Hebrews chapter two opens with a cautionary message that is directed toward anyone who might neglect God’s Word and their relationship with Christ…
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).
The word “therefore” (or “for this reason” [CSB]) alerts us to the need to pay close attention whenever we see it within the Scriptures. You see, this word signals a transition from an earlier teaching or idea to an associated action or behavior. Therefore, this word should prompt us to listen carefully whenever it appears within the Biblical record.
The connecting link between these chapters is the doctrinal teaching concerning Jesus and His supremacy over angelic beings in chapter one and the practical need to avoid drifting away from the salvation He offers in chapter two. For instance, Hebrews chapter one provides us with several important truths regarding Jesus and these members of the angelic realm…
- Jesus is greater than any angel due to His relationship with the Father (1:5)
- The angels are commanded to worship Him (1:6)
- Jesus, the Son, is God (1:8-9).
- Christ is eternal (1:10-12).
- The Son holds a place of honor that is greater than that of any angel (1:13).
- Angelic beings differ from the Son in essence and responsibility (1:14).
Thus, Hebrews 2:1 draws our attention to these Biblical truths and the influence they should exert upon our opinions and beliefs regarding Christ.
This passage also echoes an important message contained within the Biblical book of James…
“Do what God’s word says. Don’t merely listen to it, or you will fool yourselves. If someone listens to God’s word but doesn’t do what it says, he is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, goes away, and immediately forgets what he looks like. However, the person who continues to study God’s perfect laws that make people free and who remains committed to them will be blessed. People like that don’t merely listen and forget; they actually do what God’s laws say” (James 1:22-25 GW).
The author of Hebrews will go on to issue other, similar warnings periodically throughout the rest of this epistle. For now, we can say that Hebrews 2:1 serves to remind us that we are responsible to live in accord with our knowledge of God’s Word. We’ll examine some potential consequences that may result from a failure to put that knowledge into practice over the next few studies.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1 ESV).
We should note that the author of Hebrews includes himself in this admonition to heed God’s Word. Thus, we can say that the directive of Hebrews 2:1 was not just a message for others to follow. Instead, it was something that everyone (including the author) needed to apply.
For instance, the teachings of Hebrews chapter one are more than just a collection of interesting facts about Jesus and His deity. They are doctrinal truths that require us to “…diligently pay attention to the things which we have heard” (RGT). This adage is reminiscent of Jesus’ message to His disciples in the New Testament Gospel of Mark…
“Then (Jesus) said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him’” (Mark 4:24-25).
Remember that Jesus encouraged His listeners to “Listen carefully…” (CEV), “Think carefully…” (ERV), or “Pay attention to what you hear” (ESV) in the passage quoted above. This placed an emphasis upon the need to consider and internalize the meaning and application of His teachings. As a further incentive, Jesus went on to say, “The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given —and you will receive even more” (Mark 4:24 NLT).
On the other hand, a person who neglects God’s Word is in danger of losing whatever spiritual understanding he or she may have gained. This represents a common-sense reminder, for if we aren’t faithful in applying the spiritual knowledge we already have, why would God provide us with anything more? One Biblical scholar expands upon this idea in commenting on Hebrews 2:1…
“The exhortation is to give more earnest heed to the New Testament message, and the warning, against letting that truth slip away. The nature of the sin of Adam was a careless, indifferent attitude towards the commands of God. The particular word which is translated ‘disobedience’ in Rom_5:19 (parakoe) means literally ‘to hear alongside,’ thus, ‘a failing to hear, a hearing amiss.’ But this failure to hear is due to a carelessness in paying attention to what God had to say. Back of that carelessness is the desire to have our own will.” (1)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on Hebrews 2:1] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).
One Biblical commentator discusses the connection between the need to listen carefully to God’s Word and the potential for drifting away from it if we neglect to do so…
“Both phrases [in Hebrews 2:1] have nautical connotations. The first refers to mooring a ship, tying it up at the dock. The second was often used of a ship that had been allowed to drift past the harbor… The closest attention must be paid to these very serious matters of the Christian faith. The readers in their tendency to apathy are in danger of making shipwreck of their lives (cf. 6:19)” (1)
Another source offers the following application…
“The author’s audience was marked by immaturity and spiritual sluggishness (5:11, 12). The author warned them not to be carried away by the popular opinions that surrounded them. Instead they were to hold fast to Christ’s words because they were the words of God. How easy it is to drift with the currents. Think of how far ‘righteous Lot’ drifted from Abraham when he turned his eyes toward Sodom. All of us are continually exposed to the currents of opinion that seem so reasonable and comfortable as contrasted to the task of fighting the rapids with our eyes focused upon our Captain (Rom. 12:2).” (2)
Finally, we have a practical application for modern-day readers of this epistle from the following author…
“It is a vivid picture of a ship drifting to destruction because the pilot sleeps. For most of us the threat of life is not so much that we should plunge into disaster, but that we should drift into sin. There are few people who deliberately and in a moment turn their backs on God; there are many who day by day drift farther and farther away from him. There are not many who in one moment of time commit some disastrous sin; there are many who almost imperceptibly involve themselves in some situation and suddenly awake to find that they have ruined life for themselves and broken someone else’s heart. We must be continually on the alert against the peril of the drifting life.” (3)
A person who rides a motorcycle, navigates a ship, or pilots an aircraft does not need to do anything to drift off course. The same is true in our spiritual lives as well. Those who neglect to anchor their relationship with Christ through prayer, reading the Scriptures, and worshiping regularly with the people of God will undoubtedly begin to drift in their relationship with Him.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Heb 2:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1637). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
(3) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “Hebrews 2”
“For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (Hebrews 2:2-3).
