THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 11-15
2:11 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,
2:12 Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.
2:13 And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
2:14 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;
2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
THE PATH OF SEPARATION FROM ADAM’S WORLD
2:11 For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified- To sanctify means to set apart. It is too early in the epistle to think in terms of being sanctified by the sacrifice of Christ, 10:10. In the context, the captain of our salvation has separated us from the world of Adam of which we formed part. In His prayer in John 17, the Lord Jesus spoke of sanctifying Himself, that His people might be sanctified by the truth. Sanctification, or holiness, has not to do in the first instance with separation from sin, (we must not confuse sanctification with purification), but rather involves separation from the ordinary, to be occupied with the sacred. Christ ever sanctified Himself during His life down here, and this qualifies Him to sanctify His people now. He had contrasted those who have eternal life with those who only have the life of flesh, John 17:2, and has described His own as given to Him by the Father out of the world, verse 6. This does not involve being physically removed, but morally distinct. Given that believers are in the world, He requested that they might be sanctified by the truth. The truth in question being that regarding the nature of the eternal life believers possess, the very life of God. It is as we have fellowship with God and His Son in the things of eternal life, (which things were expressed fully by the Son when He was here), that we shall be set apart from the world of Adam. The closer we get to God, the further we shall be from the world. Adam associated his race with things that caused them to perish, whereas Christ associates with salvation the race of which He is head. By passing through this world, and suffering in it, the Lord Jesus has equipped Himself with the experience to lead His people through the same world, with all its sufferings.
Are all of one- the sanctifier, (Christ), and those sanctified, (His people), all emerge out of one common experience of suffering on the way to glory. He has already come out of the tomb never to suffer again. But association with Christ in His burial and resurrection begins a life of suffering for the believer. From which suffering he will emerge just a certainly as Christ has emerged. If we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified together, Romans 8:17. Christ is out of the experience of suffering already, whereas we await that emergence, but because it is certain it can be spoken of as if already accomplished. It is noticeable that the apostles did not begin to suffer for Christ until He was risen from the dead.
For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren- “A brother is born for adversity”, Proverbs 17:17, and the common experience of suffering bonds us with our captain. If He passed through suffering, and the people did not, then there might be room for embarrassment if He called us brethren. Note the way Romans 8 moves from a consideration of sufferings because of a groaning creation, verses 16-27, to the thought that God’s people shall be brethren with His Son, in glory, verses 28-30. No amount of privation can destroy that, as Romans 8:38,39 declares: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
THE PATH OF (RESURRECTION) LIFE WITH CHRIST
2:12 Saying, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren- These are words found in Psalm 22:22 at the point where the scene changes from one of death and great suffering, to resurrection and great glory. They represent the point where Christ finishes His experience of suffering in this world, and begins to enter His glory, “God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory”, 1 Peter 1:21.
The Lord described His disciples as those that had continued with Him in His temptations, and despite the way they had forsaken Him in Gethsemane, He still said to the women, “Go tell My brethren that I go before you into Galilee”, Matthew 28:10. He also spoke of ascending to His Father and theirs, thus showing He was not ashamed to associate with them, even if they had been ashamed, temporarily, to associate with Him. In this way He began to carry out what He promised in His prayer to His Father in John 17:26, and continued the declaration of the Father’s name or character.
In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee”- If the first phrase involved teaching the Name, this one involves praising the Name. Praise is the expression of the works of God, and here the Lord Jesus can be thought of as praising God for His great work of delivering Him from death, in answer to His prayer, Hebrews 5:7. It is noticeable that after the Passover meal a psalm was sung before they left, in accordance with the custom of Israel, whereas we do not read of this in the upper room in the post-resurrection appearances to the disciples there. Perhaps a psalm, (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19), now has the more spiritual idea of a personal expression of praise, rather than the repetition of the exercises of others. By singing praise in the church is meant the recounting by the Lord Jesus of His appreciation of the intervention of His Father on His behalf; He does this as His people speak of Him to the Father. Psalm 22 does not actually use the word sing in the expression that is quoted here, perhaps confirming that singing is not necessarily in view.
There is a possibility that the declaring of the Name is done while His people are still on earth, whereas the singing of praise in the midst of the church will take place in heaven when all the redeemed are safe home. So one refers to the local assembly, the other to “the church of the firstborn (ones) which are written (enrolled) in heaven”, 12:23.
THE PATH OF FAITH IN GOD
2:13 And again, “I will put my trust in Him”- This is a quotation from Psalm 18, which is mainly an account of David’s deliverance from the hand of his enemies, including Saul. Now Saul had persecuted David some 40 or more years before, and he seems to have used this psalm as an expression of his dependence on God at every stage of his life. The first three verses, from which this quote comes, give to us the attitude of David to adversity, and one feature is his trust in God. Then he records the way in which God vindicated his trust in him by delivering him from his foes. So we learn that during the time when His enemies had the upper hand, the Lord Jesus was marked by trust in God. Indeed, this was ever His attitude, for Psalm 22:9,10 says “I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art My God from My mother’s belly; Thou didst make me hope when I was upon My mother’s breast”. As a result, He knew deliverance from Herod. Children, even unborn children, are remarkably sensitive to the circumstances in which their mother finds herself. See, for instance, Luke 1:41. By implication, His brethren will be marked by this trust too, as they follow the path the captain of their salvation has marked out for them.
