A Bible study from Faithbuilders Fellowship.
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"LIKE UNTO HIS BRETHREN"

"Since then 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; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in all that He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."

--Hebrews 2:14-18

WRITTEN TO Jewish readers, the above statement tells us what Jesus' death was to accomplish, and why He was tempted. They, the Jews, had heard of Jesus. Some of them may even have seen Him. Yet how to regard Him, or those who testified that He was Messiah, they were not sure.

This new letter, what we now call the Book of Hebrews, assured the Jews that Jesus had come to help them. Jesus, the letter said, laid hold on Abraham's seed to rescue that seed. This Messianic deliverance, as promised by their own holy prophets, was for them and their Jewish brethren.

In order to rescue them, He had to reconcile them to God. In order to do that, He must be made like unto them, "made like His brethren" (Heb. 2:17). According to their customary way of thinking, this meant that He would be a Levitical priest according to the Mosaic Law. Such priests had for centuries been charged with making reconciliation for them. They hadn't seen that Jesus' death was essential for their redemption, or for the redemption of the entire human family. Beginning in the sixth verse, the writer had opened a discussion of humanity's desperate need of deliverance.

Man in Charge of the Earth

God had decided to put earth under human control. The writer documents this by referring to the Psalms:

"But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast 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 see not yet all things put under him."--Heb. 2:6,8, Psa. 8:4-6 KJV

Our ancestor Adam was glorious and honorable. He was the highest of all that was flesh. God formed Adam in His own image and likeness. God gave Adam dominion over all that the man saw. The earth and all things in it were subject to him. But now all things are not subject to man. Man lost his dominion through disobedience. Sin, sickness, and death were reigning. That is the sad sight. Next comes the Epistle's first use of the name Jesus.

To Taste Death for Everyone

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by [Greek dia, through] whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."--Heb. 2:9,10 KJV

As was Adam, so was Jesus. Both were "a little lower than the angels." Both were represented as glorious and honorable. Both were flesh.

Our Master had to be flesh. Why? So that He might die, willingly, as a sacrifice for sin. He Himself had said, "My flesh I give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). Jesus had determined that He would "taste death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9). That meant that He would experience death in the sinner's place, so that all people need not stay dead for ever.

Glory for Many

The everyone for whom Jesus tasted death and the many sons to be brought to glory agree with our Master's words: "...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."--Matt. 20:28

That assertion brings to mind another biblical witness: "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time" (1 Tim. 2:5,6). Surely the many, the all, and the everyone in these passages refer to the same redeemed individuals.

The Scriptures thus promise that all the redeemed will receive glory. Adam had "glory and honor." The man Christ Jesus had "glory and honor" (Heb. 2:7,9). "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."--John 1:14 KJV

The second chapter of Hebrews does not, however, define either the kind of glory or the height of glory to which the many children shall be brought. Its promise is stated; the details of its fulfillment are left unsaid.

Scripture reveals what kind of bodies Jesus' footstep followers should expect in the resurrection. They will be like unto Christ's glorious body. (Phil. 3:21, 1 John 3:2) Jesus said that some would come forth unto a resurrection of life, and their glory will be one thing. Others would come forth unto a resurrection of judgment and their glory will be different from the glory promised to the firstfruit followers. (John 5:28,29) All will have the opportunity to attain at least that glory and honor which Adam originally enjoyed before disobedience, when there was no sin and dying.

There will be such time again! Our Redeemer died for that purpose. Jesus is the author, captain, leader of all the saved. But being the Savior of all does not mean that all will be blessed in the same way. Jesus will wisely give to each of the many blessed, their own diverse glory. He will do so through the atonement process.

