LESSON 3 - Heb. 2:14-18 - HE BECAME ONE OF US
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in Heb. 2:1-4, we heard the writer issue the first of five warnings, from which we took away three broad principles of personal application: FIRST, we must constantly pay close attention to the sound doctrines taught by the Bible so that we do not "drift away" into apostasy. As a practical matter, this means ongoing study of the Bible in general, both OT and NT, but specifically, it means that we must develop a good working knowledge of the sound doctrines taught by the apostles. SECOND, backslidden Christians who let themselves to drift away from the truth, stand to lose heavenly rewards as just punishment for their sins. While it's impossible for a Christian to lose his or her salvation (John 10:28-29), they can still lose rewards in God's heavenly kingdom. This is generally referred to as the judgment seat (bema) of Christ. (See, Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). LAST, as Christians, more spiritual problems are caused by our neglect than any other failure on our part. This happens when we neglect God's Word, when we fail to pray, when we don't worship with God's people, when we're stingy with our resources, and ignore other opportunities for spiritual growth. When this happens, we drift. What we cannot "escape" are the spiritual consequences of neglect, both in this life and in the next.
This week, in Heb. 2.14-18, the writer of Hebrews will explain why Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came to us in the form of a man, rather than an angel. In order to become a valid example of our humanity, He had to experience our human sufferings and temptations so that He could (1) establish His identity with all of humankind and (2) provide a way of salvation to us; and by doing this, He effectively and finally defeated the power that death holds over us.
Read Heb. 2:14-15 - HE HUMBLED HIMSELF
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
v. 14a: "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood," - The word "children" refers to us, all human beings. What we all "share in the flesh and blood," that is, what we have in common, are all the natural strengths and weaknesses inherent to our flesh and blood bodies, combined with the inescapable fact that in the end, we all share death-the great leveler.
v. 14b: "He Himself likewise also partook of the same" - Here, the writer reveals the core reason for the incarnation-why Jesus had to share (to take on) our human condition, from His humble birth in a stable to the all hardships He endured in His earthly ministry, all the way up to His death in the most horrific form-nailed to a cross-that anyone's death could possibly take.
v. 14c: "that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil," - First, Jesus, since He was God the Son, could not have died without first becoming a human. The term the writer uses for "render powerless" (Gk. katargeó [kat-arg-eh'-o]) means to make something totally operative, like pulling the plug on an electrical appliance. The "power of death" represents the devil's hold over those who fear death, and death is the penalty for sin. But even if the devil is the power behind death, the infinite God still holds the ultimate power over death.
v. 15a: "and might free those who through fear of death" - In general, living in the "fear of death" is the greatest fear that a human being experiences. But by His death, Jesus Christ effectively released us from this fear-released us, Christian believers, from the great power that the devil held over us. A person having faith in Christ can face death with the same confidence that that Jesus had; we do not need to fear death because Christ has given us victory over death, so that for the believer, death is just an advance in life-to eternal life. Amen?
v. 15b: "were subject to slavery all their lives" - The fear of death has the effect of enslaving unbelievers in patterns of behavior that please the devil: putting self first; living life entirely for the present, and seeking satisfaction in the things of this world. As Christians, however, we've been released from the need to live in the present under a constant sentence of death. We've been pardoned by Jesus. This is true freedom, the only kind-in the end-that actually matters.
APPLICATION 1: By His death, Jesus has released all who believe in him from the fear of death. The fear of death is the greatest fear that a human being can experience. It is this fear that has the effect of enslaving us to the devil's ongoing temptation to live selfishly for the present. Our faith in Christ allows us to face death with the same confidence that Jesus had on the cross. He's given true freedom-victory over death.
Read Heb. 2:16-17 - MADE LIKE HIS BRETHREN IN ALL THINGS
16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
v. 16a: "For assuredly He does not give help to angels," - This-most "assuredly" (emphatic) is the obvious reason for the incarnation of Christ: Jesus did not come down to earth and die on a cross for the purpose of helping angels but to help human beings who were in desperate need of the kind of help that only He could give. The phrase "give help" imparts the idea of a person coming to the rescue of someone facing certain mortal danger. So, in short, Jesus came for the express purpose of saving people-Me, you, and every other sinner. Do you see the writer's rationale in making this point?
v. 16b: "but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham." - Although the term, "descendant of Abraham" is a general reference to Jews, it also applies to Gentiles-us. The Jews, including Jesus Himself (through Judah) were in fact direct descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. But in the broader sense it also applies to Gentiles in the sense that God told Abram early on "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3).
