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The exhortation to believing Jews as to the word spoken, the word of salvation
Hebrews 2. This is the reason why it is so much the more needful to hearken to the word spoken, in order that they should not let it pass away from life and memory.
God had maintained the authority of the word that was communicated by means of angels, punishing disobedience to it, for it was a law. How then shall we escape if we neglect a salvation which the Lord Himself has announced? Thus the service of the Lord among the Jews was a word of salvation, which the apostles confirmed, and which the mighty testimony of the Holy Ghost established.
Such is the exhortation addressed to the believing Jews, founded on the glory of the Messiah, whether with regard to His position or His Person, calling them away from what was Jewish to higher thoughts of Christ.
The Lord's testimony to Israel; its confirmation
We have already remarked that the testimony of which this epistle treats, is attributed to the Lord Himself. Therefore we must not expect to find in it the assembly (as such), of which the Lord had only spoken prophetically; but His testimony in relation to Israel, among whom He sojourned on the earth, to whatever extent that testimony reached. That which was spoken by the apostles is only treated here as a confirmation of the Lord's own word, God having added His testimony to it by the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, who distributed His gifts to each according to His will.
The Lord's glory as Son of Man, in connection with the world to come, excluding angels altogether
The glory of which we have been speaking is the personal glory of the Messiah, the Son of David; and His glory in the time present, during which God has called Him to sit at His right hand. He is the Son of God, He is even the Creator; but there is also His glory in connection with the world to come, as Son of man. Of this Hebrews 2 speaks, comparing Him still with the angels; but here to exclude them altogether. In the previous chapter they had their place: the law was given by angels; they are servants, on God's part, of the heirs of salvation. In chapter 2 they have no place, they do not reign; the world to come is not made subject to them — that is, this habitable earth, directed and governed as it will be when God shall have accomplished that which He has spoken of by the prophets.
All things put under the feet of the Son of Man
The order of the world, placed in relationship with Jehovah under the law, or "lying in darkness," has been interrupted by the rejection of the Messiah, who has taken His place at the right hand of God on high, His enemies being not yet given into His hand for judgment, because God is carrying on His work of grace, and gathering out the assembly. But He will yet establish a new order of things on the earth; this will be "the world to come." Now that world is not made subject to angels. The testimony given in the Old Testament with regard to this is as follows: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him; or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels; thou hast crowned him with glory and honour; thou hast set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet." Thus all things without exception (save He who has made them subject to Him), are, according to the purpose of God, put under the feet of man, and in particular of the Son of man.
The testimony of psalms 1, 2 and 8 to Christ made lower than the angels as man, rejected and exalted
When studying the Book of Psalms, we saw that which I recall
here, namely, that this testimony in Psalm 8 is, with regard to the
position and dominion of Christ as man, an advance upon Psalm
2. Psalm 1 sets before us the righteous man, accepted of God, the
godly remnant with which Christ connected Himself; Psalm 2, the
counsels of God respecting His Messiah, in spite of the efforts
made by the kings and governors of the earth. God establishes Him
as King in Zion, and summons all the kings to do homage to Him whom
He proclaimed to be His Son on the earth. Afterwards we see that
being rejected the remnant suffer, and this Psalm 2 is what Peter
quotes to prove the rising up of the powers of the earth, Jewish
and Gentile, against Messiah (Acts 4:25). But Psalm 8 shows that
all this only served to enlarge the sphere of His glory. Christ
takes the position of man and the title of Son of man, and enjoys
His rights according to the counsels of God; and, made lower than
the angels, He is crowned with glory and honour. And not only are
the kings of the earth made subject to Him, but all things, without
exception, are put under His feet.* It is this which the apostle
quotes here. The Christ had already been rejected, and His being
established as King in Zion put off to be accomplished at a later
period. He had been exalted to the right hand of God, as we have
seen; and the wider title had accrued to Him, although the result
was not yet accomplished.
The partial fulfillment of psalm 8 a guarantee of its completion; why Christ was made lower than angels; crowned with glory and honour
To this the epistle here calls our attention. We see not yet the accomplishment of all that this Psalm announces, namely, that all things should be put under His feet; but a part is already fulfilled, a guarantee to the heart of the fulfilment of the whole. Made a little lower than the angels in order to suffer death, He is crowned with glory and honour. He has suffered death, and He is crowned in reward for His work, by which He perfectly glorified God in the place where He had been dishonoured, and saved man (those who believe in Him) where man was lost. For He was made lower than the angels, in order that, by the grace of God, He should taste death for all things. It appears to me that the words "for the suffering of death," and "a little lower than the angels" go together; and "so that by the grace of God" is a general phrase connected with the whole truth stated.