There are several portions of Scripture that associate the presence of angelic beings in the administration of the Old Testament Law. Deuteronomy 33:2 offers one such example…
“…The Lord came from Sinai and revealed himself to Israel from Seir. He appeared in splendor from Mount Paran, and came forth with ten thousand holy ones. With his right hand he gave a fiery law to them” (NET).
The New Testament book of Galatians also addresses this subject…
“What, then, was the purpose of the Law? It was added in order to show what wrongdoing is, and it was meant to last until the coming of Abraham’s descendant, to whom the promise was made. The Law was handed down by angels, with a man acting as a go-between” (Galatians 3:19 GNT).
We can find similar references in Acts 7:37-38 and Acts 7:52-53 as well. The idea is that those who received the Law were still held accountable even though it was delivered through these angelic intermediaries. The Biblical book of Romans describes that accountability in Romans 3:19-20…
“Now we know that everything in the Law applies to those who live under the Law, in order to stop all human excuses and bring the whole world under God’s judgment. For no one is put right in God’s sight by doing what the Law requires; what the Law does is to make us know that we have sinned” (GNT).
So those who engaged in the practices that were prohibited by the Law or failed to live up to its standards, “…received an appropriate penalty” (AMP) according to Hebrews 2:2. We can turn to the following comments from one Pastoral author to help us understand and apply these Old Testament realities in a New Testament context…
“The Mosaic Law was steadfast and strict (every transgression and disobedience received a just reward); it demanded to be taken seriously. If we must take the word which came by angels seriously, how much more seriously must we take the word which came by the Son of God – who has been proven to be greater than the angels? A greater word, brought by a greater Person, having greater promises, will bring a greater condemnation if neglected.” (1)
(1) Guzik, Dave, Hebrews 2 – Jesus, Our Elder Brother https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/hebrews-2/
“For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (Hebrews 2:2-3).
One source helps us identify the difference between a transgression and an act of disobedience as referenced in the passage quoted above…
“The former means to step across the line, in an overt sin of commission. The latter carries the idea of shutting one’s ears to God’s commands, thereby committing a sin of omission. Both are willful, serious, and require just judgment.” (1)
Since most of us are undoubtedly familiar with the term “disobedience,” we’ll take some time to further unpack the meaning behind the word “transgression” as mentioned here in Hebrews 2:2.
Although the word “transgression” is fairly uncommon in our modern-day world, it represents an important Biblical concept to know and understand. You see, this word refers to a deliberate or intentional act of wrongdoing. In other words, a transgression occurs whenever someone consciously, knowingly, or willfully commits an offense.
To put it another way, this word describes someone who deliberately and purposely acts in violation of an ordinance or law. One commentary offers a further definition of this word in the context of this passage…
“Transgressions (Gr parabasis) mean a step beyond a fixed limit into forbidden territory. It is a willful act of violating an explicit law, overstepping what is right into the realm of what is wrong. The law was added much later to make men conscious of the existence and the extent of sin (Rom 3:19; 5:20). The law was added to reveal sin, not remove it. To show men the need of righteousness, not to be a means of securing righteousness.” (2)
With these things in mind, we can say that the Old Testament Law is a benchmark that serves to identify moral and immoral behavior. That would include sins of omission (or those instances where we have failed to do what is right) as well as transgressions (those instances where we have knowingly, intentionally, or deliberately done something wrong).
Thus, the Law serves an important purpose- it exposes us to the inappropriate attitudes that exist within our lives. It also directs us to our need for a Savior who can help us overcome our inappropriate thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and behaviors to become people who honor God in those areas.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Heb 2:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2387). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Hebrews 2:3 KJV).
The Biblical book of Hebrews features several cautionary messages that appear at various points within this epistle. These warnings draw our attention to the consequences that are sure to follow certain negative behaviors. Hebrews 2:3 represents another example in that series.
This portion of Scripture describes an underlying attitude of negligence towards the message of salvation that “…came first through the words of the Lord himself” (Phillips). A person who engages in this type of spiritual neglect will undoubtedly face serious consequences. The author of Hebrews highlights those repercussions in a rhetorical fashion by asking, “How shall we escape…” The answer is unspoken, but unmistakable: “we can’t.”
There are several ways in which we might neglect the great salvation referenced here. For instance, we might take a self-oriented approach to eternal life that says, “I will earn my way into God’s favor through my works.” On the other hand, a Biblically-oriented view of salvation is one that says, “I am made acceptable to God through faith in Christ alone.“ These approaches are mutually exclusive, for those who accept Christ must abandon their attempt to get right with God by their own efforts.
Another example involves a decision to ignore, reject, or disregard a relationship with Christ in favor of other pursuits. We can illustrate this idea with a quote from the Biblical book of Proverbs: “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (Proverbs 16:25 NLT). As Jesus also told us in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Finally, a person who knows what is right but habitually fails to act upon that knowledge may fit this category as well. Since we are accountable to act upon what we know, we would do well to consider the words of James 4:17: “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (NLT). Galatians 6:7 offers a similar reminder…
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked [He will not allow Himself to be ridiculed, nor treated with contempt nor allow His precepts to be scornfully set aside]; for whatever a man sows, this and this only is what he will reap” (AMP).
“God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:4).
