NOTES on Hebrews
2:10-18 (click here for study)
The author of Hebrews continues to point out that Jesus and we are brothers. He has made the point that Jesus had to become human in order to redeem humanity, and in this passage he continues developing this thought.
Verse 10 begins with the assertion that God was at work bringing "many sons to glory." The implications of our becoming sons of God are profound. Our sonship is real, not merely a metaphor.
At first glance it seems that we are always his; as his creations, we belong to him. In an ultimate way, this understanding is true. All things exist within God's sovereignty, and we are his creations. But in a practical sense, we are born as enemies of God. We were born dead, Ephesians 2:1 tells us, and in our natural state we followed "the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." (Eph. 2:2) As people who are spiritually dead, we are not God's sons even though we represent his creation. We are aliens to him, and we are no more functioning as His children than are the rest of the creatures He created.
Because of Jesus, however, we can experience spiritual resurrection from our natural state. Because Jesus died and rose again and mended the tear in the universe that ripped creation from its Creator, we can now become spiritually alive. We can now be born of God. (1 John 1:12,13) God brings our spirits to life, and we are no longer dead, subject to Satan who is "at work in those who are disobedient."
When we are born from above, we become led by the Spirit, and the Spirit testifies to our spirits that we are sons of God indeed! (Romans 8:14) We wake up to the new reality that we live and move inside the love of God which he lavishes on us and through which he calls us his children. (1 John 3:1,2) When we are born of God, we begin to be able to live a life of love through the power of the Holy Spirit just as Christ loved and gave himself for us. (Eph. 5:1,2)
As sons of God, spiritually alive and connected to God by the Holy Spirit, we are being brought "to glory". We bear in us the love and power and authority of Christ, and we become the physical evidence of his glory. The glory to which we're brought is not glory for our new role or accomplishments. It's the glory of Christ which God in his love grants that we bear so the world can see Christ.
Perfect through Suffering
God is sovereign. Everything is from him, for him, to him, and through him. (Romans 11:35,36; Col 1:16) Everything in the universe, visible and invisible, powers and authorities-all things are from God. Further, according to verse 10, all things are not only from God, they are for God. Ultimately everything exists to glorify God, even evil. God's justice and mercy will be clear only when he deals with sin and evil. Satan intends evil for harm, but God means it ultimately for good. (Gen. 50:20) God wastes nothing, and he redeems everything. Everything-our creation, our salvation, Christ's death and resurrection-is for God. The exposure of sin and its demise are for God's glory. Our redemption and rebirth are for God's glory. Even Christ's humanity and his suffering are for God. We benefit from Christ's suffering and victory, but ultimately all of God's acts are for his glory.
This passage in Hebrews makes the point that God, the one through whom and for whom all exists, made "the author of [our] salvation perfect through suffering."
Jesus was not imperfect in terms of sin. The Bible is clear that he was in all ways like we are yet without sin. In this passage the word "perfect" carries the connotation of "complete". Jesus' incarnation as God in human flesh was not complete without his suffering. In order to redeem our lives fully, he had to suffer in all points as we do. If he hadn't suffered, his humanity would have been incomplete. He came as a man into a sinful world. If he had not suffered, he could not have empathized with us or fulfilled our mandate to be perfect. If he had not suffered, our suffering would have gone unredeemed.
By living through every human temptation and agony which is common to humanity, Jesus redeemed our lives. His love and perfection brought God's redemption into our human experience. His suffering legitimized his calling us his brothers. His suffering as a human brought God's perfection and redemption into humanity and gave meaning to our suffering.
Jesus learned obedience by suffering. (Hebrews 5:9-10) As a human, he had to trust his father and obey him in a way he never had to do as the pre-incarnate Christ. He also would never have had to obey in the way he did if he had not suffered unto death.
By suffering as a human, Jesus' humanity was completed, and ours was redeemed.
Freed from the Fear of Death
Because we "have flesh and blood," Jesus shared our humanity so he could destroy Satan who "holds the power of death". Ever since Adam-with the exception of Christ-flesh and blood has been sinful. Our humanity has been condemned to death, and our sinful flesh and blood must be redeemed.
The just punishment for sin is death. Without a miracle, nothing could keep us from experiencing death. Satan holds a claim over our "flesh and blood" because we are born bearing sin in us. All our lives before being born from above we live in the fear of this inevitable death.
