9 ). Those for whom he died are redeemed (Revelation 5:9 ), and from redemption necessarily follows the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14 ), but all have not their sins forgiven.
"For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (verse 10). This gives the third part of the apostle’s reply to the objection which he is here rebutting, and a most arresting statement it is: he now takes still higher ground, advancing that which should indeed bow our hearts in worship. The word "became" means suited to, in accord with, the character of God. It was consonant with the Divine attributes that the Son should, for a season be "made lower than the angels" in order to "taste death" for His people. It was not only according to God’s eternal purpose, but it was also suited to all His wondrous perfections. Never was God more Godlike than when, in the person of Jesus, He was crucified for our sins.
"For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." There are five things in this verse claiming our reverent and diligent attention. First, the particular character in which God is here viewed; as the One "for whom are all things and by whom are all things." Second, the manner in which it "became" the Most High to bring many sons unto glory by giving up His beloved Son to the awful death of the cross. Third, the particular character in which the Son Himself is here viewed: as "The Captain of our salvation." Fourth, in what sense He was, or could be, "made perfect through sufferings." Fifth, the result of this Divine appointment: the actual conducting of many sons "unto glory."
First, then, the special character in which God is here viewed. "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things." This expression sets forth the high sovereignty of God in the most unqualified and absolute manner: "all things" without exception, that is, all creatures, all events. "For whom are all things" affirms that the Most High God is the Final Cause of everything: "The Lord hath made all things for Himself" (Proverbs 16:4 ), i.e., to fulfill His own designs, to accomplish His own purpose, to redound to His own glory. So again we read in Revelation 4:11 , "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created." This blessed, basic, yet stupendous truth is to be received with unquestioning and unmurmuring faith. He who maketh the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalms 76:10 ) will not only vindicate His broken law in the punishment of the wicked, but His justice and holiness shall be magnified by their destruction. Hell itself will redound to His glory.
"And by whom are all things." Every creature that exists, every event which happens, is by God’s own appointment and agency. Nothing comes to pass or can do so without the will of God. Satan could not tempt Peter without Christ’s permission; the demons could not enter the swine till He gave them leave; not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His decree. This is only another way of saying that God actually governs the world which He has made. True, there is much, very much in His government which we cannot understand, for how can the finite comprehend the Infinite? He Himself tells us that His ways are "past finding out," yet His own infallible word declares,
"For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever" (Romans 11:36 ). "For whom are all things, and by whom are all things." Nothing so stirs up the enmity of the carnal mind and evidences the ignorance, the sin, and the high-handed rebellion of fallen man as the response which he makes when this great fact and solemn truth is pressed upon him. People at once complain, if this be so, then we are mere puppets, irresponsible creatures. Or worse, they will blasphemously argue, If this be true, then God, and not ourselves, is to be charged with our wickedness. To such sottish revilings, only one reply is forthcoming, "Nay but, O man who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20 ).
Consider now the appropriateness of this title or appellation of Deity. The varied manner in which God refers to Himself in the Scriptures, the different titles He there assumes are not regulated by caprice, but are ordered by infinite wisdom; and we lose much if we fail to attentively weigh each one. As illustrations of this principle consider the following. In Romans 15:5 , He is spoken of as "The God of patience and hope": this, in keeping with the subject of the four preceding verses. In 2 Corinthians 4:6 , He is presented thus: "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts," which is in beautiful keeping with the theme of the five preceding verses. In Hebrews 13:20 , it is "The God of Peace" that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus. Why? Because His holy wrath had been placated at the cross. So in Hebrews 2:10 the apostle would silence the proud and wicked reasoning of the Jews by reminding them that they were replying against the Sovereign Supreme. For Him are all things and by Him are all things: His glory is the end of everything, His will the law of the universe; therefore, to quarrel with His method of bringing many sons unto glory was insubordination and blasphemy of the worst kind.
And what are the practical bearings upon us of this title of God? First, an acknowledgment of God in this character is due from us and required by Him. To believe and affirm that "for Him are all things, and by Him are all things" is simply owning that He is God high above all, supreme over all, directing all. Anything short of this is, really, atheism. Second, contentment is the sure result to a heart which really lays hold of and rests upon this truth. If I really believe that "all things" are for God’s glory and by His invincible and perfect will, then I shall receive submissively, yea, thankfully, whatsoever He ordains and sends me. The language of such an one must be, "It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good" (1 Samuel 3:18 ). Third, confidence and praise will be the outcome. God only does that which "becomes" Him; therefore, whatsoever He does must be right and best. Those who truly recognize this "know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28 ). True it is that our short-sighted and sin-darkened vision is often unable to see why God does certain things, yet we may be fully assured that He always has a wise and holy reason.
"For it became Him." More immediately, the opening "for" gives a reason for what has been advanced at the close of verse 9. Should it be reverently inquired why God’s "grace" chose such a way for the redeeming of His elect, here is the ready answer: it "became Him" so to do. The Greek term signifies the answerableness or agreement of one thing to another. Thus, "speak thou the things that become sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1 ), i.e., that are agreeable thereto. So, too, the Greek term implies the comeliness of a thing. Thus, "which become women professing godliness (1 Timothy 2:10 ). The adorning of Christian women with good works is a comely thing, yea, it is the beauty and glory of their profession. In like manner the grace of God which gave Christ to taste death for His people, answered to the love of His heart and agreed with the holiness of His nature. Such an appointment was suited to God’s character, consonant with His attributes, agreeable to his perfections. Never did anything more exhibit, and never will anything more redound to the glory of God than His making the Son lower than the angels in order to taste death for His people. A wide field of thought is here set before us. Let us, briefly, enter into a few details.
It "became" God’s wisdom. His wisdom is evidenced in all His works, but nowhere so perspicuously or conspicuously as at Calvary. The cross was the masterpiece of Omniscience. It was there that God exhibited the solution to a problem which no finite intelligence could ever have solved, namely, how justice and mercy might be perfectly harmonized. How was it possible for righteousness to uphold the claims of the law and yet for grace to be extended to its transgressors? It seemed impossible. These were the things which the angels desired to look into, but so profound were their depths they had no line with which to fathom them. But the cross supplies the solution.
It "became" the holiness of God. What is His holiness? It is impossible for human language to supply an adequate definition. Perhaps about as near as we can come to one is to say, It is the antithesis of evil, the very nature of God hating sin. Again and again during Old Testament times God manifested His displeasure against sin, but never did the white light of God’s holiness shine forth so vividly as at Calvary, where we see Him smiting His own Beloved because the sins of His people had been transferred to Him.
It "became" His power. Never was the power of God so marvelously displayed as it was at Golgotha. Wherein does this appear? In that the Mediator was enabled to endure within the space of three hours what it will take an eternity to expend upon the wicked. All the waves and billows of Divine wrath went over Him (Psalms 42:7 ). Yet was He not destroyed. There was concentrated into those three hours of darkness that which the lost will suffer forever and ever, and nothing but the power of God could have upheld the suffering Savior. Yea, only a Divine Savior could have stood up under that storm of outpoured wrath; that is why God said, "I have laid help upon One that is mighty" (Psalms 89:19 ).
It "became" His righteousness. He can by no means clear the guilty. Sin must be punished where ever it is found. God’s justice would not abate any of its demands when sin, through imputation, was found upon Christ: as Romans 8:32 says, He "spared not His own Son." Never was the righteousness of God more illustriously exhibited than when it cried, "Awake O sword against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd" (Zechariah 13:7 ).
It "became" the love and grace of God. Innumerable tokens of these have and do His children receive, but the supreme proof of them is furnished at the cross. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10 ). The mercy of God is over all His works, but never so fully and so gloriously was it manifested as when Christ became Man and was made a curse for His people, that theirs might be the blessing.
We must next consider the special character in which the Savior Himself is here contemplated: "The Captain of their salvation." This is one out of more than three hundred titles given to the Lord Jesus in the Scriptures, each of which has its own distinctive meaning and preciousness. The Greek word is "Archegos," and is found four times in the New Testament. It signifies the "Chief Leader." It is the word rendered "Author" in Hebrews 12:2 , though that is an unhappy rendition. It is translated "Prince" in Acts 3:15 and Acts 5:31 . Thus, it is a title which calls attention to and emphasises the dignity and glory of our Savior, yet, in His mediatorial character.
It needs to be borne in mind that in New Testament days the "captain" of a regiment did not remain in the rear issuing instructions to his officers, but took the lead, and by his own personal example encouraged and inspired his soldiers to deeds of valor. Thus the underlying thoughts of this title are, Christ’s going before His people, leading His soldiers, and being in command of them. He has "gone before" them in three respects. First, in the way of obedience, see John 13:15 . Second, in the way of suffering, see 1 Peter 2:21 . Third, in the way of glory: He has entered heaven as our forerunner, so that faith says, "Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus it will be seen that verse 10 continues the same thought as verse 9.
"The Captain of their salvation." The plain and necessary implication of this title is that we are passing through a country full of difficulties, dangers, oppositions, like Israel in the Wilderness on their way to the promised inheritance; so that we need a Captain, Guide, Leader, to carry us safely through. This title of Christ’s, then, is for the encouragement of our hearts: the grace, the faithfulness, and the power of our Leader guarantees the successful issue of our warfare. It teaches us once more that the whole work of our salvation, from first to last, has been committed by God into the hands of Christ.
"To make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering." This sentence has occasioned real trouble to many: how can a perfect person be "made perfect?" But the difficulty is more imaginary than real. The reference is not to the person of Christ, but to a particular office which He fills. His character needed no "Perfecting." Unlike us, no course of discipline was required by Him to subdue faults and to develop virtues. We believe that verse 9 supplies the key to the words we are now considering: "being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." The previous verse speaks of Christ "learning obedience by the things which He suffered," which does not mean that He learned to obey, but rather that He learned by experience what obedience is. In like manner it was by the experiences through which He passed that Christ was "perfected," not experimentally, but officially, to be "the Captain" of our salvation. A striking type of this is furnished by the case of Joshua, who, as the result of his experiences in the wilderness, became experimentally qualified to be Israel’s "captain," leading them into Canaan.
"To make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Two other things need to be borne in mind: the particular design of this passage, and the special purpose and aim of the Epistle as a whole. The special design of the apostle was to remove the scandal of Christ’s humiliating death, which was such a stumbling-block to the Jews. Therefore, he here affirms that the sufferings of Christ eventuated not in ignominy but glory: they "perfected" His equipment to be the "Captain" of His people, verse 18 amplifies. In regard to the scope of the Epistle as a whole, this word of the apostle’s was well calculated to comfort the afflicted and sorely-tried Hebrews: their own Captain had reached glory via sufferings sufficient for His soldiers to follow the same path. Thus, this word here is closely parallel with 1 Peter 4:1 .
