Hebrews 2:10–18 . . .
“Jesus, Perfect Pioneer of Salvation”
Today's passage details various results of our Lord’s incarnation and sufferings, proving that his suffering and humiliation was absolutely fitting and proper. At the right time, Father God would send his Son to earth to be the "pioneer," "suffering servant," and trailblazer of salvation.
Perfect Salvation through Suffering (2:10)
The author begins to elaborate on his warning about "the great salvation" (2:3), that by God's grace, Jesus might taste death for everyone. He wants to amplify what it means that Christ became a man, suffered, and died. The Son of God, who'd dwelt in eternity with his Father, left heaven to come to earth, be born into the human race, become fully man and fully God, go to the cross, suffer and die as a man, and be exalted to heaven so that all who believe in him would be saved. So v. 10 states, "it was fitting for God," emphasizing that God is in control of everything. The suffering and death of Christ is not a tragic add-on. It's a provision of a God who controls all; everything exists for him and comes through his power "in bringing many sons and daughters to glory."
10In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered (2:10).
Pastor/teacher/elder Bob Deffinbaugh says this about v. 10a: "'Bringing many sons to glory' (NASB) might well be an expanded expression meaning 'salvation,' but in the light of vv. 5–9, it would seem that this expression might refer to salvation as the solution to man’s dilemma of lost authority and glory, as a result of the fall. If so, then 'bringing many sons to glory' is 'restoring many sons to their former, but lost, glory.'"
You're possibly wondering: How can the Lord's incarnation, followed by his sufferings, be "fitting" for Father God to have intended for his Son? The answer appears in the next eight verses, wherein the author unfolds several results of our Lord’s incarnation that couldn't have occurred absent the incarnation.
What God intended through his Son's suffering and death (v. 10) was to bring to perfection the "pioneer of their salvation" through his sufferings. Jesus is the sinless Lamb of God.
The Greek word protopóros has been variously translated as "pioneer" (NIV, NET, CSE, MSG), "author" (NASB, MEV, ASV), "source" (CSB), "founder" (ESV), "perfect leader" (LTB), and "captain" (KJV, NKJV). Clearly, no one English word fully captures the essence of protopóros. So it was the Father's plan to perfect, to bring to completion the pioneer/author/source/founder/perfect leader/captain, to accomplish everything in him that needed to be done through his suffering.
Jesus Calls Us His Brothers and Sisters (vv. 11–13)
We come back to the humanity that's highlighted in v. 11's "Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family." Christ is the sanctifying One who makes people holy, setting them apart. "Those who are made holy" are those who choose to trust in him and experience the great salvation he provides. God is perfectly holy because he's completely set apart from all sin and defilement. In Christ we've been sanctified, set apart from sin. God can say to us who are true believers in Christ Jesus, "You shall be holy for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).
11Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[Psalm 22:22] 13And again, “I will put my trust in him.” [quoted from Isaiah 8:17] And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me” (2:11–13).
The "one who makes people holy" is Father God's Son, Jesus. And "those who are made holy" are the Jewish Christians who believed in Jesus. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ and Christians "are of the same family" (v. 11), which literally reads "all are of one." All who believe in Jesus and his gift of salvation are united with him and have become one with all other believers, members of one family. While Christ is "the Son," we who believe in him are "sons of God."
Christ's favorite name for himself during his earthly ministry was "Son of Man," identifying with humanity. He wasn't ashamed to have been identified as a man and live on earth as a man. Neither was he then, nor is he now, ashamed to call those who are made holy his "brothers and sisters." Note: The Greek word used here for "brothers and sisters" (adelphoi) in vv. 11 and 12 refers to believers — both men and women — as part of God’s family.
As revealed in the highlighted passage above, the author refers to Psalm 22:22 in v. 12b. Note: Psalm 22 is perhaps the most messianic of all the psalms. The first verse begins, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" the very question Christ asked while hanging on the cross. The psalm talks about how soldiers beneath his cross would cast lots for his garments. It gives the fullest description of Christ's crucifixion found in the Bible. Supporting what he'd said at the end of v. 11, the "Hebrews" author quotes from Psalm 22:22: "I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you," emphasizing that Jesus isn't ashamed to call those who are made holy his "brothers and sisters." Lord Jesus identifies himself with true believers in him.
The author's next Old testament Scripture reference appears in v. 13a, citing Isaiah 8:17b. Remember: This epistle was written to a local church of Jews who believed that Jesus was Messiah. They didn't have their Bible in front of them like you do. It was expected and required that Jewish believers would recognize and appreciate the relevance and meaning of Scripture. Realize how blessed we are to have a complete Bible and that God expects us to be familiar with his words and recognize their truth.
So, v. 13 quotes from Isaiah 8:17b, wherein Father God says, "I will put my trust in him," speaking about Jesus, his Son who was God, as well as fully man, and how he'd lived on earth. Looking again at Isaiah 8, it's worth noting what that prophet wrote in v. 18a: "Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me." Just as Isaiah could include his sons among those who were with him in trusting God, so our Lord Jesus could include his spiritual children among those who, with him, trust in God, no matter the trials and tribulations. Therein we can see God's sovereignty in this work: The Son of God became man; through his sufferings, death, and resurrection, he's capable of providing salvation to mankind.
Therefore, we see that our Lord’s incarnation resulted in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of Messiah. His incarnation set the stage for the life-saving work he performed on the cross of Calvary that produced Christian brothers and sisters, all members in the same new God-honoring family.
