By Rev. Lance Filio
There is an old game in the newspaper magazine I’ve enjoyed playing when I was young. A popular cartoonist named Larry Alcala made them. Larry created a cartoon segment in The Sunday Times called Slice of Life. In his comics segment, he illustrates the busy everyday life in the Philippines. And as part of his shtick, he hides a cartoon drawing of his face. It has become the artist’s signature. Soon the readers, while enjoying the details of the beautiful illustration, will challenge themselves by looking for the signature face. They turned it into ‘Where’s Waldo?’. Eventually, it has become a fad. Now, Larry’s Slice of Life illustrations are considered as an artwork. What used to be newspaper comic has become a work of art.
Finding the Creator amid his creation sometimes feel like finding the illustrator hidden in his illustration. Church people labor hard to find him. Today while they consider Christ central to the Christian faith, yet they still lose track of him. Yes, Christ is important, but He gets eclipsed in the mundane details of life. Ironically, they lose Christ even in places where they should find him. Even while there is preaching in the pulpit, they rarely hear Christ in it. Sadly, many Christians gets content, Sunday in and Sunday out, sitting in a congregation yet not hear anything about Christ. They drift away from the faith. They have lost Christ, and they were not even consciously aware of it. They thought they were still Christians but in reality they are apostates.
Today, we will hear Christ preached from the second chapter of the book of Hebrews. The preacher of Hebrews reminds us of our great salvation. Yet, his reminder comes with a warning. He exhorts us to pay attention. He called his readers not to drift away. To save them from apostasy, the preacher reminds his readers of their great Savior. He preaches to them Christ who suffered to bring them into glory. He shows us Christ as a brother who partook our nature and became like one of us to save us. So our preaching comes in three parts. From verses 1-4, the heading is “Therefore, we must pay much closer attention”. From verses 5-9, the heading is “Now in putting everything in subjection to him”. From verses 10-18, the heading is “He, in bringing many sons to glory, should perfect through suffering”.
Therefore, we must pay much closer attention
Let us read again:
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (verse 1-4)
The preacher concluded his exposition of Christ superiority in chapter 1 with an exhortation. He calls his readers, considering what he explained about Christ, to put their gaze upon him. He commands them to pay attention and never lose sight of Christ – as God’s final revelation, God’s final prophet, priest and king, God’s final mediator of the covenant. He warns them of apostasy. He reminds them not to abandon the faith. Why is it important to take Christ seriously? Because compared to the Old Covenant delivered by angels, God gave us the New Covenant personally through His Son. While the disciples of Christ witnessed to them through their writings, God himself through the Holy Spirit places his stamp of approval upon it by his work of miracles. The shadowy reality of the Old Covenant, while have an important place in the history of redemption, prepared the fuller revelation God’s Son. The lesser made way for the greater. Christ fulfilled the promise of redemption. He performed all things necessary to bring his people back to God. And since this true, there is no turning back. Any neglect comes with severe consequence. The preacher of Hebrews wants his readers to understand since Christ is it then turning away from him is apostasy. There is no salvation outside him.
Apostasy comes in subtler forms. While heresy is easier to discern because heretics hit you with clear statements against God and the faith, apostasy is deadly because they often conceal it. They hide under the pretense of respectability. They agree you that Christ should be preached but dislike it when is always about Christ. They subscribe to a religion that centers on Christ yet encourages teachings and practice that accommodates the secular preferences. Apostasy like this is rampant in our day. There is no outright denial of Christ. They still consider the church as “Christ-centered”. They study their bibles, conduct their services, and even do community work. Yet unknowingly, they still drift away from the faith.
How did it happen? They are not anymore paying attention to God’s Word. It is not where get the source of knowing who God is. Christ name get tossed around but his Word neglected. Dr. J.L. Duncan comments:
‘People are looking for power from God to change their lives and assure them of salvation. Yet many Christians seem intent on using every method except the one highlighted for us all through the Bible, including this very passage: diligent study and understanding of the Word of God. Many people seek to come close to God through some intense emotional experience. Others follow disciplines, rituals, or special formulas that are guaranteed to make them more godly or secure. But look at the emphasis of the writer of Hebrews: “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard,” that is, to the Word of God.”‘
We find the cure for apostasy in the Word of God. We need to hear how God saved us through his Son. In his Word, it constantly reminds us of his work. Our Great Savior accomplished our great salvation. This is what the preacher of Hebrews points out next.
Now in putting everything in subjection to him
Let us read back:
“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (verses 5-9)
God’s Son is divine. He was incarnated or has added to himself human nature. He did so in order to save us from death and sin. He was humiliated and His Father rewarded him by glorifying him. All these displays God’s glory in Christ. The preacher of Hebrews exposes Psalms 8 to make his next point. In Psalms 8, exalts God’s in his creation. In here, he emphasized the place of man in creation. Man in the crowning glory of creation. He shows the purpose of creation and the duty of bring it to its glorious end as part of Man’s work. God ordained man, not the angels as rulers of God’s creation. The preacher mentioned this verses to make the same point about man. However, considering Christ, he shows that the son of man is God himself in the flesh. His conclusion is warranted if we determine first the reason for such an act. Why does God need to it? Verse 9 is the implied answer. Jesus came to die for our sins. It is a demonstration of God’s grace. Therefore, it implies that we cannot it for ourselves so we need him to it for us. To do so, God needs to be like one of us. Verses 10-18 emphasize and we will go it later. Going back to verses 5-9, God ordains our great salvation through the great suffering of our great Savior. God accomplished redemption through the work of His son. But his glorious work came with great suffering. The glorious end comes with humiliating means. God’s Son needs to suffer first to receive the eternal reward for his people.