It should be added that the Greek word for "perfected" is rendered "consecrated" in Hebrews 7:28 . By His sufferings Christ became qualified and was solemnly appointed to be our Leader. It was by His sufferings that He vanquished all His and our foes, triumphing gloriously over them, and thus He became fitted to be our "Captain." What reason have we then to glory in the Cross of Christ! The eye of faith sees there not only consummate wisdom, matchless mercy, fathomless love, but victory, triumph, glory. By dying He slew death.
"In bringing many sons unto glory." This is both the Captain’s work and reward. The term "glory" is one of the most comprehensive words used in all the Bible. It is almost impossible to define; perhaps "the sum of all excellency" is as near as we can come to it. It means that the "many sons" will be raised to the highest possible state and position of dignity and honor. It is Christ’s own "glory" into which they are brought: "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:22 , and see Colossians 3:4 ).
Into this "glory" many sons are to come. Some have difficulty in harmonizing this word with "many be called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16 ). In contrast from the vast multitudes which perish, God’s elect are indeed "few" (Matthew 7:14 ); His flock is only a "little" one (Luke 12:32 ). Yet, considered by themselves, the redeemed of all generations will constitute "many."
Into this "glory" the many sons do not merely "come," but are "brought." It is the same word as in Luke 10:34 where the Good Samaritan "brought" the poor man that was wounded and half dead, and who could not "come" of himself, to the "inn." Let the reader consult these additional passages: Song of Song of Solomon 2:4 ; Isaiah 42:16 ; 1 Peter 3:18 . This "bringing" of the many sons "unto glory" is in distinct stages. At regeneration they are brought from death unto life. At the Lord’s return they will be brought to the Father’s House (1 Thessalonians 4:16 , 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). The whole is summarized in the parable of the lost sheep; see Luke 15:4-6 .
In closing, let us ask the reader, "Are you one of these many "sons" whom Christ is bringing "unto glory"? Are you quite sure that you are? It is written, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14 ). Is this true of you? Can others see the evidences of it? Is your daily life controlled by self-will, the ways of the world, the pleasing of your friends and relatives, or by the written Word, for that is what the Spirit uses in leading His sons.
Above we have contemplated that which "became" God; let our final consideration be that which "becomes" His favored children. "Let your conversation (manner of life) be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27 ). If we are now light in the Lord, let us "walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8 ). Let us seek grace to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called" (Ephesians 4:1 ).
Christ Superior to Angels.
(Hebrews 2:11-13 )
Inasmuch as we feel led to break up the second half of Hebrews 2:0 into shorter sections than is our usual habit (so that we may enter more in detail), it will be necessary to begin each chapter with a brief summary of what has already been before us. Though we dislike using valuable space for mere repetitions, yet this seems unavoidable if the continuity of thought is to be preserved and the scope of the apostle’s argument intelligently followed. Moreover, as we endeavor to study the holy Word of God, it is ever the part of wisdom to heed the Divine injunction, "he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isaiah 28:16 ). To pause and review the ground already covered, serves to fix in the memory what otherwise might be crowded out. As said the apostle to the Philippians, "to write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe" (Hebrews 3:1 ).
In the opening chapter of our Epistle, from verses 4 to 14, seven Old Testament passages were quoted for the purpose of showing the superiority of Israel’s Messiah over the angels. The first four verses of chapter 2 are parenthetical, inasmuch as the argument of that section is broken off in order to make a searching application to the conscience of what has already been said. At Hebrews 2:5 the discussion concerning the relative positions of the Mediator and the celestial creatures is resumed. Two objections are now anticipated and dealt with this is made clear by the last clause of verse 8, which is the interjecting of a difficulty. The objections are: How could Christ be superior to angels, seeing that He was Man? and, How could He possess a greater excellency than they, seeing that He had died?
In meeting these objections appeal was first made to the 8th Psalm, which affirmed, in predictive language, that God has crowned "man" (redeemed man) with "honor and glory," and that He has put "all things under his feet"; and in the exaltation of Jesus faith beholds the ground and guarantee, the proof and pledge, of the coming exaltation of all His people (verse 9). Second, the necessity for the Mediator’s humiliation lay in the fact that He must "taste death," as the appointed Substitute, if "every son" was to receive eternal life (verse 9). Third, the apostle affirmed that God had a benevolent design in suffering His Son to stoop so low: it was by His "grace" that He tasted death (verse 9). Fourth, it is announced that such a course of procedure was suited to the nature and honoring to the glory of Him who ordains all things: it "became Him" (verse 10). Fifth, the Divine love and wisdom in causing the Captain of our salvation to be perfected "through sufferings" was fully vindicated, for the outcome from it is that many sons are brought "unto glory."
In Hebrews 2:11 , which begins our present portion, the needs-be for the Son’s humiliation is made still more evident: "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." The opening "for" at once intimates that the Holy Spirit is still advancing confirmation of what He had said previously, and is continuing to show why the Lord of angels had been made Man. It may help the reader to grasp the force of this verse if we state it thus: It was imperative that Christ should be made, for a season, "lower than the angels" if ever He was to have ground and cause to call us "brethren." That is a title which presupposes a common state and standing; for this He must become "one" with them. In other words, the Redeemer must identify Himself with those He was to redeem.
We may add that the opening "for" of verse 11 supplies an immediate link with verse 10: a further reason is now advanced why it "became" God to make the Captain of His people perfect through sufferings, even because He and they are "all of one." Herein lies the equity of Christ’s sufferings. It was not that an innocent person was smitten in order that guilty ones might go free, for that would be the height of injustice, but that an innocent Person, voluntarily, out of love, identified Himself with trangressors, and so became answerable for their crimes. Therefore, "in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (Hebrews 2:17 ). How this should endear Him to us!
"All of one," is very abstract, and for this reason not easy to define concretely. "Observe that it is only of sanctified persons that this is said. Christ and the sanctified ones are all of one company, men together in the same position before God; but the idea goes a little further. It is not of one and the same Father; had it been so, it could not have been said, ‘He is not ashamed to call them brethren.’ He could not then do otherwise than call them brethren. If we say ‘of the same mass’ the expression may be pushed too far, as though He and others were of the same nature as children of Adam, sinners together. In this case Jesus would have to call every man His brother; whereas it is only the children whom God hath given Him, ‘sanctified’ ones, that He so calls. But He and the sanctified ones are all as men in the same nature and position together before God. When I say ‘the same’ it is not in the same state of sin, but the contrary, for they are the Sanctifier and the sanctified, but in the same proof of human position as it is before God as sanctified to Him; the same as far forth as man when He, as the sanctified One is before God" (Mr. J.N. Darby).
Though the above quotation is worded somewhat vaguely, nevertheless we believe it approximates closely to the thought of the Spirit. They, Christ and His people, are "all of one." Perhaps we might say, All of one class or company. If Christ were to be the Savior of men, He must Himself be Man. This is what the quotations from the Old Testament, which immediately follow, go to show. We do believe, however, that the "all of one" is a little fuller in scope than that brought out by Mr. Darby’s comments. The remainder of Hebrews 2:0 seems to show it also has reference to the oneness in condition between the Sanctifier and the sanctified, i.e., in this world. The Shepherd went before the sheep (John 10:4 ): the path they follow is the same He trod. Thus, "all of one" in position, in sufferings, in trials, in dependency upon God.
"For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Many of the commentators have quite missed the meaning of this "all of one." Had sufficient attention been given to the context they should have seen that the apostle is not here treating of the oneness of Christians with Christ in acceptance before God and in glory that, we get in such passages as Ephesians 1:0 and 2; instead, he is bringing out the oneness of Christ with His people in their humiliation. In other words, the apostle is not here speaking of our being lifted up to Christ’s level, but of His coming down to ours. That which follows clearly establishes this.
But what is meant by "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified"? The Sanctifier is Christ Himself, the sanctified are the many sons who are being brought to glory. "The source and power of sanctification are in the Son of God our Savior. We who were to be brought unto glory were far off from God, in a state of condemnation and death. What could be more different than our natural condition and the glory of God which we are awaiting? Condemned on account of our transgressions of the law, we lived in sin, alienated from God, and without His presence of light and love. We were dead; and by ‘dead’ I do not mean that modern fancy which explains death to mean cessation of existence, but that continuous, active, self-developing state of misery and corruption into which the sinner has fallen by his disobedience. Dead in trespasses and sins, wherein we walked; dead while living in pleasing self (Ephesians 2:1 , Ephesians 2:2 , 1 Timothy 5:6 ). What can be more opposed to glory than the state in which we are by nature? and if we are to be brought into glory, it is evident we must be brought into holiness; we must be delivered and separated from guilt, pollution, and death, and brought into the presence of God, in which is favor, light, and life that His life may descend into our souls, and that we may become partakers of the Divine nature.
"Christ is our sanctification. ‘By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14 ). By the offering of His body as the sacrifice for sin, He has sanctified all that put their trust in Him. To sanctify is to separate unto God; to separate for a holy use. We who were far off are brought nigh by the blood of Christ. And although our election is of God the Father (who is thus the Author of our sanctification, Jude 1:4 ), and the cleansing and purification of the heart is generally attributed to the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4 ,Titus 3:5 ), yet is it in Christ that we were chosen, and from Christ that we receive the Spirit, and as it is by the constant application of Christ’s work and the constant communication of His life that we live and grow, Christ is our sanctification.
"We are sanctified through faith that is in Him (Acts 26:18 ). By His offering of Himself He has brought us into the presence of God. By the Word, by God’s truth, by the indwelling Spirit, He continually sanctifies His believers. He gave Himself for the church, ‘that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word’ (Ephesians 5:26 ). ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth’ (John 17:17 ; John 15:3 ).
"Christ Himself is the foundation, source, method, and channel of our sanctification. We are exhorted to put off the old man and to put on the new man day by day, to mortify our members which are upon the earth. But in what way or method can we obey the apostolic exhortations, but by our continually beholding Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin as our all-sufficient atonement? In what other way are we sanctified day by day, but by taking hold of the salvation which is by Him, ‘The Lamb that is slain’? Jesus is He that sanctifieth. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is sent by Christ to glorify Him, and to reveal and appropriate to us His salvation. We are conformed to the image of Christ by the Spirit as coming from Christ in His glorified humanity" (Saphir).