Entering into the circumstances where men were and undergoing the consequences; made perfect through sufferings; we taste death because of sin;, He because of grace for sin
This passage then, which is thus applied to the Lord, presents Him as exalted to heaven when He had undergone the death which gave Him a right to all in a new way while waiting till all is put under His feet. But there is another truth connected with this. He had undertaken the cause of the sons whom God is bringing to glory, and therefore He must enter into the circumstances in which they were found, suffer the consequences thereof, and be treated according to the work He had undertaken. It was a reality; and it was fitting that God should vindicate the rights of His glory, and should maintain it with reference to those who had dishonoured Him, and that He should treat the One who had taken their cause in hand, and who stood before Him in their name, as representing them in that respect. God would bring the captain of their salvation to perfection through sufferings. He was to undergo the consequences of the situation into which He had come. His work was to be a reality, according to the measure of the responsibility which He had taken upon Himself, and it involved the glory of God where sin was. He must therefore suffer; He must taste death. It is by the grace of God that He did so — we, because of sin; He, because of grace for sin.
Christ and the sanctified ones as all one company; not ashamed to call these His brethren
This shows us the Christ standing in the midst of those who are saved, whom God brings to glory, although at their head. It is this which our epistle sets before us — He who sanctifies (the Christ), and they who are sanctified (the remnant set apart for God by the Spirit) are all of one: an expression, the force of which is easily apprehended, but difficult to express, when one abandons the abstract nature of the phrase itself. Observe that it is only of sanctified persons that this is said. Christ and the sanctified ones are all one company, men together in the same position before God. But the idea goes a little farther. It is not of one and the same Father; had it been so, it could not have been said, "He is not ashamed to call them brethren." He could not then do otherwise than call them brethren.
If we say "of the same mass" the expression may be pushed too far, as though He and the others were of the same nature as children of Adam, sinners together. In this case He would have to call every man His brother; whereas it is only the children whom God has given Him, "sanctified" ones, that He so calls. But He and the sanctified ones are all as men in the same nature and position together before God. When I say "the same," it is not in the same state of sin, but the contrary, for they are the Sanctifier and the sanctified, but in the same truth of human position as it is before God as sanctified to Him; the same as far forth as man when He, as the sanctified one, is before God. On this account He is not ashamed to call the sanctified His brethren.
The children given Him called His brethren only when His work was finished
This position is entirely gained by resurrection; for although, in principle, the children were given to Him before, yet He only called them His brethren when He had finished the work which enabled Him to present them with Himself before God. He said indeed "mother, sister, brother"; but He did not use the term "my brethren," [as in John 20] until He said to Mary of Magdala, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." Also in Psalm 22 it is when He had been heard from the horns of the unicorn, that He declared the name of a Deliverer-God to His brethren, and that He praised God in the midst of the assembly.
The disciples' link with the Father not formed until after Christ's resurrection
He spoke to them of the Father's name while on earth, but the
link itself could not be formed; He could not introduce them to the
Father, until the grain of wheat, falling into the ground, had
died; until then He remained alone, whatever might be the
revelations that He made to them; and in fact, He declared the name
of His Father to those whom He had given Him. Still He had actually
taken the human position, and He Himself was in this relationship
with God. He kept them in the Father's name, they were not yet
united to Him in this position; but He was as man in the
relationship with God in which they also should be, when brought in
by redemption into association with Himself. That which He does in
the latter part of the Gospel by John is to place His disciples — in the explanations He gave of the condition in which He left them
— in the position which He in fact had held in relationship with
His Father on earth, and in testimony to the world, the glory of
His Person as representing and revealing His Father being
necessarily distinct. And, in seeking to associate with them, He
associated them with Himself and Himself with them when He ascended
to heaven, although no longer corporeally subject to the trials of
Christ calling His people "brethren" only when risen; associating godly men, the remnant, with Himself
He was not ashamed then to call them brethren, saying, though risen, yea, only when risen, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, I will praise thee in the midst of the assembly." And speaking of the remnant separated from Israel, He says, "Behold I and the children whom God has given me are for signs unto the two houses of Israel"; and again, "I will put my trust in him" — another quotation from Isaiah 8. So in the Psalms, especially in Psalm 16, He declares that He does not take His place as God — "my goodness extendeth not to thee," but that He identifies Himself with the excellent of the earth — that all His delight is in them. This is again the remnant of Israel called by grace.
