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There is only one hope for human beings to fulfill their role in creation. Unless God intervenes, we remain justly condemned to eternal death because of our sin, and His purpose for the creation is futile. But the good news is that, for His own glory, He has chosen to redeem sinners through a truly human yet sinless Lord and Savior.
Jesus Christ is the captain of that salvation (2:9). By His obedient life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection, He is able to justify, sanctify, and glorify His elect children for dominion over the creation to the glory of the Creator. Jesus is the prince of the redeemed humanity — the pioneer of its regeneration from death to eternal life.
Our Lord’s perfection was proven by His faithful obedience to God in all He suffered as a man (2:10). Unlike Adam, the head of our fallen race, Christ fulfilled the righteous requirements of God’s Law and is the prototype of the saints (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:45-49). This qualified Him as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin (Jn. 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18), and His righteousness as a man could then be imputed to the saints for their justification (Rom. 3:24-26).
In all of this, Our Lord Jesus is pleased to be identified with His people (2:11-13). They are His brethren who are born again of God and thus share His desire for righteousness. It is the Son of God who sets the saints apart from sin to accomplish God’s purpose, and He is in no way ashamed to be united with them in His humanity.
Having already considered the perfection and pleasure of Christ in the first several verses of Hebrews 2:10-18, we now turn our attention to His priority and His priesthood in verses 14-18.
Captain of the Saints – Part II
His Priority (vv. 14-16)
We should emphasize that Jesus’ identification is not with all of humanity but only with those whom He saves. Being born again by the Holy Spirit, the saints have a new heart (nature), which desires God’s will (noted in part one of this study). Therefore, they hear the Gospel, repent of sin, believe in Christ as Lord and Savior, and follow Him in doing what pleases God. He came into the world as a man to provide the atonement necessary for the saints. Their salvation alone is Jesus’ priority.
The writer of Hebrews says that since those whom Jesus has come to save (“the children”) are human beings (“have partaken of flesh and blood”), then “He Himself likewise shared in the same.” All humanity has an inherent commonality (“partaken”), and the Son of God “shared” in that, although it is not inherent to His nature as God the Son. But He had to be a sinless man to save sinful men and women from the penalty of their sin, which is “death” (Rom. 6:23).
Although truly God, Jesus Christ had to be truly man in order to fully experience the death the redeemed sinner should have personally died. God cannot die because He is eternal, holy, and transcendent, but the incarnate Son of God could taste death for every one of His elect children (2:9).
And on the cross of Calvary, Jesus sufficiently absorbed the wrath of God on the sinner’s behalf (wrath which every sinner must experience), and God is satisfied with His death as if it was ours (Matt. 27:46; Jn. 19:30; Rom. 5:6-11). His resurrection verifies God’s acceptance of the sacrifice. This profoundly changes the condition of the sinner whom God saves.
In His humanity, Jesus Christ has, “through death” itself, effectively reversed the consequence of sin. God made our Lord and Savior truly man in order to die so that, “He might destroy him who had the power of death.” The writer identifies this as “the devil” (Satan) who brought sin and death into the world in the first place by luring our first parents into rebellion against God (Gen. 3). Jesus called unredeemed humans the children of the devil because, like the devil, they desire to sin (Jn. 8:44). The apostle John also makes clear that those who practice sin are of the devil, but Jesus has appeared to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). That is, Jesus has delivered the saints from Satan’s dominion, temptations, persecutions, accusations, lies, and the power of death he holds over fallen humanity.
As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:10, God’s purpose of salvation and the grace He provides to accomplish it “has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The death of our unredeemed body is still a reality for the saints of God, but that merely releases our redeemed spirit into God’s presence (2 Cor. 5:6-8), and we will receive a glorified body in the resurrection. Death itself no longer has dominion over us, since Jesus thoroughly suffered it for us and frees us from the condemnation of sin (Rom. 6:5-11). Because He lives, we will live also (Jn. 14:19).
If Jesus has destroyed the works of the devil, then He has also effectively destroyed the devil. Therefore, He has been able to “release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (v. 15). There is no fear of death if you are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). However, before we are reconciled to God through Christ, we are already spiritually dead and living under the constant guilt of sin and the fearful expectation of God’s eternal wrath in hell (Heb. 10:27), which is the second death (Rev. 20:14). That is the bondage of which the writer speaks.
Jesus’ priority is to redeem a remnant of fallen humanity from bondage, and to do this, He did not come as an angelic being but as a man (1:4). The translation, “give aid to,” is weak and does not convey the true idea of “taking on the nature” of humanity as opposed “to angels.”
For Jesus to take on the nature of “the seed of Abraham” identifies Him as the promised descendant of the Hebrew patriarch who would bring salvation blessing to the world (cf. Gen. 12:7; Gal. 3:16). The Jews were very familiar with this promise and should have agreed that the Christ would be a sinless man. Therefore, His priority was to redeem a remnant of human beings by assuming the human nature, becoming the sinless sacrifice for sin, and breaking the power of Satan and his demons for whom there is no redemption (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).
His Priesthood (vv. 17-18)
Now the writer mentions the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which becomes a major theme of the letter in later chapters. Here the emphasis is still on His superiority to angels in that, to effectively minister God’s salvation to the saints (“His brethren”), He had to become “like” them. That is, He had to be the prince among human beings and pioneer of their redeemed state — their Captain.
An angelic being could not “be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God” for human beings. An angel cannot fully identify with a human because they are different creatures with a different purpose (1:14). Although similar by way of being moral and rational, the angelic host are entirely spiritual and possess no inherent physical aspects. In other words, they are not dualistic in their created state. They were not created for the same reason as mankind. Theirs is not the realm of this physical creation, and they were not given dominion over it (2:5-9), although Satan has temporarily usurped that dominion (2 Cor. 4:4).
Angels could not possibly serve in the role of Lord and Savior to Adam’s fallen race, but the incarnate Son of God could give Himself completely for the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan. He could compassionately and effectively be the Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). The High Priest of the Old Covenant entered the Holy of Holies once each year with the blood of the sacrifice “to make propitiation for the people” of God. He offered the blood of bulls and goats, but that merely symbolized and foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which alone satisfies (propitiates) God’s wrath toward sin (Heb. 10:1-16).
Much more will be said in this letter about Christ’s high priestly work, but the point here is that, since “He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (v. 18). Here, the word, “aid,” is the appropriate translation. Because He is truly man, Jesus could suffer, experience temptation, and still show mercy to sinners while being faithful to God by satisfying His justice (Rom. 3:26).
This is Jesus’ priority and His priesthood as Captain of the saints. How wonderful is this prince among human beings who has come to our aid! How glorious is this pioneer of our redemption who destroys the devil and the power of death he holds over sinners! Jesus is the One who gives us hope by satisfying God’s wrath toward our sin to reconcile us with our Creator that we may fulfill our purpose!
Is your trust in Him? There is no other way to become what God created you to be. There is no other hope for your eternal future. You cannot overcome sin and death any other way than through this merciful and faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ.
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