The Need of Cheerful Obedience to Christ. Heb. 2, 1-13.

The excellence of the Gospel-message: V.1. 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. V.2. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, v.3. 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, v.4. 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? The writer, in the first chapter, has proved the superiority of the Son to the angels, showing Him to be the eternal and almighty Creator of the universe, equal in majesty and glory with God the Father Himself. From these facts he now deduces a warning with regard to the neglect of the salvation as proclaimed by the Lord Himself and attested by God in various miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost: For this reason it is necessary that we attend more closely to the words which we have heard, lest perhaps we drift away. Instead of naming the Gospel outright, he circumscribes the term, reminding his readers of the things that they had heard, of the great salvation preached by the Lord Himself and carried out into the world by the apostles and evangelists. It is not the writer’s purpose to bring forward new truths, but to have all men keep those that have been proclaimed by the servants of God from the beginning. For all believers are under obligation to pap the most careful attention to these words, to heed them with all eagerness. For if by any chance we let the words slip away from us, if we drift away from them, we shall be without a hold in life, like the clouds and waves that are driven to and fro by every wind. It is absolutely necessary that we, by the power of God, keep a firm hold on the Gospel and on the salvation which is offered in the Gospel, Phil. 2, 12.

This warning the sacred writer enforces by a comparison between the word of the Lam and the preaching of the Gospel: For if the word spoken through angels proved certain, and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? The Law was given to the children of Israel by the disposition of angels, Acts 7, 53, the Lord employing these servants to make known His will to men amid the thunderings, lightnings, and quakings of Mount Sinai. This word of the Law, moreover, held good, it proved certain and sure, it was God’s will that it be kept by His people. In token of this it was by His judgment that every transgression of His holy Law and every willful going aside and neglect, every disobedience, met with due punishment, with that reward which justice demanded. Both the refusal to heed a positive command and the neglect to obey were treated by the Lord with the same stern vengeance. But if this was the case with that doctrine whose chief function was preparatory, whose character was transitory, what chances have we to escape the wrath of God and the final judgment, to whom God has spoken through the Son, who have the full revelation of the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus in the Word of the Gospel? If we should neglect that great and wonderful salvation which was made known to us, the wonderful news of our redemption in Christ, if we should deliberately set aside and despise what we know to be the one way to heaven, there would be no excuse for us when the Lord calls us to account on the last day.

This news of salvation is further described: Which was originally spoken by the Lord, and certified to us by them that heard Him, God at the same time being their witness, through signs as well as wonders and various powers and distributions of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. The inspired author is addressing people that had not seen the Lord Jesus in person, but had received the glorious Gospel-news from the mouth of such as had been fortunate enough to hear Him as He taught the way to everlasting happiness and glory. These men, the apostles and evangelists, had certified to the truth of the message which they proclaimed; they had given the most undoubted assurance of the veracity and importance of the Gospel. They had, moreover, been given such testimony in corroboration of their preaching that the assent of all men was almost demanded; for God Himself had testified in their behalf, had substantiated their claims by signs and wonders and various powers, Mark 16 20. The miracles which the apostles performed were a proof of the presence of God, they calling attention to the power of God which was active through these men. And not only did the Lord confirm the preaching of His servants by such miracles as evidently set aside the course and the laws of nature, but also with such peculiar distributions and gifts of the Holy Ghost, Rom. 12, 3; 1 Cor. 7, 17, as gave undeniable proof of the presence of God in them. ALL these cases of the miraculous confirmation of the Gospel message took place according to God’s own will, as He found it necessary to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel, Eph. 4, 17; 1 Cor. 12, 11. Thus the sacred writer spoke to the Jewish Christians that were in danger of neglecting the blessed Gospel of Christ for the sake of the Law, whose subsidiary position was apparent from every angle. Cp. 2 Cor. 3, 7-16.

A further argument for the superiority of Christ’s word: V.5. For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. V.6. 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? V.7. 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; v.8. 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. V.9. 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. In addition to the first proof for the superiority of Christ and of His Gospel the inspired writer now brings another reason: For not to the angels did He subject the world to come, concerning which we speak. This is the proof positive for the sovereignty of the Son, the fact that the government and the administration of the world to come, of the Kingdom of Glory, is ascribed to Him. For God did not place this wonderful kingdom into the control of the angels; there is not a single passage in Scriptures nor any other evidence to that effect.

