Having established in chapter one that Jesus is superior to the fathers, prophets and angels, the Hebrew writer stops to issue the first of many warnings. He exhorts them to "pay all the more attention to what we have heard" (Moffatt translation). The recipients of the book, Jewish Christians, were apparently on the brink of turning from Christ to go back to Judaism. The writer argues since Jesus is so superior to the fathers, prophets and angels then we should pay much closer attention to the message revealed through Jesus.
To further clarify and press the point the author compares "the word spoken through angels", the Law of Moses (cf.Acts 7:38,53; Gal.3:19), and "so great a salvation", the message of Christ which they had heard (v.1,3). "The word spoken through angels" proved steadfast by virtue of the fact that those who transgressed or disobeyed that law received their just reward, or punishment. Such people died "without compassion" (10:28) since they were deserving of such punishment. The recipients of the book were well aware of the steadfastness of the Law and the just punishment for those who would disobey it. The author then asks, "how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?" In other words, since Jesus is so superior to the messenger of the Old Law, there can be no doubt His message will also prove steadfast and render punishments greater than those for the Old Law. If there was no escape from punishment under the Old Law then surely there will be no escape under the Law of Christ. Indeed, "how shall we escape"? There is great danger in neglecting the Law of Christ.
The subject left off in chapter one verse 14, showing the superiority of Jesus, is now resumed. The author first shows the lowliness and dignity of man in general (v.5-8) by referring to Psalms 8:4-6. In comparison with all God created man is quite small. Yet God is mindful of us and supplies us with those things we have need of. As far as rank is concerned, man is "a little lower than the angels." God crowned man with glory and honor and put him in a position of authority over all that He had created (cf.Gen.1:26). "But now we see not yet all things subjected to him." When man sinned in the Garden of Eden (cf.Gen.3) he lost the glory and honor God had crowned him with and he lost authority over some things previously subjected to him. Death, for example, was no longer subject to man (cf.1 Cor.15:21,22).
Even though Jesus was above angels in rank (1:4-14), He humbled Himself and became a man (Phil.2:5-8), one "a little lower than the angels" (2:7,9). Why would Jesus for a time become lower than angels?
First, to restore man to his former glory (v.9-13). He suffered a death crowned with glory and honor for every man (v.9). By such He is able to bring "many sons unto glory" (v.10). He was also made perfect, wholly fitted, to be our author, or leader, in salvation (v.10; cf.5:7-9). Since He became a man like you and I, He is one of us and therefore calls us brethren (v.11-13). As His brethren we shall be glorified with Him (cf.Rom.8:16,17). Jesus became a man so he could restore man with the glory and honor he lost in the Garden of Eden (see also Rom.8:29,30).
Second, to destroy the power of Satan, redeeming man from the bondage of death (v.14-16). When man sinned in the Garden of Eden he lost power over death. Jesus became flesh and blood like you and I so He could, through the death on the cross, "bring to nought him that had the power of death...the devil" (v.14). When Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead on the third day, He conquered over death and Satan (see Gen.3:15; Matt.16:18; 1 Cor.15:21,22). By this triumph over death He was able to deliver us from the bondage of death (v.15; cf.Jn.8:31-36). What man lost in the Garden of Eden Jesus regained at Calvary. Jesus lowered Himself to become a man to help men. He did not lower Himself to help angels (v.16).
Third, to become qualified to be man's High Priest before God (v.17,18). When Jesus lowered Himself to become a man He became "in all things...like unto his brethren" (v.17). This was necessary so He could become a "merciful and faithful High Priest." To be merciful is to be compassionate or sympathetic. By experiencing the infirmities and trials of life He was able to feel the necessity of being faithful in the office of High Priest which involves two responsibilities: offering sacrifices and making intercession. Jesus had to become a man so He might sympathize with us and so He might be faithful to the great trust committed to Him to be our High Priest. Indeed He has been faithful in offering THE atoning sacrifice for all men.
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This page was last updated on Friday, May 29, 1998.