FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30am service, 2003-09-14

Text: Hebrews 2:5-18

We have started a series of messages on the theme 'Christ, Supreme in our lives'. In the first message that we had last week, our main focus was on the deity of Jesus Christ. We saw how the deity of Jesus is well attested by His divine names (Son, God, Lord), His divine works (Creation and sustanence of it), His divine character (God's image, righteousness), His position (heir, at the Father's right hand, higher than angels), His eternal existence.

As we move on in our study of the book of Hebrews, we see a very wonderful truth about Christ now revealed - the truth of His Humanity. This doctrine is just as important as the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. In the early church the Humanity of Christ was attacked by a false doctrine called Docetism. This claimed that Christ only looked like a man and was not really man. But without the humanity of Christ there can be no salvation. As John Calvin put it, Christ, the Son of God became the Son of Man so that we, who are sons of men, may become the sons of God. He came down to earth, so that we might go up to heaven. He took on our frail human nature, so that we might put on His divine nature (i.e. restoring the image of God in us)! What a marvelous truth this is!

But why did He do this? He did this because this was what God had intended for us from the time of creation. The first chapter of Genesis records how God created the universe, and then created man in His own image, so that man may have dominion over the earth, and one day even over all the angels. What a great honour God has reserved for puny creatures like us to exercise dominion over what He has created! Lest we should feel greatly exalted to be allotted such dominion, we only need to look up into the vast extent of outer space, and then we will realise how small and insignificant we really are. And when we think of the millions of mighty angelic beings that God has made to glorify Him around His throne, we will realise how unworthy we are to be bestowed with such dominion over this world. Who are we, that we should be so privileged?

The same sense of wonder and amazement was expressed by king David some 3000 years ago in Psalm 8:3-9 - 'When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!'

Now although God made man to exercise such dominion, man is not able to exercise complete dominion today. God's original plan for man is not being fulfilled. Something has gone wrong! There are things that are still beyond man's control like pain, disease, suffering, fear and most of all, death. There are natural disasters like floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and extreme weather conditions that make man's life difficult (Recently we heard of the deaths of thousands in Europe during a bad heatwave). There are thorns and thistles on plants, stings and venom and sharp fangs on animals, and all these combine to make this world a hard and hostile environment for man to live in! There is no end to the battle that man has to fight against nature every day despite all his advances in science and technology. And every time you visit a very sick friend or relative in hospital, you realise how frail and helpless man really is. Many of us here are already beset with failing vision, hearing problems, and chronic ailments that come with age. None of us can stop the process of growing old that ends with death. 

Even the great emperor of China, Shi Huang Ti, was so troubled by this fact that though he had conquered many lands and built China into a powerful kingdom he would be defeated by death. So he craved for a cure for death, and he heard a rumour that such a cure could be found in the islands of Japan. He sent a group of people to find the cure and warned them that they would be executed if they returned empty handed. The people never returned. Their descendants became the Japanese people of today. Shi Huang Ti never found his cure for death, and so he succumbed to it. This goes to show that man at his very best is still a mortal creature, subject unto death!

I think that we all know why these things dominate our lives so much today - it is because of man's sin. Sin has reduced man from being the divinely appointed custodian over this world, to becoming a slave to it, and to death.

The book of Hebrews brings out this truth in v.8 '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.' Up to this point, it would seem that man had forfeited forever the honoured place he was given by God. Given the opportunity to exercise dominion, he forfeited it, or 'blew it' so to speak. 

He was given a life of absolute bliss in paradise, but tragically he lost it. What hope does he have of regaining the paradise that he lost? 

A. Christ Dying for Us

The answer comes to us in the next verse: v.9 '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.' 

'But we see Jesus!' what sweetness these words convey to our hearts! According to this verse, Jesus became as one of us. He took on our human nature, while retaining in full His own divine nature, and willingly lowered Himself all the way down to the level of puny man, lower even than the angels. And then as the new representative of the human race, He broke the dominion of death over man. He freed man from being subjected to death.

Now, since Christ is the new representative, you may want to know who was the old one? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 15:21,22 'For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.' Adam was our former representative. This verse also answers another question: How do we know that Christ has absolutely and finally broken the dominion that death had over us? By Christ's own resurrection from the dead. But who are the ones who will be resurrected from the dead to have the same kind of glorious incorruptible body that He had? Only those who are His, those who believe in Him. Hebrew 2:10 tells us 'For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.'

