In Bringing Many Sons to Glory
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.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
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.
This passage clearly shows how fitting this salvation accomplished by a suffering Messiah is. These Hebrews were tempted to stumble at the stumbling block of Messiah’s sufferings. The author’s purpose is to show that the suffering of Jesus was the only way God could bring many sons to glory. His plan was not merely to forgive men of their sins but “to bring many sons to glory” (2:10). This is the Father’s great plan conceived before eternity, to have an entire family of sons patterned after His lovely Son.
In order for this to occur, the Captain of their salvation had to be made perfect through suffering. He is the Captain; the One Who opened the way and now leads the other sons in. The reference to Captain is an allusion to Joshua leading the sons of Israel into the land of Canaan. Both the Captain and those he sanctifies are all from the same family (the human family), an allusion to the Doctrine of the Incarnation. He, therefore, is not ashamed to call them brethren since He shares His humanity with them. The author now quotes three Old Testament texts to demonstrate that Messiah was a Man sharing His humanity with the rest.
He begins with Psalm 22, an entire Psalm celebrating his death at Calvary. In this verse, the Messiah strikes a note of triumphant joy and gladness befitting his resurrection. He now stands in the midst of His brethren and proclaims God’s name (Psalm 22:22).
The next verse is found in Isaiah 8:17. Reading the context of this verse, it is a great Messianic passage. Messiah becomes a “stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” Messiah is put forward there, trusting in His Father. Trust is only possible among created beings, so this demonstrates that he was made like us.
Finally, Isaiah 8:18 speaks of those the Father gave the Son to be his own.
These three verses demonstrate that Messiah became one with his brethren in order to redeem them.
Verses 14-18 set forth the necessity for the Incarnation in the clearest terms; it is that He might die! Nowhere does the New Testament promote the idea that his incarnation simply was a means of identifying with us. Rather, He shared their humanity in order to destroy him who had the power of death, the devil. Death entered the world through Satan; Jesus Christ’s death shattered death’s hold. The whole point of Christ’s death is to rescue; we have been rescued from death so that we are no longer those who fear death. One of the most fantastic things about our salvation is it completely removes from us the fear of death.
The author goes on to say that “surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (2:16). Why does he mention angels at this point? It could be that these Hebrews were being affected by an Essenic teaching that the Messianic age would be introduced by some great Angelic figure. But the author makes it clear that it is not angels that God is concerned with, but the descendants of Abraham.
Now the author introduces for the first time a theme that will occupy the major portion of the epistle—that Messiah had to become flesh and blood so that He could become our merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God. His Incarnation alone did not qualify Him to become the high priest. Rather, it required Him while human to become ‘merciful and faithful’ (merciful to us while faithful to God). His Incarnation and his willingness to suffer the same things that all the children of God suffer made him especially able to help those tempted.
“To make atonement for the sins of the people” is no doubt a reference to the Day of Atonement, that annual day when the high priest made atonement for the people. The actual word the author uses is often translated by the English word propitiation, which refers to the Mercy Seat in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. “Propitiation means ‘averting the wrath of God by the offering of a gift.’ It refers to the turning away of the wrath of God as the just judgment of our sin by God’s own provision of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” (The Gospel Coalition, Propitiation).
The proof of his humanity is that he himself suffered when he was tempted. When one suffers, he begins to develop empathy for others, thus the meaning of the statement. His sufferings specifically prepared him for his role as our high priest, which will be the subject of the largest section in the epistle.