By Blake E. Jones
HEBREWS CHAPTER II
It has been truly said that the work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ. Surely chapter one has been an example of this as the Blessed Inspirer of Scripture declared the pre-eminence of the Saviour-Son. It should not come to us as a surprise then, that there breaks in here a keen warning from the yearning heart of God. Oh, that Christ would be heeded. Oh, that men might not so easily slip away from their moorings and be lost.
I. The Subtlety of Drifting (2:1)
Since the message of salvation that has been given to us is God's message, delivered and secured by His Son, we are not dealing with the mere whim of man. "More earnest heed" must be given to this gospel; heed to embrace it as our lifeline and heed to never carelessly let it slip from us. "The idea is not that of simple forgetfulness, but of being swept along past the sure anchorage which is within reach", says Mr. Westcott, for "we are all continuously exposed to the action of currents of opinions, habit, action, which tend to carry us away from the position which we ought to maintain".1 Stop, Reader Friend, and examine the shoreline for landmarks of truth lest you drift on by them. Do you today embrace the message of Christ as wholeheartedly as in years gone by?
Duane Maxey shares the following warning:
"I read of...when Perry's expedition was traveling across an ice-flow toward the North Pole, they traveled for some time, thinking that they were making progress northward. But, to their dismay, when they finally reckoned their position by the polestar, they discovered that the entire ice-flow had been drifting south! Had they thought to read their position by the polestar, instead of judging their position by that beneath, before, behind, and around them, they would have discovered their drift earlier! What a perfect picture of what happens to entire holiness denominations. They begin to drift in relationship to our spiritual "PoleStar," Jesus Christ. But, because they are all together in a group, and take their eyes off of Jesus, they measure their progress by unscriptural, unreliable methods, and they fail to detect their subtle, but often fatal, drift away from Christ and toward the world and hell!"2
II. The Danger of Drifting (2:2-4)
If even the words spoken by angels demanded strict obedience from the hearer, how would anyone expect to escape the consequences of neglecting "so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord"? What an awful thing to fall into the hands of a God who has been carelessly ignored. This whole concept is given added weight by the fact that God has miraculously authenticated the message of those who carried on Christ's ministry.
McCartney declares that "more drift out of Christian life than fall out...In life there are treacherous currents which get the soul in their grip and slowly, but surely, carry it toward the shores of ruin and wreck. Every drift ends in a wreck. When one awakens to the fact that he has been drifting, that there is not the same moral resistance, not the same eager purpose to know the truth and to do it, then is the time to put the trumpet to the lips."3
III. The Unreasonableness of Drifting (2:3)
The great salvation that Christ preached embodies all that the atonement provided. First, it offers a judicial pardon from acts of sin; and second, a cleansing from the nature or element of inherited sin. It is thus, "the answer to every human problem", as Orten Wiley states it.4 How many have struggled through life without help, without hope and without salvation, only to find themselves dashed on the rocks of eternal despair and doom -and all this because they rejected the solution. They drifted right past the Saviour and His safe harbour of salvation. It is brutish and unthinkable to ignore the claims of a dying Saviour and to neglect the anchor of the vessel of our souls.
May we not be caught up in the subtle, dangerous and unreasonable drift. A. F. Harper has drawn the following picture for us:
"Uncertainty in our relationship to God comes most often when we grow content or careless. This uncertainty is God's way of protecting us from carelessly drifting away from the presence of His Holy Spirit. Spiritual uncertainty is like the silent red light on the instrument panel of an automobile. It flashes its warning to tell us that the oil is low and there is imminent danger to the motor. The Bible tells us that we must pay close attention to God's silent warning lest we drift away from all that He has given to us in this 'so great salvation'."5
Following the impassioned exhortation in the opening of chapter 2, the writer flashes our attention back to the angels; but only as a springboard into the great doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. The rank or classification of the angels has already been shown to be far inferior to that of Christ. Now we see man ranked "a little lower than the angels"; yet "crowned with glory and honour" in relation to the natural world. Whatever glory Adam knew in subjecting creation under his feet before the fall, is not here the crucial point. Nor is the potent consideration the future honour of those who will someday reign as kings with Christ. The case of mankind in its fallen state is the problem at hand.