Note the words 'many sons'. This is a reference only to those who have become sons of God by trusting in Christ's death for their salvation. This point is useful in answering a question that people sometimes ask us to answer - concerning the phrase in v.9 'that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.' Does this mean that Christ death actually saves every single man? I.e. is salvation universal? No. It only means that Christ is the only representative that is available for every man to have deliverance from death, and is offered freely to all. There is no other representative that they can choose, except Him. And the only ones who will finally benefit from this are those who make Christ their representative by receiving Him into their hearts. 

This can be summarised in the words of Augustine: 'hrist's death is sufficient for all (v.9 - 'taste death for every man'), but efficient for the elect (v.10 - 'bringing many sons to glory).' Only those who have received Jesus Christ into their hearts as Lord and Saviour will have the privilege of being totally delivered from the ravages ofksin and death, and of experiencing the paradise that Christ has regained for us. Have you received Jesus into your heart? If you haven't, please do not wait any longer. The day of salvation may be ending soon. We are living in the end times.

The day is soon coming when we will see all of us exercising the dominion that God had originally planned for man to have over this world. That will be the state of things during the millennial rule of Christ on earth, when we will reign on earth with Him (2:9). Death, pain and suffering will no longer have dominion over us because we will be living in new, resurrected bodies. The curse of sin will be removed from nature, so that there will be no more thorns and thistles, poisonous stings and flesh-eating animals to trouble us anymore. These thousand years will truly "e a paradise regained!

B. Christ Identified With Us

In order regain paradise for us, Jesus had to become fully identified with us. Without this, Jesus could never be our leader, our head or as v.10 puts it, the Captain of our salvation. What use is a leader who does not know not understand the plight of his people? This is why v.10 says that the captain of our salvation had to be made perfect through sufferings. Someone may ask, 'Does this having to be made perfect mean that Jesus was less than perfect before He became a man?' Not at all. The word 'perfect' here is used to convey the idea of complete identification with us. In history, the best leaders have always been those who identified completely with their people. 

One example was a king of Russia by the name of Peter. As a young man he joined the Russian army. Instead of immediately accepting a commander's post (which he could easily have accepted), he chose to start right at the bottom and enlist as a private. Although he was king, he had to do all the unpleasant menial work like cleaning the army barracks. But he worked his way up the ranks until he became the commander-in-chief of his own army. He also built up his navy to become a formidable force. He was actually the best ruler that Russia ever had, because he knew the hardship and suffering of those at the grassroots level very well.

The same thing is even more true of Christ, the Captain of our salvation - he too had to go through a life of suffering and deprivation at the grassroots level to be perfectly identifed with us. It is no wonder that the prophet Isaiah called Him 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.' (Isaiah 53:3) V.11 of our text emphasises how complete His identification with us became as a result of this 'For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren'. This term 'brethren' is taken from verse 22 of Psalm 22, a messianic psalm, and it means 'Brothers'.

Dearly beloved you must be amazed that Jesus, who is God Himself, the highest of all, should call you His brothers. It should mean a lot to us, because it speaks of His close intimacy and familiarity with us. When Christ calls you His 'brother' he is saying that He is just like a family member to you. He fully identifies with you in all your griefs, sorrows, fears, disappointments and frustrations. Is there any feeling you have that Jesus cannot understand? No. Is there any difficulty or fear you have that He cannot appreciate? Not at all. Why? It is because Jesus became like us. And this is now what the writer of Hebrews says in the first part of v.14:

C. Christ Becoming Like Us

'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same' Verse 16 emphasizes that Jesus did not take on the nature of angels, but the nature of Abraham's sons. He became fully man. In his full humanity Christ was hungry, tired and thirsty. He lived without the comfort and luxury, enjoyed by the rich. He was born in a stable and raised in a carpenter's house. When He began His ministry at the age of 30 he traveled all over Israel on foot. In Matthew 8:20 Jesus Himself said, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.'

In John 4, Jesus was so tired after two days of journey on foot, that He sat down at a well and had to ask a woman who came to the well to draw some water for Him to drink. In John 11, when his good friend Lazarus died, we see our Lord in His full humanity weeping with the two bereaved sisters. In fact the shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 'Jesus wept.' Though this verse only has two words it speaks volumes! 

