|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||God Bringing His Sons to Glory|
|Text||Hebrews ch.2 v.10 |
Links to Bible chapters open in a new window.
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2, 10).
The gospel was first to be preached to the Jews and then it was to be brought to us Gentiles. We must never forget that the Jews come first and that we come second. We must always think of the Jews as our elder brother - more worthy, more honourable than we. They are the natural spiritual people in the terms of historical order. We Gentiles are unnaturally grafted in to the olive tree whose root is Jewish. Anti-Semitism is the word we give to hatred of the Jews, and the reason for it is that the devil has always stirred up hatred of the people who were first of all blessed in Christ. However, the sad fact is that after the Day of Pentecost it was the Jews, mainly, who rejected Christ, and it was the Gentiles who, happily, were now brought in to the kingdom of God. The Epistle to the Hebrews was evidently written at a time when the Jews were falling off more and more into unbelief. Punctuating this Epistle to the Hebrews there are terrible warnings, frequent warnings, to the Jewish people if they neglect so great salvation. For instance, the writer says "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." In chapter 6 we are told "it is impossible for those who were once enlightened" and who now turn away from the gospel, to be renewed to repentance, because "they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." And sadly, that is what happened to the Jewish people, and it is still the case. They are blind for the most part - there are some Jewish Christians - but for the most part the Jewish people are blind to this day, and you and I should pray all the time that God would hasten the day when their eyes will be opened to see the glory of their blessed Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 1 and Hebrews 2 we are taught about the twofold nature of Christ. In chapter 1 the writer stresses the Godhood of Christ. He does so by wonderful statements such as what we have in verse 3, "Jesus," he says, "is the brightness of the Father's glory; the express image of his person" and gives another wonderful comprehensive statement about the Godhood of Christ. Again he does so at verse 8, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" - that's Christ who is referred to here as God. So in chapter 1, I say, what the writer is doing is showing us the Godhood of Jesus Christ. He is Very God of Very God, begotten not created.
But in chapter 2 the writer turns to the other aspect of Christ - His manhood. There are such references here as make it clear that Jesus is a man - verse 9, "we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels..." And then we see this at verse 14: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same;" so Jesus is both God and man. These two chapters are remarkable in that they stress each of these aspects of our Lord's nature.
In the passing, let me say, there are here many quotations from the Old Testament, which you would expect the writer to do. He is after all writing to Jews, and if the Jews have any doubt about Jesus, how can we persuade them that he is truly the Son of God? The answer is, by quoting their own scriptures. There are copious references, all through this epistle, to the Old Testament - notably, in these two chapters, from the Psalms. This would make an excellent study for an individual or group to discuss: Which psalms here are being quoted, and what does the writer intend us to learn from these quotations? I commend the subject to you.
In verse 10 we are told that it became God, "for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings". I want to say that here in this verse we have, as it were, the whole Bible - the whole Bible, you could say, is here in verse 10 in its distillation. Here is an epitomising text, as some writers like to refer to it - a text which is the whole Bible in a nutshell, as we sometimes say. Here we have God, here we have Christ, and here we have all those who are going to go to heaven, the people of God; they are all to be found in verse 10.
Let's look at this verse for a little while this morning. I give you my headings so you know the way we hope to go with it. The first is this: we are taught here the way we are to think of God - a description of God. Then second here, we have the supremely wonderful act of God's love. And then thirdly, we have the marvellous fruit of Jesus Christ's sufferings. God, then Christ, and then the church or people of God, in that order - and that is the right order - God first, Christ our Redeemer next, and then His people last.
First of all then, the way we are to think of God - verse 10. "It became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things..." That refers to God. We don't use the word 'became' any more in that way, or in this way. Let me explain what is meant when we say, "it became him..." It's an older way of saying "It was fitting for God to do it this way." Or you could put it another way - you could say, "It was appropriate for God to do things in the way He did." It was consistent with His character as God to do what He has done. And what has He done? He has saved the people of God through Jesus Christ whom He has made to be the captain of our salvation. So, the general thought in my verse is this: it was fully consistent with God's character to save us in the way He did. It was the way which was perfectly suited to God, bearing in mind His character, His being, His attributes, His person, and everything about Him. It was totally and entirely fitting for God to save the world by Jesus Christ through His sufferings.
My beloved friend, I need hardly tell you that God always acts in a way which is fitting, and suitable, and consistent with Himself. We don't always act in a manner like that do we? Sometimes we let ourselves down, even the best of us, even the most consistent of us - there are times when we forget ourselves and we speak out of turn, or we act in a way which is really out of character, and we have to be patient with one another. Sometimes we lose our tempers when we shouldn't. Sometimes we say silly things when we shouldn't, because we're foolish and frail. But God, of course, never acts in a way which is out of character with Himself. He is always self-consistent. That's what is meant in this verse. It was thoroughly appropriate for God to save us through the blood and death and sufferings of His Son Jesus Christ.