"For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (verse 11). Because Christ became Man, He is not ashamed to own as "brethren" those whom the Father had given to Him. The community of nature shared by the Sanctifier and the sanctified furnishes ground for Him to call them "brethren." That He did so in the days of His humiliation may be seen by a reference to Matthew 12:49 ; John 20:17 . That He will do so in the Day to come, appears from Matthew 25:40 . That He is "not ashamed" to so own them, plainly intimates an act of condescension on his part, the condescension arising out of the fact that He was more than Man, none other than "the Lord of glory." There is, no doubt, a latent contrast in these words: the world hated them, their brethren according to the flesh despised them, and called them "apostates"; but the Son of God incarnate was not ashamed to call them "brethren." So, too, He owns us. Therefore, if He is "not ashamed" to own us, shall we be "ashamed to confess Him!" Moreover, let us "not be ashamed" to own as "brethren" the poorest of the flock!
"For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Ere passing from these blessed words, it needs to be said, emphatically, that this grace on the part of Christ does not warrant His people becoming so presumptuous as to speak of Him as their "Brother." Such a thing is most reprehensible. "Question, May we by virtue of this relation, call the Son of God our Brother? Answer, We have no example of any of the saints that ever did so. They usually gave titles of dignity to Him, as Lord, Master, Savior. Howsoever the Son of God vouchsafes this honor unto us, yet we must retain in our hearts an high and reverent esteem of Him, and on that ground give such titles to Him as may manifest as much. Inferiors do not use to give like titles of equality to their superiors, as superiors do to their inferiors. It is a token of love in superiors to speak to their inferiors as equals; but for inferiors to do the like, would be a note of arrogancy" (Dr. Gouge). The same principle applies to John 15:15 . Christ in His condescending grace may call us His "friends," but this does not justify us in speaking of Him as our "Friend"!
"Saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren" (verse 12). Once more the apostle appeals to the written Word for support of what he had just affirmed. A quotation is made from Psalms 22:0 , one which not only substantiated what had been said in verse 11, but which also made a further contribution towards removing the objection before him. As is well known, the 22nd is the great Cross Psalm. In verses 20, 21, the suffering Savior is heard crying, "Deliver My soul from the sword (of Divine justice, cf. Zechariah 13:7 ), My darling from the power of the dog (the Gentiles, cf. Matthew 15:24-26 ). Save Me from the lion’s (the Devil’s, cf. 1 Peter 5:8 ) mouth." Then follows faith’s assurance, "For Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorn." This is the turning point of the Psalm: the cries of the Sufferer are heard on High. What a conclusive and crushing reply was this to the objecting Jew! God’s own Word had foretold the humiliation and sufferings of their Messiah. There it was, unmistakably before them. What could they say? The Scriptures must be fulfilled. No reply was possible.
But more: not only did the 22nd Psalm announce beforehand the sufferings of the Messiah; it also foretold His victory. Read again the last clause of verse 21: "Save Me from the lion’s mouth: for Thou hast heard Me." Christ was "saved," not from death, but out of death, cf. Hebrews 5:7 . Now what is the very next thing in Psalm 227 This: "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren" (verse 22). Here the Savior is seen on resurrection ground, victorious over every foe. It is this which the apostle quotes in Hebrews 2:12 .
Now that which it is particularly important to note is that in this verse from Psalms 22:0 Christ is heard saying He would declare the Father’s name unto His "brethren." That could only be possible on resurrection ground. Why? Because by nature they were "dead in trespasses and sins." But as "quickened together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:5 ) they were made sons of God, and therefore the "brethren" of the risen Son of God. Hence the great importance of noting carefully the very point at which verse 22 occurs in the 22nd Psalm. The Lord Jesus never called His people "brethren" on the other side of the Cross! He spoke of them as "disciples," "sheep," "friends," but never as "brethren." But as soon as He was risen from the dead, He said to Mary, "Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and to your Father" (John 20:17 ). Here, then, was the unanswerable reply to the Jews’ objection: Christ could reach resurrection ground only by passing through death, cf. John 12:24 .
"I will declare Thy name unto My brethren." Here the Son is heard addressing the Father, promising that He would execute the charge which had been given Him. The Greek word for "declare" is very emphatic and comprehensive. It means, To proclaim and publish, to exhibit and make known. To declare God’s "Name" signifies to reveal what God is, to make known His excellencies and counsels. This is what Christ came here to do: see John 17:6 ,John 17:26 . None else was competent for such a task, for none knoweth the Father but the Son (Matthew 11:27 ). But only to His "brethren" did Christ do so. They are the "babes" unto whom heavenly things are revealed (Matthew 11:25 ); they are the ones unto whom are made known the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11 ). From all others these blessed revelations are "hid," to those "without" they are but "parables."
"In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" (verse 12). This completes the quotation from Psalms 22:22 . No doubt the first fulfillment of this took place during the "forty days" of Acts 1:3 : mark how Acts 1:4 brings in the assembly; though its ultimate fulfillment is yet future. The position in which Christ is here viewed is very blessed, "in the midst": it is the Redeemer leading the praises of His redeemed. Strangers to God may go through all the outward forms of mere "religion," but they never praise God. It is only upon resurrection ground that worship is possible. A beautiful type of this is found in Exodus 15:1 : it was only after Israel had crossed the Red Sea, and the Egyptians were dead upon the shore, that "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song." Note how Moses, the typical mediator, led their praises!
"And again, I will put My trust in Him" (verse 13). The apostle is still replying to the Jews’ objection, How could Jesus of Nazareth be the superior of angels, seeing that He was Man and had died? Here, in verses 12, 13, he quotes Messianic passages from the Old Testament in proof of the statements made in verses 10, 11. First, Psalms 22:22 is cited, in which Christ is heard addressing His redeemed as "brethren." The implication is unmistakable: that is a title which presupposes a common position and a common condition, and in order to do that the Lord of glory had to be abased, come down to their level, become Man. Then, in the same passage, the Savior is heard "singing praise" unto God. This also views Him as incarnate, for only as Man could He sing praise unto God! Moreover, it is not as Lord over the church, but as One "in the midst" of it He is there viewed. Thus "all of one" is illustrated and substantiated.
A second quotation is now made, from Isaiah 8:17 , according to the Septuagint version. The passage from which this is taken is a very remarkable one. Beginning at verse 13 the exhortation is given, "Sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." This means, give Him His true place in your hearts, recognize His exalted dignity, bow before His ineffable majesty, submit to His high sovereignty, tremble at the very thought of quarreling with Him.
Then, in verse 14, the Lord of Hosts is brought before us in a twofold character: "And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." These expressions, Sanctuary and Stone of stumbling, define the relation of the Lord to the elect and to the non-elect. To the one He is Refuge, a Resting-place, a Center of worship; to the other, He is an offense. "The Stone" is one of the titles of Christ, and it is most interesting and instructive to trace out the various references, the first being found in Genesis 49:24 . Here in Isaiah 8:0 , it is Christ in His lowliness which is in view. Israel was looking for One who would be high among the great ones of the earth, therefore when One who was born in a manger, who had toiled at the carpenter’s bench, who had not where to lay His head, appeared before them, they "despised and rejected" Him. The figure used here is very affecting. How low a place must the Lord of glory have taken for Israel to "stumble" over Him, like a stone lying at one’s feet! Thus, once more, the Holy Spirit refers to an Old Testament passage in which the Messiah was presented in humiliation, as it were "a stone" lying on the ground.
It is scarcely necessary to add that the very lowliness into which the Savior entered, coming here not to be ministered unto but to minister, and give His life a ransom for many, is that which makes Him a "precious Stone" (1 Peter 2:6 ) to all whose faith sees the Divine glory shining beneath the humiliation. What is more moving to our hearts, what is mere calculated to bow them in worship before God as we behold His Son in John 13:0 ? verily, "a Stone" at the feet of His disciples, washing them! Blessed is it to know that the very Stone which the builders rejected "is become the head of the corner" (Psalms 118:22 ), that is, has been exalted.
Returning now to Isaiah 8:0 , verse 15 amplifies what was said in the previous one: "And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken." How solemnly and how literally this was fulfilled in the history of the Jews we all know. Then, in verse 16, we have stated the consequences of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah: "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples." Ever since there has been a veil over Israel’s heart, even when reading the Holy Scriptures (2 Corinthians 3:15 ).
Now comes the word in Hebrews 2:13 , "I will put My trust in Him" (Isaiah 8:17 , Septuagint version). A most blessed word is this. It reveals the implicit confidence of the Savior in God. Notwithstanding the treatment which He met with from both the houses of Israel, His trust in Jehovah remained unshaken; He looked away from the things seen to the things unseen. The relevancy of this citation in Hebrews 2:0 is obvious: such a thing could not have been unless Christ had become Man considered simply as God the Son, to speak of Him "trusting" was unthinkable, impossible. Wonderful proof was this of what had been affirmed in Hebrews 2:11 concerning the oneness which exists between Christ and His people: He, like they, was called on to tread the path of faith.
"I will put My trust in Him." This is indeed a word which should bow our hearts in wonderment. What a lowly place had the Maker of heaven and earth taken! How these words bring out the reality of His humanity! The Son of God had become the Son of Man, and while here on earth He ever acted in perfect accord with the place which He had taken. He lived here a life of faith, that is, a life of trust in and dependence upon God. In John 6:57 we hear Him saying, "I live by the Father." This is what He pressed on Satan when tempted to manufacture bread for Himself.
Isaiah 8:17 is not the only Old Testament passage which speaks of Christ "trusting" in God. In Psalms 16:1 , He cries, "Preserve Me, O God: for in Thee do I put My trust." As Man it was not fitting that He should stand independent and alone; nor did He. The whole of this Psalm views Him in the place of entire dependency in life, in death, in resurrection. Strikingly will this appear if verses 10, 11 be compared with John 2:19 and John 10:18 . In the passages in John’s Gospel, where His Divine glory shines forth through the veil of His humanity, He speaks of raising Himself from the dead. But here in Psalms 16:0 , where the perfections of His manhood are revealed, He is seen trusting in God to raise Him again. How important it is to get the Spirit’s viewpoint in each passage!
"I will put My trust in Him." This perfection of our Lord is not sufficiently pondered by us. The life which Jesus Christ lived here for thirty-three years was a life of faith. That is the meaning of that little-understood word in Hebrews 12:2 : "Looking off unto Jesus (His name, as Man), the Author (Greek, same as "Captain" in 2:10) and Perfecter of faith." If these words be carefully weighed in the light of their context, their meaning is plain. In Hebrews 11:0 we have illustrated, from the Old Testament saints, various aspects of the life of faith, but in Jesus we see every aspect of it perfectly exemplified. As our Captain or Leader, He has gone before His soldiers, setting before them an inspiring example. The path we are called on to tread, is the same He trod. The race we are bidden to run, is the same He ran. And we are to walk and run as He did, by faith.
