The goal for us at this point, as we come to the Word of God, is to consider the glory of our Savior, and so I want you to turn to the second chapter of Hebrews, the second chapter of Hebrews. And while this section of Scripture is worthy of careful, detailed explanation, we’ll try to hit the highlights.
Now the book of Hebrews was written to Jews, obviously. Some of them had believed in Christ, and they understood the gospel fairly well. Others of them were sort of in the process of considering Christ, and they needed further clarification to understand more about Him before they made the break with Judaism that would cost them so much. And there were other Jews who were just on the outside looking in. But to all of them, this letter is written to demonstrate that Jesus is the Savior of the world, the one true Savior; and that means that He’s going to have to be presented very carefully, particularly to Jewish people, because they have a highly developed theology. And so the writer begins in chapter 1 by declaring that Jesus is superior to angels, superior to angels—and that is essentially the flow of chapter 1, verse 4 all the way down to verse 14.
Angels are ministers, verse 7 says, but to the Son, verse 8 says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You . . . God has anointed,” verse 9, “with the oil of gladness above Your companions”—above the angels. The only one above the angels was God Himself. This is an amazing declaration. Everything in creation bows to Christ, verse 13 says: “To which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’?” And the answer is to no angel. So Christ is superior to angels.
And the Jews understood the angels were heavenly beings. They were associated with the work of God. They were associated with the law of God. They worshiped the true God in holiness. So who is greater than the angels? If you’re going to suggest that this Jesus Christ is our Savior and He is our Redeemer, He’s got to be greater than men, because men can’t redeem themselves; and He is that, and He’s also greater than angels.
But the lingering question among the Jews is, “How could this man, Jesus, be greater than the angels, when He was a man and died? How could be the perfect Savior? How could He be the Messiah and be executed—killed?” In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:23 the apostle Paul says the death of Christ on the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews. How can you have the Messiah be human, and so human as to even die? The writer has to answer that very basic question. In fact, what we learn is summed up in verse 9 of chapter 2: “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.”
Bethlehem was for Calvary. He was born to die, born in human flesh for the very purpose of dying. Those soft baby hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made to take two great nails. Those tender feet, pink and without steps, were to walk a hill and be executed in front of masses of people. That sacred head, with sparkling eyes, eager mouth, was to wear a crown of thorns. He was born for death. That tender body, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem, was to be ripped open by a spear to reveal a broken heart. Jesus was born to die. That does not disqualify Him; that qualifies Him to be our great Savior.
Man, created originally by God, would dominion over the creation, over everything, fell into sin, as you know, lost his crown. Man should be a king, but instead he is a slave, weak and bound to sin and ruled by what he was designed originally to rule over. And into this situation came Jesus, to make men what God intended them to be, to restore the crown. So while the Jews were wondering how He could be the Savior if He’s a man and He died, the New Testament makes crystal clear, repeatedly, that in order to be the Savior, He had to be a man, and He had to die. Dying as a man qualified Him to be our great Savior.
As you look at verses 9 and following, down to verse 18—just kind of looking at them in a light fashion for tonight—Jesus is presented as our great Savior by five perfections. First, He is our substitute; second, He is our Sovereign; third, He is our sanctifier; fourth, He is our Satan-conqueror; and fifth, He is our sympathizer. Now these are familiar to you as a believer, but beautifully and magnificently that all comes together in this particular text.
Let’s look at verse 9, where we see Christ as our substitute. Again, “We see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels.” We learn from chapter 1 that He was above the angels. The angels were ministering spirits, and He was the sovereign ruler who sat at the right hand of God. But for a little while He was made lower than the angels, this Jesus, because of the suffering of death. He had to taste death for everyone. In other words, to redeem His people He had to die their death.
The first and foremost reason Jesus came into the world was to taste death for everyone, a substitutionary death. We understand that; that’s the heart of the gospel. It involved a number of things. It involved humiliation. He was made a little—for a little while lower than the angels. That, obviously, a humiliation.
