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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Hebrews 2

 

 

Verses 1-4

Section C. Hebrews 2:1-4

The Importance of Receiving and Holding Fast the Truth as to the Person of the Son

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?”

We have here a solemn warning addressed to all to whom the truth of Christ’s superiority to angels has come, impressing upon them the importance of giving earnest attention to these things lest at any time they should drift past them, or lest they should seem to run out as from leaking vessels. It is one thing to accept the truth intellectually and profess adherence to certain doctrines. It is another thing to receive the truth in the heart and thus to be born of God. The danger for these Hebrews was that they might have allied themselves with the Christian company outwardly while never having actually received the truth in their hearts, by which means alone they could be regenerated. There was always the danger that under the stress of persecution such professors might give up or drift away from what was of prime importance-a true confession of Christ. And so they were warned that, as of old when God gave the law (for that is the word spoken by angels referred to in verse 2)(Hebrews 2:2), “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,” even though the people had declared their adherence to all that God had spoken; so now, how shall we escape if we are careless regarding so great salvation? Great, because of the dignity of the Person who accomplished it, proclaimed first by the Lord Himself when here in the world, and later confirmed by His apostles! God had set His seal to their testimony by giving them the power to work mighty signs and wonders, as promised in Mark 16 and elsewhere. These signs followed them as they went everywhere preaching the Word, the Holy Spirit working miraculously through them to accredit the gospel message. To turn away from Christianity would mean to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, for they could not reject the testimony thus accredited without denying the work of the Holy Spirit. If the mighty signs were not wrought by Him, who then was their author? They must acknowledge that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to the truth of the gospel, or, as their fathers had done, impute these wonders to the power of Satan.

Notice that the gifts of the Spirit were according to His own will. This is important, and it is in accord with what is written in 1 Corinthians 12, concerning spiritual gifts, where we are told, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). If this were better understood, there would be less insistence upon certain gifts as evidences of the Spirit’s indwelling.

 

 

 


Verses 5-18

Division II. Chaps. 2:5-4:13 The Glories and Humiliation of the Son of Man

Having considered our Blessed Lord from the standpoint of His deity, both as the Eternal Son and as the Son of God in Manhood, we are now called upon to think of Him in His humiliation as He entered into the experiences of humanity in order that He might become the Captain of our salvation. We should never forget that His humanity is as real as His deity. He was born of a virgin; a babe, to all outward appearances like any other, and a perfectly normal child, growing up from infancy to manhood, increasing in wisdom as He increased in stature, and was a sharer in all that pertained to human nature as originally created by God. And He has gone up to heaven as Man, so that we may properly sing:

“He wears our nature on the throne.”

But let us never forget His human nature was sinless throughout as was that of Adam before the fall. He did not come under Adam’s federal headship and so did not inherit his fallen estate. God alone was His Father, as we have already seen, and as Scripture abundantly bears witness.

But inasmuch as He was both God and Man in one Person, His humanity was not only innocent as was that of the first man, which was therefore subject to failure, but it was holy, repelling evil, for He was the second Man, the Lord from heaven. This precludes all possibility of sin or failure on His part.

Nevertheless, He entered into our human condition and circumstances, not when the race was unfallen but after the fall, when it had become bruised and battered by sin. So He passed, Himself sinless, through this life exposed to pain and sorrow, to hunger and weariness, to trial and temptation, and entered fully into all human experiences which did not involve personal demerit, dying at last upon a felon’s cross where Jehovah laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. While there was no sin in Him, our sins were made to meet upon Him, and He made full expiation for all our iniquities that we might be reconciled to God and justified from all things.

