Hebrews 2:14-17

Sermon preached on December 21, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

The incarnation of the Son of God is one of the wonders of the universe. Herman Bavinck says, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 235)

"Christ, the incarnate Word, is… the central fact of the entire history of the world."

There's a quote I read on Twitter, it was a picture of an book by an old Puritan. I haven't been able to find out who the author was, but the quote is wonderful,

"the incarnation of Christ, is the very fountain of all our comfort. It is the sunshine of religion, we should rejoice in it above all things. There should be no godly man, but his heart should leap within him upon the thoughts of this glorious grace of God. The angels of heaven sang in the air, when they brought this tidings; and can we sit desolate in heart, to whom a Savior is born, and for whom he was incarnate?"

The coming of Jesus changed everything. It, along with the death and resurrection of Jesus—is so significant that it is almost impossible to overemphasize it. It's incredible on so many levels. John Murray writes, (Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 133)

"The thought of incarnation is stupendous, for it means the conjunction in one person of all that belongs to Godhead and all that belongs to manhood."

That's a mystery far beyond capability to understand. Murray says of the Son of God, (Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 132)

"The infinite became the finite, the eternal and supratemporal entered time and became subject to its conditions, the immutable became the mutable, the invisible became the visible, the Creator became the created, the sustainer of all became dependent, the Almighty infirm. All is summed up in the proposition, God became man."

These things are incredible. They are impossible for us to grasp fully.

It's amazing on another level. Murray adds, (Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 133)

"It would have been humiliation for the Son of God to have become man under the most ideal conditions, humiliation because of the discrepancy between God and his creation, between the majesty of the Creator on the one hand, and the humble status of the most dignified creature on the other. But it was not such an incarnation that took place. The Son of God was sent and came into this world of sin, misery, and death."

The purpose of the incarnation is astounding. John Calvin writes, (Truth For All Time, p. 67-68)

"He took our flesh in order that, having become the Son of man, he should make us become, with him, sons of God. He clothed himself in our poverty in order to transfer to us his riches. He took upon himself our weakness in order to strengthen us by his power. He assumed our mortal condition so as to give us immortality. He descended to earth to raise us to heaven."

All of these things are incredible. From whatever perspective you look at the incarnation there are wonders and mysteries.

This morning we're going to look at the incarnation from the perspective of its necessity. The incarnation was necessary for our salvation. This necessity draws attention to the cost of the incarnation and highlights the great love of God to sinners.

One of the things that makes the incarnation so astonishing is that is the fact that

if human beings were going to be saved, the incarnation was absolutely necessary.

Our text says, (Hebrews 2:14-17)

"Since the children
have flesh and blood,
he too shared in their humanity
so that by his death
he might destroy him
who holds the power of death—
that is, the devil—
and free those who all their lives
were held in slavery
by their fear of death.
For surely it is not angels he helps,
but Abraham's descendants.
For this reason he had to be
made like his brothers 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"

God did not have to save us. He decided to save us. Ephesians 1:5 tells us that God predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ,

"in accordance with
His pleasure and will…"

The Bible makes clear that God saved sinners because of His love. John 3:16 says,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

He loved us and decided to save us. This happened even before the creation of the world.

Yet, having decided to save us, the question is,

could God have just done it in any number of ways? Could He have saved sinners without an atonement and satisfaction? Could He have just forgiven sinners?

Our text suggests that there was a necessity to the incarnation, to the atonement. Verse 17 says,

"For this reason he had to be
made like his brothers in every way…"

He 'had to be made like his brothers'. This could also be translated, 'it was necessary'. The word has connotations of 'obligation'. (Peter T. O'Brien, Hebrews, PNTC, 2009, p. 124)

This verse makes an indissoluble connection between Christ's incarnation and His work. John Owen, in his great commentary on Hebrews says, this term means,

" 'it must be so;' it could not be otherwise… God having designed him unto that office and the work thereof, it was indispensably necessary for him to be made like unto his brethren in all things."

John Brown writes, (Hebrews, p. 135)

"this conformity was absolutely necessary. He could not have made 'reconciliation for the sins of His people'—He could not in the same degree have executed the duties of a Savior—had He not been 'in all things made like unto His brethren.' "

Philip Hughes adds, (Hebrews , p. 120)

"The Son could not have represented men before God, offering, as their high priest, the sacrifice of himself on their behalf and in their place, had he not first become their fellow man. Representation requires identification."

But how can this be?

Can't God do anything He wants?

Couldn't He save us anyway He wanted? John Murray writes, (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 12)

"…God, having elected some to everlasting life out of his mere good pleasure, was under the necessity of accomplishing this purpose through the sacrifice of his own Son, a necessity arising from the perfections of his own nature."

God is almighty. Question 13 of the children's catechism (First Catechism) asks,

Q: Can God do all things?A: Yes. God can do all his holy will.

