HE HAD TO BE MADE LIKE HIS BRETHREN: hothen opheilen (3SIAI) kata panta tois
adelphois homoiothenai (APN):
(He 2:11,14 Php 2:7,8)
(hothen) is a
term of conclusion.
Use these terms as reminder to slow down and active engage the text and the
"Illuminator," the Holy Spirit, pausing to ponder and ask relevant
In this case the "therefore" explains how Jesus is going to be able to give help to the seed of Abraham
(believers who like Abraham have faith).
from ophelos = profit, an increase)
to owe, and conveys the basic meaning of owing a debt
and then of having a strong obligation which can be a moral obligation and
personal duty. In this verse opheilo indicates a necessity, owing to
the nature of the matter under consideration. In other words, Jesus was
obligated (as it were) to do this in order that He might become our High
that words in the opheilo word group...
originally expressed the idea of a legal
or personal obligation. The Greeks had both financial and, later, moral
obligations in mind when they used this term. (Richards,
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
The TDNT has a
nice summary noting that opheilo although etymologically of uncertain
means “to owe someone something,” e.g.
loans, debts, sums, or rents. The things owed may be spiritual, and the word
is also used with the infinitive for “to be under obligation to,” “to have
to.” The word is common in respect of revenge or law. Transgressors are in
debt to injured parties. Secular and sacral penalties are owed. God’s
goodness also makes people debtors. This gives rise to the idea of moral
G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New
To be made like
from homoios = similar) means
complete identification in conduct,
character; condition, circumstances. Christ had to be a true man in all
points, from conception to death, apart from innate sin. This required a
miraculous, virginal conception, but in every other respect, he partook of
true human flesh.
Paul explains that Jesus...
Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with
God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a
bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.8 And being found in
appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of
death, even death on a cross. (See notes
Christ, our Elder Brother, resembles us in reality as we shall
resemble Him in the end (1Jn 3:2-note,
In all things - Except yielding to sin the writer explaining later
we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but
One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Without sin yes, but not without temptation. Jesus knew as no other man knew
what temptation was, having fought through to victory when tempted by Satan
(cf Mt 4:1ff, Luke 4:1ff).
Hudson Taylor wrote that...
Had our Lord appeared on earth as an angel of light, He would doubtless have
inspired far more awe and reverence, and would have collected together even
larger multitudes to attend His ministry. But to save man He became Man, not
merely like man, but very man. In language, in costume, in everything
unsinful, He made Himself one with those He sought to benefit. Had He been
born a noble Roman, rather than a Jew, He would, perhaps, if less loved,
have commanded more of a certain kind of respect; and He would assuredly
thereby have been spared much indignity to which He was subjected. This,
however, was not His aim; He emptied Himself. Surely no follower of the meek
and lowly Jesus will be likely to conclude that it is "beneath the dignity
of a Christian missionary" to seek identification with this poor people, in
the hope that he may see them washed, sanctified, and justified in the name
of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God! Let us rather be followers
of Him who "knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and
that He was come from God, and went to God, He riseth from supper, and laid
aside His garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He
poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to
wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded."
SO THAT HE MIGHT BECOME A MERCIFUL AND
FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST IN THINGS PERTAINING TO GOD: hina eleêmôn genetai (3SAMS) kai pistos archiereus ta pros ton theon:
(Merciful: He 3:2,5, Heb 4:15,16, Heb 5:1,2 Isa 11:5)
So that (2443)
(hina) introduces a purpose clause. Always asks "What for?"
Why did He have to be made like His brethren? Note how Thus the smoothly the
writer transitions into the great theme he has been approaching with such
care, that is the theme which of Christ's priesthood, which dominates this
(ginomai) come into being.
A "MERCY FULL"
refers to one who is actively
compassionate or one who is benevolently merciful involving thought and
action. It reflects being concerned about people in their need.
The basic idea of
eleemon is "to give help to the wretched, to relieve the miserable." The
essential thought is that mercy gives attention to those in misery which
distinguishes mercy from grace. Whereas grace is shown to the undeserving,
we find that mercy is compassion poured out on the miserable.
J C Ryle reminds us...
Jesus Christ is
not only the Son of God mighty to save, but the Son of man able to feel.
He has been made like His brethren so that He can be to
us all that we need. And what is our great need? We need a Great High Priest
to intercede for us compassionately and continuously. He is merciful and He
is faithful to fulfill both of these great needs on behalf of His brethren.
Mercy is not simply a static truth such as feeling compassion but
true mercy is dynamic and shows its true character when something is done to
alleviate another's distress. This is nicely illustrated in the Old
Testament by the mercy seat in the holy of holies. This was the place
where the Lord God accepted the propitiatory (satisfactory) sacrifice to
atone for the nation’s sins, once each year on the "Day of Atonement" (see
Lev 16:2,13, 14, 15). Here at the mercy seat God was moved with pity and
compassion for the sinful people, and took action to reconcile them to
Himself through accepting the blood of a goat in their stead. (See also
God's Attribute of Mercy).
One might say then that Christ our High
Priest is "mercy full"! The idea is that He possess a compassionate
heart leading Him to carry out acts of mercy, the purpose of which is to
relieve the suffering and misery of the spiritual offspring of Abraham, the
objects of the Beloved's infinite compassion.
Our High Priest is the perfect
picture of mercy, and His loyal subjects are to imitate His attitude and
action in the power of the Spirit and transforming grace. And so Jesus gives
us the wonderful promise in Mt 5:7
(see note), "Blessed are the
To the unsaved in His audience this charge was impossible to accomplish, for
He was speaking not merely of the expression of mercy filled (merciful) acts, but
of an inner attitude in the new hearts of those who by grace through faith
had the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
from peítho = to
means trustworthy, dependable, reliable. Pistos is something or
someone who is worthy of faith or keeps promises and is applied to God,
humans, His Word, etc
Vincent gives a nice summary
of the meaning of pistos,
faithful, writing that it is used
(1), of one who shows Himself faithful
in the discharge of a duty or the administration of a trust (Mt
24:45). Hence, trustworthy (2Ti 2:2-note). Of things that can be relied upon (2Ti
2:11-note). (2), Confiding; trusting; a believer (Gal
Acts 16:1; 2Cor 6:15; 1Ti 5:16) (Word
Studies in the New Testament)
Webster says that Faithful
means firm in adherence to whatever one owes allegiance and implies
unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which
a tie was contracted.
Pistos is used
in this verse in its passive
sense, meaning trustworthy or faithful describing our Great High Priest,
Marvin Vincent adds
that pistos used of God describes Him as
True to his own nature and promises;
keeping faith with Himself and with man.
Paul affirms that even
if we are faithless, He remains
for He cannot deny Himself. (2Ti 2:13-note)
In this passive sense
of trustworthy or faithful, pistos is applied to God as
fulfilling His own promises (He 10:23-note;
as fulfilling the purpose for which He called men (1Th 5:24-note;
1Co 1:9), as responding with guardianship
to the trust reposed in Him by men (1Cor
Christ is faithful (2Thes
19:11-note) Christ as the
faithful witness (Re 1:5-note;
Re 3:14-note). God’s and Christ's faithfulness in
these verses speak not only of His essential being (faithful is Who He is),
but also of His faithfulness toward us, as shown for example in the famous
If we confess our sins, He is
and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9-note)
See related teachings on forgiveness and unforgiveness:
List of links related to
Multiple illustrations and quotes related
Exposition of "Forgiveness" in Ephesians
Exposition of "Forgiveness" in Colossians
Exposition of "Forgiveness" in Matthew
In the papyri, we
find the following illustrations of the use of pistos -- "Whom no one
would trust even if they were willing to work" = confidence in the person’s
character and motives. "I have trusted no one to take it to her" =
confidence in the ability of another to perform a certain task.
Moses in turn records
the following of God writing
Know therefore that the LORD your God, He
is God, the faithful
(Lxx = pistos) God, Who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a
thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Dt
High priest - This is the first specific
reference to Christ as our High Priest, a theme which is prominent
throughout the rest of Hebrews. Christ's role as the High Priest was only possible
by virtue of Him becoming like His brethren in actual human nature.
