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INTERPOSED EXHORTATION as explained above.
On this account (i.e. on account of what has been seen of the SON'S superiority to the angels) we ought (or, we are bound) more abundantly to give heed to the things that we have heard (i.e. the gospel that has been preached to us in the Son), lest at any time (or, lest haply) we let them slip (rather, float past them). The word παραρρυῶμεν (aorist subjunctive from παραρρέω) denotes flowing or floating past anything. The allusion is to the danger, incidental to those to whom the Epistle was addressed, of failing to recognize the transcendent character of the gospel revelation, missing it through inadvertence, drifting away from it.
Hebrews 2:2, Hebrews 2:3
For if the word that was spoken through angels (i.e. the Law) was made (or, proved) steadfast (i.e. as explained in the next clause, ratified by just visitation of every transgression and disobedience), how shall we (Christians) escape, if we neglect so great salvation? The danger of neglect must be in proportion to the dignity of the revelation. The readers are now further reminded of the manner in which the gospel had been made known to them, and been ratified in their own experience, by way of enhancing the danger of disregarding it. Which (not the simple relative pronoun ἢ, but ἥτις, which denotes always, when so used, some general idea in the antecedent, equivalent to "being such as"), having at the first begun to be spoken through the Lord (opposed to "the word spoken through angels" in the preceding verse. Its beginning was through the Lord himself, i.e. Christ the SON, not through intermediate agency. Ὁ Κύριος is a special designation of Christ in the New Testament; and, though not in itself proving belief in his divinity, is significant as being constantly used also as a designation of God, and substituted in the LXX. for הוהי. It has a special emphasis here as expressing the majesty of Christ), was confirmed (ἐβεβαιώθη, answering to ἐγένετο βέβαῖος in the former verse) unto us by them that heard (i.e. by the apostles and others who knew Christ in the flesh). Here the writer ranks himself among those who had not heard Christ himself; his doing which has been considered to afford a presumption against St. Paul having been the writer. For, though not an eyewitness of Christ's ministry, he is in the habit elsewhere of insisting strongly on his having received his "knowledge of the mystery," not from men or through men, but by direct revelation from the ascended Savior (cf. Galatians 1:1, Galatians 1:12). Still, he does not deny elsewhere that for the facts of Christ's history he was indebted to the testimony of others (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3, etc). It was rather the meaning of the mystery that he had learnt from heaven.
God also bearing them witness; rather, God attesting with them. The word is συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος, a double compound, meaning to attest jointly with others. The idea is that the hearers of "the Lord" testified, and God attested their testimony by the signs that accompanied their ministry. The passage is instructive as expressing the grounds of acceptance of the gospel. Its truth was already "confirmed" to believers by the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses to that which, so attested, carried with it its own evidence. But the signs attending the apostolic ministry were granted for further attestation. Thus "signs and wonders," the craving for which as a condition of belief was so condemned by our Lord, have their true evidential value assigned them. They did not furnish the original basis of belief, which rested on Christ himself, his Person. and his work, as unimpeachably attested. They came in only as suitable accompaniments of a Divine dispensation, and as additional confirmations. The apologists of the last generation were given to rest the evidence of Christianity too exclusively on miracles. The tendency of the present age is to dwell rather on its internal evidence, and, so far as it can be done, to explain away the miracles. They are not to be explained away, having been, as has been said, fitting accompaniments and confirmations of such a dispensation as the gospel was. But to us, as well as to those early believers, they are not the first or main ground of our belief. To us, as re them, Christ and his gospel, testified to as they are by" them that heard," are their own sufficient evidence. Indeed, the cogency of the "signs" in the way of evidence is less now than formerly, since they too have now passed into the category of things that rest on testimony. The evidential counterpart to them in our case is the continued attestation which God gives to the gospel in its living power on the souls of men, and its results in the world before our eyes. It is thus that our faith is strengthened in "the salvation at first spoken through the Lord, and confirmed to us by them that heard." Four expressions are used for the miraculous accompaniments of the first preaching of the gospel, denoting, apparently, not so much different classes of miracles, as different ways of regarding them. They were
(1) signs (σημεῖα), attesting the truth of what was preached;
(2) wonders (τέρατα), something out of the common course of things, arresting attention;
(3) diverse powers (ποικίλαι δυνάμεις), varying manifestations of a Divine power at work;
(4) distributions of the Holy Ghost (Πνευμάτος ἁγίου μερισμοί), gifts of the Spirit to individual Christians apportioned variously—the last expression having especial reference to the χαρίσματα of the apostolic Church, so often alluded to in St. Paul's Epistles. The phrase, with that which follows, according to his own will, is peculiarly Pauline, and confirms the conclusion that the writer, though not necessarily St. Paul himself, was at any rate one of the circle influenced by his teaching.
Here the second division of the first section of the argument, according to the summary given above (Hebrews 1:2), begins. But it is also connected logically with the interposed exhortation, the sequence of thought being as follows: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"—For (as an additional reason) not to angels (but to the Sou, as will be seen) did he (God) subject the world to come, whereof we speak, "The world to come (ἡ οἰκουμένη ἡ μέλλουσα)" must be understood, in accordance with what has been said above in explanation of" the last of these days" (Hebrews 1:1), as referring to the age of the Messiah's kingdom foretold in prophecy. The word μέλλουσαν does not in itself necessarily imply futurity from the writer's standpoint though, according to what was said above, the complete fulfilment of the prophetic anticipation is to be looked for in the second advent, whatever earnest and foretaste of it there may be already under the gospel dispensation. The word οἰκουμένην (sub γὴν) is the same as was used (Hebrews 1:6) in reference to the Son's advent, denoting the sphere of created things over which he should reign. And it is suitably used here with a view to the coming quotation from Psalms 8:1-9., in which the primary idea is man's supremacy over the inhabited globe. The whole phrase may be taken to express the same idea as the "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (cf.2 Peter 3:13; 2 Peter 3:13).
But one in a certain place (or, somewhere) testified, saying. The phrase does not imply uncertainty as to the passage cited. It is one used by Philo when exact reference is not necessary. It is equivalent to "but we do find the following testimony with regard to man." We say to man; for the eighth psalm, from which the citation comes, evidently refers to man generally; not primarily or distinctively to the Messiah. Nor does it appear to have been ranked by the Jews among the Messianic psalms. It would be arbitrary interpretation to assign to it (as some have done) an original meaning of which it contains no signs. This being the ease, how are we to explain its application to Christ, which is not confined to this passage, but is found also in 1 Corinthians 15:27? There is no real difficulty. True, the psalm speaks of man only; but it is of man regarded according to the ideal position assigned to him in Genesis 1:1-31., as God's vicegerent. Man as he now is (says the writer of this Epistle) does not fulfill this ideal; but Christ, the Son of man, and the Exalter of humanity, does. Therefore in him we find the complete fulfillment of the meaning of the psalm. If it be still objected that the application (in which sovereignty over all created things is inferred) transcends the meaning of the psalm, which refers to this earth only—πάντα in Genesis 1:6. of the psalm being taken in a wider sense than seems justified by the following verses, which confine the application to earthly creatures, it may be replied
(1) that the idea of the psalmist is to be gathered, not only from Genesis 1:28, which he quotes, but, further, from the whole purport of Genesis 1:1-31., of which the psalm is a lyrical expression, including the conception of man having been made in God's image, and invested with a sovereignty little short of Divine;
(2) that, if the application does transcend the scope of the psalm, it was open to an inspired writer of the New Testament thus to extend its meaning, as seen in the new light from Christ. Taking the latter view, we have but to put the argument thus, in order to see its force and legitimacy: In Psalms 8:1-9. (read in connection with Genesis 1:1-31., on which it is founded) a position is assigned to man which at present he does not realize; but its whole idea is fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, in Christ. It is to be observed that the original reference of the psalm to man generally is not only evident in itself, but also essential to the writer's argument. For he is now passing from the view set forth in Hebrews 1:1-14., of what the SON is in himself, to the further view of his participation in humanity, in order to exalt humanity to the position forfeited through sin; and thus (as has been shown in the foregoing summary) to lead up to the idea of his being our great High Priest. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? In the psalm this exclamation comes after a contemplation of the starry heavens, which had impressed the psalmist's mind with a sense of God's transcendent glory. In contrast with this glory, man's insignificance and unworthiness occur to him, as they have similarly occurred to many; but, at the same time, he thought of the high position assigned to man in the account of the creation, on which position he next enlarges. He asks how it can be that man, being what he is now, can be of such high estate. Thus the Epistle carries out truly the idea of the psalm, which is that man's appointed position in the scale of things is beyond what he seems now to realize.
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels. Here the LXX. takes Elohim (being a plural form) to mean "angels;" as also in Psalms 97:7 and Psalms 138:1. The more correct rendering of the Hebrew may be, "thou reddest him a little short of God," with reference to his having been made "in God's image," "after God's likeness," and having dominion over creation given him. But, if so, Elohim must be understood in its abstract sense of "Divinity" (so Genesis), rather than as denoting the Supreme Being. Otherwise, "thyself" would have been the more appropriate expression, the psalm being addressed to God. The argument is not affected by the difference of translation. Indeed, the latter rendering enhances still more the position assigned to man. Thou crownedst him with glory and worship, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. The latter clause of this sentence, which is found in the LXX., but not in the Hebrew, is omitted in several codices. It is not wanted for the purpose of the argument.
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all things in subjection under him, etc. Here the argument from the psalm begins. It is to the following effect: For the subjection of all things, in the Creator's design, to man leaves nothing exempted from his sovereignty. But we do not see man, as he is upon earth now, occupying this implied position of complete sovereignty. Therefore the full idea of the psalm awaits fulfillment. And we Christians find its complete fulfill-meat in him who, having become a man like us, and is made with us "a little lower than the angels," is now, as man, and for man, "crowned with glory and honor," at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Or we may put it thus: In the present οἰκουμένη man is not supreme over "all things" in the sense denoted; but in the οἰκουμένη to come "of which we speak," with its far wider bearings, he is, in the Person of Christ, over "all things" thus supreme. Therefore in Christ alone does man attain his appointed destiny. We may here observe how, even without the enlightenment of Scripture, man's own consciousness reveals to him an ideal of his position in creation which, in his present state, he does not realize. The strange apparent contradiction between man as he is and man as he feels he should be, between experience and conscience, between the facts and the ideal of humanity, has long been patent to philosophers as well as divines.
The phrase βραχύ τι, where it occurs in this verse with reference to Christ's temporary humiliation, is by many taken to mean "for a little while," on the ground that this meaning suits best the application to Christ, though its most obvious meaning in the psalm (quoted in Hebrews 2:7) is, as in the A.V., "a little." The Greek in itself will bear either meaning; and if "a little" be, as it seems to be, the original meaning in the psalm, there is no necessity for supposing a departure from it. All that the writer need be supposed to intimate is that Christ, through his incarnation, took man's position as represented in the psalm. For the suffering of death. So the A.V. renders, connecting the words by punctuation with the clause preceding; the idea being supposed to be that Christ was "made a little lower than the angels" with a view to the "suffering of death;" i.e. because of the "suffering of death" which he had to undergo. But the proper force of διὰ with the accusative is better preserved, and a better meaning given to the passage, by connecting διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου with the clause that follows, and translating, But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor. His crowning was the consequence of his suffering; because of his suffering he was crowned; he won, as man, and in virtue of his human obedience unto death, his position of "glory and honor." Exactly the same idea is found in Hebrews 5:7, etc., where the purpose and result of Christ's suffering, here anticipated, are more explicitly set forth (cf. also Hebrews 12:2). This view, too, suits the drift of the passage before us, which is that human nature has been exalted in the Person of Christ. That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. Two questions arise here:
(1) As to the meaning of the expression, "that he should taste death," etc;
(2) as to the true reading, as well as the meaning, of the phrase translated "by the grace of God."
(1), the clause is introduced by ὅπως, followed by the subjunctive, ὅπως γεύσηται: and the construction of the sentence evidently connects it, not with ἠλαττωμένον, but with ἐστεφανωμένον It is, "Because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, in order that for [i.e. in behalf of] all he may taste of death." Now, the fact that the actual death was previous to the crowning suggests reference, not so much to it as to its permanent efficacy: and, further, the emphatic words are ὑπὲρ παντὸς, as shown by their position in the sentence; and thus the idea seems to be, "In order that for all his tasting of death may be availing." And he may even be regarded as still tasting of death after his crowning, in the sense of knowing its taste through his human experience, and so perfectly sympathizing with mortal man (cf. Heb 5:1-14 :15, and below in this chapter, Hebrews 5:14, 15). It is a further question whether παντὸς should be here taken as masculine, as in the A.V., or, like the preceding πάντα, as neuter, in the sense of "all creation." The latter rendering seems in itself more natural, though" all mankind" must be conceived as the main idea in the writer's view. At the same time, it is to be remembered how the redemption is elsewhere spoken of as availing for creation generally, for the restitution of universal harmony (cf. Romans 8:19, etc; Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:20, etc). A further reason for understanding παντὸς in the wider sense will appear in our examination of the phrase next to be considered.
(2) As to the reading χάριτι Θεοῦ. It is found in all existing manuscripts except in one uncial of the tenth century (Codex Uffenbach, cited as M), in a scholium to Codex 67, and in a codex of the Peschito. But, on the other hand, Origen, an earlier authority than any manuscript, speaks of the prevalent reading in his time being χωρὶς Θεοῦ χάριτι being found only in some copies (ἐν τισιν ἀντιγράφοσις). Theodoret, Theodorus of Mopsuestia, and the Nestorians also read χωρὶς: and the Latin Fathers, Ambrose, Fulgentius, and others, have absque as its equivalent. Jerome also speaks of the reading absque, but as occurring only "in quibusdam exemplaribus"—thus reversing in his day what Origen had said two centuries earlier as to the comparative prevalence of the two readings. The charge made by Marius Mercator, Theophylact, and OEcumenius against the Nestorians, that they had introduced the reading χωρὶς in support of their own views, is evidently untenable, since the testimony of Origen proves its prevalence long before the Nestorian controversy. It is, on the other hand, very probable that the use made of this reading by the Nestorians was a cause of the other being clung to by the orthodox, and being retained almost exclusively in the existing codices. And this probability greatly weakens the force of the evidence of the manuscripts as to the original reading. That both were very early ones is evident; but that χωρὶς was the original one is probable for two reasons:
(1) that Origen testifies to its prevalence in his early day, and accepts it as at least equally probable with the other; and
(2) that transcribers were more likely to change the unusual and somewhat difficult χωρὶς into the familiar and easy χάριτι than vice versa. Theodorus of Mopsuestia thus accounts for the reading χάριτι, which he rejects very decidedly. He says that some persons, not observing the sequence of the passage, had laughably changed the true reading, because they did not understand it, into one that seemed easy to them. If χάριτι be the true reading, the meaning is plain enough; it expresses the view, often reiterated by St. Paul, of the whole work of redemption being "of grace." The objection to it, on internal grounds, is that the introduction of this view here seems flat and purposeless, as Theodorus of Mopsuestia forcibly contends in his argument against the reading. Χωρὶς, then, being adopted, the question remains whether to connect χωρὶς Θεοῦ (as Theodorus of Mopsuestia does, and as the Nestorians must have done) with γεύσηται θανάτου, or with ὑπὲρ παντός. If taken with the former, its purpose must be to exclude the Godhead in Christ from participation in the taste of death. Some further explain by reference to the cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But such reference does not suit the view above taken of the intended meaning o ὅπως γεύσηται θανάτου. Taken with ὑπὲρ παντός (as is rather suggested by the arrangement of the sentence, in which this is the emphatic phrase), it gives the meaning, "that for all except God he may taste of death"—this parenthetical exception of the Divine Being himself being similar to that which St. Paul sees reason for inserting in his application of the same psalm to Christ: Δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάζαντος αὐτῶ τὰ πάντα (1 Corinthians 15:27). So Origen takes it: Εἰ τε δὲ "χωρὶς Θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς ἐγεύσατο θανάτον," οὐμόνον ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὲρ τῶν λοιπῶν λογικῶν. Also Theodoret: Υπὲρ ἀπάντων τοίνυν τὸ σωτήριον ὑπέμεινε πάθος χωρὶς Θεοῦ μόνη γὰρ ἡ θεία φύσις τῆς ἐντεῦθεν γενομένης θεραπείας ἀνενδεής. The latter Father explains the wide sense in which it follows that ὑπὲρ παντὸς must be understood by referring to what St. Paul says (Romans 8:21) of creation itself being delivered from the bondage of corruption through Christ, and to the rejoicing of angels in the salvation of man.
For it became him, for whom (διὰ, with accusative) are all things, and through whom (διὰ with genitive) are all things (i.e. God), in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. This refers to what was said in the preceding verse, of Christ having been crowned with glory on account of his suffering of death, and of his tasting death for all. That he should attain through human suffering even unto death to his own perfected state of glory, as being the Leader of human sons whom the one Father of all would bring to glory, was a design worthy of him for whom and through whom are all things—suitable to what we conceive of him and of his way of working. The word ἔπρεπε is used in the same sense not infrequently in the LXX. It is probably used here with some view to "the offence of the cross," which might still linger in the minds of some of the Hebrew Christians. In the argument that follows, supported still by reference to Old Testament anticipations, the writer not only meets possible objections lingering in the Hebrew mind, but also carries on and completes the view of the SON which it is his purpose to inculcate, leading up (as aforesaid) to the final position of his being the High Priest of humanity.
For both he that sanctifieth (i.e. Christ, the ἀρχηγὸς) and they that are sanctified (i.e. the "many sons" who are brought unto glory) are all of one (ἐξ ἑνὸς, i.e. of God). The idea expressed here by the verb ἁγιάζω, to sanctify, may be determined by comparison with Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:29; and Hebrews 13:12 (ἵνα ἁγιάση διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἱμάτος τὸν λαόν); cf. John 17:9. It is not the idea, to us most familiar, of moral sanctification through the Holy Spirit, but that of the redeemed being brought into a new relation to God, hallowed for "glory," through redemption; whence all Christians are called ἅγοι. Ἁγιάζειν is the equivalent in the LXX. of the Hebrew שׂדַקָ, which is applied to the hallowing of both the sacrifices and the people to God's service. As an atoning sacrifice, Christ thus hallowed himself (John 17:19), that thus he might hallow the "many sons." Ἐξ ἑνός must certainly be taken as referring to God, not (as some take it) to Abraham or Adam. For the necessity of the SON taking part of flesh and blood in order to accomplish the redemption is not introduced till John 17:14. So far the common fatherhood spoken of has been that of him "for whom are all things and by whom are all things," who, "in bringing many sons to glory," has perfected "the Captain of their salvation." The idea is that it was meet that the Captain should be perfected through human sufferings, since both he and the "many sons" are of one Divine Father; in their relation of sonship (with whatever difference of manner and degree) they are associated together. Be it observed, however, that it is not the original relation to God of the "Sanctifier" and the "sanctified," but their relation to him in the redemption, that is denoted by ἐξ ἑνός. The common sonship does not consist in this, that he is Son by eternal generation and they by creation. It has been seen above that the term υἵος is net applied to Christ in this Epistle with reference to his eternal Being, but to his incarnation; and the human "sons" are not regarded as such till made so by redemption. Ὁ ἁγιάζων, and οἳ ἁγιαζομένοι rule the sense of ἐξ ἑνός. The view is that the one Father sent the SON into the world to be the Firstborn of many sons. The expression, frequent in the Pentateuch, "I am he that sanctifieth," may be cited in illustration of the moaning of the passage. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren; i.e. in the Messianic utterances of the Old Testament, to which, in accordance with the plan and purpose of the Epistle, reference is again made for proof. The point of the quotations that follow (John 17:12, John 17:13) is that the Messiah, notwithstanding the position above the angels, shown above to be assigned to him, is represented also as associating himself with men as brethren, in dependence on one heavenly Father.