And again, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me”- This is a quotation from Isaiah 8:18. Isaiah had the task of warning the wicked king Ahaz of impending captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. As a sign to Israel, Isaiah was instructed by God to name his two sons in a particular way. One was to be Shear-jashub, a name which means “A remnant shall return”, and the other, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “In making haste to the spoil he hasteneth the prey”. So when Isaiah said to the nation, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given me”, they were a “sign and a wonder” to Israel. Maher-shalal-hash-baz was testimony that the Assyrian would indeed hasten to invade the land, and take them as a prey. The other son, however, was God’s promise that even though that happened, a remnant would return from captivity. So during the present age, believers from the nation of Israel are likewise a testimony to coming judgement on the nation in the form of the Great Tribulation, (and to a lesser extent the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70), and also to the fact that God will be favourable to His people and ensure that a remnant of them will know His salvation. It is interesting that the Lord Jesus called His brethren “children”, in John 21:5, using the same word which is found here and in the next verse. So physical descendants are not necessarily in view in the application of the quotation, but a spiritual relationship. Just as Isaiah’s trust was in God despite the impending judgements, so the trust of the Hebrew believers should be in God despite what would happen to them as a nation in AD 70.
THE PATH OF DELIVERANCE FROM OUR ENEMIES
2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood- The children in question being those addressed in the previous verse, the children of God, who are the same as Christ’s brethren, true believers. The present condition of the children is in view because they were not children before they became partakers. The verb “are partakers” is in the perfect tense, meaning continuation from the past to the present. Those who share flesh and blood are in a condition of relative weakness, which leaves them vulnerable to attack by evil as they make their way to glory, therefore their Captain steps in to help.
He also Himself- It is necessary for Him to have the same nature as those He leads, so that He may pass through the same experiences, sin apart, of course.
Likewise took part of the same- Not only does He share flesh and blood with the children, but shares it likewise, or in the same manner- “Similarly, in like manner, in the same way… is equivalent to ‘in all things’ of verse 17, and hence is used of a similarity which amounts to equality”, Grimme. The manhood of Christ is real, even though He is without sin, for a sinful nature is not an integral part of humanity. Adam was a real man before he sinned- he did not have to possess a sinful nature before he was rightly called a man. 1 Corinthians 15:50 distinguishes between flesh and blood, and corruption, showing that our corrupt nature can be considered apart from our flesh and blood condition. The Lord Jesus took part of flesh and blood in like manner to the children, by birth of a mother, and He subsequently took part in this condition as He lived amongst men. Perhaps there is an allusion to the other son mentioned by Isaiah, even Immanuel, the child born of the virgin, Isaiah 9:14, see Matthew 1:23.
The word used of believers is partakers, meaning they have a common, equal share in humanity, whereas Christ took part, which involves coming in from outside the condition, a testimony to His pre-existence before birth.
That through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death- Psalm 18, which is quoted in verse 13, and which is found in 2 Samuel 22 also, was written when the Lord had delivered David from his enemies, including Goliath and his sons. In fact 2 Samuel 21:22 links the defeat of Goliath when David was a youth, with the defeat of his four sons by David’s mighty men, when David was an old man. Goliath had put the fear of death into the hearts of the armies of Israel, but David had delivered them from that fear, and had beheaded Goliath with his own sword. So Christ has defeated the greatest enemy of all, the Devil, by using the very weapon that he used.
By coming into flesh and blood conditions, and by allowing Himself to be condemned to death, the Lord Jesus placed Himself in a position of weakness. Yet in this weakness He defeated the mightiest force for evil there ever could be. See 2 Corinthians 13:4. Since He is now raised from the dead by the power of God, there is no possibility of the Devil being effective against God’s sons. To destroy means to make of no effect, not annihilate. In the wisdom of God, the Devil is still allowed some measure of activity, but when his final doom is effected it will only take an “ordinary” angel to bind him and cast him into the lake of fire, Revelation 20:1-3.
2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage- those under the law were under the ministration of condemnation and death, 2 Corinthians 3:7,9. This brought bondage, for they were not free from fear of death. Imagine a believer in Israel who is returning from sacrificing a sin offering. As he returns to his tent he sins again; yet it is too late to return to the altar. He goes to sleep that night fearing that he may die, and die, moreover, with sin upon him. Through Christ’s death, however, this fear is removed, and death may be faced calmly. This relates especially to believers who formerly were Jews, and therefore under the law.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 16-18
2:16 For verily He took not on him the nature of angels; but He took on him the seed of Abraham.
2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved 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.
2:18 For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.
THE PATH OF VICTORY OVER TEMPTATION
2:16 For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels- “the nature of” has been added by the translators, since they felt it necessary. But the word “took” is the key here. It means to “take up a person to help him, to rescue from peril, and also to succour”. There is nothing about taking a nature. The Textus Receptus says “For not indeed of angels takes He hold”. The point is that He did not come into flesh and blood conditions to help angels, but the seed of Abraham. Angels have no fear of death, nor does Christ succour them.