(archiereus from arche = first in a series, the leader
or ruler, idea of rank or degree + hiereus = priest - hieros
is that which is determined, filled or consecrated by divine power)
refers to the priest that was chief over all the other priests in
Israel. This office was established by God through Moses instructions
in the Pentateuch. The high priest functioned as the mediator between
Jehovah and Israel (cp new order under the
New Covenant -
1Ti 2:5) performing sacrifices and rituals like other
priests, but in addition acting to expiate the sins of the nation on
Day of Atonement (another
source) (Read Lev
refers to all the ruling priests, the members of the high-priestly
families as a group, the upper echelons of the priestly class,
especially those who served on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court
(Lk 9:22, Mk 8:31). In the singular archiereus refers to
the acting high priest (Lk 3.2, Mk 14:47, 53, 54, 60, 61, 63, 66), who
by Jesus' day was more of a role obtained by political connections
than priestly lineage..
In Luke 3:2 we
see reference to two high priests which is unusual because
Judaism had only one high priest.
Annas, who came to office in 6AD,
was deposed in 15AD by Valerius Gratus and eventually succeeded by his
Caiaphas, who served from
continued to wield influence, and was viewed by many Jews as their
high priest. Thus in a sense there were two high priests, one official
and one who wielded power behind the scenes. "Within the generally
negative assessment of priests in the Gospels, there stands the
pregnant statement in John (Jn 11:49–52; cf. Jn 18:14), suggesting
that because of his office, even a personally evil high priest such as
could, ‘not of himself’, utter prophetic truth." (New dictionary
of biblical theology).
The office of
high priest in Jesus' day (eg, Mt 26:3) was primarily a political
role. As presiding officer of the Sanhedrin, the chief governing body
in Israel, the high priest was the principal representative of
the Jewish people to the Roman authorities. What the high priest
wanted was preservation of the status quo (cf. Jn 11:47-49), which
best served his interests and those aligned with him.
Sceva a Jewish high priest (Acts
19:14) is an enigma. Bob Utley notes that "Modern scholars
cannot find this name in any other writings. It is problematic for a
Jewish high priest (archiereus) to be in Ephesus. There was a local
synagogue, but the only Jewish temple was in Jerusalem. (Luke the
Historian: The Book of Acts)
Except for the reference to
Abiathar in Mark 2:26 (1Sa 21:7) archiereus occurs in the
Gospels and Acts only in connection with the trial of Jesus and the
persecution of the early Church (38 times single, 62 plural) and
in Hebrews as a Christological title....
From the time of Herod (37 b.c.)
until the fall of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) the office of high priest,
originally conferred for life, hereditary, and reserved for Zadokites
Zadok), was subject to the political tactics of Herod and
the corruptibility of the Roman procurators. During this time it was
held by 28 illegitimate occupants. John 11:49, 51; 18:13 does
not give the impression of an annual change in the office. The Romans
appear to have accepted nepotism among the candidates, who, for
financial reasons, were confined to four families (Boethus with 8
representatives, Ananus 8, Phiabi 3, and Camithus 3). (Exegetical
Dictionary of the New Testament: Eerdmans)
was used of pagan idolatrous cults (Zeus, Jupiter, the Emperor cults,
etc, cp Acts 14:13 = hiereus). Herodotus uses archiereus of
Egyptian high priests of high rank after the king. "Plato
used it in connection with his ideal state (Laws 12, 947a); the
archiereus was to stand annually at the head of all the officiating
priests....From Polybius (3rd–2nd cents. B.C.) on, archiereus
was translated by the Latin pontifex. " (NIDNTT)
The Roman emperor was Pontifex
Maximus, a high priest upon the throne of the Caesars. But
our Lord Jesus is a high priest who, now seated upon a throne of
grace, will some day as High Priest in the Messianic Kingdom occupy
the throne of David in Jerusalem, as Zechariah says, “He shall be a
priest upon his throne” (Zech. 6:13).
interesting that Josephus informs us completely as to the names of all
the high priests who served in the first century, scholars have no
difficulty checking the historical record. However, after the
destruction of the Temple in 70AD there were no more high priests,
because they were replaced by the better priesthood of the Great
High Priest, Christ Jesus (The writer applies archiereus to
Jesus in Heb 2:17, 3:1, 4:14, 15, Heb 5:5, 5:10, 6:20, 7:26, 7:28,
8:1, 8:3, 9:11, 9:25). Jesus is designated as “great high
priest” (a title used of the high priest in the
of Lev 21:10, Num
35:25) in Heb 4:14 and Heb 10:21. Hebrews refers to Jesus as priest
(rather than high priest) in Heb 5:6, 7:3, 11, 15, 17; 21, 8:4.
comments that on the Day of Atonement, the OT high priest
alone was able to stand in the
presence of God. Picking up on this theme, Hebrews describes Jesus as
the ultimate and final high priest (Heb 7–8) as well as the ultimate
and final sacrifice, who accomplished “eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12)
in contrast to the annual redemption of the Day of Atonement.
(Mounce's complete expository dictionary of Old & New Testament words)
Christ as Priest
The irony is that the high
priest Caiaphas was residing over the Sanhedrin during trial of
Jesus, the trial which would lead to His death and pave the way for
His eternal High Priesthood
Bible Dictionary explains that...
The high priest descended from
Eleazar, the son of Aaron. The office was normally hereditary and was
conferred upon an individual for life (Nu 25:10, 11, 12, 13). The candidate was
consecrated in a seven-day ceremony which included investiture with
the special clothing of his office as well as anointments and
sacrifices (Ex 29:1-37; Lev 8:5-35).
The high priest was bound to a higher degree of ritual purity than
ordinary Levitical priests. He could have no contact with dead bodies,
including those of his parents. Nor could he rend his clothing or
allow his hair to grow out as signs of mourning. He could not marry a
widow, divorced woman, or harlot, but only an Israelite virgin (Lev
21:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). Any sin committed by the high priest brought guilt upon the
entire nation and had to be countered by special sacrifice (Lev
4:1-12). Upon a high priest’s death manslayers were released from the
cities of refuge (Nu 35:25, 28, 32). (Eerdman's
According to the Mosaic law no
one could aspire to the high priesthood unless he were of the tribe of
Aaron, and descended moreover from a high priestly family; and he on
whom the office was conferred held it till death. But from the time of
Antiochus Epiphanes, when the kings of the Seleucidae and afterward
the Herodian princes
and the Romans arrogated to themselves the power of appointing the
high priests, the office neither remained vested in the pontifical
family nor was conferred on anyone for life; but it became venal, and
could be transferred from one to another according to the will of
civil or military rulers. Hence, it came to pass, that during the one
hundred and seven years intervening between Herod the Great and the
destruction of the holy city, twenty-eight persons held the pontifical
occurs only in the Gospels & Acts (122x in 119v - Matt 2:4; 16:21;
20:18; 21:15, 23, 45; 26:3, 14, 47, 51, 57ff, 62f, 65; 27:1, 3, 6, 12,
20, 41, 62; 28:11; Mark 2:26; 8:31; 10:33; 11:18, 27; 14:1, 10, 43,
47, 53ff, 60f, 63, 66; 15:1, 3, 10f, 31; Luke 3:2; 9:22; 19:47; 20:1,
19; 22:2, 4, 50, 52, 54, 66; 23:4, 10, 13; 24:20; John 7:32, 45;
11:47, 49, 51, 57; 12:10; 18:3, 10, 13, 15f, 19, 22, 24, 26, 35; 19:6,
15, 21; Uses in Acts - Acts 4:6, 23; 5:17, 21, 24, 27; 7:1;
9:1, 14, 21; 19:14; 22:5, 30; 23:2, 4f, 14; 24:1; 25:2, 15; 26:10, 12;
Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14f; 5:1, 5, 10; 6:20; 7:26ff; 8:1, 3; 9:7, 11, 25;
13:11). In the Septuagint Archiereus is used only in Lev 4:3,
Joshua 22:13, 24:33
to the high priests in the Gospels and Acts refers primarily to their
bitter opposition to Jesus Who the writer of Hebrews identifies as our
everlasting High Priest.
archiereus is a key word in the book of Hebrews, and a review of
these 17 verses reveals various characteristics (see underlined
sections) of Jesus role as the great High Priest (some of the uses of
high priest obviously do not refer to Jesus but to the Jewish high
Hebrews 2:17 (note)
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He
might become a merciful and faithful high priest in
things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins
of the people.