I will declare thy Name unto my brethren, in the midst of the Church (or, congregation) will I sing praise unto thee. This first citation is from Psalms 22:22, quoted, it would seem, from memory or from a text of the LXX. different from ours, διηγήσομαι being changed to ἀπαγγελῶ, but with no difference of meaning. The psalm is attributed by tradition to David, being entitled "a psalm of David." Delitzsch and Ebrard accept it as certainly his, concluding, from its position in the first book of the psalms (1-72), that it was included in the collection made by David himself (cf. 2 Chronicles 23:18 with Psalms 72:20). Others, as recently Perowne, think that the fact of the suffering and humiliation described, being beyond any experienced by David himself, points to some other unknown author. The conclusion, however, does not necessarily follow. David, writing "in Spirit," when under persecution by Saul, may be conceived as drawing a picture, with regard both to present humiliation and to expected triumph, beyond the facts of his own case, taking his own experience as typical of a higher fulfillment. And the minute details of the suffering described, answering so remarkably to the circumstances of the Crucifixion, certainly suggest the idea of a distinct prophetic vision. Still, there is no reason for concluding that the psalm was not, like other Messianic psalms, suggested by and founded on the writer's own circumstances and experience. Detitzsch says well, "The way of sorrows by which David mounted to his earthly throne was a type of that Via Dolorosa by which Jesus, the Son of David, passed before ascending to the right hand of the Father." There is no psalm of which the ultimate Messianic reference is to Christian believers more undoubted. The first words of it were uttered by Jesus himself from the cross (Matthew 27:46); and for its fulfillment in him, recognized by the evangelists, see Matthew 27:39, Matthew 27:43; John 19:23, John 19:28. The general purport of the psalm is as follows: A persecuted sufferer, under a feeling of being forsaken by God, pours out his complaint, and prays for succor; suddenly, at the end of John 19:21, the tone of the psalm changes into one of confident anticipation of deliverance and triumph, when the psalmist shall praise the Lord in the congregation of his brethren, when all that fear the Lord shall join him in praise, when the "ends of the earth" shall turn to the Lord, and "all the families of the nations" shall worship with Israel. The close agreement of the latter part of the psalm with the Messianic anticipations of prophecy is obvious, and would in itself determine its Messianic import. The marked difference between this psalm and those previously quoted is that the typical psalmist appears hero as a human sufferer previously to his triumph, thus anticipating the similar view of the Messiah in prophecy, as notably in Isaiah lilt. And hence this psalm is suitably quoted here as a striking and early anticipation of a Messiah "perfected through sufferings," and associated in sympathy with human "brethren," the verse actually quoted, in which "he is not ashamed to call them brethren," being sufficient to remind the readers of the whole of this aspect of Messianic prophecy.
And again, I will put my trust in him. There are two passages of the Old Testament from which this may be a citation 2 Samuel 22:3 and Isaiah 8:17. In either case the original is slightly altered in the citation, probably with a purpose; the emphatic ἐγὼ being prefixed, and ἔσομαι being (suitably after this addition) placed before instead of after πεποιθὼς. The purpose of this change may be to bring into prominence the thought that the Messiah himself, in his humanity, puts his trust in God as well as the "brethren" with whom he associates himself. The passage in 2 Samuel 22:3 is from the psalm of David, written "in the day when the Loan had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul." It is given also in the Book of Psalms as Psalms 18:1-50., where the LXX. reads ἐλπιῶ ἐπ αὐτόν instead of πεποίθως ἔσομαι ἐπ αὐτῷ: so that, if the quotation is from the psalm, it is taken from the historical book. But is the quotation from the psalm or from Isaiah? If from the former, it serves (if Psalms 22:1-31. is also David's) to complete the type of the same royal sufferer, showing him reliant on God along with his brethren in the day of success, as well as during previous trial. Most commentators, however, suppose the quotation to be from Isaiah, inasmuch as the following one is from him, not only coming immediately after the first in the original, but also dependent on it for its meaning. Nor is the introduction of the second quotation by καὶ πάλιν conclusive against its being the continuation of the same original passage, since it introduces a new idea, to which attention may be thus drawn. Possibly the writer, familiar as he was with the Old Testament, had both passages in his view, the phrase common to both serving as a connecting link between David and Isaiah. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. The applicability of the whole passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 8:17, Isaiah 8:18) to the writer's argument is not at first sight obvious. It occurs in connection with the memorable message to Ahaz, on the occasion of the confederacy of Rezin and Pekah against Judah, in the course of which the prophet foretells. In the midst of general dismay and disbelief the prophet stands firm and undaunted, presenting himself as a sign as well as a messenger of the salvation which he foretells: "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts." The "children" thus associated with himself as signs appear to have been his two sons, with their symbolical names, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the first of whom he had been commanded to take with him (Isaiah 7:3) on his first visit to Ahaz, and the second of whom (Isaiah 8:3) had been borne to him by the "prophetess," and named under a Divine command. His own name also may be regarded in the "sign" as symbolical, meaning "Jehovah's salvation." If then, the words of Hebrews 9:17, Hebrews 9:18 are quoted as those of the prophet himself (and they are certainly his own in our Hebrew text), he is viewed as himself a sign, in the sense of type, of the Immanuel to come. And the point of the quotation is that, to complete such typical sign, it was required that "the children God had given him" should be combined with him in the representation. They represent the ἀδελφοί, the ἀγιαζομένοι, as Isaiah does the υἱὸς, the ἀγιάζων, all being together ἐξ ἑνός. If it be objected that the children given to Isaiah were his own offspring, and not "brethren," as in the antitype, it may be replied that it is net the human paternity of the "children," but their having been given by God to the prophet to he "signs" along with him, that is the prominent; idea in the original passage, and that, thus viewed, the words of Isaiah have their close counterpart in those of our Lord; "The men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John 17:6, John 17:9, John 17:11, John 17:12). Such, then, may be the ground for assigning the utterance to Christ, justified by the Messianic character of Old Testament prophecy in general, according to which "the historic sense of the utterance does not exclude the purpose of prophecy; but leaves typical references open which declare themselves historically by some corresponding Messianic fact, and hence are recognized afterwards from the point of view of historic fulfillment" (Meyer). But when we refer to the LXX. (which in the passage before us varies greatly from the Hebrew) we find a further reason. The LXX. has (Isaiah 8:16, Isaiah 8:17, Isaiah 8:18) "Then shall be manifest these that seal the Law that one should not learn it. And he will say (καὶ ἐρεῖ), I will wait upon God, who has turned away his hoe from the house of Israel, and I will put my trust in him. Lo I and the children which God hath given me." Here, in the absence of any preceding nominative in the singular to be the subject of ἐρεῖ, the writer of the Epistle may have understood the Messiah to be the speaker; and the Seventy also may have so intended the expression. The general drift of the passage, as interpreted in the Epistle, remains the same, though the LXX. more distinctly suggests and justifies its application to Christ. The only difference is that, according to the Hebrew, the prophet speaks and is regarded as a type; according to the LXX., the Antitype himself is introduced as speaking, and declaring the type of Isaiah to be fulfilled in himself.
Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of (literally, have been, made partakers of; i.e. so made as to share alike), blood and flesh (this is the order of the words, as in Ephesians 6:12, according to the great preponderance of authority; Delitzsch sees in it a reference to "the blood-shedding for the sake of which the Savior entered into the fellowship of bodily life with us"), he also himself likewise (rather, in like manner; i.e. with "the children") took part in the same; that through death he might destroy (καταργήσῃ, equivalent to "bring to nought," "render impotent as though not existing;" the word is frequent with St. Paul) him that had (or, has) the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver (i.e. from bondage) all those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hero the purpose of the Incarnation is set forth as requiring the complete association of the SON with human brethren to which prophecy had pointed. But more is now declared than the prophecies so far quoted have implied; and thus is introduced (by way of anticipation, as is usual in the Epistle) the doctrine of atonement, which is to be dwelt on afterwards. For the object of Christ's becoming one of us is now further said to be that by dying he might effect redemption. The "children" in Hebrews 2:14 are the παιδία of the type in Isaiah, fulfilled in the "many sons" to be "sanctified" and brought to glory. For understanding' the account here given of the purpose of the Incarnation, we must remember that death, originally announced (Genesis 2:17) as the penalty of transgression, is regarded in the New Testament (notably by St. Paul) as the sign of the continual dominion of sin over the human race. Thus in Romans 5:12, Romans 5:15 the mere fact that all men "from Adam to Moses" had died is adduced as sufficient proof that all were under condemnation as sinners. Whatever further idea is implied in the word "death "—such as alienation from God in whom is life eternal, or any "blackness of darkness" thereupon ensuing in the world beyond the grave—of man's subjection or liability to all this his natural death is regarded as the sign. It is to be remembered, too, that "the devil," through whom it was that sin first entered, and death through sin, is revealed to us generally as the representative of evil (ὁ πονηρός), and, as such, the primeval manslayer (ἀνθρωποκτόνος ἀπ ἀρχῆς), with power given him over death, the penalty of sin, as long as man remains in his dominion, unredeemed. Till redemption east a new light upon the gloom of death, man was all his life long in fear of it; its shadow was upon him from his birth; it loomed ever before him as a passing into darkness, unrelieved by hope. We know well how the hopeless dismalness of death was a commonplace with the classical poets, and how, even now, the natural man shrinks from it as the last great evil. But Christ, human, yet sinless, died for all mankind, and, so dying, wrested from the devil his power over death, and emancipated believers from their state of "bondage" (as to which, see below). On particular expressions in this passage we may remark:
(1) That, "having the power of death," which has been variously interpreted, may be taken in the usual sense of ἔχειν κράτος τινος, viz. "having power, or dominion, over." Satan has had the dominion over death allowed him because of human sin. And it may be observed that elsewhere, not only death, but other woes that flesh is heir to—its precursors and harbingers—are attributed to Satanic agency (cf. John 1:12; John 2:6; Luke 13:16; 1 Corinthians 5:5).
(2) Christ is not here said to have as yet abolished death itself; only to have rendered impotent him that had the power of it; for natural death still "reigns," though to believers it has no "sting." In the end (according to 1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelations 20:14; 21:4) death itself will be destroyed. In one passage, indeed, it is spoken of by St. Paul as already abolished (καταργήσαντος μὲν τὸν θάνατον, 2 Timothy 1:10); but this is in the way of anticipation: death is already vanquished and disarmed to believers.
(3) The bondage (δουλεία) spoken of is the condition of unredeemed man, often so designated by St. Paul. See Romans 7:1-25. and 8., where man's bondage (felt when conscience is awake) to "the law of sin in the members," and his emancipation from it through faith, are described; and especially Romans 8:15, Romans 8:16, Romans 8:17 ("For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear," etc), as elucidating
(4)The word ἔνοχος, followed this passage by the genitive (δουλείας), expresses here more than "liability to;" it implies present implication, equivalent to "in hold to." The A.V., "subject to," expresses the idea adequately.
Hebrews 2:16, Hebrews 2:17
For verily, etc. The A.V. (following the ancient interpreters) takes this verse as referring to the Incarnation. But
(1) ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι σπέρματος and, still more, ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι ἀγγέλων, seems an awkward way of expressing "to assume the nature of." The usual sense of the verb, followed by a genitive, is "to take hold of," as ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι χειρός; and especially in the sense of "succouring" (cf. Matthew 14:31; Hebrews 8:9; Isa 31:1-9 :32, Ἐν ἡμέρα ἐπιλᾶμβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν; and Ecclus. 4:11, Ἡ σοφία ἐπιλαμβάνεται τῶν ζητούντων αὐτήν.
(2) The present tense of the verb is inappropriate to the past act of the Incarnation, which has, moreover, been sufficiently declared in verse 14.
(3) The sequence of though+, in the following verse is not easily intelligible if the Incarnation be the subject of this:" Whence it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren;"—this does not follow from his having become incarnate; we should rather say that his incarnation was the means of his being made like them. Translate, therefore, observing the position of the substantives before the verbs, For not, I ween, angels cloth he lay hold of (to succor them), but the seed of Abraham he doth lay hold of. The allusion is to its being the human "children of promise," and not angels, that are denoted in prophecy as being, and acknowledged to be, the object of the Messianic redemption. The expression, "the seed of Abraham," is, of course, not intended to exclude the Gentiles: it is appropriately used in reference to the Messianic promises of the Old Testament (cf. Genesis 23:1-20. Genesis 23:18; Isaiah 41:8): and the extension of its meaning to "all them that believe" would be as familiar to the first readers of the Epistle as to us (cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Romans 4:11, Romans 4:16). The conclusion of verse 17 (which repeats virtually what has been alleged before, after reason given) now naturally follows: Whence it behooved him in all things to be assimilated to his brethren; i.e. to the race which was the object of his redemptive succor. But, further, why the need of this entire assimilation, to the extent of participation in suffering unto death? That he might become a merciful (or, compassionate) high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. It was that he might be fully constituted as the High Priest of humanity. Here, according to the manner of the Epistle, the view of priesthood, to be afterwards set forth at length, is briefly hinted. It is taken up in Hebrews 5:1-14., after the conclusion that Christ is man's High Priest has been reached by another line of argument (see preceding summary). In Hebrews 5:1-14. one of the essentials of a true high priest (whose office is to mediate for man in things pertaining to God) is set forth as being that he should be of the same race and nature with those for whom he mediates, and able in all respects to sympathize with them: and this view is here foreshadowed.
Such power of sympathy Christ, by undergoing human sulk. ring and temptation, acquired. For in that (or, wherein) he hath suffered himself being tempted (or having been himself tempted in that wherein he hath suffered), he is able to succor them that are tempted.
A solemn parenthetical warning.
Out of solicitude for the spiritual well-being of his readers, the writer pauses here for a moment, to enforce upon them the necessity of' holding fast the New Testament salvation. He does so in words which are burning with urgency.
I. THE DUTY. How prone men are to "neglect the great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3)! All classes of sinners do so—the blasphemer, the infidel, the self-righteous mart, the respectable worldling, the procrastinator. Thousands of church-going people ignore the gospel, out of love of the world and secret repugnance to Christ and his cross. Even believers themselves are very prone to "drift away from" (Hebrews 2:1) their anchorage in the gospel verities. The early Hebrew Christians were strongly tempted to relapse into Judaism; our besetting danger is that we allow ourselves to glide with the multitude down the swift current of worldliness and indifference. We need, therefore, "to give the more earnest heed." Want of heedfulness on the part of professing believers is a great evil of our time. "My people doth not consider." What a blessing would dawn upon the Church, were all its members to begin to "search the Scriptures," and to make intense application of mind and heart to the spiritual study of saving truth! Only thus will Christian faith both live and grow. Only thus may one's life be a life of real devotion to the Redeemer. Only by discharging this duty of constant watchfulness will a believer be preserved from apostasy.
II. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED. "Therefore" (Hebrews 2:1); i.e. on account of all that has been said in the previous chapter.
1. The greatness of the gospel. "So great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). What an unfathomable depth of meaning underlies this little word "so"! The new revelation far transcends the old, inasmuch as in the Son we have received a visible manifestation of God, an adequate atonement for sin, an intelligible exhibition of the spirituality of religious service, a perfect expression of the dignity of man, and a clear revelation of eternal life. Especially does the new economy excel the old in the distinctness with which it exhibits "salvation" as its characteristic feature. The gospel proclaims the love of God. It offers pardon. It breathes a new life into the soul. It rescues from the despotism of sin. It promises a glorious immortality. And at what an infinite expenditure has this salvation been provided! It cost the incarnation of Christ, together with his obedience, suffering and death. It costs still the pleadings and strivings of the Spirit.
2. The dignity of its first Preacher. "At the first spoken through the Lord." (Hebrews 2:3). In Hebrews 1:1-14., the writer has unfolded and illustrated from Scripture the glory of Christ. He is greater than the prophets of the Old Testament, and. more eminent than the angels by whose ministrations the Sinaitic Law had been proclaimed. He is the Son of God—his visible manifestation and his exact counterpart. He made and sustains and possesses the universe. He is not only the Prophet of the Church; he is its atoning Priest and. its exalted King. And this first Preacher continues with the Church as its perennial Prophet. He speaks to us today and always by his Word and Spirit.
3. The attestations which it has receive& (Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:4) The Church has the testimony of the apostles and early evangelists to the facts and doctrines of the gospel. These were even sealed from heaven by the miracles of Christ and. his apostles, as well as by gifts from the fullness of the Spirit distributed among the early Christians. But we have now far greater witness than these. The highest evidence of the truth is the truth itself. The history of the Church has been an ever-cumulating attestation of Christianity. Myriads of believers have certified the gospel by their experience of its power within their hearts. It has been attested from millions of death-beds. "We are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses."
4. The inevitable doom of those who neglect it. (Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 1:3) If the Law, given by angels, could not be violated with impunity, how much more certain and dreadful must be the ruin of all who reject the message of mercy spoken by the lips of the Lord- himself (Hebrews 10:28-31)! Escape for such is plainly impossible. For did not man's redemption cost the tears and. groans and blood of the Redeemer? Had these not been indispensably necessary, they would not have been expended. And what can any despiser of them propose to put in their place? Let professing Christians remember that they will miss salvation if they merely neglect it. As the farmer will lose his harvest by simple neglect, as the business man will become bankrupt by simple neglect, as the scholar will strip himself of his attainments by simple neglect, so the surest way by which to accomplish the irremediable ruin of the soul is just to "neglect so great salvation." In conclusion, these four motives to heedfulness are the very strongest that can be urged. The Three Persons of the Trinity all speak to us in them. They remind us at once of the unutterable love of God, and of the power of his anger. They appeal to the most sacred interests of our souls. If we are not aroused by these motives, even God himself can do no more for us.
