For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 5, 2007
The writer of Hebrews continues his discussion of Jesus Christ being better than the angels: "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." (2:1-4)
He says that if we are to pay attention to what the angels said in the Old Testament, how much more are we to pay attention to the words God Himself said when he walked among us? That was the purpose of the miracles Jesus did: to confirm His ministry. In fact that is the purpose of all Biblical miracles: to show a skeptic world that God is working through the person doing the miracles. This is a pet peeve of mine. You hear lots of people say that if they find some keys they lost, or something else like that, they say, "It was a miracle!" No it wasn't. It's not that God cannot help us or is incapable of doing something miraculous, but a miracle is something God does in public to prove that a person is a legitimate servant of God.
Sorry to go off on that.
The phrase, "It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard," is one of the sure giveaways that Paul was not the author of Hebrews. Paul spends a large portion of Galatians insisting that his gospel came straight from Jesus Christ himself, not from the Apostles or anyone else. The writer of Hebrews admits that he heard the Gospel second-hand. Paul would never make such a statement.
"It has been testified somewhere,
'What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.'
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
'I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.'" (2:6-12)
Jesus became a man so that He could redeem us to Himself. Not one of the angels could do this. This is sort of a continuation of the argument from the first chapter. Jesus humbly accepted a temporary placement below the angels by becoming a man. By this He accomplished the work of becoming the "captain of salvation" for mankind. So now Christ is able to bring us together with Him. We understand most of this now, but the purpose of this passage is to show that even the Old Testament foresaw this happening, even though most Jews did not see it.
"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (2:14-18, ESV)
Jesus did not become an angel, higher than mankind. He became just like us. This is the basis of our salvation. We will look into this concept a lot deeper in the coming chapters.