Captain of the Saints – Part I

The Gospel is heaven’s great message of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It tells us of God’s Son who came into the world in the likeness of a man. It proclaims His suffering and death on the cross to bear the believer’s sins and reconcile them to their Creator. It is through Jesus that we can glorify God by fulfilling His purpose for creating us. But in order for us to fully embrace Him, we need to understand how fully He has embraced us.

As the letter to the Hebrews has thus far explained, Jesus Christ is God’s greatest revelation of the divine nature and will. He is, therefore, heaven’s greatest messenger who declares that He has come to save repentant sinners. But the salvation He accomplishes is not simply for the good of those who turn to Him in faith. It is first and foremost for the glory of God. Its scope is to provide salvation for a remnant of humanity to reign over God’s creation for His eternal glory (2:5-9). But how exactly does Jesus do this? The answer is the heart of the Gospel.

Hebrews 2:10-18 describes the necessary humanity of the Lord and Savior God has chosen for our fallen race. In order to accomplish His purpose for creating mankind in the first place, His only begotten Son (1:5) had to be fully man. But unlike Adam, who plunged us into sin and death by believing Satan’s lie, our Lord from heaven has met the standard of God’s righteousness, atoned for the transgressions of believers, and made the way for us to know and serve God as intended.

The writer refers to Jesus as the “captain” of those who are saved from sin and set apart as holy to God (i.e. the saints). In this passage, we are told of His perfection, His pleasure, His priority, and His priesthood.

Captain of the Saints – Part I
His Perfection (v. 10)
Jesus is still being extolled by the writer as far greater than angelic beings (1:4). The target audience of first century Jews is being urged to see and embrace Him as the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture. They are reminded that God’s purpose and plan of redeeming a remnant of humanity has not changed. As long promised, this requires the Christ to be human, not angelic. God has never even indicated redemption of fallen angels, but He clearly reveals His intention to save human beings for His purpose and glory. Holy angels, though supernatural, immortal, and heavenly, are but God’s servants appointed to minister to Christ and His saints (1:14).

Everything the Almighty has created He has created for Himself. There is no other purpose or means for creation. Likewise, He has the sovereign right to redeem if He chooses and to redeem as He chooses (Rom. 9-11). But what He has chosen to do by way of redemption is in accord with His justice and His created order. His reason for creating mankind is not lost because of sin, which He has allowed (2:8-9). Therefore, “it was fitting for [God], for whom are all things and by whom are all things,” to save sinful human beings by a sinless human Savior.

That is why, “in bringing many sons to glory,” God has made “the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” God the Son has, of course, always been perfect. That is His divine nature (1:3). However, in His incarnation as a man, His human nature was proven untainted by Adam’s transgression (Rom. 5:12-21) through the things He suffered. It was proven in that He suffered and remained completely obedient even to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:21-24).

As verse 18 will explain, He suffered by being tempted that He might aid those who are tempted (cf. Heb. 5:8-9). He suffered as a man in a fallen world to fully experience our condition and identify with us, but He remained completely obedient to God’s law in order to fulfill its requirement of righteousness and be the perfect example of it (Matt. 5:17). This qualified Him as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin (Jn. 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18), and His righteousness as a man could then be imputed to the saints (Rom. 3:24-26).

The title, “captain,” refers to Jesus as a prince among all of humanity. More specifically, it identifies Him as the “pioneer” of God’s redemptive enterprise. Being tested and proven as the only sinless man, He is essential to the salvation of those who have sinned. It also qualifies Him to be our “merciful and faithful High Priest in the things pertaining to God” (v. 17; cf. 4:14-16; 7:25-28).

His Pleasure (vv. 11-13)
Although He is sinless, it is our Lord Jesus Christ’s pleasure to be so completely identified with us. After all, it is the will of the heavenly Father for His Son to be the prime example of a righteous human being — the prototype for the saints. And the Son delights to obey the Father (Jn. 4:34) even if that meant temporarily laying aside His glory to become a man and suffer (Phil. 2:5-11). In His humanity, the Son knew that He would be restored to the glory He had always shared with the Father (Jn. 17:5, 24). As God Himself, the Son would continue to be united with the Father, but He would also be united forever with redeemed humanity.

The writer addresses the absolute unity that Christ has with the saints. Although we were rightly dead to God because of our sins and under His just condemnation, He desired to set us apart from sin through Jesus so that we may have eternal life in Him. It is “He who sanctifies” us by His righteous life and atoning death.