The royalty of man.
The apostle, in beginning to touch upon the humiliation and death of Christ, shows that these arrangements brought him no dishonor. God had subordinated the new dispensation, not to angels, but to man (Hebrews 2:5); and human nature, restored in Christ to its imperial dignity, is destined to ultimate exaltation above angelic nature.
I. MAN'S NATIVE SOVEREIGNTY. The writer cites, in illustration of this, the testimony of Psalms 8:1-9. (Psalms 8:6-8). Here we have:
1. Man's lofty nature. (Psalms 8:7) Humanity had a splendid origin. Though clothed meanwhile in a mortal body, our nature did not crawl up to its present position from primeval "sentient slime;" it belonged from the beginning to the same order of being as God its Maker. The first man was not a savage. He wore the crown of reason and conscience and moral freedom. In his spiritual and immortal nature he was made in the image of God. God was "mindful of him," and "visited him."
2. His kingly prerogative. "And didst set him over the works of thy hands" (Psalms 8:7). In bestowing upon man this illustrious kinship with himself, God placed in his hand the scepter of authority over all the creatures. The world was made that he might be its master, and rule over it as God's viceroy.
3. His universal dominion. "Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet" (Psalms 8:8). Not the inferior animals only, as Psalms 8:1-9. might lead us to conclude; but, as we learn here, as well as from 1 Corinthians 15:27, the entire visible and invisible universe. Even the world of angels is by-and-by through Christ to be subordinated to man. It is only "for a little while 'that man is to remain "lower" than they.
II. HIS FAILURE TO REALIZE HIS SOVEREIGNTY. "But now we see not yet all things subjected to him" (1 Corinthians 15:8).
1. His nature is debased. Man's course in the world has not been one of continuous upward development. So far from that, it has been a course of deterioration from the golden age of his original maturity. "The crown is fallen from our head." Man used his freedom to destroy his innocence. His spiritual nature is in ruins. He is the slave of his own evil passions. He feels far away from God, and he has lost all fellowship with him.
2. His authority is resisted. So soon as Adam rebelled against God, nature began to renounce allegiance to him. Having lost his purity, he forfeited the lordship, which had been his birthright. Since the Fall, man has not been able to master even the material world. Uncivilized nations live in ignorance of many of the simplest physical laws; and the most advanced rather wrestle with the forces of nature than command them.
3. His power is partial. How impotent man is in presence of earthquake and tempest! Frost and snow are mightier than he. Wild beasts defy him. Insect hordes destroy his harvests. Disease and death triumph over him. Man cannot rule his own spirit; and as for dominion over the spiritual world beyond himself, he is unable to see how such a thing can be possible at all.
III. HIS RE-CORONATION IN CHRIST. (1 Corinthians 15:9) The apostle's comment upon David's words fills them with new light and glory, by showing how their fulfillment centers in Jesus. He has become the focus of man's destined royalty.
1. The life of Jesus exhibits the Divine ideal of man. We understand what is recant by our creation in God's image when we "behold;" him. He has lifted our crown from the dust, and set it upon his own head. Think of his life of spotless purity and holy familiarity with God during the years in which he continued "a little lower than the angels." He was, while on earth, the Second Adam—the Son of man—the Type of imperial manhood. While in the world he exercised dominion over the creatures; and at length he was exalted to God's right hand, where our faith now sees him.
2. His death gives man power to reach up to that ideal. Jesus voluntarily submitted to his humiliation and sufferings and death that he might put away the sin which has robbed man of crown and scepter. In tasting death he drank up the curse. His sacrifice has vindicated the righteousness and justice of God, and his blood has power to renew and sanctify the human soul. So, those who become united to him in his death are delivered from the thraldom of sin, and participate with him in his kingdom (Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:6).
3. His glory is the pledge of man's restored dominion. The last clause of 1 Corinthians 15:9 reminds us that seeing Jesus has himself triumphed over death, the benefits of his death have become, by virtue of his exaltation, available for all. His people, being one with him, shall partake of all the "glory and honor" with which, as the God-Man, he has been "crowned." Man's restoration to imperial power is already being foreshadowed on earth, in the increasing triumphs of science and art among Christian nations, and in the gradual victory of what is moral and spiritual over brute force and evil passion. And in heaven the saints shall reign with Christ. They shall stand nearer the throne than the seraphim. They "shall judge angels." The whole of Christ's vast empire shall be theirs (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
In conclusion, let us:
1. Cherish the scriptural idea of man's dignity.
2. Remember that we can realize our destiny only in Christ.
3. Seek a saving interest in his atoning death.
4. Consecrate soul and life to his service.
5. Imitate him as the pattern Man.
6. Live in a manner befitting the great hope which we have in him.
The necessity of Christ's sufferings.
The Savior's sufferings, while he was on earth, were:
1. Numerous. They covered his whole life, and culminated in his "tasting death."
2. Various. He suffered in body and mind and heart, and at the hands of earth and hell and heaven. But his severest sorrows were spiritual—"the travail of his soul."
3. Unparalleled. His were the substitutionary sufferings of a perfectly holy human nature in most intimate identity with God.
4. Divinely inflicted. It is implied here that "it pleased the Lord to bruise him." The humiliation of Christ, so far from being incompatible with his headship, was indispensable in order thereto. He required to suffer—
I. THAT HE MIGHT VINDICATE THE GLORY OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER. The glory of God himself is the ultimate reason, as his will is the law, of all things. "It became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things;" i.e. the moral character of God rendered it needful that Jesus should taste death, if sinful man was to be saved. The necessity of the atonement did not arise only from the exigencies of God's moral government. It was not effected merely that its power might soften the sinner's heart into repentance. Rather, it was demanded by the perfections and character of God himself. The sufferings of Christ "became" God's justice, which could not connive at our guilt; his truth, which necessitated the infliction of the threatened punishment; his holiness, which could have no pleasure in the friendship of degraded sinners; his mercy, which yearned for our salvation. Not only so, but the sufferings of Christ, in rendering the salvation of sinners consistent with God's character, have at the same time been the means of gloriously illustrating the Divine attributes, of revealing them in their beautiful harmony (Psalms 85:10, Psalms 85:11), and thus of covering them with new splendor to the view of an admiring universe.
II. THAT HE MIGHT OBTAIN HIS OWN GLORY AS MEDIATOR. Christ;, "the Author of our salvation," was "made perfect through sufferings;" i.e. it was through his "obedience unto death" that he became fully qualified for his work as Savior, and was exalted to heaven for its accomplishment. He must needs suffer for the honor of God and for the good of man, before he could put on the lustrous robes of his mediatorial majesty. His glory is the recompense which his Father has given him for his sufferings. Only after making satisfaction on the cross for human sin could Jesus ascend to that immeasurable height of supreme authority upon which, as the God-Man, he now sits enthroned.
III, THAT HE MIGHT ACCOMPLISH THE GLORY OF GOD'S REDEEMED CHILDREN. It was the purpose of God to "bring many sons unto glory." He desired to raise our fallen humanity from the dust, and crown it anew "with glory and honor." But this could only be effected through Christ as the "Author of salvation." It is through him alone that a sinner, estranged from God, can be made spiritually a "son" of God, and exchange his career of guilt and enmity for that life of grace which shall at length be consummated in glory. The sufferings of Christ were necessary in order to the pacification of the human conscience, the restoration of man's sonship, and the recovery of his eternal inheritance. And. they shall be effectual for these ends. Christ, God's Servant, "shall justify many;" he shall bring to glory such multitudes of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and- tongues, as to entitle him to be called with fullest emphasis the Savior of men and the Redeemer of the world.
Jesus our Brother.
Here the writer expands the statement of Hebrews 2:10, and confirms it by suitable arguments. This closing paragraph of the first section of the Epistle emphasizes the fact that Jesus, the Son of God and the King of angels (Hebrews 1:1-14), is also as Mediator our brother Man.
I. THE BROTHERHOOD OF CHRIST. First, stated abstractly (Hebrews 2:11). Next, illustrated from Old Testament Scripture (Hebrews 2:12, Hebrews 2:13), the Messianic passages quoted being Psalms 22:22; Psalms 18:2; Isaiah 8:18. Then, verified from the facts and events of the Savior's earthly life (Isaiah 8:14-18). This endearing brotherhood is:
1. A brotherhood of nature. "All of one" (Isaiah 8:11); of one nature, of one race, of one Father. He "partook of flesh and blood" (Isaiah 8:14); i.e. he became man. He took his place as one of "the children" by being born. He had a human body, Subject, like ours, to pleasure and pain, to hunger and thirst, to suffering and death. And he had a human soul, which thought and felt, loved and hated, was joyful and sad, and which acknowledged its dependence upon the Father of spirits.
2. A brotherhood of condition. "In like manner" (Isaiah 8:14); i.e. in a manner almost similar. Jesus had no nimbus round his head, such as the painters give him. God sent him "in the likeness of sinful flesh;" for, though his human nature was perfectly pure, it was exposed to those infirmities and sufferings which in all other sons of Adam result from sin.
3. A brotherhood of experience. "It behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren" (Isaiah 8:17). So he actually passed through a complete course of pain and trial and temptation, which ended only with his death. He traveled over the entire range, and fathomed all the depths, of human suffering. "He himself hath suffered, being tempted" (Isaiah 8:18). He went through every human experience of poverty, toil, pain, disappointment, insult, persecution; through every sorrow which arises in a pure mind from constant contact with sinners; and through every form of Satanic temptation.
4. A brotherhood of love. "Not of angels doth he take hold" (Isaiah 8:16), to help and save them: then what a wonder of grace it is that he became the Redeemer of mortal man! It was from love to us that he "partook" so readily of "flesh and blood," that by this means he might raise humanity to a higher pinnacle of glory than any on which the loftiest angel can set foot. It is because of this love "beyond a brother's" that even now he does not disdain "to call us brethren" (Isaiah 8:11).
II. THE PURPOSES ACCOMPLISHED BY CHRIST'S BROTHERHOOD. Some expressions in the passage state these generally.
(1) "He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham" (Isaiah 8:16), to pluck them from sin and Satan.
(2) "That he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest" (Isaiah 8:17): here we meet this famous title of Christ, "High Priest," for the first time—a title which strikes the key-note of the Epistle, and which is not given to him in any other book of the New Testament.
(3) "He that sanctifieth" (Isaiah 8:11). Christ became incarnate that he might consecrate his people by delivering them from sin. Or, more in detail, he became our brother:
1. To expiate sins. (Isaiah 8:17) By his death in our nature he has offered to God a perfect satisfaction for the sin of the world. The perfection of his sacrifice is due to the fact that he who suffered is the same glorious personage who is described in Hebrews 1:1-14. as the Son of God, the eternal Jehovah, the Creator and Possessor of the universe.
2. To deliver/rein death and Satan. (Hebrews 1:14, 15) "The sting of death is sin;" but death is powerless to harm the new life of those who are cleansed with the atoning blood. Sin was introduced at first by the devil, and death through sin, and so death is associated with the devil's usurpation; but Jesus has "bruised the serpent's head," rendering him impotent in relation to "the children" who are to be brought to glory. They are emancipated by their elder Brother from death's power and fear.
3. To enable him to sympathize with his people. (Verses 17, 18) He passed, as our Brother-Man, through every variety of trial and sorrow, that we may learn to have confidence in him, as being fully able to sustain and cheer us amid the darkest experiences of affliction (Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 4:16).
4. To "bring many sons unto glory." (Hebrews 1:10) Jesus is our Moses and Joshua. He became our Brother that he might be our Leader through the wilderness of this world up to the heavenly Canaan. Had he not "partaken of flesh and blood," there would have been no inheritance for us. "The humanization of God is the divinization of man."
1. The native value of human nature, as seen in the fact that Christ has assumed it, to redeem it.
2. "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable Gift?
3. How great the madness of the man who rejects Christ's offered brotherhood!
4. The necessity of union with Christ by faith, if we would have him claim us as his brethren.
5. The comfort of knowing, in our days of trouble, that the God-Man cherishes for us the love of a brother.
6. The duty of loving our brethren in Christ (Hebrews 13:1).
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
The superior privileges of Christians.
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to," etc. The "therefore" connects this chapter with the preceding. Because the Son of God is immeasurably greater than the angels, "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard," etc. Our text presents to us a view of the superior privileges and the more solemn responsibilities of Christians as compared with those who lived in the earlier dispensation. We shall confine our attention at present to the former portion of the subject, which we may state thus—The privileges of this Christian dispensation are much superior to those of the Mosaic economy.
I. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS MADE BY ANGELS, THE LATER BY THE LORD. The Law was a "word spoken by angels." The Law came from God, but it was given to Moses by the mediation and ministry of angels. They were present and assisted at the giving of the Law on Sinai. The testimony of Scripture upon this point is conclusive (see Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). And Josephus says, "Our best maxims and most excellent laws we have learned of God by means of angels." And Philo: "There were present at the giving of the Law, visible sounds, animated and splendid, flames of fire, spirits, trumpets, and Divine men running hither and hither." But the revelation of the gospel was by the Son of God—"having at the first been spoken by the Lord." "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Inasmuch as the Son is higher than the angels, insomuch is the revelation of the gospel higher than that of the Law.
II. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS CONFIRMED BY SUPERNATURAL AND TERRIBLE SIGNS, THE LATER BY MORE NUMEROUS AND GRACIOUS SUPERNATURAL SIGNS. Very awful and alarming were the extraordinary phenomena at the giving of the Law. "The mount burned with fire," etc. (Hebrews 12:18-21). "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke," etc. (Exodus 19:18). But the gospel revelation is more abundantly and more convincingly confirmed. "God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders," etc. (Hebrews 2:4). The miraculous confirmations of the Christian revelation were:
1. More numerous than those of the revelation of the Law. The Savior's public ministry was marked by an almost unbroken series of miraculous works.
2. More marvelous. To raise the dead to life again with a word is far more wonderful than all the fire and smoke, the thunderings and trumpetings and tremblings of Sinai.
3. More various. The miracles of Sinai seem to have been limited to the phenomena and forces of nature. But those which were wrought by our Lord and his apostles related to nature's forces, to nature's products, to diseases of the body, to diseases of the mind, to evil spirits, to life and death.
4. More beneficent. At the giving of the Law the miracles were amazing and alarming, and fitted to impress and awe an uncultivated people. But the miracles associated with the promulgation of the gospel, while even more amazing, were also gracious and helpful, beneficent and rich in blessing, and fitted, not to terrify, but to attract and exalt and purify. As confirmed by these superior signs, the gospel revelation is higher than that of the Law.
III. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS IN THE LETTER, THE LITER WAS IN A LIFE. The Sinaitic Law was written; but the revelation made by the Lord was not merely in word, but in tone and accent, in gesture and expression of countenance, in involuntary influence and voluntary action. The greatest revelations are never verbal, but always vital. The deepest emotions cannot be expressed in any words. The highest truth far transcends the utterance of the loftiest eloquence of the tongue or the pen; it can be expressed only as it is lived. Thus "the greatest truth of the gospel is Christ himself—a human body become the organ of the Divine nature, and revealing, under the conditions of an earthly life, the glory of God." And when even his life in the human body could not adequately express the riches of the grace of God, he laid down his life, and perfected his revelation by voluntarily dying, "the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." And now "God commendeth his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
IV. THE EARLIER REVELATION WAS OF LAW ONLY, THE LATER IS OF A "GREAT SALVATION." "The word spoken through angels" consisted chiefly of commands and prohibitions; it expressed the authoritative" Thou shalt," and" Thou shalt not;" and it promised to the obedient life and prosperity, to the disobedient punishment and death. But ours is a revelation of grace. The gospel does not abrogate moral law; it rather insists upon its sacred authority, its great comprehensiveness, its intense spirituality, and its pure benevolence. We have law still, but it is law steeped in love. The gospel is also a revelation of forgiveness of sin for the penitent, of a new life for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and of inspiration and power for those who desire help to serve God; in a word, it is the free offer of a "great salvation." Let us briefly contemplate this "great salvation." It is:
1. Salvation from great evils. We have gazed upon the crumbling ruins of what was once a spacious and massive castle, or upon the venerable remnants of some ancient temple, and while we have pictured to ourselves the scenes of which they had been the theatre in olden days, a feeling of mournfulness has stolen over us. We have thought of the brave doings connected with the old castle—hunting, fighting, feasting, singing, dancing, love-making—all gone. We have thought of the earnest and eloquent pleadings of the servant of God in the temple, of the waves of music from pealing organ and living voices, of the devout, yearning, sorrowing, rejoicing hearts of worshippers, now all gone. Nought but ruins remain. How mournful and oppressive! These are faint pictures of the calamities which have befallen our nature through sin. The original dignity and glory, heroism and harmony, purity and peace of human nature have been lost by sin. And by sin it has become subject to guilt and fear, shame and suffering, death and dread of measureless woe hereafter. But most terrible of all is sin itself. The sinfulness, the degradation, and prostitution of our powers and our being,—these are our greatest curse. Can this fallen temple be rebuilt? etc. Is there a salvation great enough to deliver from these dread evils? Yes; "so great salvation" is this.
2. Salvation by great Agents and means. Not by angels or by men, but by "God manifest in the flesh." "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" "What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son," etc. (Romans 8:3, Romans 8:4). The "strong Son of God" is the great Savior of men. Then think of the distinguished means which he employed in effecting salvation. His marvelous incarnation, his simple and sublime teaching, his holy and beautiful life, his sacrificial sufferings and death, etc. "Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things," etc. And in bringing this salvation near to men's hearts another great Agent is employed, even the Holy Spirit (see John 15:26, John 15:27; John 16:7-15).
3. Salvation to great glory. This salvation raises man to a more glorious condition than was his before he ruined himself by sin. It saves from the lowest degradation to the highest perfection. It rescues groin hell and introduces to heaven. It includes pardon, peace, purity, perpetual progress, fellowship with God, etc.
4. Salvation of a great multitude. "Many shall come from the cast and west," etc. (Matthew 8:11). Our Lord will bring "many sons unto glory." "In my Father's house are many mansions;" "I saw, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number," etc. (Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:10). "So great salvation." How immeasurably greater, then, are our privileges than those of the men who lived under the Mosaic economy!—W. J.
The more solemn responsibilities of Christians.
"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed," etc. As a necessary sequel to our former homily on these verses, let us now consider—
I. THAT THEY TO WHOM ARE OFFERED THE GREATER PRIVILEGES OF THIS CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION ARE UNDER GREATER OBLIGATIONS THAN THEY OF THE EARLIER DISPENSATION WERE. In human relations as well as in the Divine government this principle is generally acknowledged and acted upon, that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more." This principle underlies the reasoning of our text. Our greater privileges bring us under greater responsibilities in this way.