It is one thing to offer a spiritual message that claims to offer salvation for those who choose to accept it. However, it is something very different to authenticate that message with a miraculous work. This form of corroborating evidence undergirds this passage from Hebrews 2:3: God validated the gospel message of salvation in Christ through the miraculous works of His Apostles.
In view of the fact that “signs, wonders, and miracles” represent a prominent feature of some religious ministries today, it is helpful to identify and define these important terms. A good working knowledge of these definitions can help us separate those who are involved in a genuine work of God from others who may only be seeking to defraud the spiritually uninformed (or misinformed).
We can begin by examining the word “sign” here in Hebrews 2:4. The word “sign” refers to “…an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature.” (1) In a general sense, a Biblical sign serves to designate (or validate) an authentic move of God. Much like a signpost that points the way to a particular destination, a genuine spiritual sign should always direct others to the Christ of the Bible. Therefore, we should be skeptical of any “sign” that points to someone or something else.
The following author provides us with some important information in this regard…
“A sign (semeion in Greek) communicates information. None of the miracles Jesus or the apostles did was merely to impress the crowd or even to improve the quality of life for someone. Each miracle communicated information. Each wonderful work fit into the larger revelation of God’s truth. When Jesus healed people, it signified the removal of the curse. When he turned water into wine, it signified the blessing of his kingdom. When he walked on water, it signified that he had power over the elements of nature.” (2)
Another source illustrates the legitimate function of a spiritual sign with an example from Jesus’ life: “…the feeding of the five thousand (Joh 6:1-14) formed the basis of the discourse on the Bread of Life which followed (Joh 6:25-59).” (3)
Finally, a sign will do little good to those who are unwilling to follow it. We should be careful in seeking to oblige God to validate His message through such things, lest we ignore the signs that He has already provided (John 2:18-22).
(2) Sproul, R. C. Before the Face of God Book 4 A Daily Guide for Living from Ephesians, Hebrews, and James [Page 44] © 1994 by R. C. Sproul, Published by Baker Books a division of Baker Book House
(3) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.2161
“while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4 ESV).
The word “wonder” represents the next entry in our survey of signs, wonders, and miracles from Hebrews 2:4. In this context, a “wonder” refers to something that produces a sense of awe, amazement, and/or astonishment. We can find one such example in the experience of Moses, the great Old Testament patriarch…
“Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. So Moses thought, ‘I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?’” (Exodus 3:1-3 CSB).
So, God attracted Moses’ attention through this wondrous sight as the initial step in His plan to deliver the people of Israel from the oppression of the ancient Egyptians. As one Biblical scholar comments…
“The Greek for ‘wonder’ is teras. ‘Wonder’ is the right translation, since one purpose of a miracle is to attract the attention of people. In a miracle the God who constantly runs the world does something dramatically different. This gets our attention. If miracles are commonplace, as some fringe groups in Christendom claim they are, such occurrences would not be wonders. Consider Israel in the wilderness. They ate manna for forty years. Their shoes and clothes did not wear out. After a while it no longer seemed wonderful and miraculous. Only when something is exceptional do we see it as a wonder.” (1)
Nevertheless, we should recognize that every purported “wonder” doesn’t necessarily originate with God. Consider this cautionary message to the nation of Israel, a message that also applies today…
“Prophets or interpreters of dreams may promise a miracle or a wonder, in order to lead you to worship and serve gods that you have not worshiped before. Even if what they promise comes true, do not pay any attention to them. The Lord your God is using them to test you, to see if you love the Lord with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3 GNT).
Much like the signs mentioned earlier in this verse, a spiritual wonder that points to something or someone other than Jesus is likely to be invalid. Therefore, we would be wise to prayerfully examine such things before we accept their legitimacy.
(1) Sproul, R. C. Before the Face of God Book 4 A Daily Guide for Living from Ephesians, Hebrews, and James [Page 44] © 1994 by R. C. Sproul, Published by Baker Books a division of Baker Book House
“while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4 NET).
We can find a brief but useful definition of a “miracle” in the words of the following commentary: “Miracles were any displays of supernatural power which contravened the laws of nature. The purpose of all these miracles was to attest to the truth of the gospel, especially to the Jewish people, who traditionally asked for some sign before they would believe.” (1)
A genuine miracle involves a God-ordained suspension of the laws that govern the course of nature. In other words, a miracle represents an act of God that overrides the established patterns that normally exist within our natural world. Scholar and author Norman Geisler summarizes this idea by saying, “In brief, a miracle is a divine intervention into the natural world. It is a supernatural exception to the regular course of the world that would not have occurred otherwise.” (2)
Dr. Geisler continues with the following observations…
“In the Bible’s pattern, a miracle has several dimensions:
- First, miracles have an unusual character. It is an out-of-the-ordinary event in contrast to the regular pattern of events in the natural world. As a ‘wonder’ it attracts attention by its uniqueness. A burning bush that is not consumed, fire from heaven, and a person strolling on water are not normal occurrences. Hence, they draw the interest of observers.
- Second, miracles have a theological dimension. A miracle is an act of God that presupposes a God who acts. The view that a God beyond the universe created it, controls it, and can interfere in it is theism.
- Third, miracles have a moral dimension. They bring glory to God by manifesting his moral character. Miracles are visible acts that reflect the invisible nature of God. No true miracle, then, is evil, because God is good. Miracles by nature aim to produce and/or promote good.
- Fourth, miracles have a doctrinal dimension. Miracles in the Bible are connected directly or indirectly with ‘truth claims’ They are ways to tell a true prophet from a false prophet (Deut. 18:22). They confirm the truth of God through the servant of God (Heb. 2:3–4). Message and miracle go hand-in-hand.