Section A. Hebrews 2:5-9

The Glory of the Son of Man and His Authority

“For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Or the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst Him with glory and honor, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

While angels are greater in power and might than man in his present circumstances, they remain but servants. It was never God’s purpose that the angels should be rulers over humanity. During the present age and throughout past dispensations, it has pleased God to use angels as His messengers in conveying His will to man. These glorious beings appeared to the patriarchs either to announce blessing or to warn of judgment. The law was given by the disposition of angels. By angelic guidance, the people of Israel were led through the wilderness, and during all the years of the theocracy angels appeared from time to time as representatives of the throne of God. When our blessed Lord Himself was here on earth angels came to minister unto Him, and when He comes into the world again, as we have seen in chapter 1, they will all worship Him. But it is not in the plan of God that they should administer the affairs of the divine government when the kingdom is actually established. “Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the age to come.” Notice it is “age,” not “world;” that is, it is not the cosmos as such that is in view, but the coming age of righteousness when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. No angel will rule in that day. But He whose glory was foretold in the eighth psalm will take the kingdom and rule in righteousness, for the certain place referred to in Hebrews 2:6 is, as we know, Psalms 8:4-6, which is quoted here. “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? For Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned Him with glory and honor. Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under His feet.” If we turn back to the psalm we might not realize that it is Christ who is in view, particularly as we notice Hebrews 2:7-8 where all cattle and wild beasts, as well as fowls of the air and the fish of the sea, are said to be subjected to man. It might look as though it is but a confirmation of the Lord’s word to Adam the first, to whom He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). But we know well that Adam forfeited his headship through sin, and now in the eighth psalm that headship is confirmed to One who is called the Son of Man, which Adam, of course, never was. The apostle’s use of the passage here in Hebrews makes it plain that it is the Last Adam to whom the psalm refers. And so, as we read these words, we think of Him who delighted in the title “Son of Man” because it speaks of Him as the appointed ruler over the whole earth, who is to deliver it from the bondage of corruption. He was made a little lower than the angels, that is, He became Man, and men in their present condition are inferior to angels, though when redemption is completed, we shall have a place higher than angels can ever aspire to. And already He who took that place of humility has been received up into heaven as Man and crowned with glory and honor, and by divine fiat set over all creation. For God has appointed Him Heir of all things and decreed that all shall be in subjection under His feet. He leaves nothing unsubjected to Him. His place is that of supreme authority.

But as we look around the world today, can we think for a moment that His authority is being exercised? “We see not yet all things put under Him,” and though many centuries have passed since this Epistle to the Hebrews was written, rebellion against God still characterizes this lower universe. The divine law is flouted. The grace of God is despised. His Word is refused. His Holy Spirit is ignored. His people are still called upon to suffer for righteousness’ sake. Surely all things are not yet put under Him! Such might well be the natural conclusion to which we would come if we looked only upon the things that are seen.

But when by the eye of faith, through the telescope of the Word, we pierce the heavens, we see Jesus, who once became a little lower than the angels with the view to the suffering of death, even now crowned with glory and honor. He sits exalted on the throne of the Eternal as a glorified Man at the right hand of the Majesty on high. God has set Him above all things, which is conclusive proof to us that all things shall yet be subjected to Him.

Notice the special reason given for His humiliation. He became a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death: that is, with this very object in view. It was impossible that Deity as such should die. If He would taste death for every man, He must become Man, for only as man could He die. This is the mystery set forth in that ancient type in Leviticus 14:5 where, in connection with the cleansing of the leper, the priest was instructed to take two birds alive and clean. One of the birds was to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. The other was to be dipped in the blood of the dead bird and let loose in the open field. The two birds typified one Christ. The first speaks of Him as the Heavenly One who entered into the earthen vessel of humanity in order that He might die. The second speaks of Him as the Risen One who has returned to the heavens in all the value of His own most precious blood.

Then it is well to notice that after all it is not merely for every man that He tasted death. The context makes it plain that the “all” for which He died is in the neuter in the original. It might rightly be rendered, “that He by the grace of God should taste death for everything.” For through His death not only will sinners be saved and the world of redeemed men brought into eternal blessing, but the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption and everything in heaven and earth at last brought into harmony with God. None shall fail of this reconciliation excepting those who deliberately prefer their sins to the salvation so freely offered.

