Division II. Chaps. 2:5-4:13 The Glories and Humiliation of the Son of Man

Having considered our Blessed Lord from the standpoint of His deity, both as the Eternal Son and as the Son of God in Manhood, we are now called upon to think of Him in His humiliation as He entered into the experiences of humanity in order that He might become the Captain of our salvation. We should never forget that His humanity is as real as His deity. He was born of a virgin; a babe, to all outward appearances like any other, and a perfectly normal child, growing up from infancy to manhood, increasing in wisdom as He increased in stature, and was a sharer in all that pertained to human nature as originally created by God. And He has gone up to heaven as Man, so that we may properly sing:

He wears our nature on the throne.”

But let us never forget His human nature was sinless throughout as was that of Adam before the fall. He did not come under Adam’s federal headship and so did not inherit his fallen estate. God alone was His Father, as we have already seen, and as Scripture abundantly bears witness.

But inasmuch as He was both God and Man in one Person, His humanity was not only innocent as was that of the first man, which was therefore subject to failure, but it was holy, repelling evil, for He was the second Man, the Lord from heaven. This precludes all possibility of sin or failure on His part.

Nevertheless, He entered into our human condition and circumstances, not when the race was unfallen but after the fall, when it had become bruised and battered by sin. So He passed, Himself sinless, through this life exposed to pain and sorrow, to hunger and weariness, to trial and temptation, and entered fully into all human experiences which did not involve personal demerit, dying at last upon a felon’s cross where Jehovah laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. While there was no sin in Him, our sins were made to meet upon Him, and He made full expiation for all our iniquities that we might be reconciled to God and justified from all things.

Section A. Chap. 2:5-9
The Glory of the Son of Man and His Authority

“For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Or the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst Him with glory and honor, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

While angels are greater in power and might than man in his present circumstances, they remain but servants. It was never God’s purpose that the angels should be rulers over humanity. During the present age and throughout past dispensations, it has pleased God to use angels as His messengers in conveying His will to man. These glorious beings appeared to the patriarchs either to announce blessing or to warn of judgment. The law was given by the disposition of angels. By angelic guidance, the people of Israel were led through the wilderness, and during all the years of the theocracy angels appeared from time to time as representatives of the throne of God. When our blessed Lord Himself was here on earth angels came to minister unto Him, and when He comes into the world again, as we have seen in chapter 1, they will all worship Him. But it is not in the plan of God that they should administer the affairs of the divine government when the kingdom is actually established. “Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the age to come.” Notice it is “age,” not “world;” that is, it is not the cosmos as such that is in view, but the coming age of righteousness when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. No angel will rule in that day. But He whose glory was foretold in the eighth psalm will take the kingdom and rule in righteousness, for the certain place referred to in verse 6 is, as we know, Psalm 8:4-6, which is quoted here. “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? For Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned Him with glory and honor. Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under His feet.” If we turn back to the psalm we might not realize that it is Christ who is in view, particularly as we notice verses 7 and 8 where all cattle and wild beasts, as well as fowls of the air and the fish of the sea, are said to be subjected to man. It might look as though it is but a confirmation of the Lord’s word to Adam the first, to whom He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). But we know well that Adam forfeited his headship through sin, and now in the eighth psalm that headship is confirmed to One who is called the Son of Man, which Adam, of course, never was. The apostle’s use of the passage here in Hebrews makes it plain that it is the Last Adam to whom the psalm refers. And so, as we read these words, we think of Him who delighted in the title “Son of Man” because it speaks of Him as the appointed ruler over the whole earth, who is to deliver it from the bondage of corruption. He was made a little lower than the angels, that is, He became Man, and men in their present condition are inferior to angels, though when redemption is completed, we shall have a place higher than angels can ever aspire to. And already He who took that place of humility has been received up into heaven as Man and crowned with glory and honor, and by divine fiat set over all creation. For God has appointed Him Heir of all things and decreed that all shall be in subjection under His feet. He leaves nothing unsubjected to Him. His place is that of supreme authority.

