A Perfect Savior
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)
In our last study we examined the fact that Christ is the superior vehicle for God's revelation because He is God. The author proved, in verse 3, that Christ provides superiority in everything, including salvation. He said, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed by those who heard." If we don't come to salvation in Christ, there is no escape. He came to earth and spoke of the salvation that would be offered through Himself. If we reject Him, the only place left to go is to a eternal and horrible hell.
In verses 5 through 9 the author contrasted the point that angels will not rule in the millennial kingdom, while men will rule. The author proved, quoting from Psalm 8, that men were originally created to rule over all of creation, including the angels. Because of the fall, however, man cast himself out of his established position, making himself "...for a little while lower than the angels..." (Hebrews 2:7).
But Christ has made it possible for us to be raised once again to our position of authority over creation. Verse 9 says, "But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone." Christ voluntarily lowered Himself to the level of a human being and experienced death on our behalf. He has made it possible for everyone who will trust in His person and work for salvation, to have a personal relationship with Him that will last for eternity. As part of that relationship, those who are saved will be reestablished to man's original position as superior to the angels.
Verses 10-18 of Hebrews chapter 2 continue to stress the superiority of Jesus Christ to angels, and His superiority in becoming a man. The author gives three reasons why Jesus became a man and suffered on our behalf. As we will see, His suffering is inseparably linked to His humanity.
The author begins in verses 10-13, illustrating that Christ became a man, and suffered in order that He would be identified with man. Through this identification, He would avoid being identified with the angels. Secondly, Christ became a man in order that He might defeat the devil and give freedom to those who believe in Him. Finally, Christ became a man so He can function as a High Priest on our behalf.
It may seem redundant to say that Christ became a man so that He could be identified with man, but it is a very crucial fact. If He would not have become a man, we would have no salvation offered to us today. If, for example, Christ would have offered Himself as a ransom for many angels, we would have no way of escaping the eternal destruction that awaits everyone who refuses to accept God's gift of salvation.
Verse 10 says, "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings." One will notice that the author begins this verse with the preposition "For,'' indicating that he is continuing his thoughts from the previous verse. Verse 9 ended with the phrase "...that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...For it was fitting...." The author is still discussing the suffering of Christ. God says that the suffering Christ experienced was "fitting." It was a work that was accomplished by God Himself.
When one refers to the suffering of Christ, it is always in regard to His incarnation as a man. The Hebrews were concerned about a possible problem they saw in the incarnation. Their question was "Did the incarnation and suffering of Christ indicate an inferiority in the person of Christ?" This is still a question that many people have today. Many people say "What kind of God would lower himself to our level? If He does that, is He still God?"
People cannot understand how Jesus Christ could have been the person He claimed to be and still have been a man who walked the earth and suffered like He did. And it is difficult to understand, until you understand God's plan. When we understand God's plan, everything He says about Christ makes perfect sense. According to verse 10, the fact that Christ suffered was fitting for God Himself. And the emphasis is that God, the Father, "...for whom are all things, and through whom are all things...," is in total control. He is the one for whom these things are being accomplished and through whom these things are being accomplished.
The same thing was said about Christ earlier in Hebrews. As the Son, Christ's plans are the same as the plans of the Father. Their work is perfectly harmonious and is directed toward the same end. But the stress in verse 10 is on the sovereign control of God the Father. The event of Christ's humanity, and the suffering He endured as a man, were all part of God the Father's perfect plan.
The goal of this plan is to bring "...many sons to glory... ." God's plan enables you and me to become His children and enjoy His presence forever. Romans chapter 8 illustrates the truth that all of creation is looking toward the point in time when we will receive our glorified bodies and enter the glory that is ours as the children of God.
How is God going to accomplish His plan? The end of Hebrews 2:10 says, "...to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings." The "author" of our salvation is Jesus Christ. And God found it necessary that in order to accomplish His plan, Christ needed to be perfected through "suffering." The word "author" has a two-fold meaning. First, it means one who initiates or begins something. Christ begins our salvation through His death and resurrection.
Secondly, "author" means one who leads the way. Christ does this too, having entered into the presence of the Father on our behalf. He is the author of salvation as He leads those who are sons being brought to glory. Now, some who deny the deity of Jesus Christ use the end of verse 10 as their support. They say, "How can Jesus Christ be God if He is in a situation where He is being perfected? Isn't God already perfect?" That is a good question. But the problem can be resolved if we understand where the emphasis is placed. Is the reference to the deity of Christ, or to the humanity of Christ?
As one will recall, we studied the incarnation of Christ in the previous section. The word "incarnation" means "becoming flesh," "becoming a man," or "the infleshment" of Christ. As God, Christ is perfect and He has always been perfect, but as a man there was a development that took place, just as in any man. The perfecting of Christ does not indicate sin or failure in any way. Rather, it denotes the moving towards a goal, and that goal is accomplished through suffering. Through sin, suffering entered the human world, and suffering is the way that Christ became identified with humanity.