Section B. Hebrews 2:10-18

The Perfecting of the Captain of our Salvation through Suffering

This section is one of the most precious in all the Epistle and requires careful consideration, for there is grave danger of misunderstanding some of its great declarations unless we are familiar with what the Word of God elsewhere reveals concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus.

If He would become Captain of our salvation, or, literally, File-leader of our salvation, the One who is Himself the Way of Life and leads us in that Way, He must be perfected through sufferings. But notice how His glory as Creator is insisted on when His sufferings are in view. “It became Him,” that is, it was consistent under the circumstances for Him, “for whom are all things and by whom are all things”-the same as in Colossians, “All things were created by Him and for Him”-if He would bring many sons into glory (and this we know is the very reason for which He came into the world), to be made perfect, not as to His character, but as to His Saviourhood, by sufferings. There was never any imperfection in Him as Man. He was always the Perfect One, but let it never be forgotten that the perfect life of Jesus would never have saved one poor sinner. In order to become Captain of salvation, that He might lead many sons to glory, He must go by way of Gethsemane and Golgotha, where He was perfected by sufferings. Apart from His bitter passion, there could be no redemption for lost men and women.

And in Hebrews 2:11 we have the glorious result of His sufferings. “Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.” To sanctify is to separate, to set apart. He set Himself apart in order that He might become our Saviour. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19). And now as having gone back to the glory from whence He came, He is Himself the Sanctifier of all His own. He has been made unto us wisdom, even righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Every believer has been set apart by Him and in Him to God the Father, and so it can be said of Him and of us, “We are all of one.” That is, I take it, all of one Father or of one family. And therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. Our poor hearts cannot but realize how worthless we have been and are, and how, if He were any other than He is, He might well be ashamed to own such as we as His brethren. But we have become partakers of His divine life, a life that is eternal and to which sin can never attach. And so He owns us gladly as His brethren, though, may I add, nowhere in Scripture is He spoken of as our brother. He says, “Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am.” But He whom we gladly own as Lord, in wondrous grace calls us His brothers.

In Psalm 22 we see Him hanging on the cross, the Forsaken One, drinking the wormwood and the gall, bearing the judgment due to our sins. In Psalms 22:1-21 of that psalm He is seen alone, suffering at the hands of God what our guilt deserved. Then from Psalms 22:22 on He is no longer alone, but as the Risen One is surrounded by multitudes who owe their salvation to His sufferings on the tree, and it is in resurrection He exclaims: “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.” This is the passage that is quoted in Hebrews 2:12 of our chapter; but for “congregation” we have the word “church,” a translation, as we know, of the Greek ekklesia, which was the Septuagint rendering for the Hebrew term translated “congregation.” It is the assembly of the redeemed, and in the midst of that assembly the Risen Christ takes His place as the Chief Chorister leading the praises of His people’s hearts.

He once trod the path of faith Himself, as implied in the quotation, in Hebrews 2:13, from Isaiah 8:17, “I will put My trust in Him.” As Man here on earth, He walked through the wilderness of this world with perfect confidence in the Father, looking on to the time when, surrounded by all His own, He could say, as quoted from the eighteenth verse of the same chapter (Isaiah 8:18), “Behold, I and the children which Thou hast given Me.” But it is not to Isaiah and his children that these words primarily apply. The prophet of old was but the type of the Lord Himself who spoke by the Spirit through Isaiah.

