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The first four verses of this chapter now press upon us the appropriate conclusions that must be drawn from so transcendent a revelation of the glory of God. "For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should slip away" (N. Trans.).
The truth has been given by report, and absolutely authenticated by God's authority. How worthy of the complete concentration of our minds and hearts! Is it possible the intelligence can become so deadened as to ignore facts so demonstrated? Yes. Pressure of personal circumstances among Hebrews who had professed Christianity had induced some to renounce what they had at first acknowledged, and to return to the dead forms of Judaism. The seed of the Word of God had sprung up, but without roots, it withered quickly away. These were not born again, as was proven by their "slipping away" from the very profession of Christ. This was not simply conduct unbecoming to a Christian, but turning wilfully away from Christ Himself, in cold unbelief. Similar cases are contemplated in Ch. 6:4-6 and Ch. 10:26-29.
The warning is fearfully solemn: "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him?" The law, "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator," or as Stephen said, "received... by the disposition of angels," demanded sternest measures of judgment for every infraction of it. Jews knew this. But since this was true, and now in these last days God has provided so great a salvation for the guilty, what possible hope can there be of escape, if this great salvation is ignored? How avoid the just retribution of God's anger if this marvelous revelation - infinitely greater than law - should be despised?
Nor was the message communicated by angels, but by the Lord Himself, borne witness to by many who heard Him, and further witnessed by God's accrediting these messengers by granting "both signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will." Here was threefold competent witness; for the character of these "signs, wonders and miracles," was not questionable, as is the case with modern imitations. Indeed so indisputable were the facts that the most bitter enemies of Christ would attempt no denial, though set in opposition to the plainest testimony. Compare Acts 4:15-44.4.18; Acts 5:16-44.5.24. No shadow of doubt was allowed to remain as to God's full approval of the establishment of Christianity publicly. Only unreasoning prejudice on the part of Jews could reject it. How can such folly hope to escape the dire consequences?
As examples of "signs," speaking in tongues is significant of an understanding established between those formerly at odds (e.g. Jews and Gentiles), an understanding found only in the mutual knowledge of Christ; and healings were significant of the more vital healing of the soul by the knowledge of Christ. As to wonders, it is clear from Acts 3:9-44.3.11 that a sign may also be a wonder. All three elements (signs, wonders, miracles) may be evident in one case, though some may more emphasize one than another. Signs intimate a spiritual teaching; wonders, the startling effect on man; miracles the fact of natural law being (not suspended, but) transcended by a higher power.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit were remarkably evident in power in the beginning of the book of Acts. The boldness and power of Peter and John in proclaiming the Word of God greatly impressed the Jewish council (Acts 4:13). Compare also Stephen in Ch. 6 and 7, Philip in Ch. 8. These are but samples of the many marked gifts of the Spirit which bore overwhelming testimony to the truths of the doctrine of Christ. Nor was God a respecter of persons, for He thus gifted unlearned men, "according to His own will," and those of every walk of life were chosen, a procedure contrary to that which human energy would have attempted.
Verse 5 now introduces a second division of the book, beginning with sound, admirable deductions based upon the truths already asserted, and upon further quotations from the Old Testament.
If angels have been superseded by the witness of the Lord Jesus and of His disciples, was this itself consistent with Old Testament prophecy? The answer is most plain: "Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world (or age) to come, whereof we speak." Though angels had a prominent place in the dispensation of law, it was prophesied otherwise as to the coming millennial kingdom, the age to come.
Verses 6 to 8 are quoted from Psalms 8:1-19.8.9: "What is man that Thou art mindful of Him, or the son of man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownest Him with glory and honour, and hast set Him over the works of Thine hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet." No doubt in a prime sense this was true of man as originally created of God. But man had completely forfeited this place even of dominion over the earth, through his miserable disobedience to God; and at the time the Psalm was written, it could have reference to no one but a Man of a different stamp than Adam, One whose perfection could delight the heart of God. Moreover the prophecy states that God has put all things in subjection under His feet,-not only things on earth. Let us remark too that He is referred to, not only as man, but "the Son of Man," which was not true of Adam.