Sin is unique to humanity. For example, animals do not sin. Plants do not sin. However, because of the sin of humanity, suffering has entered the animal and plant world. And the ultimate example of suffering is death. For Jesus Christ to accomplish salvation, He had to suffer to the extreme. He had to die. If He had come to earth, lived a perfect life, and returned to heaven, there would have been no salvation. Why? The penalty for sin is not becoming a perfect man. The penalty for sin is DEATH. One can say that the identifying factor between Jesus and humanity is not His living as a man, but in His suffering and dying as a man.
Verse 11 clarifies the identification of Christ with man. The author says, "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren...." The word for "sanctified" is used almost as a synonym for Paul's word "justification." It is what we call the event of initial sanctification. At the moment of faith, a person is set apart by God, cleansed from his sin, and brought into a personal relationship with God Himself. The One who is doing this act of sanctification is Jesus Christ.
Now, the New American Standard Bible has the word "Father'' written in Italics in verse 11. This indicates that the original, written in the Greek language, did not have this word. The original translation read "...those who are sanctified are all from one... ." This translation could mean that they are all from one Father, as the NASB has it, but I think that the emphasis is on the humanity of Jesus Christ. So, I believe a more accurate translation would be "...those who are sanctified are all from one humanity... ."
This is not the same for the angels. They have their identity in God. The writer would not contrast Christ and believers and angels, and that is his point in verse 11. Angels cannot be contrasted with humanity because they do not have the identification that we have with Christ. As we have already examined, we are humanity, and Christ became humanity. We share the same essence and identity.
Because we have this common bond with Christ He is "not ashamed to call them brethren." This statement underlines the truth that He has become completely identified with us. He does not call angels, animals, or plants "brethren." Only mankind has been blessed with the truth that our realm has been shared with Jesus Christ-in His humanity. He calls us "brethren," and He calls Himself "man." In fact, during Christ's earthly ministry, He refers to Himself as "Son of Man" 83 times.
In order to support this identification, He quotes from the Old Testament (Psalm 22:22) to illustrate that the Messiah, the Son of God, would have to become a man and be identified with men. In verse12 the author says, "saying, 'I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.' " The picture here is of Christ being identified with and counted among humanity.
He identifies Himself with humanity, saying, "I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren... ." Furthermore, the Messiah says, "...In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise... ." It is not a salvation where God is up in heaven, and humanity is down on earth. Christ identified Himself with humanity by putting Himself in the very midst of His creation.
The author continues to quote from the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:17-18) in verse 13. He says, "And again, 'I will put My trust in Him.' And again, 'Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.' " Once more we can see the closeness of Christ's identification with mankind. How are we to live as believers? What is our responsibility? We are to put our trust in God and rely on Him. How did Jesus Christ live His earthly life? He relied totally on the Father.
How does this prove Christ's humanity? The fact that Christ relied on the Father identified Him with us. He did not just come to earth, put on a garment of flesh, and walk around solving all of the confrontations which He had. He depended on the Father. He had to put His "trust in Him", just like you and I do.
The Messiah also says, "Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me." Again, we see the identification with humanity. When we become believers, and children of God, we partake with Him in a special way. He became a man so that we can be born into God's family, and now mankind partakes of a relationship with God that even the angels cannot share.
Clearly, the Old Testament supports the identification of Christ with man. This may seem rather simple to people who have been believers for some time. But not everyone accepts this identification. It has been this way since the days of the early church. The Docetists, for example, viewed Christ as deity, but denied His humanity. They claimed that Christ only appeared to be a man. This false teaching was taught in the late first century by Marcion and the Gnostics, and it denied the incarnation, and the validity of the Atonement and the bodily resurrection.
Today, the opposite is true. The humanity of Christ is stressed, while His deity is denied. But the balance of the Word of God is clear. Christ, while being God, became fully man and identified Himself with us. This identification is crucial. If anyone is to be forgiven of their sins, it is imperative that Christ became a man, put Himself in the midst of humanity, took our sins on His shoulders, and voluntarily died on the cross for His creation. If one denies this truth, he is denying the very God that dwelt among us in order to save us.
Verse 14 illustrates the second reason for Christ's incarnation as a man. The author says, "Since then the children share in the 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." Now, of course Christ could have defeated the devil as God. After all, He created the angels, of which Lucifer (Satan) was one. But he had to become a man to defeat the devil so that this defeat would result in the deliverance of man. If Christ would have simply destroyed the devil without becoming a man, the devil would have been gone, but man would have been no closer to salvation because man would still be sinful.