The Children become Brethren and Sons

After his sketch of human history and the redemption promised, the writer encourages his readers to expect a relationship with the Father. "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."--Heb. 2:11

Next, in Heb. 2:12,13, the readers see both Messiah and themselves in prophecy...encouragement to them, as well as earlier it had been to Jesus:

"I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee" (Psa. 22:22). "I will put my trust in him" (2 Sam. 22:3 KJV). "Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion."--Isa. 8:18 KJV

To them, faith in Jesus would deepen as they see Him as truly their helper, "not ashamed" to acknowledge them. To Jesus, those ancient words focused His ministry. He did, as David long years before, put His trust in God. He, too, declared God's name to His brethren. The congregation at Nazareth heard His wondrous application of Isaiah 61, but they would not listen.

"And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff."--Luke 4:16-29

Jesus' resolve was unshaken. He believed God would give Him some from the children of Israel, those of faith. John later epitomized this faith, saying,

"He [Jesus] came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [authority] to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."--John 1:11,12

The Apostle Paul, too, taught of sonship, the adoption, of our becoming children of God:

"So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."--Gal. 4:3-5; see also Rom. 8:10-29

Jesus, of course, had this process in mind. He intended for others to become God's sons. That is why He so tirelessly preached God's goodness and mercy. He proclaimed these themes to all who would listen, and often to those who would not, as also did others before Him. (Ezek. 2:5,7, 3:11) But His work did not end at proclaiming important truths. Something else was also essential. He must complete his sacrifice in death.

The Hebrews' writer points again to that truth. "Since then the children share in [have partaken of] flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same..." (Heb. 2:14) Jesus is thus able to take hold of to rescue "the descendant of Abraham." 'Descendant' is singular because the Greek for 'seed' is singular. It refers to all who came from Abraham through the son in whom his seed is called, Isaac. After Isaac, the seed was counted through Jacob, and his twelve sons. Yes, Jesus did indeed die for all mankind. (1 Tim. 2:6, Rom. 5:6,8) But God had promised that the first blessed would be of Israel. (Amos 3:2, Rom. 1:16, 2:10) And it was so. (Acts 1:8, 8:5, 10:3-31) Hebrews focused on their rescue.

Separate from Sinners

A final point concludes the chapter. Jesus had been "made like unto His brethren" in all things mentioned. He had been made flesh and blood. He was "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3) but without the sin of sinful flesh. He remained "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners" (Heb. 7:26). He was "born under the law" (Gal. 4:4), and made subject to its every precept and commandment. He felt its requirements. He was the only one who ever met, kept, and fulfilled the Law's every requirement.

Being without sin did not mean that Jesus was free of temptation. Neither was the first man, who had been made in God's image and likeness. Adam was not shielded from temptation; Jesus was not shielded. Every fleshly allurement could project itself toward our Master. Every thought possible to other flesh and blood human beings was possible to Him. "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin," and thus it is that we have a high priest who can "sympathize with our weaknesses" (Heb. 4:15). He learned which human thoughts he needed to resist, and he resisted them. (John 2:25) Our Master (as does also our heavenly Father) "knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust."--Psa. 103:14

Of the Father, Through the Son

Scripture often speaks about the relationship between Jesus and God. The Father is the head. "God is the head of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:3). The process of human redemption particularly confirms this. Everything proceeds from the Father and through the Son. (1 Cor. 8:6) God determines and delegates. "He has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). The Son accepts and accomplishes.

Such unity of spirit and purpose is affirmed in Eph. 1:18-23. God is intensely interested in His heirs.

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all."

Merciful, Faithful High Priest

Heaven is keenly interested in us, and it is united for our assistance in overcoming sin's temptation:

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."--1 Cor. 10:13

How does our loving God control the kind and degree of our temptations? Through His Son. He "passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" (Heb. 4:14), and now He is "our great high priest."

Jesus our Lord has "become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." He was not a priest when He was in the earth undergoing His own trials and temptations. He has made "propitiation for the sins of the people. 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" (Heb. 2:17,18). "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" in every temptation.--Heb. 4:16

[All Scripture quoted from New American Standard Bible, except as indicated.]


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