God is only limited by His perfections. There are indications in Scripture that suggest that God's righteousness and justice had to be satisfied if we were going to be saved. For example, Romans 3:25-26 says,

"God presented him as
a sacrifice of atonement,
through faith in his blood.
He did this to demonstrate his justice,
because in his forbearance
he had left the sins
committed beforehand unpunished—
he did it to demonstrate his justice
at the present time,
so as to be just
and the one who justifies
those who have faith in Jesus."

C.E.B. Cranfield says, (Romans, Vol. 1, p. 211-212)

"for God to simply pass over sins would be altogether incompatible with His righteousness. He would not be the good and merciful God, had he been content to pass over sins indefinitely; for this would have been to condone evil—a denial of His own nature and a cruel betrayal of sinners. God has in fact been able to… pass over sins, without compromising His goodness and mercy, because His intention has all along been to deal with them once and for all, decisively and finally, through the cross."

The very fact that God sent His beloved Son to die shows that the forgiveness of sin could only come about by death. Would the Father have permitted His Son to suffer if it was not necessary? Would He have ignored Jesus' plea in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Matthew 26:39)

"My Father, if it is possible,
may this cup be taken from me."

If salvation could be gain through the law—that means that Jesus went through all He did for nothing. In Galatians 2:21 Paul wrote,

"I do not set aside the grace of God,
for if righteousness
could be gained through the law,
Christ died for nothing!"

All these things suggest that if God was going to save us—the Son of God had to become man. Death is the curse of sin and the curse must be satisfied. Man, or a man, had to die. Jesus was made a curse in our place. As we read in Galatians 3:13,

"Christ redeemed us from
the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us,"

The second thing we see in our text is that the Son of God became man for a specific reason.

He became man in order to die, so that through His death He might destroy the devil and free us from the power of death.

We often view the incarnation in a sentimental, nostalgic way. We think of the stable, the manger with warm, cozy feelings. We think, 'Isn't it nice that Jesus was born?' The incarnation is so amazing that that's one proper way to view it, to delight in in that way.

But that's not all we should think about or feel when we consider Jesus' birth.

Jesus came to do battle. He came to engage our great enemy—one who held mankind under the power of death. And this is the most amazing part. The way that He would defeat Satan was by dying. Philip Hughes, (Hebrews, p. 11)

"The purpose of the incarnation was specifically that the Messiah might die."

John Calvin says of the incarnation, (Hebrews, p.

"Here his infinite love towards us appears; but its overflowing appears in this — that he put on our nature that he might thus make himself capable of dying, for as God he could not undergo death."

As we read in Mark 10:45,

"For even the Son of Man
did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life
as a ransom for many."

The death He had to undergo hung over Jesus His entire life. Just 8 days after Jesus was born, when Jesus was presented at the temple, old Simeon said to Mary, (Luke 2:35)

"And a sword will pierce
your own soul too."

In Luke 12:50 Jesus said,

"But I have a baptism to undergo,
and how distressed I am
until it is completed!"

He was truly a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

So when we consider the incarnation, the birth of Jesus, besides the warm, cozy feelings—there ought to be awe, amazement—not incredulity, but something close to it—faith that believes, but still has a sense of wonder—how can this be true? How can it be that the Author of Life (Acts 3:15) became like us—in order to die?

Yes, there should be praise, like the angels gave when they appeared to the shepherds. Yes, there should be rejoicing because His birth means life for us.

But there should also be silence that comes from incredible awe. There should be silence that comes from a sense of humility—knowing that we are such sinners. How could He come to us? There should be silence, because what words can express the gratitude we owe—knowing that in Jesus' birth, we, vile sinners, have had bestowed on us the greatest gift—God with us. God with us to save us. In Jesus' birth we, such sinners are singled out for such honor—how can it be?

All this shows us the remarkable, incredible, almost unbelievable love of God toward us.

How much God loves us. How much it cost Him to save us.

You all know what it's like to help others when it doesn't cost you very much. It's easy to write a check for something, for some good cause. It's costs us something, but not much. It's only money.

It's quite another thing to do something for someone when it costs you, time, effort, suffering. Peter gives us some indication of this in 1 Peter 1:18-20. He wrote,

"For you know that it was
not with perishable things
such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed
from the empty way of life handed
down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
a lamb without blemish or defect.
He was chosen before
the creation of the world,
but was revealed in these last times
for your sake."

Christian, what love God has for you. Never doubt it. No matter what you go through—the memory of the incarnation ought to assure you of God's love for you. Jesus became a man for you. He became a man in order to die for you. His love for you is incredible. How you should appreciate it and rejoice in it.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian,

this shows you that you need Jesus.

Christianity is the only religion that deals adequately with the problem of the curse of sin.

Your works—can they save you? Can they deliver you from Satan's power? Can they deliver you from death? No. No. No. You need Jesus. Go to Him. Ask Him to deliver you.