Last week we saw a great comparison between the Son and Angels. The study now turns to an application of that idea. The primary application I saw here is the need for submission to a holy God for all the reasons discussed last week about how the Son is much better than the angels. The chapter can be fairly easily broken down into subheadings for me as follows, all around the category of submission:
1-4 shows the need for submission to God, 5-8 tells us that in fact the earth at some point will be subjected to humankind and details that a bit, 9-13 shows that even Jesus, the Son, part of this One God, humbly submitted Himself, and 14-18 shows us how His submission connects us to Him. With that idea of submission in mind, let’s dig into the chapter and see what God has to say to us from it.
1: For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
- The first thing to notice here is the context-setting phrase, “For this reason…” It’s like the word “therefore” in that it joins the chapter that has just been read to what is about to follow as a kind of conclusion or application of the knowledge from before. When we see words like this, we need to keep in mind what has just been discussed. That would be chapter 1 – the great comparison that shows how the “Son” (a reference of the Son of God the Father, Himself God if you will recall last week) is much “better” than angels [whom He also made, I might add]’
- Now, what is the verse telling us to do with that information? “…we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Okay, what do we do with that?
- What did we hear from chapter 1? That the Son, the radiance of His glory, the exact representation of His nature, the one who made everything there is, made purification for sins and then sat down, indicating that purification for said sins was complete. We’ll say more about this a little later in relation to Jesus temporarily humbling Himself and becoming a human, submitting Himself to the will of God the Father. He had a distinct purpose I think for doing this.
- Why do we need to pay closer heed? So we do not “drift away” from it. The phrase actually comes from nautical use, and the picture it gives is that the ship’s navigator, because he wasn’t paying enough attention, slips past the entrance into the safety of the harbor and is destroyed on the rocks by the sea. We MUST pay attention, so we are not made shipwreck. We have seen this language in our studies before now. 1 Tim. 1:19, 20 tell us of two men that made shipwreck of their faith – Hymenaeus and Alexander that because they did not keep faith in a good conscience before God began to blaspheme, and were delivered by Paul to Satan, that is underwent the discipline of the church. In not paying enough attention to how high and how holy the Son was, they drifted past the entrance to the harbor and shipwrecked. We dare not be lazy in this.
2: For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,
- It is generally agreed on by a variety of commentators that this is a reference to the 10 commandments, the Decalogue. I’ve learned that when the observations of MacArthur and Barclay line up (both come from very different places on the theological spectrum), it’s probably a good way to look at it…especially if others also agree. That’s the “word spoken through angels.” [Okay, I see the hand waving around in the back out there on the internet. “The Law was given by God personally,” you say. That’s true. But He may have represented Himself in the person of an angel. You can’t say for certain otherwise.]
- Whatever you might think about the angelic pronouncement, however, that word proved unalterable. These were the utterances of unearthly beings, and they were as serious as a heart attack. Every transgression and every disobedience was punished appropriately. What does that mean? The word for transgression means “a going aside by deliberate action; a conscious stepping over a line.” The word for disobedience means “a wrong hearing,” which signifies a lack of intent, but the crime is still real. “Officer, I didn’t mean to kill that person when I shot my gun at him,” versus “Officer, the gun when off when I inadvertently pulled the trigger.” The guy still died.
- The actions of sin, or violation of the Law receive a “just penalty,” which is really saying earned as wages. The bad news, I suppose here is found in Romans 6:23a – the wages of sin is death. That’s what violation of these spoken words of angels earn us.
3: how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,
- If violations of the Law earn us death, and no one can keep that Law, then wouldn’t it be a foolish thing to neglect such a grand escape from the punishment we earn for ourselves by sinning? How shall we then “flee away,” as it says? That “grand escape” is nothing other than salvation [soteria].
- That salvation, it turns out, was first spoken through the Lord. That word laleo again, same as how God spoke or said. The details of this can be found in Luke 4:16-21, where Jesus, having just completed 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, stood up in the Synagogue and read from the book of Isaiah (61:1-2) and began His public ministry. After that, it was confirmed by “us who heard.” That is indicating to us that perhaps this was one of the original followers of Jesus (possibly one of the 12 disciples, possibly one of the people that followed Jesus, possibly Paul, no hint on authorship here). Without getting into this, I recently heard an interesting thought, because Hebrews sounds like a sermon – Paul preached this as a sermon and Luke (who was always with him) wrote it down. Another interesting thought.
- You see what happened is that God spoke, then He became a man and spoke (the Son), and then eyewitnesses confirmed what they saw.