What we must believe with regard to the Kingdom of Grace and Glory and its government is plainly shown in the passage which the sacred writer quotes, Ps. 8, 4-6, as the testimony of one, namely, David the prophet, concerning the facts here discussed by him: What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the Son of Man that Thou visitest Him? For a little while Thou hast made Him lower than the angels: with glory and honor hast Thou crowned Him and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands; Thou didst put all things in subjection under His feet. The author here clearly states that Ps. 8 is a Messianic psalm, and that these words are spoken of Jesus Christ. Cp. 1 Cor. 15, 27; Eph. 1, 22. God truly was mindful of this Son of Man in a most extraordinary manner, for the good of all mankind: He visited Him in a way which resulted in the salvation of all men. It is true indeed that Christ, in His state of humiliation, was for a little while inferior to the angels, just as He had no form or comeliness among men, Is. 53, 2. But when the work of redemption was completed, God crowned the formerly despised Jesus with divine honor and glory; He exalted Him, according to His human nature, to the full possession and enjoyment of all the divine attributes and powers, giving Him unlimited authority over all the works of creation, over all created beings. The entire universe, with all that it contains, is lying in subjection under His feet.

The writer now draws a conclusion from this Scripture-passage: For in this, that He put all things in subjection under Him, He left nothing that was not subjected under Him. It follows, of course, that even the angels are subject to Christ, that they can in no way compare with Him in power and authority. Eph. 1, 21. 22; Col. 2, 10. It is true, indeed: But now we do not see yet that all things are subjected to Him, 1 Cor. 15, 24-27; the revelation of the fullness of Christ’s divine power, just as He told the Jews in the court of Caiaphas, is a thing of the future: it will appear before the eyes of all men on the last day. In the mean time, however, our faith has a certain basis: Him who, for a little while, was lower than the angels we see, Jesus, on account of His suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in His state of humiliation, took upon Himself the sufferings of mankind and finally laid down His life in death. In this way the grace of God was revealed to mankind, since it was in behalf of every single human being and for the sake of earning a complete salvation for all men that Christ tasted the bitterness of death, Rom. 5, 8; Gal. 2, 21. This perfect obedience of the Redeemer has now been recognized and rewarded by the award of divine and everlasting glory and honor, Phil. 2, 6-11; Eph. 1, 20-23; Matt. 28, 18. It is equally certain that it will finally be shown that God put everything in subjection under His feet. If we wish to leave the order of the clauses in the sentence unchanged and think of the revelation of divine glory that came to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, the explanation is almost equally simple: “He was made a little lower than the angels that He might suffer death; but He was crowned with glory and honor that this very death might bring all men to the glory of supremacy which was theirs when the fear of death was removed.” 2)

The humiliation of the Son justified: V.10. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. V.11. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, v.12. saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee. v.13. And again, I will put My trust in Him. And again, Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me. It was to be expected that human reason might register an objection at this point, not understanding the necessity for such a humiliation, for Christ’s suffering and death. But the answer is plain: For it behooved Him, on whose account all things exist and through whom all things came into being, as One who brought many sons to glory, to make perfect the Prince of their salvation through sufferings. The way may seem strange to natural man, a stumbling-block to the Jews and an offense to the Greeks, but that is the way which God, for whom and by whom the universe exists and is preserved, chose in His wisdom. It was a may which fitted well with the essence and attributes of the great God, the Creator and Preserver of all things in heaven and earth, of Him who is Love and whose grace had already, in the time before Christ, led many simple believers to the blessing of eternal glory. It was proper that this God of our salvation should perfect, complete, glorify Jesus Christ, the Prince of our salvation, the man who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, chap. 12, 2, by way of suffering and death. Christ’s work would never have reached that perfection which made its blessings available for all men, if it had not been carried out in the manner described in the Gospel.

The next verses contain a proof for this: For He that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of One; for which reason He also is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the Church I will sing hymns to Thee; and again, I will put My trust in Him; and again, Behold, I and the children which God gave Me. He that sanctifies, Jesus Christ, and they that are sanctified, consecrated to God, the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, are all of One, of the one Father above, John 20, 17. And the Lord Jesus is not ashamed to acknowledge this kinship and live up to the obligations which it imposes. He did this even in the prophecy of the Old Testament, as when He called the believers His brethren, Ps. 22, 22, or when He spoke as a member of the congregation of believers, expressing their and His common faith in God, Ps. 18, 2; Is. 12, 2, or when He stepped before God in His character of Advocate for His brethren, referring to them as the children whom the Lord had given Him, Is. 8, 18. This conduct of Christ shows why it was altogether fitting and right for God to choose the way of salvation through His blood as the way to heaven for all men. This idea is now made the subject of a special paragraph.

The Deliverance Effected by Christ. Heb. 2, 14-18.