- Fifth, miracles have a teleological dimension. Unlike magic, they are never performed to entertain (see Luke 23:8). Miracles have the distinctive purpose to glorify the Creator and to provide evidence for people to believe by accrediting the message of God through the prophet of God.” (3)
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.2161
(2) Norman Geisler Miracles and the Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles [pg.14]
(3) Geisler, N. L. (1999). Miracle. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (p. 451). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
“At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will” (Hebrews 2:4 CSB).
In 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul the Apostle wrote the following message to the church in the ancient city of Corinth: “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” Much like the those who had accompanied Jesus during His earthly ministry, Paul verified his apostolic calling through the miraculous works God performed through him. These miraculous signs pointed the way to Christ, the Savior Paul represented.
Nevertheless, we should recognize that miracles alone do not prove that a reputed miracle-worker is ordained by God. For instance, the magicians of ancient Egypt possessed the ability to duplicate the miraculous signs that God had given Moses- at least for a while (see Exodus 8:16-19). This is important to remember if we should ever encounter a purportedly miraculous event.
Jesus’ teachings are highly instructive in this regard…
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
“…false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:24-25).
So, the ability to perform “miracles, signs, and wonders” does not necessarily mean that God endorses a person or a ministry. The following commentary can help us determine the legitimacy of an alleged miracle…
“…true miracles cause one to think more highly of God, tell the truth, and promote moral behavior. Counterfeit signs from Satan do not do this. They tend to glorify the person ostensibly performing the sign, and they are often associated with error and immoral behavior. They also may not be immediate, instantaneous, or permanent.
In short, only God performs true miracles; Satan does counterfeit miracles. This is precisely what the Bible calls them in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 when Paul writes that, ‘The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.’ Of course, unless one is discerning, such signs can be deceptive and may be mistaken for miracles (Matt. 24:24).” (1)
(1) Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist Copyright© 2004 [p.213]
“God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4 NIV).
We can define a “spiritual gift” as a God-given empowerment that helps enable us to fulfill His call upon our lives. While an artist, craftsman, or athlete may possess a great degree of natural ability, a spiritual gift involves a supernatural enablement. The Biblical books of Romans (12:6-8), 1 Corinthians (12:8-10), and Ephesians (4:11-12) offer several different inventories of these spiritual gifts.
These gifts originate with the Holy Spirit, who distributes them according to His will as we’re told in the Scripture quoted above. Thus, we can say that such gifts should glorify the God who provides them. If the exercise of a spiritual gift serves to draw our attention to someone or something else, we would be wise to question the validity of that gift or the manner in which it is employed.
We should also note the following passage from 1 Corinthians 12:7: “The evidence of the Spirit’s presence is given to each person for the common good of everyone” (GW). Unlike some other types of gifts, a true spiritual gift produces a beneficial effect upon others and thus serves to exemplify Jesus’ message from Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
In addition, 1 Corinthians 12:7 indicates that “each person” has received at least one spiritual gift. Therefore, we can rest in knowing that God has blessed every individual Christian with no less than one gift of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:11 reiterates this point with a similar declaration: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (emphasis added).
Finally, there is one further aspect to consider in the context of this discussion. You see, it is important to recognize that every man or woman of God occupies a distinct place in human history. For instance, every Christian possesses a unique set of talents, skills, abilities, personality traits, life experiences, and spiritual gifts that have never been seen before. And once he or she passes from this earthly existence, that unprecedented combination will never be seen again.
This should encourage us to make the best use of our God-given gifts in the time He has allotted to us. It should also give new urgency to Jesus’ important reminder from John 9:4-5…
“All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, for there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end” (TLB).
“For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (Hebrews 2:5).
The Biblical book of 2 Timothy offers the following counsel for students of God’s Word: “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 MEV). Those who prayerfully follow these instructions gain ready access to the guidance and insight that God makes available to us through His Word. This verse from Hebrews 2:5 offers a case in point.
As mentioned earlier, there are several portions of Scripture that associate the presence of angelic beings with the Old Testament Law. These members of the angelic realm have served as executors of God’s agenda for humanity almost from the beginning and will continue to do so throughout the remaining chapters of human history. However, Hebrews 2:5 informs us that “the world to come” will not be subject to such angelic oversight.
We can link this statement with a related verse from 1 Corinthians 6:3: “Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” The following commentary explains these passages as they relate to one another: “The verb ‘judge’ sometimes signifies ‘govern or direct,’ and perhaps may be here used to denote that the saints shall, in the new Messianic kingdom, be Christ’s vicegerents and exercise his authority.” (1)
Another author provides us with a more detailed explanation…
“By creation man is lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7-9). Angels are higher in intelligence, power, and movement, yet angels serve men as ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14) sent forth to serve the saints regardless of their high position and power. As mentioned, men are warned to never worship angels for they are only creatures.
Today believers are experientially lower than the angels, yet positionally higher because of their union in Christ (cf. Eph 1:20-22; with Eph 2:4-6 and Heb 2:9). Christians share Christ’s seat at God’s right hand. One day, however, believers will be both positionally and experientially higher and will judge angels (1 Cor 6:3). This undoubtedly refers to some kind of governmental direction believers will have over angels.” (2)
If we are armed with the knowledge that God will appoint His people to such important responsibilities in the future, we should be able to arbitrate contemporary issues in a God-honoring manner now. This knowledge should also influence the way we interact with those who fall under our authority today.
