Sanctification and Incarnation – Hebrews 2

Read the Passage: Hebrews 2

Listen to the Redeemed Mind Podcast: Hebrews 2

Exhortation to Man (2:1–4)

In Heb. 2:1–4 the author pens the first of several exhortation (or warning) passages in the book of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 3:7–4:13; 6:1–12; 10:26–31; 12:14–17; 12:25–29). While these warnings are each unique, a commonality between them is that in each of these passages the author is exhorting new or immature believers toward holiness (cf. Heb. 13:22). In starting the first warning passage with the term “therefore” (Heb. 2:1), the author is saying, in effect: Since Jesus is superior to the angels—indeed, to all things—Christians need to obey Him and to pursue personal sanctification. Note “the word spoke through angels” (Heb. 2:2) is a reference to the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses via an angel (cf. Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:7; Acts 7:38, 53; Gal. 3:19). The author’s point, then, is that if disobedience to the law of God produces divine judgment, then how much more will disobedience to the promises of God result in ruin.

While Christians understand that justification is a work of God (cf. Eph. 2:8–9), given the exhortations to holiness in Scripture (cf. 1 Pet. 1:15–16), as well as the warnings such as those in the book of Hebrews, it may seem logical to view sanctification as a work of man. Yet, the Bible is clear that sanctification is a work of God (cf. Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 2:11; 12:2). However, the way in which sanctification occurs is through man’s diligent pursuit of God, which includes ingesting the Word of God (cf. John 15:5; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13; 3:12). Said differently, regarding the sanctification of mankind, our efforts become God’s instrumentality, for God usually works by ordinary means, not through overt miracles. So, while justification necessarily will lead to sanctification, Scripture repeatedly exhorts believers to Christ-likeness, for man’s efforts are the proximate means of divine sanctification, which is ultimately facilitated by God.

Position of Jesus (2:5–9)

In Heb. 2:5 the author adds another piece of evidence to his case that Jesus is superior to the angels as he writes, “For God has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.” The thought here is that angels are not supreme, for they will not rule over the future Kingdom of God—a theme that the author had already touched upon in Heb. 1:8, 13. The author then continues in Heb. 2:6–8 by quoting Ps. 8:4–6. While man is presently “lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7), God has entrusted mankind with exercising dominion over the world (cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:15) and eventually ruling with Christ (cf. Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30), which will include—somewhat incredibly—judging the fallen angels (cf. 1 Cor. 6:3). Because of man’s sin, practically speaking, “We do not yet see all things put under him” (Heb. 2:8). Yet, “We see Jesus” (Heb. 2:9) who has been given all authority (cf. Matt. 28:18).

Redemption from God (2:10–18)

Having just emphasized the perfect humanity of Christ in Heb. 2:8–9, in Heb. 2:10–13 the author further highlights the connection between God and man. Yet, whereas the author had earlier focused upon the authority of God that was delegated to man, in this passage the author mentions the sufferings of man that were embraced by Christ. The suffering of Jesus “was fitting for Him” (Heb. 2:10) in at least two ways. First, Christ’s suffering identified Him with mankind in his current plight of misery. Second, in His death, Jesus’ suffering affirmed the just nature of the present suffering of mankind and, since He was sinless, it demonstrated the substitutionary nature of Christ’s atonement. In Heb. 2:12–13 the author quotes Ps. 22:22; Isa. 8:17; and Isa. 8:18 to explain the kinship between God and man, as well as to demonstrate that this unity between God and man was prophesied in the Old Testament.

Heb. 2:14–18 may be one of the more well-known passages in the book of Hebrews. Here the author furthers his discussion about the relationship between God and man, as he shows the necessity of Jesus’ full humanity, which does not infringe upon His complete deity. Furthermore, in this passage the author discloses at least five reasons why Jesus took on “flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14) and willingly died on the cross in the place of fallen mankind. These reasons are: first, Jesus died in order to “destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14); second, Jesus died in order to “release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15); third, Jesus died in order to “give aid to the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16); fourth, Jesus died in order to “make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17); and fifth, Jesus died in order to “aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17).

Application Questions:

  1. What is the gospel? How would you explain God’s plan of salvation to someone who has no Christian background or knowledge of Scripture?
  2. Why do so many Christians never seem to bear any spiritual fruit? What does a lack of a desire to follow Jesus indicate about professing Christians?
  3. If faith without works is dead (cf. Jas. 2:17), why do the authors of Scripture repeatedly exhort believers toward good works?
  4. Do you take God’s command to exercise dominion over the earth seriously? In what areas of your life have you brought order from chaos?
  5. Have you meditated much about why Jesus was incarnated and what His death on the cross accomplished for mankind?