1. The more amply verified revelation has the more imperative claim on our belief. The more convincing the evidence by which a truth is supported, the more binding is the obligation to believe that truth. To doubt the truth of that which bears the manifest seal of God is to rebel against the Divine claims upon our credence.
2. The more gracious revelation has the greater claim upon our loving acceptance. The gospel appeals not only to the reason and conscience, as the Law did, but also to the heart. It is fitted to inspire us with gratitude; it would enkindle our afflictions; it would secure our willing obedience by first eliciting our hearty trust in God. And this involves an increase of our obligations.
3. That our responsibilities are measured by our privileges is an immutable principle of the Divine government. "That servant which knew his lord's will," etc. (Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48); "A man that hath set at nought Moses' Law," etc. (Hebrews 10:28, Hebrews 10:29); "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh," etc. (Hebrews 12:25). So great are our advantages, equally great are our responsibilities.
II. TEAT IF THESE GREATER PRIVILEGES, WITH THEIR CORRESPONDING OBLIGATIONS, ARE DISREGARDED BY US, A TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION WILL OVERTAKE US. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
1. We may neglect this salvation. Though it is provided for us, offered to us freely, and we are entreated to accept it, yet we may neglect it.
(1) The fact of our moral agency shows this.
(2) The method of God's dealing with us shows it. He respects our moral freedom. He invites, entreats, reasons with, warns, and draws us; but he does not force or compel us.
(3) The hypothesis of the text also shows this. The "lest" (Hebrews 2:1) shows that we may "be diverted from" (Alford), or "drift away from" (Revised Version), "the things which we have heard." The "if" (Hebrews 2:3) shows that we may "neglect so great salvation."
2. Should we neglect this salvation, nothing can avert from us a terrible retributions. "How shall we escape?" etc. A forcible way of expressing the impossibility of escape. Under the Law "spoken through angels" retribution was certain—"every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward." How much more certain is it under the gospel! The far superior dignity of him through whom it was first spoken attests with greater force the reliableness of its retributions. The increased evidence by which it is confirmed witnesses to the increased certainty of the punishment of these who neglect it. The very grace which has provided and which offers the "great salvation" renders the punishment of those who reject it more certain and inexpressibly more terrible. Their punishment is more certain, for their guilt is greater; for the same reason it will be more terrible also. It will be punishment from One who in infinite love has done everything which he could do to save us. It will be "the wrath of the Lamb." How, then, "shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation"? Can your temporal resources open up a way for your escape? Can your own arm save you? "Hast thou an arm like God?" Can education, or science, or philosophy save you? There is but one Savior from sin, even Jesus. Accepting him, we shall be saved with "so great salvation." Neglecting him and his salvation, we shall be lost. You need not toil to secure your ruin. Neglect alone is sufficient to bring you under the most terrible condemnation and punishment. Disregard the offered salvation, and all the dread consequences of sin will fall upon you with pitiless and inflexible severity. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard," etc.—W.J.
The Divine destiny for man.
"For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection," etc. The writer now resumes the subject of the exaltation of the Son of God over the holy angels. He proceeds to show that in that human nature in which he suffered death, he is raised to supreme glory and authority, and that man also is exalted in and through him. Notice—
I. THE DESTINY FOR WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. In certain aspects of his being man seems to be an insignificant creature, and to occupy a comparatively mean position in the universe. The psalmist, who is quoted in the text, refers to this: "When I consider thy heavens,… what is man?" etc. The word translated "man" denotes the weakness and frailty of our nature; and the words translated "son of man" point to man as "formed of the dust of the ground." Yet there are aspects in which man is great; and the destiny for which God created him is a glorious one. That destiny is briefly indicated in this quotation from Psalms 8:8. It consists in:
1. A high place in the Divine regard. As evidence of this we have a twofold fact.
(1) God graciously thinks of man. "Thou art mindful of him;" "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil." God's care of man, which is manifested in the provision which he has made for him, witnesses to his thought of him. What significance it gives to our life when we reflect that the Infinite thinks upon us and cares for us! How the fact tends to exalt our nature! What a consolation and inspiration it should be to us! "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
(2) God graciously visits man. "Thou visitest him." The word used indicates a kindly visitation, as of "a physician visiting the sick." His visitation preserveth our spirits. His visits bring light and refreshment and joy. "His going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain," etc. His visits are redemptive. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people."
2. An exalted rank in creation. "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels." We have already called attention to the distinguished rank of angels in the universe, £ Man is only a little lower than they. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." Man's nature is intellectual He can reason, reflect, etc. It is spiritual. The body is the vesture of that which comes from God and returns to him. "There is a spirit in man," etc. It is moral. He can understand and feel the heinousness of the morally wrong, the majesty of the morally right. Conscience speaks within him. It is religious. He can love, admire, and adore. It is capable of endless progress. If man attains unto his Divine destiny he will for ever have to say, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." Truly, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels;" "a little less than Divine."
3. A position of kingly majesty and authority in this world.
(1) Here is regal majesty. "Thou crownedst him with glory and honor." The figure of coronation is intended to set forth the royal majesty which was conferred upon man, as of a kingly crown. Amongst creatures in this world he is royal in his faculties and capacities, and in his position.
(2) Here is regal authority. "Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet," etc. The psalmist in the original passage amplifies this "all things:" "All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field," etc. There is a reference to Genesis 1:26-28," Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea," etc. In this world man is God's vicegerent. He was made by his Creator to exercise dominion over all things and all creatures here.
II. THE FAILURE OF MAN TO REALIZE HIS TRUE DESTINY. "But now we see not yet all things put under him." It is unmistakably clear that at present man's sovereignty in the world is not complete. The scepter has slipped from his grasp. His dominion is contested. He has to contend against the creatures that were put in subjection unto him. The forces of nature sometimes scorn his authority and defy his power. Man has not now complete rule over his own being. His passions are sometimes insurgent against his principles. His senses are not always subordinate to his spirit. His appetites war against his aspirations. Sin has discrowned man. He has lost his purity, therefore has he lost his power. In his present condition he is far from realizing his glorious destiny.
III. THE DIVINE MEANS FOR ENABLING MAN TO REALIZE HIS DESTINY. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels," etc.
1. The Son of God has taken upon himself human nature. "We behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus." "Who being in the form of God, deemed not his equality with God a thing to grasp at, but emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men." As man was "made a little lower than the angels," so, in becoming man, our Lord also was "made a little lower than the angels."
2. In his human nature he endured death. "That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
(1) The death of Jesus was voluntary. In his case death was not inevitable. He was not forced to die. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," ere; "The Son of man came … to give his life a ransom for many.... Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all." The voluntariness was essential to the influence of his death as an atonement and as an inspiration.
(2) The death of Jesus was for the benefit of man. "Taste death for every man." In this place "for" (ὐπέρ) does not mean "instead of," but "on behalf of." Alford well says, "Where this ordinary meaning of ὐπέρ suffices, that of vicariousness must not be introduced. Sometimes, as e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:15, it is necessary. But here clearly not, the whole argument proceeding, not on the vicariousness of Christ's sacrifice, but on the benefits which we derive from his personal suffering for us in humanity; not on his substitution for us, but on his community with us." He died for "every man." The benefits of his death, its inspiring and redeeming power, are available "for every man"—for the poorest, the obscurest, the wickedest, etc.
(3) The death of Jesus for man is to he ascribed to the kindness of God. "That he by the grace of God should taste," etc. Our salvation is to be ascribed to the unmerited kindness and love of God towards us. "The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation unto all men." "When the kindness of God our Savior, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness," etc; "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc.
3. On account of his endurance of death he has been raised to supreme glory and authority. "Because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." His exaltation to this might and majesty is in consequence of his voluntary humiliation and suffering and death. "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him," etc. This was necessary to the perfection of his redemptive work. "On the triumphant issue of his sufferings their efficacy depends."
4. He has been exalted to this supreme position as the Head of humanity. Not the angelic but the human nature has God raised to the throne. "For not unto the angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak." This Christian economy, this new world of redemption by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, in all its developments, is placed under our Lord. In our humanity, and as our Head and Forerunner, he is enthroned the King in the new realm of Divine grace. Humanity is crowned in him. Through him alone can we realize our glorious destiny. We must:
(1) Believe in him. Our text intimates this. "We behold him … even Jesus." This "behold" does not express an indifferent, uninterested sight of him; but the earnest look of faith, the believing contemplation of him. By faith we become one with him.
(2) Imitate him. The sacrifice of the cross leads to the splendor of the crown. The true sovereignty is reached only by the way of service. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him."—W.J.
Perfection through suffering.
"For it became him, for whom are all things," etc.
I. THE PERFECTION OF THE REDEEMER WAS ATTAINED THROUGH SUFFERING. "Perfect through suffering." The perfection here spoken of does not refer to his character as Son of God, but as Mediator—"the Captain of our salvation." "The perfecting of Christ was the bringing him to that glory which was his proposed and destined end." Made "perfect through suffering" is similar in meaning to "because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." Only through suffering could he enter upon his mediatorial glory. Two thoughts are suggested.
1. Before he could attain unto his mediatorial glory his character and work as Redeemer must be complete.
2. Suffering was essential to the completeness of his character and work as Redeemer. He must suffer in order that he might
(1) sympathize with his suffering people (Hebrews 2:18);
(2) present a perfect example to his suffering people (1 Peter 2:21-24);
(3) reconcile sinners to God.
The exhibition of infinite love—love that gives up life itself, and that for enemies—was necessary to remove the alienation of man's heart from God, and to enkindle love to him in its stead. And the exhibition of perfect obedience—obedience even unto death—was necessary to establish and honor in this world the Law of God which man had broken. So our Savior was perfected through suffering; he passed through sharpest trials to sublimest triumphs.
II. THIS MODE OF REACHING PERFECTION CONSISTS WITH THE CHARACTER OF THE GREAT GOD AND FATHER. "It became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things," etc. God the Father is here represented as:
1. The great first Cause of all things. "By whom are all things." He is the Source and Origin of the entire universe.
2. The great Final Cause of all things. "For whom are all things." All things in the universe are for his glory. Creation, providence, redemption, are all designed and all tend to promote the glory of the great Father. The words under consideration are sometimes used of the Savior, and they are true of him; but they are even more applicable to God "the Father, who sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." "For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen."
3. The great Author and Designer of salvation, with its agents, means, and methods. Our Lord is spoken of in the text as the "Captain [Revised Version, 'Author'] of salvation." But, traced to its source and origin, salvation takes us up to the eternal Father. And "it became him" that he should so order the agencies and methods of salvation that the Savior should be perfected through suffering. Such an arrangement was not fatalistic or arbitrary, but suited to the object in view, the means being adapted to the end, and in thorough harmony with the character and perfections of God—his wisdom, righteousness, and love. The Hebrew Christians, whom the writer is addressing, felt the offence of the cross. There were times when in some measure "Christ crucified" was still "a stumbling-block" to them, or at least they were in danger of this. And so the writer argues that the attainment of the crown by the endurance of the cross was an arrangement worthy of God, and therefore the fulfillment of this arrangement could not be unworthy of the Savior. We have said that the means were adapted to the end; the perfection could not have been attained without the sufferings. But, more, the sufferings were in complete conformity to the being and character of God. He is not a cold, impassive Beholder of human sin and misery. He suffers by reason of man's sin and woe (cf. Isaiah 63:9; Hosea 11:8). Christ in his sufferings reveals to our race how God had felt towards us in all preceding ages.
III. THIS MODE OF REACHING PERFECTION IS EXEMPLARY FOR ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS.
1. The exalted relation of true Christians. They are "sons" of God, not simply because he is "the Father of their spirits," but also by adoption (cf. Romans 8:14-17; 1 John 3:1-3).
2. The vast number of true Christians. "Many sons unto glory." There have been ages when the number of the true and good has been comparatively small. But, as the result of Christ's mediation, the saved will be so many that no human arithmetic can count them, no human mind grasp the glorious total. Many things encourage this belief; e.g.
(1) the inexhaustible provisions of Divine grace in Jesus Christ;
(2) the immense numbers of the race who die in infancy, and through the Savior are received into glory;
(3) the prevalence of true religion throughout the world, which is being rapidly accomplished, and the triumph of Divine grace over human sin, which may be continued for many long ages before the end of this dispensation;—these and other things encourage the belief that our Lord will lead to glory an overwhelming majority of our race.
3. The inspiring relation which our Lord sustains to true Christians. He is "the Captain [Revised Version, 'Author'] of their salvation." The word in this place certainly has a deeper significance than "captain" or leader. Salvation originated in the heart of God, but it was accomplished by Christ. He redeemed us unto God by his blood; and now he inspires and empowers and leads us onward to complete victory.
4. The illustrious destiny to which he leads true Christians. "Unto glory." This is the crowning result of their salvation. They shall be sharers in the blessedness and majesty of God to the fullest extent of which they are capable (cf. John 17:22-24; Revelation 3:21).
5. The pathway by which he leads them to their destiny. Like himself, they also must be made "perfect through sufferings." "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (cf. 1 Peter 5:10, 1 Peter 5:11). Wherefore, let us not be afraid of suffering. Only let us be sure that we suffer with our Savior and in his spirit; so shall we ultimately share his bliss and glory.—W. J.
Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 2:12
The oneness of the Sanctifier and the sanctified.
"For both he that sanctifieth and they who are," etc.
I. THE ONENESS OF OUR LORD WITH MAN. "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one."
1. Our Lord is of one nature with man. This is what many take to be the meaning of the writer in this place. The Savior was truly human. As a man, he hungered and thirsted, ate and drank, was wearied and slept, sorrowed and wept, suffered and died. His humanity was a real thing.
2. But unity of spiritual relation seems to be set forth here. The text certainly points to something higher than the mere physical oneness of Christ with all men. It is not his relation to all men that is here expressed, but his relation as Sanctifier to all who are being sanctified through him. It is this union of spiritual relationship which is here meant. The Sanctifier and the sanctified are all of one God and Father. They "are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" they "have received the Spirit of adoption," etc. Our Lord not only stooped down to our nature, but he lifts our nature into fellowship and oneness with God. Thus the Sanctifier and they who are being sanctified are all of one "God, the spiritual Father as of Christ, so also of those who are descended from Christ" (cf. John 20:17).
II. THE WORK OF OUR LORD FOR MAN. He is here represented as the Sanctifier of his people. The word used in the text suggests the ideas of:
1. Expiation. It does not seem to us that we are warranted in making this interpretation exclusive of others (as M. Stuart does, who translates "both he who maketh expiation and they for whom expiation is made"). But ἁγιάζω may point to the atoning death of Christ. "While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." "God reconciled us to himself through Christ." Sanctification is impossible apart from reconciliation to God, and that reconciliation is effected by means of the death of Christ. "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 10:10).
2. Consecration. They who are sanctified have consecrated themselves to God. They are devoted to him; they do not live with common aims or for common cuds; but at all times, and even in commonest duties, they live for God and for his glory. They have presented themselves "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God," etc.
3. Transformation. "They who are sanctified;" literally, "they who are being sanctified," are being made true and right in word and deed, in thought and feeling. They are not sinless or perfect. Their sanctification is not yet complete, but it is in progress. They are being transformed into the image of their Lord and Savior. But how can our Lord be said to be the Sanctifier? The Holy Spirit is the great Agent in the transforming process; but the expiation or atonement was made by Christ. And while consecration, or dedication to God, is the act of the Christian, the mighty impulse from which that act springs comes from the Christ. And in the transforming work Christ sends "the sanctifying Spirit; he is the Head of all sanctifying influences. The Spirit sanctifieth as the Spirit of Christ."
III. THE CONDESCENSION OF OUR LORD TOWARDS MAN. "For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy Name unto my brethren," etc. Though he is "Lord of men as well as angels," he calls his people his brethren. Notwithstanding the lowliness of their condition and the crudeness and imperfection of their character, he graciously acknowledges them as his brethren (cf. Matthew 28:10; John 20:17).
1. Here is encouragement to address our Lord in our tithes of need. "Though now ascended up on high … He bends on earth a Brother's eye;" and he has a brother's heart towards us.
2. Here is reason why we should confess him, as our Lord and Savior. Since he acknowledges us as his brethren, let us humbly and heartily acknowledge him as our Savior and Sovereign.
3. Here is reason for acknowledging the lowliest Christian as our brother. Shall we refuse to recognize as our spiritual kindred those whom our Lord calls his brethren?
4. Here is incitement to the cultivation of holiness. Since Christ is engaged in our sanctification, "let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit," etc. (2 Corinthians 7:1).—W.J.
Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15
The incarnation of the Son of God.
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers," etc.
I. THE GREAT FACT OF THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same." These words suggest:
1. The reality of our Lord's human nature. He partook of our flesh and blood. His body was real, and not merely phenomenal. His physical experiences—e.g., weariness, hunger, thirst, pain, death—were real, not pretended. His human soul also, with its sympathies and antipathies, was genuine.
2. A peculiarity of our Lord's human nature. His human nature was voluntarily assumed. He partook of flesh and blood. We could not apply these words to Moses or to St. Paul without manifest absurdity. We had no choice as to whether we should be or not be, or what we should be; whether we should exist at all, or, if we were to exist, what form of existence should be ours. But he had. We were brought into this world without our will; he "came into the world" of his own will. "He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant." This implies:
(1) His existence before his incarnation. "His goings forth were from of old, from everlasting."
(2) His power over his own existence. He could take upon himself what form of existence he pleased. He had power over his life. He had "power to lay it down, and power to take it again."
(3) His deep interest in human existence. "He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor," etc.
II. THE GRAND DESIGN OF THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD. "That through death he might bring to nought him that," etc.
1. Our Lord became man in order that he might die. All other men die because they are human, and their death is unavoidable; but he assumed our nature for the express purpose of acquiring the capability of death. His death was of stupendous importance. He looked forward to it; he preannounced it to his disciples; he deliberately advanced to it; he voluntarily endured it.
2. Our Lord died in order that he might vanquish death. "That through death he might bring to nought him that had," etc. He does this
(1) By the abolition of Satan's power over death. Satan may be said to have the power of death, inasmuch as:
(a) Death, as we know it, is the result of sin, and he introduced sin into our world, and is actively engaged in propagating it. "The sting of death is sin." But for sin, it might have been "a gentle wafting to immortal life."
(b) He kindles the passions which lead on to death; e.g. anger and revenge, which often result in murder; lust of territory, which often causes war, etc.
(c) He inspires the mind with terror in the anticipation of death. The gloomy and dreadful ideas which are frequently associated with death are probably suggested by him. Our Lord died to render this power of Satan ineffective, and in this respect to bring him to nought. How his death effects this we will inquire shortly.
(2) By the emancipation of man from the thraldom of the dread of death. Men recoil in alarm from death for several reasons; e.g.:
(a) The supposed anguish of dying. A good Christian who was drawing near to the river of death said, "I have no doubt of going to heaven; but oh, the crossing, the crossing!"