V.14. 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, v.15. and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. V.16. For, verily, He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. V.17. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. V.18. For in that he Himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted. This paragraph is closely connected in thought with the preceding argument, since it concludes the proof for the necessity of Christ’s vicarious work. It was as brethren that Christ acknowledged the believers, even in the Messianic prophecy. In connection with that thought the author argues: Since, then, the children share blood and flesh, He Himself likewise has become partaker of them, that through death He might put out of commission him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and liberate these that through fear of death throughout their entire life were subject to bondage. The brotherhood of Christ with men included incarnation and death. The children, the human brethren with whom the Son of God was willing to identify Himself according to the eternal counsel of love, were subject to the conditions brought about by their possession of flesh and blood; and their nature being impregnated with sin, they were all doomed to dissolution and death. Christ’s object, however, being that of saving men from the certain doom which awaited them, He, in a similar manner, that is, with the exception of sin, took upon Himself, joined to His divine nature, the flesh and blood of a true human nature: by His incarnation He became a true man according to body and soul. In this way the possibility was brought about for Christ to put the devil, who had the power over death, out of commission, to crush him, to render him powerless. This Christ did through His own death; by laying down His life as the price of ransom for the transgressions of the whole world, he destroyed the power of the devil. Thus did He liberate and release from their terrible slavery all men, who had been kept in bondage, held firmly chained during their entire earthly life through their fear of death. We have here, on the one hand, a picture of the natural lot and condition of all men. They are kept in the most miserable and shameful bondage by Satan. By bringing sins to the remembrance of the people, by appearing as the constant accuser of all men, he creates in them the fear of the punishment of death. Without the certainty of Christ’s redemption, this servility and fear is found in every man’s heart by nature. And he that knows nothing of Christ’s atoning death or will not accept the fact of his redemption through the blood of Jesus, has only one fate to look forward to, namely, that of everlasting damnation, in an endless, horrible death. But on the other hand, there is here a picture of wonderful beauty and comfort. For he that looks upon Christ in true faith, as his Redeemer, knows that the power of the devil is broken, and that death, formerly the strongest weapon in the hands of Satan to intimidate men and keep them in his power, has lost its terrors. We are liberated, released, redeemed through the atoning work of our Substitute, Jesus Christ. That is the meaning of Christ’s career so far as we are concerned. This redemption was possible on account of the fact that the Son of God, while still in the bosom of the Father, became our flesh and blood. As one commentator has it: “To Him who in His sinlessness experienced every weakness of mortality, without diminution of His unbroken strength of fellowship with God, death is not the dreaded sign of separation from God’s grace, but a step in His divinely appointed career: not something inflicted on Him against His will, but a means whereby He consciously and designedly accomplishes His vocation as Savior.”

So the humiliation of Christ, including even the climax of His ignominious death on the cross, were fully justified by the demands of the situation. It is evident, then, what the writer further remarks: For it is assuredly not angels whom He rescues, but it is the offspring of Abraham. Neither the good angels, being sinless and spiritual beings, nor the evil angels, being spiritual beings beyond reclaim, are included in the redemption of flesh and blood as carried out by Christ. Since the letter is addressed to Jewish Christians, the writer speaks of the descendants of Abraham, as he would otherwise designate all men. Cp. Rom. 15, 4-12. By undertaking and carrying out the work of redemption as He did, Christ brought everlasting help and salvation to all mankind.

The inspired writer therefore summarizes: Whence in all things it behooved Him to resemble His brethren that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things concerning God, in order to propitiate the sins of the people; for wherein He Himself suffered, being tempted, He is able to come to the assistance of those that are tempted. Because God’s counsel of love went over all men, because it was Christ’s intention to bring salvation to all without exception, therefore it was necessary for Him to become similar to His brethren, to become a true man, resembling His brethren in every single respect but this, that He was sinless. Being a true man, possessed of flesh and blood like all other men in the world, Christ could enter into the right understanding of human misery and weakness; He could become a truly merciful and faithful High Priest in all things that had to be brought before the Lord; He could make propitiation for the sins of all people. Just as the high priest of the Old Testament brought the offering of the great Day of Atonement in the name and in behalf of all the people in the entire nation, so Jesus made one sacrifice which effected a perfect, an everlasting atonement for the sins of all men till the end of time. For because He Himself suffered, bearing in His own body the suffering and the curse of all men’s sins, because He was obliged, above all, to suffer the temptations of Satan, not only in the wilderness, but in all the schemes of the hostile Jews, and especially in His last great Passion, therefore the assistance which He can render us, His brethren, is not a perfunctory and forced help, but a willing and loving service. No matter how great the temptations may be that assail us, our unfailing comfort consists in the fact that Christ, our High Priest, is now also our Advocate with the Father, urging in the face of eternal Justice the fact that He is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2, 1. 2. Thus the sacred writer has shown that it was indeed fitting for God to make His Son a sacrifice in this manner, that He chose the only way by which redemption could be brought to the world lost in sin.

Summary. The inspired author, continuing his argument concerning the sovereignty of Christ over all creatures including the angels, emphasizes the need of cheerful obedience to the Lord, incidentally showing that the way of salvation which God’s counsel of love decided upon was the only feasible plan.