Agonizomai: Heb 2:14-18 - Christ - The Embodiment of Faith

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heb 2:14-18 - Christ - The Embodiment of Faith

Heb 2:14-18 - Christ - The Embodiment of Faith

Heb 2:14-18 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, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

This section is largely an amplification of the last. We, the ones he came to save, are Adamic in nature. We share the same flesh. We are united in Adam and under the same condemnation as Adam, for in Adam all sinned. {Ro 5:12} It was for this reason that Christ took on sinful flesh. That means that he took on our exact form, with all of its tendencies and vulnerabilities. He had precisely the same natural urges, shared in the same sufferings and temptations through appeals to his bodily passions. But he was without sin. He was not only without sin, He was without original sin because He was not born of an Adamic father, but of God. His Adamic constitution came through his mother (a daughter of Adam) but his underlying nature (his hypostasis) came from His being God.

The writer is again showing the humanity of Christ while maintaining his deity. Now, I do not fully understand the nature of the Christ and neither does anyone else. It is a mystery, partly revealed, but into which we shall be looking for eternity. The baby in the manger was upholding the universe by the word of his power. Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man {Luke 2:52} yet was all the time omniscient, omnipotent, perfect, unchangeable God.

Funk and Wagnall’s just doesn’t have a category for that. The church has called it the hypostatic union of two natures - man and God - in which Jesus was always fully God and fully man at one and the same time. Those born of the Spirit know this to be true even though they cannot fully articulate it. Deep calls out to deep. The Spirit who testifies to it in the Word, testifies also to us personally. But a man must be born again before he can truly see the kingdom of God. {John 3:3} Like all things of the spirit, it is a truth that can be apprehended intellectually without being received. {1Co 2:14}. In other words it is possible to be ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

The children that God has given to Christ (see previous verses) are all alike, sons of Adam. They share in his nature. They also share his mutability and mortality. Mutability was something that Adam always had, but mortality is something that arose only with the fall. By sin came death. Again, therefore, the explanation is that:

a) God gave children to Christ and

b) Christ came to save those children and

c) He did so by taking on a human form - mutable and mortal human form, just like those he came to save.
The purpose, then, of his coming was manifold, but it included dying, and by it destroying the one who had the power of death, namely Satan. But how does Satan hold the power of death? Isn’t God in charge of everything and isn’t God the ultimate power in the universe? And the answer is Luther’s answer - that “Even the devil is God’s devil.” Satan is permitted a certain leeway so that the purposes of God from eternity will be fulfilled. In Adam, man sold himself to Satan as Lord (though only God is truly Lord) and incurred the penalty of God. He became a child of the devil, spiritually dead, living death in a dying body until the final sentence of eternal death is pronounced at the end of the ages. "Dying you shall die" as the Hebrew saying literally speaks in Genesis 2:17, and which has the force of absolute certainty - "You shall surely die". Sin and rebellion must be punished. It is not optional. God, if He is truly Holy (and He is), must punish sin. He must hate sin. His wrath must be kindled against it, and against those who live in it - which is every person ever born, except the Son of God incarnate.

To sin is be in bondage to Satan. To do Satan’s will is to work death and judgment and condemnation and to incur the wrath of God, which results in eternal death. Eternal death is not annihilation, but everlasting separation from God in whom is life and light. Sin leads to hell and hell to the Lake of Fire. The daunting prospect of the death of the body, and its absolute certainty, carries with it a dread in the deepest part of men. Men fear death not because they will cease to exist, but because they know, deep inside, that they must meet their Maker and answer to Him for the deeds done in the body. Some atheists or pagan idolaters may say they do not fear death, but this only worsens their situation, making them fools who have suppressed the knowledge of the truth and of conscience, until they are wise in their own eyes but hard of heart when it comes to humility before God.

But how does the fear of death make men subject to lifelong slavery? You would think it would be the other way round - that a lifelong slavery to sin and the devil would make men subject to the fear of death. But that would be to ignore the hardening effects of unrepented sin. Apart from the gracious intervention of God all men harden their hearts, shut out the voice of conscience and stop their ears against the call of God’s universal moral law in their souls. Dead is dead. Men are dead in trespasses and sins.