Hebrews 3:1 (note)
brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle
and High Priest of our confession.
Hebrews 4:14 (note)
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through
the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our
Hebrews 4:15 (note)
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our
weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we
are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 5:1 (note)
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of
men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and
sacrifices for sins;
Hebrews 5:5 (note)
So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a
high priest, but He who said to Him, "Thou art My Son, Today I
have begotten Thee";
Hebrews 5:10 (note)
being designated by God as a high priest according to the order
Hebrews 6:20 (note)
where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a
high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 7:26 (note)
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy,
innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the
Hebrews 7:27 (note)
who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up
sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the
people, because this He did once for all when He
offered up Himself.
Hebrews 7:28 (note)
For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of
the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect
Hebrews 8:1 (note)
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high
priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of
the Majesty in the heavens,
Hebrews 8:3 (note)
For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices;
hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to
Hebrews 9:7 (note)
but into the second only the high priest enters, once a year, not
without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of
the people committed in ignorance.
Hebrews 9:11 (note)
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to
come, He entered through the greater and more perfect
tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this
Hebrews 9:25 (note)
nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high
priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own.
Hebrews 13:11 (note)
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy
place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside
the shadow in 1Sa 2:35 fulfilled in Christ our High Priest.
Jesus can be
completely trusted by men to be their means of atonement. All can approach
Christ with absolute confidence (for He is faithful) and with assurance that
they will find mercy (for He is merciful). Note how these twin concepts are
further developed by the writer in Hebrews 3:1-6 and Hebrews 4:14-16.
TO MAKE PROPITIATION
FOR THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE: eis to hilaskesthai (PMN) tas hamartias tou laou:
(Lev 6:30 8:15 2Ch 29:24 Eze 45:15,17,20 Da 9:24 Ro 5:10 2Co 5:18, 19, 21
Eph 2:16 Col 1:21)
Propitiation - Note the
NIV renders it "make atonement"
which is a curious rendering (but it
renders Ro 3:25
[note] similarly)! Atonement is not in the NT in the NASB.
from hileos = speaks of being favorably disposed with implication of
overcoming obstacles that are unfavorable to a relationship) means to cause
to be favorably inclined toward or favorably disposed toward another (as in
Lk 18:13). BDAG says it means "to eliminate impediments that alienate
the deity, expiate, wipe out, of Christ as high priest" (He 2:17) Hilaskomai
means to be merciful, make reconciliation for, be propitious, gracious, to
be favorably inclined.
See related word study on
Wuest on Heb 2:17...
In its Biblical usage, the verb (hilaskomai) refers to the act of our Lord
offering Himself on the Cross to satisfy the righteous demands of God’s
justice so that His government might be maintained, and that mercy might be
shown on the basis of justice satisfied. The words “reconciliation” and
“propitiation” are to be understood in this light.
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
A T Robertson on Heb 2:17...
Purpose clause with eis to and the infinitive (common Greek idiom),
here present indirect middle of hilaskomai, to render propitious to oneself
(from hilaos, Attic hileōs, gracious). This idea occurs in the LXX (Ps
65:3), but only here in NT, though in Lk 18:13 the passive form (hilasthēti)
occurs as in 2Ki 5:18. In 1Jn 2:2 we have hilasmos used of Christ (cf. He
Louw and Nida...
to forgive, with the focus upon the instrumentality or the means by which
forgiveness is accomplished (He 2:17) (and) to show compassion and concern
for someone in difficulty, despite that person’s having committed a moral
offense (Lk 18:13) (Louw,
J. P., & Nida, E. A. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on
Semantic Domains. United Bible societies)
NIDNTT notes that...
(a) The adj. hileos, -on, is the Attic form of hilaos or hileos, kindly,
gracious, and a parallel word to hilaros, cheerful (cf. Lat. hilaris). It
meant originally cheerful, joyous (Plato, Laws 1, 649a); later, kindly,
gracious, benevolent (e.g. Xen., Cyr. 1, 6, 2). hileos is chiefly used of
rulers or gods; in connexion with gods the phrase hileo poiein, to make
gracious, is found (Plato, Laws 10, 910a).
(b) The mid. deponent hilaskomai (Homer onwards), is etymologically
connected with hilaos and hileos, friendly, gracious, and hilemi, to be
gracious. Like the intensive form exhilaskomai (Hdt. onwards), it has a
causative meaning: to make gracious, appease (e.g. Homer, Od. 3, 419; Hdt.
verb hilaskomai which is used in the NT occurs only 11 times in the OT,
always in the middle or passive and always with Yahweh as subject. In
general, it means to forgive. But in 6 of these passages there is explicit
mention of divine wrath.
Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan
The word for propitiation in Greek is hilasterion, and the verb, "to make
propitiation" is hilaskomai. They both share the common root of hileos,
which means "gracious or merciful." Therefore in its Greek form, the word
for propitiation means to "conciliate," "expiate," "bring a sin-offering,"
or "obtain mercy."
In the time of Homer, the word hilaskomai meant to make the pagan gods happy
or merciful. Later it took on the idea of a prayer to pagan deities to avoid
their wrath. During the Hellenistic period of Greek history this word came
to mean bringing an offering to placate angry gods.
When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek, this word was
used to describe the levitical offering system. For instance, it referred to
the sin-offering as seen in Leviticus (Lev. 4; 17:11). It was also the
offering brought on the Day of Atonement to provide expiation (or pay the
penalty) for the sins of Israel (chap. 16)...
Our Greek words can be viewed from two standpoints. First, they can be seen
as man's heart-cry for conciliation with God: "God, be merciful to me, a
sinner." Second, they also refer to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ
on our behalf, whereby we can be made right with God.
The Old Testament root of this word plunged deep into the Day of Atonement,
in accordance with the Law of God (Lev 16:1-34). On Yom Kippur two
goats were brought to the priest. One was slain and its blood was sprinkled
on the "mercy seat" as a "propitiation" for the sins of the people. The
second goat became a sin-bearer. The priest would place his hands on the
head of the second goat, indicating the transferal of sin to the
"scapegoat." Afterward the goat would be banished into the desert, never to
return. It was the sin-bearer.
A Christian must not content himself with a "scapegoat." Jesus Christ has
become our propitiation and sin offering. A. A. Hodge (1823-86), in his
popular lectures on theology, said:
"The sacrifices of bulls and goats were like token-money, as our paper
promises to pay, accepted at their face value until the day of settlement.
But the sacrifice of Christ was the gold which absolutely extinguished all
debt by its intrinsic value. Hence, when Christ died, the veil that
separated man from God was rent from the top to the bottom by supernatural
This unique sacrifice of Christ should never be confused with the
ineffective sacrifices of either Judaism or paganism. John F. D. Maurice
(1805-72), a Church of England theologian, said:
"The heathen significance of words [such as sacrifice], when applied to
Christian use, must not merely be modified, but inverted."
Along those same lines the famous preacher John Henry Jowett (1864-1923)
"The heathen and Jewish sacrifices rather show us what the sacrifice of
Christ was not, than what it was."
Animal sacrifices were annual events, but Christ died once for all. Animal
sacrifices only covered sin, but Christ's blood blotted sin out. Animal
sacrifices depended upon the faithfulness of human priests, but Christ was
both the High Priest and the Sacrifice.
The great Australian scholar Leon Morris wrote
"The consistent Bible view is that the sin of man has incurred the wrath of
God. That wrath is averted only by Christ's atoning offering. From this
standpoint His saving work is properly called a propitiation" (Walter A.
Elwell, editor, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker Book
House, 1984], p. 888).