"I will put my trust in Him." This was ever the expression of His heart. Christ could say, and none but He ever could, "I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly" (Ps. 122:10). Never did another live in such complete dependence on God as He: "I have set the Lord always before Me; because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved" (Psalms 16:8 ) was His language. So evident was His faith, even to others, that His very enemies, whilst standing around the Cross, turned it into a bitter taunt: "He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him" (Psalms 22:8 ). How blessed to know that when we are called on to walk by faith, to submit ourselves unto and live in dependency on God, to look away from the mists of time to the coming inheritance, that Another has trod the same path, that in putting forth His sheep, the Good Shepherd went before them (John 10:4 ), that He bids us to do nothing but what He has Himself first done.
"I will put My trust in Him." This is still true of the Man Christ Jesus. In Revelation 1:9 we read of "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ": that is the patience of faith, cf. Hebrews 11:13 .Hebrews 10:12 ,Hebrews 10:13 interprets: "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." That is the expectation of faith, awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. Ah, dear reader, fellowship with Christ is no mystical thing, it is intensely practical; fellowship with Christ means, first of all, walking by faith.
"And again, behold I and the children which God hath given Me" (verse 13). This completes the quotation made from Isaiah 8:17 , Isaiah 8:18 . The pertinency of these words in support of the apostle’s argument is evident: it is Christ’s taking His place before God as Mediator, owning the "children" as His gift to Him; it is Christ as Man confessing His oneness with them, ranking Himself with the saints "I and the children," compare "My Father and your Father" (John 20:17 ). It is the Lord Jesus presenting Himself to God as His Minister, having faithfully and successfully fulfilled the task committed to Him. He is here heard addressing the Father, rejoicing over the fruits of His own work. It is as though He said, "Here am I, O Father, whom Thou didst send out of Thine own bosom from Heaven to earth, to gather Thine elect out of the world. I have performed that for which Thou didst send Me: behold I and the children which Thou hast given Me." Though He had proved a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, yet was He not left without a people; "children" had been given to Him, and these He owns and solemnly presents before God.
Who are these "children?" First, they are those whom the Mediator brings to God. As we read in 1 Peter 3:18 , "For Christ hath also once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." This is what Christ is seen doing here: formally presenting the children to God. Second, they are here regarded as the "children" of Christ. In Isaiah 53:10 , Isaiah 53:11 it was said, "He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." In John 13:33 and John 21:5 He is actually heard owning His disciples as "children." Nor was there anything incongruous in that. Let the reader ponder 1 Corinthians 4:14 , 1 Corinthians 4:15 : if they who are converted under the preaching of God’s servants may be termed their "children," how much more so may they be called "children" of Jesus Christ whom He has begotten by His Spirit and by His Word!
"Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." Those whom God hath given to Christ were referred to by Him, again and again, during the days of His public ministry. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me" (John 6:37 ). "I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me" (John 17:6 , John 17:9 ). They were given to Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4 ). These "children" are God’s elect, sovereignly singled out by Him, and from the beginning chosen unto salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ). God’s elect having been given to Christ "before the foundation of the world," and therefore from all eternity, throws light upon a title of the Savior’s found in Isaiah 9:6 : "The everlasting Father." This has puzzled many. It need not. Christ is the "everlasting Father" because from everlasting He has had "children!"
Why were these "children" given to Christ. The first answer must be, For His own glory. Christ is the Center of all God’s counsels, and His glory the one object ever held in view. Christ will be eternally glorified by having around Him a family, each member of which is predestined to be "conformed to His image" (Romans 8:29 ). The second answer is, That He might save them: "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37 ).
"Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." We doubt not that the ultimate reference of these words looks forward to the time anticipated by that wonderful doxology found at the close of Jude’s Epistle: "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever." When the Lord Jesus shall, in a soon-coming Day, gather the company of the redeemed unto Himself and "present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27 ) then shall He triumphantly exclaim, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." In the meantime let us seek to take unto our hearts something of the blessedness of these words that, even now, the "joy of the Lord" may be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10 ).
"Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." Let us endeavor to point out one or two plain implications. First, how dear, how precious, must God’s elect be unto Christ! They are the Father’s own "gift" unto Him. The value of a gift lies not in its intrinsic worth, but in the esteem and affection in which the giver is held. It is in this light, first of all, that Christ ever views His people as the expression of the Father’s own love for Himself. Second, how certain it is that Christ will continue to care for and minister unto His people! He cannot be indifferent to the welfare of one of those whom the Father has given to Him. As John 13:1 declares, "having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Third, how secure they must be! None of His can possibly perish. Beautifully is this brought out in John 18:8 , John 18:9 , where, to those who had come to arrest Him, Christ said, "If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way: that the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none."
Inexpressibly blessed is that which has been before us in Hebrews 2:12 , Hebrews 2:13 . The Lord’s people are there looked at in a threefold way. First, Christ owns them as His "brethren." O the wonder of it! The ambitious worldling aspires to fleshly honors and titles, but what has he which can, for a moment, be compared with the honored title which Christ confers upon His redeemed? Next time you are slandered by men, called some name which hurts you, remember, fellow-Christian, that Christ calls you one of His "brethren." Second, the entire company of the redeemed are here denominated "the church," and Christ is seen in the midst singing praise. There, they are viewed corporately, as a company of worshippers, and He who is "a Priest forever" leads their songs of joy and adoration. Third, the Lord Jesus owns us as His "children," children which have been given to Him by God. This speaks both of their nearness and dearness to Himself. Surely the contemplation of these wondrous riches of grace must impel us to cry,
"To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:6 ).
Christ Superior to Angels.
(Hebrews 2:14-16 )
The closing verses of Hebrews 2:0 are so rich and full in their contents and the subjects with which they deal are of such importance that we feel the more disposed to devote extra space for the exposition of them. More and more we are learning for ourselves that a short portion of Scripture prayerfully examined and repeatedly meditated upon, yields more blessing to the heart, more food to the soul, and more help for the walk, than a whole chapter read more or less cursorily. It is not without reason that the Lord Jesus said in the parable of the Sower, "that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15 ). The only way in which the Word is "kept" or held fast is through prolonged meditation and patient or persevering study.
The verses which are to be before us on this occasion form part of the apostle’s inspired explanation of "the Son’s" becoming Man and suffering the awful death of the cross. If the reader will turn back to the third paragraph of the preceding article he will there find five reasons (substantiated in verses 9, 10), as to why Christ endured such humiliation. In verses 11-13 four more are advanced. It was necessary for the second Person of the holy Trinity to be made lower than the angels if He were to have ground and cause for calling us "brethren" (verses 11, 12), for that is a title which presupposes a common ground and standing. Then, it was necessary for the Lord of glory to become "all of one" with His people if, in the midst of the church, He should "sing praise" unto God (verse 12); and this, the Old Testament scriptures affirmed, He would do. Again, it was necessary for Him who was in the form of God to take upon Him "the form of a servant" if He was to set before His people a perfect example of the life of faith; and in Isaiah 8:17 , He is heard saying, by the Spirit of prophecy, "I will put My trust in Him" (verse 13). Finally, His exclamation "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" (verse 13), required that He should become Man and thus rank Himself alongside of His saints.
In verses 14-16 we have one of the profoundest statements in all Holy Writ which treats of the Divine incarnation. For this reason, if for no other, we must proceed slowly in our examination of it. Here too the Holy Spirit continues to advance further reasons as to why it was imperative that the Lord of angels should, for a season, stoop beneath them. Three additional ones are here given, and they may be stated thus: first, that He might render null and void him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil (verse 14); second, that He might deliver His people from the bondage of that fear which death had occasioned (verse 15); third, Abraham’s children could only be delivered by Him laying hold of Abraham’s seed (verse 16).
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (verse 14). "The connection between this verse and the preceding context may be stated thus: Since it became Him for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering; and since, according to Old Testament prophecies, the Sanctifier and the sanctified, the Savior and the saved, must be of the same race; and since the saved are human beings, the Son of God, the appointed Savior, assumed a nature capable of suffering and death even the nature of man, when He came to save, that in that nature He might die, and by dying accomplish the great purpose of His appointment, the destruction of the power of Satan, and the deliverance of His chosen people" (Dr. J. Brown).
The opening words of our verse denote that the Holy Spirit is drawing a conclusion from the proof-texts just cited from the Old Testament. The Greek words for "forasmuch then" are rendered "seeing therefore" in Hebrews 4:6 , and their force is, "it is evident hereby" that the Son of God became the Son of Man for the sake of those whom God had given Him.
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (verse 14). Here we have the eternal Word becoming flesh, the Son of God becoming the Son of man. Let us consider, First , the Wonder of it; Second , the Needs-be of it; Third , the Nature of it; Fourth , the Perfection of it; Fifth , the Purpose of it.
The tragic thing is that, for the present, our minds are so beclouded and our understandings so affected by sin, it is impossible for us to fully perceive the wonder of the Divine incarnation. As the apostle wrote, "But now we see through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12 ). But thank God this condition is not to last for ever; soon, very soon, we shall see "face to face." And when by God’s marvelous grace His people behold the King in His beauty, they will not, we think, be bewildered or dazed, but instead, filled with such wonderment that their hearts and whole beings will spontaneously bow in worship.
Another thing which makes it so difficult for us to grasp the wonder of the Divine incarnation is that there is nothing else which we can for a moment compare with it; there is no analogy which in any wise resembles it. It stands unique, alone, in all its solitary grandeur. We are thrilled when we think of the angels sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation: that those wondrous creatures, which so far excel us in wisdom and strength, should have been appointed to be our attendants; that those holy creatures should be commissioned to encamp round about poor sinners; that the courtiers of Heaven should wait upon worms of the earth! Truly, that is a great wonder. But oh my brethren, that wonder pales into utter insignificance and, in comparison, fades away into nothingness, before this far greater wonder that the Creator of angels should leave His throne on High and descend to this sin-cursed earth; that the very One before whom all the angels bow should, for a season, be made lower than they; that the Lord of glory, who had dwelt in "light unapproachable," should Himself become partaker of "flesh and blood"! This is the wonder of wonders.
So wonderful was that unparalleled event of the Divine incarnation that the heavenly hosts descended to proclaim the Savior newly-born. So wonderful was it that the "glory of the Lord," the ineffable Shekinah, which once filled the temple, but had long since retired from the earth, appeared again, for "the glory of the Lord shone round about" the awestruck shepherds on Bethlehem’s plains. So wonderful was it that chronology was revolutionized, and anno mundi became anno domini: the calendar was changed, and instead of its dating from the beginning of the world, it was re-dated from the birth of Christ; thus the Lord of time has written His very signature across the centuries. Passing on now, let us consider the needs-be for the Divine incarnation.
