HEBREWS, Part 3

Hebrews 2:1—9

The real concern of this letter is made plain in verse 1: Since Jesus Christ is more than an angel—a Son—it is absolutely imperative that:

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (verse 1)

Since the Son is superior to the angels, His message is superior to theirs. They are, after all, just servants. The verb behind the English “pay the most careful attention” means to not only listen and think about what was heard, but to act on it. Inaction in spiritual things can be deadly, which is why this verse is verse is so emphatic and expressively written. The NEB brings this out in a forceful translation:

Thus we are bound to pay all the more heed to what we have been told for fear of drifting from our course.

The writer says that we—notice he includes himself—must direct our minds toward listening attentively to the Word and acting on what we have heard because if we don’t, those words may slip from our minds. The verb pararyomen, “drift away,” is a word used of such things as a ring slipping of a finger, and may mean “let them drift away,” meaning the words may drift away from disuse, or, as the NIV suggests, we may drift away if we don’t listen. Which is correct? Since the Greek is ambiguous, perhaps both ideas are correct. If we, hearers of God’s Word, don’t put to work what we have heard, we are in danger of: (1) forgetting the teachings of the Word, and (2) because we haven’t lived up to what we have heard, we could find ourselves drifting away from the Lord.

Either way, this is a stern, sober warning to all believers: practice what you have been taught! Don’t just read the Bible, understand it and live it!

1. The Message, vs. 2, 3a

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?

The exhortation in the previous verse is clinched by some brilliant logic. The “message spoken through angels” refers to the Law that God gave to the Israelites from Mount Sinai. Even though the Old Testament accounts in Exodus and Deuteronomy don’t mention angels in relation to the giving of the Law, both Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Galatians) do.

This Word—logos in the Greek—though coming through angels, was God’s Word. He was the One who made the covenant with His people, not the angels. It was really God who was speaking, and the Israelites took that Word seriously. The logic is simple: If you took the Word coming from angels that seriously, how much more seriously should you take the Word from God regarding His Son? If it was a serious offense to disregard the Law mediated by angels, it is, necessarily, much more serious to neglect the salvation mediated by the Son!

2. The Testimony, vs. 3b, 4

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

This great salvation “was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” This salvation was spoken by the Lord, and later by the apostles and other disciples and their testimony was supported by God’s own witness:

God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles… (vs. 4a)

Even though the Great Commission was given by Jesus to His apostles, they—and in fact no preacher—is ever left to bear God’s message alone. No less that God shares in the work of preaching the Word!

God was pleased to commit His Word to man, not angels, but He went even further. He gave “signs, wonders, and miracles” to strengthen and prove that Word. The Gospel is not the creation of any preacher, and the early hearers were not left in doubt about that! Demonstrations of the supernatural were commonplace in the early Church because the listeners needed know the divine origins of the new and revolutionary message they were hearing. The New Testament hadn’t been written yet; all congregations had were the sermons and teachings of the apostles and early evangelists. As time wore on, of course, fewer demonstrations of the supernatural accompanied the preaching of the Word because the Word was able to stand on its own and to testify to itself. Paul was writing letters by now. The Gospels were being written and circulated, and lives were being changed by the preaching of the Word. As impressive as miracles seem to some people, nothing is more impressive than a changed life and a sinner gloriously set free by the mighty Word of God!

But even more than that, the truth and power of the Word of God is demonstrated a powerful phenomena:

by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (vs. 4b)

There were, and there are, manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, and the writer to the Hebrews sees this as confirming the Gospel. These various gifts are given as God wills; even though man exercises them, they come from God. Just like the Word, the gifts of the Spirit do not originate with man, but with God.

We don’t know who wrote this letter to the Hebrews, but he had the heart of a pastor who cares for his people. Nothing is more disturbing to a pastor than those in his care who recklessly disregard the Word of God. Neglecting the Word of God is probably more dangerous than outright opposition to it. Neglect of the Word of God is what caused the Jews to slip away. It’s insidious because by the time you realize you’ve neglected the Word, it’s too late to do anything about it.