Lucy Bennett (1850-1927) summarized the significance of this truth in a
O teach me what
That cross uplifted high,
With One, the Man of Sorrows,
Condemned to bleed and die.
O teach me what it cost Thee,
To make a sinner whole;
And teach me, Saviour, teach me
The value of a soul.
Wayne E: New Testament Words in Today's Language. Victor. 1986)
The Greek word hilaskomai
means to make a propitiation and in context means to satisfy and thus turn aside the wrath of
God. Therefore, propitiation refers to
God's wrath being satisfied by the death of Christ, our "Mercy Seat" so to
speak. (Ro 3:24-note,
note; 1Jn 2:2, 4:10, cp Lev 16:14 = a shadow of the substance
fulfilled in the Messiah). He was faithful in this obligation which He as
High Priest had to God. If Jesus was to accomplish the purpose for which He
was sent, He had to offer up His own life. And, faithful in His commitment
to God’s will, He did exactly that.
Expiation (which emphasizes removal of sin by the sacrifice) is included in
the definition of hilaskomai but does not as clearly picture the
satisfaction of God's Wrath by the sacrifice and this latter concept is the
main emphasis of this Greek word.
In Greek culture, the word group denoting "propitiation" carried with it the
idea of acting in some way to avert the terrible, destructive powers of the
gods and, if possible, to win the gods over to act favorably. The LXX
Translation chose this word group when translating kippur (to cover,
Jesus' sacrifice as the God–Man
satisfied God’s justice so that, instead of God justifiably demonstrating His
wrath toward sinful man (Ro 1:18-note;
Ro 5:8, 9-note;
Ro 5:10-note), He
demonstrated His mercy. Christ is the High Priest Who offered Himself
once for all time,
becoming at once both the sacrificial offering or victim and the priest, thus satisfying the justice of God
and at the same time procuring forgiveness of sins whereby a regenerate and reconciled
offered bold access to and full communion with the holy God. Therefore, the Lord Jesus as the
High Priest is said not to appease God in any way, but to make possible the
taking away of the sins of the people without violating God’s holiness.
Hilaskomai is used only twice in
the NT and 12 times in the Septuagint...
Luke 18:13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even
unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying,
'God, be merciful
to me, the sinner!'
Comment: Not "a" sinner but "the" sinner. He openly and willingly
acknowledges his personal responsibility for missing God's mark.
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things,
so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things
pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the
Hilaskomai - 12x in the Septuagint - Ex 32:14; Deut 21:8; 2 Kgs 5:18;
24:4; 2 Chr 6:30; Esth 4:17; Ps 25:11; 65:3; 78:38; 79:9; Lam 3:42; Dan 9:19
and here are some of the uses.
Exodus 32:14 So the LORD changed His mind (English of the Lxx = nd the Lord
was prevailed upon [propitiated] to preserve his people.)
about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Deuteronomy 21:8 'Forgive (Lxx = hileos - attribute of God = merciful,
gracious, favorable) Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O LORD, and
do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people
Israel.' And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven (Heb = salach =
forgive; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiated) them.
2 Kings 5:18YLT "In this matter may the LORD pardon (Lxx =
hilaskomai) your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to
worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of
Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your
servant in this matter."
2 Kings 24:4 and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled
Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the LORD would not forgive (Heb =
salach = forgive; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiate).
2 Chronicles 6:30 then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive
(Heb = salach = forgive; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiate), and render to each
according to all his ways, whose heart You know for You alone know the
hearts of the sons of men,
For Your name's sake, O LORD, Pardon (Heb = salach
= forgive; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiate) my iniquity, for it is great. (Note
the basis for the psalmist's appeal for his sin to be forgiven! = for the
sake of His great name!)
Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You
forgive them (NET Note = "make atonement for") (Heb = kaphar = cover
over; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiate).
But He, being compassionate, forgave (Heb = kaphar =
cover over; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiated) their iniquity and did not
destroy them; And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And
deliver us and forgive (Heb = kaphar = cover over; Lxx = hilaskomai -
propitiate). our sins for Your name's sake.
Lamentations 3:42 We have transgressed and rebelled, You have not
pardoned (Heb = salach = forgive; Lxx = hilaskomai - propitiate).
Marvin Vincent in his comments on hilasterion in Romans 3:25 has a
long note on this word group...
[word study]). This word
is most important, since it is the key to the conception of Christ’s atoning
work. In the New Testament it occurs only here and Heb 9:5; and must be
studied in connection with the following kindred words: Hilaskomai
which occurs in the New Testament only Luke 18:13, God be merciful, and Heb.
2:17, to make reconciliation. Hilasmos, twice, 1Jn 2:2; 4:10; in both
cases rendered propitiation. The compound exilaskomai, which is not
found in the New Testament, but is frequent in the Septuagint and is
rendered purge, cleanse, reconcile, make atonement.
Septuagint usage. These words mostly represent the Hebrew verb kaphar
to cover or conceal, and its derivatives. With only seven exceptions, out of
about sixty or seventy passages in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew is
translated by atone or atonement, the Septuagint employs some part or
derivative of Hilaskomai or exilaskomai. Hilasmos or
exilasmos is the usual Septuagint translation for kippurim covering
for sin, AV, atonement. Thus sin-offerings of atonement; day of
atonement; ram of the atonement. See Ex 29:36; 30:10; Lv. 23:27; Nu 5:8,
etc. They are also used for chattath sin-offering, Ezek 44:27; 45:19;
and for selichah forgiveness. Ps 129:4; Da 9:9.
These words are always used absolutely, without anything to mark the offence
or the person propitiated.
Hilaskomai which is comparatively rare, occurs as a translation of
kipher to cover sin, Ps. 64:3; 77:38; 78:9; AV, purge away, forgive, pardon.
Of salach, to bear away as a burden, 2Ki 5:18; Ps 24:11: AV, forgive,
pardon. It is used with the accusative (direct objective) case, marking the
sin, or with the dative (indirect objective), as be conciliated to our sins.
Exilaskomai mostly represents kipher to cover, and is more common
than the simple verb. Thus, purge the altar, Ezek 43:26; cleanse the
sanctuary, Ezek 45:20; reconcile the house, Da 9:24. It is found with the
accusative case of that which is cleansed; with the preposition peri =
concerning, as “for your sin,” Ex 32:30; with the preposition huper
= on behalf of, AV, for, Ezek 45:17; absolutely, to make an atonement, Lv
16:17; with the preposition apo = from, as “cleansed from the blood,”
Nu 35:33. There are but two instances of the accusative of the person
propitiated: appease him, Ge 32:20; pray before (propitiate) the Lord, Zech
Hilasterion AV, propitiation, is almost always used in the Old
Testament of the mercy-seat or golden cover of the ark, and this is its
meaning in Heb. 9:5, the only other passage of the New Testament in which it
is found. In Ezek 43:14, 17, 20, it means a ledge round a large altar, and
is rendered settle in AV; Rev., ledge, in margin.
This term has been unduly pressed into the sense of expiatory sacrifice. In
the case of the kindred verbs, the dominant Old-Testament sense is not
propitiation in the sense of some. thing offered to placate or appease
anger; but atonement or reconciliation, through the covering, and so getting
rid of the sin which stands between God and man. The thrust of the idea is
upon the sin or uncleanness, not upon the offended party. Hence the frequent
interchange with hagiazo to sanctify, and katharizo = to
cleanse. See Ezek 43:26, where exilasontai = shall purge, and
kathariousin = shall purify, are used coordinately. See also Ex 30:10,
of the altar of incense: “Aaron shall make an atonement (exilasetai) upon
the horns of it — with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement” (katharismou
= purification). Compare Lv 16:20. The Hebrew terms are also used
Our translators frequently render the verb kaphar by reconcile, Lv 6:30;
16:20; Ezek 45:20. In Lv 8:15, Moses put blood upon the horns of the altar
and cleansed (ekatharise) the altar, and sanctified (hagiasen)
it, to make reconciliation (ton exilasasthai) upon it. Compare Ezek
45:15, 17; Da 9:24.