(1) Joseph S. Exell, Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary [Matthew 19:28]
(2) J. Hampton Keathley, III, Angelology: The Doctrine of Angels, retrieved 12 November 2021 from https://bible.org/article/angelology-doctrine-angels
“But one testified in a certain place, saying: ‘What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?’” (Hebrews 2:6).
Much like the anonymous nature of the person who authored this verse, Hebrews 2:6 introduces this quotation from Psalm 8 with only the slightest reference to its origin. The restrained tone of this passage thus offers a good example to follow, especially in an age where athletes, politicians, and celebrities often seem to laud themselves with great fanfare.
For instance, consider the potential applications from this verse offered by the following commentators…
“The author of Hebrews is not careful to name the particular Scripture of any Scripture he may quote. All the Old Testament is to him, a divine oracle, the voice of the Holy Spirit, but as far as the human author, the vaguest allusion will suffice…” (1)
“…note the casual way in which he introduces this quotation: lit., ‘someone testified somewhere’, implying that to the writer of Hebrews the instrument is insignificant; it is really God who has spoken…” (2)
“This vague expression suggests that the author considered the source of the testimony unimportant; only God—the one who speaks (Heb 1:1–2)—is important.” (3)
“‘One has testified somewhere’ (NASB) does not mean that the writer has forgotten what part of Scripture he is quoting; this was a way of expressing confidence that the important issue was that God had inspired the words.” (4)
In addition to this model of restraint, this verse offers another important insight. You see, this quote reminds us of humanity’s relative insignificance when viewed against the backdrop of a star-filled evening sky. Even the most accomplished human being is infinitesimally small when viewed on this cosmic scale.
We’ll consider the enormity of God’s creative works at greater length in our next study. In the meantime, we can say that this realization might be highly depressing if it were not for the encouragement found in God’s attitude towards humanity as expressed through the words of the Psalmist…
“Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them? You made them a little less than the heavenly beings. You crowned mankind with honor and majesty. you appoint them to rule over your creation; you have placed everything under their authority” (Psalm 8:4-6 NET).
(1) The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Epistle To The Hebrews, F. F. Bruce, General Editor © Copyright 1964, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan [pg. 34]
(2) New International Bible Commentary general editor G. C. D. Howley, consulting editors F. F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison. Copyright© 1979 by Pickering & Inglis Ltd [pg. 1508]<s/mall>
(3) Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Heb 2:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
(4) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [Hebrews 2:5-18]
“Instead someone testified somewhere: ‘What is man that you think of him or the son of man that you care for him? You made him lower than the angels for a little while. You crowned him with glory and honor’” (Hebrews 2:6-7).
The verses quoted above tell us, “there is a place where someone has testified…” (NIV). That place is found in Psalm chapter eight. While Hebrews 2:6-7 offers an abbreviated quote that references Psalm 8:4 alone, a more complete excerpt from that chapter reads as follows…
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV).
This draws our attention to the enormity of God’s creative work throughout the universe. To illustrate the size of that expanse, let’s imagine that we could drive across the heavens much like we might drive an automobile across town. If we could do so, our distance would not be measured in miles or kilometers, but in light-years, the distance traveled by light in one year at 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km/s).
If we began our journey at the speed of light with earth as our starting point, it would take approximately seven light-hours to move beyond our solar system. Our interstellar voyage would then continue through the Milky Way galaxy that serves as home to our solar system.
The closest celestial neighbor on our tour would be Alpha Centauri, a triple-star system that is situated a little over four light-years from our sun. These are just a few of the estimated 100 billion stars that inhabit the Milky Way. If we were to visit one of these stars every hour on our journey, it would take over 12 million years to see each one.
If we continued beyond the Milky Way, we would encounter other galaxies, each with its own collection of billions of stars. In fact, astronomers estimate there are over 100 billion major galaxies within range of current telescope technology. If that figure is accurate, it means that the total number of stars in the known universe is 10/26 power, or one hundred million, billion, billion stars.
The breathtaking magnitude of the universe should thus prompt us to exclaim along with the Psalmist, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
“You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands” (Hebrews 2:7).
The first chapter of the Biblical book of Hebrews focused largely upon Jesus’ supremacy over angelic beings. Chapter two then opened with a cautionary message: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). Despite these things, the issue of Jesus’ humanity undoubtedly concerned those who found it difficult to understand how a human could be superior to an angelic being. That question was further complicated by the fact that Christ was a man who died, unlike angels who are incapable of death.
In addressing these concerns, the author of Hebrews first draws our attention to an important truth regarding Christ in His humanity: “You have made him a little lower than the angels…” One source explains the significance of this statement in two different contexts…
“A little (Gr brachu ti) has two possible interpretations. It can refer to time (a little while) or degree (a small degree). The Hebrew word (me at) from the Psalm likewise provides both possibilities. But this is not to our detriment since the context already incorporates both concepts. Obviously, man possesses a lower status than the angels; and obviously, it is temporary. Since the time of this lower status exists until the kingdom, it seems better to understand the word as connoting degree—a small degree lower than the angels.” (1)
So, Jesus held a glorified position that far exceeded these members of the angelic realm prior to His incarnation. Then, in becoming a man, He temporarily assumed an inferior position. Our author will explain the divine rationale behind that act later in verse nine and will continue that discussion through the rest of this chapter.
Following His ascension, Jesus then resumed His rightful place of authority above these members of the angelic world. That brings us to an important (and oft-quoted) portion of Scripture that should guide our view of this passage and the verses that follow in Hebrews chapter two…
“…being in very nature God, [Christ] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-9 NIV).
