Completed through His Suffering

  • Text: Hebrews 2:1-10
  • Series: Christ in the New Covenant, Pt. 4
  • Date: Sunday, May 20, 2018 – AM
  • Venue: Trinity Baptist Church – Seminole, Oklahoma
  • Speaker: Jared Byrns
  • Audio: mp3

Last Sunday morning, we began our study of Hebrews chapter 2, by looking at part of verse 10 to see what it means that Jesus is the Captain of our salvation. The word ἀρχηγός, which we read as Captain is a complex word, and it’s difficult to find any single English word that encompasses all of its shades of meaning. Nevertheless, it points to the unique role of Jesus in salvation. The human race needs someone Who can pick us up out of the pit of sin and carry us to salvation, and Jesus is the ἀρχηγός—the Chief-Bringer, Who can bring us to a right relationship with the Father.

Then, as we focused on verses 1-4, we saw that the salvation He brings is the only means of escape from the righteous judgment of a holy God. We saw that because God’s standard of holiness is unchanging, because His notice of every act of disobedience is unavoidable, and because His judgment is certain, there’s no way to escape that judgment if we neglect the salvation Jesus has provided, by looking for salvation somewhere else.

Today, we’re coming back to Hebrews chapter 2 to continue our look at the role of Jesus in salvation. Please turn there with me in your Bibles, to Hebrews chapter 2. Verses 1-10 say:

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 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. 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 whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Verses 5-10 point us to the humanity of Jesus, but don’t assume that means that Jesus is just a man. It would’ve been ridiculous for the writer of Hebrews to spend all of chapter 1 arguing that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God only to turn around in chapter 2 and make Him out to be just another ordinary human being like you and me. This passage is talking about Jesus taking on a human nature in addition to His divine nature.

Now, this is a complicated subject, and it would take a separate message—if not a whole series of messages—to go through the Bible and do an in-depth study about Jesus’ nature. But, in the next couple of minutes, I’ll try instead to give you a brief outline of the subject—just enough to help us grasp the meaning of these verses. We’re scratching the surface of some deep theology this morning but stick with me because these doctrines actually matter in our understanding of how Jesus paid the price for our salvation.

Let’s start here: Jesus is God the Son. As the only begotten Son of God, He is God by nature—that’s just Who He is, and Who He always has been. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” He possesses all the attributes of God because He is fully God. But when His flesh was conceived by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, He took on a human nature as well. John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” It says He was made flesh. He didn’t come merely to look like one of us; He came to be one of us. So, He’s also fully man. He retained all the attributes of God while gaining all the attributes of man—except for our sin nature.

When ancient Christians were trying to make sense of these two natures, they wrote out what we now call the Chalcedonian Creed. It’s not inspired Scripture, but it’s a good summary of what Scripture teaches about His nature. In one section, it says Jesus has:

“two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son.”

—“The Symbol of Chalcedon,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds2.iv.i.iii.html

Historical Christianity teaches that Jesus is one Person with two natures—one human and one divine—that are united in the sense that they work together in harmony but not in the sense that they are combined into one new nature. Jesus became just as much a human as we are, while still being just as much God as the Father is.

It’s hard to fathom. That’s why the churches got together and wrote this summary at Chalcedon—because so many people were getting it wrong. For my part, I have to admit: I believe what the Bible teaches, but I don’t fully understand the mechanics of how this all works. No finite human brain is big enough to hold exhaustive knowledge of our infinite God. So we’re like sailors, trying to comprehend the magnitude of the iceberg when all we can see is the tiny fraction above the surface.

But this tiny fraction of knowledge is essential. It’s vital for us to realize that Jesus could become a man without losing His divine nature. He had to be human to die for our sins, and He had to be God for His sacrifice to count. So Jesus, God the Son, took on human nature so that he could complete the work of salvation.

Let’s look at verse 5. It says, “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” When it says, “hath he not,” the 17th Century English word order is a little confusing, but that’s not a question—it’s a statement: ‘He has not.’ The writer was telling his audience that God hasn’t given the angels dominion over His creation. No matter how impressed the readers were by the angels, they have never been the focus the focus of God’s plans.

Jesus is the focus of God’s plans, because God’s desire has always been, as Titus 2:14 puts it, to “redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” God desires a relationship with His creations, with a people who would choose to have that fellowship. But for this relationship to be possible, Jesus would have to redeem humanity. For Jesus to redeem humanity, He would have to die for humanity. For Jesus to die, He would have to become human.

