Chapter 2

The first four verses of this chapter ought to be joined to chapter 1: they specially warn against the neglect of this great salvation, which God has brought so near. So great that the three Persons in the Godhead had all to do with the providing of it (see chap. 9:14, with which compare Luke 15), and here are all seen witnessing to its greatness. God speaks “in Son”— “therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard,” lest, like a ship in motion, when something is brought close to it, we sail past, or drift away neglecting to lay hold of it. That something is God’s salvation, the word of which is now brought nigh. One look to Christ, one step, and that salvation is thine; but disregard it, neglect it, give no earnest heed to it, and to-morrow may find you hardened in sin or in hell.

“Disobedience,” in verse 2, is careless hearing, which may be either through listless indifference on the one hand, or natural piety and worldly religiousness on the other. The danger of the Hebrews was more in the latter than the former, as it is in some who now hear the Word. They, by their own religiousness, neglect God’s great salvation, and invent one of their own.

Verse 3.—”How shall we escape if we neglect?” —it does not say reject, but “neglect,” which is much easier and more common. You do not require to empty your till on the street to become a bankrupt: neglect of your business will bring you there. The question “How shall we escape? “is unanswerable; it shews the certainty of the Christ-neglecter’s judgment, while in chapter 10:29, the greatness of his damnation is seen. Those upon whom wrath is coming, are regarded by God in the New Testament not merely as sinners, but “as enemies.” In the presence of “so great salvation “there can be no neutrality, no middle ground. You must either accept Him and be “clean every whit,” or be negligent and be damned. What a word of warning for religious people, who, like many of the Hebrews, are mixing law with grace, and thus neglecting that great salvation in which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost each have their part.

Verses 4-5.—These verses stand closely related. Do you ask—how? The little word “for “connects them. To the first messengers of Christ, God bore His witness by miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost. These gifts were the powers of the world to come, not in angels, but in men. The miracles wrought by the Lord Jesus, He attributed to “the Spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28), whom He elsewhere speaks of as “the finger of God” (Luke 11:20). The testimony of apostles was confirmed by gifts of healing, tongues and such like, all wrought by the Holy Spirit, who still abides as a witness (see John 15:26). These miraculous gifts were not intended to continue; they served their purpose and passed away, but the Spirit Himself remains as the power for testimony in the believer and in the Church now, and by His power will all the miracles of the coming dispensation be wrought. Here and now, angels minister to the “heirs “of salvation, but in “the habitable world” yet to come, they will be superseded by the risen saints. Thus in Revelation v., we read of elders, living creatures and angels, but when the power is handed over to the Lamb, angels fall back, and the glorified saints are seen nearest to the throne. There they appear as the ministers of God, acting out His will.

Verses 6-9.—Now we learn who is to be the Centre and Ruler of the world to come. It is to be under the dominion of a Man, as God had originally purposed (see Gen. 1:27-30), not the first man but the second—as this passage clearly shews. The quotation here is from Psalm 8, which is thrice quoted in the New Testament, but when the Spirit gives an Old Testament quotation in the New, He always expands and enlarges it. In the Old, a Man is seen ruling on earth, in the New, in heaven also. Everything is to be in subjection to Him—God alone excepted. In 1 Cor. 15:24-29, we learn that His rule is connected with a kingdom, which will be inaugurated by the putting down of all disorder, and the subjection of every foe, while in Ephesians 1:21-23 we learn, that He is Head of His Body, that when He reigns, the Church will be associated with Him, as His “fulness “or completion. But “we see not yet” all things subjected to Him; in the meantime the devil is “the prince of this world,” and has the sway for a little while.

“But we see Jesus crowned.” Very remarkable is the mention of the name of “Jesus “here. Between seven and eight hundred times He is named “Lord Jesus” after His resurrection, under twenty times as “Jesus,” and this is one of them. For every such mention of Him thus, there is a reason. Can we account for it here? It looks back at His path of humiliation. He who took upon Him the form of a servant down here, who humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, is now “crowned with glory and honour.” “God hath made Him both Lord and Christ this same Jesus whom ye crucified “(Acts 2:36), and in addressing Him, the Spirit teaches us to call Him “Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 12:3).

“A little lower than the angels,” tells of what He became: essentially He was far above angels. He made them all. He took humiliation in order that He might be able to die, but we must guard ourselves against the error of saying that as man He must die. He took flesh, but not our tainted humanity in which sin has its dwelling. “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14), but death had no claim upon Him. He laid down His life; it was not taken from Him. As we hold fast the Deity of Christ, His essential Godhead, so must we grasp His sinless, peerless, taintless humanity.

“That He by the grace of God should taste death for every one.” If it were law, God would be dealing with us; law asks what we are, it deals with what we have done, but grace tells what God is. In grace God is rich, very rich, and we share “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus “(Eph. 2:7). “Tasted death “is a Hebraism; it was death in all its bitterness, death with the curse attached to it. “For each one”—rather than every man; it refers to the “many sons “(v. 10), the “brethren” (v. 12), the “children” (v. 13). This truth has its two sides: one is that He died for all, the other for “each one.” Atonement was made Godward, and through it grace is flowing to the whole world, but when Redemption is spoken of, it is for a class of men—for each one. How blessed to know that if He died for each one of His own, He will surely take care of each one of them to the end.

Verse 10.—”For it became Him for whom and by whom are all things.” This refers to God. It “became “that Blessed One who fills Infinity and Eternity to act as here described, it became that mighty God to do something great and infinite. When He made all things in the first creation, He looked and pronounced it “very good.” But He knew that the elements of ruin were there, but out from that ruin God was yet to bring “many sons to glory.” But inasmuch as they had become involved in the common ruin, some one must “bring “them back to Him, and this could only be done by getting down to where they were and suffering for them. Redemption was in His view before creation, and upon redemption the new creation rests, thus it will endure for ever. Of the old creation as it came from His hand, it is said that “it” was good, but in the new, which rests upon Christ, we are to praise Him, for “He is good.”

And the word “captain of their salvation” implies a struggle, for to Him it was a battle, a conquest, and a victory. He was “perfected through sufferings.” Personally He was always perfect, but had He not wept and suffered and shed His blood, He would not have been a perfect Saviour for a sinner like me.

“Bringing many sons unto glory.” In the old creation angels (who were first created) are called “sons of God “(Job 38:7), and Adam is also called the “son of God” (Luke 3:38); both stood on the goodness of the creature, and thus both angels and men have fallen. With the “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) there was no equal; as the “corn of wheat” (John 12:24) He abode alone, but now in resurrection, He is the “Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29), and as surely as they are God’s sons by grace and new creation now, so surely shall they arrive with Him in glory. Meanwhile He is giving a special training to each, chiselling and fitting each for his place in that glory.

Verse 11.—” He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified.” He that separates or sets apart, and they who are separated—separated by redemption into a new creation. There is a parallel word in John 17:19, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself”—separate Myself in resurrection, from whence He reached us and carried His own over there. There we are already in spirit, soon we shall be in body also. The saint has been and is being sanctified. See also chapter 10:10, where the original gives “hath been sanctified,” and in verse 14, “are being sanctified.” God’s saints are a separated people: they were so in His account before the world began; a few millions of years are as nothing to God. And what was done then in God’s account is being done in us from day to day, practically carried out by God breaking us in, and moulding us according to His will. “All of one”: the allusion is to the cherubim on the mercy-seat (Exod. 37:7), which were “beaten out of one piece”—of solid gold—not artificially fixed on but beaten out, having the same value, the same nature. Christ is the mercy-seat, as we find in Rom. 3:25, and so sure as the cherubim of old was one piece with the mercy-seat, beaten out of it as the result of much hammering, so are Christ’s saints taken out from Him, one with Him in resurrection. There could be no cherubim but for the mercy-seat; no union with Christ apart from death and resurrection. Union in incarnation there was none. The theory that in taking flesh and blood, Christ elevated the race, is a device of the enemy, a deadly error subversive of the faith, for only by redemption and new creation do we become one with Him.

Thus the Holy Ghost would shew us in this beautiful way that our new life is altogether derived from Christ, who is our mercy-seat, and that our union with Him is through redemption. “For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” How could He be? To be ashamed of us, He must needs be ashamed of Himself, for our new life is identical with His own, having actually flowed out from Him in resurrection to us. What a standing, and what a life is ours! “He is not ashamed.” How could He? He and His are all of one: “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God” (John 20:17). But while He calls us His brethren, we do not address Him as “our Elder Brother,” but as our Lord. The argument as to our identification with Him there, is supported by a threefold appeal to the Old Testament Scriptures— First in verse 12, “Saying, I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren.” This is a quotation from Psalm 22:22, and refers to His resurrection, from which period He began to own us as His brethren, and to declare the Father’s Name, which He will go on unfolding to all eternity. Verse 13, “And again—I will put My trust in Him.” This is from Psalm 18:2, and refers to His ascension. Even there in the glory, He is still relying upon and confiding in His Father for the fulfilment of His heart’s desire, to have His people, the purchase of His blood beside Him there. He has paid the full price for us, but He waits the Father’s will for the home-bringing of His purchased possession.

“Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me” (Isa. 8:18), looks on to the future, when He will confess our names before His Father, saying, “Here am I and the children: I have got them now.” Thus the first of these Scriptures tells how He owned us as His brethren, as soon as ever He had risen from the dead; the second belongs to His present session at God’s right hand, and shews that even now there He loves to trust as He did below, and beckons us to tread the same path, while the third looks onward to the day of the gladness of His heart when He shall present us in that day to His Father and our Father. Thus while the Scriptures quoted in Chapter 1, speak of Christ Himself, shewing how thoroughly He has done the work, He is there alone; but in Chapter 2, He is not alone, but in association with His people, “in the midst of the Church.” He is the Blesser: they the blessed. He the Sanctifier: they the sanctified, never to be dissociated from Him—for ever with the Lord.