(1) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2538). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
“‘You have 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 do not yet see all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8).
The March 18, 1923, edition of The New York Times contained a report on an interview with English mountaineer George Mallory. While Mallory may not be well-known among many today, he is often recognized for his remarkable answer to a seemingly unremarkable question. When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there.”
Mallory’s now-familiar statement is a faint echo of the commission that human beings received from their Creator as seen here in Hebrews 2:8: “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” Consider this passage from Hebrews as it relates to the following portion of Scripture from the Biblical book of Genesis…
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:26-28).
Knowingly or unknowingly, human beings have long sought to fulfill this call to dominion over nature through land, sea, and space exploration. That purpose will find its ultimate fulfillment following Jesus’ second advent…
“Everything will be put under man’s authority in that coming day -the angelic hosts, the world of animals, birds, and fishes, the planetary system-in fact, every part of the created universe will be put under his control. This was God’s original intention for man.” (1)
Some, like the late cosmologist Stephen Hawking, hold the belief that human beings are “…just a slightly advanced breed of monkeys on a small planet orbiting a very average star. But we can understand the universe, and that makes us very special.” (2) But what actually makes humanity special is not our ability to understand; it is the fact that God has created us in His image and has graciously called us to assume a leadership position over His creation.
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.2162
(2) Stephen Hawking interview with Der Spiegel. “Wir alle wollen wissen, woher wir kommen” [“We all want to know where we come from”] 16.10.1988. Retrieved 24 December 2021 from https://www.spiegel.de/politik/wir-alle-wollen-wissen-woher-wir-kommen-a-907a4c36-0002-0001-0000-000013542088?context=issue
“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, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9]
Among the many honorable aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry is the fact that he willingly gave His life in accepting the death penalty for humanity’s sin. However, it is important that we do not misinterpret the meaning of the phrase “taste death” as it appears within this passage…
“Here the Greek verb does not mean ‘sample a small amount’ (as a typical English reader might infer from the word ‘taste’), but ‘experience something cognitively or emotionally; come to know something…’” (1)
Since Jesus”…was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 NCV), we can also say that Jesus was someone who led by example. For instance, Jesus once said to His disciples, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV).
Jesus also made another important statement that relates to our passage from Hebrews 2:9…
“…among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Normally the master sits at the table and is served by his servants. But not here! For I am your servant” (Luke 22:26-27 NLT).
The fact that Jesus “…was made a little lower than the angels” and voluntarily laid aside His divine rights and prerogatives did not make Him “less” God. You see, Jesus did not exchange the nature of God for the nature of humanity. Instead, He added it. The New Testament book of 1 Peter structures this idea in terms of Jesus’ righteousness: “…Christ also suffered once for our sins, the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God” (1 Peter 3:18 Mounce).
In doing so, Jesus “…regained what Adam lost, the original calling for human beings to rule over God’s creation (Phil. 2:6–11; Rev. 5:1–14).” (2) So even though “…we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Hebrews 2:8 ESV), this is important to remember whenever we are tempted to view life through the lens of the problems, difficulties, and challenges we encounter each day. As the author of Hebrews will later remind us…
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).
(1) NET Bible notes on Hebrews 2:9 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+2%3A9&version=NET
(2) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1638). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10).
This passage serves to remind us of something that Paul the Apostle discussed in his New Testament epistle to the Colossians. In speaking of Jesus, Colossians 1:16 tells us, “all things were created by him, and for him” (KJV). This includes the tangible aspects of the material world as well as the intangible elements of the spiritual realm.
Since everything that exists was created by Jesus and for Jesus, we can say that every human quest for salvation, wisdom, knowledge, and purpose finds its ultimate culmination in Him. That leads us to the phrase “captain of their salvation” as found here in Hebrews 2:10.
This word “captain” is alternatively rendered as “author” (ASV). “founder” (ESV), “source” (HCSB), or “champion” (Mounce) in various translations of this passage. One commentary explains the significance of this brief, but important term…
“The Greek word for captain means ‘pioneer’ or ‘leader.’ It literally means ‘the first one to lead the way’ from arche (‘the first’) and ago (‘to lead’). To express this idea of leadership, the word is translated in Acts 3:15; 5:31 as the ‘Prince’ and in Heb. 12:2 as ‘the author.’ Thus, the writer of Hebrews is emphasizing that Jesus endured suffering and temptation on this earth in order to become a perfect leader. He is not only sinless but also can sympathize with our difficulties in following His perfect way, the Way that leads to glory.” (1)
Another source illustrates this word through the use of an intriguing word-picture…
“It expresses the idea of a leader, one who goes at the head of a group to open the way for others. Think of a troop of commandos operating in a jungle war. They find their way blocked by a deep ravine. The situation is too urgent to find a way around. Their commanding officer manages to throw a rope across and anchor it. He then risks his life by crossing first, hand over hand. He permanently secures the rope. He creates a bridge. The way is now open for his men to cross over to the other side.
This is a pale and inadequate reflection of what the author of Hebrews means by calling Jesus the archegos or ‘author’ of our salvation. Our Lord is the ‘pioneer’ of our salvation; through His suffering, He brings many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10).” (2)
(1) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1638). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
(2) Ferguson, Sinclair B. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life © Copyright 2007 by Sinclair B. Ferguson [pg.29]
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10 ESV).