Paul talks about it in Philippians 2: Being equal with God, He didn’t hold onto that; He gave it up and came all the way down to humanity, and all the way down to death, and all the way down to death on the cross. Why? To taste death for everyone. He’s the only one who could be the substitute. He was guilty of nothing, and yet He tasted death for sinners.
Galatians 4 says He came to redeem those under the law. Romans 8 says He basically came in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin. Second Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for all.” Only by the Son tasting death can any sinner be forgiven.
This was an act—if you notice again, into verse 9—that was prompted “by the grace of God.” That’s the motivation. Solely on the basis of God’s good pleasure, God’s free lovingkindness, He chose to send His Son as a substitute for sinners. And He was so successful at it that as a result of that substitutionary death, He was subsequently “crowned with glory and honor.”
Philippians 2 says God gave Him a name above every name, seated Him at His right hand, validating His work. Rather than the cross needing an apology, the Savior had to be killed, and He had to be killed in the place of sinners—and He was. And so obviously was this the plan, that God exalted Him, crowned Him with glory and honor. Jesus is the only substitute for sinners. By His divine nature He is greater than angels. For a little while, thirty-three years, He was lower than the angels, to die as our substitute.
Secondly, the writer presents Him as our sovereign. And you could use a lot of words that start with s, so that’s convenient. But in verse 10, “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 archēgos of their salvation through sufferings.”
Who’s it talking about? “It was fitting for Him”—that’s God—“for whom are all things, and through whom are all things”—that sounds like the doxology in Romans chapter 11. “It was fitting” for God. It was fitting for God “in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” “Author” could be “pioneer,” could be “leader.” The word archēgos is, in the book of Acts, actually translated “Prince of life” when referring to Christ. So He, though placed in a lowly position for His time here, was always elevated as the sovereign Lord and Savior. God knew that if He was going to bring many sons to glory, there had to be someone to perfect the author of salvation.
Later in the book of Hebrews it says Christ perfected our salvation through His death. The verse begins, “It was fitting for Him”—it fit God’s wisdom. You could say the cross was the masterpiece of wisdom. It fit His holiness. It demonstrated God’s hatred for sin. It agreed with His grace because it was an act of love to bring forgiveness. It was fitting with His power; it was the greatest power display ever. Christ endured a few hours of darkness, took the full fury of the wrath of God for all the people who would ever be saved through all of human history. He is the archēgos, the leader, the prince, the pioneer, the source.
That word is an interesting word. It has to do with a person who begins something and takes other people with him, like a father of a family, or someone who founded a city, or someone who blazed a trail for others to follow. And in that sense, He is our sovereign and our King, and He brought us into His kingdom. He’s our leader. His ability to lead, His ability to rule, His ability to lead us to God, to show us the way to God, necessitated His suffering. That’s how the verse ends: “The author of their salvation [was perfected] through sufferings.”
So rather than death disqualifying Christ, it qualifies Him. Hebrews 5:9 says He is the source of eternal salvation: “He became to all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” So the writer of Hebrews is saying, first of all, as you look at Christ you understand that He is our substitute, and He is our sovereign. He’s the author of our salvation—the pioneer, the trailblazer, the one who leads us to God.
Thirdly, the writer wants us to understand that He is our sanctifier. Look at verse 11: “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father.” He is the one who makes us holy. He is the one who makes us righteous. Christ is the sanctifier; we are the “sanctified”—hagiazō, to make holy, to hallow. And again, over in the tenth chapter of Hebrews, verse 10 and verse 14 help with this: “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Then verse 14, “By one offering . . . perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” The only way we could be sanctified—made holy, set apart—was if our sins were paid for and we were granted a righteousness not our own.
Do we really share in this holiness? Look at verse 11 again—to this degree, that He’s “not ashamed to call them brothers.” If you wonder what the level of your holiness is in the eyes of God, it is equal to that of Christ. Christ, you would assume, would have every reason to be ashamed of you, right? But He is not ashamed. Hebrews 11 says, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
How is it that God has no shame in identifying with us, Christ has no shame in identifying with us?—and we know that we don’t even deserve to identify with Him. It is because we have been granted a covering righteousness that is so true and so real, a genuine righteousness, a righteousness that couldn’t be granted apart from sin being paid for. This is a brotherhood that is expressed even further in verses 12 and 13, notice this. And this is quoted from Isaiah: “‘I will proclaim Your name to My brethren’”—from Isaiah 8—“‘in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.’ And again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me’”—all Old Testament references to a brotherhood, the brethren who have put their trust in God, who are the children of God, who are the congregation of God, who sing His praise. The Jews needed to know this wasn’t something new. I love what it says in verse 12: “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren.” That’s Christ speaking to the Father.
