Hebrews 2:5–9 . . .
“Jesus, Made Fully Human”
Our author, still concentrating on the supremacy of the Son over angels, will now approach the same theme from a different angle. In chpt. 1, Jesus' deity was primarily in the forefront; in chpt 2, his perfect humanity makes Jesus superior to every angelic being.
Looking at our last three weeks' summaries (Heb. 1:2-4, 5–14; and 2:1–4), we first saw that Jesus, the Son, is vastly higher than angels (as evidenced by seven declarations). Second, to those seven declarations the author added seven citations from Old Testament Scripture. Then, he exhorted his readers to attend more carefully to what God has revealed through his Son; otherwise, complacency or neglect will cause them/us to drift away and suffer devastating consequences.
Today's commentary highlights the author's return to his exposition, taking up where he left off at the end of chpt. 1, now showing the Son's supremacy to the angels in a very different way. Jesus took on humanity (through his incarnation) so he could effectively save lost men, women, and children from the power of the devil (vv. 13–14), restoring their dignity and authority, which is why humans were created. We'll see vv. 5–9 as compelling transition verses that redirect our focus on this new theme of the incarnation wherein Jesus became, for a little while, lower than the angels.
The Comparison to Angels Continues (2:5)
The author continues to explain the meaning of his discussion of angels, making one more observation about them. Chapter 1 highlights Jesus' superiority in his deity; today's passage demonstrates his superiority in his humanity. The author's direct exhortation in 2:1–4 to "pay the most careful attention" was meant to be an attention getter. Verse 5 then builds on that "pay more careful attention to Jesus' words" exhortation, which is an integral part of knowing that Jesus isn't only Father God's Son but God himself. The text picks up and demonstrates the superiority of the Son in his humanity. In order to prove that Jesus, who's always been God, became a man, in order to save men, women, and children from Satan's power, the author references within vv. 6–8 a number of key elements of Psalm 8:4–6, which is highlighted in Warren's custom Bible bookmark.
So, before we focus on the today's text, it'll be important to understand and appreciate the meaning of Psalm 8:4–6, which the author invokes herein. Pastor/teacher/elder Bob Deffinbaugh says this about the flow of the argument of Psalm 8: "Its author (David) begins with a word of praise: 'O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!' The majesty to which David refers can be seen in the splendor of the heavens, which is but a reflection of the splendor of the Creator of the heavens (v. 1b). One can easily think of David’s recollection of his days as a young shepherd boy, lying out at night with his father’s flock, gazing into the heavens and marveling at the majesty of it all. Verse 2 commences the theme of the relationship of greatness with insignificance. David continues the same theme (of greatness and seeming insignificance) in vv. 3–8."
Continuing his commentary on Psalm 4, Deffinbaugh adds: "When David looks up at the heavens and contemplates their magnitude and majesty, he realizes how small and apparently insignificant he is. How can God take an interest in man, who is so small in the grand scheme of things (v. 4)? But just as God uses the utterances of little children to silence His foes, God has chosen to use men to rule over His majestic creation. . . It is difficult to miss the connection between Psalm 8:7 and Genesis 1:26. In Gen. 1, we see that when God created the world, He placed it under man’s authority; man was created in God’s image to rule over all of creation, including the animals, birds, and sea life. Insignificant 'man' (as he would appear when compared with the heavens) became very significant because God decreed it so."
The author of "Hebrews" chose to focus on Psalm 8:4–6 to buttress his statement that God didn't subject the world to come to the angels but to men. This authority to rule over creation is consistent with God’s statements at creation (Gen. 1:26), as well as later statements cited from Psalm 8. So we can conclude with the author of this epistle that God didn't intend that angels would rule in the age to come; man would rule with Jesus.
We'll now return to our study of todays "Hebrews" text. Clearly, angels are messengers of God (1:14). However, Jesus Christ is no mere angel; starting in v. 5, we'll see that Jesus is the redeemer of mankind in this world.
5It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking (2:5).
Humans, not angels: God never gave the angels the kind of dominion over the earth that man had originally been given (see Gen. 1:26–30). Angels don't have supremacy over this world or the world to come. As important as angels are in God’s way of salvation, the world to come isn't promised to them. The kingdom is for human creation; the portal into that world has already been opened by the Son who created it (Heb. 1:2). Angels have no salvation to gain or lose; they aren't sinners in need of God’s purifying grace. Human beings have everything to gain or lose by our response to the apostolic testimony of Jesus.
The Value of Scriptural Testimony (vv. 6–8)
Having made a comparison to show that it's more necessary to observe Christ's commandments than those the angels delivered, the author now confirms the consequences. First, he validates this by showing that Christ’s power is greater than that of the angels; more severe punishment will be suffered by those who act against Christ’s commandments than those who act against the angels' directives; he subsequently proves this on the authority of Scripture (v. 6a). A person who offends his Lord is punished more than one who sins against an angelic messenger or servant of the Lord. Clearly, Christ is Lord because God hasn't subjected the earth to angels but to Christ.
6But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?
7You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor
8and put everything under their feet.” [from Psalm 8:4–6]
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them (2:6–8).
The phrase "But there is a place where someone has testified" vaguely references the source of what the author will now declare. The Greek for this phrase suggests, "Someone somewhere has testified." Such vagary wasn't due to the writer's uncertainty but was to stress that it was Scripture that was speaking, not a mere human author. David's Psalm 8 is a wondering reaction to the majesty of the night sky as it reveals the power and wisdom of God while forcing the question: What part do puny human beings play in such a universe? The answer is that we were made a little lower than the angels, but then crowned with glory and honor. Everything has been put under our feet, which is a direct reference to Gen. 1:26.