The author expands on the fact that Christ became part of humanity in order to defeat the devil. He says, "Since the children share in the flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same... ." Simply stated, the author is saying that because you and I are part of humanity (flesh and blood), Christ also became part of humanity.
The word "share" as used in verse 13 to describe human beings is in the perfect tense. It is something that happened in the past that continues today. We were human beings then, and we are human beings now.
The word "partook" used to describe Christ's action however, is different. It is in the aeorist tense, meaning it is something that happened at a certain point in time. He became human at a certain point in time, even though He had been deity for eternity.
Why did Christ become a man? "...That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.'' The express purpose of the Son of Man coming to earth was to die. We are human, and Christ partook of our humanity so He could die. In dying, Christ accomplished God's purpose. Everything God needed to accomplish had to be accomplished through Jesus Christ, the man. Jesus Christ, as God, could not die. If He did not die, salvation would not have been offered. Our salvation hinges not on the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It hinges on the fact that God, the Son, became a man, dwelt among us, and died for us.
You know, there is a lot of talk about the devil and demons today. There are books and pamphlets, that deal with the subject, at any corner bookstore. These books teach people how to "exorcise" their demons. These authors claim that if we say this prayer or that prayer that we can regain control of our lives. But there is a problem with this kind of theology. The Bible says that the devil has been made "powerless." The problem with believers today is that we spend far too much time thinking about possible demonic activity, instead of being occupied with the power of God in our lives, which has defeated Satan. What better way to defeat demons than to defeat their leader? That has already been done through the death of Christ.
As believers, we have been set free from Satan. Christ rendered him "powerless," or "ineffective." Satan still operates in the realm of this world, but his power over those who believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ has been halted.
It may seem to some that Satan was the one who prevailed in this battle. They say, ''Christ was killed, how can He be the victor?" That is true, Christ did die. But do you know why He died? It was essential that He died in order that we may live. How do we know that Christ is the victor? He rose from the grave three days after His death.
In John 12:31 Christ says, "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out." Christ is referring to His impending death as judgment on the world, and of the ruler of this world (Satan). This is exactly what Hebrews chapter 2 is illustrating. Christ confronted His crucifixion on the basis that He was ending the power of the ruler of this world.
Hebrews 2:14 gives us an even more complete picture of this truth. The author says Christ died to "render powerless...the power of death." You may say, "I thought God had power over death and life?" It is not a comforting thought to think that the devil controls when we die. But you see, Satan does not hold the power to cause us to die, but he does have "the power of death,' because he is the ruler of this world. And the sphere of this world is spiritual darkness and death. Satan does nothing more than lead men in their natural rebellion toward God.
When someone refuses to accept the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he voluntarily places himself in a position of rebellion toward God. When that person rebels against God, he is enslaved by sin. When someone is enslaved to sin, he lives in the realm of total darkness. When someone lives in the realm of darkness, he lives in servitude to the devil. And when someone lives in servitude to the devil, he lives under the dominion of death. The truth is, everyone serves one of two masters: God or Satan. There is no in between. Those who believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ are rewarded with eternal life in His presence. Those who reject Him serve the god of this world (Satan), and are rewarded with an eternity of torment in a hell that is too horrible to describe.
Verse 15 illustrates the origin of our deliverance from the realm of darkness. The author says, "And might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." Because Satan is the one who functions in the realm of this world, and all those who are in this world are under his dominion, Christ had to defeat him in order to save us.
The word "devil" means "slanderer." As we see in the book of Job, the devil functions in a capacity of accusing us before God. He declares to God that you and I are sinners, and the penalty for that sin is death. And he is right. But Christ, in defeating death, defeated Satan, and provides deliverance to all who trust in Him.
When someone becomes a believer in Jesus Christ, he experiences the most glorious freedom that can be comprehended. He is freed from the "fear of death" for the first time in his life. Now that does not mean that there is something wrong with being afraid to die. If one is not a believer in Jesus Christ, that is a healthy fear. In fact, even secular psychologists have come to the conclusion that the universal fear of mankind is the fear of death. It is the one thing that we cannot control in our lives. Even the very wealthy are not shielded from death. So what do they do? Often, they buy more life insurance because death, even in their wealthy state, strikes fear into their hearts.
Sometimes we, as believers, forget what has happened at the moment of our salvation. We have been delivered from the fear of death. That does not mean that perhaps we will have to experience death. Every Christian that has lived since the time of Christ has experienced death. If Christ does not return in our lifetimes, we will experience physical death as well. But we do not have to fear the experience of physical death because it is connected with sin. Paul said "The sting of death is sin..." (1 Cor 15:56). The promise we have in our salvation is that we have been forgiven of our sin, and when we die we will be in the presence of God for eternity. Ultimately, God's plan is that even our physical bodies will experience glorification when we are in His presence.