Christ associates these sanctified men, godly men on earth, with Himself. In the passage quoted it is still His place on earth; His sufferings, His exaltation, future glory, divinity are, as we have seen, added here.
Christ conforming Himself to the children's position; taking part in flesh and blood; the reason; Satan conquered
Having taken this place as of, but at the head of, the chosen band — their servant in all things, He must conform Himself to their position. And this He did: the children being partakers of flesh and blood, He took part in the same; and this, in order that by death He might put an end to the dominion of him who had the power of death, and deliver those who, through fear of death, had been subjected all their life to the yoke of bondage.
Here also (the apostle seeking always to display the glorious and efficacious side, even of that which was most humbling, in order to accustom the weak heart of the Jews to that portion of the Gospel) we find that the Lord's work goes far beyond the limits of a presentation of the Messiah to His people. Not only is He glorious in heaven, but He has conquered Satan in the very place where he exercised his sad dominion over man, and where the judgment of God lay heavily upon man.
The motive and means of man's deliverance; the seed of Abraham
Moved by a profound love for man, the Son — become the Son of man — enters in heart and in fact into all the need, and submits to all the circumstances, of man in order to deliver him. He takes (for He was not in it before) flesh and blood, in order to die, because man was subjected to death; and (in order to destroy him who exercised his dominion over man through death, and made him tremble all his lifetime in the expectation of that terrible moment, which testified of the judgment of God and the inability of man to escape the consequences of sin) the condition into which disobedience to God had plunged him. For verily the Lord did not undertake the cause of angels, but that of the seed of Abraham, and in order to proclaim the work that was necessary for them, and to represent them efficaciously and really before God, He must needs put Himself into the position and the circumstances in which that seed were found though not the state they were personally in.
It will be remarked here, that it is still a family owned of God, which is before our eyes, as the object of the Saviour's affection and care — the children whom God had given Him children of Abraham after the flesh, if in that condition they answered to the designation of "seed of Abraham" (this is the question of John 8:37-39), or his children according to the Spirit, if grace gives it them.
Christ the priest able to sympathise with His own in all their conflicts and difficulties
These truths introduce priesthood. As Son of man, He had been made a little less than the angels, and, crowned already with glory and honour, was hereafter to have all things put under His feet. This we do not yet see. But He took this place of humiliation in order to taste death for the whole system that was afar from God, and to gain the full rights of the second Man, by glorifying God there, where the creature had failed through weakness, and where also the enemy, having deceived man by his subtlety, had dominion over him (according to the righteous judgment of God) in power and malice. At the same time he tasted death for the special purpose of delivering the children whom God would bring to glory, taking their nature and gathering them together as sanctified ones around Himself, He not being ashamed to call them brethren. But it was thus that He was to present them now before God, according to the efficacy of the work which He had accomplished for them; He would become a priest, being able through His life of humiliation and trial here below, to sympathise with His own in all their conflicts and difficulties.
Suffering or yielding; the flesh does not suffer but enjoys; the new man's need of succour against the flesh
He suffered — never yielded. We do not suffer when we yield to temptation: the flesh takes pleasure in the things by which it is tempted. Jesus suffered, being tempted, and He is able to succour them that are tempted. It is important to observe that the flesh, when acted upon by its desires, does not suffer. Being tempted, it, alas! enjoys. But when, according to the light of the Holy Ghost and the fidelity of obedience, the Spirit resists the attacks of the enemy, whether subtle or persecuting, then one suffers. This the Lord did, and this we have to do. That which needs succour is the new man, the faithful heart, and not the flesh. I need succour against the flesh, and in order to mortify all the members of the old man.
Needed help given by the One who has suffered, being tempted; Jesus' faithfulness and love equally perfect
Here the needed help refers to the difficulties of the faithful
saint in fulfilling all the will of God. This is where he suffers,
this is where the Lord — who has suffered — can succour him. He
trod this path, He learnt in it that which can be suffered there
from the enemy, and from men. A human heart feels it, and Jesus had
a human heart. Besides, the more faithful the heart is, the more
full of love to God, and the less it has of that hardness which is
the result of intercourse with the world, the more will it suffer.
Now there was no hardness in Jesus. His faithfulness and His love
were equally perfect. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with
grief and weariness. He suffered being tempted.*
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