4: God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
- So what is this saying? God gave these original followers of Jesus certain displays of power as attesting miracles. I believe these were His original Apostles because of the use of “us” [hemas] who heard. What else makes sense? This is the writer of Hebrews basically saying “we heard Him say this.” this is just the plain sense of the passage here. This is one of the passages that a cessationist will use to tell you that “signs and wonders” or “miracles” are no longer in operation – because these signs here were only given to the original apostles in order to demonstrate that they were indeed hand-picked servants of God. Let’s have a look at them.
- Signs and Wonders – semeion te kai terasin [by both signs and wonders] – A sign is always some distinctive thing that can be shown, and a wonder (always occurring with the sign, incidentally) is something strange causing the beholder to marvel. Both are always used in the plural in the New Testament. A sign always appeals to the understanding, and a wonder appeals to the imagination. A cautionary note should be sounded here, because of abuses in the modern church, particularly those in the charismatic world, and especially those talked about and supposedly performed at Bethel Church in Redding, California. Placing an undue emphasis on signs and wonders will open one up to deception. In 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 says, speaking of the man of lawlessness (or the man of sin in the King James), “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” [emphasis mine]
- Various Miracles – [poikilais dunamesin], margin “many different works of power” – I would think raising people from the dead like Peter did Tabitha (Dorcas) in Acts would fit into this category. Moving a building from one side of the street to the other for the public benefit. I dunno, use your imagination. But I would use the same word of caution I did before when discussing signs and wonders. Be careful and don’t be fooled. At a certain point, a certain man of sin himself will appear to be raised from the dead and will deceive many. (Rev. 13:3)
- By gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us of these in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 tells us of these, and I am not going to list them off or go into them here. These are things that in those days were in operation. Depending who you talk to, at least some of these are no longer in operation. These people are called cessationists, and they believe that the operation of these gifts has ceased since we now have a completed scripture canon and such. I’m not a cessationist per se, but I can tell you that I have never seen a legitimate specific manifestation of any of them. I have, however, seen God save people and cause them to grow. And I have seen a lot of shysters that maybe even believe their own press. So again, I find myself giving a caution about this stuff.
- So why were these things even given? Well, it says here, to “testify.” That’s the Greek word martureo, and it means “to bear witness.” And we know that he does ALL of this “according to His own will,” which is how the writer concludes the verse. So when His eyewitnesses went and told people about Jesus, God spoke through them, and sometimes with great power. God spoke with great power – through imperfect men. Why would He do that?
5: For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.
- What? Okay, so angels are not going to be in charge. Remember verse 2. The Law, that is the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments, came through the Angels, and were written by the very finger of God the Father. They are truly powerful beings. Just how powerful can be seen in 1 Chr. 32, where Hezekiah prayed in the face of an oncoming invasion and God sent an angel that “destroyed every mighty warrior, commander, and officer in the camp of the King of Assyria.” One angel. In the 2 Kings 19 account of the same event, that was 185,000 men (v.35). But these beings, no matter how powerful, are not in charge unless appointed by a greater power. The writer here tells us that we are speaking of the world to come. So what does that mean?
6: But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that You remember him? OR the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
- Here is where the writer, under the control of the Holy Spirit, begins to reveal the meaning of the previous verse. There is a bit here to unpack. First, what is this quote? It is Psalm 8:4 – “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?” Okay, who wrote Psalm 8? King David, that’s who. And the King here was meditating on the majesty and splendour of God in Heaven and how he has displayed His mighty power through His works. Let’s look for a second at Psalm 8 to get the context this quote is pulled from. [Read Psalm 8] David here is worshipping God, and asking the question – in comparison to everything God has done in creation, what is man? What part does he play? Why, with all the glory already revealed in creation, does God even care about man?
- Some have suggested that this passage in Psalm 8:4 speaks only of Jesus, because He is referred to as the Son of Man, especially in Luke. But try this. Search the Old Testament for the term “son of man” with your Bible software. There are over 600 references that come up. The first of those seems to be Numbers 23:19, which proclaims that God is NOT a man that He should lie, nor a “son of man” that He should change His mind. Those words were spoken by Balaam, a gentile “prophet” of sorts, to Balak, king of the Moabites, when Balak was trying to get Balaam to curse Israel for him. Balak would have had no wish to know about a coming Saviour, and it was just a term for mankind. Daniel and Ezekiel are both addressed by God or his angelic servants as “son of man.” This is talking about the human race. We apparently have a very noble purpose if we care to follow the Lord.
7: “You have made him for A little while lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
- The writer here continues to examine Psalm 8, now moving to verses 5 and 6. Remember what we talked about in Hebrews 1 – the writer can use inspired text differently than what was written down and still be inspired? This is a case like that here. “A little while lower than the angels” is a correct rendering. “little while” is the Greek word brachus, and has a component of time in it. In this case, the Spirit is telling His people that this condition of being a little while lower than the angels is going to end. At that point, God will make us – well, at least equal in power and stature to angels. Wait – what?
- Yes, we will be at least equal to angels. And as the servants of God, they are okay with this! At least the ones that remain with God will be. Not all angels have done that. About a third of them followed Lucifer in rebellion we are told in Rev. 12. Humankind, like it or not, has been crowned with glory and honour from God the Father. Why?
- To administrate His creation, just like in the garden. That is the meaning of “…and have appointed him over the works of your hands.” I personally think this is what makes all of the service and trouble that service causes us (trials and tribulations) here is on-the-job training for serving God in the Kingdom when He returns. I mean – you can’t possibly believe this is about sitting on a cloud with a harp in some eternal jam session, did you? NO! It’s MUCH more than that!
8: “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
- We are to reign through and with Christ. Hence the “under subjection” bit. I know, we are used to thinking about these things in the context of our risen lord and Christ – but He will have work for us! And we will enjoy it, and it will be fulfilling. The “hard work” bit was a part of the curse, friends. We will administrate His kingdom, as I said a moment ago. And it says here that nothing will not be subject to him, that is mankind. I have to keep reminding myself that this is NOT speaking of JUST our Lord. Nothing! Not even angels. I know this is an aside, but I think that is the very reason that Lucifer turned away from the Lord – the Lord revealed His plans for us, and the top angel didn’t like losing control. Because we have this present mess. And right now, we don’t see everything in subjection to us. There is still that pesky “sweat of your brow” thing for instance. But can you see a better day arriving? We should be able to.
9: But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
- Why? Because we have Him as our forerunner, and it’s about Him anyway. I need to say a word about man-centered theology. One of the ways you can tell at best spiritual immaturity in a believer (at worst a false teacher) is to listen to what they center their focus on. If it’s on Christ, it’s no problem, typically. If it’s about what God can do for you, I already see a red flag, and my discernment filters activate. If it returns to Christ, it’s okay. If it goes in ANY other direction, whoever is sharing has some serious holes in their theology at a minimum. I include immaturity as a cause of this because I was 18 when I got saved, and for the first little while (first year or two), it was all about me and what Jesus did for me. I still hear a lot of that from Pentecostal believers, because they have some unsound theology, but many are real followers of Christ – they’re misguided, and you sometimes have to use kid gloves when speaking with these folks because I would not accidentally wound one single sheep. It really is NOT about us – it’s about Him.
- And here He is! Made for a little while lower than the angels, namely Jesus! Again, there is a LOT of theology in this phrase. Because we know from John 1:1-2 that Jesus was the creative force behind the making of reality, and it flat our says he was God, THE God (not “a” god), we know that He BECAME (and that phrasing is that of a reduction in rank, not a creation of a being) for a little while [brachus – a deliberate inclusion of a time variable is understood with this word] lower [elatoo – a reference to that lower rank again, same word as before] than the angels. Why?
- He had to become human. Interestingly, as God, Jesus could not die. So He became a man in order to die. And that death crowned Him with glory and honour, because by the grace of God, He tasted death for all. I debated for a bit before deciding to write this down. This gets into the idea of definite atonement, and it is a can of worms for another day. Does this use of “all” mean everyone in the world? I don’t think it does, from the context of the following verse.
10: 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.
- What I mean by that is the phrase “bringing many sons to glory.” Many is not “all.” in context, and the best way to look at this is through the lens of the Doctrines of Grace. This particular one involves the classic combination of definite atonement and of effectual call. However, this is not the main point of the passage, so I will leave this here for another time. I actually had this idea that I might want to preach through the Doctrines of Grace at some point. We’ll see.
- I mentioned a minute ago that Jesus as God could not die. He became a man so that He could do just that, and taste death for all those that would ever come to Him. This gave Him a complete understanding through experience of what people face every day – the possibility and the reality of death and suffering. It isn’t neat, it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t enjoyable. Sure it’s self-inflicted as a race, but tell that to my dad who died of complications from throat cancer (he had a heart attack because of the chemo and radiation he was being put through). My dad wasn’t a health nut, but it would be hard to draw a direct line between his specific cancer and his lifestyle. However, it is an incurred and transmitted penalty. He knew that, and He came to die anyway. This was nothing less than a deliberate act on His part to redeem those who would believe.
- This verse tells us that this was fitting, or appropriate, that the creator of the universe and heir of the universe, in doing the redemptive work He came to do, be perfected by suffering and death.
11: 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,
- This verse is a little tricky for me, but Matthew Henry is helpful here. In his commentary on this passage, he says, “Christ sanctifies; he has purchased and sent the sanctifying Spirit: the Spirit sanctifies as the Spirit of Christ. True believers are sanctified, endowed with holy principles and powers, set apart to high and holy uses and purposes. Christ and believers are all of one heavenly Father, who is God. They are brought into relation with Christ.”
- The phrase “for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” again refers to us as the brethren, but think about this for a moment. SHOULD He be ashamed to call us brethren? I think for those that take the attitude that He is God and that He has saved us, and that it is He who is making us holy (sanctifying us as per the earlier part of this verse), and that we are making an effort to follow Him, then I think not. But what of those people that live like Jesus makes no difference in their lives? We call those people false converts, meaning they are not His brethren. I don’t think He is ashamed of them. I think he is angry at them, and they will suffer His wrath if they do not turn and repent.
12: saying, “I will proclaim Your name to MY brethren, IN the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.”
- But for those who are His – he has said this in Psalm 22:22. He is speaking to the Father here – and what does He say? I will tell Your name to MY brethren! The writer paints a picture of God the Son worshipping God the Father FROM the midst of the congregation of His own brothers and sisters! And He SINGS with them! And who are these brethren? Well, we already saw in verse 11 that these are true believers in Christ – US!
13: And again, “I will put MY trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given ME.”
- Here, the writer adds two more verses from the Old Testament, this time from Isaiah 8:17-18. The context of those verses are that the speaker in Isaiah is telling us that he will wait for the Lord, who hides his face from Israel, which is here referred to as the “house of Jacob.” Whenever that name is used, I can’t help but think “rascal.” That’s what Jacob means, and I think that’s the message being conveyed in v.17 of Isaiah 8.
- Isaiah 8:18 is even more significant, because it refers from the Old Testament to the idea of the Sovereign Election of a group the speaker (who seems to be very much like Messiah, or “Christ,” the New Testament word for Messiah) has been “given.” The Hebrew word is natan, which means in this case, to be delivered or put into a group. That group in Isaiah 8:18 is said there to be for “signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.” Later in Isaiah 28:11, it talks about how men of strange languages (non-Jewish) will speak to the Jews, and the Jews will still not listen to them about the wonders of God. If you are a true believer and seeking to follow Christ, that includes you! We are the group of people that have strange languages. And I only speak English, so if you’re confused, that just means English is also a strange language. [hahahaha]
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,
- And there is the word “therefore,” our favourite word that begins a conclusion from what has gone before. So because humans are limited to flesh and blood, He became flesh and blood so that he could partake, or share in, the flesh and blood experience with a bit of an agenda, and I admit I love the agenda!
- By dying Himself, it was His purpose to “render inoperative, to abolish” the being that had the power of death – a fellow we saw last week, named Lucifer. Here it simply calls him “the devil.” Jesus took the devil’s biggest weapon and used it to shut him down in the lives of all those who believe (though sometimes it takes a while to figure that out for ourselves).
15: and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
- And more than that, he set those flesh and blood children free from the fear of death. That very fear kept us as slaves all our lives, and now it does not have to be that way for real believers. And remember – being set free from sin and death should encourage us to want to be the slave instead of Christ – because everyone has to serve someone.
16: For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.
- The angels don’t need any help. God supplies their needs as they do His will already. Who rather does the Lord help? Literally the “seed” of Abraham. Who are they? Although ultimately, the “seed” is fulfilled in Christ, this is talking about who Christ helps in context of the previous verses. Who is that? The “seed” of faith, the seed of promise. Those who believe. And when HE gives help, you are indeed helped.
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.
- And here, we see a bit of the strategy of God here. In order to give help to this “seed” of faith and promise, the Messiah, God the Son, HAD to be made like those he would call brothers and sisters in every way. This was so that He could understand and sympathize or empathize with all of us so He could have mercy on us. And so he could be faithful (not so much to make Him faithful but so as to establish Him as the example of faithfulness) as a high priest. What is the job of a priest? It is two-fold: First, it is to represent man to God in all our neediness. Second, it is to represent God to man in all His holiness.
- Like the Old Testament Levitical priesthood, the job of the high priest is to make “propitiation” or atonement for the sins of mankind to God. It will go into this later in the book, but the sacrifice of Jesus of His own choice was perfect, and because He was raised from the dead and now lives forever, He remains in that office forever, and it never needs to be done again. But I’m running ahead.
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.
- Again, there is a lot here. This is the main way He gives help to the seed of Abraham. And there are some other things of note here.
- Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted and did not sin. “But Ger, I have been having these terrible and disgusting thoughts about [fill in the blank].” You know, those thoughts didn’t necessarily start with you. You can resist them, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Think about this – the fact that you find those thoughts disgusting means that you have a conscience, and while that does not mean you are saved, it is a good indicator that God is reaching out to you. Or if you are His already, you can resist those things now, by His grace. He was tempted, and He knows exactly the kind of grace to supply if you want to follow Him and suffer for His sake.
- Because He DOES come to the aid of those who are tempted. Otherwise what does sanctification mean? Is it not the process by which He makes us holy by His grace as we persevere in His name?
And that’s the chapter!