The Gospel of Luke relates the account of two of Jesus’ followers who met Him unexpectedly following His resurrection. During that encounter, Jesus asked an incisive question of His disciples: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). The answer for them was, “yes.” The question for us is, “why?”
You see, the author of Hebrews spent a great deal of effort in working to establish Jesus’ divinity in the opening chapter of this letter. But if Jesus is truly God, how then could He be made “…perfect through suffering” as we’re told here in Hebrews chapter two? Why was it “…necessary that the Christ should suffer these things” as Jesus said to His followers in the Gospel of Luke?
We can address these questions with a look at the various definitions of the word “perfect” as it appears here in Hebrews 2:10. Those definitions include “to finish,” “to complete,” and “to accomplish.” (1) Another source tells us that this word means, “…to make fully adequate for the task for which designed. So, then, what the writer to the Hebrews is saying is that through suffering Jesus was made fully able for the task of being the pioneer of our salvation.” (2)
The following Biblical scholar also provides some helpful commentary in the context of this passage…
“Jesus was absolutely and unchangeably perfect in His divine nature. God is perfect (Matt. 5:48), and He cannot change (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18). But Jesus was also human, and as such was subject to change, though without sin. For example, ‘Jesus increased in wisdom and stature’ (Luke 2:52). If his knowledge as a man increased, then his experience also did.
Thus, He ‘learned obedience by the things which He suffered'[ (Heb. 5:8). In this sense He was ‘made perfect’ in that He experienced the perfecting work of suffering in His own sinless life (cf. Job 23:10; Heb. 12:11; James 1:2–4). That is, He gained all the experiential benefits of suffering without sinning (Heb. 4:15). In this way He can be of real comfort and encouragement to those who suffer.” (3)
Thus, we can say that Jesus became fully qualified to lead humanity into salvation through the things He experienced. To be clear, there was nothing lacking in Jesus’ deity that made Him “less than perfect.” However, Jesus fully acquainted Himself with suffering and death through His crucifixion and the events that led up to it.
(1) See G5048 teleioo https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5048/kjv/tr/0-1/
(2) Barclay, William, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible“. “The Essential Suffering (Heb_2:10-18).”
(3) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask: a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (p. 511). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
“saying: ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’ And again: ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again: ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me’” (Hebrews 2:12-13).
One of the great underlying elements of human existence involves the desire to belong to a family. While a Biblical “family” may be defined in several different ways, (1) there are some essential ingredients that help identify a healthy family structure. For instance, a “family” is a place where we belong. It is a place where we are valued, and a place where we can love and be loved by others.
While a callous and unsympathetic world may choose to mock and ridicule those who seek such things, God offers us such a relationship through Christ. Consider Jesus’ statement from the Gospel of Matthew…
“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50 ESV).
One Biblical commentator expands on this familial relationship between Christ and His people with the following observation…
“Jesus had taught that those who do the will of the Father in obedience to His word are His brothers and mother (Mt 12:50; Lk 8:21). He never directly referred to His disciples by the title of ‘brethren’ or ‘brothers’ until after His resurrection (Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17). Not until He had paid the price for their salvation, did they truly become His spiritual brothers and sisters. The use of the term demonstrates His full identification with mankind in order to provide complete redemption (Php 2:7–9).” (2)
Those who accept Jesus’ atoning death thus find entry into the family of God. You see, Galatians 3:26 tells us that “…in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (NIV). Furthermore, the New Testament book of Romans declares, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14 NKJV).
Therefore, in the words of Hebrews 2:11, “Jesus and the people he makes holy all belong to the same family. That is why he isn’t ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” (CEV).
(1) See G3965 patria, defined as “family” in Ephesians 3:15 – https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3965/kjv/tr/0-1/
(2) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Heb 2:12). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV).
We often use the word “death” in a variety of contexts. For instance, we might employ this word to describe an inanimate object (like a battery) that has ceased to function. But while we may easily recharge a battery that has “died,” this word has a far great implication when used in a human sense.
You see, we can associate the word “death” with the idea of “separation” in a physical or spiritual context. For example, physical death occurs when a person’s spirit separates from his or her physical body, for “…the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26). This corresponds to the “first death” mentioned within the Biblical book of Revelation (see Revelation 20:11-13).
The book of Revelation also defines another type of death known as the “second death” (Revelation 20:14-15). This form of death results in separation from God. Adam and Eve were the first to experience this type of death and it will ultimately affect those who wants nothing to do with God for all eternity.
But in what sense does the devil hold the “the power of death” over individual human beings? The late Christian author and philosopher Norman Geisler offers the following explanation…
“God is sovereign over all life. Only He can create it, and only He has determined the number of our days (Ps. 90:10–12) and has ‘appointed’ the day of our death (Heb. 9:27). But by tempting Adam and Eve, the devil succeeded in bringing on the human race God’s pronounced judgment of death for disobedience (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12).
So, in this sense, the devil may be said to have had the power of death (Heb. 2:14). However, by tasting death for every man (Heb. 2:9) and rising triumphantly from the grave (Rom. 4:25), Christ now holds ‘the keys of Hades and of Death’ (Rev. 1:18), having ‘abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel’ (2 Tim. 1:10).” (1)
Another Biblical scholar concludes this thought…
“Having tempted humanity to sin, the devil acts as an accuser (Rev. 12:10), demanding that a just punishment be exacted; and ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23; cf. 1 Cor. 15:56). The devil’s power to kill is destroyed only when our sin has been punished—in Christ’s death. Then his accusations have no ground (Col. 2:14, 15).” (2)
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 511–512). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
(2) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2200). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
A brief perusal through the Biblical Scriptures should quickly demonstrate that God’s Word does not avoid difficult or uncomfortable topics. Hebrews 2:14-15 exemplifies this reality by dealing with a subject that many seek to avoid: death.
