Hebrews 2:18

Sermon preached on September 24, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. 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.

Temptation. Can you overcome it? Can it be too strong for you? You know that you can overcome little temptations—but about really big temptations? Can you overcome them?

One of the problems we have as sinners is that we know that in the past we have fallen into sin. We have faced temptation and failed. In light of that, can we be hopeful, even confident, that in the future we will be able to stand successfully against temptation and sin?

Peter could be confident. Near the end of John's gospel Jesus told Peter about the kind of death by which he would glorify God. (John 21:19) Jesus assured him that although he had failed miserably when he had denied Christ, that he would emerge from the final temptation triumphantly.

But what about us? We have promises. But are they enough?

Thomas Bilney was burned at the stake in England on Saturday, August 19, 1531. On Friday, the day before his execution, some Christian friends went to see him. They found him with 'a cheerful heart and a quiet mind'. (From the Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, p. 653)

"Then, sitting with his said friends in godly talk to their edification, some put him in mind, that though the fire, which he should suffer the next day, should be of great heat unto his body, yet the comfort of God's Spirit should cool it to his everlasting refreshing."

I don't know about you, but at that point, if my faith wavered, I might say,

"That's easy for you to say!"

But I hope that I would react the way Bilney did. He knew that what his friends were right. They were speaking the truth. The story continues,

"At this word the said Thomas Bilney, putting his hand toward the flame of the candle burning before them… and feeling the heat thereof, 'O,' (said he) 'I feel by experience, and have known it long by philosophy, that fire, by God's ordinance, is naturally hot: but I am persuaded by God's holy word, and by the experience of some, spoken of in the same, that in the flame they felt not heat, and in the fire they felt no consumption: and I constantly believe, that howsoever the stubble of this my body shall be wasted by it, yet my soul and spirit shall be purged thereby; a pain for the time, whereon notwithstanding followeth joy uspeakable.' And here he treated of this place of Scripture. 'Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by name; thou art mine own. When thou goest through the water I will be with thee, and the strong floods shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest in the fire, it shall not burn thee, and the flame shall not kindle upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God, the holy One of Israel."

What faith he had. Do you have that kind of confidence about being able to withstand temptation? You should. If you understand Jesus' work for you—you should have absolute confidence in Him. The writer to the Hebrews here gives us a great insight into one of the implications of the work of Jesus on our behalf. He writes, (Hebrews 2:18)

"Because he himself suffered
when he was tempted,
he is able to help
those who are being tempted."

There are two great things that our text tells us.


Jesus suffered when He was tempted.

Peter T. O'Brien writes, (Hebrews, PNTC; p. 122-123)

"this suffering was the source of his temptation. Hebrews is not here saying that Christ suffered through his temptations, however true this may be. Rather, his suffering was the source of temptation for him, and because he has been tested to the limit and remained faithful he is perfectly qualified to help those who are tempted."

He knows everything that we go through so He is able to help us to resist and triumph over them.

Let me illustrate. There are some rescues that involve the rescuer putting himself in danger in order to rescue those who are perishing. For example, some coast guard rescuers are trained to jump out of helicopters to rescue someone in the water. They enter the water and get wet in order to save the people. Firefighters sometimes have to enter buildings to rescue those who are inside. There's one poignant picture of a NYC fireman that was taken in a stairway of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. His name was Mike Kehoe. Like other firefighters, he was climbing the stairs to try to get up to the fire. The people who worked in the building were going down the stairs. The look in his eyes was remarkable. He knew he was walking into danger. Firefighters, when they enter a burning building, feel the heat of the fire. They encounter the darkness and confusion caused be the smoke and debris. They know all about fire and what it does.