We must learn that, because the Jews above all people thought that it was a monstrous idea that their Messiah for whom they were waiting should be a man of sufferings. They thought it was outrageous for us to claim as Christians that Jesus Christ who was crucified is God's Son, the chosen Messiah and captain of salvation. The Jews still feel like that. That's one reason why they reject Jesus. They say, "When God sends the Messiah He will lead us to victory against all our enemies. He won't be someone who was so weak and feeble as to be crucified." This is what stumbles them - it's the 'offence of the cross', as we call it. But the writer here is contradicting that mistake. He's saying, "No, no, it was entirely in order for God to save us in the way He did, by a suffering Saviour."
All right then. What is said here about the character of God? Well here it is - verse 10. It is said, "for Him are all things, and by Him are all things". Let's look at those two phrases - for God 'are all things'. My friends, this is the profoundest teaching possible. The words are so simple, even a little child can understand them, but even the greatest mind cannot exhaust the meaning of these words in their bearing upon the character of God. Let me put it to you very simply. God did everything He did, for His own glory. You might ask God, "Why, Lord, did you make the world?" The answer is, "I made it for my own glory, for my own good pleasure." "Why, Lord, did you save sinners?" The answer is the same, "For my own glory." That is the highest motive and reason why God has done anything. In everything that God has done, He has ultimately aimed at this: His own glory.
My friends, this is something that you and I must learn to do in all that we ourselves say, and in all our conduct. We must try more and more to do everything to the glory of God: the way we live our life; the way we behave; the way we speak; the way we work; the way we rest. We should try more and more to aim consciously at God's glory. "Whether you eat or drink," says the Bible, "or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God." Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He taught us to pray, He teaches the same thing, "Our Father which art in heaven," - now what comes next? - "Hallowed be thy name." Hallowed means, let it be made holy; let it be glorious. How does the Lord's Prayer finish? In exactly the same way, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." In the end of history it will appear that every single thing that happened in the course of human history happened to the glory of God. Let's remember that. You and I must aim consciously, more and more, at the glory of God.
You know that when we talk about - or when they talk about - footballers and about cricketers and things, they put them in order. They say, "Here's the greatest footballer, and there's the greatest cricketer" and so on, and the next, and the next, and the next. The greatest are those who score the highest number of goals, or take the highest number of wickets or something. How are we to think of Christians in order? Some Christians, obviously, are better Christians than others. How do you categorise them? How do you list them? How do you place them in order? What is it about Christians that makes them better, or not so good? It's this very thing: the best Christians are those who aim most at the glory of God in their lives and in all that they do. The perfect Christian, if you could find him, would be the one who, in everything, all the time, unfailingly, aims at the glory of God in his whole character, being, speech, conduct, life - at home, in secret, in church, in public, and so on. If you wish to grow in grace and knowledge of God, here is how to do it: aim above all things, in all that you are and do and be, to the glory of God. "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do," says Paul, "do all to the glory of God."
You get a very similar thing in Romans 11, at the very end. I won't turn to it but remind you of it, where the apostle is giving a great doxology of praise to God, having thought about the wonder of His ways, and the marvel of the gospel, and Paul ends like this: "Of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever." That's how the writer is here. My own thinking is that Hebrews was written by Paul. Lots of people don't think that, and it's not a subject for discussion and disagreement because we don't know. The writer to the Hebrews doesn't say to us who he is, he's anonymous, but my strong suspicion is, it's Paul. However, that's just by the by, but in any case it's the same emphasis - the glory of God - "Of him, and through him..."
My friends, some people might be troubled by this. "How?" you say, "How are all things through God?" That is, "How are all things through His power, and through His agency, and through His sovereignty? How do you explain that? How do you explain sin?" you say. "Is sin also something that God has done? What about the wicked acts of criminals like Judas Iscariot who betrayed our Lord? Did these men do their wicked things because God made them do it?" Let me explain that point. All good things are done by God - directly. But all wicked things are done by God - indirectly. Everything is done by God, either directly or indirectly. Nothing occurs apart from the agency or secret purpose of God.
Let me give an example. The fall of man into sin - now that was something which was extremely wicked of course. That was a terrible sin, that Adam disobeyed God. Did God bring that about by his power? Only indirectly, like this: that God allowed Adam to act in terms of the freedom of his own will. It's not that God encouraged him or pushed him, but God withdrew from him and he, being left to the freedom of his own will, sinned against God and fell into sin. It's the same with Judas Iscariot. God, who doesn't owe anything to anyone, withdrew from Judas Iscariot and left him to his own evil heart; and being left to his own sinful heart, the devil entered into him and he did the wicked thing he did. So all things, ultimately, are of God - directly or indirectly - and God is not the author of sin ever. He never is the author of sin. He cannot commit sin. It is impossible. But the mystery of God's being is that nothing happens apart from the sovereignty which He exercises over all creation.