A quotation is given from Psalm 8:4-6 in which we are made to know that God is first, mindful of man and second, set on visiting him. The picture before us is that of a miserable, frail, sinful, meritless, wretch of humanity caught in the grips of mortality and eternal perdition. What a contrast to the devilish teaching of the new age movement that claims a measure of deity for all of us. This orphaned waif, sitting in the squalor of his terminal disease called sin, has reason to look up with hope and expectancy. The One who made the heavens, the moon and the stars has a plan for him and will personally make His appearance to effect that plan. But what a condescension! Surely Zacheus must have felt a measure of the wonder of this when Jesus told him that He was going to Zacheus' home.
In all this discussion, then, "we see Jesus"! He stands out in His incarnation, "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death." Phillipians 2:5-8 provides a wonderful commentary on Christ's self-humbling that made Him "in the likeness of men". Josh McDowell writes, "Jesus was the God-man. He was just as much man as if he had never been God and just as much God as if he had never been man".6 Christ stands out, too, because through His accomplishments, God has crowned Him "with glory and honour" and "highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9).
In the remaining verses of chapter 2, Jesus is identified, in His relationship to the believer, through His accomplishments as the incarnate Son of God. These six glorious aspects could never have been realized outside of the wonder of Emmanuel in visible, human form. Oh the soul thrilling message of God-incarnate --God, in human flesh.
I. Jesus, the Captain of Our Salvation (2:10)
The underlying purpose for God's visit "in fashion as a man", was that He might "taste death for every man". That was the only way to bring "many sons unto glory". Dr. Dale Yocum states that "God was not at all taken by surprise when man sinned and fell. Before it ever happened, He anticipated that possibility and fully prepared a plan of recovery."7 Christ tasted death and suffered for us by appointment. Furthermore, it should be noted that in the Greek there is an article preceding the word "death" in verse 9, and the word "suffering" in verse 10. Jesus tasted "the death" and "the suffering" for the fallen of Adam's race. The ultimate, the very limit of justice, was satisfied in the sacrificial death of Christ. It was the Godhead's plan, even before " the foundation of the world", that the Leader, the Prince, the Captain and Author of Salvation would thus suffer to make redemption's plan valid and operable.
To the faint-hearted Jew and to any anxious believer, the message is clear and assuring. Jesus is the only One upon Whom you can trust for salvation; and if you cling to Him in faith and obedience, He will lead you safely to glory.
II. Jesus, Our Sanctifier (2:11a)
Just as the "great salvation" encompasses the whole scope of the atonement's provisions, so too, the word "sanctify" embodies more than a simple setting apart unto God. Jesus is the Sanctifier in view of the fact that His blood has purchased expiation for sins as well as cleansing "from all sin" (I John 1:7). Wiley says, "The 'sanctified' are those who have received the atonement, which in its fullness includes the forgiveness of sins, the impartation of the new life in regeneration; the purification of the heart and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in entire sanctification; and in the resurrection of the just, the glorification of His people with Himself".8 Therefore, God offers something more than a "bandage" to cover the "sore of sin"; His design is to effect a cure for sin and sinning. Paul, writing to Timothy, expresses it in these words: "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart" (II Timothy 1:5). The teaching of sanctification is not limited to a positional theology, but is opening to us the grand will of God that our condition may be changed. Our hearts may be made pure in this life. Otherwise, God's command that we "be holy" (a condition) would be a taunting teaser; and this God would not do! The happy realization here is the oneness that Christ and the sanctified believer enjoy. In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for the sanctification of His followers and included in that petition the request that "they also may be one in Us" (John 17:21).
III. Jesus, Our Brother (2:11b-13)
What a wonder that Jesus would so condescend to identify Himself with the believer in the kinship of brotherhood. Verse 13 suggests that this identification is so complete that Jesus Himself, like the believer, has placed His trust in the Father. Oh, what a magnanimous role the Superior One has assumed.
In his preaching, Rev. Gremillion has proposed that were Jesus to step up to one of His followers today in a visible form, He would throw His arm around the shoulder of that wondering mortal and ask, "How is it going, Brother?" --all of this before the awe-struck human could fling himself at Deity's feet in worship and adoration.
Can we begin to grasp the depth of riches and practical comfort to be found in this loving and fraternal title? Can we not cry out for our Big Brother to come to our rescue in times of sore temptation and spiritual fights? Can we not say, "I'm going to tell my Big Brother on you", when the devil acts the part of the bully? Oh, what a thrill! Jesus "is not ashamed" to call us brethren!