But as we look around the world today, can we think for a moment that His authority is being exercised? “We see not yet all things put under Him,” and though many centuries have passed since this Epistle to the Hebrews was written, rebellion against God still characterizes this lower universe. The divine law is flouted. The grace of God is despised. His Word is refused. His Holy Spirit is ignored. His people are still called upon to suffer for righteousness’ sake. Surely all things are not yet put under Him! Such might well be the natural conclusion to which we would come if we looked only upon the things that are seen.

But when by the eye of faith, through the telescope of the Word, we pierce the heavens, we see Jesus, who once became a little lower than the angels with the view to the suffering of death, even now crowned with glory and honor. He sits exalted on the throne of the Eternal as a glorified Man at the right hand of the Majesty on high. God has set Him above all things, which is conclusive proof to us that all things shall yet be subjected to Him.

Notice the special reason given for His humiliation. He became a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death: that is, with this very object in view. It was impossible that Deity as such should die. If He would taste death for every man, He must become Man, for only as man could He die. This is the mystery set forth in that ancient type in Leviticus 14:5 where, in connection with the cleansing of the leper, the priest was instructed to take two birds alive and clean. One of the birds was to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. The other was to be dipped in the blood of the dead bird and let loose in the open field. The two birds typified one Christ. The first speaks of Him as the Heavenly One who entered into the earthen vessel of humanity in order that He might die. The second speaks of Him as the Risen One who has returned to the heavens in all the value of His own most precious blood.

Then it is well to notice that after all it is not merely for every man that He tasted death. The context makes it plain that the “all” for which He died is in the neuter in the original. It might rightly be rendered, “that He by the grace of God should taste death for everything.” For through His death not only will sinners be saved and the world of redeemed men brought into eternal blessing, but the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption and everything in heaven and earth at last brought into harmony with God. None shall fail of this reconciliation excepting those who deliberately prefer their sins to the salvation so freely offered.

Section B. Chap. 2:10-18
The Perfecting of the Captain of our Salvation through Suffering

This section is one of the most precious in all the Epistle and requires careful consideration, for there is grave danger of misunderstanding some of its great declarations unless we are familiar with what the Word of God elsewhere reveals concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus.

If He would become Captain of our salvation, or, literally, File-leader of our salvation, the One who is Himself the Way of Life and leads us in that Way, He must be perfected through sufferings. But notice how His glory as Creator is insisted on when His sufferings are in view. “It became Him,” that is, it was consistent under the circumstances for Him, “for whom are all things and by whom are all things”—the same as in Colossians, “All things were created by Him and for Him”—if He would bring many sons into glory (and this we know is the very reason for which He came into the world), to be made perfect, not as to His character, but as to His Saviourhood, by sufferings. There was never any imperfection in Him as Man. He was always the Perfect One, but let it never be forgotten that the perfect life of Jesus would never have saved one poor sinner. In order to become Captain of salvation, that He might lead many sons to glory, He must go by way of Gethsemane and Golgotha, where He was perfected by sufferings. Apart from His bitter passion, there could be no redemption for lost men and women.

And in verse 11 we have the glorious result of His sufferings. “Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.” To sanctify is to separate, to set apart. He set Himself apart in order that He might become our Saviour. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19). And now as having gone back to the glory from whence He came, He is Himself the Sanctifier of all His own. He has been made unto us wisdom, even righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Every believer has been set apart by Him and in Him to God the Father, and so it can be said of Him and of us, “We are all of one.” That is, I take it, all of one Father or of one family. And therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. Our poor hearts cannot but realize how worthless we have been and are, and how, if He were any other than He is, He might well be ashamed to own such as we as His brethren. But we have become partakers of His divine life, a life that is eternal and to which sin can never attach. And so He owns us gladly as His brethren, though, may I add, nowhere in Scripture is He spoken of as our brother. He says, “Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am.” But He whom we gladly own as Lord, in wondrous grace calls us His brothers.

In Psalm 22 we see Him hanging on the cross, the Forsaken One, drinking the wormwood and the gall, bearing the judgment due to our sins. In verses 1 to 21 of that psalm He is seen alone, suffering at the hands of God what our guilt deserved. Then from verse 22 on He is no longer alone, but as the Risen One is surrounded by multitudes who owe their salvation to His sufferings on the tree, and it is in resurrection He exclaims: “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.” This is the passage that is quoted in verse 12 of our chapter; but for “congregation” we have the word “church,” a translation, as we know, of the Greek ekklesia, which was the Septuagint rendering for the Hebrew term translated “congregation.” It is the assembly of the redeemed, and in the midst of that assembly the Risen Christ takes His place as the Chief Chorister leading the praises of His people’s hearts.

He once trod the path of faith Himself, as implied in the quotation, in verse 13, from Isaiah 8:17, “I will put My trust in Him.” As Man here on earth, He walked through the wilderness of this world with perfect confidence in the Father, looking on to the time when, surrounded by all His own, He could say, as quoted from the eighteenth verse of the same chapter, “Behold, I and the children which Thou hast given Me.” But it is not to Isaiah and his children that these words primarily apply. The prophet of old was but the type of the Lord Himself who spoke by the Spirit through Isaiah.

In verses 14 and 15 we read: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” It is necessary to give the most careful consideration to what is really stated here lest we, even though unintentionally, detract from the glory of the humanity of our blessed Lord. A casual reading of the first part of verse 14 might suggest that our Saviour participated in everything that is connected with flesh and blood. Indeed, this has been the teaching of many. According to them, the Son of God assumed humanity with all its sinfulness and all its limitations of ignorance, so that even though they acknowledge that in some sense He was truly God manifest in flesh, yet with them it is Deity enshrouded in poor degraded sinful human nature; unable, therefore, to make Himself known in His fulness. But what we are really told here is that inasmuch as the children of faith are human beings, not angels, as the writer points out in verse 16, so in order that He might be the true Goel or Kinsman-Redeemer, He in infinite grace became Man and thus took part of the same human nature. This does not in any sense imply that He took defiled human nature. This the Holy Spirit guarded against in the fullest possible way, so that the angel could say to Mary, “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” While in our English version the words “partakers of” and “took part of” might seem to imply in each instance fullest participation, the original does not necessarily imply this. The following note from the pen of F. W. Grant, than whom I know no more spiritual expositor, is very helpful. “It must be noted here, as it often has been, that while the children are said to be partakers of flesh and blood—this ‘partaking’ being a real having in common, a participation of the most thorough kind—in His own ‘taking part’ another word is used which implies limitation. It does not indeed show the character of the limitation; but the difference between the words makes us necessarily ask what, in fact, that limitation was; and the answer comes to us immediately, that while His was true humanity in every particular necessary to constitute it that, yet humanity as men have it, the humanity of fallen men, was not His. Here there must be strict limitation. We must add, as the apostle does afterwards with regard to His temptation, ‘sin apart.” Sin, with the consequences of sin, He could not take. Death could have no power over Him, except as He might submit Himself voluntarily to it, and this He did; but it was obedience to His Father’s will, and no necessity of His condition, as it is of ours” (Numerical Bible, Notes on Hebrews, page 23).

And if it be remembered that sin is not inherent in human nature as such, but that it is a foreign thing brought in through the fall, it can be readily understood how it could be said that our blessed Lord “took part of the same” without involving full participation in all that had come in through man’s failure. He must be the Unblemished One if He would make satisfaction for sins. It is through failure to realize this that many very wrong systems have been built up teaching the sinfulness of Christ’s humanity, something which one would expect would be repugnant to every truly converted person.

Having thus become Man, though sinless, our Lord became man’s Champion and went forth as our David to destroy or annul the great Goliath who had terrorized the world ever since the fall, “him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil.” The cross was for Christ a Valley of Elah where He met our cruel foe and put an end to his authority over the souls of all who believe the gospel, thus delivering us even now, who in times past through fear of death were held in bitter bondage all our lives. Satan is a conquered foe and no believer need now fear him, but it is incumbent on us to watch and pray lest he mislead us and hinder our communion with God, though he well knows he can never destroy our life.

The sixteenth verse seems to be unfortunately rendered in our Authorized Version, through inserting the italicized words which imply that it is a question of nature that is under consideration. A better translation reads as follows: “For truly He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He took hold.” That is, Christ did not come to be the Saviour of fallen angels. They are shut up unto eternal darkness, but in infinite grace He passed angels by and laid hold on the seed of Abraham, that is, on all who believe in Him. In order to do this, it was necessary that He should be made like unto His brethren, as we have already seen, that thus having passed sinlessly through all human experiences, He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make—not “reconciliation,” as in the Authorized Version text, but—expiation or atonement for the sins of the people. In this we see the fulfilment of the type of the great Day of Atonement when the high priest first offered the sacrifice at the altar and then presented the blood in the Holiest. So our Lord, at the close of His pilgrim path, on our behalf offered up Himself upon the cross to make expiation, atonement, or propitiation, for our sins. The original word is that used in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew word for atonement. Reconciliation is the result of this, but it is we who are reconciled to God, not He who has to be reconciled to us.

And now our Great High Priest lives on high ever ready to succor them that are tempted. Having Himself suffered being tempted, His heart goes out in compassion to us in our great need. Note the contrast between this passage and 1 Peter 4:1. Here we read that Christ “suffered being tempted.” In the other passage we are told that “He that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” This brings out most vividly the difference between Christ’s perfect humanity and our sinful natures. To us, sin is attractive and alluring. We suffer in the flesh when we resist it. With Him it was the very opposite. Temptation caused Him the keenest suffering. It was the presentation of that to His holy soul which He abhorred, and even to have to do with it, in the sense of temptation, caused Him pain and anguish.

Section C. Chap. 3:1-6.
The Glory of the Son over the House of God

Having thus introduced Christ Jesus as High Priest of our confession, we are now bidden to consider Him in that character as the Apostle of the new dispensation. It is Christ who has superseded both Moses and Aaron. Moses was the apostle of the separated people who were partakers of an earthly calling, and Aaron was their high priest. But Jesus is both the Apostle and High Priest of the holy brethren, holy as we have already seen, because set apart to God in Him, and thus partakers of the heavenly calling.

He is infinitely superior to Moses because Moses, though faithful in his day, was simply a servant in the house of God, but Christ Jesus is the Builder of the house and is Son over His own house, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Observe that the term “house” is used here in three senses. The house in which Moses was faithful was the tabernacle. But the tabernacle was the pattern of things in the heavens, so the house that God built is the universe. But the house over which Christ is set and to which we belong is that building composed of living stones in which every believer has a place.

And now we have the first word of warning, lest in cherishing a temporary confidence we seem to be animated by the joy that hope in Christ gives, and yet, after all, are lacking in a faith that is genuine. The “if” in verse 6 is a test of profession. It was very possible then, and it is still, that men might mingle with a Christian company and find a certain amount of gladness and joy springing from an intellectual acquaintance with Christianity, who after all were not truly born of God. Continuance proves the reality of our confession. This is further stressed in the portion that follows.

Section D. Chaps. 3:7-4:13
The Perfected Saviour Leading His People through the Wilderness to the Eternal Sabbath of God: Warning as to Coming Short

In this lengthy section the warning is continued and is based upon Israel’s experiences of old. Just as their fathers had left Egypt a great multitude, yet many (in fact, the majority) failed to enter the land of Canaan because of unbelief; so a vast throng of Jews had become outwardly obedient to the faith, but there was ever the danger that their conversion to Christianity might be merely intellectual and their forsaking of Judaism simply what people sometimes call today “a change of religion.” Therefore the importance of examining themselves in the light of the Word of God and pressing on to “make their calling and election sure,” as the apostle Peter elsewhere puts it. We are saved entirely by grace, but we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, as we read in Ephesians, and no one has a right to confess himself a Christian who is not seeking to live for the glory of God. If there be not a nature that delights in the will of God, there is every reason to doubt whether one has ever been truly saved.

And so we have here a warning word taken from Psalm 95:7-11: “For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known My ways: unto whom I sware in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest.” Notice how this quotation from the psalm is introduced, “As the Holy Ghost saith.” It is not merely the word of David or some other unknown author, but it is the word of the Holy Spirit Himself warning those who profess the name of the Lord against hardening their hearts and walking in disobedience.

To these Hebrews the exhortation is given: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers (companions) of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (vers. 12-14). Faith is manifested by a godly walk. Where there is lack of faith, the outward life may for a time seem to be consistent with the Christian profession, but eventually the old carnal nature will assert itself and there will be a turning back to the world; or, as in this case, to that mere carnal religion from which Christ would deliver. This second “if” is linked with verse 6, and again we are reminded that continuance in the walk of faith is the proof of a genuine Christian confession. In the last five verses of this third chapter, the Spirit of God uses the case of Israel in the wilderness as a solemn warning to all who now have professedly gone on a pilgrimage. The people who fell in the desert of old were those who believed not. They never entered into God’s rest. Indeed, they could not do so because of their unbelief. That rest of course was Canaan, a type of the rest that remains for the people of God now.

The subject is continued in the first thirteen verses of chapter 4. “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” The rest here spoken of is not our present enjoyment of Christ, as many have imagined, but clearly refers to that rest which, as in Israel’s case, is at the end of the way. What a solemn thing for any who eventually come short of that! The glad tidings of a rest to come, we have heard as did they. Let us then see that we profit thereby in a way which they did not, proving the reality of our faith by our behavior.

Then in verse 3 we have present rest as we truly believe God, and thus enjoy the rest of faith. The quotation from Psalm 95 is again referred to in order to show that the rest there spoken of could not refer merely to creation rest, for God entered into that centuries and millenniums before the psalm was written, as we read in Genesis 2:2: “God rested the seventh day from all His work,” but the psalm says, “If they shall enter into My rest,” showing that the rest was still future. Nor was it merely Canaan rest, for they had long since reached Canaan, though those who did not believe failed of this. But another and a better rest is before the mind of the Spirit, for if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken as though their rest was still in the future. It is well known that the name of our blessed Lord which we read as Jesus, is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, so that Israel’s great leader and our Great Saviour both bore the same name. Joshua led those who believed into Canaan rest. Jesus leads those who believe into the present rest of faith and later into eternal rest. Both are brought before us in verses 9 to 11: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” In verse 9 it is eternal rest, a sabbath keeping that shall have no end, whereas verse 10 speaks of that rest which we now enter into and enjoy as “we walk by faith and not by sight.” We are exhorted to be in earnest lest we even so much as seem to fall short of what is our proper portion in Christ.

And we need to remember that God’s Word is ever the standard of judgment, and not our knowledge of it. Therefore the importance of becoming thoroughly conversant with the truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures. “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (vers. 12, 13). We cannot but notice how intimately the written Word and the Eternal Word are linked together. It is clear that ver. 12 is referring to revealed truth. This is the Word of God which is described as living and energetic, “sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” that is, distinguishing between these two parts of the inward man and also separating between the joints and marrow, making a difference between what is outward and that which is hidden; and “is a discerner (kritikos) of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Men presume to criticize and to sit in judgment on the Word of God, but here we are told that the Word itself is the supreme critic of our inmost thoughts and inclinations. It is plain that throughout this twelfth verse it is the written Word that is in view, but in that which immediately follows we have the personal pronouns used, showing us that the Living Word is now before the soul, He from whom nothing is hidden but to whose all-seeing eyes everything is naked and open. How important that those who have to do with Him be real and true in all their ways!