Verses 14, 15, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood.” He took flesh and blood in order that He might become Sacrifice and Priest, to die for us on the Cross, to live for us and serve us in heaven. He was a perfect Man here below: He is a perfect Man at God’s right hand above. Two objects are here stated as being in God’s view, by means of the death of His Son. (1) “To bring many sons to glory.” (2) to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Notice the order in which these diverse objects are here stated. God begins with His own throne: He will have His many sons in glory, no matter what the difficulties and hindrances down here. There is something so majestic in this beautiful way of God. We would begin low, and work our way upward; but our God does not. He fixes our gaze first on Christ, seated up there, and then tells us that He will surround that throne with His many children, and in consequence of what Christ has done, He will fulfil all His gracious designs for our complete and eternal association with Him there. O what a God is our God! Well may our hearts praise Him. “That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death.” Picture to yourself a castle in which are many captives, the jailer at the door holding the keys. Satan once had these keys: he had authority over the realm of death, and he used it to frighten believers who through fear of death, were in bondage all their lifetime. How Hezekiah shuddered at the approach of death, and wept sore when he was told his end was near! What a contrast was Paul, as he neared the end of his course. “I did mourn as a dove,” was the language of Hezekiah (Isa. 38:14). “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:21), said Paul. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown “(2 Tim. 4:8). In Hezekiah’s day the devil had the keys, but Christ entered his realm and wrested them from his grasp. In Rev. 1:18, we learn that the keys of death and hades are in His hand. He, the mighty victor, has all authority now: He holds the keys of the unseen, the world of spirits, and so I do not fear death, or dread the power of Satan, although I fear his cunning. Many of God’s people are still in bondage, because they do not see the difference between Old Testament times and the present. In Heb. 9:27, we read, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Sin brought in death, but when Christ our surety died, He annulled it, so that now its power is gone for all His people. They shall never “see death” nor “taste” it (John 8:51-52). To be “absent from the body “is to be “present with the Lord “(2 Cor. 5:8). Death is vanquished, through death He slew it. The allusion is to Goliath, whom David slew with his own weapon. Goliath perished with Goliath’s own sword (1 Sam. 17:51). The Lord Jesus brought to nought—neutralized—him who once had the power of death. As Samson killed the lion, and afterwards found honey in its carcase (Judges 14), so out of the strong has come sweetness. Neither death nor the devil can harm believers now, for through Him who vanquished both, they are more than conquerors. O what a triumph and what a victory was Christ’s!

Verse 16. “Verily He took not hold on angels, but on the seed of Abraham He taketh hold.” Not the seed of Adam, but the seed of Abraham. He grasped an election of grace, not the race of mankind as a whole. Many of Adam’s seed remain in the devil’s grasp, rejecting the salvation Christ died to bring them. But “if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed “(Gal. 4:29).

Verses 17, 18. “A merciful and faithful High Priest.” Merciful to us: faithful to God. He stands up for God in dealing with us, for He is ever faithful to God. God is light, and in all His dealings with us, Christ acts according to that light. He never swerves from the way of God. His first thought is God, not as it is with us often—self. And yet He is “merciful;” He deals with the “ignorant” and succours the “tempted.” We are like patients in an hospital, our disease, ignorance of God, making self the centre, His dealings with us are in mercy and faithfulness. He succours the tempted that they may not fall. “He suffered being tempted “Himself, and although He never sinned, or had sin in Him, that only makes His sympathy all the keener. He felt it all the more poignantly because He was ever above it. Sin pained Him far more than it does us. Some can laugh at a drunken man. He never could. The sight of sin and its fruits pained Him, just because He was perfect.

“He suffered being tempted.” Suppose a rock could feel the waves dashing over and against it, yet remain unmoved, so it was with Christ. He felt the power of sin all around and suffered, yet He sinned not.

“Able to succour.” Often in the Gospels do we hear of His willingness to save and keep. “I will give you rest”—” I will in no wise cast out,” but after His resurrection we are specially told of His ability. He is able to save, able to keep, able to succour, able to deliver. O, what a Saviour! What a High Priest! Perfect ability to sympathize: perfect power to succour and to save. Never will He cease to succour and to save as our faithful and merciful High Priest, until He has lifted us right up to God. Such also should be our mode of dealing with one another, for the Church is regarded in Scripture as an hospital and nursery, where there are sick ones to tend, and weak ones to care for, and the servants of Christ are to be faithful and wise as hospital and nursery servants (see Luke 12:42 Greek).