We need to pay attention to what the preacher of Hebrews is saying. Lest we drift away, we will miss the gospel of God’s saving work. We did not accomplish our salvation. We did not earn heaven. Jesus earned it for us. The sinful reality of our condition blinds us with this reality because we often think we need to more to deserve better things from God. However, the reverse it true. God has done everything for us. He did it because he alone deserves all the glory. As we pay attention to everything he has done, it reveal his glory to us. We gaze on Christ and we never lose our sight on him. We forget God’s wonderful work. By not anymore paying attention, we drift away. We need to be reminded of Christ’s person and work. We need the gospel. Christ is better so pay attention.
He, in bringing many sons to glory, should perfect through suffering
Let us read our passages:
“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. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” 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. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 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. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (verses 10-18)
These verses are long and packed (which is why I cut the preaching of Hebrews 2 into two Lord’s Day). I did not want to gloss over the details. Exegetically, I aim to explain the preacher‘s line of thought and dwell on some details later for further exposition and application. I begin with exposition and explanation then end with some application.
So verses 5-9 connects to verses 10-18 by pointing to the person and work of our Great Savior. The preacher explains God’s Son, the divine person (Chapter 1:1-14), added to himself human nature (Chapter 2:5-9). First, he speaks of the person of Jesus then expounded on this person‘s work. Simply put, the work of our Great Savior was to suffer and die for this people. Verse 9 wrote, Jesus was “for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Now, let me emphasize again the importance of this verse. It speaks of the pre-existence of God’s Son before his incarnation. You may notice here the phase “for a little while (He) was made”. Therefore, while God’s Son possess all the glory and honor of his deity in all eternity, he voluntarily, for a little while, entered the humble state of man. By becoming man, from his incarnation, life, death and burial, Jesus, who the heir of all things, embraced humiliation. So that in his obedience, he might suffer and die for his people. Why was it necessary for God to send his Son to die for his people?
Verse 10 gives us an explanation. It says, “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.” So who subjected God’s Son to suffer? Verses 5-9 implies it was God the Father who subjected his Son to suffer. Why does Jesus needed to suffer for his people? Going back to verse 10, it explains the humiliation of God’s Son, his suffering and death, brought many sons to glory. It means Jesus earns salvation for his people. His humiliation guarantees his people’s glorification. He earned heaven for them. Jesus is the author, the founder, the captain, the trailblazer of our salvation.
How did he do it? By become one of us, he received the penalty of our sins and on our behalf; he kept the law and earned our salvation. Verse 11 explains “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.” He who sanctifies is Jesus and those who are sanctified are his people. The preacher of Hebrews explains our nature now also belongs to God’s Son. Our humanity unites personally to him. God is our Father and Jesus is our Elder brother. Everything he accomplished in our salvation properly belongs to us by inheritance. Everything he possesses by right, he actively dispenses to his own people. He considers his people as his own brothers. Verses 12-13 express these thoughts. The preacher of Hebrews took from Old Testament, specifically from Psalms 22 and Isaiah 8, to make his point, “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Jesus himself speaks of these verses as a direct quotation. He is not ashamed to call us his brothers.
What are benefits of becoming his brother? Simply put, he saved us slavery of sin and death and he helps us overcome temptation. The former he accomplished by his death at the cross and latter he applies the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The first was for our justification while the second was for our sanctification. Our great Savior accomplished and applied our great salvation. Again in verses 14-16, it reads, “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. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.” Jesus now holds the power of death. He subdued the work of the devil and He paid the penalty of sin by his death. The offspring of Abraham receive this benefit only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Next in verses 17-18, it reads, “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. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He is a high priest who understands. Jesus helps us in our temptation. He knows what it means to be tempted. While he did not sin and he can sympathize. He is on our side. He understands from the outside but from the inside. He is our sympathetic Saviour.
So the chapter 2 ends with a comforting thought. While it started with a warning against apostasy, the preacher of Hebrews encourages us to persevere. He wanted us to understand our great salvation comes from a great Savior. While He comes as God who is fully divine, he condescended himself to us and become fully man. He suffered and died to bring us to him in glory. He did not leave us on our doomed state. Rather, he voluntarily gave up his glorious state and entered a humbled state. His humiliation, his incarnation, his life, death and burial, accomplished everything needed for our salvation. He is the author of our salvation. Are we encouraged by the person and work of Jesus Christ? Focus your attention of the extensive work of the person of God’s Son. The mystery of our salvation lies on the mediatorial work of Christ. The great exchange between God and his people centers on him. Our great Prophet received humiliation instead of exaltation. Our great King become a poor servant. Our priest offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Our great Savior suffered and died to accomplish and apply our great Salvation.
Because of Him and through Him, we persevere in the end. Often we lose steam and gets tempted to rely on our own strength to endure. The struggle is real. We may ignore it and blame others for it but in the end, we know we have to deal with it. We will deal with perseverance on Hebrews 6 so we will not expound on it yet extensively but as an introduction, we need to understand an important point – perseverance comes from God and accomplished by God alone. We persevere not by our own doing but by God’s own through the sanctifying work of our Mediator Jesus Christ mediated to us by the Holy Spirit. Lest we forget this truth, we will fall on the trap of works righteousness. When we lose our gaze of Christ, we will slowly focus on ourselves and rely on our own for efforts. Apostasy leads to destruction. We fall away from the faith and lead others and ourselves astray. May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Elder brother, helps us persevere in the end.
ZCRC (Imus), our great Savior accomplished our great Salvation. Scripture calls us to pay attention and warns us against falling away. Let heed the call and gaze on Christ. He suffered death for us. He saves us from our sins. May we continue to glorify him by listening to his Words. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.