But the Psalmist might well express wonder at the consideration of man's being so exalted, for the form of man's being is decidedly that of weakness and limitation, in contrast to angels. Verse 7 refers to this, that man has been made a little lower than the angels. And such was the condition in which the blessed Lord of Glory was pleased to tread this earth. Yet now all things are put under His feet, which includes angels too, "for He left nothing that is not put under Him." If we do not as yet see this in public display, it is vitally true, and will yet be displayed in the coming kingdom.
"But we see Jesus." This is faith's language: we see with the eyes of a believing heart,-the Object the Person of the Son of Man at the right hand of God. Since it is truth, then truth in the heart responds to it. He who was made (voluntarily) a little lower than angels, though in nature infinitely higher than they, is now crowned with glory and honor.
But our verse explains the expression "made lower." This was an absolute necessity "for the suffering of death." Angels cannot die, for they are spirits, their form of being therefore higher than that of man. They "excel in strength." Man, by reason of his bodily condition on earth, is characterized by weakness and many limitations, and is capable of dying-nay, subject to death because of his sin. Death being God's sentence against sin, no redemption was possible except as the blessed Son of God in grace became truly "Man," lower than angels, to suffer death for all. Such is the immeasurable grace of God! Rightly therefore, as Man, He is now crowned with glory and honor, exalted above angels. If in Manhood He has become lower than angels, this was but for the suffering of death: now in Him we contemplate Manhood as exalted above angels. It is this Man who will rule over the earth in the age to come.
From verse 12 to 18 this Man's perfection as a Saviour is beautifully shown. For this He must be a sufferer: "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." It was morally consistent with God's nature that, in order to bring many sons to the bliss of His presence, He should lead His own Son through the sufferings and death of the cross, to make Him, in resurrection, the "perfect" originator of salvation. Notice that it is not man's blessing that is most important here, but what is becoming to God, that is, His own glory.
In the performance of this work, the Lord Jesus is seen as sanctifying (or setting apart) every believer to God. But this too involves His own voluntary unity with them: "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." They are of one Father, -He by very nature and title, we by His infinite grace. By nature, it is impossible that He should call us brethren, but through virtue of His perfect salvation, He is not ashamed to do so. But let us repeat, this He does in grace: for us to call Him "Brother" would be unbecoming abuse of grace.
Verse 12 quotes fromPsalms 22:1-19.22.31; Psalms 22:1-19.22.31 words of the Lord Jesus spoken in resurrection: "I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing Thy praises" (N. Trans.). How beautifully linked to this is His message to Mary Magdalene, "Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (John 20:17). He does not say, "Our Father," for there remains an infinite distinction between the Master and His brethren by grace; but there is yet an established and blessed unity. Primarily it is He Himself who sings praises to God, in the vibrant, joyous delight of an accomplished redemption; but it is the sacred privilege of His redeemed to join with Him in this triumphant song.
He Himself is 'in the midst of the assembly,' not simply for our blessing, but for the glory of God. This unfeigned, joyous ascription of praise to God is the prime reason for the gathering of the church, the assembly of the living God. Let us zealously guard against its degeneration into anything less than this. Indeed this spirit of praise should be evident even when gathered for prayer in seeking the gracious blessing of God, or in the ministry of the Word of God to the saints. But the remembrance of the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread,-the central expression of the fellowship of the body of Christ, -is intended exclusively for the bringing of praise, thanksgiving, adoration to our God and Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Verse 13 quotes first from 2 Samuel 22:3, to stress the dependence of His perfect Manhood: "I will put My trust in Him." This too is beautifully seen in Psalms 16:1-19.16.11, which begins, "Preserve Me, O God, for in Thee do I put My trust." As such too, however, His delights are with the sons of men, and it is His joy to say, as in Isaiah 8:18, "Behold I, and the children which God hath given Me." Let us observe again that His own unique distinction is first noted, and this enhances the wonder and beauty of His grace in so uniting with His saints. He receives these children as a gift from God. It may be remarked that a similar expression is used when, speaking as the Divine Son of God, He says, "I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world" (John 17:6). In the former case they are a gift from God in virtue of His sufferings and death: in the latter they are a gift from the Father to His Son because of the eternal worth of His Person.