Let me give an example about the Tsunami - that terrible undersea earthquake which led to the death of thousands of people some months ago. I remember hearing on the radio at that time, there was some important person, some church person in England, a very high up dignitary - a bishop of something - and they were asking him the question: Where was God when the Tsunami occurred? The answer he gave was something like this, as I remember it: "Oh," he said, "this is nothing whatever to do with God. God had nothing to do with the Tsunami, in any sense." Well, my dear friends, what sort of a God is that - that things happen, and God has no connection with them whatever? That's not the God of the Bible. Remember how it is put in the Book of Proverbs: "The Lord has made everything for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil." Listen to what Amos says: "Shall there be trouble in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" I know there's a problem there, there's a mystery there - this is very deep - but we must be understanding of this simple point: All the good things that happen in the world, God does them. All the wicked things in the world are not done directly by God, but indirectly. They occur through his secret eternal purpose. It is the sinner who does them who is guilty of the wickedness. It's the same with Judas Iscariot - a perfect example. He did what he did through his own wicked unbelief and treachery. He is responsible for that. He has gone to hell for that. He chose to do that. The devil entered into Judas, and the Lord in His sovereignty withdrew and let this man commit the wickedness which he wanted to do. It's a warning to us. If we want to go into drink and drunkenness, God may say to us, "Very well; off you go." If people want to go into drugs, God may say, "Well, very good; off you go then; see what happens to you. I'll meet you in the Judgement Day." Or again, if some people say: "I want to live a life of sensual pleasure. I don't care about the seventh Commandment that says 'thou shalt not commit adultery and fornication'. I want to go into as much pleasure as I can get." "All right," God may say to you, "off you go!" That's what's happened to our country. People have wanted it, and God has said, "You can have it, and we'll see what happens." See what happens in your life when the diseases come! See what happens to your families when you bring trouble upon them! See what happens to society when everybody turns to his wicked way. Oh my friends, we must never play about with sin. Sin is the thing God hates, and you and I have this lesson, to plead with God to keep us by His grace, from loving the things that He hates.
I pass from that quickly to speak now of the second thing here. The most wonderful act of God's love is referred to here. It is to make Jesus Christ the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings. The word 'captain' of salvation means the 'author' of it; it means the 'originator' of it; it means the one who brings it about. And the one who has saved the world, obviously, is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, the Captain Of Salvation. We are told here, He is made perfect through sufferings. And again, there is something very deep here. "Made perfect?" you say. Made perfect? He is perfect. He was perfect. How can he be made perfect when he was already perfect? The answer is, that He was made perfect in the sense that the sufferings our Lord went through in this life were experiences necessary to prepare Him for His great and glorious work of saving the world. The experiences which He had of being tempted by the devil, hated by mankind, crucified by the Jews and the Romans - all those sufferings were necessary for Christ in order that he might be a perfect High Priest in things pertaining to God. He was always morally perfect, but now He is made perfect in His official capacity. It is a perfection in experience. When our Lord Jesus Christ was in glory before He came, He was perfect. When He came down and was born in the manger, He was perfect. But what was not yet true of Him was, He had not gone through such terrible experiences as were totally and fully to prepare Him for His work as the mediator between God and men. So that is what is meant here. He was made perfect through sufferings, as our Saviour.
It's said here, it was appropriate - it was only right and good, and consistent with God's holy character - to put Christ through all these sufferings in order to be our Saviour. My very dear friends, what it boils down to is this: There was no other way to save the world. You might say, "Well, couldn't God simply have forgiven Adam?" "Couldn't God simply have done this...?" - you know, what we do to one another if we upset one another is, the person who has committed the offence goes to the person, or should go to the person, and say, "Well, my dear friend, I'm very sorry, I lost my temper and I said something to you the other day I shouldn't have said. I'm very, very sorry." - and that's what we should say when we do wrong things to one another. We should go to one another and say, "I'm very sorry. I shouldn't have said that. That was entirely out of order. I do apologise. Please forgive me." Our duty of course is to forgive them, as our Lord has taught us. The question is, why couldn't God do that to Adam? Why couldn't He have said, "Oh well, I'll forgive you. It was a bad thing you did but I'll just let it go. We'll say nothing more about it. I forgive you." God couldn't do that. God couldn't do that because of His total holiness. What matters most of all to God is His own glory and holiness, and He will not forgive people in any way inconsistent with His glory and His holiness. If sinners think they're going to get to heaven and apologise, without any blood being shed for them, or suffering on their behalf by Jesus Christ, they're in Disneyland; they're dreaming! That's Mickey Mouse Christianity! The only way that God could save the world was by the death, and blood, and agony of His own Son, the God-man - God in our nature, suffering in our nature, for the sins of man - that's the only way!