It speaks of the fact that in the fullness of time, the Lord our God came Himself down from His highest ranking majesty, and glory to join the common ranks of frail humanity. The book of Hebrews says that He took part of the same flesh and blood nature that we have. What great condescension!

One can hardly imagine such a dignified head or monarch like our country's President or the Queen of England working for years in a factory production line or working as a garbage collector in one of our HDB estates! The mere thought of this would be utterly revolting to them. How much more revolting then would the thought be to our Lord, of becoming a frail lowly creature of flesh and blood? And not only that, but to be incarnated into a world that is saturated with sin, wrongdoing, evil schemes and crimes that He hates? What great endurance!

Seeing how far Jesus had to condescend, and what He had to endure to become like us in all things, we now ask, Why did Jesus become like us? There are altogether four distinct purposes. The first two are found in v.14,15 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.'

Firstly, He came to die. Since human nature had become sinful, He came to pay in full the penalty that human nature deserves - which is death! Secondly, He came to destroy the devil. The devil has been taking full advantage of man's natural fear of death to keep them in bondage to himself. This fear of death is one of the greatest driving forces of man. We Chinese call it 'kiasi.' King David testified how such fear gripped him when he was being pursuedkby his enemies - Psalm 55:3,4 'Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.' As a result of these fears, David unwisely resorted to using pretense and deceit in order to preserve himself. And today, that same fear still causes man to resort to sinful means and ways, just to find a way to escape from it. 

Two more purposes for the incarnation are found in vv.17,18 'Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliatio. for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.'

Here we learn that Jesus came to make reconciliation for our sins as our great high priest. From ancient times it was recognised that the 'priests' were the ones who stood in the gap between the people and God, in order to bridge that gap, and restore the relationship that had been broken by sin.

And the fourth purpose for Christ's incarnation given in v.18 is that through this He is now able to succour them that are tempted. By becoming a man like us, Jesus now knows by experience how to deal with tempted sorrowful souls, because He Himself has been tempted and also greatly troubled in His soul. 

Matthew 4 describes how Jesus was sorely tempted by the Devil for 40 days while He was in the wilderness. When our Lord was in the garden of Gethsemane, He agonised in anticipation of being crucified, and He told His disciples 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me.' (Matthew 26:38) This truth is very precious to us.

All this means that whatever temptations and trials you have faced, whatever moments when your soul was greatly troubled, you can rest assured that our Lord Jesus understands them perfectly. Why? because He has been through them all before! That makes Him such a wonderful Saviour for us! 

As we end our study of chapter two of Hebrews, let us fully appreciate the wonderful truths that we have learned about Christ from this chapter - We have seen how He died to regain for us the paradise that was lost so that God's original plan for man to have dominion over the world can be fulfilled. We have seen how He suffered while He was on earth so that He can be perfectly identified with us. We have seen how Jesus was incarnated to become like us so that He could die for our sins, destroy the devil, reconcile us with God and help us our temptations and trials.

As we meditate on all these things, let us realise just how greatly Jesus loves us to have done all these things for us. Can you see now what a great Saviour and Friend we have in Him? What will you do now? If you haven't turned to Jesus yet, please do so right now. Why do you tarry so long to make such a wonderful Lord your Saviour? Don't you realize that there is no one else who can save you? Don't you know that He loves you and cares for you? 

It would be a most tragic thing indeed for anyone of you here to continue to refuse to turn Jesus after hearing this message, because it would mean turning away from the One who has condescended to become a man like you, to identify completely with you, in order to save you. Won't you stop resisting His calls to you to be saved. Jesus says, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.' (Matthew 11:28-30) Won't you open your heart right now and ask Him to take away all your sins and be your Saviour forever? My prayer for anyone here who is still unsaved is that you will come to Jesus right now.

And for those of you who have already turned to Christ and have been saved, my prayer for you is that you will respond to what you have heard today with much greater love and appreciation for your Lord Jesus Christ. Such a Saviour as our Lord Jesus surely deserves our heart's deepest praises. Rededicate yourself now to know Him and to serve Him well. Go and tell your loved ones and friends all about Him, so that they may find Him to be their Wonderful Counsellor, their great Redeemer and Friend. May this renewed knowledge of Christ as the Suffering Son of Man stir up your heart now to greater heights of devotion to Him, so that you may make Him supreme in your life.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25