Verses 6, 7, and 8 talk about humanity, and they quote directly, verse-for-verse, from the Septuagint translation of Psalm 8:4-6. Verse 6 says, “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?” The writer of the Psalm being quoted was King David. When the writer of Hebrews wrote, “one in a certain place testified,” it wasn’t because he forgot where the verse came from. It was a well-known passage, so it was assumed that his audience would have known where it came from without introduction.

In this Psalm, David expressed amazement that God would even care about man at all, let alone bless us so abundantly. He asked, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” Considering how mighty and how awesome God is, David was amazed that God would even think about man and give us a place in His plans. Compared to God, we’re insignificant, so David was pointing out how incredible it is that God would think about us.

Then David asked a similar question: What is “the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Why would God look at the frail, offspring of man and take the time, not only to notice but to care? Why would He look out for us? Why would He love us? The answer is not that we are lovable by nature, but that God is loving. It’s an incredible thing! And the writer of Hebrews used David’s expression of amazement to remind his readers that God didn’t have to love us and save us—but He did, and He does, because that’s Who He is.

Then, verse 7 says, “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels.” I need to back up for a second and point out that a lot of Bible teachers think these verses from Psalms quoted in Hebrews refer specifically to Jesus: Psalm 8:4-6 would be a prophecy, and Hebrews 2:6-8 would be pointing to the fulfillment. They tend to think this because of the mention of the son of man. But the phrase “son of man” is used several times in the Old Testament—sometimes in ways that can’t possibly refer to Jesus. Take Numbers 23:19, for example, where it talks about the son of man needing to repent. That’s not Jesus—the verse is saying God is not like that son of man. Son of man can sometimes be used to apply to any of the literal offspring of mankind. In some of the Old Testament mentions of the son of man, including Numbers 23:19 and Psalm 8:4, the phrase son of man is son of אָדָם (‘â-dâm) in Hebrew. אָדָם is where we get the name Adam. You have to be careful with the phrase “son of man;” sometimes it means Jesus, sometimes it means any of Adam’s descendants. You just have to look at the context.

In this case, it appears to me that David was talking about regular human beings and expressing his amazement that God would care about such feeble creatures as us. This description of being made lower than the angels in verse 7 is applied to Jesus in verse 9 as He became a man. But I believe the passage from Psalms quotes in verses 6-8 is about man, and was then connected to Jesus in verse 9 by the writer of Hebrews to make a point about Him taking on human nature.

Now, when it says that man is made lower than the angels, it doesn’t mean we’re less valuable to God or that He loves us less. Like the angels, we are spiritual beings, but unlike the angels we have to deal with the struggles of physical existence in our flesh. II Corinthians 5:2 teaches that we are stuck with a sense of longing for the glorified bodies we will one day receive. The angels have theirs. You and I are lower than the angels in form, but not in our value to God, as we can see in this passage. He values us because we are His.

He didn’t create the angels to have dominion; He created us for that. Look at the rest of verses 7 and 8. The text says, “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.”

God gave us a place of pre-eminence in creation. Man was crowned with glory and honor because we were created in the image of God. Man was set over the works of God’s hands with the rest of creation in subjection because He made us to be His stewards. Genesis 1:27-29 says:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

God created us to have fellowship with Him and set us up as the stewards of His creation. But the Bible doesn’t mention this just to tell us how awesome we are. Don’t forget that what this passage from Hebrews and Psalms says about humanity is to remind us how awesome God is. Our value doesn’t come from us, it comes from the fact that we are His. These verses challenge us to recognize how small we are and to glorify God for all He has done for us.

Even though God created us for fellowship with Him and dominion over creation, there is a problem. We chose sin instead. We chose to rebel against God and walk away from Him. The end of verse 8 says, “But now we see not yet all things put under him.”

It might sound like a contradiction to say that all things are under man and then turn right around and say that all things are not under man. But that’s not quite what this verse is saying. The message is a little clearer in the English Standard Version, which says, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” So God did put the rest of creation in subjection to man, but we don’t see it there today. We see death, disease, natural disasters—we see danger and destruction of all sorts. Why? Because of sin. Romans 5:12 tells us that the presence of sin unleashed death on the world.

Man is the most fortunate of species. Not merely because God created us to have dominion—but because we are the only creatures that can know our Creator. We were created to have a relationship with Him, to have fellowship with Him. We forfeited all of that, and we can’t get it back. But there is a solution. You see, God didn’t just show His love for us in elevating such lowly creatures to a place of honor at the top of the food chain—He showed this unfathomable love for us by lowering Himself to become a man.

That almost feels wrong to say, but it’s what the Bible tells us. Jesus Christ, God the Son, actually became a man!