This is plainly intimated both in what has gone before and in what follows. If the "children" which God had given to His Son were to be "sanctified" then He must become "all of one" with them. If those children who are by nature partakers of flesh and blood were to be "delivered from him that had the power of death, that is the devil," then the Sanctifier must also "likewise take part of the same." If He was to be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, He must in all things "be made like unto His brethren." If He is to be able to "succor them that are tempted," then He must Himself, "suffer, being tempted"; and, as God Himself "cannot be tempted," He had to become Man in order to that experience.
The needs-be was real, urgent, absolute. There was no other way in which the counsels of God’s grace towards His people could be wrought out. If ever we were to be made "like Him," He first had to be made like us. If He was to give us of His Spirit, He must first assume our flesh. If we were to be so joined unto the Lord as to become "one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17 ) with Him, then He must first be joined with our flesh, so as to be "all of one" with us. In a word, if we were to become partakers of the Divine nature, He must be made partaker of human nature. Thus we perceive again the force of the apostle’s reply to the objection which he is here removing How could it be that a Man was superior to angels? He has not only shown from the Jews’ own scriptures that the Man Christ Jesus had been given a name more excellent than any pertaining to the celestial hierarchies, but here he shows us the needs-be for the Lord of glory to become Man. If we were to be "conformed to His image" then He must be "made in the likeness of sin’s flesh." If the children of Abraham were to be redeemed, then He must take on Him the "seed of Abraham."
The nature of the Divine incarnation is here referred to in the words "flesh and blood." That expression speaks of the frailty, dependency, and mortality of man. This is evident from the other passages where it occurs. The words "flesh and blood" are joined together five times in the New Testament: Matthew 16:17 , 1 Corinthians 15:50 , Galatians 1:16 , Ephesians 6:12 , Hebrews 2:14 . It is a humbling expression emphasizing the weakness of the flesh and limitations of man: note how in Ephesians 6:12 , "flesh and blood" is contrasted from the mightier foes against which Christians wrestle.
"Flesh and blood" is the present state in which is found those children whom God has designed to bring unto glory. By their natural constitution and condition there is nothing to distinguish the elect from the non-elect. The Greek noun for "partakers" is derived from the root signifying "common": in Romans 15:27 , Gentile believers are said to be "partakers" of Israel’s spiritual blessings, that is, they enjoy them in common, one with another. So God’s children are "partakers," equally with the children of the Devil, of "flesh and blood." Nor does our regeneration effect any change concerning this: the limitations and infirmities which "flesh and blood" involve still remain. Many reasons for this might be suggested: that we may not be too much puffed up by our spiritual standing and privileges; that we might be rendered conscious of our infirmities, and made to feel our weakness before God; that we might abase ourselves before Him who is Spirit; that the grace of compassion may be developed in us our brethren and sisters are also partakers of "flesh and blood," and often we need reminding of this.
In the words "He also Himself likewise took part of the same" we have an affirmation concerning the reality of the Savior’s humanity. It is not merely that the Lord of glory appeared on earth in human form, but that He actually became "flesh and blood," subject to every human frailty so far as these are freed from sin. He knew what hunger was, what bodily fatigue was, what pain and suffering were. The very fact that He was "the Man of sorrows" indicates that "He also Himself likewise took part of the same." Thereby we see the amazing condescension of Christ in thus conforming Himself to the condition in which the children were. How marvelous the love which caused the Lord of glory to descend so low for us sons of men! There was an infinite disparity between them: He was infinite, they finite; He omnipotent; they frail and feeble; He was eternal, they under sentence of death. Nevertheless, He refused not to be conformed to them; and thus He was "crucified through weakness" (2 Corinthians 13:4 ), which refers to the state into which He had entered.
The perfection of the Divine incarnation is likewise intimated in the words "He also Himself likewise took part of the same." These words emphasize the fact that Christ’s becoming Man was a voluntary act on His part. The "children" were by nature subject to the common condition of "flesh and blood." They belonged to that order. They had no say in the matter. That was their state by the law of their very being. But not so with the Lord Jesus. He entered this condition as coming from another sphere and state of being. He was the Son who "thought it not robbery to be equal with God." He was all-sufficient in Himself. Therefore it was an act of condescension, a voluntary act, an act prompted by love, which caused Him to "take part of the same."
These words also point to the uniqueness of our Lord’s humanity. It is most blessed to observe how the Spirit here, as always, has carefully guarded the Redeemer’s glory. It is not said that Christ was a "partaker of flesh and blood," but that "He likewise took part of the same." The distinction may seem slight, and at first glance not easily detected; yet is there a real, important, vital difference. Though Christ became Man, real Man, yet was He different, radically different, from every other man. In becoming Man He did not "partake" of the foul poison which sin has introduced into the human constitution. His humanity was not contaminated by the virus of the Fall. Before His incarnation it was said to His mother, "That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee" (Luke 1:35 ). It is the sinlessness, the uniqueness of our Lord’s humanity which is so carefully guarded by the distinction which the Holy Spirit has drawn in Hebrews 2:14 .
The purpose of the Divine incarnation is here intimated in the words that "through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." It was with this end in view that the Son of God took part in "flesh and blood." In the several passages where the Divine incarnation is referred to in the New Testament different reasons are given and various designs are recorded. For example, John 3:16 tells us that one chief object in it was to reveal and exhibit the matchless love of God. 1 Timothy 1:15 declares that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." But here in Hebrews 2:14 it is the destroying of him that had the power of death that is mentioned.
The object of the Holy Spirit in our present passage is to display the glorious and efficacious side of that which was most humbling the infinite stoop of the Lord of glory. He is pointing out to those who found the Cross such a stumbling-block, how that there was a golden lining to the dark cloud which hung over it. That which to the outward eye, or rather the untaught heart and mind, seemed such a degrading tragedy was, in reality, a glorious triumph; for by it the Savior stripped the Devil of his power and wrested from his hands his most awful weapon. Just as the scars which a soldier carries are no discredit or dishonor to him if received in an honorable cause, so the cross-sufferings of Christ instead of marking His defeat were, actually, a wondrous victory, for by them He overthrew the arch-enemy of God and man.
"That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." It is most blessed to note the bearing of this statement upon the special point the apostle was discussing. The Jews were stumbled by the fact that their Messiah had died. Here the Holy Spirit showed that so far from that death tarnishing the glory of Christ, it exemplified it, for by death He overthrew the great Enemy and delivered His captive people. "Not only is He glorious in heaven, but He hath conquered Satan in the very place where he exercised his sad dominion over men, and where the judgment of God lay heavily upon men" (Mr. J.N. Darby).
"That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Three things here claim attention: First , what is meant by the Devil having "the power of death"? Second , what "death" is here in view? Third , in what sense has Christ "destroyed" the Devil? From the words of the next verse it is clear that the reference is to what particularly obtained before Christ became incarnate. That it does not mean the Devil had absolute power in the infliction of physical death in Old Testament times is clear from several scriptures. Of old Jehovah affirmed, "See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive" (Deuteronomy 32:39 ). Again, "the Lord killeth, and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up" (1 Samuel 2:6 ). And again, "unto God the Lord belong the issues from death" (Psalms 68:20 ). These passages are decisive, and show that even during the Mosaic economy the giving of life and the inflicting of death were in the hands of God only, no matter what instruments He might employ in connection therewith.
The particular kind of "death" which is here in view is explained for us in the words "that through death lie" etc. The death which Christ died was "the wages of sin" the penal infliction of the law, suffering the wrath of a holy God. The point raised here is a deeply mysterious one, yet on it Scripture throws some light. In John 8:44 , Christ declared that the Devil was "a murderer" (literally "man-slayer") from the beginning. In Zechariah 3:1 , we are shown Satan standing at Jehovah’s right-hand to resist Israel’s high priest. Upon the subject Saphir has said, "But which death did Christ die? That death of which the Devil had the power. Satan wielded that death. He it was who had a just claim against us that we should die. There is justice in the claim of Satan.
"It is quite true that Satan is only a usurper; but in saving men God deals in perfect righteousness, justice, truth. According to the Jewish tradition the fallen angels often accuse men, and complain before God that sinful men obtain mercy. Our redemption is in harmony with the principles of righteousness and equity, on which God has founded all things. The prince of this world is judged (John 16:11 ); he is conquered not merely by power, but by the power of justice and truth.... He stood upon the justice of God, upon the inflexibility of His law, upon the true nature of our sins. But when Christ died our very death, when He was made sin and a curse for us, then all the power of Satan was gone.... And now what can Satan say? The justice, majesty, and perfection of the law are vindicated more than if all the human race were lost forever. The penalty due to the broken law Jesus endured, and now, as the law is vindicated, sin put away, death swallowed up, Christ has destroyed the Devil."
Inasmuch as the Devil is the one who brought about the downfall of our first parents, by which sentence of death has been passed upon all their posterity (Romans 5:12 ); inasmuch as he goeth about as a roaring lion "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8 ); inasmuch as he challenged God to inflict upon the guilty the sentence of the law (Zechariah 3:1 ); and, inasmuch as even the elect of God are, before their regeneration, under "the power of darkness" (Colossians 1:13 and cf. Acts 26:18 ), dead in trespasses and sins, yet "walking according to the Prince of the power of the air"; the Devil may be said to have "the power of death."
The word "destroy him that had the power of death" does not signify to annihilate, but means to make null and render powerless. In 1 Corinthians 1:28 this same Greek word is rendered "bring to naught"; in Romans 3:3 "without effect"; in Romans 3:31 "make void." Satan has been so completely vanquished by Christ the Head that he shall prevail against none of His members. This is written for the glory of Christ, and to encourage His people to withstand him. Satan is an enemy bespoiled. Therefore is it said, "Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7 ). To such as believe there is assurance of victory. If the Devil gets the upper hand of us, it is either because of our timidity, or lack of faith.
"To ‘destroy him that had the power of death’ is to strip him of his power. It is said by the apostle John, ‘for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, to destroy the works of the Devil,’ i.e. ignorance, error, depravity, and misery. In the passage before us, the destruction is restricted to the peculiar aspect in which the Devil is viewed. To destroy him, is so to destroy him as having ‘the power of death’ to render him, in this point of light, powerless in reference to the children; i.e., to make death cease to be a penal evil. Death, even in the case of the saints, is an expression of the displeasure of God against sin; but it is not as but for the death of Christ it must have been the hopeless dissolution of his body: it is not the inlet to eternal misery to his soul. Death to them for whom Christ died consigns, indeed, the body to the grave; but it is ‘in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection,’ and it introduces the freed spirit into all the glories of the celestial paradise" (Dr. J. Brown).