(b) The painful separations which death causes. Tennyson truly expresses the feeling of many in this respect—
"For this alone on Death I wreak
The wrath that garners in my heart;
He puts our lives so far apart
We cannot hear each other speak."
(c) The appalling mystery as to what lies beyond death-
"The dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns."
(d) The solemn judgment to which it leads. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, judgment." The dread of death, for these and other reasons, holds men in bondage, enslaves them; they cannot shake it off. Our Lord died to set them free from this thraldom. But how does his death effect this? He was "manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." As an atonement for sin, his death removes the guilt of all who heartily believe on him. Death is no longer penal to them. For them "the sting of death" is taken away. Again, since Christ died and rose again from the dead, death wears a new aspect to the Christian. It is no longer the end of our existence, but an onward and upward step in our existence. It means not repression, but development; not loss, but gain; not the way to darkness and misery, but to light and joy. Death to the Christian is no longer "the king of terrors," but the kind servant of the Lord and Giver of life.
Death is the crown of life:
Were death denied, poor man would live in vain;
Were death denied, to live would not be life;
Were death denied, even fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure; we fall, we rise, we reign!
Spring from our fetters; fasten in the skies,
Where blooming Eden withers in our sight.
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost.
This king of terrors is the prince of peace."
Thus, by his own voluntary death, the Son of God brings to nought Satan's power of death, and sets free the captives of the dread of death. Death itself remains, but its character and aspect to the Christian are completely changed. The evil of death is vanquished, and transformed into blessing. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."—W. J.
The reasons why Christ redeemed men rather than angels.
"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels," etc. The rendering of the Revised Version gives the true meaning: "For verily not of angels doth he take hold, but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham." The text starts a very grave inquiry. Why did Christ come to the help of lost men in preference to that of lost angels? Seeing that both were fallen, both were in a state of sin and misery, and neither were able to save themselves, nor had any claim upon his pity and power, why did the Divine Being determine to raise and restore lost men, while leaving lost angels in darkness and ruin? First we will endeavor to answer this inquiry negatively.
I. NOT BECAUSE THAT, WHILE MEN NEEDED HELP, ANGELS DID NOT NEED IT. Man needed Divine redemption. A sinner, he needs forgiveness; lost, he needs restoration, etc. The sacred Scriptures, the history of our race, and our personal experience, unite in affirming our need of the saving help of Jesus Christ. The Word of God assures us that there are angels who also need help. It tells of a number of fallen, sinful, suffering angelic beings who are reserved in bondage and darkness until the day of final account (see John 8:44; 2Pe 2:4; 1 John 3:8; Jud 1 John 1:6; Revelation 20:10). Their need is as great as man's.
II. NOT BECAUSE ANGELS WERE IN ANY WAY INFERIOR TO MEN EITHER IN NATURE OR ABILITY. TO US it would have seemed probable that, if only one of the two races of sinners was to be saved, the preference would have been given to the greater of the two. Regarding the matter from our standpoint, the greater and more glorious a being is the more worthy is he of redemption, and the treasures of wisdom and love expended in his redemption will lead to richer results. It was not on this principle that God, in his Son, came to the help of men and not to that of angels. In being and capacity we believe that angels are greater than men. In our remarks on the preceding chapter £ we endeavored to show that angels are the highest orders of created beings. And the fall of angels did not strip them of their power. And since angels are greater than men, it follows that their fall must have been greater. Their immense powers being perverted render them mightier for mischief than beings el inferior powers could be. Hence how great was their need of help! And if restored to their original condition, would not their restoration bring greater glory to their Restorer than the restoration of beings who are lower in the scale of being?
III. NOT BECAUSE ANGELS, IF LEFT WITHOUT HELP, WOULD SUFFER LESS THAN MEN WOULD HAVE DONE IF THEY HAD BEEN SO LEFT. The greatest sufferings are not those of the body, but those of the mind and heart. And the measure of suffering endured by any one is regulated by his mental and moral capacity. Therefore, if our estimate of angelic capacity be correct, being left without redemption the sufferings of angels will be greater than man's would have been if he had been so left. Their vast powers must be terrible instruments of self-torture. Their remembrance of the irrevocable past must also augment their misery. Their recollection of their lost heritage must greatly increase the anguish which afflicts them. But we have no such memories. Only two of our race experienced the joys of that Eden from which sin has exiled us. We know not the peace and bliss of the human heart in its original state. Hence we conclude that the sufferings of angels are greater than those of men would have been if they had been left without the saving help of God.
IV. NOT BECAUSE OF AN ARBITRARY SOVEREIGNTY ON THE PART OF GOD. The sovereignty of God is the sovereignty of infinite wisdom and love. To say that he chose to restore mankind and to leave angels to their dread doom because of his sovereignty is unsatisfactory. He made the choice in his sovereignty; but what was the reason for the exercise of his sovereignty in this particular way? He is absolutely independent; but he ever acts from wise and worthy reasons, and never from caprice or for the mere assertion of his sovereignty. We may not be able always to discover the reasons of his decisions and deeds; but there are reasons, and perfect ones, for them all, though we see them not. Thus far, then, we have met with no good ground why the Deity should have determined to save lost men rather than lost angels. Our examination would have led us to conclude rather, that if one race was to be helped and the other abandoned, the angelic sinners would have been elected to the blessing. Let us now answer the inquiry which is before us affirmatively.
I. BECAUSE THE GUILT OF FALLEN ANGELS WAS GREATER THAN THAT OF MAN. We attach much greater guilt to one who commits a crime with little or no temptation, than we do to one who commits the same crime under the influence of powerful temptation. Now, Satan was not tempted to sin by any force without himself. We cannot trace the origin of sin beyond Satan. How inexpressibly guilty must he be who generated the first sinful thought, and that in a universe of light and holiness! But man, in the young days of his innocence, was tempted to sin by a subtle, powerful being. The temptation was presented in a pleasing and persuasive form; it appealed at once to the sense of taste, to the love of beauty, and to the desire for knowledge; and man yielded to it, and fell. But his guilt appears to us to be far less than that of the angels who sinned. Is it not a reasonable conclusion that God marks the degrees of guilt, notes every aggravating or extenuating circumstance, and treats the offender accordingly?
II. BECAUSE EVERY FALLEN ANGEL CONSENTED TO THE TRANSGRESSION BY WHICH THEY FELL, WHILE MAN, THROUGH THE LAWS OF HIS BEING, SUFFERS FROM THE SIN OF THE FIRST TRANSGRESSORS TO WHICH THEY ALONE CONSENTED. The sin of the angels affected only those of their number who were guilty of actual participation therein. But the condition of every man is greatly affected through the sin of the first parents of our race. The way in which men are brought into being differs from that of angels. Generation obtains amongst men, but not amongst angels. We are born with an inclination, a bias, to that which is evil. Were it not for the grace of God, that inclination would be irresistible. If Christ had not come to our help, we must have been utterly ruined by reason of a transgression for which we could not possibly have been in any way responsible. Here, then, we have a very powerful reason why God should provide redemption for man rather than for angels.
III. BECAUSE THE PREFERENCE SHOWN TO MAN FURNISHES A STRIKING ILLUSTRATION OF DIVINE JUSTICE, WHICH EXERCISES A SALUTARY INFLUENCE ON BOTH UNFALLEN ANGELS AND REDEEMED MEN. Had the preference been given to fallen angels it would not have set forth the justice of God. It could not have been just to have provided help for the guiltier race while leaving the less guilty race to perish; or to have redeemed those who individually consented to the rebellion, while resigning to ruin untold millions who took no part in the sin by which their race fell. But in the preference given to fallen man, we have a clear manifestation of the justice of God. The fact that he has left fallen angels to their righteous doom, being known to the unfallen universe, will bind the good more firmly in their allegiance to the Almighty. And a knowledge of the great price with which fallen men were redeemed will so impress the saved with the evil of sin, and the justice of God, and the benevolence of the Divine Law, and the love of the heavenly Father, as to secure their everlasting and ever- growing loyalty to God. Thus even we, with our dim perceptions and feeble reason, can discover wise and worthy reasons for the Divine choice of lost man for redemption rather than of lost angels. "Just and true are all thy ways, thou King of saints;" "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" etc. (Romans 11:33-36). Two inferences of great importance are deducible from our subject.
1. That the guilt of those who reject the proffered help of Christ is greater than that of fallen angels. How great soever the guilt of demons may be, they have not incurred that of rejecting the gracious offers of pardon and restoration. But those men who neglect the great salvation must quench the Holy Spirit, harden their hearts against the drawings of the Savior's love, and the Mace of the Divine Father, etc. Of such sin even demons are not guilty.
2. That the blessedness of those who accept the help of Christ will be greater, in some respects, than that of holy angels. Angels have many joys, but the joy of redemption they know not; man alone knows that joy; and it appears to us that of all joys it must be the deepest, tenderest, intensest. Let us personally avail ourselves of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.—W.J.
Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18
Our great High Priest—his functions and qualifications.
"Wherefore in all things it behooved him," etc.
I. THE FUNCTIONS OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
1. To make atonement for man as a sinner. "A High Priest … to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Various are the renderings of this clause. Revised Version, "to make propitiation;" Alford, "to make expiation;" Ebrard, and Stuart also, "to make atonement." Ebrard says, "Ἱλάσκεσθαι comes from ἵλαος … Ἵλαος denotes, not the internal disposition of God towards man, but the actual, positive expression and radiation of that feeling which first becomes again possible towards the redeemed; and ἱλάσκεσθαι means to make it again possible for God to be ἵλᾶος, i.e. to make a real atonement for real guilt." Whence arises this need of atonement? Not because God was indisposed to forgive and save man. It has been well said by Delitzsch, "As the Old Testament nowhere says that sacrifice propitiated God's wrath, lest it should be thought that sacrifice was an act by which, as such, man influenced God to show him grace; so also the New Testament never says that the sacrifice of Christ propitiated God's wrath, lest it may be thought that it was an act anticipatory of God's gracious purpose, which obtained, and, so to speak, forced from God, previously reluctant, without his own concurrence, grace instead of wrath." The death of Jesus Christ for us was the expression of the love of God towards us, and not its procuring cause. Why, then, was the sacrifice of the cross necessary to the forgiveness of our sin and the sanctification of our being?
(1) To maintain the majestic authority of God's Law. Obedience to law is an indispensable condition of moral well-being. Man cannot be saved except in harmony with it. The perfect obedience of our Lord, who was'" obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross," is the most striking and significant testimony "that the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."
(2) To meet the deep needs of man's spiritual nature. Man needs the removal of his alienation from God. His sins have separated between him and his God. He is alienated and an enemy in his mind by wicked works. And the death of the Only Begotten of the Father was necessary to reconcile him to God. That death was both "a response to the imperious claims of the eternal law of righteousness, and the final appeal of the Divine love to the conscience and affections of the human race." That appeal moves man's heart, and awakens within it love to God. Moreover, man needs the satisfaction of the instinct of right now awakened within him. The truly penitent soul, knowing that sin is rightly followed by suffering, and if persisted in leads to death, and, hating sin in itself, would fain suffer as an atonement for its sins and as a homage to goodness and truth. Such a penitent soul feels that "without shedding of blood there is no remission." The awakened conscience cries out for atonement. Our Lord's death for sin, the voluntary surrender of his life upon the cross for us, meets this deep and urgent need of the religious heart.
2. To succor man as a sufferer. Man needs a High Priest who "is able to succor them that are tempted." The word "tempted" is used in two senses in the Bible.
(1) Tested, proved, with a good intent, as in the case of Abraham (Genesis 22:1). St. James also writes of temptations of this kind (James 1:2, James 1:3).
(2) Tempted with evil intent, or solicitation to sin. In both these senses man is tempted. He is tried by suffering and sorrow, by physical pain and spiritual conflict. He is also assailed by subtle solicitations to sin. He requires a High Priest who will be able to help him in these trying experiences; one who will give him sympathy in his sorrows, inspire him with patience in his trials, and with spiritual discernment and strength in his temptations to sin. Such are the functions of our great High Priest.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
1. He must share our nature in order that he might make atonement for us as sinners. The perfect obedience which our Lord rendered to the holy will of God, the painful sufferings which he patiently endured, and the terrible death which he voluntarily submitted to, could not have constituted an atonement for us had he not previously taken upon himself our nature. "Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren." It was morally necessary that he should share our nature if he would efficiently serve us as our High Priest.
2. He must share our trials in order that he might succor us in our sufferings. Our High Priest must be "merciful," so as to feel compassion for suffering and tempted men. He must be "faithful," so as to elicit and retain the confidence of those whom he represents before God. He must himself suffer temptation, that he may efficiently help the tempted. Both classes of temptation assailed him. He was tempted by satanic suggestion and argument and inducement. He was tried by severest physical pains, and by spiritual sorrows which grew into the great overwhelming agony. "A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.... Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Hence he is able to succor them that are tempted. He can not only feel for them, but with them. By his personal experience of our sufferings he has acquired the power of sympathy with us in them. "As God, he knows what is in us; but as man, he feels it also." "Sympathy," says Burke, "may be considered as a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man, and affected in many respects as he is affected." Thus our great High Priest sympathizes with his tried people. "In all their affliction he is afflicted." He succors as wall as sympathizes; he inspires with courage as well as regards with compassion; and in our weakness he makes us strong in himself "and in the power of his might." Having such a High Priest, let us trust him heartily and at all times.—W.J.
HOMILIES BY C. NEW
An exhortation against drifting away from the glorious Son of God.
This passage is evidently a parenthesis, no link in the argument. Like the acknowledged Epistles of Paul, this is characterized by frequent sudden and brief departures from the general outline of thought. Like a river, the outline is clear from beginning to end, but here and there are small side channels into which the stream is swiftly, involuntarily drawn, to rejoin the mare current a little lower down. One of these we have before us. The interjection of this passage is very natural. The last chapter ended with "the heirs of salvation;" the writer has brought his hearers to this point—the grandeur of the salvation they inherit. But, remember, he has one object before him, the confirmation of the Hebrews wavering under the pressure of persecution. He doesn't write merely as a logician, but as an anxious friend; he cannot, therefore, wait to enforce the application of his argument when he reaches the end, but drops the thread of his idea for a moment to break out in an earnest appeal that this great salvation should be cleaved to.
1. Observe that he is not writing to the ungodly, but to a Christian Church. However suitable these words as an address to the ungodly, they are here spoken to professing Christians who had taken a bold stand for Christ and the gospel (Hebrews 10:32-34).
2. Observe that the literal rendering of the end of the first verse is "lest at any time we drift away." The words, "from them," italicized in the Revised Version, are misleading. The drifting away that is deprecated is, not "from the things that were heard," but from Christ. Subject—An exhortation against drifting away from the glorious Son of God.
I. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS FEARFULLY POSSIBLE. It is SO:
1. Because the soul is not always moored to Christ when it is brought to Christ. We regard it a doctrine of the New Testament that the true believer cannot be lost, that the salvation which on faith in Christ he receives is for ever, the might of Christ to supply all that is necessary to salvation being the warrant of it. Why, then, are these professing Christians warned against drifting away from Christ? It is possible to be brought to Christ without being anchored to him. A number of influences may lead one close to the Redeemer, between whom and Christ there is, nevertheless, no vital union, and as long as the tide runs that way his safety may not be suspected even by himself, but let the tide turn and his lack of union becomes apparent and he may drift away and. be lost.
2. Because powerful adverse currents tepid to carry the soul from the Savior. Sometimes the current leads toward Christ. It had been so with these professing Hebrews. But it is not always that way; difficulties occur, winds of temptation blow, the tide of worldly custom runs high, the unseen force of depraved inclination gathers power; and then, however strong the cable, however firmly it may bind shore and ship together, it will creak and strain, and every fiber of it be needed to hold the ship in safety. But what if there be no cable, no vital faith, in that day? Then the soul will inevitably part company with Christ, leaving the harbor where it has lain so long, and be seen (when such a storm shall blow as has never blown on it yet) drifting away.
3. Because the departure of the soul from Christ may be for some time imperceptible. Drifting away is a departure silent, gradual, unnoticeable. At sunset the ship is close to shore and all is safe; without a warning it drops into the tide, and swings round, and with no sound but the ripple of the water is carried down the stream to the open sea, and the crew may sleep through it all. So, departure from Christ may be as involuntary and quiet as that; a silent, ceaseless, unconscious creeping back to old habits. There is its danger. Drifting away means leaving Christ without knowing it, till we find ourselves far out at sea, and a tide we cannot resist bearing us still further away. You have seen men who were once close to Christ, but whilst they slept they have unconsciously glided away, and by the current of worldliness been carried into the rapids and whirled along faster and. faster, only waking to stare wildly at their helplessness, and close hands and eyes in despair for the final plunge into the eternal gulf.
II. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST MUST END IN HOPELESS RUIN. If we drift away "how shall we escape?"
1. To drift away from Christ is to leave the only Refuge from our sin's consequences. "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" The point is, we are condemned already; apart from the great salvation we are in the position of those whose transgressions and disobediences were followed by righteous judgment. But under these circumstances a "great salvation" has been provided. "Great," indeed! A full and everlasting remission of all sin, the enjoyment of God's fatherly favor, the transformation of our moral nature, a tranquil conscience, a bright and glorious hope for eternity; and all this free to whosoever will accept it. Now, if man is under condemnation apart from this, what must he be if, this having been secured and offered to him, he ignores and neglects it? To suffer ourselves to drift away from Christ is to add to the madness of leaving the only haven of security, the guilt of refusing that grace which would have saved us had we let it.
2. To drift away frown Christ is to disregard the supreme dignity of him who offers the salvation to us. "So great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." The point is the dignity of him who brings the salvation to us. Angels were employed in the ministrations of the old dispensation; "The Law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." But he who has brought the word in these last days is God the Son. He has spoken it by being it; and then by uttering it—uttering it to our hearts by his Spirit. The overtures of salvation are not made by man to God, but by God to man; it is not the condemned rebel that appeals to the offended Sovereign for salvation, but the offended Sovereign appealing to the rebel. What a spectacle—God, as it were, on his knees before men, beseeching them to be saved! "As though God did beseech you," etc. See how that adds to man's guilt, and the certainty of his ruin if he drifts away from Christ.
3. To drift away from Christ is to close our eyes willfully to the urgency of his claims. "Which, having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto," etc. (verses 3, 4). The abundant proof they had received as to the divinity of this Word of salvation is the point here. Man has received the utmost evidence of the truth of the gospel. What he has seen of its results in the lives and characters of others is, of itself, overwhelming assurance that it is of God; and when he hears it preached he knows it is from above, he knows its worth, he knows its claim. Think of what it is to leave Christ after that; to depart from him, though you know the right he has to you, and. the blessings he wants to impart; to be lost, not in the dark, but in the light! The apostle gathers up these arguments against leaving Christ, in this earnest appeal to reason and conscience: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" There is no answer to that. "Friend, how earnest thou in hither without a wedding garment? And he was speechless."
III. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS PREVENTED BY EARNEST HEED TO HIS WORD. "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away." Faith is the cable which alone can moor us to Christ; but the Word of God has a vital bearing on faith; therefore, where the Scriptures are neglected, there is the utmost peril of drifting away.
1. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can you discover whether, in your soul, faith exists. You think it does, but you may be deceived; then search here for the fruits and evidences of faith; then see if they exist in your heart and life. If you would know whether you have faith, you must bring yourself to the test this Book affords.
2. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can you create faith where it does not exist. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." To make light of this Book is to remain faithless.
3. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can faith be maintained where it does exist. How does Christ; maintain faith in the soul, but by the means he has appointed? He gives grace through the means of grace. To neglect the means, therefore, is to lose the grace. Scripture declares the Divine Word to be the means employed for our sanctification. Faith is the cable that holds the soul to the Redeemer. The Word creates and maintains the faith. "Therefore we ought to give," etc. "Drift away!" Away from Christ, the only Haven; drift away into the wild, wintry, shoreless sea of doom—drifted away by the currents of worldliness and care. We drift away silently and imperceptibly; are you sure you are securely moored to the Rock of ages?—C.N.
The dignity of human nature shows that the Incarnation was not degrading to the Godhead.
The apostle proceeds with his argument broken off at end of the first chapter. The first chapter deals with the Deity of Christ; the second with his humanity; thus the Epistle is based on the fact of the dual nature of our Lord. Having spoken of the Godhead of Christ, he has to meet the objection which presented itself with great force to the Hebrews. Why should this glorious Being stoop to the humiliation of Jesus of Nazareth? To the Jew, Christ crucified was a stumbling-block (see John 10:30-33; John 12:32-34). The writer needs to justify the Incarnation. (Observe, he does not attempt to prove the real humanity of Jesus. Clearly the Hebrews did not share subsequent doubts on this point, for there is not a word in the Epistle—though it is based on the fact—to prove that Jesus was man; it is assumed, than which there can be no stronger evidence of it, for if the Hebrews, Christ's contemporaries cherished no doubts with regard to it, the later doubts of others are worth nothing) In justifying the Incarnation, the writer uses in this chapter four progressive arguments, closely woven together yet distinct. The first is in this passage. Subject—The dignity of human nature shows that the Incarnation was not degrading to the Godhead. True, Christ did assume human nature, and that was an act of infinite condescension; but there was no degradation in it, for consider how sublime this nature is in God's estimate.
I. THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN NATURE AND MAN'S FAILURE TO ATTAIN IT. (—Hebrews 2:5-8) In proof of this dignity, the writer quotes from their own Scriptures. (Observe that this Epistle is very remarkable for its quotations from the Old Testament. Many of the Epistles addressed to Gentile believers have no quotations, but in this they are found in almost every page. To the Jew the Scriptures were a final authority, so in writing to them each successive step of the argument is based thereon) He bids them, therefore, read in the eighth psalm how lofty is God's idea with regard to man. The picture drawn there may be ideal, may never have been reached; but it is God's idea, and being so, some day it shall be fulfilled. What, then, is the proper dignity of humanity? what the place in the universe to be filled by this wondrous being, man, who in himself, unlike God's other works, is a combination of the material and the spiritual? The psalm specifies in token of man's greatness:
1. His lordship over creation. "Thou didst set him over the works of thy hands; thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet." Man is not one of innumerable beings made to people the earth; not a link in an endless series, as though up to him all previous things have led, and from him others higher still shall be evolved. The world was made for him, made and furnished (see Genesis 1:1-31) to be his home, the scene of his education, the means of his discipline, the minister to his happiness. Man is greater, in God's sight, than all the worlds; he was made to be a crowned and sceptered king, with them for his servants; he was made in God's image to have dominion over them all.
2. His fellowship with God. "Man, thou art mindful of him … the son of man, thou visitest him!" God rejoices in all the works of his hands, but how different his feeling towards men! They are to have communion with him, which involves similarity of nature; they are taught to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven." The parable of the prodigal son is the picture of his attitude with regard to them—his sorrow, and joy, and welcome, and fellowship, and care. How great that nature of which this is true!
3. His destroy to be higher than the angels. "Thou madest him, for a little while, lower than the angels; .. thou didst put all things... under his feet." Nothing is left out; angels, principalities, powers, are included. How great the angels; how sublime the idea Scripture gives of them! But man is only made lower than they for a little while. He is the son, they are the servants.
4. His redemption secured at so great a price. "Jesus … should taste death for every man." How great is he of whom Christ could say, "I will give my heavenly crown for him; I will pass through the humiliation of a sorrowful human life for him; I will bow my head in accursed death for him; I will forfeit my Father's favor for him!" But this glorious dignity is not yet reached. "But now we see not yet all things subjected to him." If we compare the eighth psalm with the actual condition of things, it reads like a satire. Traces of man's greatness are seen in his moral nature and achievements; but when we behold the poverty, ignorance, disease, misery, crime, sin, which abound under the sun, and compare them with the magnificent ideal of Scripture, the distance of the actual from the ideal seems too great to be destroyed.
II. THE ASSUMPTION OF HUMAN NATURE BY CUBIST, AND ITS PERFECTION REACHED IN HIM. "But we behold him who hath been made for a little while lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." This ideal psalm is realized in Christ; all that man was to be we see in Jesus.
1. Christ assumed that nature which is lower than the angels. Mark the contrast between this and the substance of the first chapter. This is the first chapter: Christ "so much better than the angels." This is the second: "Jesus, made for a little while lower than the angels." How great the contrast between the angels who heralded his birth, and the feeble babe; between the angels who ministered to him, and the lonely Man worn with conflict; between the angels who strengthened him in Gethsemane, and the Man of sorrows, whose sweat was as it were great drops of blood; between the angels who kept his tomb, and that lifeless body! Think of the Lord of angels needing angelic ministry!
"His earnest prayer, his deepening groans,
Were heard before angelic thrones;
Amazement wrapped the sky!
'Go, strengthen Christ,' the Father said:
Th' astonished seraph bowed his head,
And left the realms on high."
2. Christ has lifted that nature far higher than the angels. "We behold him crowned with glory and honor." When Christ returned to his native position, he retained his human nature for evermore; as when he trod the streets of Jerusalem and hills of Galilee—" this same Jesus." Exalted to the right hand of the Father, he is still "the Man," the man wearing his human body, that body spiritual in the like of which Moses and Elias appeared at the Transfiguration, and the saints will be enwrapped at the resurrection. It is thus, as muff, he is exalted King over all. To him, as man, every knee doth bow in heaven, and shall bow on earth; on his head, as man, are many crowns; in his human hand rests the sceptre which rules the universe; and before him, as man, the hosts of heaven continually do cry," Thou art the King of glory, O Christ."
3. Christ's ability for this was due to the suffering of death. Christ inherits the throne of heaven as man, as the meritorious reward of his sufferings. So Isaiah (Isaiah 53:11, Isaiah 53:12); so Paul (Philippians 2:6-11). What Christ is in his mediatorial capacity he is because he died; apart from his death, he would have no power to be or do anything for man. Man has failed to be what God meant him to be; Christ has become it all; and through the suffering of death retains it all for evermore.
III. THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN NATURE IN CHRIST IS THE PLEDGE OF ITS PERFECTION IN his PEOPLE. That is evidently the idea here: "We see not yet all things subjected to [man], but we behold Jesus … crowned with glory and honor." The truth is that whereas we are groaning in our failure to reach the eighth-psalm ideal, Christ has attained that sublimity which human nature ought to reach; and through him we shall one day attain it too. The littleness under which we labor we shall shake off, and rise to that grand summit in which there will be only One above us, God over all; the pledge of this being that that summit is already reached by Christ as man.
1. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the token of the complete removal of man's disabilities. God was unable to fulfill his ideal for man, because sin forfeited exaltation and incurred abasement. Christ undertook, as man's Representative, to remove the sin by an atoning death. The exaltation of Jesus from the sepulcher to the throne was the proof that the atonement was sufficient. Now the hindrance to God fulfilling his purpose for man is removed: the eighth-psalm ideal is that purpose; that ideal will, therefore, be attained.
2. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the assurance of all power in the hands of the Mediator. Christ raised to supreme authority as God-Man, means that all the authority he possesses is to be used in his redemptive work. Then, depend upon it, he will redeem perfectly; he will save up to the highest point of salvation of which man is capable, and. which even God desires. There can be no fear of his people reaching the eighth-psalm ideal when they know that on purpose to raise them to it, Christ, in the nature and character of Savior, has been placed on the highest throne.
3. The perfection of human nature in Christ is the promise of perfection to all who are to be made like him. His people are to be "glorified together" with him, sit with him on his throne, become like him when they see him. See here what Christ is; learn thereby what man in him shall be; for Christ in glory is but the First fruits of perfected humanity.—C.N.
The Incarnation, being the only means of securing perfect salvation for men, was becoming to God.
This is the second argument by which the writer justifies the Incarnation. In the previous five verses he has shown that it was not degrading to the Godhead. From that he advances to affirm here that it was actually becoming; for the stress of this text is in the words, "It became him." Note that the expression," Author of their salvation," is simply equivalent to their Savior. Also that the word" perfect" does not refer to the perfection of Christ's character; that was eternally perfect; no sufferings could make Christ better than he was. You must apply the term to his ability to save. Apart from his humiliation he could not have been a perfect Savior. The apostle says, therefore, that to make Christ perfect as a Savior, through humiliation, was in harmony with the perfections of God. Subject—The Incarnation, being the only means of securing perfect salvation for men, was becoming to God.
I. IT BECAME GOD TO SAVE. That is the lowest step in the argument, and does not need proof. God does save, that is certain; then it must become him to save, for he can do nothing which is unbecoming. But think of what the text implies about this salvation which it becomes God to give.
1. Salvation originates in him. "Through whom are all things." Salvation is the outcome of his will. Not suggested by human supplication; not claimed by the recovered righteousness of any that had fallen; not extorted by the atonement of some gracious Savior. It came from himself. "God so loved the world," etc. There salvation is traced hack to its source, and revealed as his act. The desire to save, the method of saving, the work of saving, the whole transaction from beginning to end, is of God.
2. Salvation glorifies him. "For whom are all things." Everything he does is for the good pleasure of his will and the glory of his Name. What a beautiful light that throws upon redemption! How it falsifies the idea that God is unwilling to save! God has so identified himself with man, so fixed his love on him, that he is not happy if man remains unsaved. The salvation he has devised—we say it is for man; Scripture says it is for God.
3. Salvation is gratuitous from him. He provides a "perfect" Savior—One who should do it all. Salvation is a gift, all done for man, so that man in his helplessness has only to receive. God saves men for nothing. Put all this together. God saves; this salvation originates with him; glorifies him; is gratuitous from him. That is the kind of salvation which he bestows. Then this is the point—such a salvation as that becomes God. Then see what kind of a God ours is. What must he be of whose nature this is the outcome; of whose thought and love this is the fitting expression; of whose character this is the suitable revelation; who is never more perfectly revealed than in Christ crucified; of whom it can be said, such a salvation "became him?"
II. IT BECAME GOD TO PROVIDE A PERFECT SAVIOR. "It became him to make the Author of their salvation perfect." Nothing less than a perfect Savior would become God. "As for God, his way is perfect." Being perfect in himself, he can devise nothing imperfect. Being perfect in his resources, he cannot fail to accomplish perfectly all he devises. It is so in everything. Then we are sure that, in his greatest work, he whom he sends as Redeemer will be so minutely perfect that the utmost Divine wisdom and human need can never discover a particular in which he could be made more efficient. Less than that could not become God. All things are to show forth his glory. But his redeeming work is his crowning work; by it pre-eminently is to be manifested his transcendent greatness, and evoked the sweetest and most triumphant song of eternity. Then this must be the most complete work which even God can do; anything unfinished here could not become him. Moreover, consider that he bestows other blessings more than royally. His bestowments surpass our need. His measure of giving is "exceeding abundantly above," etc. But the Savior is his unspeakable Gift, the highest expression of his mercy. It is inconceivable, then, that he who outdoes our need in everything else should under-supply it in his greatest gift of all. It is evident that less than a perfect Savior could not become him. But what is necessary to a perfect Savior?—for this, whatever it be, we shall find in Christ.
1. A perfect Savior must perfectly remove she's penalty. The penalty of sin must be dealt with first. Sin's power cannot be removed until the penalty is gone. That penalty is an awful reality. "The wrath of God is revealed," etc; "The wages of sin is death;" "The wicked shall be turned," etc. Then, if he who comes forth to save is a perfect Savior, he must be able to remove every whit of that penalty for evermore, and able to do it by himself. Christ claims to do that. "There is therefore now no condemnation," etc.
2. A perfect Savior must secure perfect holiness in the saved. For there is no salvation but holiness. Man is surrounded by temptations, and the slave of corrupt dispositions, and painfully far from God's ideal. If he who comes to save is a perfect Savior, he must be able to deliver us from sin's power, and lead us up to that sanctification which is God's wilt concerning us. He must be able to do it perfectly, however low we have fallen, or however helpless we have become. Christ claims to do that. "0 wretched man," etc.!
3. A perfect Savior must preserve us from the perils of the way, and lead us to the perfect glory. For between us and the celestial city are dangers any of which is enough to swallow us up. But if he who comes to save is a perfect Savior, he must lead us safely through all these, and not leave us till he has brought us within the golden gates where no foe can enter. Christ claims to do that. "He is able to save them to the uttermost," etc.
4. A perfect Savior and a perfect salvation in him—what a pillow for weary man to lay his head upon! It must be so, for "it became him to make the Author of our salvation perfect."
III. IT BECAME GOD TO MAKE THE SAVIOR PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERINGS. Does not the text imply that God was shut up to this mode of saving? "It became him," for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing," etc. That is, God's boundless resources, his unlimited power and wisdom, were of no avail here; only through Christ crucified was salvation possible. Observe that it did not become God to save in any other way, because:
1. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his majesty. Men say such condescension as is implied in the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth is derogatory to the Godhead; it is inconceivable that the majesty of the Most High should stoop to such a depth. But all God's attributes are equal; his condescension, therefore, must be as great as his majesty. Because his majesty is infinite, no less than infinite condescension would become him.
2. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his holiness. The salvation God gives must be consistent with his infinite displeasure at sin. His attributes are inseparable; all that God is is in every part of him, and every deed. As he cannot do what is not love, neither can he do what is not holiness. He could not, then, pardon sin without at the same time uttering his abhorrence of sin. How could he do this apart from the cross?
3. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his justice. The problem to be solved was—how to be "a just God and a Savior;" true to the honor of his Law, the rectitude of his government, the integrity of his word, and at the same time extend mercy to the sinner; how at once fulfill and yet remit the threatened penalty? life salvation could become him in which those requirements were not equally met. How could they be met but in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ "the Just for the unjust"? (Beware of the theory that the atonement was unjust because God thereby punished the innocent for the guilty. That is not true; God never did that. He took the suffering on himself. He who atoned was God)
4. Only thus could salvation be in harmony with his love. For one end of the atonement was to reveal God's love, and so make holiness possible to man; for of that holiness God's love is the mainspring. The atonement, therefore, must be the highest expression of Divine love. That was only reached at Calvary. It therefore became God to make the Savior perfect through sufferings. Is not "the offence of the cross" removed now?
IV. IT BECAME GOD, THROUGH THIS SAVIOR PERFECTED BY SUFFERINGS, TO BRING MANY SONS UNTO GLORY.
1. It becomes him to make use of this perfected Savior to the full. Having made Christ a Savior at such cost, it would not become him not to make the greatest use of him. To make such sacrifice to get the power to save and then not to use that power would be inconsistent, would cancel his own undertaking. In consistency God cannot withhold giving this perfect salvation to whosoever will.
2. It becomes him to reward this perfected Savior to the utmost. What shall be the recompense for the Redeemer's sufferings? What result shall become such woe as his? I see in distant vision "many sons brought unto glory; " a great multitude, which no man can number," etc. Yea, "he shall see of the travail of his soul, and be," etc.—C.N.
The Incarnation a necessity of the redeeming work of Christ.
A third argument to justify the Incarnation. The writer has already shown, first, that the Incarnation was not degrading; and second, that it was actually becoming; he here goes on to say that it was necessary. Subject—The Incarnation a necessity of the redeeming work of Christ.
I. OUR LORD ON EARTH WAS A MAN AMONGST MEN. (Hebrews 2:11) "Partook of the same" (Hebrews 2:14). As usual, the writer appeals to the Jewish Scriptures; they assert, he says, the humanity of the Messiah.
1. The doctrine of the Incarnation is bused on the entire revelation of God. It does not depend on "proof-texts," but underlies the whole Book; it is the truth which gives unity to the whole, so that if it be removed the Scriptures fall to pieces and are inexplicable. How delicately it is woven into the web of Scripture and pervades the whole fabric, is seen in the particular texts the apostle quotes here. They are not the texts we should have chosen—indeed, we should hardly have applied them to Christ; but he who, like the writer, is taught by the Spirit, and has deepest spiritual insight into these pages, discerns Christ where others do not, as Jesus did when "beginning at Moses and all," etc. The Old Testament begins with the promise, "The seed of the woman," etc., goes on to state that he should be of the stock of Abraham, tribe of Judah, family of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, be a Man of sorrows, bear the chastisement of sins, and pour out his soul unto death; and then it closes with the declaration that he is about to come, and that his coming should be preceded by his forerunner. Then the Gospels come in as the counterpart and fulfill-merit of all that, and there is not an Epistle which follows which is not based on the fact with which Paul opens his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:3). This doctrine is the key to the Bible; and no wonder, for this is the great mystery of godliness, "God was manifest in the flesh."
2. This doctrine involves that Christ was at the same time possessed of two distinct natures. That is hinted at here, in "not ashamed to call [men] brethren," which intimates an act of condescension which could not be fulfilled by one who was merely man. You cannot imagine, it affirmed, e.g. of Moses, or Elijah, or Paul, or John, that they were "not ashamed," etc; the bond of brotherhood in their case existed of necessity, and there could be no humility in admitting it, as is implied with regard to Jesus. The words are meaningless, unless he was by nature far exalted above man, and assumed man's nature voluntarily. Thus the writer who declares Christ's manhood plainly implies that Christ was more than man. He who walked the earth in human nature was at the same time the most high God. It is not that he laid aside his Godhead. He could not do that; God cannot undeify himself. Being God before the Incarnation (as he said, "Before Abraham was, I am"), he was God on earth as he must be forever. How it could be we know not, but our ignorance of the mode does not prove impossibility. He who "in the beginning was God … was made flesh."