APPLICATION 2: Jesus came down from heaven to give people help. Jesus did not come down to earth and die on a cross for the purpose of helping angels but to help rescue human beings who were in desperate need of the kind of help that only He could give-the eternal salvation offered by God's grace. He came to save me, you, and every other person in the world who was dead in their sins.
v. 17a1: "Therefore, He had to be made," - The expression "He had to be" carries the idea that Jesus was under an imperative responsibility to come to the rescue of sinners. In other words, saving the lost was to be His responsibility alone-the purpose for His incarnation as a human being.
v. 17a2: "like His brethren in all things," - Jesus had to become a man in every respect. In His earthly life, Jesus experienced all the consequences of being in human form, except for sin. That He was like us in "all things" means that He experienced bodily thirst, hunger, pain, and emotional anguish just like us.
v. 17b: "so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God," - The phrase "so that" establishes another criteria of His incarnation: By taking on human form, He could properly represent man before God as High Priest. This goes back to Jewish Law which established an elaborate sacrificial system for the sins of the people. The High Priest was responsible for the direction of sacrifices. He alone was permitted in the holy of holies (God's swelling place) on the Day of Atonement. So, Christ-"a merciful and faithful high priest"-assumed the role as the ultimate High Priest, serving as our intermediary with God, not just once a year but for all time.
v. 17c: "to make propitiation for the sins of the people." - The word for "propitiation" (Gk. hilaskomai [hil-as'-kom-ahee]) literally means an atoning sacrifice that makes satisfaction. In this case, Jesus, both the High Priest and the Lamb of God, was the only sacrifice that would make satisfaction "for the sins of the people." The picture here is a process by which Jesus literally and willingly took all of our sins upon Himself-completely-In the role of our Mediator (i.e., a person appointed to settle differences between opposing parties). The principle here is that God's standard of justice had to be satisfied and Christ's sacrifice was enough for Him. So the bottom line is this: Since God is satisfied with the problem of our sin, he is now is willing to be in fellowship with all those who have accepted Christ's sacrifice for their sins. This draws what Christ has done for us into sharp focus, yes?
APPLICATION 3: Jesus' sacrifice and mediation as our High Priest satisfied God 's perfect standard of justice. God's standard of justice had to be satisfied on the issue of our (human) sin. Since he is now satisfied with Jesus' sacrifice as our High Priest, God is now willing to be in fellowship with those who have accepted Christ's sacrifice for their sins.
Read Heb. 2:18 - HE WAS TEMPTED AND HAS SUFFERED
18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
v. 18a: "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered" - Jesus, as our High Priest, is qualified to help us because He has experienced the same kind of we've been subjected to in terms of our minds, bodies, and emotions-and He emerged victorious (sinless) in every category. While we're all familiar with the stories of Jesus' temptation immediately following his baptism as reported in all three synoptic gospels (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), we should probably view those accounts as just His initial temptation. Since the text suggests that Christ was tempted in ways common to all humans, it strongly implies that the devil tried to tempt Him on a regular basis.
v. 18b: "He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted." - Jesus' own temptation allows Him to identify with imperfect sinners-i.e., like me and you-who are constantly exposed to the multitude of temptations this world can throw at us. The word "aid" (Gk. boétheó [bo-ay-theh'-o]) as used here, literally means the ability to respond to someone in distress, which brings to mind the idea of a qualified first responder who is always ready to respond to any 911 call 24/7. So, as Christian believers, this assures us that Jesus 'has our back' and is ready to step in and help us to defeat the temptation to sin at any time. Our responsibility is to humble ourselves and seek His help.
Application 4: Jesus' victory over sin in the past allows us to resist the temptation to sin in the present. Whenever-in the present-we are faced with the temptation to sin, we must humble ourselves and seek help from Jesus in prayer. He understands the problem and already has a solution for us. As Paul explained, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13).