This stripping Satan of his power of death was accomplished by the laying down of the Savior’s life, "that through death He might destroy." "The means whereby Christ overcame Satan, is expressly said to be death. To achieve this great and glorious victory against so mighty an enemy, Christ did not assemble troops of angels, as He could have done (Matthew 26:53 ), nor did He array Himself with majesty and terror, as in Exodus 19:16 ; but He did it by taking part of weak flesh and blood, and therein humbling Himself to death. In this respect the apostle saith, that Christ ‘having spoiled principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross’ (Colossians 2:15 ), meaning thereby, His death. The apostle there resembleth the cross of Christ to a trophy whereon the spoils of enemies were hanged. Of old conquerors were wont to hang the armor and weapons of enemies vanquished on the walls of forts and towers." (Dr. Gouge.)
"That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." A striking type of this is furnished in Judges 14:12-19 will the reader please turn to this, before considering our brief comments. The riddle propounded by Samson prefigured what is plainly declared here in Hebrews 2:14 . The greatest "eater" (Jude 1:14 :14), or "consumer," is Death. Yet out of the eater came forth meat: that is, out of death has come life; see John 12:24 . Note in Judges 14:0 how, typically, the natural man is, of himself, utterly unable to solve this mystery. The secret of the death of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, must be revealed. Finally, note how that a change of raiment was provided for those to whom the riddle was explained a foreshadowment of the believer’s robe of righteousness!
"And deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage" (verse 15). It needs to be carefully borne in mind that throughout this passage the apostle has in view a particular class of persons, namely, the "heirs of salvation," the "sons" of God, the "brethren" of Christ. Here they are described according to their unregenerate condition: subject to bondage; so subject, all their unregenerate days; so subject through "the fear of death." It was to deliver them from this fear of death that Christ died. Such we take it is the general meaning of this verse. 2 Timothy 1:7 gives the sequel: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
The opening "And" and the verb "deliver" (which is in the same mood and tense as "destroy" in the previous verse) intimate that Christ’s death had in view these two ends which cannot be separated, namely, destroying the Devil, delivering us. Just as Abraham destroyed those enemies who had taken Lot captive together with the other inhabitants of Sodom, that he might "deliver" them (Genesis 14:14 ), and as David destroyed the Amalekites, that he might "deliver" his wives and children and others out of their hands (1 Samuel 27:9 ), so Christ vanquished the Devil, that he might "deliver" those who had (by yielding to his temptations) fallen captive to him. What thanks is due unto Christ for thus overthrowing our great adversary!
To the "fear of death," i.e., that judgment of God upon sin, all men are in much greater bondage than they will own or than they imagine. It was this "fear" which made Adam and Eve hide themselves from the presence of God (Genesis 3:8 ), which made Cain exclaim, "my punishment is greater than I can bear" (Genesis 4:13 ), which made Nabal’s heart to die within him (1 Samuel 25:37 ), which made Saul fall to the ground as a man in a swoon (1 Samuel 28:20 ), which made Felix to tremble (Acts 24:25 ), and which will yet cause kings and the great men of the earth to call on the mountains to fall on them (Revelation 6:15 , Revelation 6:16 ). True, the natural man, at times, succeeds in drowning the accusations of his conscience in the pleasures of sin, but "as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool" (Ecclesiastes 7:6 ). It is from this fearful bondage that Christ delivered His people: through His grace, by His spirit filling them "with all joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13 ).
A beautiful and most complete type of the truth in our present verse is to be found in 1 Samuel 17:0 . Will the reader turn to that chapter and note carefully the following details: First , in verses 4-8 there we have, in figure, Satan harassing the Old Testament saints. Second , where was David (type of Christ) during the time Goliath was terrifying the people of God? Verses 14, 15 answer: In his father’s house, caring for his sheep. So through the Mosaic economy Christ remained on High, in the Father’s house, yet caring for His sheep. Third , Goliath defied Israel for "forty days," verse 16 figure of the forty centuries from Adam to Christ, when the Old Testament saints lived in fear of death, for "life and immortality" were only brought "to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10 ). Fourth , next we see David leaving his father’s house, laden with blessings for his brethren, verses 17, 18. Note the "early in the morning," verse 20, showing his readiness to go on this mission. Fifth , mark the sad reception he met with from his brethren, verse 28: his efforts were unappreciated, his purpose misunderstood, and a false accusation was brought against him. Sixth , in verses 32, 38-49, we have a marvelous type of Christ defeating Satan in the wilderness: note how David went forth in his shepherd character (verse 40 and compare John 10:0 ). He took "five" stones out of the brook (the place of running water figure of the Holy Spirit) but used only one of them; so Christ in the Wilderness selected the Pentateuch (the first five books of Scripture) as His weapon, but used only one of them, Deuteronomy. Note David slew him not with the stone! He stunned him with that, but slew him with his own sword: so Christ vanquished him that had the power of death "through death." Read again verse 51 and see how accurate is the figure of Christ "bruising" the Serpent’s head. Finally, read verse 52 and see the typical climax: those "in fear" delivered. What a marvelous Book is the Bible!
"For verily He took not on angels; but He took on the seed of Abraham" (verse 16). This verse, which has occasioned not a little controversy, presents no difficulty if it be weighed in the light of its whole context. It treats not of the Divine incarnation, that we have in verse 14; rather does it deal with the purpose of it, or better, the consequences of Christ’s death. Its opening "for" first looks back, remotely to verses 9,10; immediately, to verses 14, 15. The Spirit is here advancing a reason why Christ tasted death for every son, and why He destroyed the Devil in order to liberate His captives; because not angels, but the seed of Abraham, were the objects of His benevolent favor. The "for" and the balance of the verse also, looks forward, laying a foundation for what follows in verse 17: the ground of Christ’s being made like to His brethren and becoming the faithful and merciful High Priest was because He would befriend the seed of Abraham.
The Greek verb here translated "He took on" or "laid hold" is found elsewhere in some very striking connections. It is used of Christ’s stretching out His hand and rescuing sinking Peter, Matthew 14:31 , there rendered "caught." It is used of Christ when He "took" the blind man by the hand (Mark 8:23 ). So of the man sick of the dropsy. He "took" and healed him (Luke 14:4 ). Here in Hebrews 2:16 the reference is to the almighty power and invincible grace of the Captain of our salvation. It receives illustration in those words of the apostle’s where, referring to his own conversion, he said, "for which also I am (was) apprehended (laid hold) of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12 ). Thus it was and still is with each of God’s elect. In themselves, lost, rushing headlong to destruction; when Christ stretches forth His hand and delivers, so that of each it may be said, "Is not this a brand plucked from the burning" (Zechariah 3:2 ). "Laid hold of" so securely that none can pluck out of His hand!
But not only does our verse emphasize the invincibility of Divine grace, it also plainly teaches the absolute sovereignty of it. Christ lays hold not of "the seed of Adam," all mankind, but only "the seed of Abraham" the father of God’s elect people. This expression, "the seed of Abraham," is employed in the New Testament in connection with both his natural and his spiritual seed. It is the latter which is here in view: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16 ) not only Christ personal, but Christ mystical. The last verse of Galatians 3:0 shows that: "And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise."
This verse presents an insoluble difficulty to those who believe in the universality of God’s love and grace. Those who do so deny the plain teaching of Scripture that Christ laid down His life for "the sheep," and for them alone. They insist that justice as well as mercy demanded that He should die for all of Adam’s race. But why is it harder to believe that God has provided no salvation for part of the human race, than that He has provided none for the fallen angels? They were higher in the scale of being; they, too, were sinners needing a Savior. Yet none has been provided for them! He "laid not on" angels.
But more: Our verse not only brings out the truth of election, it also presents the solemn fact of reprobation. Christ is not the Savior of angels. "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6 ). On this Dr. J. Brown has well said:
"What an overwhelming subject of contemplation is this! He is not the Savior of angels, but of the elect family of men. We are lost in astonishment when we allow our minds to rest on the number and dignity of those whom He does not lay hold of, and the comparative as well as real vileness of those of whom He does take hold. A sentiment of this kind has engaged some good, but in this case not wise men, in an inquiry why the Son of God saves men rather than angels. On this subject Scripture is silent, and so should we be. There is no doubt that there are good reasons for this, as for every other part of the Divine determinations and dispensations; and it is not improbable that in some future stage of our being these reasons will be made known to us. But, in the meantime, I can go no further than, ‘even so, Father, for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight.’ I dare not ‘intrude into things, which I have not seen,’ lest I should prove that I am ‘vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind.’ But I will say with an apostle, ‘Behold the goodness and severity of God; on them that fell, severity’ most righteous severity; ‘but to them who are saved, goodness’ most unmerited goodness." (Dr. J. Brown.)
May the Lord add His blessing to what has been before us.
Christ Superior to Angels.
(Hebrews 2:17 , Hebrews 2:18 )
The verses which are now to be before us complete the second main division of the Epistle, in which the apostle has set forth the superiority of Christ over angels, and has met and removed a double objection which might be made against this. In showing that it was necessary for the Son of God to become Man in order to save His people from their sins, the Holy Spirit took occasion to bring out some striking details concerning the real and perfect humanity of Christ. In Hebrews 2:11 He affirms that Christ and His people are "all of one." This receives a sevenfold amplification, which is as follows: First, they are one in sanctification, verse 11. Second, they are one in family relationship, verses 11, 12a. Third, they are one in worship, verse 12b. Fourth, they are one in trust, verse 13. Fifth, they are one in nature, verse 14. Sixth, they are one in the line of promise, verse 16. Seventh, they are one in experiencing temptation, verse 18.
It is remarkable to notice, however, that in this very passage which sets forth Christ’s identification with His people on earth, the Holy Spirit has carefully guarded the Savior’s glory and shows, also in a sevenfold way, His uniqueness: First, He is "the Captain of our salvation" (verse 10), we are those whom He saves. Second, He is the "Sanctifier," we but the sanctified (verse 11). Third, the fact that He is "not ashamed to call us brethren" (verse 11), clearly implies His superiority. Fourth, He is the Leader of our praise and presents it to God (verse 12). Fifth, mark the "I, and the children" in verse 13. Sixth, note the contrast between "partakers" and "took part of" in verse 14. Seventh, He is the Destroyer of the enemy, we but the delivered ones verses 14, 15. Thus, here as everywhere, He has the pre-eminence in all things."