Satan’s Defeat Prevents the Fear of Death (vv. 14–15)
For Lord Jesus to effectively lead this new God-honoring family of Jewish Christians who, in their flesh-and-blood existence, have been made holy, he likewise had to become human and acquired flesh and blood. We ought to be thankful that our "Hebrews" author will continue to reveal how Jesus' incarnation affects Christians of his day and those of us today. Fortunately, he'd demonstrated in vv. 11–13 that Jesus' incarnation paved the way for our Lord to have created a family. Then, in the next two verses, he'll bring to light how this incarnation enabled the Son of God to defeat Satan, thereby eliminating the "fear of death," through which the evil one dominates humanity who are made of "flesh and blood."
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (2:14–15).
To save mankind, the Son had to first take on "flesh and blood" and share in our humanity by dying for man so that he could convincingly defeat the one who holds the power of death: Satan. Many Scriptures reveal that the devil loves death and murder. Charles Spurgeon (English Baptist preacher, 1834–1892) wrote this about Satan's focus on the power of death: "I think death is the devil’s masterpiece. With the solitary exception of hell, death is certainly the most Satanic mischief that sin hath accomplished. Nothing ever delighted the heart of the devil so much as when he found that the threatening would be fulfilled, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.'"
In his commentary on this passage, David Guzik writes: "Satan repeatedly tried to kill Jesus: He tried through the murderous intent of Herod when Jesus was a baby; he tried at a synagogue where they tried to kill Jesus; he tried to starve Jesus and tried to drown Him. None of these plans worked, until Jesus stood before Pilate and received the sentence of execution — what joy there was in the councils of Hell! They were convinced they finally had Jesus where they wanted Him. Yet the death of Jesus became defeat for the devil."
Verse 15's "free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" brings to a focus man's being held in slavery or bondage as a result of fearing death. Perhaps mankind's biggest fear is personal death. Thankfully, we faithful believers might fear our dying but don't fear our death. We're delivered from death because Jesus has all power over death and our bondage to its fear; the element of death for Christians effectively serves purpose in the life of every believer — to "set prisoners free."
God’s Merciful and Faithful High Priest (vv. 16–18)
The author next plots an uncommon course, proving the benefits that Christ’s death obtained. He gives clear differentiation between Jesus and angels in v. 16.
16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (2:16–18).
Here the author continues his assertion of Christ's incarnation, not taking upon him the character and personality of angels but of the seed of Abraham; he'll show the reason for his doing so in these three closing verses.
Jesus defeated evil and death by being human and assuming the vital office of Israel’s "merciful and faithful high priest in service to God." This theme is one of the most powerful contributions to Scripture’s witness of Christ. His priestly vocation is clearly revealed, set out in comprehensive terms: He's a "merciful and faithful high priest."
Jesus intentionally took on the elements of flesh and blood. As God, he preexisted from eternity; yet in the fullness of time he fused our nature with his divine nature, truly becoming a real man. He didn't take hold of angels but of Abraham's seed. When the angels fell, Jesus let them go; the nature of angels couldn't be an atoning sacrifice for the sin of man. However, Christ, resolving to recover the seed of Abraham and raise up his people from their fallen state, took upon himself human nature from one descended from the loins of Abraham so that the same nature that had sinned might also suffer, enabling him to restore human nature to a hopeful condition of special favor through salvation.
Finally, the author shows the usefulness of Christ's taking on the elements of flesh and blood when he says that he might become a "merciful and faithful high priest." He became merciful and faithful because, through his suffering and temptations by the enemy, he developed a kinship to mercy. Christ, at God's right hand right now, has two functions: (1) to be the judge of the human race (John 5:27) and (2) with Father God, he intercedes continually for us as our faithful advocate; hence, he's called a "faithful high priest." He understands every emotion, every frustration, and every temptation we could ever face. So turn over all your worries to Jesus today.
There are two final thoughts to consider and remember. According to Scripture, a faithful high priest prepared God’s people for battle against God’s enemies. Sin and death aren't only humanity’s fiercest foes, they're also God’s chief rivals (Revelation 20:13–14; 1 Corinthians 15:24–26). The priestly Son’s battle with the evil one (cf. Hebrews 2:14) is waged on behalf of God to destroy the forces that sabotage hope for heaven (cf. 2:15). The messianic priest’s self-sacrifices, as acts of his faithfulness to God (cf. Romans 3:22; 5:18–19; Galatians 2:16), "make atonement for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17) and present the happy prospect of a forgiven people’s redeemed life with God.
Today, this same merciful high priest pastors God’s people who've had their sins washed away, to defeat their temptation to sin by trusting in God’s salvation message. The Son learned the ways of God at ground level while spending a lifetime of suffering. He was made perfect (2:10) so that he could divinely mediate God’s sanctifying grace to his suffering children (2:11, 18).
The author’s image of a priestly Son rendering pastoral care to those who are suffering is nicely captured by the Greek word used herein: boētheō. This word is earlier used in the poignant story of the Gentile woman who pleads her sick daughter’s case by saying to a merciful Jesus, "help [boētheō] me" (Matthew 15:25). Life’s heartaches often test our loyalty to Father God. The Son made perfect by his suffering, now has the rightful, exalted position at his Father’s right hand, to not only receive our pleas for help but render his priestly care for us in a willful, effective way. Jesus became a man so that he could effectively be our high priest, who'd obviously be better for us than angels. We find a very encouraging promise for us believers in v. 18: Because Jesus overcame temptation, he's able to give us victory over our temptation!
- Q. 1 Why did we need someone with flesh and blood, like us, not like angels, to die in our place (vv. 14–18)?
- Q. 2 What's the difference between the way Jesus made atonement (v. 17) and the way the priests mediated atonement?
- Q. 3 Which of Jesus' three titles means most to you now and why? Pioneer of salvation, v. 10; brother, v. 11; high priest, v. 17?
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— Listen to chapter 2, narrated by Max McLean.