Without the miracle of Christ's defeating Satan by defying death, we would be slaves to death. The fear of death-the fear that our lives count for nothing and that we vanish or lose all meaning when we die-paralyzes humanity. The fear of death causes chronic anxiety and franticness that keeps us self-centered and hostile. Without the assurance that our lives matter or that we are loved, we are filled with shame and defensiveness that keep us scrambling for meaning and that keep us argumentative and hostile toward others.
The fear of death is what drives the multi-million dollar hospital/health-care business. It's what drives the fanatical health regimens touted by many religious people. When people do not believe that they have living spirits, eternally one and inseparable from our Lord, all they have is the body. Their fear of death compels them to focus the energy of their lives on preserving and improving their bodies. The statements assuring us that God numbers our days and will not allow us to be separate from him seem metaphorical and symbolic rather than real. If all we have is a body, then separation must be inevitable. Consequently, people focused on the fear of death and the preservation of the body must find elaborate ways to discount the absolute promises that we have passed from death to life and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
In order to free us from our fear of death, Jesus had to defeat the devil as a human. Since it was humanity that sinned and fell under the power of Satan, it was only through humanity that our redemption could come.
The power and perfection and life of God, therefore, came into and became a man. As a man, perfectly alive and sinless, Jesus destroyed the power of death, and he has lifted forever the fear of death. When we are born from above, the power of God indwells us, and we become alive in Christ. Never again will we have to fear death, because now death can never separate us from the love of God. We are eternally alive!
Turning Away Wrath
The author drives home his point that Jesus is concerned with man, not with redeeming angels. Jesus did not take on an angelic body; he took on humanity.
We are Abraham's descendants if we live by the faith of Abraham. Jesus could only represent us as a high priest if he became one of us. As a human and as our representative and redeemer, Jesus sits in the presence of God, his perfection and righteousness standing in the place of our sinfulness. He has paid the price for our sins and has restored us to oneness with God.
The phrase "that he might make atonement for the sins of the people" can also be translated "that he might turn aside God's wrath, taking away the sins of the people."
Many of us grew up doubting God's wrath. God is a God of love, we were told, and a good God would not cause suffering or bring eternal punishment on his creations.
God is a God of love. But a God who did not deal justly with evil would not be a good God. Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God directed toward sin. If God did not truly punish sin with the intensity and severity it deserves, he would not be just or good. He would be frivolous, and his commands would be powerless. There would be no need for God to become human, to suffer and die, if the consequences of sin were not eternal and terrible.
The wrath of God is his justice turned on persistent evil. All who reject his love and his atonement place themselves in a place of God's wrath. But Jesus made atonement for our sins, and by accepting him we are no longer subject to the wrath of God.
God is a God to be feared by those who spurn him. But he is also a God to be trusted absolutely and loved. He is so trustworthy and so worthy of our love that he came in the form of a human to redeem our lives and to become our high priest, serving God and interceding for us. He suffered and was tempted; he experienced every struggle we experience. He did these things so he could be one with us, redeeming our humanity and restoring us to life and to communion with God.
Jesus has claimed us as his brothers. He has become like us in every way except sin. He has sacrificed every aspect of his life and his humanity in order to redeem us. He has not only taken care of the problem of sin in the universe, but he has rescued us individually from the fear of death. By destroying the one who holds the power of death-by defeating Satan-he has redeemed our physical lives and has given us eternal life. We can live the rest of our flesh-and-blood days in peace, knowing that we will never die. Our physical death will not interrupt our life with God.
God calls us to accept his commitment to us. He calls us to commit ourselves to him in return. He left heaven and humbled himself in order to restore us to relationship with him. He calls us to trust him and to bring our fear and shame and guilt to him.
Jesus calls us to embrace our eternal life with joy. He promises never to leave us, and he asks us to begin now to enjoy him and to love him.
We are redeemed. We are secure. We have been released from fear and death. We have Jesus' victory available to us now; his power is ours through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus calls us to accept his atonement and to live now in victory. Our weaknesses and sins no longer define us. Our faithful high priest has given us a new identity; in him we are righteous saints.
Praise Jesus for his unimaginable sacrifice. Praise the Holy Spirit for empowering us with the love and victory of Jesus. Praise God that our salvation is through him and for him. Praise him that our lives are not just about us; they are for God!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised November 26, 2000.