Another thing which comes out strikingly and plainly in the second half of Hebrews 2:0 is the distinguishing grace and predestinating love of God. Christ is His "Elect" (Isaiah 42:1 ), so called because His people are "chosen in Him" (Ephesians 1:4 ). Mark how this also is developed in a sevenfold manner. First, in "bringing many sons unto glory." (verse 10). Second, "the Captain of their salvation" (verse 10). Third, "they who are sanctified," set apart (verse 11). Fourth, "in the midst of the church" (verse 12). Fifth, "the children which God hath given me" (verse 13). Sixth, "He took on Him the seed of Abraham" (verse 16), not Adam, but "Abraham," the father of God’s chosen people. Seventh, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (verse 17).
If the reader will turn back to the third paragraph in article 10, and the second and third in article 11, he will find that we have called attention to twelve distinct reasons set forth by the apostle in Hebrews 2:9-16 , which show the meetness and necessity of Christ’s becoming man and dying. In the verses which we are now to ponder, two more are advanced: First, the incarnation and death of the Savior were imperative if He was to be "a merciful and faithful High Priest" (verse 17). Second, such experiences were essential that He might be able to "succor them that are tempted" (verse 18). Thus, in the fourteen answers given to the two objections which a Jew would raise, a complete demonstration is once more given of the two leading points under discussion.
Though our present portion consists of but two verses yet are they so full of important teaching that many more pages than what we shall now write might well be devoted to their explication and application. They treat of such weighty subjects as the incarnation of Christ, the priesthood of Christ, the atoning-sacrifice of Christ, the temptation of Christ, and the succor of Christ. Precious themes indeed are these; may the Spirit of truth be our Guide as we prayerfully turn to their consideration.
"Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (verse 17). The Holy Spirit here adduces a further reason why it was necessary for the Son of God to become incarnate and lay down His life for His people: it behooved Him so to do that He might be an effectual High Priest. As the priesthood of Christ will come before us again and again in the later chapters, D.V., we shall not here discuss it at length. Let us now ponder the several words and clauses of our present verse.
"Wherefore" is the drawing of a conclusion from what has been said in the previous verses. "It behooved Him": the Greek word is not the same as for "it became" Him in Hebrews 2:10 . There the reference is to the Father, here to the Son; that signified a comeliness or meetness, this has reference to a necessity, though not an absolute one, but in conjunction with the order of God’s appointment in the way sinners were to be redeemed, and His justice satisfied, cf. Luke 24:46 . "To be made like unto His brethren" is parallel with "all of one" in verse 11 and "He also Himself likewise took part" in verse 14. The expression goes to manifest the reality of Christ’s human nature: that He was Man, such a man as we are.
The words "it behooved Him in all things to (His) brethren to be made like" are not to be taken absolutely. When the writer points out that, in view of other scriptures, the word "all" must be limited in such passages as John 12:32 , 1 Timothy 2:4 , 1 Timothy 2:6 , etc., some people think we are interpreting the Bible so as to suit ourselves. But what will they do with such a verse as Hebrews 2:17 ? Can the words "in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren" be understood without qualification? Was He made like unto us in the depravity of our natures? Did He suffer from physical sicknesses as we do? Emphatically no. How do we know this? From other passages. Scripture needs to be compared with Scripture in order to understand any verse or any expression. The same Greek words here rendered "all things" (kapapanta) occur again in Hebrews 4:15 , where we are told that Christ "was in all points (things) tempted like as we are sin excepted" for thus the Greek word should be rendered. Thus the Holy Spirit expressly declares that the "all things" is not universal!
What then does the "all things" signify and include? We answer, everything which Scripture does not except or exclude "when people saw Him, they did not notice in His outward appearance anything super-human, glorious, free from earthly weakness and dependency. He did not come in splendor and power. He did not come in the brightness and strength which Adam possessed before he fell. ‘In all things He became like unto us’ in His body, for He was hungry and thirsty; overcome with fatigue, He slept; in His mind, for it developed. He had to be taught. He grew in wisdom concerning the things around Him; He increased, not merely in stature, but in mental and normal strength. In His affections, for He loved. He was astonished; He marveled at men’s unbelief. Sometimes He was glad, and ‘rejoiced in spirit’; sometimes He was angry and indignant, as when He saw the hypocrisy of the Jews. Zeal like fire burned within Him: ‘The zeal for the house of God consumed Me’; and he showed a vehement fervor in protecting the sanctity of God’s temple. He was grieved; He trembled with emotion; His soul was straightened in Him. Sometimes He was overcome by the waves of feeling when He beheld the future that was before Him.
"Do not think of Him as merely appearing a man, or as living a man only in His body, but as Man in body, soul, and spirit. He exercised faith; He read the Scriptures for His own guidance and encouragement; He prayed the whole night, especially when He had some great and important work to do, as before setting apart the apostles. He sighed when He saw the man who was dumb; tears fell from His eyes when at the tomb of Lazarus He saw the power of death and of Satan. His supplications were with strong crying and tears; His soul was exceeding sorrowful" (Saphir). Thus, the Son of God was made like unto His brethren in that He became Man, with a human spirit, and soul and body; in that He developed along the ordinary lines of human nature, from infancy to maturity; and, in that He passed through all the experiences of men, sin, and sickness excepted.
"That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." The Son of God became the Son of Man in order that He might be an High Priest. There was an absolute necessity for this. First, because of the infinite disparity there is between God and men: He is of infinite glory and majesty, and dwells in that light which no man can approach unto (1 Timothy 6:16 ); they are but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27 ). Second, because of the contrariety of nature between God and men: He is most pure and holy, they most polluted and unholy. Third, because of the resultant enmity between God and men (Romans 5:10 ; Colossians 1:21 ). Hence we may observe: there is no immediate access for any man to God without a priest; there is no priest qualified to act for men in things pertaining to God, but Jesus Christ, the God-man. Thus has He been appointed "Mediator between God and men" (1 Timothy 2:5 , 1 Timothy 2:6 ).
Because of the perfect union between His two natures, the Lord Jesus is "a merciful and faithful High Priest": "merciful" man-wards, "faithful" God-wards. To be "merciful" is to be compassionate, ever ready, under the influence of a tender sympathy, to support, comfort, and deliver. Having trod the same path as His suffering and tried people, Christ is able to enter into their afflictions. He is not like an angel, who has never experienced pain. He is Man; nor are His sympathies impaired by His exaltation to heaven. The same human heart beats within the bosom of Him who sits at God’s right hand as caused Him to weep over Jerusalem! To be "faithful" means that His compassions are regulated by holiness, His sympathies are exercised, according to the requirements of God’s truth. There is a perfect balance between His maintenance of God’s claims and His ministering to our infirmities.
"To make reconciliation for the sins of the people." It is a pity that the translators of the A.V. rendered this clause as they did. The Revisers have correctly given: "to make propitiation for the sins of the people." The Greek word here is "Hilaskeothai," which is the verbal form of the one found in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 . The word for "reconciliation" is "katallage," which occurs in 2 Corinthians 5:18 , 2 Corinthians 5:19 , and Romans 5:11 , though the word is there wrongly rendered "the atonement." The difference between the two terms is vital though one which is now little understood. Reconciliation is one of the effects or fruits of propitiation. Reconciliation is between God and us; propitiation is solely God-ward. Propitiation was the appeasing of God’s holy anger and righteous wrath; reconciliation is entering into the peace which the atoning sacrifice of Christ has procured.
"To make propitiation for the sins of the people." Here is the climax of the apostle’s argument. Here is his all-conclusive reply to the Jews’ objection. Atonement for the sins of God’s elect could not be made except the Son became Man; except He became "all of one" with those who had, from all eternity been set apart in the counsels of the Most High to be "brought unto glory"; except He took part in "flesh and blood," and in all things be "made like unto His brethren." Only thus could He be the Redeemer of the "children" which God had given Him.
In Scripture the first qualification of a redeemer was that he must belong to the same family of him or her who was to be redeemed: "If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold" (Leviticus 25:25 ). The redeemer must be a "kinsman": this fact is fully and beautifully illustrated in the book of Ruth (see Hebrews 2:20; Hebrews 3:12 , Hebrews 3:13 ; Hebrews 4:1 , Hebrews 4:4 , Hebrews 4:6 ). Neither pity, love, nor power were of any avail till kinship was established. The important bearing of this on what immediately follows we shall now endeavor to show.
"To make propitiation for the sins of the people." This word, in the light of its setting, is one of the most vital to be found in all Holy Writ on the subject of the Atonement, bringing out, as it does, the absolute righteousness of God in connection therewith. At the back of many minds, we fear, there lurks the suspicion that though it was marvelous grace and matchless love which moved God to give His Son to die for sinners, yet that, strictly speaking, it was an act of unrighteousness. Was it really just for an innocent person to suffer in the stead of the guilty? Was it right for One who had so perfectly honored God and kept His law at every point, to endure its awful penalty? To say, It had to be, there was no other way of saving us, supplies no direct answer to our question; nay, it is but arguing on the jesuitical basis that "the end justifies the means."
Sin must be punished; a holy God could not ignore our manifold transgressions; therefore, if we are to escape the due reward of our iniquities a sinless substitute must be paid the wages of sin in our stead. But will not the Christian reader agree that it had been infinitely better for all of us to be cast into the Lake of Fire, than that God should act unrighteously to His Own Beloved? Has, then our salvation been secured at the awful price of a lasting stigma being cast upon the holy name of God? This is how the theological schemes of many have left it. But not so the Holy Scriptures. Yet, let us honestly face the question: Was God just in taking satisfaction from His spotless Son in order to secure the salvation of His people?
It is at this point that so many preachers have shown a zeal which is not "according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2 ). In their well-meant but carnal efforts to simplify the things of God, they have dragged down His holy and peerless truth to the level of human affairs. They have sought to "illustrate" Divine mysteries by references to things which come within the range of our senses. God has said, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14 ). Why not believe what He has said? You cannot teach a corpse, and the natural man is dead in sin. If the Word of God does not bring him life and light, no words of ours can or will. And to go outside of Holy Writ for our "illustrations" is a piece of impertinency, or worse. When a preacher attempts to simplify the mystery of the three Persons in the Godhead by an illustration from "nature" he only exhibits his foolishness, and helps nobody.