In the same way, Jesus entered our situation. Verse 14 tells us that He became a true human being. He suffered when He was tempted. R. Kent Hughes writes, (Hebrews Volume 1: An Anchor for the Soul, Preaching the Word; p. 85-86)

"How did Jesus suffer when he was tempted? Common sense tells us he experienced the general temptations we all know—pride, envy, hatred, self-gratification, to name a few. But there was one great difference—he was sinless. And this is exactly why he suffered. Being the sinless Son of God, temptations repulsed him far more than they could us. Many are tempted, but never suffer when tempted. The terrible truth is, multitudes find daily temptations to be a perverted source of pleasure. I am reminded of the story of the young boy in the kitchen who, asked by his mother, 'What are you doing?' replied, 'I'm just standing here with my hand in the cookie jar, resisting temptation.' "

But Jesus, the spotless lamb of God, suffered when He was tempted. Sin can close to Him and it was an affront to Him. When the devil tempted him, all three temptations were designed to get Jesus to take the easy way out, to forsake His calling. Later Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He must die on the cross. Jesus rebuked Peter with words that were similar to those He used to rebuke Satan. Hughes again,

"These famous temptations to take the easy way out were real, and they brought massive suffering to Christ's soul. He knew the horror that awaited him—he knew he would endure the unmitigated pain of sin and wrath with the full feeling and consciousness that comes from purity."

How horrible it must have been for Jesus to endure the wrath of God that was due to our sin. The context of the writer's statement here is verse 17, where it speaks of Jesus making propitiation for the sins of the people. How horrible it must have been for Him to endure God's anger against sin—for Him to feel the full brunt of the curse of sin. To be separate from the Father's favor. How He suffered when He was tempted.

But because of this great truth,

Jesus is able to help you when you are tempted.

Because Jesus suffered when He was tempted He is able to help us. He knows everything about temptation, its depth, its horror, its lies, its deception, its pain. He lives to help you in your temptation.

When a Coast Guard swimmer enters the water to rescue someone, he not only grabs them and holds them up so their face is above the water, gives them a life vest, but he gives them instructions on what to do. Whether it's through hand signals or voice commands he knows what they should do and he instructs them in what they should do. He knows all about the water, about the dangers, about swallowing water, about the best position for them to be in, about what they need to be lifted to the safety of the helicopter. He's an absolute expert in water rescues. He's been trained in both in training pools and in the ocean.

Jesus is like that. He knows all about temptation. He's been there. Because He went through the suffering associated with temptation He is able to help us when we are tempted. William L. Lane writes, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 66)

"The incarnation exposed the Son to the conflicts and tensions of human life, which were climaxed by the suffering of death in a final act of obedience to the will of God (cf 4:15; 5:2, 7–8). It was at this point that his fidelity to God was put to the extreme test, and he proved to be a faithful high priest. Because he did not divorce himself from the human experience of conflict in the world and was tested in this specific sense, he is able to help those who are now exposed to the ordeal of trial. He thus proves to be a compassionate high priest as well."

The other thing about Jesus is that he's someone who has been victorious over temptation. He knows how to win. The advice that He gives you is tried and true. F. F. Bruce writes, (Hebrews, NICNT; p. 89)

"What a source of strength it was to them to be assured that in the presence of God they had as their champion and intercessor one who had known similar and even sorer temptations, and had withstood them victoriously!"

Philip E. Hughes adds, (Hebrews, p. 124)

"The help… which Christ offers to him who is struggling in the midst of temptation is offered not merely as man to man, but as Redeemer to sinner."

Philip E. Hughes writes that the help that Jesus provides, (p. 124)

"is also founded on the atonement he procured for us on the cross and the triumphant power of his resurrection…""The help that he brings is twofold: in the first place, forgiveness of sins, the annulment of past defeats, and in the second place, the power (his power) to fight and overcome temptation."

William L. Lane adds, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 67)

"The depiction of Jesus as champion pointed beyond the immediate crisis of the community to the triumph that already has been secured for the people of God."

Jesus is the One who helps us, saves us. You are safe with Him. Even in the midst of temptation, you are in His hand. Even in the midst of temptation, which is trying to draw you into hell's fires—Jesus is there with you, to help you, to rescue you.

What hope this should give you.

One of the problems with the world today is that they take away hope from the sinner.

One of the things that it tells sinners is that they have to be the way they are. They can't change.

They tell you that certain people are genetically different so that they can't help getting involved in certain behavior. They will tell you that the brains of homosexuals are different than the brains of straight people. Some people take that and tell us that being homosexual is normal for them and that we shouldn't try to change them, we shouldn't tell them that they should be straight. If God made them that way we shouldn't try to change them.