The saints are born again by the Spirit of God in their inner most being thus receiving a new nature, which desires only what pleases God (Jn. 3:3; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Pet. 1:4). This results in repentance, faith, and the fruit of obedience. Their obedience is imperfect because they still reside in the weakness of unredeemed bodies, but they are nonetheless dead to sin and alive to God through Christ (Rom. 6:11-13). They are “those who are being sanctified” or “made holy” (i.e. saints).

So then He who sanctifies and the sanctified “are all of one.” In other words, Christ and the saints are completely united by way of their shared nature as righteous human beings. Jesus makes them righteous by His suffering and death, and the saints are born again with a desire for righteousness. He is holy, and He sets them apart as holy.

And it is for this “reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Christ and the saints have the same righteous human nature from the Father in heaven. To call them His brethren is to express how completely He identifies Himself with them. There is nothing about that holy nature of which to be ashamed, since it only desires righteousness and, therefore, glorifies God. Jesus said that everyone who does God’s will is part of His spiritual family (Matt. 12:50; Lk. 8:21).

As is his habit, the writer again references Old Testament passages to make his point to the Jewish readers in particular. First, he quotes Psalm 22:22. This psalm of David is entirely about the Christ. It begins with prophetic insight into the sufferings He would endure, and it has particular emphasis on His crucifixion as He suffered God’s wrath for sin. But it ends with His praise to the Father for delivering Him from death.

This quote is the beginning of that section of praise. Jesus’ immediate desire upon deliverance was to “declare [God’s] name to [His] brethren.” God’s name is the essence of His holy character. Our Lord is praising God the Father for who He is and for His perfect purpose in His sufferings. His praise “in the midst of the assembly” is a reference to the collective body of the saints, which is the church (cf. Heb. 12:23). His sufferings were to unify into one body all those whom God has called out of the world and into His family.

The second quote seems to derive from Isaiah 8:17 and the third most definitely from Isaiah 8:18. There the prophet was expressing his “trust” in God to deliver the remnant of Israel as promised despite threats from its enemies. His sons were named by God as part of the prophecies concerning the people. Although not quoted here, the remainder of verse 18 tells us that Isaiah and his “children” served as signs and wonders from the LORD to the Hebrew people.

The writer applies the prophet’s words to Christ who, in His humanity, yielded Himself to God’s sovereign purpose. Jesus was so thoroughly human that He relied on God for everything as must all the saint who are God’s children under Jesus’ care. Isaiah and his sons were, therefore, literally signs and wonders of a greater extent, in that they symbolized Christ and the saints who wait for God to redeem the remnant of humanity, both Jews and Gentiles, for His glory.

We can fully embrace the Lord Jesus Christ because He has fully embraced us as the captain of our salvation. He has in every way identified with us as human beings even by bearing our sins in His own body on the cross to set us apart to God as holy (1 Pet. 2:24). His human nature was perfected through obedience to God in His suffering. And in all this He is pleased to forever identify with us.

You can only be a saint of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Is He the Captain of your salvation? You must believe this good news from heaven in order to receive the salvation He provides.

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© Copyright 1997-2017 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.

What is Your Desire?

The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes. ~ Proverbs 21:10

The initial nature of all human beings is that they desire only evil. That is, they selfishly, aggressively, and purposely rebel against God’s will. They are “wicked” (i.e. guilty for their hostility toward God) for this reason and are condemned to death (Rom. 1:18-3:20).

So there is no inward ability to prevent a sinner from ultimately acting to fulfill their natural desire. Apart from outward restraint (i.e. fear of punishment, shame, or loss) they will harm others (“his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes”) if others stand in the way of getting what they want.

The only cure for the sinful nature is for God to replace it (Jer. 31:33; Ezk. 11:19-20). That is what Jesus means when He says we must be born again to enter God’s kingdom (Jn. 3:3ff; cf. 2 Cor. 3:3). The Holy Spirit must make us alive to God by creating a holy desire for His will. That results in repentance, faith in Christ, and obedience to God for His glory (Eph. 2:1-10; Phil. 2:12-15).

Is your greatest desire to do God’s will for His glory, or are you grudgingly living within certain restraints while desiring your own way?

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© Copyright 1997-2017 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.