As we walk through Hebrews in our reading plan, below are a few additional thoughts, questions, commentary, and quotes. These aren’t designed to substitute your personal study and reflectionon God’s Word, but they’re small supplements to your study. It’s always helpful to begin your study by reading the passage and making some basic observations. See the post “Making Observations” for basic questions to help you understand and apply what you’re reading.
Study, Reflection, and Discussion Questions
- In what sense has Christ defeated death and the devil? In what sense do death and the devil still need final defeat? See 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Col. 2:14-15; John 12:32-34; Rev. 20:14-21:4.
- How might Christ’s work and ongoing priesthood affect how we view death? What about suffering in this life? How do we fight fear with eyes set on the gospel of Jesus?
- If all our sin if fully paid for and forgiven, and God’s wrath has been absorbed (propitiation) and his love is now set upon us, how might that change the way we view God, draw near to God, or even are quick to confess and repent when we fall?
- Read Heb. 2:16-18 and 4:14-16. How does Jesus offer us the “help” we need? What does that look like, and how do we seek his help? How does Jesus help us in our temptation? How might Jesus help us when we’re enduring trials, burdens, fears, or weariness?
- During this season of worry, fear, and anxiety, why is it helpful to remember that Jesus experienced similar temptations and walked in our shoes? How does his being like us and his sympathy toward us motivate us to draw near?
- How might you apply 2:18 this week when tempted? (Think of temptation in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions, as well as both external temptation and the hidden idols underneath them.)
For Further Study
- Sinlessness of Jesus: 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22; 1 John 3:5.
- Temptation of Jesus: Matt. 4:1-11; 16:21-23; Heb. 2:18; 4:15.
- Propitiation: Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Rom. 3:31-26; 1 Peter 2:24.
- God’s Suffering Servant: Is. 41:8; 42:1; 43:10; 52:13; 53:11; Ezek. 34:23-24; Acts 3:26; Phi. 2:7.
- John Piper sermon “Jesus is able to Help Us When Tempted” at desiringgod.org
- “Salvation by Propitiation” by Kevin DeYoung at thegospelcoalition.org; “Why Good Friday is Good News” by Dustin Crowe at indycrowe.com; The Bible Project video on sacrifice and atonement.
Ideas for Response
- Spend time considering where you’re tempted during this season of life. Ask God for help. Reflect on how Jesus is your great High Priest and how he offers you help in temptation, and promises you can overcome it (1 Cor. 10:13). Ask a friend to pray for you, encourage you, or meet for accountability.
- Share this passage or a key verse from it with a friend via a text, email, call, or note. Remind them Jesus remains our merciful and sympathetic high priest who was made like us. He understands what we’re experiencing, and invites us to draw near to him.
A Merciful, Faithful, Sympathetic High Priest
Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-18; and 7:25 are three of the most powerful and personal sections of this letter. Each relates to Christ’s priesthood on our behalf. Because he is like us (God) and unlike us (sinless, perfect, and Divine) he can mediate between us and God. Because of his redemptive work and the justice exacted at the cross, he can be merciful. Because he is committed to us and steadfast in his work, permanent in his position as High Priest at the Father’s right hand, he is faithful. Because he experienced the brokenness and struggles of life in this world as a human, he is full of sympathy. And yet because he is the risen, ascended, and exalted Son of God in power, he can help us.
Life is full of troubles. Jesus told us we would face troubles. As I write this, we’re walking through unique circumstances as we stay in our homes because of the Coronavirus. The stock market is floundering, jobs are being lost, some people are getting sick and dying, the public is fearful and hysteric, and we are isolated from one another. Many Christians are burdened with fear and worry during these dark days. Where do we turn? The wonderful news is that we have a sympathetic high priest who faced trials, stresses, and suffering. His words of promising to give us his peace (John 14:27) were on his lips while his mind was well aware of an impending death. So our difficult circumstances and the temptation to worry or fear are not foreign to Jesus. This same person has now defeated death and sin, conquered the enemy, ascended to the throne of power from where he reigns and holds all things together, and he always lives to intercede and help us. We can draw near to God through Jesus, and we can find encouragement and hope knowing we’re drawing near to a God who knows, understands, and is full of compassion.