You may know someone who is not a believer in Jesus Christ, and they proudly say things like "I do not believe in Jesus, but I am not afraid to die. I will take whatever I get when the time comes." Well, if they knew what really awaited them, they would be scared to death (no pun intended). They are going to a place where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:42). Are we to believe someone who says they would rather spend eternity in hell rather than in the presence of the glory of God? Truly, any person who makes such a statement does not comprehend the eternal significance of his rebellion toward God.
Contrast verse 16 with verse 15; "For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham." It is very important that we understand this verse. Among other things, it shows that God is not under obligation to save anybody. This is proved by the first sentence of this verse "...He does not give help to angels." The word "to give help" means to 'to reach out and give aid." It is used several times in the gospels. In Matthew 14:31, when Peter is rescued by Christ when he begins to sink after walking on water, Christ reaches out and gives aid to Peter. When we receive salvation through Christ, we are being 'reached out" to and "given aid." As verse 16 illustrates, this aid is not available to angels.
At a point in time in the past Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, rebelled against God. He sinned. Furthermore, a host of angels joined Satan in his rebellion and were cast out of heaven, eternally separated from God. They will never be able to experience salvation, and return to the presence of His glory. The only difference between the situation of angels and human beings is that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, voluntarily gave Himself up in our place, defeating death for those who believe in Him. Christ did not become an angel, but He did become a man. Yes, He could have become an angel if He had desired, but He chose, in His grace, to dwell among humanity.
When we understand the incredible grace that God has given us in salvation, it is absurd to think that anyone would reject His perfect love. It is not even comprehensible to think that someone would give up a privilege that even the angels do not have. We can be freed from the power and slavery of sin, and the fear of death. But the tragedy is that many people, while knowing of God's plan for salvation, choose to reject His love, and in so doing seal their own judgment.
One other aspect of Christ, as seen in verses 17-18, is that Christ became a man so that He could be a High Priest on behalf of man. This role of Christ is further developed later in the book of Hebrews, but verse 17 mentions it for the first time; "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." As one can understand, this is a crucial role of Christ because He is continually satisfying the righteous demands of God's justice as people become believers. This does not mean that God the Father is some great big ogre, just waiting to punish us. Rather, Jesus Christ has the same righteous demands as God the Father. The punishment that Christ satisfies is a correct punishment. It is neither too harsh, nor too soft. It is perfect, and deserved by those who reject Him.
Today it is popular for theologians to talk about the love of God, and how God is going to accept all of us because He just would not have the heart to punish us. If that is true, God would not really be God, because He would not be righteous. There would be no justice. That is not God, it is simply the big, gray-haired grandpa in the sky, that men have drawn in their minds. The God of the Bible is loving, but He is also completely righteous. He has brought these two characteristics together in Jesus Christ, who as High Priest satisfies the demand of righteousness by paying the appropriate penalty.
So, the question is not "Is God satisfied by the sacrifice that Christ made," the question is "Are we satisfied by the sacrifice Christ made?" When asked about their eternal destiny, many people respond "I think I will go to heaven because I have been a good person," or "I think I will go to heaven because I have been baptized, and I am a member of my church." Well, that is all well and good, but none of that satisfies God's righteousness. Remember, the penalty for sin is death, not good works, baptism, or church membership. The only person who has ever conquered death is Jesus Christ. He is the only satisfaction of God's righteousness. If you refuse to accept Christ as your savior, the payment will still be made, only it will not be made by your good works or baptism. It will be made by your death; physical and spiritual, eternally separated from God.
Thus, verse 18 says, "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." His identification with man has made Him to be a merciful and faithful High Priest. He has suffered, and endured temptation, yet He did not sin. If Christ did not sin, can He really identify with us? The answer, we are told, is "yes," even though we cannot fully understand how He does so.
When we are tempted, it seems like most of the time we eventually succumb to the pressure and fall to sin, but Jesus Christ endured all we do and more, because He never gave in. This is the kind of person we need to intercede on our behalf. I do not need someone to come up to me and say, "Hey Gil, I commit the same sins you commit every day. I can be a big help to you." That sounds ridiculous does it not? You know, this is the absurdity of psychology. We go to another sinful human being to ask them for help with our sin. What is the point? It is a never ending circle when we approach our sin in that manner. Jesus Christ is the only one who has endured the temptation and suffering that sin brings, and conquered it. He knows the same strain and stress that we are feeling. He knows the same weight and burden we are going through. Does it not make more sense to turn to Him for "aid?" He provides power to endure and defeat the temptation.
Why did Christ become a man? He became a man to be identified with man, in order that He could defeat the devil and free us from the bondage of sin and death. And His ministry continues today as our High Priest, representing us in the things pertaining to God, understanding and comforting us. He gives everyone who trusts in Him all the aid and power they need to be victorious in all the trials and temptations we face. What a salvation!
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