Let me explain that. I don't mean for a moment that God was obliged to save mankind - that is not true. God was not obliged to save the devil, and He has not saved the devil. When the devil sinned, God allowed him to go into hell and he will be there forever. There was no Saviour sent for the devil. Christ did not take upon Him the nature of angels, as we had in this chapter - fallen angels. He didn't become a fallen angel to save the fallen angels. He became a man to save fallen men. God did not need to do that; it was entirely consistent with the holiness of God to abandon mankind to go into eternal punishment, but... if mankind was to be saved, there's only one way it could be done, and that was, His own Son must needs take our nature, be born of a virgin, live a holy life, die a propitiatory death, be buried for three days, rise again on the third day, ascend to glory. It had to be done that way! That's the only way which was consistent with the glory, and honour, and holiness, and praise of Almighty God! We have a word for that. Our young people may find it difficult - I'll just give it to you very quickly and move on. This is what we call "consequent absolute necessity" - consequent upon God deciding to save sinners, it was absolutely necessary to save them in the way He did. In other words, God could not just simply wave His hand and forgive. There was no law that God could have given to save sinners. There was no angel who was worthy to suffer for sinners. The only person in the universe who was worthy to take away sin and suffer as the Captain Of Our Salvation was Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord, God in our nature. This was the only way consistent with the glory and holiness of God.
Third and finally, the marvellous fruit of Christ's sufferings is set before us. What did the God-man achieve by His sufferings? We are told in my verse - verse 10 - "to bring many sons to glory". How does He do this? Well, He does this by making them aware of their being sinners - this is the way it begins. Jesus Christ begins to work in our hearts and consciences and He makes us see we are sinners; we are not right; we are unclean; we are not fit to die. My dear friends, I hope we are all in that state. I hope we realise that by nature we are none of us fit to die, and if we die in our sins we are lost eternally - I hope we all understand that. That's the way He does it. He brings many sons to glory by making them aware they are in a state of sin, and then He calls them through the gospel into a state of grace, and then He leads them through this life in a state of grace, sanctifying them, and brings them at last to a state of glory, in heaven. Our Lord is leading us. He brings His children to glory. He is the shepherd of the flock. He goes before His people. He leads His people from sin to grace, and from grace to glory. He will go on leading them in heaven - even in heaven He will go on leading His people for ever. We are told in the end of the Book of Revelation that the Lamb will feed them - meaning His people - He will feed us with joy, and delight, and unspeakable happiness in heaven. He will feed them like that. He will lead them to living fountains of water - that is to say, they will ever be more, and more, and more filled with happiness. Just as in hell the wicked will suffer more, and more, and more misery because the pit of hell is a bottomless pit. Sinners who today are in hell go on sinning, because sinners in hell curse God, and because they increase their sins they increase their judgement, so they go down a bit more, and then in a hundred years time, further still - and then further and further - worse and worse and worse for ever! Hell is an ever deteriorating state of infinite misery - worse and worse, worse and worse, more and more hopelessness, more and more alienation from God. Heaven is the reverse. Heaven is an improving state. It's not a static state in which we are all like marble statues sitting round, or looking round. It's a state of excitement, joy, growth - more and more and more - glory, happiness and increase in the knowledge of God. He will feed us with these things and lead us in glory more and more. So, the people of God will evermore be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Let me close. My friends, how grateful we should be to this God, and how grateful we should be to the Captain Of Our Salvation. All of this was a matter of free grace on God's part, and Christ's part. Let us be thankful for our brothers and sisters in this life who travel the pilgrim path of grace with us and our fellow companions with us along the way, and let us be happy that when we get to heaven we shall have millions and millions of fellow Christians - brothers and sisters in the family of God - who will be our friends forever. There will be no more scoffing at the people of God once we get to heaven. When you go to the High Street now, there's plenty of scoffing - they think we are mad. But there won't be any of that in heaven. Everybody will be full of love, kindness and sympathy with all that we stand for. They will know there that we were right, because they too have been through the same sufferings, and so too has Christ. He has gone through these sufferings and is now the perfect High Priest on the right hand of God, bringing many sons to glory. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" (John 12, 32), he said. And it's no wonder, therefore, as I close, that in heaven we're told what the people of God cry. They cry, "Alleluia!" They say, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever" (Revelation 1, 5).
My dear friend, will you be there? It begins now in this life, when we repent of our sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This sermon has been downloaded from http://www.bible-sermons.org.uk