Thus it has been with the sacred truth and holy mystery of the Atonement. Good men have not hesitated to ransack the annals of history, both ancient and modern, to discover examples of those who, themselves innocent of the crime committed, volunteered to receive the penalty due to those who were guilty. Sad, indeed, is it to behold this unholy cheapening of the things of God; but what is far worse, most reprehensible is it to observe their misrepresentations of the greatest transaction of all in the entire history of the universe. An innocent man bearing the punishment of a guilty one may meet the requirements of a human government, but such an arrangement could never satisfy the demands of the righteous government of God. Such is its perfection, that under it no innocent person ever suffered, and no guilty person ever escaped; and so far from the atonement of the Son of God forming an exception to this rule, it affords the most convincing evidence of its truth.
Once we perceive that the Atonement is founded upon the unity of Christ and His people, a unity formed by His taking part in flesh and blood, the righteousness of God is at once cleared of the aspersion which the illustrations of many a preacher has, by necessary implication cast upon it. The propitiation rendered unto God was made neither by a stranger, nor an intimate friend, undergoing what another merited; but by the Head who was responsible for the acts of the members of His spiritual body, just as those members had been constituted guilty because of the act of their natural head, Adam when "by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (Romans 5:18 ). It is perhaps worthy of notice in this connection that, in the over-ruling providence of God, it is the head of a murderer’s body which is dealt with when capital punishment is inflicted either decapitation as in France, hanging by the neck as in England, or being gassed as in some parts of the United States. Thus the head is held responsible for the feet, which were swift to shed blood, and the hand which committed the lethal crime.
However great the dignity of the substitute, or however deep his voluntary humiliation, atonement for us would not have been possible unless that substitute became actually, as well as legally, one with us. In order to ransom His church, in order to purge our sins, Christ must so unite Himself with His people, that their sins should become His sins, and that His sufferings and death should become their sufferings and death. In short, the union between the Son of God and His people, and theirs with Him, must be as real and as intimate as that of Adam and his posterity, who all sinned and died in him. Thus did He, in the fullness of time, assume their flesh and blood, bear their sins in His own body on the tree, so that they, having died to sin, may live unto righteousness, being healed by His stripes. Therefore, no human transaction can possibly illustrate the surety-ship and sacrificial death of Christ, and any attempt to do so is not only to darken counsel by words without knowledge, but is, really, to be guilty of presumptuous impiety. Probably more than one preacher will be led to cry with the writer, "Father, forgive me, for I knew not what I did."
Here, then, is the answer to our question: so far from the salvation of God’s elect having been procured at the unspeakable price of sullying the holy name of Deity, the manner in which it was secured furnishes the supremest demonstration of the inexorable justice of God; for when sin was found upon Him, God "spared not His own Son" (Romans 8:32 ). But it was against no "innocent Victim" that God bade His sword awake. It was against One who had graciously condescended to be "numbered with transgressors," who not only took their place, but had become one with them. Had He not first had a real and vital relation to our sins, He could not have undergone their punishment. The justice of God’s imputation of our sins to the Savior’s account rested upon His oneness with His people.
It is this fact which is iterated and reiterated all through the immediate context. "Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one" (verse 11), "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" (verse 13), "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (verse 14), "Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (verse 17). Why? Why? Here is the inspired answer: "To make propitiation for the sins of the people." That was only possible, we say again, because of His union with them. When Christ became one with His people their guilt became His, as the debts of a wife become by marriage the debts of the husband. This itself is acknowledged by Christ, "For innumerable evils hath compassed Me about: Mine iniquities have taken hold upon Me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of Mine head: therefore My heart faileth Me" (Psalms 40:12 ).
"To make propitiation for the sins of the people." In the light of all that has gone before in the Epistle, this statement is luminous indeed. The whole context shows us His qualifications for this stupendous work, a work which none but He could have performed. First, He was Himself "the Son," the brightness of God’s glory and the very impress of His substance. Thus it was the dignity or Deity of His person which gave such infinite value to His work. Second, His moral perfections as Man, loving righteousness and hating iniquity (Hebrews 1:9 ), thus fulfilled every requirement of the law. Third, His union with His people which caused him "made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
The "propitiation" (which is the New Testament filling out of the Old Testament "to make an atonement") which Christ made, was the perfect satisfaction that He offered to the holiness and justice of God on behalf of His people’s sins, so that they could be righteously blotted out, removed for ever from before the face of God, "as far as the east is from the west." This sacrificial work of the Savior’s was a priestly act, as the words of our present verse clearly enough affirm.
For "the sins of the people" is parallel with Matthew 1:21 ; John 10:11 . They plainly teach that atonement has been made for the sins of God’s elect only. "The people" are manifestly parallel with the "heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14 ), the "many sons" (Hebrews 2:10 ), the "brethren" (Hebrews 2:12 ), the "seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:16 ). It is with them alone Christ identified Himself. The "all of one" of Hebrews 2:11 is expressly defined as being only between "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified." He laid hold of "the seed of Abraham," and not "the seed of Adam." He is the "Head" not of mankind, but of "the church which is His body" (Ephesians 1:21-23 ). A universal atonement, which largely fails of its purpose, is an invention of Satan, with the design of casting dishonor upon Christ, who would thus be a defeated Savior. A general atonement, abstractedly offered to Divine justice, which is theoretically sufficient for everybody, yet in itself efficient for nobody, is a fictitious imagination, which finds lodgment only in those who are vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind. A particular atonement, made for a definite people, all of whom shall enjoy the eternal benefits of it, is what is uniformly taught in the Word of God.
"For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted He is able to succor them that are tempted" (verse 18). Here is the final reason given why it was necessary for the Son to become Man and die: He is the better able to succor His tried people. It was not simply His having been "tempted" that qualified Him, for God Himself may be tempted (Numbers 14:22 ), though not with evil (James 1:13 ). So men may be tempted, yet as to be moved little or nothing thereby. But such temptations as make one suffer, do so work on him, as to draw out his pity to other tempted ones, and to help them as far as He can. It is this point which the Spirit has here seized.
"For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted." The subject of Christ’s being tempted is an important one, for erroneous conceptions thereof necessarily produce a most dishonoring conception of His peerless Person. If the Lord wills, we hope to discuss it more fully when we come to Hebrews 4:15 , yet feel we must offer a few remarks upon it now. That the temptations to which our blessed Lord was subjected were real ones is evidenced from the inspired declaration that He "suffered" from them, but that they involved a conflict within Him, or that there was any possibility of His yielding thereto, must be emphatically denied. That He became Man with a human spirit and soul and body, and therefore possessed a human will, we fully believe; but that there was the slightest inclination for His heart or will to yield to evil solicitations, is wicked to so much as imagine. Not only was His humanity sinless, but it was "holy" (Luke 1:35 ), and His inherent holiness repelled all sin as water does fire.
The temptations or trials which Christ suffered here on earth must not be limited to those which came upon Him from Satan, though these are included. First, Christ suffered bodily hunger (Matthew 4:1 ,Matthew 4:2 ), etc. Second, His holy nature suffered acutely from the very presence of the foul Fiend, so that He said, "Get thee hence" (Matthew 4:10 ). Third, the temptations from the Pharisees and others "grieved" Him (Mark 3:5 ) Fourth, from the words of His own disciples, which were an "offense" unto Him (Matthew 16:23 ). Fifth, His greatest sufferings were from His Father’s temptings or tryings of Him. (See John 12:27 ; Matthew 26:38 , Matthew 26:39 ; Matthew 27:46 ). Note how in Luke 22:28 , "My temptation," the Savior spoke of His whole life as one unbroken experience of trial! How real and deep His "sufferings" were, many of the Messianic Psalms reveal.
The very fact that He suffered when "tempted" manifests His uniqueness. "He suffered, never yielded. We do not ‘suffer’ when we yield to temptation: the flesh takes pleasure in the things by which it is tempted. Jesus suffered, being tempted. It is important to observe that the flesh, when acted upon by its desires, does not suffer. Being tempted it, alas, enjoys. But when, according to the light of the Holy Spirit and fidelity of obedience, the spirit resists the attacks of the enemy, whether subtle or persecuting, then one suffers. This the Lord did, and this we have to do" (Mr. J.N. Darby).
"He is able to succor them that are tempted." Having passed through this scene as the Man of sorrows, He can, experimentally, gauge and feel the sorrows of His people, but let it be dearly understood that it is not the "flesh" in us which needs "succoring," but the new nature, the faithful heart that desires to please Him. We need "succor" against the flesh, to enable us to mortify our members which are upon the earth. Not yet has the promised inheritance been reached. We are still in the wilderness, which provides nothing which ministers to us spiritually. We are living in a world where everything is opposed to true godliness. We are called upon to "run the race which is set before us," to "fight the good fight of faith," and for this we daily need His "succor."
The Greek word for "He is able" implies both a fitness and willingness to do a thing. Christ is both competent and ready to undertake for His people. If we have not, it is because we ask not. The Greek word for "succor" here is very emphatic, and signifies a running to the cry of one, as a parent responding to the cry of distress from a child. A blessed illustration of Christ’s "succoring" one of His own needy people is found in Matthew 14:30 ,Matthew 14:31 , where we read that when Peter saw the wind was boisterous he was afraid, and began to sink, and cried "Lord save me." And then we are told, "And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him."
On one occasion the Lord Jesus asked His disciples, "Believe ye that I am able to do this" (Matthew 9:28 ). And thus He ever challenges the faith of His own. To Abraham He said, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14 ). To Moses, who doubted whether the Lord would give flesh to Israel in the wilderness, He asked, "Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?" (Numbers 11:23 ). To Jeremiah the searching question was put, "Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27 ). So He still asks, "Believe ye, that I am able to do this?" Do what? we may ask. Whatever you are really in need of give peace, impart assurance, grant deliverance, supply succor.
"He is able to succor them that are tempted." Remember who He is, the God-man. Remember the experiences through which He passed! He, too, has been in the place of trial: He, too, was tempted to distrust, to despondency, to destroy Himself. Yes, He was tempted "in all points like as we are, sin excepted." Remember His present position, sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high! How blessed then to know that He is "able" both to enter, sympathetically, into our sufferings and sorrows, and that He has power to "succor."
"As Man, a man of sorrows,
Thou hast suffered every woe,
And though enthroned in glory now,
Canst pity all Thy saints below."
Oh, what a Savior is ours! The all-mighty God; yet the all-tender Man. One who is as far above us in His original nature and present glory as the heavens are above the earth: yet One who can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," One who is the Creator of the universe; yet One who became Man, lived His life on the same plane ours is lived, passed through the same trials we experience, and suffered not only as we do, but far more acutely. How well-fitted is such a One to be our great High Priest! How self-sufficient He is to supply our every need! And how completely is the wisdom and grace of God vindicated for having appointed His blessed Son, to be made, for a season, lower than the angels! May our love for Him be strengthened and our worship deepened by the contemplation of what has been before us in these first two chapters of Hebrews.
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension