Christ is Superior to the Angels Part 4 “Christ’s Suffering didn’t Contradict His Superiority” – Hebrews 2:10-18
Pastor Mark Hardy April 19, 2015
On November 1, 1989, John Michael Cox killed three of his relatives. Consequently, he received the death penalty for his ruthless crime. Cox sat on death row for nearly a decade, but all the while claiming that he was immune to the lethal injection used for executions.
However, on February 16, 1999 he had the opportunity to prove his claim as he was administered a lethal injection in the Varner, Arkansas death chamber. Less than 15 minutes later, Cox’ lifeless body was wheeled out on a gurney.
Of all the fears that people have, the fear of death is “the king of terrors.” It is universal and always there, no matter how much people try to avoid it, explain it way, stare it down, or like Mr. Cox pretend it doesn’t exist by hoping they are immune from death. But the stark reality is that one day every single person will die; there is no escaping death!
But the Word of God is clear that this life is not all there is! When we die we do not simply cease to exist. As eternal beings we will live somewhere, forever. And where depends solely on what we do with Jesus Christ in this life! Hebrews 9:27 says, “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (NKJV). Since Christ alone has taken away the “sting of death,” only those who receive Him can be free from the fear of death. This is one of the things we will be looking at this morning. Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 2.
In Hebrews 2:10-18 we see three reasons why Christ’s suffering as a Man was absolutely necessary and should be a great encouragement to every believer.
The first reason why Christ’s suffering as a Man was absolutely necessary is because:
I. Suffering Completed His Identification with all Mankind
A. Look at v. 10: For 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 author of their salvation through sufferings.
1. The word “For” that begins the verse indicates the author is now explaining more fully what he has just said in v. 9 concerning the purpose of Christ’s incarnation, in that, “by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
2. To an unbeliever, for God to become man to die on a cross to save people from their sins was totally inappropriate. For we read in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that a crucified Messiah was “…to the Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.”
3. But the death of Christ was not accidental. It was all part of the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23; 4:28). The great redemptive plan of God in Christ, “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things,” was entirely “fitting” or appropriate.
4. What God the Father did through the cross of Christ was a masterpiece of love, grace and wisdom to achieve His grand design of restoring all things to Himself. The death of Christ is God’s only means “in bringing many sons to glory.”
5. The word “sons” describe the redeemed. All true Christians are sons by adoption. They are the children of God, who are enabled by the Holy Spirit to call God “Father” and share in the glorious splendor of salvation and inheritance which is Christ’s (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:5-7; Eph. 1:5).
6. Therefore, the author of Hebrews says that it was fitting for God “…to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” The word “author” refers to Jesus Christ and means originator, leader, captain or pioneer.
7. As our Leader or Pioneer, Jesus has gone before us, opening up the way that leads to salvation for others to follow. But the thought that Jesus was made “perfect. . . . through suffering” is startling!
8. How do you make the perfect more perfect? The word “perfect” here simply means “complete, effective, and adequate.”
9. Although Jesus was absolutely sinless because He was God, His suffering completely equipped Him to identify with the needs of all mankind in order to be the Savior of the world.
10. Remember that Jesus Christ is the God-Man: 100% God and 100% man—His divine and human natures were perfectly joined together without a diminishing or a mixture of the two. But it is His humanity that is being emphasized here.
B. This identification with mankind is made clear in v. 11: For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.
1. The word “sanctify” means “to make holy, to consecrate, to be set apart for God’s own possession and use.” Jesus Christ is “He who sanctifies,” and believers are “those who are sanctified.”
2. As believers, we are positionally holy before God because in justification God has already declared us righteous and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, which has been imputed to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). Now our progressive sanctification is becoming in daily practice what we already are in our divine position, until glorification when the very presence of sin is gone and we are perfect like Christ.
3. Now since both Redeemer and redeemed “are all from one Father”. . . . Christ “is not ashamed to call them brethren.” How amazing that we whom Christ has redeemed, who now have a common Father, righteousness and faith, He calls His brothers and sisters (Matt. 28:10; Jn. 20:17; Rom. 8:29).
4. But how sad that although Jesus is never ashamed to call us His, we are sometimes ashamed to call Him ours!
C. Now to prove the point that Christ had fully identified Himself with mankind by taking a human nature, the author of Hebrews quotes in vv. 12-13 three Old Testament passages from the Septuagint.
1. The first quotation is from the messianic Psalm 22:22. Look at v. 12 where the Messiah declares: “I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”
• Homer Kent, Jr. says about this verse, “It was not a message sent from some distant Olympus, but was delivered by one who partook of flesh and blood and gave His witness in the very midst of men. While on earth Jesus attended synagogue and temple worship with His fellow Jews, and identified Himself with them in every way except in sinning.”
2. The second quotation, which is taken from Isaiah 8:17. Look at v. 13: And again, I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”
• The author of Hebrews regards Isaiah as typifying Christ, who demonstrated the reality of His human nature by His reliance upon God. Just as Isaiah had to trust God to see him through his difficulties, so Christ trusted His Father in the midst of His human weakness, temptations and sufferings on earth.
3. The third quotation is from Isaiah 8:18. Look again at v. 13: And again, “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.”
• Just as Isaiah identified himself with his children, both of whom trust in God in spite of the unbelief all around them in Israel, so Christ identifies Himself with the spiritual children that God has given to Him.
4. All of the suffering that Christ experienced as a Man completed His identification with all mankind by equipping Him to be worthy of the confidence of every believer. Therefore, in no way whatsoever did Christ’s suffering ever contradict His superiority to angels because no angel was so qualified.
5. The second reason why Christ’s suffering as a Man was absolutely necessary is because:
II. Suffering Defeated the Devil and Delivered Believers
A. Look at v. 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.
1. Here the author of Hebrews again affirms the genuineness of Christ’s humanity by explicitly stating His incarnation. The expression “flesh and blood” is a common synonym for human nature, in which “the children (of God) share,” in that, they are all human beings.
2. Notice that it is said of Christ “He Himself likewise also partook of the same.” The Son of God was not by nature “flesh and blood,” but took upon Himself that nature for the sake of providing redemption for mankind.
3. The ultimate purpose of the incarnation is seen in the last part of v. 14, “…that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil.”
4. Jesus was born to die, which enabled Him to conquer death in His resurrection. And by conquering death, He rendered Satan powerless against all who are saved.
5. Now Satan is the ultimate author of sin (Jn. 8:44) and he was behind Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden in Genesis 3, which brought sin and death upon all mankind. Since “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), death is Satan’s realm.
6. But death is the awful reality of divine judgment, not satanic victory. Philip Hughes accurately states, “…death is the sentence of God pronounced against man who sinfully has transferred his allegiance from his Creator to the creature (gen. 3:1ff; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 3:23) and who in doing so has turned his back on God’s realm of life in favor of Satan’s realm of death. It is in this sense that the devil is said to hold the power of death.” (p. 112)
7. Remember that although Satan wields the “power of death” it is not an absolute power. For death, like everything else, is under the sovereign control of God (Gen. 2:17; Deut. 32:39; 1 Kgs. 2:6; Job 2:6; Matt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5; 1 Cor. 15:25f; Rev. 1:18) and Satan can only exercise the “power of death” as God permits according to His will (Job 1:12; 2:6).
8. It was at the cross that the decisive encounter between God and Satan occurred. Only in assuming a human nature could the sinless God-Man qualify to fulfil His function of Redeemer, for His human nature fitted Him to suffer and die as Man for men.
9. As our Substitute, Jesus willingly took upon Himself the holy wrath of God and paid in full the penalty for sin that we deserved. In other words, He paid a debt He did not owe for those who owed a debt they could not pay.
10. In doing so, He “rendered powerless” our enemy Satan, the prince of death. To “render powerless” means to nullify, bring to nothing, to render inoperative, to make ineffective.
11. Therefore, Christ’s death defeated the devil but that was not the end of the story. For Christ’s victorious resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God makes Him the believer’s all-powerful deliverer as well.
B. Look at v. 15: and might free (or deliver) those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
1. As the great “Author of salvation” and Pioneer of redemption, Jesus blazed the trail through death and resurrection and transformed the meaning of death for all those who receive Him as their personal Savior and Lord.
2. For Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” And in 14:19, “…because I live, you shall live also.”
3. And the glorified Christ declared in Revelation 1:17-18, “…I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.”
4. For the believer “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Because of Christ, death now means hope not fear, heaven not hell, gain not loss, blessing not judgment and freedom not bondage.
5. Death is now seen as simply the doorway into the very presence of God. For 2 Corinthians 5:8 promises, “…to be absent from the body (is) to be at home with the Lord.”
6. No wonder Paul proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTIORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
7. This is why 1 Thessalonians 4:13 tells us that although we as believers do grieve when a fellow believer dies, we do not grieve as those “who have no hope.”
8. For believers, the “fear of death” and its spiritual “slavery” or bondage in our lives is over through the work of Christ. But only as this truth is appropriated in our lives can this be our daily experience!
C. Look at v. 16: For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.
1. The meaning of “give help” here has to do with rescuing someone. The author’s point here is that Christ did not become a Man to rescue or redeem angels but rather people.
2. In the incarnation God became Man to “(give) help to the descendant of Abraham.” Since the readers were Jewish Christians they would certainly identify themselves with the Messiah being the promised descendant of Abraham (Gen. 3:16; Matt. 1:1).
3. God took on Himself the form of Abraham’s descendants and became a Jew.
4. Now while Christ is superior to angels, for a while He humbled Himself to a position lower than the angels by becoming a Man to make it possible for Him by suffering death to defeat the devil and deliver believers from the fear of death. Therefore, Christ’s suffering didn’t contradict His superiority to angels.
5. The third reason why Christ’s suffering as a Man was absolutely necessary is because:
III. Suffering Qualified Him the Merciful High Priest
A. Look at v. 17: 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 for the sins of the people.
1. Jesus did not merely resemble humanity in some qualities of human nature, but rather “…He had to be made like His brethren in all things.” He identified Himself completely with mankind, whom He came to rescue by experiencing the infirmities of human nature.
2. The God-Man Jesus knew exactly what it was like to be a helpless baby, a growing child, a maturing teenager and mature adult. He ate, drank, became tired, slept, grew, loved, was glad, angry, grieved, exercised faith, read the Scriptures, prayed, wept, and did everything else a real human being does.
3. Jesus could not have represented mankind before God and offered the sacrifice of Himself on our behalf, had He not first become a man. Representation requires identification.
4. And Jesus assumed human nature, “…so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God.” His becoming a man and suffering death qualified Him to act as our “high priest,” which is both a title and function.
5. This is the first mention in Hebrews of Christ as High Priest, but the author will expand this great theme in other chapters, especially in chapters 4-5 and 7-10.
6. Now Jesus is merciful in His priestly relationship to His people and He is faithful in His priestly mediation to the Father. As a merciful high priest, Jesus knows exactly what we are going through, feel, long for and need, so He can emphasize with us and He mercifully does what He knows is for our best, whether we understand that or not.
7. And as our faithful high priest, Jesus was faithful to fulfill all of the Father will for Him and become mankind’s sin-bearer, regardless of the cost. He obediently did everything that was required of Him and nothing deterred Him from the cross.
8. He was faithful to the very end, having drained the bitter cup of suffering to its last dregs for our redemption. Our hell He made His, so that His heaven might be ours!
9. Never was there such mercy and faithfulness as this! How could it be otherwise when the purpose of His coming was, according to the end of v. 17, “…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
10. The word “propitiation” means to conciliate or satisfy. It refers to the actual taking away of sins, so that the wrath of God, which is His constant attitude toward sin due to His holiness and righteousness, does not fall upon the sinner.
11. John MacArthur states, “Christ’s work of propitiation is related to His high-priestly ministry. By His partaking of a human nature, Christ demonstrated His mercy to mankind and His faithfulness to God by satisfying God’s requirement for sin and thus obtaining for His people full forgiveness (1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10).” (Mac Study Bible p. 1869)
12. The ultimate day toward which the world is moving is the Day of Judgment, which is the day of God’s wrath (Ps. 110:5; Prov. 11:4; Zeph. 1:15; Rom. 2:5; Rev. 6:17). But praise God that His love is as constant as His wrath, His grace is as real as His righteousness.
13. Therefore, the Bible says that even while we were yet sinners, hostile enemies of God, God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10; 1 Jn. 4:10). God met the demands of His own holiness in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on our behalf (Rom. 3:24-25).
14. Here the author of Hebrews uses the language and imagery of the Day of Atonement when once a year the high priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple with the atoning blood of the animal and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat, which was the place of propitiation for his own sins and the sins of the people.
15. But now Jesus Christ is our merciful and faithful high priest, who by the sacrifice of Himself as the spotless Lamb of God has made “…propitiation for the sins of the people.”
16. First Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…”
B. And another significant proof of the genuineness of Christ’s humanity as our merciful and faithful high priest is seen in v. 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.
1. As a Man Jesus was subject to temptation. To be “tempted” here means “to be put to the test” and
2. Therefore, to give in to temptation is to fall into sin and to fail the test. But Jesus Christ is the only Person who has ever overcome every single temptation that He went through.
3. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
4. Never forget that as a Man, Jesus experienced all of the temptations we do—pride, envy, hatred, self-gratification, to name a few. But His greatest temptation was to escape the shame of the cross that was repeatedly presented to Him.
5. In this regard Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), by Peter in the spirit of Satan (Matt. 16:21-23), and by the reality of separation from the Father itself in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39).
6. Because He never sinned, Jesus experienced the full force of temptation in a way that we who have not withstood it to the end cannot know. He felt everything we will ever feel and more, and yet was victorious in every temptation.
7. Therefore, because our Redeemer has endured every temptation through to victory, the end of v. 18 says, “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
8. Alexander Maclaren once said, “Comfort drops but coldly from lips that have never uttered a sigh or a groan…” (Kent Hughes p. 249). By experiencing pain, suffering and temptation, Jesus became fully capable of understanding and sympathizing with us no matter what we are going through.
9. What temptation are you dealing with today? Whatever it is, Jesus knows, He cares, and He is able and willing to help!
10. But we must turn to Him in total dependence and not try to handle it in our own resources and strength. For 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
11. God is able to give you His grace, so that you can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”
What an encouragement to know that our Merciful High Priest is able and willing to help us in our time of need! May we all turn to Him alone for the victory that only He can give.