But God didn't make them that way. God made man upright. (Ecclesiastes 7:29) It was the fall into sin that changed everything. Adam plunged the human race into sin. The fall into sin affected all of us, our will, our hearts—our bodies, our minds, our brains. Perhaps the fall into sin did affect our brains in such a way that some people's brains are different than the brains of others. The brains of both groups have fallen into sin and both groups need to have their minds renewed. Even if some brains are different than others, that doesn't excuse our sin. That doesn't preclude repentance and a new life in Christ.

God offers hope to all types of sinners. All sinners are called to repentance. Neither group is okay as they are. Both groups need Jesus. Jesus gives all sinners hope. This is because Jesus can help any sinner in the midst of any temptation. Our verse is incredible for it shows in the nutshell the key to overcoming temptation. In order to do it we need Jesus.

We need His help.

Philip E. Hughes writes, (p. 124)

"It is precisely because we have been defeated that we need the assistance of him who is the victor."

On our own we can't change ourselves. In one sense in which people in our society are correct. Fallen human beings can't make themselves unfallen. We can't do it. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 13:23,

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil."

But Jesus can rescue us. In Ephesians 2:1–3 the apostle Paul said of the Ephesian Christians before they came to know Christ,

"As for you, you were dead
in your transgressions and sins,
in which you used to live
when you followed the ways
of this world and of the ruler
of the kingdom of the air,
the spirit who is now at work
in those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them
at one time, gratifying the cravings
of our sinful nature
and following its desires and thoughts.
Like the rest,
we were by nature objects of wrath."

Before we came to Christ we were dead in sins. What can dead men do? Nothing. In themselves they can't change from being dead to being alive. Only God can give us life. Ephesians 2 continues, (verses 4-5, CSB)

"But God,
who is rich in mercy,
because of his great love
that he had for us,
made us alive with Christ
even though we were dead in trespasses.
You are saved by grace!"

Notice the startling words, "But God…" We were dead but God made them alive. He gave them new life.

Contrary to what the world teaches today the great truth is that Jesus can save us from sin. His power can work in our lives so that we can be victorious over temptation and live lives that are worthy of our great Savior.

We Christians must remember that we are called to holiness. The apostle Paul, after he identified himself, began his first letter to the Corinthians this way, (1 Corinthians 1:2)

"To the church of God in Corinth,
to those sanctified in Christ Jesus
and called to be holy,"

As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:15–16,

"just as he who called you is holy,
so be holy in all you do;
for it is written:
'Be holy,
because I am holy.' "

Jesus did not die just to save us from the consequences of sin. He also died to save us from the power of sin.

This deliverance from the power of sin is not just for the age to come—but is for the here and now. Titus 2:11–14 makes this clear. It says,

"For the grace of God
that brings salvation
has appeared to all men.
It teaches us to say 'No'
to ungodliness
and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled,
upright and godly lives
in this present age,
while we wait for the blessed hope—
the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior,
Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to redeem us
from all wickedness and
to purify for himself a people
that are his very own,
eager to do what is good."

According to the Bible, we can be holy through the power of Christ.

So I ask you. In light of your past failures, can you overcome temptation? Can you be successful in overcoming it? Can you be victorious? I love the promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

"God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

His help is certain. It is certain to be there. It is certain to be exactly what we need. It is certain to be victorious.

Have faith in Jesus, in His promises. Thomas Hauke was burned at the stake on June 10, 1555 on Market Hill, England. In Foxe's Book of Martyrs we read, (1467)

"A little before death, several of Mr. Hauke's friends, terrified by the sharpness of the punishment he was going to suffer, privately desired that in the midst of the flames he should show them some token, whether the pains of burning were so great that a man might not collectedly endure it. This he promised to do; and it was agreed that if the rage of the pain might be suffered, then he should lift up his hands above his head towards heaven, before he gave up the ghost.""the fire was kindled. When he had continued long in it, and his speech was taken away by violence of the flame, his skin drawn together, and his fingers consumed with the fire, so that it was thought that he was gone, suddenly and contrary to all expectation, this good man being mindful of his promise, reached up his hands burning in flames over his head to the living God, and with great rejoicings as it seemed, struck or clapped them three times together. A great shout followed this wonderful circumstance, and then this blessed martyr of Christ, sinking down in the fire, gave up his spirit."

How wonderful Jesus is.

"Because he himself suffered
when he was tempted,
he is able to help
those who are being tempted."