For instance, it is not unusual to encounter those who are (or have been) haunted by a fear of death. Now, before we continue, it may be helpful to distinguish between two different but related concepts: the cause of death and the act of death. You see, it is one thing to fear a tragic cause of death, for no reasonable person ever wants to perish in an accidental or catastrophic manner. However, it is something quite different to face the prospect of an afterlife with a sense of torment, dread, or terror.
To paraphrase Hebrews 2:15, those who fall into this latter category are held in bondage to the fear of death. Since it is natural to experience a sense of apprehension in the face of the unknown, there are many who fear what might happen when they pass from this earthly life. Such fear can tyrannize those who hold a nagging (and valid) suspicion that there is more to our existence than what we experience now.
The remedy for such fear involves taking the unknown quality of death and turning it into a known quality. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. Those who know Christ know someone who has been on the other side of the death experience and has returned to tell us about it (Revelation 1:18). For example, Jesus gave us the following word of assurance in the New Testament Gospel of John…
“Let not your hearts be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in me. There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly” (John 14:1-3).
“For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:16-17).
This reference to “Abraham’s seed” links Hebrews 2:16 with the Old Testament patriarch who is widely recognized as the father of those who are justified by faith. For instance, Genesis 15:6 tells us, “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (NLT). The New Testament book of Romans builds upon that passage in the following manner…
“Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith… So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:9-13 NLT).
So Abraham trusted God to keep his promises. Those who follow his good example represent “…the seed of Abraham” according to Galatians 3:6…
“Consider the experience of Abraham; as the scripture says, ‘He believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.’ You should realize, then, that the real descendants of Abraham are the people who have faith. The scripture predicted that God would put the Gentiles right with himself through faith. And so the scripture announced the Good News to Abraham: ‘Through you God will bless all people.’ Abraham believed and was blessed; so all who believe are blessed as he was” (GNT).
Unlike angelic beings, God promises to aid those who similarly place their faith and trust in Him through Christ. Therefore, we can take comfort in the assurance of God’s mercy from this passage…
“The Greek word ‘merciful’ speaks of that feeling of sympathy with the misery of another that leads one to act in his behalf to relieve that misery. The idea is that of a compassionate heart leading one to acts of mercy, the purpose of which is to relieve the suffering and misery of the object of that compassion. The Lord Jesus, being such a compassionate high priest, is, therefore, a faithful one, the word ‘faithful’ here having the idea of fidelity.” (1)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on Hebrews 2:17] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“For it is clear that He does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:16-17 HCSB)
Hebrews 2:17 marks the first appearance of a concept that will assume greater prominence later in the book of Hebrews: Jesus’ role as high priest. In the New Testament era, a Jewish priest held parallel roles in representing God to others and others to God. A priest was also responsible for administrating the various offerings to atone for the individual and corporate sins of the people.
The “high priest” served as the central human figure in this sacrificial system. The high priest was the only person permitted to enter the innermost part of the Temple (or the Most Holy Place) once a year to make a sacrificial offering for the sins of the nation. He ministered there behind a great veil that separated the Most Holy Place from other portions of the Temple.
However, Matthew 27:50-51 tells us that this veil was split in two from top to bottom upon Jesus’ sacrificial death. This indicated that access to God now was freely available through Christ. Thus, it was no longer necessary for a human priest to act as a mediator. Instead, Jesus became our high priest in bridging the gap between God and humanity through His atoning death on the cross.
Before we examine that subject in greater detail, we first come to an important term: propitiation. This word refers to the satisfaction of God’s justice and the appeasement of His righteous anger towards those who have broken His laws. One source offers a brief, but comprehensive explanation of this Biblical doctrine…
“There are only four passages in the New Testament where the word propitiation is used in particular connection with the atoning work of Jesus on the cross (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). However, the concept of propitiation is pervasive. It is a personal idea (someone must be propitiated) that means more than the impersonal notion of expiation, which means to take away or remove something (as in sin and guilt).
To propitiate someone is to ‘appease or pacify his anger.’ Propitiation, then, necessarily presupposes anger that needs to be appeased. When the death of Christ is described in propitiatory terms, it is the holy wrath of God against sin that is in view. Jesus propitiates God by substituting Himself in the place of sinners and enduring divine wrath that justly should be unleashed on them.” (1)
(1) Parsons. Burk. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology © 2008 by Burk Parsons [pg. 163]
“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
Perhaps the greatest illustration of this passage from the life of Christ is recorded for us in the Gospel of Matthew…
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’” and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him” (Matthew 4:1-11 ESV).
The following commentary shares some valuable observations on this episode from Jesus’ life as we close our look at Hebrews chapter two…
“Because He Himself has suffered and has been tempted, He is able to aid those who are going through temptation. He can help others going through it because He has been there Himself.
Here again we must add a word of qualification. The Lord Jesus was tempted from without, but never from within. The temptation in the wilderness shows Him being tempted from without. Satan appeared to Him and sought to appeal to Him by external stimuli. But the Savior could never be tempted to sin by lusts and passions within, for there was no sin in Him and nothing to respond to sin. He suffered, being tempted. Whereas it pains us to resist temptation, it pained Him to be tempted.” (1)
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.2166