IV. Jesus, Our Deliverer (2:14,15)
Christ, in His divine, eternal form could not taste death. Consequently, one of the reasons for His incarnation was that He might step through the gates of death. Outside of assuming flesh and blood, this was impossible.
Death has come to us as part and parcel with the inherited, fallen nature; and so "God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3a). The "sin" that God condemned is the nature of sin, or the sin principle. In light of this, Wiley declares that, "Christ, as enduring death for sin, acknowledged the righteous judgment of God and secured for us the promise of deliverance: (1) from death as a penalty for our own transgressions, (2) from our own sinful nature as a life in the flesh, and (3) from the fear by which Satan held us in bondage. This He did by destroying or bringing to nought the power of Satan over death."9 Were it not for our great Deliverer, man would be hopelessly lost and powerless to deliver himself, or free himself from sin's perdition. Our daily prayer should be one of thankfulness for the emancipation proclamation of Christ on the cross when He cried, "It is finished".
V. Jesus, Our High Priest (2:16,17)
The role of the high priest was to intercede for man before God. He was man's go-between, man's advocate. Christ's credentials for priesthood included the fact of His humanity, coupled with the truth of His divinity. As God, the sinless One, He could offer sacrifice for others and suffer vicariously. Otherwise, His death would have merely atoned for His own sins and would offer no substitutionary merit.
In His priestly role, Jesus has brought back together God and fallen man who have been estranged since the fall. However, this is not saying that Christ had to "twist God's arm" to effect reconciliation. That is a wrong concept even though, "God is angry with the wicked every day". This was God's plan to bring man back to Himself, for we read in II Corinthians 5:19 that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself". What a melting and heart warming drama!
So it was, then, that Jesus came to become our priestly mediator or advocate; but as priest He must have a sacrifice to offer. This offering was Himself. Scripture has brought this out in another way by declaring that we have been redeemed through Christ who was "made unto us...redemption" (I Cor.1:30). Through the incarnate Son we have been bought back, but He Himself was the ransom price to rescue Satan's hostages. He was the perfect sacrifice, the ultimate ransom.
"How can our praises find end?" we would ask with the songwriter. How can we do less than fall at Jesus' feet and cry, "My Lord and my God!" What a price has been paid in order that a full salvation might be experienced by mankind to the very uttermost of his need.
VI. Jesus, Our Helper (2:18)
The sixth beauty of the incarnation of Christ is His ensuing ability to truly empathize with believers. He knows the pressure of temptation and its allurement. Having experienced all of this, He is able, now, to intercede for us and to offer help. Knowing our predicament personally, Jesus can offer succour or aid, that perfectly matches our need. All of this because He has walked where we walk.
The help of God may come to us in innumerable and varied ways. It may be strength to face the battle; courage to go on; faith to believe; wisdom to discern; knowledge to perceive God's working; love to see others for what God can make them; forgiveness to match the hurts of life; comfort while basking in God's presence; rest of spirit; peace of mind or any work of the Holy Spirit that is tailored to our circumstances, our personality, our spiritual condition and even our limited insight and spiritual understanding.
In his book entitled, The Practice of the Presence of God, Mr. Lawrence shares this gracious insight with us:
"The King, full of mercy and goodness,...embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favourite... My most useful method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard to God, to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother's breast; so that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the bosom of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there."10
Chapter 1 made clear Christ's deity and thus His pre-eminent power, glory and majesty. Now, chapter 2 has shown the wonder of Christ's willing condescension to wrap His deity in humanity, in order to identify with us. We have seen the results of the incarnation in a sixfold relationship to the believer.
1. B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952) p. 37.
2. D. Maxey, 3000 Sermon Illustrations on Computer Disks, #0797
3. D. Maxey, (MaCartney), 3000 Sermon Illustrations on Computer Disks, #0796
4. H. Orten Wiley, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1959) p. 70.
5. A. F. Harper, Holiness and High Country, (Kansas City, Mo: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1964) p. 195.
6. Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter, ( Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984) p. 113.
7. Dale Yocum, The Holy Way, (Salem, Ohio: Schmul Publishers, 1976) p.37.
8. H. Orten Wiley, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1959) p. 92.
9. Wiley, pp. 98-99.
10. Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1974) pp. 36-37.