The verb and its derivatives occur where the ordinary idea of expiation is
excluded. As applied to an altar or to the walls of a house (Lv 14:48, 49,
50, 51, 52, 53), this idea could have no force, because these inanimate
things, though ceremonially unclean, could have no sin to be expiated.
Moses, when he went up to make atonement for the idolatry at Sinai, offered
no sacrifice, but only intercession. See also the case of Korah, Num. 16:46;
the cleansing of leprosy and of mothers after childbirth, Lev. 14:1-20;
12:7; 15:30; the reformation of Josiah, 2Chr 34; the fasting and confession
of Ezra, Ezra 10:1-15; the offering of the Israelite army after the defeat
of Midian. They brought bracelets, rings, etc., to make an atonement
(exilasasthai) before the Lord; not expiatory, but a memorial, Nu 31:50, 51,
52, 53, 54. The Passover was in no sense expiatory; but Paul says,
“Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us; therefore purge out (ekkatharate)
the old leaven. Let us keep the feast with sincerity and truth;” 1Co 5:7, 8.
In the Old Testament the idea of sacrifice as in itself a propitiation
continually recedes before that of the personal character lying back of
sacrifice, and which alone gives virtue to it. See 1Sa 15:22; Ps 40:6, 7, 8,
9, 10; 50:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 23; 51:16, 17; Is 1:11-18-note;
Jer 7:21, 22, 23; Amos 5:21, 22, 23, 24; Mic 6:6, 7, 8. This idea does not
recede in the Old Testament to be re-emphasized in the New. On the contrary,
the New Testament emphasizes the recession, and lays the stress upon the
cleansing and life giving effect of the sacrifice of Christ. See John 1:29;
Col. 1:20, 21, 22-note;
Heb 10:19, 20, 21-note;
1Jn 1:7; 4:10, 11, 12, 13.
The true meaning of the offering of Christ concentrates, therefore, not upon
divine justice, but upon human character; not upon the remission of penalty
for a consideration, but upon the deliverance from penalty through moral
transformation; not upon satisfying divine justice, but upon bringing
estranged man into harmony with God. As Canon Westcott remarks:
“The scripture conception of hilaskesthai is not that of appeasing
one who is angry with a personal feeling against the offender, but of
altering the character of that which, from without, occasions a necessary
alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship” (Commentary
on St. John’s Epistles, p. 85).
In the light of this conception we are brought back to that rendering of
which prevails in the Septuagint, and which it has in the only other
New-Testament passage where it occurs (He 9:5) — mercy-seat; a rendering
maintained by a large number of the earlier expositors, and by some of the
ablest of the moderns. That it is the sole instance of its occurrence in
this sense is a fact which has its parallel in the terms Passover, Door,
Rock, Amen, Day-spring, and others, applied to Christ. To say that the
metaphor is awkward counts for nothing in the light of other metaphors of
Paul. To say that the concealment of the ark is inconsistent with set forth
is to adduce the strongest argument in favor of this rendering. The contrast
with set forth falls in perfectly with the general conception. That
mercy-seat which was veiled, and which the Jew could approach only once a
year, and then through the medium of the High-Priest, is now brought out
where all can draw nigh and experience its reconciling power (He 10:19, 22;
compare Heb. 9:8). “The word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld His
glory. We saw and handled’ (Jn 1:14; 1Jn 1:1, 2, 3). The mercy-seat was the
meeting-place of God and man (Ex 25:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22; Lv 16:2; Nu
7:89); the place of mediation and manifestation. Through Christ, the
antitype of the mercy-seat, the Mediator, man has access to the Father (Ep
2:18). As the golden surface covered the tables of the law, so Christ stands
over the law, vindicating it as holy and just and good, and therewith
vindicating the divine claim to obedience and holiness. As the blood was
annually sprinkled on the golden cover by the High-Priest, so Christ is set
forth “in His blood,” not shed to appease God’s wrath, to satisfy God’s
justice, nor to compensate for man’s disobedience, but as the highest
expression of divine love for man, taking common part with humanity even
unto death, that it might reconcile it through faith and self-surrender to
3 Greek Word Studies)
(hamartia) originally had the idea of missing mark as when hunting
with a bow and arrow then missing or falling short of any goal, standard, or
Sins interrupt normal
relations with God. In the OT, blood covered over (atoned for) the the sins
and God passed over them at that time (Ro 3:25-note), but they were
unable to give the worshiper a clean conscience (an important theme in
Hebrews) and thus the blood offerings always needed to be
repeated, this very repetition being the vehicle God had ordained to lead
people to His perfect Sacrifice, the Messiah. See Lev 16:20, 22; which
foreshadows the substitutionary aspect of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary.
Lev 16:20 "When he finishes atoning for the holy place, and the tent
of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 21 "Then Aaron shall
lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all
the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard
to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it
away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. 22
"And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land;
and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
Under the Old Covenant, the Law, the Mosaic
System, sins were confessed and symbolically transferred to the
sacrificial animal, on which hands were laid
Ex 29:10 "Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting,
and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull.
Lev 1:4 'And he shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering,
that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf...Lev 3:8 and he
shall lay his hand on the head of
his offering, and slay it before the tent of meeting; and Aaron's sons shall
sprinkle its blood around on the altar...Lev 4:4 'And he shall bring the bull to
the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, and he shall lay his
hand on the head of the bull, and slay the bull before the LORD. (Lev 1:4 3:8; 4:4)
Observe that the sins of the people are the direct object of the verb
hilaskomai. Therefore, it is not the nature of God that is changed
from one of hatred to one of love toward man, but it is the nature of man
that is changed. Paul writes...
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved
from the wrath of God through Him. (Ro 5:9-note)
In Romans 5:9, man is presented as having been justified by means of the
blood (i.e., the sacrificial death) of Christ, and through Him escaping
God’s wrath. Man is then proclaimed as not guilty and is portrayed as
reconciled to God through the death of His Son.
What's The Incarnation? - The incarnation. It's one of those big
doctrinal terms that may puzzle us. What does it mean? Let's take a few
moments to think about it.
Look at yourself in a mirror. What do you think it would feel like to be a
different person? You will never know. You may modify your body by exercise
and diet. You may change your mind and your behavior. You may even resort to
surgery. But you and I will forever be the unique individuals God created us
to be. Regardless of how much we may try, we can't actually experience what
it is to be another person.
What was it like, then, for God to take on our human nature and live as a
man who was despised and misunderstood on this fallen planet? (Isa. 53). He
already knew exactly what sinful people go through. After all, He is
all-knowing. Yet He voluntarily came to Bethlehem, entered into our
suffering and sorrow, and personally experienced our trials and temptations
(He 4:15-note). He lovingly became one of us to pay the penalty for our sins
and to conquer death (see note
Hebrews 2:14). Because He suffered, He is able to assist
us now (see note
That's what the incarnation is all about. And if we thank Jesus for all
eternity, it still won't be enough. —Vernon C Grounds
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Touched with sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For He hath felt the same. --Watts
The Son of God became the Son of Man
to change sons of men into sons of God.
Tale Of Two Goats - Two goats without blemish stood before the high
priest in the bright Middle Eastern sun. Lots were cast, and the priest
slowly led one to the altar to be killed as a sin offering for the people.
Its blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat. That goat was a sacrifice.
The other goat, known as the scapegoat, portrays another truth. The priest
placed both his hands on its forehead and confessed the sins of Israel. Then
the goat was led out into the desert and turned loose. As it wandered away,
never to be seen again, it symbolically took Israel's sins along with it.
They were gone. The people were reconciled to God. That goat was a
Both of these goats were pictures of what Christ would do for us. The cross
became an upright altar, where the Lamb of God gave His life as a sacrifice
for sin. And what the scapegoat symbolically portrayed for Israel—the
removal of their sins—Jesus fulfilled in reality. He became our substitute.
Because of our identification with Him as believers, our sins have been
taken away completely.
Two goats representing two truths: sacrifice and substitution. Both were
fulfilled in Christ when He died on the cross and made full atonement for
our sins. Praise God! —David C. Egner
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Guilty, vile, and helpless we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! Can it be?
Hallelujah, what a Savior! —Bliss
Jesus took our place to give us His peace.