3. The Glory and Honor of the Son, vs. 5—9

This group of verses seems disjointed from what came before, but it is connected. Having just looked at the “great salvation” Jesus Christ won for His own, the writer goes on to point out that not only did Jesus provide salvation, but that the whole world is subject to Him, not to man and not to angels. And, in a stroke of sheer genius, the writer links the Son of God with men, for in addition to being the Son of God, Jesus is also the Son of Man.

a. The world to come, vs 5

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.

Here is the true power of the Gospel. It is relevant not only to this present age, but is the key to the ages to come, including the New Heavens and the New Earth! Jesus Christ, the eternal Logos, cannot be separated from His Gospel. But at the same time, He cannot be separated from man, for He was one. As awesome as angels may be, to man in general, and to Jesus Christ in particular, has been given the right to rule the world to come.

b. The ruler to come, vs. 6-8a

The writer again quotes from the Psalms, this time from Psalm 8:4—6, which reveals man’s place in God’s plan.

But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.

Let’s face it, as great as man may think he is, against the size and scope of the universe, human beings are pretty puny. We must appear to God like an ant appears to us! So, why then, is God mindful of us? Why does He care so much for us and about us?

Actually, these verses represent the psalmist’s own commentary on Genesis 1:26, which states succinctly what God’s purpose for man is. As Creator, God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty, God made an administrative decision: man, not angels, would have the responsibility to exercise dominion of the Earth. God’s purpose for man, incidentally, is at odds with the current “green movement,” which views human beings as a blight on Mother Earth. While many of the modern environmental movements and animal preservation movements seem harmless, believers would do well to exercise spiritual discernment to see if their philosophies are at odds with Scripture.

Man’s conquest of nature is part of the natural order ordained by God and cannot, therefore be displeasing to Him. However, the command to subdue his world included, not only the physical world, but also the spiritual. Man was created to pursue the spiritual things, as well. Furthermore, man was originally created to subdue the devil and to conquer the kingdom of Satan.

How highly must God have thought of man, His crowing achievement in terms of creation.

c. His present impotence, vs. 8b

Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.

Sadly, man sinned; instead of subduing Satan and conquering his kingdom, man caved into the Devil. Therefore, man’s dominion of the Earth has been, temporarily, disrupted. While man has some dominion over the Earth, many things on Earth stop man from subduing it. Things like bad weather, ferocious animals, and so on keep man from being the ruler of his domain. Some things he has mastered well, but especially in the spiritual realm, he has failed miserably. The presumptive masters of Satan have, for the time being, become his captives.

d. Fulfilled in Jesus, 9

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Had the author stopped at verse 8, he would have left us with a depressing picture of fallen man. At present, God’s purpose for man is undone and cannot be fulfilled because man is riddled with sin. But in verse 9, he goes on to point out something very profound and uplifting when it is understood. While at the present time we see man running afoul of God’s plan for Him, we also see Jesus, who has taken the position of man, a little lower than the angles, so God’s plan for sinful man could be fulfilled in Him. We may not see man as the conquerer he was created to be right now, but we do see Jesus, the Second Adam, through whom redeemed man will not only have a second chance but is guaranteed success because, unlike the first Adam, our Second Adam succeeded.

From the perspective of the writer to the Hebrews, then, the very first reason given for the Incarnation is so that God’s great purpose for man might finally come to pass.

The second reason for Jesus become the Son of Man is so that He might, by the grace of God, “taste death for everyone.” It was His shameful death, which was a source of embarrassment to the Hebrews, they needed to understand. The death of the Son of God was not a mistake or a failure, it originated in God’s amazing grace. It was the result of God’s compassionate determination to provide redemption for all men. Jesus, our Great Savior, tasted death “for every man.” He was our substitute! It was by God’s grace that Christ’s saving work was accomplished.

Grace, one of the greatest words in the English language. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews uses it in connection with the work of Christ!

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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