In Hebrews 2:14-15 we read: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” It is necessary to give the most careful consideration to what is really stated here lest we, even though unintentionally, detract from the glory of the humanity of our blessed Lord. A casual reading of the first part of Hebrews 2:14 might suggest that our Saviour participated in everything that is connected with flesh and blood. Indeed, this has been the teaching of many. According to them, the Son of God assumed humanity with all its sinfulness and all its limitations of ignorance, so that even though they acknowledge that in some sense He was truly God manifest in flesh, yet with them it is Deity enshrouded in poor degraded sinful human nature; unable, therefore, to make Himself known in His fulness. But what we are really told here is that inasmuch as the children of faith are human beings, not angels, as the writer points out in Hebrews 2:16, so in order that He might be the true Goel or Kinsman-Redeemer, He in infinite grace became Man and thus took part of the same human nature. This does not in any sense imply that He took defiled human nature. This the Holy Spirit guarded against in the fullest possible way, so that the angel could say to Mary, “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” While in our English version the words “partakers of” and “took part of” might seem to imply in each instance fullest participation, the original does not necessarily imply this. The following note from the pen of F. W. Grant, than whom I know no more spiritual expositor, is very helpful. “It must be noted here, as it often has been, that while the children are said to be partakers of flesh and blood-this ‘partaking’ being a real having in common, a participation of the most thorough kind-in His own ‘taking part’ another word is used which implies limitation. It does not indeed show the character of the limitation; but the difference between the words makes us necessarily ask what, in fact, that limitation was; and the answer comes to us immediately, that while His was true humanity in every particular necessary to constitute it that, yet humanity as men have it, the humanity of fallen men, was not His. Here there must be strict limitation. We must add, as the apostle does afterwards with regard to His temptation, ‘sin apart.” Sin, with the consequences of sin, He could not take. Death could have no power over Him, except as He might submit Himself voluntarily to it, and this He did; but it was obedience to His Father’s will, and no necessity of His condition, as it is of ours” (Numerical Bible, Notes on Hebrews, page 23).

And if it be remembered that sin is not inherent in human nature as such, but that it is a foreign thing brought in through the fall, it can be readily understood how it could be said that our blessed Lord “took part of the same” without involving full participation in all that had come in through man’s failure. He must be the Unblemished One if He would make satisfaction for sins. It is through failure to realize this that many very wrong systems have been built up teaching the sinfulness of Christ’s humanity, something which one would expect would be repugnant to every truly converted person.

Having thus become Man, though sinless, our Lord became man’s Champion and went forth as our David to destroy or annul the great Goliath who had terrorized the world ever since the fall, “him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil.” The cross was for Christ a Valley of Elah where He met our cruel foe and put an end to his authority over the souls of all who believe the gospel, thus delivering us even now, who in times past through fear of death were held in bitter bondage all our lives. Satan is a conquered foe and no believer need now fear him, but it is incumbent on us to watch and pray lest he mislead us and hinder our communion with God, though he well knows he can never destroy our life.

The sixteenth verse seems to be unfortunately rendered in our Authorized Version, through inserting the italicized words which imply that it is a question of nature that is under consideration. A better translation reads as follows: “For truly He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He took hold.” That is, Christ did not come to be the Saviour of fallen angels. They are shut up unto eternal darkness, but in infinite grace He passed angels by and laid hold on the seed of Abraham, that is, on all who believe in Him. In order to do this, it was necessary that He should be made like unto His brethren, as we have already seen, that thus having passed sinlessly through all human experiences, He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make-not “reconciliation,” as in the Authorized Version text, but-expiation or atonement for the sins of the people. In this we see the fulfilment of the type of the great Day of Atonement when the high priest first offered the sacrifice at the altar and then presented the blood in the Holiest. So our Lord, at the close of His pilgrim path, on our behalf offered up Himself upon the cross to make expiation, atonement, or propitiation, for our sins. The original word is that used in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew word for atonement. Reconciliation is the result of this, but it is we who are reconciled to God, not He who has to be reconciled to us.

And now our Great High Priest lives on high ever ready to succor them that are tempted. Having Himself suffered being tempted, His heart goes out in compassion to us in our great need. Note the contrast between this passage and 1 Peter 4:1. Here we read that Christ “suffered being tempted.” In the other passage we are told that “He that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” This brings out most vividly the difference between Christ’s perfect humanity and our sinful natures. To us, sin is attractive and alluring. We suffer in the flesh when we resist it. With Him it was the very opposite. Temptation caused Him the keenest suffering. It was the presentation of that to His holy soul which He abhorred, and even to have to do with it, in the sense of temptation, caused Him pain and anguish.

 

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 2:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/hebrews-2.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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