3. The doctrine of the Incarnation asserts that, notwithstanding Christ's Godhead, he was a real man. In opposition to the later theories that his body was a phantom, or that his soul was not human, the writer asserts here that Christ was man in every respect save sin. Are not the particular texts quoted here chosen to prove this exhaustively? Man is a trinity—body, soul, and spirit; if Christ was man, he was human in these respects. "Behold I and the children which thou hast given me. Forasmuch as the children are sharers in flesh and blood." In the Old Testament the Messiah calls men his children; that points to likeness in physical nature. Christ was born, grew, needed food and rest, sweat drops of blood, was nailed to the cross, lay in the tomb, bore nail and spear marks. Christ had a human body. Again, "I will declare thy Name unto my brethren." Does not that—" brethren"—point to what we call soul, the seat of affection, emotion, thought, conscience, etc.? He increased in wisdom, was moved with compassion. "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus;" "Jesus wept." Christ had a human soul Again, "In the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise," and again, "I will put my trust in him." Christ worshipping God, and trusting God! Doesn't that refer to what we call spirit, that part of our nature by which we are brought into fellowship with the Most High? Christ's spiritual life was wrought by the Holy Ghost as ours is, tempted by our tempter, cherished by the same Divine Word, needed communion with the Father, prayed and worshipped and trusted as ours do. Christ had a human spirit. Body, soul, and spirit, he was Man amongst men. Beware of supposing that, because he was God at the same time, his Godhead in any way lessened the infirmities and necessities of his humanity; he would not have been true man had it been so, and could have been no example to men. As God, there was the hiding of his power in his humanity. Christ entered on his work, and fulfilled it in the position in which Adam stood before he fell.
II. ONLY AS MAN COULD HE DELIVER MEN FROM BONDAGE. (Verses 14, 15) A confessedly difficult verse.
1. Death is curse. This text is made difficult of comprehension, because it is read as though it referred to the fear which Christians often have of dying. We must remove that idea from the text. The writer is dealing with what is much more fundamental than that. Observe, the text does not speak of bondage to the fear of death, but of bondage to Satan through the fear of death. The death here spoken of is death in its main idea. Death as curse; death as witnessing to man's sinful condition; death as the declaration that he is under condemnation. Man's fear of death is but another name for his sense of guilt, his knowledge that he is under the curse of the Almighty.
2. The curse being removed, man is set free to holiness. Holiness is the end of Christ's work. The passage begins with, "He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified." To sanctify us was his aim. But holiness is impossible where the "fear of death," i.e. a sense of being under the curse, is. There is only one principle from which holiness can spring—love to God (that is the difference between morality and holiness). But we can never love him till we know that he loves us—know, i.e., that the curse is removed. Holiness, however, is possible then; then obedience is voluntary, service joyous, surrender easy, resemblance to him certain.
3. Being set free to holiness, Satan's power is gone. He is here said to have "the power of death"—a remarkable expression, to which we must not attach the wrong meaning. Satan cannot inflict death, has no dominion over death. Christ says, "I have the keys," etc. But "fear of death," i.e. sense of being under the curse, is the power Satan wields to keep men in bondage. He blinds them to Divine love, tells them God is angry with them, is a hard Master, has no claim on them, and the result is that men continue in sin. But when their eyes are open to see he is a liar, that the curse is removed, that God is love, that God in Christ is able to extend mercy, then the soul breaks away from his bonds into that holiness which is liberty, and Satan's power ends.
4. This could only be accomplished by Christ's humanity. Only by Christ becoming man could the sense of curse be taken away. Its removal required that the curse should be endured by a substitute; but no substitute could be accepted in man's stead who was not of man's kind, and the Law must be obeyed by the nature to which it was given, and its penalty endured by the nature to which it was due. Moreover, if Christ is to suffer and die, he must have a nature capable of suffering and death. So the holiness of men is based on the humanity of Jesus.
III. AS IT WAS MEN CHRIST SOUGHT TO REDEEM, HIS MANHOOD WAS THEREFORE A NECESSITY. (Verse 16) The Old Version, owing to the words in italics, greatly mystifies this verse; as it stands in the Revised Version it is the natural completion of the writer's argument. The "taking bold" (or, "laying hold") is the laying bold to save. Christ assumed human nature, not angelic, because he is the Savior, not of angels, but of men.
1. Christ passed by the necessities of fallen angels. Here is a great mystery. Why did not Christ save fallen angels? We cannot tell. There may be a wide difference between the sins of devils and the sins of men. It has been suggested that the one love evil for its own sake, as when the tempter in the garden would wreck the world; and that the other love it for some fancied good it brings, as when the woman thought she saw a good, and therefore put forth her band and sinned. There may ha some such radical difference which makes salvation possible only in the one case, but we are not told; all we know is "the angels which kept not their first estate, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." "He took not bold of angels."
2. Christ stretched out his redeeming hand to man. He "laid hold of the seed of Abraham;' as a shepherd overtakes a sheep that is running away, lays hold of it, lays it on his shoulders rejoicing, and declares, "My sheep shall never perish, neither," etc. Mark the condescension of the Savior, and the exaltation of the human race. We are lost in astonishment as we see Christ pass by the myriads of celestial beings that had fallen, and set his heart on laying hold of us, that he might raise us as much higher than they, as the children of the king are higher than his servants. This involved the necessity of the Incarnation. But more—it reveals an unutterable desire on Christ's part that man should be saved, and the fact that man may be saved if he will.—C.N.
Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18
Christ's humanity the result of his desire to be more than a Savior from sin.
The climax of the argument for the consistency of our Lord's humanity. Observe in exposition:
1. That "reconciliation for the sins of the people" is not the central idea of these verses. That has already been dealt with. Here we have a new thought—Christ's ability to succor the tempted.
2. That our Lord's humanity could not make him a merciful and faithful High Priest. He was that already, but thus he proved himself to be this.
3. That the word "tempted" here is not to be confined to the meaning of solicitation to sin.
I. CHRIST, IN THE ENDURANCE OF TRIAL, WAS MADE IN ALL THINGS LIKE UNTO HIS BRETHREN; that is, he passed through every class of human suffering.
1. There were the sufferings which came through human frailty. Christ had no sin, but he experienced those forms of suffering to which innocent human nature is exposed, such as poverty, weariness, dependence, pain, fear of death. We get through our trials more easily because we do not foresee them; but Christ foresaw his, and they were intensified as he drew nearer his end. His life was a conscious advance into deeper gloom.
2. There were the sufferings which came through his holy nature. Thirty-three years in a world of sin must have been continuous pain to the Holy One of God. Suffering in the presence of evil is in proportion to our holiness and our aversion to evil. Christ not only saw a world wandering away from God, but he knew what was in man; he not only saw the malice on men's faces and the guilt in their lives; he read the thoughts and intents of the heart. And, still worse, he felt the hot breath of the arch-tempter on his cheek, and heard the whispering of his hateful suggestions.
3. There were the sufferings which came through his love to man. The pain of sympathy. If Love has her deep joys, she has, too, her deep griefs; if she wears a crown of triumph, she wears, too, a crown of thorns. Love is afflicted in all the afflictions of her beloved. What must have been the suffering of immeasurable Love in witnessing the woes of man!
II. THIS ENDURANCE OF OUR TRIALS PROVES THAT CHRIST WILL BE MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL IN HIS POSITION AS HIGH PRIEST.
1. Christ making propitiation holds the position of High Priest. Christ's high priesthood is only glanced at here, stated to rest something on it. As the high priest alone could offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, so Christ, offering the one atoning sacrifice, showed himself to be High Priest. And the main idea in that is that the high priest was essentially the mediator between God and man. As God's representative he acted for God toward the people; as the people's representative he acted for them toward God. Christ, then, holds this position. He conveys the Father's gifts to us, and our need to the Father. It depends entirely on him whether we receive the gifts of Heaven.
2. If holding that position, he would deal with us in mercy, all we need is assured. There is nothing he cannot secure for us, if he will. The question depends on whether he has sympathetic feeling towards us in our grief. Is Christ the Mediator compassionate?
3. The great proof of his compassion is that for our succor he endured so much more than was necessary for mere propitiation. Our Lord's incarnation and death were necessary for atonement, but he endured much beside that, going down to the lowest state of innocent human experience. Much of his suffering was an extra burden voluntarily assumed with a view to man's comfort; in sorrow. He cared so much about our griefs that in order to allay them he passed through them himself. We cannot doubt his heart after that.
III. THIS PROOF OF HIS HIGH PRIESTLY COMPASSION IS ABLE TO SUCCOUR HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE TRIED.
1. It enables them to trust his sympathy, for he has experienced their pains. Christ's suffering has not made him more sympathetic. His knowledge and sympathy were perfect before; but it gives us more confidence in going to him for succor.
2. It enables them to expect aid from him, for he suffered that he might aid. Why, his poverty, bereavement, weariness, loneliness, shame, being misunderstood, but that he might succor us! Then, will he not succor us?
3. It enables them to anticipate victory through him, for he conquered in all his woe. Who can aid us in our difficulties, like him who has already trodden these difficulties underfoot? What aid can be more satisfactory than his who wears the laurels of victory over those very evils which assail us? Our foe will fly when he sees his Conqueror on our side.—C.N.
HOMILIES BY J.S. BRIGHT
The glory of the Gospel.
I. HERE ARE TO BE SEEN THE SUPERIOR GLORY OF THE GOSPEL TO THE LAW IN THE PERSON OF ITS REVEALER. There are frequent proofs of the wisdom of God in the adaptations of means and ends both in the spheres of providence and the institutions of worship. When Jehovah published the Law from Sinai, the angels were mediators between himself and the tribes of Israel; as it is written in Deuteronomy 33:2, "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Sear unto them; be shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of his saints or angels." Stephen remarks that "the people received the Law by the disposition, or ministry, of angels," who probably, by vocal utterance, proclaimed the commands which required and shaped the obedience of the Hebrew race. This was an august and sublime ministry, and raised the giving of the Law above the great events and important crises of earthly affairs, whether they were the gaining of victories, the founding of cities, or the coronation of monarchs. There are many ranks, orders, and principalities among the angels, who are pre-eminent for their wisdom, power, and holiness; but they must all yield to One who is far above them all. This is the Son of God, who alone was able to convey, with sufficient dearness, attraction, and power, all the sacred truths which concern the character of God, the character of man, and the way of bringing the sinner into a state of reconciliation now, and into the possession of eternal life hereafter. He said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" and in all the acts of his public ministry and his sacrificial death he revealed God as he had never been known before.
"He is the Eternal Image bright,
Where angels view the Father's light;
And there in him the humblest swain
May read his holy lesson plain."
The glory of our Lord is further displayed by the confirmation of his work by the Divine Spirit, who enabled the apostles and others to work miracles of healing, and gave those supernatural powers which were an indisputable authentication that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah. These miracles transcended the usual course of human experience were signs of the connection of the gospel with Divine power, and were fitted to awaken wholesome wonder in the hearts of those who heard the truth. It need occasion no surprise that apostles and early believers should feel an unshaken confidence in their own convictions, and desire to implant similar convictions in the hearts of others. The transmission of gospel truth thus began with Christ, and through apostles and. those who heard the apostles, repeated the same facts and doctrines to others; and so the lamp of light has been handed on from one believer to another, and from one generation to another; and practically calling attention to the glory of the Transfiguration, in which we hear the voice, "This is my beloved Son: hear him."
II. THERE FOLLOWS THE SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY OF HEARING AND OBEYING THE VOICE OF JESUS CHRIST. Wherever the Word of God comes there is an altered relation of the soul towards its Divine Author, and serious indebtedness to him for the use of so precious a talent. Caution and prayer are necessary, lest the truths which our Lord proclaimed should silently evaporate from the soul like morning dew, and leave the spirit dry and barren. They may, amid the pressure of worldly affairs, the attractions of this life, and the agency of Satan, who carries away the seed sown, be lost for all the purposes of salvation. There must be decisive and intentional acts of meditation, prayer, and obedience, and then they will not slip away from us. They should be held as the miser holds his gold, lest the cunning and violence of men should rob him of his treasure. The gravity of this question enhanced by the certainty that neglect will be punished; for if the offenders against a law published by angels "died without mercy" (Hebrews 10:8), then those who disobey the will of the Lord, who is infinitely above angels, must meet with a tremendous penalty and retribution; because to offend him is, in a sense, to tread underfoot the blood of the Son of God and do despite to the Spirit of grace. To turn aside from him is to reject unutterable grace, and to undervalue the labors, sufferings, and martyrdoms of apostles, faithful preachers of the gospel, and the life and prayers of believers, and to incur the judicial anger of him who requires all men "to honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." The question is asked, "How shall we escape?" The reply must be, "There is no escape." It is the great salvation, because it is the fruit of an eternal purpose, revealed by holy prophets, illustrated by various types, wrought out by the incarnation, ministry, and. sorrow of Jesus, who drank the bitter and brimming cup in Gethsemane and. on the cross; and has engaged the work of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of the Church of God. It is great in the range of its present blessings and in the prospects of everlasting life. "How shall we escape, if rye neglect so great salvation?" Conscience answers, "There is no escape."—B.
The human nature of our Lord foreshadowed and his sovereignty over all things realized through his sufferings and death.
The author pursues his argument, which is to show the indisputable superiority of our Lord to the angels, unto whom the kingdom of grace is not made subject. In the quotation from the eighth psalm there is declared the condescension and goodness of God towards man in appointing him to be the lord and ruler of creation. When Jehovah pronounced the blessing upon Noah and his sons, he said, "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered" (Genesis 9:2). This sublime promise is realized in the exaltation of the Son of God, who was made for a short time lower than the angels; and yet, even in his state of humiliation, showed his kingly power over the diseases of men, the storms of the sky, and the fishes of the sea. But there is the plain fact that all things are not put under men; yet we see Jesus of Nazareth made lower than the angels that he should fulfill the purposes of eternal grace, taste death in its unutterable bitterness and agony that life might be offered to mankind, and now crowned with glory and honor. There is a sacred lesson conveyed to Jewish Christians in the allusion to the death of our Lord, since the offence of the cross was likely to disturb their faith, and lead them to surrender a truth which was a stumbling-block to many of their countrymen. Jesus passed through this valley of the shadow of death to reach the throne where he is now exalted, angels, principalities, and powers, believers and unbelievers, being now subject unto him. The glory and honor which he has attained raise him far above all patriarchs, priests, prophets, and the whole angelic world; and therefore those that kiss the Son, in unlimited trust and loving obedience, may expect all the blessedness now and hereafter from their faith in the Redeemer.—B.
His exaltation endears his association with his followers.
There is a Divine becomingness and suitability in the process of salvation, which suggests that as the Leader of believing souls should pass through sorrow and gain his official perfectness through sufferings which show at what a cost redemption was procured, they qualify him to become an Example to which Christians are to be conformed. He reached his glory through distress and agony, and his followers are through much tribulation to enter into the kingdom of God. He showed himself to be a merciful and faithful High Priest, by his tender compassion for men, and his fulfillment of promise, prophecy, and type; for he was "the end of the Law for righteousness." Looking unto Jesus we overcome impatience and complaint, and waiting upon him we renew our strength; for "if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." Motives to sustain us in this career are supplied in these verses, which consist of his gracious avowal of his followers as his brethren, of whom he is not ashamed. They "are horn, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," and are sanctified by the Divine Spirit, to a life of separation from evil and consecration to all holiness of life. If Joseph was not ashamed of his brethren—for they had all one father—and presented them to Pharaoh, much more will our Lord avow his brethren by expressing his love to them and vindication of them. They are now somewhat like him, and are conformed to him as the Firstborn among many brethren. They are not of the world, as he was not of the world, and being joined to him are one Spirit. This truth is confirmed and illustrated by quotations from the pages of the Old Testament. The first is from the twenty-second psalm (verse 22), where he affirms, "I will declare thy Name unto my brethren." These words denote that our Lord would be the Teacher of his brethren, and are confirmed by his declaration in John 17:26, where he said, "And I have declared unto them thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." Then, like his brethren, he would confide in Jehovah, as it is written in Isaiah 12:2, "I will trust in him." The citations end with one drawn from Isaiah 8:18, "Behold, I and the children which thou hast given me," which are the words of the prophet in a time of prevalent unbelief, when he and his children who had received symbolical names were witnesses for the truth of God. Considering the past work of Christ in suffering to bring many sons unto glory, and his joy in claiming relationship with them, we conclude that he is net ashamed to call them brethren.—B.
Here we have stated the sublime results of the incarnation and death of Christ in their influence upon the present temptation and death of believers.
Our Lord did not assume an angelic nature, which would have necessarily set him at some distance from us, since the experiences of those sinless and exalted beings would have been to some degree inconceivable by us. He took hold of the seed of Abraham, and enshrined his Divine nature in human flesh and blood, and felt all the innocent emotions and sensations of our race. He was hungry and thirsty, he was weary and slept, and wept and rejoiced like his brethren. Then he felt the pangs of death, by which he achieved a happy and invaluable change in our views of departure from this world. Death had derived its terror from Satan, who prompted men to sin and then alarmed them with the fear of condemnation and punishment. Under the Law many regarded death with trembling and anxiety; and righteous men like Hezekiah shrank from the approach of the "king of terrors." It was bondage which restrained from enjoyment, and made life like a man wearing fetters from which he could not get free. The death of our Lord seemed the masterpiece of Satan; but it became the cause of his most humiliating overthrow, for ever after those who believe in Jesus may walk with serene confidence, in the light of the Redeemer's victory, towards their eternal rest, and realize the words, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."
"O precious ransom! which once paid,
That Consummatum est was said,
And said by him that said no more,
But sealed it with his sacred breath!
Thou, then, that hast dispurged our score,
And dying met the death of death,
Be now, while on thy Name we call,
Our Life, our Strength, our Joy, our All."
(Sir H. Wotton)
Being made like unto his brethren in the participation of their nature, he made, as a merciful and faithful High Priest, reconciliation for them by his sacrificial death. By his oblation he revealed the Divine displeasure against sin, and made a way for those who were once rebels to become reconciled to the character of God, his methods of salvation, and to the enjoyment of the privileges and hopes of the Christian lice. He passed through a career of temptation in which Satan strove to overthrow him, the world endeavored to turn him away from his work, and his fierce enemies, the Pharisees, strove to frustrate his gracious designs. He was alone in the vastness of the temptations he endured, and carried, without any earthly sympathy, the vast burden of his sorrows. Now, from his vast and painful experience, he is able to sympathize with all who are tempted, and to cheer them with the truth that, should every heart around be unmoved, and every ear closed to their griefs, he feels for them with a vividness and certainty which may awaken confidence, and increase their joy in the Lord.—B.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
God's sure judgment on those who neglect the great salvation.