The author commends the value of such scriptural testimony. First he states that the words of the Old Testament make witness to Christ: "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me" (John 5:39). Secondly, writings among the Jews — the Psalms — were of greater value than those they'd used in all their sacrifices. Thirdly, he gives authority to the speaker, namely, David, who enjoyed the greatest authority: "The man to whom it was appointed concerning the Christ of the God of Jacob, the excellent Psalmist of Israel said, . . ." (2 Sam. 23:1, Douay-Rheims Bible).
Citing the requisite authority (v. 6b), the author has done three things. He: (1) hinted at the mystery of the incarnation with "a son of man" (vv. 6b and 7a); (2) alluded to the passion (v. 7); and (3) referenced the mystery of the exaltation by emphasizing its glory, honor (v. 7c) and power (v. 8).
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote this about the incarnation: "But the cause of the Incarnation is God’s care of man. Therefore, he says: 'What is man?' as though in contempt. As if to say: Man is so unimportant when compared to God: 'All nations are before him as if they had no being at all, and are counted to him as nothing and vanity' (Isaiah 40:17). For if a person loves another and leaves him in wretchedness for a long time, he seems to have forgotten. But God loved the human race, both because He made it according to His own image and because He placed man in the midst of paradise. But after sin, because He did not come to man's aid immediately, He seems to have forgotten. Later He seems to have become mindful of him, when He sends a Redeemer: 'Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always' (Psalm 105:4)."
Continuing with his commentary, Aquinas writes: "Therefore, he says, 'What is man that you are mindful of him?' as if to say, If we consider man’s vileness, it is strange that You should be mindful of him who is so vile and so small. I say vile and small in nature, especially in regard to his substance (Gen. 2:7; Isa. 64:8)."
When the author writes in v.8 "we do not see everything subject to them," he asserts that this hasn't yet been fulfilled, because unbelievers, sinners, and devils are not subject to Jesus: "But not all obey the gospel" (Romans 10:16); "How long do you refuse to submit to me?" (Exodus 10:3). Consequently, sinners are not subject to Christ by reason of their rebellious wills but, in regard to his power, everyone is subject to him. Hence, this is an explanation of the phrase "the world to come" (v. 5).
Jesus’ Undiminished Deity and Sinless Humanity (v. 9)
Verse 9 outlines God's plan for the restoration of man to his position of authority and control over all of creation. Clearly, there are many things that fallen man cannot control: weather, seasons, tides, our own passions, international events, and so on. But almost with a shout, we can hear the author cry out, "But we do see Jesus!"
9But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (2:9).
This verse drives home the point that man was created to be sovereign, but had cast himself down by succumbing to Satan's temptation. But Jesus Christ has made it possible for man to be restored to his original position: He'd lower himself to our human form, then die on a cross.
Seeing Christ as being "now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death" confirms conclusively that he's the last hope of a dying race. Our hope lies both in Jesus' deity and his humanity. Jesus effectively took the requisite steps to solve forever the problem of human sin. The emphasis here is that, what Jesus did through his death and exaltation, was done for everyone's benefit. No one who comes to Jesus will ever be refused; salvation is now freely available to all!
When you're asked, "Why did Christ come to earth as man?" tell your questioner that he became incarnate "so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." Jesus didn't become a man to teach lessons to everyone on earth. He was born a human so that he, by God's grace, could "taste," "experience," and "suffer" death on our behalf. "By the grace of God" life is appropriately finished for us. God provides salvation to everyone who'll believe in his words, his work, and his person. Those who choose to not believe in him will drift by Christ's Safe Harbor and be justly condemned.
This closing verse is a vital verse. It tells us how man can now have the potential to enter into the position that we lost at the fall, many years ago. Frustration and futility can be ended because Jesus Christ became a man in order to pay the penalty for our sin.
All of chpts. 1 and 2 are devoted to proving the superiority of the Son to the angels. We've learned that the Son took on human flesh, so that he'd be able to redeem fallen sinners to their original status. Angels can't become human as our Lord did; they can appear as though they were men (Gen. 18 and 19); some might say that they can even produce half-human offspring (Gen. 6). But no angel can become a perfect God-Man, as our Lord had done. Neither can angels redeem fallen man from sin, deliver him from death, or restore him to his former glory. Angels, whose mission is to serve those who've been saved (Heb. 1:13), can do nothing to save man. Only the Son can do this, because of his incarnation.
You might wonder, Why was the incarnation necessary, so far as our text is concerned? It was necessary so that God could cleanse men from sin, restoring our broken relationship with him. Only a perfect, sinless, divine man could die in a sinner’s place. It was necessary, therefore, for Lord Jesus to add "sinless humanity" to his undiminished deity, thereby qualifying him to die in man’s place, bearing the guilt and punishment for our sin.
Finally, God has chosen to save men, only through the Son's incarnation and his death on Calvary's cross in our place. Man’s fallen condition can be rectified only by a perfect man. And such rectification can come only as a result of that incarnation which provided such a sinless man: the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
- Q. 1 What are the fruits of God's free grace, regarding Christ's gift for you, as related in this Scripture-testimony?
- Q. 2 As one of God's children, do you look forward to a future time when you'll rule over all of creation with Jesus?
- Q. 3 Have you trusted in Jesus as being God’s only provision for your salvation?
New International Version (NIV) or view it in a different version by clicking here.
— Listen to chapter 2, narrated by Max McLean.