you will open your eyes to it, you will not be long in seeing it. Any pastor
or Bible teacher knows it well. It is the saddest of fates for those who know
Christ: to slip away, quietly, gradually, under the weight of the cares of
this world. So often people assume that a good beginning is sufficient. It is
necessary, but not sufficient. Evidently the difference is no longer taught in
high school geometry, but the distinction still is with us.
author of Hebrews cautions us against just such a thing in today’s passage:
Hebrews 2:1-18 NASB
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we
have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. (2) For if
the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, (3)
how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After
it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was
confirmed to us by those who heard, (4) God also testifying
with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles
and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
(5) For He did not subject to angels the world to come,
concerning which we are speaking. (6) But one has testified
somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR
THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? (7) "YOU
HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU
HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED
HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; (8) YOU HAVE PUT ALL
THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all
things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him.
But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. (9)
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than
the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death
crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He
might taste death for everyone. (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. (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, (12) saying, "I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY
BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR
PRAISE." (13) And again, "I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM." And
again, "BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME."
(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, (15) and might free those who
through fear of death were subject to slavery all their
lives. (16) For assuredly He does not give help to angels,
but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. (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. (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.
The duty of knowledge
writer here speaks to one who is a Christian. The entire passage is written to
one who is not only a Christian, but one who has grown up in a devout Jewish
family. As such, he is reminding his reader much more than teaching him.
The responsibility of knowledge
the argument can best be seen step by step:
greater your knowledge, the greater your responsibility to handle that
knowledge correctly. I expect my attorney to think of all the “whereas”
greater your responsibility, the greater care that is required in
performing your duties. I do not expect of the babysitter that which is
expected of the father.
greater the care that is required, the greater the punishment for
failure. But likewise, the greater reward for success.
Example: Law and Gospel
that bit of logic in mind, let us compare the Law and the Gospel. We will do
this (as our writer does) by examining three points:
evidence exists for each
stature of the messenger(s)
penalty for ignoring each.
to specifics, we see that the Law:
introduced to the people of Israel by powerful signs and miracles. It is
interesting to note that the author of the first five books of the Bible
(Moses) never thought a whit about proving the existence of God. Having
met him personally and experienced his power, it would seem foolish to do
carried by messengers of great importance. Some were prophets; others
kings (David); and indeed some were angels.
penalties for disobedience, up to and including death.
comparison, the Gospel:
introduced to us with even greater signs and miracles. For if parting the
Red Sea was miraculous, surely walking on water is more so. Nothing in
the Law matches the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
carried to us by none other than the Son of God Himself, who now sites at
the right hand of God the Father.
teaches us that the penalty for disobedience is a form of eternal death –
must therefore conclude that we, as Christians, have the greater knowledge –
and thus the greater responsibility. With the greater responsibility comes, as
argued, greater care or greater penalties. So what should we do?
writer tells us that we must not “drift away.” The word in the Greek is used
of a pot with a small leak – one which gradually drains the contents. See the
subtlety of the threat! Satan’s attack is in the things of this world – he
knows better than to attack directly. It is much easier to have you drift away
from God than to tear you away by attack. It is also much more likely to
what should we do? The answer is found in our Lord. Accept the Lord’s
discipline, make it your own, and discipline your heart, mind, soul and
strength to follow him. In doing this, you imitate your Lord – who was made
perfect through suffering.
Jesus, Made Perfect Through Suffering
is a bit of difficulty in the translation here. Some have argued, falsely,
that the phrase “made perfect” implies that Jesus was not sinless, but was
somehow transformed. It is a difficulty until you realize that the concept of
“made perfect” means “made perfect for a task.” There may be nothing wrong
with the piece of steel, but you still forge it into a particular shape to use
it as a hammer.
The Supreme Miracle
S. Lewis referred to the Incarnation as “the supreme miracle.” The reason is
simple: all else about Christ flows from this. See how great a miracle this
it implies the humbling of Christ. He, equal with God, now becomes lower
than the angels who served him.
is born as we are born – which implies he will die, just as we do.
in that death, we shall find life. How?
The principle of identification
the Scripture there is the principle of identification. We do something “like
God does” to become more like God – even if the something is purely symbolic.
This same principle works in reverse – Christ became like us, so that we (by
identification) might become like him. For example:
baptism it is said we are buried with him and raised with him – so that on
the last day we will rise at his command.
His spirit is that of God, so we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
we are promised that if we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.
identification only works if the one with whom you identify has the power to
make it so. So we are taught the supremacy of Christ.
The supremacy of Christ
is the Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father. By his divine
nature, he is supreme.
is the Son of Man – he can say of our lives, “been there, done that – and
did it perfectly.” He is therefore supreme among us as man.
of that, God has crowned him with glory. His death becomes his crown –
which will be shown to all some day.
of this is said to be from the grace of God. It is God’s justice satisfied,
God’s love perfectly expressed – to those who did not deserve it. We are the
great beneficiaries of his love.
The results for us
this would be abstract reasoning if there were no results for us. But results
we have, and in plenty.
Our High Priest
priest serves as the bridge between God and man. As bridge, he must be one
with us, and one with God – and only Christ fits that.
suffered, as we suffer. Therefore he understands our pain and suffering.
Thus he can be our comfort, guide and strength in suffering.
was tempted, just as we are tempted – and so he understands our
temptation. Thus he can be our rock of resistance.
is holy – and therefore can make us holy.
is much more to say about our High Priest – but that’s another lesson.
Destruction of Death
would not know it from Christians today – but the defeat of death and its
overlord, Satan, is an accomplished fact. Consider the implications of that:
the father of lies and the evil one who is our accuser, is defeated. He
cannot triumph. I’ve read the back of the book; I know how things turn
out. God wins.
than that, I know the resurrection of the dead. Why, then, should I fear
if I do not fear death, then death no longer holds my mind in slavery;
rather, I am liberated beyond all others.
Brothers with Christ
two would be sufficient cause for joy – but consider now that I am a brother of
Christ. Indeed, this brotherhood is so close that Jesus, the perfect one, is
not ashamed to call me “brother.” He was made like us to be our atonement – so
our sins are covered. He also rose from the dead – and is the first born of
the resurrection to come. We are called to be his brothers; justified by his
atonement, and will be glorified at his return.
if we are his brothers, then is it not the case that we are brothers to each
other as well? What does that say about our relationship with each other?
– one may ask – how can I be sure that I really am his brother? Jesus, in the Gospels,
gives us three tests:
you do the will of his Father?
you care for the least of his brothers?
you unashamed to call him Lord?
seems to me that these three form a short checklist on your brotherhood with
Christ. You have been given greater knowledge; thus greater responsibility.
If you do his will, you will receive the greater reward. Take care, then, that
you do not drift away in the cares of this world; rather, pay close attention
to the things you know. Don’t just hear the Word – do it.