But He took on Him the seed of Abraham- that is, His coming is relevant to the first readers of the epistle, the Hebrews, descended from “Abram the Hebrew”, Genesis 14:13. They should not think that because the link with Adam has been emphasised in the earlier verses, that they have no special place with God. “Salvation is of the Jews”, John 4:22. “Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came”, Romans 9:5. The special emphasis, however, is on those descended from Abraham naturally who were believers, and therefore were his seed spiritually, see John 8:33-45; Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:29. The word “took” is the same as is used in 8:9 of God taking hold of Israel to lead them out of Egypt. Here our captain takes hold to lead out of the world. Clearly, the statement in 8:9 does not involve taking a nature. “For verily” is only found here in the New Testament. “It is used when something is affirmed in an ironical way”- Grimm. Vine says it means, “Of course,” or “It goes without saying.”
2:17 Wherefore- this means “for which reason”.
In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren- For the purpose of taking hold of the seed of Abraham, He needed to be made like them in all things- note He is made like His brethren, meaning believers. He is not made like unbelievers in all things, for they have a sinful nature, whereas believers are looked at ideally as being righteous, even whilst in a mortal body. This confirms that the seed of Abraham in verse 16 means believers. “Behoved” means “a necessity in view of the subject under discussion”. Having taken flesh and blood, and come to take hold of believers to help them, it is necessary that He become like them in all relevant things, so that He may minister unto them effectively. The previous verses have shown believers to be delivered by His various ministries; but they are passing through temptations that may cause them to fall- how can He help them in this?
That He might be- in order that He might take His place as, or be granted the position of.
A merciful and faithful high priest- the word for mercy here indicates the outward manifestation of pity, with need on the part of the one shown mercy, and resources on the part of the one showing it. It is not simply an attitude, but an act, as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan, who was not content to look from a distance, (as the priest was), but acted in compassion.
Faithfulness marks Him, not only in His relationship with God, 3:2, but also towards believers, the idea behind faithfulness being reliability and stability. The failures we manifest do not cause our helper to desert us. Cf. “only Luke is with me”, 2 Timothy 4:11, for the writer of the priestly gospel has learnt the constancy of the One he wrote of, and sought to imitate it.
In things pertaining to God- in matters that relate to the honour of God. Aaron was made priest to minister unto God, Exodus 28:1. The priesthood of Aaron had to do with constant sacrifices and yearly atonement. Christ dealt with these two aspects before He entered into his ministry, as hebrews 7:28 makes clear. His sacrifice renders altar sacrifices obsolete, chapter 10, and His work of propitiation is once for all, chapter 9. His priesthood has to do with helping us move through the world safely, and leading the way into the presence of God.
To make reconciliation for the sins of the people- reconciliation, the bringing into harmony of persons formerly at variance, is one result of the work of propitiation. “To” means “for to”, a similar expression to the “That He might be” of the beginning of the verse. The change of word indicates that, as the scholars say, “this is a separate telic clause”, (a clause which tells us what the goal is). So there are two goals in view in the verse, the one issuing from the other- He is made like His brethren with the general object of being a faithful high priest for them, and also to make propitiation. Whilst this is put second, the work was done before He became high priest, but the writer perhaps wishes to link His present work of succouring the tempted with the work that is the support for that ministry. Compare 1 John 2:1,2, with the advocacy of Christ on the basis of His propitiatory work. He is the propitiation for our sins in the sense that the one in heaven interceding is the one who once was on the cross propitiating. The alternative reason for propitiation being mentioned second will be given later.
The Lord Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene about His brethren, and indicated that He was about to “ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God”, John 20:17. Thus He would still be the link between His people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God.
The basis of His advocacy is two-fold. His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2. The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning. The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers. But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work. He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins. Not was, but is. In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
He is also our High priest. Hebrews 2:17,18 form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness as noted in chapter three.
Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18. Too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost. The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted. When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause. Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help. The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”. He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.
But what if we fall, and sin? In that case He comes to our aid in another way. We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20. The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary. This was in order to “bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17, where the word for bear is the same as is used for the scapegoat bearing iniquity. But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this. One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God. As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17. We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people. He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation. This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.
2:18 For in that He hath suffered, being tempted- only those who resist temptation suffer. The fact that it is said without qualification that He suffered when He was tempted, shows that He always resisted resolutely. He therefore knows what His people pass through when they resist temptation.
He is able to succour them that are tempted- knowing the pressure they are under, He is able to suit the help they need to their situation. When His people do not resist temptation, then His work at Calvary safeguards their position, hence the mention of propitiation in the previous verse. To succour means to run to the aid of a person in danger when they cry for help. See Matthew 15:25, “Lord, help me”; and Hebrews 4:16 “Grace to help in time of need”, where the same word as succour is used. Because He has experienced the pressure of temptation, and has overcome, when we go to Him for help He is able to point us to the way in which He overcame, as detailed in the temptation accounts in the gospels.