There’s reference here to Psalm 22 as well. Psalm 22, Isaiah 8. This is very interesting, because the Lord Jesus never called His people “brothers” on the other side of the cross. Called them disciples, called them friends, called them sheep; never brothers. As soon as He came out of the grave, He said to Mary, “Go to My brothers and say to them.” The cross and the resurrection declares Him to be the perfect Savior, sanctifier as well, who provides eternal sonship for all who put their trust in Him; and the assembly, or the congregation, singing praise has the Messiah in the midst. These are incredible realities.
Those who trust in Him are brothers. How blessed to think about that when we’re called to court, as it were, in front of somebody who looks at us and wonders if we’re really Christians. How challenging it is for us sometimes, in our fallenness, even as believers, to wonder whether we really belong to the Lord. No. If you are in Christ, you have been sanctified; and when God looks at you, He sees you covered in the righteousness of Christ. You are a brother of Christ, a joint heir with Christ; and Christ is not ashamed of you, and God is not ashamed to be called your God.
The Christ of God, the eternal, the second person of the Trinity, the holy, sinless archēgos, the one whom angels adored, the one who became less than the angels to suffer and die, to be our substitute, our trailblazer to God, who stooped to call us brothers, does it with no shame.
In verses 14 and 15 we find another aspect, another perfection: He is our Satan-conqueror. Verse 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 might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”
Our substitute, our sovereign, our sanctifier, crushed Satan’s head, crushed Satan at the cross. He did it by sharing in flesh and blood. He did it through death. Through death He slew death. Through death He “[freed] those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” Satan holds people in deep guilt over their sin and produces in people the fear of death. That’s a tool of Satan.
The power of death here is kratos, means “dominion.” Death is Satan’s domain. That’s why Paul says to Timothy that Christ Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. When He died, He destroyed the devil; He neutralized his power. The whole world is terrified of death, obviously; Christ has taken all that fear away. And “to die is gain,” right? Far better to depart and be with Christ. Now Revelation 1:18 says Christ says, “I have the keys to death.”
There’s one more glory that belongs to our great Savior: He is our sympathizer. Verse 16, “Assuredly He does not give help to angels.” There’s no redemption for angels, no salvation for angels. They are holy permanently. They never die; they never die.
“He doesn’t give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 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”—or satisfaction—“for the sins of the people.” And then verse 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.” Amazing.
He was made like His brothers in all things: He was hungry, He was thirsty, He was overcome with weariness, He slept, He was taught, He grew, He loved, He was astonished, He marveled, He was glad, He was sad, He was angry, He was indignant, He was grieved, He was troubled, He was overcome. He exercised faith in His Father. He read the Scriptures. He prayed all night. He sighed when He saw a man in need; tears fell from His eyes when His heart ached. He was like us. Why? So that He could come to the aid of those who are tempted.
So the Jews may have thought that this Jesus was disqualified from being the great Savior, but the fact of the matter is He is the only one qualified—our substitute, our sovereign, our sanctifier, our Satan-conqueror, and our sympathizer. Christ is all. Christ is all. He understands our needs, our joys, our sorrows, our struggles. So when you think about coming to the Lord’s Table and offering thanks for Christ tonight, think about it in the richness of what we just saw in Hebrews 2. Let’s bow in prayer.
Our Father, every revelation of Christ is a treasure. Every revelation of Christ is a heavenly gift. We thank You for the gift of that chapter we looked at a little bit tonight. Enlarge our understanding of our Lord. Help us to see Him for everything that He is, to see the majesty and glory of His person, and to realize that He alone is the great Savior.
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