“A Merciful and Faithful High Priest in the Service of God”

We have been studying through the Book of Hebrews.  Our next installment in this study comes from Hebrews 2:10-18:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;

in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

In verse 2:9, we were told that Jesus was “crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.”  This was “so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  Verse 10 continues explaining this work God has done through His Son, Jesus Christ. There are several things to note about verse 10:

  • “For it was fitting that he, by whom and for whom all things exist…” – This passage refers to God and to the work He is doing. The word “fitting” indicated that what God did was natural, logical and reasonable. It was “fitting” that the Creator and Sustainer of the world would do something.
  • “…in bringing many sons to glory…” – What did God find “fitting” to do?  One part of what He found fitting was to bring “many sons to glory.”  This refers to salvation of sinners.
  • “…should make the founder of their salvation…” – This passage refers to Jesus. He is the founder of our salvation. In this verse the NIV refers to Jesus as the “author of our salvation” and the King James uses “captain of their salvation.”  The idea is clear: our salvation is begun by Jesus.
  • “…perfect through suffering.” – This is another part of what God found “fitting” to do. He found it fitting to make the “founder” of our salvation “perfect through suffering.”

When the writer refers to making Jesus “perfect through suffering,” he isn’t talking about Jesus’ nature and essence. Jesus was always perfect and, of course, He never sinned while on earth. Instead, “perfect through suffering” refers to the process Jesus had to endure as a man.  This is explained in more detail verses 14-18.

Verse 11 begins to make an important connection between the “founder of their salvation” and the “sons of glory.”  Let’s look at this verse in two parts:

  • “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified…” – This speaks of Jesus and His followers and introduces the concept of sanctification, the process of becoming more and more like Christ until we reach heaven. It is separate from salvation, but occurs in all believers. As we see here, Jesus is the One who sanctifies. He is not only the “founder of our salvation,” He is also the One who sanctifies. Since this process occurs throughout the life of a believer, Jesus oversees this process for life.
  • “…all have one source.” – As with Jesus becoming “perfect through suffering,” this does not refer to Jesus’ origin from of old. This, instead, refers to His earthly work. The NIV states this verse as:

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.” – Hebrews 2:11 (NIV) [emphasis added]

Being “of the same family” is an important connection that is developed more in verses 12 and 13.  Verse 12 notes, “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” [emphasis added] To me, this is an incredible statement. The “founder of our salvation” is now referring to us as brothers.  As support for this, the writer gives three Old Testament references in support of this idea:

  • Verse 12 from Psalm 22:22 – “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
  • Verse 13 from Isaiah 8:17 – “I will put my trust in him.”
  • Verse 13 from Isaiah 8:18 – “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Romans 8 also explains:

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:16-17 (ESV)

In verses 10-13, two important points are made:

  1. God found it “fitting” to allow Jesus Christ to be made perfect through suffering in order to save people; and
  2. Jesus the Sanctifier and believers being sanctified have a connection as family, or more specifically, as brothers.

In verses 14-18, we begin to see why God saw it “fitting” for Jesus to save us the way He did. Verse 14 begins, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things….”  Jesus had to enter our realm, in our form in order to solve our sin problem. The end of verse 14 proclaims, “…that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”

Wow.  Our greatest need, met.

Romans 6:23 proclaims, “For the wages of sin is death…”  We are sinners and we get what we deserve, death, yet Christ came and destroyed the power of death through death, as verse 15 says, “and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”  “All those” refers to us. We are the ones in need of being delivered from “lifelong slavery” and Jesus Christ does this for us.

In chapter one and part of chapter two (e.g. verse 5), remember, the writer is explaining Jesus’ superiority to angels. The Message – Jesus Christ – is far superior to the messengers. Verse 16 provides another reminder of the role of angels, “For surely it is not the angels that he helps…”  If not the angels, then who does He help? Verse 16 finishes by saying, “but he helps the offspring of Abraham.” I think Jesus helping the “offspring of Abraham” refers specifically to two things:

  1. It refers to Jesus becoming a man to help mankind. “Offspring of Abraham” clearly refers to humans and not angels; and
  2. It refers specifically to followers of Christ. Note this passage from Romans 9:

And not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. – Romans 9:7-8 (ESV)

And as verse 17 indicates, because Jesus is helping humanity, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect.”  Why was this?  Verse 17 provides two reasons:

  1. “…so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God…” – The book of Hebrews will make abundantly clear the role of Jesus as high priest and will explain this role in great detail. As verse 8:1 notes, “we have such a high priest.”  Praise the Lord for this!
  2. “…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” – Jesus, by His atoning death, propitiates, or cancels, our sin before God. Jesus, in his role as high priest, not only makes the sin offering for the people, He is the sin offering.

In verse 10, the writer noted it was “fitting” that God make Jesus, the founder of our salvation, “perfect through suffering.”  In verse 17, we see why this was necessary.  Because He was helping His brothers, “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect.”  Because He was helping our greatest need, death (v. 14-15), He came as a man, was sinless, and therefore could be the Spotless Sacrifice and the high priest to make this offering.

Verse 18 offers another benefit, an earthly benefit, as the result of Jesus being made perfect, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” As we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

We have this way of escape because Jesus was made perfect through suffering.

These nine verses in chapter two have been a lot to digest, so let me try to summarize what we’ve studied:

  1. God saw fit for Jesus to become a man, suffer and die, so that many people could come to Him.
  2. The relationship God has with believers is as His children and with Jesus as His brothers.
  3. Our relationship with Jesus involves shared flesh and blood, therefore, it was necessary for Him to defeat sin and death for us via His own flesh and blood.
  4. A benefit from being part of Jesus’ family is that His victory provides a way out for us when being tempted to sin.

These are staggering truths for us to process.  That God allowed His Son to leave heaven is staggering.  That He allowed this Son to suffer is staggering.  And that He did all of this while we still His enemies is staggering.  Even that He would provide a way away from temptations that face us is staggering.

Our response, therefore, should be to praise Him and thank Him for His incredible love for us.  If you are already part of Jesus’ family, join me in praising our Savior for what He has done for us.  If you aren’t yet a follower of Christ, I pray that you will realize what He has done for you and that you will come to Him and praise Him.

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