But the fear of death to an unregenerate man is a call to inevitable extinction (if not judgment). It will drive him to seek to cram his life with pleasures and enjoyments and entertainment and diversions. It will move him towards lust for riches, security, acclaim, power and conquest. And why not? For when his inevitable death arrives he will want to have savored things to their fullest. “Eat, drink - for tomorrow we die!”

The problem is that all other people on earth are clamoring for the same things. They must all face their own mortality, too. And while they may not be sure what, if anything, lies beyond the grave, they nevertheless fear the unknown. The dread of death moves them to serve the flesh fervently, for they cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, being spiritually dead.

Mankind was made to serve. If he will not serve God and other human beings for God’s sake, then he must serve the devil and his own carnal propensities. There is no middle ground. But so depraved is the human heart that the idea of serving either God or the devil is unthinkable. Unregenerate man serves himself above all else but, in so doing, enslaves himself to the devil.

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God (v17). When it says that He was "made like" His brothers it does not mean that He was created, but rather that He was caused to be like them; He was conformed to their state, having previously existed in a different state.

The purpose of this conformity is clearly declared - that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God. This is the actual consummation of the foreshadowing and partial revelation of the office of High Priest among God’s chosen nation of Israel. The office pointed to He Who would encapsulate and manifest the final and complete meaning of High Priesthood for God’s chosen people. This is what He came to do, and why it was necessary for Him to become a member of the human race.

As a human being, He could empathize with all of our weaknesses and temptations - empathize, but not excuse. He could display mercy which was also the sort of mercy that warmly understands the frailty of the human disposition. And from that common position of frailty, He could demonstrate faithfulness to God in our behalf. Had He not been human, His representations would not have been acceptable in our behalf - and had He not also been God, He would not have been free from the taint of original sin (including a corrupt will) and so would have been unable to offer himself up as the perfect sacrifice, once for all.

I think it is important to see exactly how Christ was faithful, since faith is at the very core of Christianity. Remembering that Christ was fully human, it seems reasonable to see that the life He lived He lived by faith. He believed God. He believed He was God. He believed Himself to be both the cause of history, and to be the reason for history. He believed He was the Savior of the world and that salvation would be wrought by Him through His sufferings and through His own perfect faithful obedience to the Father.

This faith, rather than drawing power or authority from His human nature, rested completely in the Father. He trusted Him completely and, through living out this trust to the very end, actually became not just the author, but also the finisher of our faith. Our faith rests upon His. Our faith is found in Christ and from Christ. Our faithfulness depends entirely upon Him because His faithfulness is now ours. He fashioned it for us. We must walk in it, but we walk in it knowing and believing that it is He and He alone who justifies and upholds us.

Worthy of close attention also is that Christ’s office was for the service of God. It was not principally for the service of mankind. It was for the service of God by obediently serving mankind. Those who put man first in the equation (and there is no shortage of them in this age) inevitably end up distorting clear doctrines of the faith whenever the perceived interests of man and God diverge. For example, the clear Biblical teachings on predestination, election, judgment, wrath and punishment are all pushed to the back when it is believed that Christ came primarily to serve man instead of seeing that He came to serve God by serving men.

Before the world began, God foreknew, predestined and chose a certain people in Christ who would be with Him forever in eternity - just, holy and conformed to His image in every way. This necessarily implies that the others He passed over by not choosing them in Christ. It means that the fall of man was ordained by the decretive will of God and that redemption was not plan B, but was plan A from the very outset. This in turn means that, while God shows infinite condescension and mercy in saving some, He purposed from eternity to show His wrath and His justice upon others.

There is no escaping these truths for unbiased and humbled readers of God’s Word. But those who believe that God puts pity, sympathy, mercy or anything else towards mankind before the desire to see His own Name glorified (including all of His attributes - from grace and mercy all the way to holiness, justice and wrath) miss the point. God shows all of these things through His self-revelation in His Word, His Son, His church and His world.

However, for those upon whom His love was settled from eternity, the Son came for their redemption and to redeem them through identifying with them in their humanity so completely that He suffered as they suffered, yet as the just for the unjust. But in His suffering, He understood first hand as a man the temptations and the tribulations that we all suffer justly in this fallen world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an example Jesus gave! Everything He did was for God's glory. How far we fall short, yet He still loves us with an everlasting love. So much in here to think about and to be thankful for. God is good, and that's the understatement of the century!

9:01 pm  

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