Look at verse 9. It says, “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.” I already discussed what it means to be “made a little lower than the angels” when we looked at verse 7. Here in verse 9, it means that Jesus took on human nature. It means God became a man. Again, Jesus didn’t stop being God when He came to Earth—He added a fully human nature to His already fully divine nature.

This verse also tells us why He became a man: “for the suffering of death.” Jesus had to become a man in order to suffer and die for man. God is eternal. God cannot come into existence and cannot go out of existence. He doesn’t die. He just is. But with a fully human nature and a human body, Jesus could be nailed to the cross, and He could suffer and die as a sinless man to pay for the crimes of sinful men. Think about this; don’t miss this point. This is how much God loves you: God the Son stooped down to become a man so that He could take the punishment for every sin you will have ever committed, even though those sins are committed against Him. You needed someone to pay for your sins, and God became a man just to do that.

But He was still God, so verse 9 says He was “crowned with glory and honour.” He suffered the indignity and the anguish of a cruel death on the cross, but that’s not where His story ended. Because He’s God, He rose from the dead—once despised and rejected, now to be recognized for Who He is. Because He’s God, the payment He made on our behalf was all-sufficient, and He receives the reward of honor and glory from the grateful hearts of those who have been redeemed by His ultimate sacrifice. And because He’s God, every knee will one day bow before Him, and every tongue will, in the words of Philippians 2:11, “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Ultimately, He will receive the glory and honor He deserves for what He has done for us.

Verse 9 also says, “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Jesus tasted death for every person—no matter what we’ve done—so that those who will believe on Him will be saved. This salvation is offered to us because of the grace of God. The simplest explanation I can give you this morning of what grace means is undeserved kindness. And that’s where the offer of salvation comes from. We’ve done nothing to deserve it, and we’ve done nothing to earn it. It is simply the undeserved kindness of God toward us that God the Son was willing to taste death for us and that God the Father is willing to forgive us.

Now, let’s look at verse 10. It says, “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.”

In the middle of the verse, there’s a little note of reminder that it’s all about God. Saying “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things” means that God made all things—including us—for His glory. Take out this little note, and you’ll see the main point of the verse: “For it became him […] in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” To say, “it became him,” means that it was suitable or proper. And “bringing many sons unto glory” refers God’s plan of redemption, where He takes sinners out of the depths of depravity, forgives us, declares us righteous, and adopts us as His sons and daughters. The only way for God to bring us to glory was to make the Captain of our salvation “perfect through sufferings.”

Jesus has always been sinless. That’s not what the word “perfect” means here. It means complete. There was only one condition on which God could forgive us—the work of salvation had to be completed through the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the cross.

That’s why I put so much emphasis at the beginning of the message on the fact that Jesus is both God and man. The only way God’s plan of salvation would ever work is for the sinless God-man, Jesus Christ, to suffer, bleed, and die on the cross to bear the penalty that you and I deserved. He couldn’t die unless He was human, and He couldn’t atone for sin unless He was God. Because He’s both, He completed the work of our salvation at the cross.

That’s what this whole passage is about: God loving man so much, in spite of our sin, that God the Son became one of us simply so He could die to provide for our salvation.

Some of you in this room today who are believers may be enduring such trying circumstances that you feel like God is distant and doesn’t care. My friends, King David was amazed by just how much God cares for us. And when we think of what Jesus did on the cross, it should be all the proof we need that God loves us and desires a relationship with His children. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The cross is the single most compelling piece of evidence of God’s love for us. If He was willing to go to those lengths to save you from Hell, then no one else has ever loved you so much as God has. With that in mind, fellow believers, we ought to remember what He has done for us—no matter what our feelings may tell us. We should be amazed by His love and care, and we should live our lives to glorify Him out of thankfulness for all He has done.

For those who’ve never trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, you need to know that He can forgive your sins today because He paid for them and completed your salvation on the cross. Every disobedient act, word, or thought, separates you from God. But Jesus paid for it all on the cross. You can’t save yourself. You can’t possibly be good enough to live up to God’s standard of sinless perfection. But Jesus paid the price for your sins in full. Today, you can have a clean slate with God, you can be adopted as a son or daughter of God, and you can be assured of eternal life in Heaven with God.

Because Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross to pay for your sins in full, you can be saved by believing in Jesus as your only Savior. Admit that you’re a sinner who can’t save yourself. Believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins in full and rose again. And ask God’s forgiveness for your sins. We have the promise of God that when we trust Christ, we will be saved, because Jesus completed the work of salvation through His suffering on the cross.

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The above text is a rush transcript of the message and may contain errors.

© 2018, Jared Byrns. All rights reserved.