Propitiation is so important because it is dealing with this wrath. God’s wrath must be satisfied, meaning justice requires that God’s just and wrathful response to sin must be paid. God would not be a Just Judge if someone is found guilty and convicted and yet no punishment is given. This leaves justice unpaid or unsatisfied. When God’s just penalty is paid, God is propitiated. God’s wrath has been satisfied, taken care of, and paid. But propitiation isn’t an emotional term where we’re settling him down or some kind of temporary distraction, but a legal term that means justice has been satisfied. God doesn’t require propitiation because he’s cranky but because he is holy, righteous, and just.
Romans 3:25 says God the Father sends Jesus Christ, so that when he as the sinless savior dies in the place of sinful men and women, God’s wrath can be satisfied. Jesus is a sufficient sacrifice because his blood and life is of infinite value as the God-Man. On the cross, he bears God’s wrath. He takes the legal, judicial punishment for sin on himself and he fully satisfies God’s just demands of the law.
Hopefully, you not only understand what “propitiation” means but see why it’s so wonderful. This brings together the Father’s love and mercy in sending Jesus to save us. Because God loves us but his wrath is on us, he sends Jesus to remove the wrath so that all that remains is love. (See “Why Good Friday is Good News”)
Why God Became Man
“Altogether this is a wonderfully succinct statement of Jesus’ mission in this world. If someone asks, ‘Why did Jesus come into the world?’ here is the answer: he came to die, that he might overthrow Satan’s dominion, and set captive humanity free.”
Like Us but Unlike Us
“Some people object that Jesus does not know the full human experience because he was not a sinner. Without the experience of sin’s corruption, they say, he cannot have full sympathy with us. The answer to this is that far from Jesus knowing less than we do about temptation because he never fell into sin, the opposite is the case. Jesus knows far more about temptation than we do because he endured far beyond the point where the strongest of us gives in to the trial. B. F. Westcott is surely right when he observes: ‘Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.’
Jesus has real and knowledgeable sympathy with those who are tempted. Therefore, the Scripture says, he is able to help. What a wonderful combination we have before us. On the one hand we have One who is mighty to save. In this respect, Jesus is not “just like us.” He is the Redeemer and we are the sinners in so great a need for a champion. And yet his work is hardly impersonal or mechanical; it is heartfelt and sensitive. He was like us in his experience of pain and suffering and temptation. He felt nails as they were driven into his hands and his feet so that he might rescue us from the power of death. Thus there is a quality of mercy to Christ’s work that is intimate, personal, and knowing. It calls us to love him as an intimate Savior, the God who has gone to such lengths to know us in our trials, to have the fellowship of our suffering even as he calls us into the fellowship of his.”
“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” Richard Sibbes
“What Hebrews teaches here is that death is only undone through death. Death dies only through the death of Jesus. Or, more precisely, the one who has the power of death is dethroned through the death of Jesus. As Owen says: “All of Satan’s power over death was founded on sin. The obligation of the sinner to death gave Satan his power. If this obligation was removed, Satan’s power would also be taken away.” 122 Such a claim resonates, as noted previously, with the teaching on the kingdom in the Synoptics. Jesus has come to bind the strong man and to plunder his house (Matt 12: 29). The devil’s reign over death has been removed through the death of Christ.” Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews, 104
“The offspring of Abraham here isn’t limited to Jewish Christians; 126 all who believe in Jesus are children of Abraham. Here Hebrews accords with Pauline teaching, for Paul emphasizes that those who put their trust in Jesus Christ are Abraham’s children (Rom 4: 9–12; Gal 3: 6–9).” Schreiner, Hebrews, 106