I. NOTE THE APPEAL TO HISTORY. In the history of the Hebrew people God had shown the validity and seriousness of his messages. Those to whom the message had come had been disposed to slight it, either because of the improbability of the matter, or the mean appearance of the messenger. And behind both of these considerations it might also be that the message was very unpalatable. But however the message might appear to men, it was God's message, therefore necessary to be sent. The steadfast word through the angels we must take with a very wide significance, as including the prophets, though angels are specially mentioned because being so reverently regarded by the Hebrews There was an a fortiori argument as applied to the message that came through the Son.
II. NOTE THE GREAT TRANSGRESSION AND DISOBEDIENCE WE MAY COMMIT. We may be negligent of the great salvation. Our own personality, with its great powers and with the claims which God has upon it, we may allow to go to wreck and ruin, instead of submitting to the process whereby God would save us, and make us capable of glorifying him in a perfect way. The man who in any physical peril should steadily neglect whatever means of escape were put in his way, if he perished, would be held to have in him the spirit of the suicide. He who takes active steps against his own life is held to be committing a crime against society; but he who neglects his physical welfare is also sinning against society, though society cannot define his offence so as to punish him. But God, we know, can specify offences, as we cannot; and here is one, that when a man has spiritual and eternal salvation laid before him he yet neglects it. And the more we study this state of negligence, the more we shall see how great a sin it involves.
III. THE INEVITABLE PUNISHMENT WHICH WILL COME FOR SUCH NEGLECT. How shall we escape it? It is a question parallel to that of Paul in Romans 2:3, "How shalt thou escape the judgment of God?" The question is not of escaping from the danger by some other means than what God has provided. It is as to how we shall get away from God's doom upon us for deliberately and. persistently neglecting his loving provisions. How often New Testament exhortations make us face the thought of the great judgment-seat! We see what a serious thing in the sight of God simple negligence is. It is in heavenly affairs as in earthly, probably more harm is done by negligence of the good than by actual commission of the evil. Let there be strongest emphasis and deepest penitence in the confession, "We have not done the things we ought to have done."
IV. THE EXHORTATION TO ATTENTION. We must give more earnest heed to the things that have been heard. How close this exhortation comes! Things not only spoken but heard. The excuse is not permitted that we have not heard of these things. It is what we have heard, but have failed to treat rightly, to cherish and hold fast which constitutes our peculiar responsibility. Over against actual negligence there is the demand for close, continual attention. The meaning of salvation and the means of salvation are not to be discovered by listless hearts. We are attending too much to the wrong things—things that, in comparison with the so great salvation, are but as the fables and endless genealogies, attention to which Paul contemptuously condemned. And those who have to proclaim this salvation would do well to attend to that other counsel of Paul to Timothy, "Give heed to reading, exhortation, teaching," and so all of us need to be readers, learners, and especially submissive to the παράκλησις of the Holy Ghost.—Y.
Hebrews 2:3, Hebrews 2:4
The completeness with which the great salvation is made known.
The justness of God's visitation on those who neglect the great salvation lies in this, that the salvation has been so fully and variously proclaimed. Certainly this held in the instance of all to whom this Epistle was addressed; certainly it holds of all who can read the New Testament. With the Testament before us, it is our business, as prudent people, to make ourselves acquainted with the explanations, assurances, exhortations it contains on this matter of salvation.
I. THIS SALVATION WAS SPOKEN OF THROUGH THE LORD; i.e. through Jesus. Doubtless the reference here is specially to those solemn and awful intimations he gave to his disciples of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. But the destruction of Jerusalem was itself only a type of a destruction more dreadful still. The worst thing was, not the destruction of the buildings, but the spiritual ruin of those who dwelt in them. This was the thing to be feared, that believers in Jesus should get infected by the lawless life around them, or should take unbelieving and self-indulgent ways to get away from peril. Therefore the Lord proclaimed salvation to him who would endure to the end. His own resurrection from the dead after men had done their very worst and got untrammeled their fullest opportunities, was itself an assurance of safety to those who fully trusted in him.
II. THE WORD OF THIS SALVATION CONFIRMED BY LISTENERS. We feel there must be a parallelism between the βέβαιος of Hebrews 2:2 and the ἐβεβαιώθη of Hebrews 2:3. The same God who gave authority to his messengers of old, and- put on them a certain kind of honor by showing, in severe treatment of those who rejected them, the Divine origin of their message, also gave authority to certain persons to continue that news of salvation which Jesus had first of all made known. Jesus himself passed these persons through a manifold and. searching discipline to qualify them for their work. He said many things to the common crowd, but of the mysteries of the kingdom he spoke for a while only to a chosen and docile circle; until at last the hour came when these listeners had to spread far and wide the same truths, for a benefit to every one who would attend to them. Jesus, in the greatness of his unique power, began—and it is ever the first step which is most difficult; others came and continued his work on his lines, and made some at least of their auditors in every place to feel that what they said rested on a sure foundation of a reality.
III. AN EXPLICIT STATEMENT OF HOW THIS CONFIRMATION WAS PRODUCED. Never let us forget that the apostles were peculiarly witness-bearers (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8). Again and again this is the apostolic claim in the Acts of the Apostles. Therefore it is quite the thing to be expected that God should be introduced, bearing his testimony along with them. Certain things were done, manifestly transcending human power, and manifestly full of a Divine presence and intent to those who regarded them with an honest heart. It is part of the love of God that he seeks all means to strengthen our hearts in keeping hold of the truth as it is in Jesus. Evidence is nothing without a spirit to appreciate it; but God knew that wheresoever the gospel went there would be some appreciating spirits, and to them the truth came by agencies such as bore it forward to an abiding home in their hearts. Evidence, of course, changes as the ages change; but truth is ever the same. The truth as it is in Jesus has not been altered; the need which that truth came to supply remains undiminished; and so we may be sure God is testifying still concerning that truth, the testimony being such that it satisfies the intellect because first of all it feeds and comforts the heart.—Y.
Hebrews 2:8, Hebrews 2:9
The seen present as a ground of confidence in the unseen future.
The confidence of one who believes in Messianic prophecy is that all things are as good as subjected to the Christ because God has declared this as his design. What we see is greatly short of subjection, and the subjected part we fail to see; we cannot rest our eyes upon it properly, because their attention is distracted by the sight of so much defiance, rebellion, and attempt at self-government in the far greater part of what ought to be subject to Christ. All the more need to find in what we may see the assurance and promise of the unseen. We do see—for that is what the words amount to—a humanized, a dying, and a risen Christ. "Crowned with glory and honor" is but a periphrasis for the resurrection, an indication of one of the things God did in raising his Son Jesus.
I. WHAT WE SEE SHOWS US THE POWER WHICH CAN PRODUCE THE DESIRED UNSEEN. God, in saying that all things shall be subjected to Christ, asserts authority. But by the course of his Son Jesus on earth he also manifested power. He took as it were a small section of time and space, and there gave us gracious illustration of what he is ever doing, some of it in the realm of the seen, but much more in that of the unseen. What power there is in the Incarnation! For obvious reasons the Incarnation is mostly connected with thoughts of God's condescension, and the lowly-heartedness of Jesus himself. But these considerations must not blind us to the Incarnation as an illustration of God's power. There is a mysterious power in making Jesus lower than the angels, and if it be true that there is a causal connection between sin and death as a painful experience, then some peculiar power must be involved in bringing the sinless Jesus in contact with the pain of death. Then, of course, there is the instance of power, most impressive and most cheering to us, in the raising of Jesus from the dead. If only we can really believe that God has power over the grave, we shall believe in his final conquest of all that can hurt his people.
II. WHAT WE SEE SHOWS US THE PURPOSE EVER WORKING TOWARDS THE DESIRED UNSEEN. The grace of God is manifest as well as the power of God. Jesus not only died; he tasted of death for every one—for every one who could benefit by the tasting of it. He tasted of it that by his resurrection he might show it was not the remediless poison men reckoned it to be. In his love he tasted death, as much as to say to men, "Fear not." We have the Divine purposes in words, but those words are only the more perfect expressions of what we might infer from the works. It is true that "through the ages one increasing purpose runs"—a purpose much higher than that any individual man might form, or the combination of any men.
III. WHAT WE SEE SHOWS US PATIENCE WAITING FOP, THE DESIRED UNSEEN. Great is the patience of God—a contrast to our impatience, our haste, our discontent, if we cannot get immediate results. The fullness of time has to be waited for before the Christ can enter the world; the fullness of manhood has to be waited for till he can begin to teach. Jesus himself must have his own time of sufficient seed-sowing before he can go to Jerusalem for the final scene, belay, procrastination, postponement, is what God cannot tolerate where there ought to be decision, but for great steps to be taken in his own mighty plans he can wait the proper time. If we do not yet see all things subjected to Jesus, if indeed the struggle seems often quite the other way, then there is all the more need for us to look at the career of Jesus from Bethlehem to Calvary as an illustration of how God can wait. In making up the cup which Jesus drank, many ingredients had to be waited for.—Y.
The Father bringing the sons to glory.
I. THE TERMS IN WHICH THE FATHER IS HERE DESCRIBED. Fatherhood is, of course, implied when sonship is spoken of; and this Father is the Being "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things." Here is the great unity towards which, consciously or unconsciously, all things are tending. Here is the cause of all existence, compared with whom all other causes that men analyze and apportion are but as the merest instruments. The assertion here is, of course, not a scientific truth; it is the dictum of the Spirit, the Heaven-inspired feeling with which we look up to the Father of our Teacher, Jesus. All things, not for me, or you, or for a class, a nation, a race, an age, or even the total of human beings, but for God. The consummation is not on earth, but in heaven. In the light of such a description of God, what wonder is it that increasing science should mean the increasing knowledge of harmony, the discovery of ever-deepening connections between things that seem on the surface quite unconnected?
II. A PURPOSE OF HIM WHO IS SO DESCRIBED. All things are for him. The question is—Do we obediently recognize that stamp and superscription on ourselves which indicates that we are for him? Everything which in its actual existence is just what God wants it to be is moving towards its glory. The seed moves to its glory in the flower, the flower to its glory in the fruit. Unfallen man would have bad to be brought to glory—the glory of the perfect man in Christ Jesus. Society was meant to develop into a collection of men and women having in them the same beautiful spirit as was in Jesus. And that is the purpose still, only what should have come through a natural growth has to begin with a regeneration. Constantly in the New Testament is this basis-truth starting up, to remind us of its connection with all a Christian's efforts, all a Christian's hopes. God transforms us from his creatures into his children, and then leads us onward to glory.. All who are seeking glory save in the way of sonship are seeking what will prove a mockery when they find it. "Bringing many sons to glory." In this word "many" there is cause for rejoicing and careful reflection. It is not enough to say that men are brought. They are brought as sons; nor are they as a scattered few, one here and there in a generation. They are many. How many is not the question. Here is answered in a measure the query of the disciples, "Are the saved few '?" No, they are always many—more than we suppose, guessing by the mere appearance of firings.
III. HOW THE LEADER OF THIS BAND OF CHILDREN IS FITTED FOR HIS WORK. The ἀρχηγὸς. He who starts the company, giving them the direction. We are the sons of God, and it cloth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know the way in which we are going, and who is before us, responsible for that way being right. The true guide, the true leader, is he who himself has been all the way. This alone will save him from being a blind leader of the blind. He who would lead us must have gone in the way in which we have to go. And because our way is of necessity a way of suffering, his had to become the same. The way of man in any case is a way of suffering, and if he has chosen the motto, "For Christ's sake," then in proportion as that motto is written on his heart, in that same proportion would some sort of special trial be his lot. And so our very attachment to Christ is in a sense the means of bringing more suffering to him. The truth that Christians are persecuted for Christ's sake has its corresponding truth, that Christ was persecuted for God's sake. Jesus was perfected as a Leader by submitting to everything that in this world could come upon the outward man. He showed that there was a way, not round danger, but through danger, to an abiding safety beyond. He did not evade the darkness of the grave—he went into it; vanished, as most thought, for ever, and yet to emerge into everlasting light. Well may he ever sound in our ears those words of duty, promise, and hope, "Follow me."—Y.
Christ and his brethren.
In the eleventh verse there is brought in a new idea. The Author of salvation is now described in relation to his followers as the Sanctifier, and these followers as the sanctified. Jesus it is who sets us apart for God, and sets us apart by making a real difference between us and those who do not believe in him. In other words, if there is no real difference between us and the unbeliever, then we cannot reckon ourselves among the sanctified. Sanctification cannot consist in taking so many, irrespective of character or of any change which may be working in them. Jesus and all mankind are of one so far as a common humanity is concerned, and this is a condition for the further unity; but something more is needed. He who sanctifies is first of all sanctified himself—sanctified by the mystery of his birth, and by the Divine testimony at his baptism, and so on by everything that lifted him to a unique eminence among men. And all human beings who have the same Spirit of God working in them are thus reckoned for brethren of Jesus; and "he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Though they be far below him in elevation of character and perception of truth, yet the relation is there, and the very way to make things better is to recognize the relation and found an appeal upon it. Our sanctifying Brother looks upon us in our imperfections, and cheers us with the thought that we shall become like him. He is not ashamed to call us brethren, but how ashamed we ought to be that we are so unworthy of him! Christ is far more intent on working out the possibilities of our life than we are ourselves.—Y.
Christ robbing death of its terrors.
I. OBSERVE A REASON FOR THE INCARNATION. When we look at all the Son of God achieved by the Incarnation, we see what an eminently reasonable thing it was. This seems to be forgotten by those who stumble at what they feel sure is a natural impossibility—that Jesus should have come into the world as he did. But if great ends were achieved by the Son of God thus stooping from his glory, entering the world as a babe, living a human life and dying a human death, then, when we remember how God is love, surely such extraordinary things become credible. If we can help people, we are bound to do everything that lies in our power to help them. And may we not reverently say that a similar obligation lies with the Divine Being? He knows what is most for our help, and does everything in his own wise time and way; and when it is done it is for us to search and see how it is just the thing that needed to be done.
II. CHRIST BECAME A HUMAN BEING LIKE US IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT DIE. This strong way of putting the thing is necessary, in order to bring out the greatness of Christ's work with respect to death. With us death is the end of life, but by no means to be looked on as a result of life—a thing to be aimed at. But in the case of Jesus it was a great end to be reached. Jesus might have lived in the world for many years, teaching men, healing their sicknesses, gladdening their lives in many ways, and then, Enoch-fashion, he might have been translated that he should not see death. But if this had happened, the great end would have been missed.
III. THE RESULTS ACHIEVED BY THE DEATH OF CHRIST. Not all the results, of course; two are mentioned here. Christ died for men—that is the great general truth; and it is the way of God in the Scriptures to put one aspect of a truth in one place and another in another.
1. Christ in dying brings to nothing him who has the might of death. It is the devil who gives death its mighty power. Unseen by us, and by us incomprehensible, he works out his evil pleasure. And so Jesus had to go into the unseen world and conquer him. We can only know that there has been a struggle at all by what we see of the results. We know that he died, we know that he rose again; but all that happened in order to make his rising practicable is utterly beyond us. This is just one of the passages which make us feel how little we know, and how humble and diffident and cautious of speech we should be before the great unknown. The practical thing is that we should have a firm assurance in our hearts of how Christ has mastered the power of death, whencesoever that power may come.
2. The deliverance o/those enslaved by the fear of death. Christ comes to bring liberty. The progress of true Christianity is constantly enlarging the liberty of the individual. And here is one way in which the individual is bound, self-fettered; and too often the more he allows himself to think, the more firmly the chains get fastened, tie asks himself what is to come after death. So far is it from being certain that death means utter discontinuance of life that many are in trouble just because of the uncertainty. Then others cling to life just because life holds all that is certain to them. All their treasures are stored up on earth, for they have no notion of any other storehouse. It is, indeed, miserable work to have everything dependent on so uncertain a tenure as that of natural life. But Jesus comes and opens the prison-door. That is all he can do. By his death he has made deliverance possible from the fear of death. But man's confused heart goes on fearing even when the objects of its fear are turned into empty phantoms.—Y.
Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18
The Incarnation needed for an efficient priesthood.
I. WHEREIN AN EFFICIENT PRIESTHOOD LIES. The high priest is the representative of man before God. There are certain things which, as from God, are directed towards man; there are certain other things which, as from men, are directed towards God. These things are summed up, or rather the most important of them is specified, in the making reconciliation for the sins of the people. The word is the same as the publican used in saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" The thing needed is that these sins should be mentioned before God in their full reality and extent, and some sin offering made exactly correspondent to them. And for all this there is further needed on the part of the high priest two great qualities—pity and fidelity. The priest must pity his fellow-men as sinners, and to do this requires a very special exaltation of the heart. A man might easily pity his fellow-men for their physical pains and weaknesses, who would look with indifference on their alienation from God and the unrest of their hearts within them. Then as to the fidelity required in the priesthood, this is best seen in the elaborate instructions given concerning priestly duties by Moses; a sacrifice in which the least prescribed detail had been neglected was as no sacrifice at all.
II. THE DEFECTS OF EXISTING PRIESTHOODS. It is not exactly said that the long line of Aaron and his descendants had furnished a priesthood lacking in tenderness and faithfulness; but this is at least suggested, and it is certainly true. If, indeed, a merciful and faithful priesthood had been possible without making the humanity of Jesus to intervene, we are sure such intervention would not have occurred, for it is by no means the way of God to supersede what is doing its work efficiently. But the high priest hitherto had been taken from among men, and he was taken with all his infirmities upon him. He might have no due sense of sin. Judged by the state of his heart, thousands for whom he acted might be nearer to God than him. The priest lay exposed to just this peculiar temptation of having a lamentably inadequate sense of the sins of his fellow men. Thus sacrifice became an unreal, perfunctory thing—altogether of the hand, and not at all of the heart.
III. HOW IT WAS THAT JESUS BECAME AN EFFICIENT HIGH PRIEST. Here we must look at Jesus historically. Strange it is to remember, in the light of the emphatic assertions of his priesthood contained in this Epistle, how he never stood at any altar in Jerusalem, never entered the holy of holies. And yet all the time he was preparing for priesthood and for sacrifice. He was declaring, by all his ceaseless words and acts of mercy, by all his faithfulness to truth, his fitness to be the High Priest. For perfect compassion and perfect fidelity, these constitute the vocation to the priestly office. And it must be one of ourselves who shows them. Jesus, as Son of God, had something which every descendant of Aaron had lacked; but until he became in all respects like his brethren, the most sinful of men had something which Jesus lacked. What wonder is it that angelic visits ceased once the humanity of Jesus became demonstrated and glorified! Angels, whatever their desire might be, could never come so close to us as Jesus—could never know as he knows, man like us, looking into our hearts with human eyes and yet with Divine penetration.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27