Human Like Us - Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be
someone else? Nearly 40 years ago, John Howard Griffin darkened his skin
color and experienced life in a predominantly white society. In his
fascinating book Black Like Me, Griffin describes his travels in the United
States, and he tells about the sad discrimination and prejudice he faced.
The Son of God did far more than change His appearance. He laid aside His
glory and took on our humanity. He lived on this earth as a man who was
despised and rejected (Isaiah 53; see notes
2:8). Because of His love for us, He
entered into our sorrow, and He came to know by personal experience the
feelings we humans have.
The writer to the Hebrews said that because Jesus lived as a man and died
for our sins, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews
Because He became one of us and knows what it is like to be tempted, He is
able to help us when we are tempted (see note
Hebrews 2:18). We can pray in His name with
boldness (see notes
16), telling Him in complete honesty our struggles, fears,
defeats, needs--even our questionings and doubts. That's why, as we remember
all He endured for us as the Son of God from glory, we love Him and strive
to please Him. —Vernon C Grounds (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Once from the realms of infinite glory,
Down to the depths of our ruin and loss,
Jesus came, seeking--oh, love's sweet story--
Came to the manger, the shame, and the cross. --Strickland
The Son of God became one of us
that we might become one with Him.
Feeling Our Sorrow - When Christ became a man, He showed His
willingness to be tempted, tested, hated, and hurt. During His life on
earth, He faced the same struggles we encounter. He had been sympathetic to
man's weaknesses before He came, but by taking a human body He identified
with us in a dramatic way. His incarnation revealed the extent to which He
would go to pay for our sin and to be touched by the trials and infirmities
that make life so difficult for us.
On a smaller scale, people try to empathize with the sufferings of others.
John Griffin, a white man, darkened his skin in an effort to understand what
it meant to be black in a predominantly white society. He told about his
experiences in a book titled Black Like Me. More recently, a thirty-year-old
woman, an industrial designer, masqueraded as an elderly woman once a week
for three years to find out how it feels to be old in America. What she
learned is heartbreaking. She was robbed, insulted, and frightened by a
world that isn't easy on its elderly.
As touching as these examples are, they are nothing compared with Christ's
coming into our world. No one else left so high a position to feel what
mortal man feels. Jesus gave up heaven's glory and was tempted in all points
as we are, yet He did not sin. He bore our sins on the cross so that He
could be merciful to us.
We have One who cares. When we face temptations and trials, we can go to
Jesus. He knows the feeling. —M. R. De Haan II (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot feel.
Pastor Steven Cole's sermon...
Hebrews 2:16, 17, 18
Why Jesus Became a Man
If we were to go out on the streets and ask people at random, “What is your
greatest need?” we would probably hear a number of responses. Some would
say, “My greatest need right now is to get a decent job. I can’t pay my
bills and get out of debt in my current situation.” Others may say, “My
greatest need is that I’m lonely. I need a mate or some good friends.”
Others might say, “My family is a war zone. My husband is abusive towards
the kids and me; the kids are defiant and disrespectful. We need peace in
If we went to a poor country, like India or Bangladesh, the answers to our
question would center more on raw survival: “I am starving. I need food!”
“I’m dying of a disease that is treatable, but I can’t get the proper
medicine.” “I live on the streets. I need a roof over my head.”
Without denying the legitimacy of any of those needs, according to the
Bible, the people giving those answers are blind to their greatest need.
Their greatest need is for God to forgive their sins and give them eternal
life. They need to learn how to live in accordance with God’s Word, so that
their lives bring glory to Him. Without this focus, we could meet all of the
perceived needs, but their greatest need would go unmet. If they were to
die, they would spend eternity in hell.
I just read K. P. Yohannan’s powerful book, Revolution in World Missions
[Gospel for Asia's books]. He grew up in India and didn’t wear shoes before
he was 17 (p. 55). He has preached the gospel all across India. He is not
oblivious to India’s oppressive poverty. But he strongly contends against
getting distracted with meeting physical needs, but ignoring the spiritual
needs. He says that India has seen 150 years of schools and hospitals
brought to them by British missionaries, but it has not had any noticeable
effect on either their churches or society (p. 103, 110).
Yohannan says that it is one of Satan’s lies that people will not listen to
the gospel unless we offer them something else first (p.109). He has sat on
the streets of Bombay with beggars who are about to die. He has told them
that he does not have material goods to give them, but he has come to offer
them eternal life, and he has seen many respond. He says (p. 111), There is
nothing wrong with charitable acts-but they are not to be confused with
preaching the Gospel. Feeding programs can save a man dying from hunger.
Medical aid can prolong life and fight disease. Housing projects can make
this temporary life more comfortable-but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can
save a soul from a life of sin and an eternity in hell!
Thus our emphasis should always be first and foremost on evangelism and
discipleship. Social concern is a result of the gospel. We must not put the
cart before the horse (pp. 106, 99).
This relates directly to our text. Many would read these verses and think,
“This isn’t relevant to my needs. I’ve got to find a job. I’ve got to solve
my personal problems. I’ve got a number of issues pressing in on me right
now. These verses don’t relate to me.”
But the greatest need for us all is for a high priest to reconcile us as
sinners to the holy God. He 2:17 shows how Jesus is that merciful and
faithful high priest. If Jesus is your high priest, then your greatest need
is to learn to live in victory over the power of sin, which will destroy
your life if left unchecked. Verse 18 shows how Jesus is able to come to
your aid when you are tempted.
To review, in chapter 1 the author demonstrated to his readers, who were
tempted to leave Christ and go back to Judaism, how Jesus is God’s final
word to us. As the Son of God, He is the radiance of God’s glory and the
exact representation of His nature. He upholds all things by the word of His
power (He 1:3). He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
supreme over all angelic beings (He 1:4-14). After a brief exhortation not
to drift (He 2:1, 2, 3, 4), he shows that Jesus is not only the eternal Son
of God, He is also fully human. God’s original intent was for man to rule
over the earth, but that was hindered by the fall (He 2:5, 6, 7, 8). By His
incarnation and death for our sins, Jesus recovered what we lost in the fall
(He 2:9,10). As the Captain of our salvation, Jesus became man in order to
bring us to God (He 2:11, 12, 13, 14, 15). Our text continues the theme of
Jesus’ humanity, showing us why He became a man: Jesus became a man so that
as our high priest, He could offer Himself for our sins and come to our aid
when we are tempted.
He makes three points:
1. Jesus became a man, not an angel, because He came to save men (He
The author is wrapping up his argument that he began in He 2:5, that God put
man on the earth to rule, and that the role of angels is “to render service
for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (He 1:14). The word “for”
(He 2:16) relates to the previous two verses, about Jesus freeing us from
the power and fear of death. There is debate about the meaning of the word
translated, “give help.” It literally means, “to take hold of” (NASB,
margin). It is used of Jesus taking hold of Peter when he was sinking after
walking on the water (Matt 14:31; see also Mark 8:23). It is also used in a
spiritual sense of taking hold of or appropriating eternal life (1Ti 6:12,
19). So the debate is, in 2:16 does it refer to Jesus’ taking hold of His
people in the sense of helping them? Or, does it refer to His taking hold of
human nature, in the sense of He 2:14a?
The early church fathers uniformly interpreted it to refer to Jesus’ taking
hold of human nature in the incarnation (Philip Hughes, A Commentary on the
Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 115). In this sense, the verse means,
“Jesus did not take to Himself the nature of angels, but rather He took on
the seed of Abraham,” that is, He became a Jew in fulfillment of God’s
covenant promise to Abraham. About the 17th century, some commentators began
to interpret the verse to mean that Jesus does not give help or assistance
to angels, but rather to people. In this view, “the seed of Abraham” refers
to those who are Abraham’s true children by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal.
The difference does not seem that great to me. The first view emphasizes the
fact of the incarnation, whereas the second emphasizes its purpose. The
extended context discusses both the fact and the purpose of the incarnation.
Thus I understand the sense of the verse in context to be: “While the
Messiah is God, and thus superior to the angels, He also had to become man
so that He could suffer and die for our salvation. He did this in
fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, that through his seed, He would
bless all peoples. So don’t look to any angelic Messiah, and don’t despise
the fact that Jesus suffered and died. He had to do this to atone for our
Before we move on, let me point out that this verse refutes an objection
raised by those who deny the doctrine of God’s sovereign election. They
argue that if God does not choose everyone, then He is unloving and unjust
(C. H. Spurgeon refutes this error in his sermon, “Men Chosen-Fallen Angels
Rejected,” New Park Street Pulpit [Baker], 2:293; Dave Hunt promotes this
error in What Love is This? [Loyal], pp. 111-112, 114-115). If they are
wrong, they are also guilty of blasphemy, because they are accusing the
Sovereign God of being unloving and unjust!
They are wrong, for at least two reasons. First, it is plain from Scripture
and history that God did not make His salvation equally available to all
people in all places. He chose Abraham, but not Abraham’s extended family
and not anyone else in any other place on earth. He later chose Abraham’s
descendants through Isaac and Jacob, not because they were more deserving
than others, but simply because He chose to do it (Dt. 7:6, 7, 8). This
meant that God chose to reject Ishmael, Esau, and their descendants (Dt.
7:1, 2, 3, 4, 5). As far as Scripture reveals, all the other peoples in the
world in the centuries before Christ only had the general witness of
creation, which is not sufficient for salvation. God permitted them to go
their own ways, but He didn’t reveal to them the truth about the Savior to
come, as He did to the Jews (Acts 14:16, 17).
Second, our text makes it clear that God did not provide for nor offer
salvation to fallen angels (2Pe 2:4; Jude 6). He could have devised a way to
offer salvation to the angels that joined Satan in his rebellion, but in His
sovereign purpose, He chose not to do this. Would we dare say that this
negates His love and justice? Can the fallen angels bring a charge against
God because He didn’t give them a way out of their condemnation? Of course
not! And neither should rebellious people claim that God is unloving or
unjust if He chooses some as vessels of mercy, but demonstrates His wrath
and power on others as vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. As the
Potter, He is free to do with the clay whatever He chooses to do, and we are
not free to challenge Him (Ro 9:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24-note).
I contend that the main problem with those who reject God’s sovereign
election is not just deficient theology. They are not in submission to God’s
claim to be the sovereign over His creation.
Anyway, the author’s main point in He 2:16 is that Jesus became a man, not
an angel. As the next verse makes clear, He did it to pro-vide salvation to
2. Jesus became fully human for a specific purpose, to be-come a high
priest to offer Himself for our sins (He 2:17).
Heb 2:17 makes three points:
A. Jesus became fully human for a specific purpose.
The verse reads, literally, “Therefore, He was obligated to be made like His
brethren in all things, …” The obligation relates to the purpose that the
rest of the verse delineates, so that He might become a merciful and
faithful high priest, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. And,
as verse 18 states, as a result of His complete humanity, which included His
being tempted, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
But the significant words in this opening phrase are, “in all things.” This
refutes the Docetic heresy, that Jesus only seemed or appeared to be human.
No, He adopted a complete human nature, yet without sin (He 4:15-note).
His body had normal human needs (for food, rest, etc.), human emotions
(although not sinful emotions), and human limitations (His body was not
omnipresent, although in His deity He is omnipresent). A. W. Pink
(Commentary on Hebrews [Ephesians Four Group], vol. 1) states firmly that
since Jesus was not subject to sin, He was not subject to illness. I’m not
sure that this is a necessary inference, since He did live in this fallen
world (harmful germs are a result of the fall) and He was subject to death.
So I don’t know if Jesus ever had a cold. But clearly God protected Him from
any illness that would have hindered His accomplishing His ministry.
B. Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest in the things
pertaining to God.
This is the first mention of Jesus as our high priest in He-brews, which is
the only book in the New Testament to mention this truth. It is a vital
concept for us to grasp, but we are at a disadvantage in that we did not
grow up under the Jewish system. The Jews knew that they could not approach
God directly. They had to come to Him through the priest, who would offer
their sacrifices on their behalf. He represented them in everything
pertaining to God. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest
would represent the entire nation by entering the Holy of Holies and
presenting the blood on the mercy seat. If anyone else dared to enter that
sacred place, or even if the high priest went in there on any other
occasion, it meant instant death (Lev. 16:2). Thus the role of the high
priest was essential so that the nation could be cleansed from its sins each
year (Lev. 16:30).
Have you ever thought about what an expensive hassle it would have been to
be required to bring a sacrifice to the priest every time you sinned? It
would have been embarrassing, too! All the neighbors stop to look up from
what they’re doing as you trudge toward the tabernacle with your sacrifice.
“There goes Steve again! You’d think he would learn! I wonder what he did
this time?” But, as our author will develop later, Jesus offered His own
blood once and for all, so that there is no need for continuing sacrifices
(He 7:27; 9:12; 10:11, 12, 13, 14). This must have been a huge relief to
believing Jews! Jesus is our permanent, final high priest, who offered
Himself once and for all for our sins! Thank God!
But He wasn’t just any kind of high priest. He is a merciful high priest.
That describes His motive in going to the cross (Hughes, p. 120). He had
compassion on us as sinners. This means that we should never hesitate to
draw near to our Lord for fear of rejection, or for fear that He will not
understand. Although He will discipline us as a loving Father (He 12:5, 6,
7, 8, 9, 10, 11-note)
for our good, He is never harsh or lacking in compassion. As David put it
(Ps 103:13, 14), “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the
Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.”
John Calvin (Calvin's Commentaries [Baker], on Hebrews, p. 75) explains that
a priest needed to be merciful so that he could help the miserable, raise up
the fallen, and relieve the oppressed. Jesus, of course, did not need any
experience to become merciful, but the trials that He endured assure us that
He understands our trials. As Calvin puts it, “it is a rare thing for those
who are always happy to sympathize with the sorrows of others.” He adds,
“Therefore whenever any evils pass over us, let it ever occur to us, that
nothing happens to us but what the Son of God has himself experienced in
order that he might sympathize with us; nor let us doubt but that he is at
present with us as though he suffered with us” (ibid.).
Jesus was also a faithful high priest. This refers to His faithful obedience
to God in all things, culminating in His perfect obedience in going to the
cross. He always trusted in and obeyed the Father, even to the point of
death on the cross. You can trust in a faithful person completely. He will
never let you down. So the character of Jesus as merciful and faithful
invites us to draw near to Him in our every need. But that is especially
true in the greatest need that every person faces:
C. Jesus’ offering of Himself on the cross satisfied God’s wrath for our
He became fully human “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” The
NIV translates it “atonement”; the RSV has “expiation.” Atonement and
expiation refer to the cancellation of sin, whereas propitiation refers to
the turning away of God’s wrath. John Owen pointed out that there are four
elements in propitiation:
(1) an offence or crime to be taken away;
(2) a person of-fended, to be pacified or reconciled;
(3) a person offending, to be pardoned; and,
(4) a sacrifice or other means of making atonement (An Exposition of Hebrews
[The National Foundation for Christian Education], on Heb 2:17, p. 476).
The notion of God’s wrath is not popular. User-friendly churches don’t
mention it. Liberals argue that it was borrowed from the pagan idea of
appeasing an angry god with a sacrifice. But it occurs no less than 585
times in the Old Testament (Leon Morris, “Propitiation,” in Evangelical
Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Walter Elwell [Baker], p. 888), and more than
30 times in the New Testament. Jesus often spoke in frightful terms about
the future judgment (Mark 9:48; Luke 16:19-31). The Gospel of John (Jn 3:36)
speaks of the wrath of God abiding on the one who does not obey the Son.
Paul spoke often of God’s wrath (Ro 1:18-note,
plus nine other times in Romans; 2Th 1:7, 8, 9). The Book of Revelation is
filled with horrifying images of the wrath of the Lamb (6:16).
God’s wrath is not an angry outburst, but rather His active, settled hatred
and opposition to everything evil, arising out of His holy nature. The Bible
states that God not only hates sin; He also hates sinners (Ps. 5:5; 11:5).
While as fallen sinners, we are to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27), we
also are warned with some to “have mercy with fear, hating even the garment
polluted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23). We who love the Lord are commanded to
hate evil (Ps 97:10).
The important point is that if we diminish the wrath of God against all sin,
we also diminish the love of God for His people. What God’s holy justice
required, His love and mercy provided, in that “while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8-note).
As Philip Hughes exclaims (p. 120), “Our hell he made his, that his heaven
might be ours. Never was there such mercy, never such faithfulness, as
this!” So we must hold firmly to the biblical idea that Jesus became a man
to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice that the wrath of God demands for
The chapter ends with a practical consequence of Jesus’ be-coming a man:
3. Because Jesus became a man, He is able to come to our aid when we are
tempted (He 2:18).
Because Jesus was fully human, He was fully tempted, al-though not in the
same sense as those who have a sin nature. He was tempted in the same sense
that Adam and Eve were tempted before the fall. We would be wrong to assume
that because Jesus never fell into sin, He doesn’t understand the depths of
our temptations. As Hughes explains (p. 124), Jesus “knows the full force of
temptation in a manner that we who have not withstood it to the end cannot
know it. What good would another who has failed be to us? It is precisely
because we have been defeated that we need the assistance of him who is the
The Greek verb translated “come to the aid” means to run to the aid of those
who cry out for help. Imagine a parent who hears his or her child cry out,
“Help me!” We would drop what we were doing and run to help our child. That
is the picture here of our merciful high priest. It also means that we are
responsible to cry out to Him when we are tempted, and to flee when
God’s Word promises, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common
to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond
what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape
also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1Cor. 10:13-note).
What is your greatest need? I hope that you see that your greatest need is
to be reconciled to the holy God. Have you come to Jesus in faith that He is
your propitiation, the one who bore the penalty that you deserve? If not,
the wrath of God abides on you! Do not rest until your faith is in Jesus as
your high priest!
If you do know Him as your high priest, are you crying out to Him for help
when you are tempted? Do you know experientially the consistent deliverance
from sin that is yours in Christ? He is your merciful and faithful high
priest in things pertaining to God. He is able to come to your aid when you
What is the biblical answer to the charge that God is not fair if He does
not choose everyone for salvation?
Why is it essential to affirm Jesus’ full humanity? What are the practical
Why is it essential to hold to the doctrine of God’s wrath against all sin?
What do we lose if we compromise here?
Where is the balance between God’s responsibility and ours when it comes to
by permission of Pastor Steven Cole - his sermons are highly recommended -
see Sermons by Book)
F B Meyer
merciful and faithful high priest. -
The priesthood of Jesus stretches like the sky from the horizon of the past
to that of the eternal future. It covers all we know of Him.
In the days that preceded His incarnation. - We are told that the priesthood
of Melchizedek was made like that of the Son of God (see note
from which it is clear that all the apparatus of priesthood within and
without the Jewish system was some faint imagining forth of the priestly
mediation and intercession of the Saviour. The eternal temple was reared,
the incense of intercession ascended, the sacrifice of the Lamb was slain,
before the first thin spiral of smoke rose from Moriah's summit.
In the days of His earthly ministry. - At the Passover, when the High Priest
had finished the sacred rites, he came forth to the people, and said, "Now
ye are clean." In John 15:3 Jesus addressed His disciples in the same words.
His authority to forgive sins; His quick sympathy, and likeness to His
brethren; His frequent prayers; His intercessions for sinners, as when He
pleaded for His crucifiers 3 His intercessions for the tempted, as when He
prayed for Peter; His intercessions for His own, as in the matchless John
17; His reference to the shedding of blood; the whole circumstances of His
death-show His priestly attitude, which culminated in His passing within the
In the days of the present dispensation. - The divine apostle tells us that
he saw Christ clothed in a vesture to the foot, and employs this specific
word for high-priestly dress. He saw Him engaged in priestly ministry; and
in a subsequent vision tells us that he saw Him mingle much incense with the
prayer of saints, and present them before God.
(Our Daily Homily)
J C Philpot has the following devotional thought on
What heart can conceive or tongue express, the infinite depths of the
Redeemer's condescension in thus being made like unto his brethren--that the
Son of God should assume a finite nature, subject to the sinless infirmities
necessarily connected with a time-state and a dwelling on earth; that he
should leave the bosom of his Father in which he had lain before all worlds,
and should consent to become a inhabitant of this world of tears; to breathe
earthly air; to be an eye-witness of, and himself share in human sorrows; to
have before his eyes the daily spectacle of human sins; to be banished so
long from his native home; to endure hunger, weariness, and thirst; to be
subject to the persecutions of men, the flight of all his disciples, and the
treachery of one among them whose hand had been with him on the table; not
to hide his face from shame and spitting, but to be mocked, struck,
buffeted, and scourged, and at last to die an agonizing death between two
malefactors, amid scorn and infamy, and covered, as men thought, with
everlasting confusion and disgrace! O what infinite condescension and mercy
are displayed in these sufferings and sorrows of an incarnate God! The Lord
give us faith to look to him as suffering them for our sake! (from
God gave the persons of the elect into the hands of his dear Son, as Jacob
committed Benjamin into the hands of Judah; and as Judah accepted Benjamin,
so Christ accepted the Church and undertook to bring it unto God, or he
himself would bear the blame forever. But how this faithfulness was tried!
Men tried it; devils tried it; God tried it; but it came gloriously through
all. Yet what loads were laid upon it! How the very knees of Jesus, so to
speak, staggered beneath it! How, as Deer says, he had– "Strength enough,
and none to spare!"
How he had to sustain the curse of the law and the load of imputed sin! How
he had to drink up a very hell of inward torment! How he had to be agonized
in body, and more than agonized in soul! What bloody sweat in the garden,
what tears, what sore amazement, what heaviness of spirit, what
sorrowfulness even unto death; what pangs of body upon the cross, what grief
of mind, what distress of soul, did the Holy Lamb endure in being faithful
unto God! How he might have prayed, and his Father would have sent him
twelve legions of angels! He had but to speak, and he might have soared to
heaven and left the cross and all its shame and suffering behind.
But he was faithful to God and to the work which he had undertaken. Six
weary hours he hung upon the cross. Six weary hours he endured the wrath of
God, and that most cutting stroke of all, reserved to the last as the
bitterest drop in the whole cup, the hiding of his Father's countenance,
which wrung from his bosom that cry, such as neither earth nor heaven had
heard before--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And yet not until
he had finished the work did he give up his spirit. So he was faithful "in
all things pertaining to God."
And he is faithful, also, in all things pertaining to man. He could say to
the Father, "Of all whom you have given me"– except the son of perdition,
Judas; he had no charge to save him from death and hell; but of all the
others whom he had received as his Father's gift, he could say, "I have lost
none." Thus he was faithful while he was on earth. And how faithful he is
now! The high priest under the law had two offices to execute; he had to
OFFER SACRIFICE for the people, and to offer prayer and INTERCESSION for
them. Upon earth Jesus fulfilled the first; in heaven he fulfils the second,
as there making by virtue of his presence continual intercession for us. (J.
C. Philpot. Daily Words for Zion's Wayfarers)
What heart can conceive or tongue express, the infinite depths of the
Redeemer's condescension in thus being made like unto His brethren—that the
Son of God should assume a finite nature—that He should leave the bosom of
His Father in which He had lain before all worlds—and should consent to
become an inhabitant of this world of tears—to breathe earthly air—to share
in human sorrows—to have before His eyes the daily spectacle of human
sins—to be banished so long from His native home—to endure hunger,
weariness, and thirst—to be subject to the persecutions of men, and the
flight of all His disciples—not to hide His face from shame and spitting—but
to be mocked, struck, buffeted, and scourged—and at last to die an agonizing
death between two malefactors, amid scorn and infamy, and covered with
disgrace! O what infinite condescension and mercy are displayed in these
sufferings and sorrows of an incarnate God! The Lord give us faith to look
to Him as suffering them for our sake! (J. C. Philpot. RICHES)