"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 (or annul) him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." To be thus identified with them, it was imperative that He should first take part in the same bodily condition as they, flesh and blood, in order that His blood might be shed in sacrifice, that by means of death He might cancel the dread power of Satan over men. Nothing but this could righteously meet the case. Nor could anything but love have energized a sacrifice like this. Let us note that here we have a second reason for the sufferings of Christ. In verse 10 the glory of God is in view: in verse 14 the destruction of Satan.
This involves deliverance then for those who were "all their lifetime subject to bondage," that is, the bondage of sin, by which Satan had wielded his power over mankind. "The sting of death is sin," and so long as this question remained unsettled, "the fear of death" held souls in bondage. He is speaking here of believers of course, for unbelievers know nothing of present deliverance from this fear and bondage, as do all whose trust is in the precious blood of Christ. Observe too that this bondage is during "lifetime," not after death. Even the unsaved are not in such bondage after death. Satan can exert no more authority over them: they are rather imprisoned in bondage to the exclusive authority of God.
But previous to the death of Christ even believers were held in a distinct measure of bondage through fear of death. There are some brightly shining exceptions, in cases where various saints exercised a faith that carried them far beyond the limits of the partial revelation they had received; and Jacob for instance shows thorough tranquillity in the face of death. This was not the common state, nevertheless, of which the godly Hezekiah is an example, weeping in bitterness when told to put his house in order in view of his death (Isaiah 38:1-23.38.3; Isaiah 17:1-23.17.14).
"For He does not indeed take hold of angels, but He takes hold of the seed of Abraham" (N. Trans.). In grace He has seen fit to identify Himself, not with angelic beings, but a class lower in creative order,-mankind,-yet that class of mankind characterized by faith, the "seed of Abraham," a family in which the heart of God the Father finds pleasure.
"Wherefore it behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (N. Trans.). The full and blessed reality of our Lord's humanity is thus strongly emphasized for us. This is of course humanity in untainted perfection and purity, in which the foreign element of sin could have no place; yet nevertheless true humanity, as to spirit and soul and body. Only thus could He be a High Priest, a Mediator between God and men. Entering into their physical condition of weakness and dependence, He is thoroughly qualified by experience to have merciful consideration for their need, and to act faithfully for them in consistency with such a relationship.
But this must of necessity first require that the question of His people's sins should be faced, and as true Man and true Priest He had made "propitiation for the sins of the people." Indeed, in reference to this great work, He is both Priest, Sacrifice and Altar. Propitiation is a third reason here noted for the death of Christ,-first God's glory, secondly Satan's destruction, thirdly, propitiation, which last denotes the satisfying of the claims of God's throne in regard to man's sin.
This verse is clear to the effect that He must be a Priest in order to sacrifice Himself. Chapter 8:4 is no contradiction to this: "If He were on earth He should not be a priest, seeing there are priests that offer gifts and sacrifices according to the law." In this latter case the apostle speaks of an official position, which on earth was given to the sons of Aaron, but now in resurrection given to the Lord Jesus in Glory,-"saluted of God all High Priest after the order of Melchisedek." This is an office only assumed in Glory.
But in Person, if not in office, His character of Priest manifested in all His life of ministry to mankind, and in His voluntary sacrifice of Himself. For His own sacrifice was not an official act, but one purely voluntary, prompted by the perfect love and grace of His heart,-not in any sense required of Him, except by the very goodness of His own nature. Thus in our present verses, His moral nature and character are emphasized; so that when later He is seen in resurrection to be given official glory from God as High Priest, it has been fully established that He is worthy to be utterly trusted to fulfill that office in perfection. Blessed, holy, gracious Lord!
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted. He is able to help those that are tempted." Having proven Himself in lowly experience, - suffering rather than yielding to temptation, - He is Himself a strength to His suffering people, able to give grace that they should bear rather than succumb to temptation. Having such an High Priest, what a shame that we should ever give way when tempted. But here we have a fourth reason for His sufferings, - that He might have perfect sympathy with His suffering saints. How full and orderly is the precious Word of God!
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 2". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent