The message of Jesus Christ is distinctive
because of who he is. There are certain characteristics about Jesus Christ
that make his word superior. Christ is God's Son. (1:4-5) Christ is superior
to angels. (1:4-14) He is the firstborn of God. (1:6) He is served by the
angels. (1:7) Christ was enthroned and anointed by God. (1:8-9) He is the
eternal creator. (1:10-12) Angels are his servants. (1:13-14) If the Christ
you worship is missing any of the fundamentals of Hebrews 1, then he is
not the Christ of the scripture. The distinctive nature of Christ defines
the very nature of Christianity. To deny these fundamentals is to deny
Chapter 2 of Hebrews flows smoothly from the
context of chapter 1.
We must pay more careful attention,
therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if
the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience
received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great
salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed
to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders
and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according
to his will. (NIV)
These truths about Christ are a matter of
life and death. The revival of the church today depends upon our understanding
that Christ's voice is not just a voice among many voices. His voice is
the final word of God. Christ voice is superior to men and angels.
Denying the Word
The two most important questions to ask is:
"Does God speak?" and second, "What does God say?" These questions will
give us direction. The Hebrew writer says, "God has spoken!" He has spoken
in undeniable ways. He spoke through the burning bush. He spoke through
thunder and lightening at Mt. Sinai. He has spoken through the prophets.
He has spoken through Christ. Christ's voice is crystal clear. (1:1-2)
We drift away from God by denying God's word.
We usually think of denial as something blatant. However, the danger is
drifting away so slowly that our denial is unperceived initially. The writer
uses the word drift. This indicates that the departure is slow and almost
unnoticeable. However there are warning signs that signal we are losing
our grip on Christ.
In difficult times God's plan of deliverance
is our only viable option. Neglecting his plan will lead to disaster. In
an effort to bring a revival to the Hebrews the writer does not try to
introduce some new teaching. He seeks to get them to absorb what they already
know. Understanding and absorbing what we already know is the crucial point.
Overcoming the tendency to drift away from
what we already know requires discipline. It requires discipline to make
sure that our natural survival instincts don't kick in during troublesome
times. One survival instinct is to blend in by accommodating Christ's message
to the philosophies of the day.
The church compromises it message today as
it seeks to accommodate the voices of popular opinion. We may seek to show
the compatibility of Christianity with whatever new philosophy that comes
along. We try to show how it is compatible with our political views. Germany
tried to show its compatibility to Socialism. Marxists tried to show its
compatibility to Communism. Capitalists have tried to show its compatibility
with free enterprise. Democrats try to show its compatibility to their
political philosophy. Republicans try to show its compatibility to their
We are seeking to revitalize the church today
by giving it a message that fits popular opinion. We may think that the
only hope of revival is to show the compatibility of the Word with popular
opinions of our day. We may seek to show Christianity's compatibility to
the latest theories of psychology or sociology as we seek to connect them
with a few Christian terms. We are seeking to show the relevance of the
gospel by giving it a message that fits popular tastes.
If we are not careful in our effort to accommodate
the world we may discover that we have drifted away from the clear message
of the gospel.
"Such A Great Salvation"
The humanity of Jesus Christ is the greatest
stumbling block to a lost world. It is difficult for the world to recognize
Jesus' superiority over others because he was so human. The humanity of
Christ was the Hebrews greatest obstacle to believing. They couldn't see
how someone so human could be so divine.
It is not to angels that he
has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there
is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful
of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower
than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything
under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that
is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject
to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels,
now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by
the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (NIV)
The world today has little trouble believing
in the man Jesus. They have a great difficulty believing that he is superior
to other religious leaders. They have difficulty believing that he is God's
Son. How can someone so human be so divine? The Hebrew writer uses a quotation
from Psalms 8: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man
that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you
crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet."
The difficulty is with believing someone so
human could be so honored. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he
too shared in their humanity . . ." (2:14) To me the crowning act of Jesus'
greatness was not that he ascended into heaven. It was that he descended
to become one of us. The superior one descended into greatness as he became
The superior One was made perfect through
suffering. " . . . It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything
exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering."
It boggles the mind to think that God is made
perfect through sharing in our suffering. Real leaders should never ask
their followers to do something they are not willing to do. Before God
created us he understood the reality of the cross. Sometimes we want to
ask, "Why would God create a world subject to suffering?" The answer may
lie in another question, "Why would God create a world that would require
his suffering on the cross?" I think that it was his willingness to suffer
as we suffer that made his plan perfect.
Christ pioneered the way for us by his perfect
obedience on the way to the cross.
During the days of Jesus' life
on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears
to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his
reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what
he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him . . . (NIV)
When God subjected the world to Jesus Christ
he gave himself a reality check. He gave his Son over to this sinful world
to be crucified. God knows the reality of the devastating effects of sin
first hand. He knows sin's willingness to hurt us unfairly and unjustly.
Aren't you glad that you have a God that is in touch with the reality of
life on earth? Jesus was crowned with glory and honor because he was willing
to suffer death on that cruel cross.
For this reason he had to be
made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful
and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement
for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted,
he is able to help those who are being tempted. (NIV)
What does this say about those willing to
suffer with him? The Hebrews were growing tired of the suffering that living
for Christ was bringing upon them. But they have a savior that has revealed
the way. His willingness to show us the way made him merciful. The Hebrew
Christians are encouraged to embrace God's grace during times of suffering.
They are becoming feeble and are almost ready to fall.
Therefore, strengthen your
feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the
lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live
in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see
the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter
root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (NIV)
We expect God to make everything right without
suffering. God chose to make everything right through his own suffering.
We expect God to march into this world with all his power and take control
of the powers that be. God chose to subject himself to the powers that
be. He chose to manifest his power in his weakness through his suffering
on the cross.
God's Commitment to Us
Christ's willingness to come into this
world as a human--as one of us--demonstrates God's commitment to each of
us. It demonstrates how far God is willing to go to save us. The
amazing thing is that God is not asking you to do anything he wasn't willing
Christ's commitment is seen in that he is
not ashamed of us. This book was written to those who where were failing
as their faith was tested. When we suffer and fail we need to know that
God is not ashamed of us. He remains committed to us. The writer doesn't
try to shame them into obedience. He wants them to know Christ is not ashamed
of them. He wants them to know God's commitment to them
Both the one who makes men
holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not
ashamed to call them brothers. He says, "I will declare your name to my
brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."
And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I,
and the children God has given me." Since the children have flesh and blood,
he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him
who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil--and free those who all
their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it
is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. (NIV)
Christ is not ashamed to be a part of the
human family. The one who became holy--came to make us holy. The Lord is
not serving angels. They serve him and us. (1:14) He came to serve Abraham's
descendants, which includes us.
You are all sons of God through
faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have
clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor
free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong
to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
He is not ashamed to declare our names in
the presence of God. He is not ashamed to argue our case in the presence
of a holy God.
1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this
to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who
speaks to the Father in our defense-- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also
for the sins of the whole world. (NIV)
God has committed our keeping to Christ.
Many forsake Christ in difficult times because they think Christ
has forsaken them. The writer of Hebrews wants the recipients of this letter
to know that Christ has not forsaken them and he is not ashamed of them.
The writer quotes three passages from the Old Testament to make his point.
"I will declare your name to
my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."
"I will put my trust in him."
"Here am I, and the children
God has given me." (Isaiah 8:18)
These passages may seem vague to the modern
mind, but they weren't vague to those Hebrews who no doubt had an understanding
of the scripture context from which they were taken. I would like to think
that they were so familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures that just quoting
a small portion of the scripture reminded them of the entire context of
the verse. They were vivid reminders of what the Lord thought about them
during times of suffering. They were reminders for them to place their
trust in God.
Let us turn to Psalms 22:22 and study
the context from which the verse is taken.
In Psalms 22 the Psalmist feels forsaken by
God. Certainly the Hebrews could identify with this.
In the opening of the psalm the writer sees
himself forsaken by God. He is suffering and thinks God has forsaken him.
In verse 6 the Psalmist depreciates his view
of himself because of what is happening to him. He sees himself as a worm.
(22:6-8) Have you ever had a depreciated view of yourself in troublesome
However, he reminds himself that It was God
that gave him birth. He is renewing a proper view of himself. He
reminds himself of the surety of the Lord's deliverance by reminding himself
from whence he came. (22:9-11) He reminds himself that the Lord will deliver
him because the Lord delights in him.
In spite of troubles he resolves to trust
in God. The Psalmist resolves to declare God's name before the congregation
regardless of his troubles because God has not despised him. (22:12-24)
Praise results from knowing that God will
fulfill his vows to us. (22:25-31)
What makes this Psalm so poignant to the Hebrews
is that they also understand it to be a prophetic vision of how Christ
would suffer. It refers to Christ suffering and his faithfulness to them
as he died on the cross. It encourages them to bear up under their suffering
as Christ did under his.
Lets look at the context of the passages
I will wait for the LORD, who
is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in
him. Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me.
We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on
Mount Zion. When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper
and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead
on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not
speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and
hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will
become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God.
Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness
and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (NIV)
Isaiah emphatically tells us that we must
look "To the law and to the testimony!" When we suffer we might tend to
lose our faith in God. When we lose our faith we may want to turn to those
who seem to be in power at the moment. We may want to turn to "mediums
and spiritists, who whisper and mutter." We may want to accommodate our
message to embrace the message of the world.
The passages from Isaiah encourage us to trust
in God. "If they do not speak according to this word, they have no
light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land;
when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will
curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and
see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust
into utter darkness."
Christ is far superior to anything the world
has to offer. He is far superior to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament.
Today it is God laying on the altar for our atonement. Everything else
I have ever heard about pales into insignificance in comparison.
From the context of Hebrews 2 we can begin
to understand how the recipients are being encouraged to maintain their
grip on Christ through the Word. They are using the scriptures to remind
themselves of the faithfulness of the Lord.
Since the children have flesh
and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might
destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil--and free
those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this
reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that
he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,
and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he
himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are
being tempted. (NIV)
Christ faithfulness to us through his
suffering is our greatest evidence of our need to be faithful to him. God's
commitment to us reveals the seriousness of our situation. Christ
didn't come to eliminate poverty or illness. He came solely to save us