Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas in the Epistles - Hebrews

Hebrews 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

What is fascinating about our New Testaments is in how they are arranged.  When we consider the Gospels for example, they present God in human flesh - Jesus Christ.  Yesterday we made some remarks about the first coming of Jesus from 1 Timothy and today we continue by noting some observations in the Epistle to the Hebrews. 

The Old Testament Foundation and Anticipation of Christ's first coming
In the original Hebrew Old Testament, the Bible books were divided into three main divisions: The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. (Luke 24:44) According to Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:16, the truth of any given matter is established by two or three witnesses. We can note how the writer quotes purposefully from the three-fold division of the Old Testament to drive home the point of his exhortation here in Hebrews 2:

1. In Hebrews 2:1-4 the writer alludes to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19-20, hence utilizing the "Law" or "Pentateuch" of the first five books of the Old Testament.

2. In Hebrews 2:5-8 He quotes from Psalm 8, utilizing the section called "The Writings"

3. Then in Hebrews 2:9-13 we see another quotation in 2:12 from Psalm 22:22 and a quotations from Isaiah 8:17-18, thus utilizing the "Prophetic" portion of the Old Testament.

With this foundation laid, the writer proves that the entire Old Testament "paid heed" to the coming Messiah who would be born to die for sinners and to destroy the works of the Devil.

How the entire Trinity was involved in bringing about the Christmas
We learn from this chapter of Hebrews that all three Persons of the Trinity were involved in the bringing about of Christmas. First, Hebrews 2:14 attributes the incarnation to Christ Himself: "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil".1 

Next we understand that the Holy Spirit, sharing in the same Divine nature as the Son, directly intervened in forming a human nature and uniting it to the Person of the Son. Hebrews 2:17a bears this out: "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."2 

Thirdly, we see Hebrews 10:5 ascribing the work of the incarnation to God the Father: "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me." (KJV) To Whom is Jesus addressing? Hebrews 10:7 makes it quite clear that He is speaking to God the Father, since it His Will which He came to perform. (compare John 17:1-4) 3

The main point of Hebrews 2 and its relationship to Christmas
As you begin to analyze Hebrews 2, the central verses of the chapter lie in Hebrews 2:1, 9 and 14 - pointing our attention to three main points.  The writer (perhaps Paul) is explaining  first off what every Christian must pay heed to in 2:1 "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." 

Secondly, in Hebrews 2:9 we read - "But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone."  So then we are to payheed to not drifting away from the Gospel that we've heard, as well as the fact that Jesus Christ came to die for sinners. 

Then notice thirdly Hebrews 2:14 -  "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil".  So in addition to not drifting and noting that Jesus came to die for sinners, we can note a third point: namely Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil.  Christmas then is about the Savior who came to die for sinners and destroy the works of the Devil - the Gospel from which every Christan must ever strive to not drift away. 

May you and I today pay the more earnest heed to this Jesus of Whom we aim to focus not only this Christmas season but in the upcoming New Year.

End Notes________________
1. From another text, Hebrews 10:7 we read Jesus saying: "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God." (KJV) The joining of humanity to the Person of the Son was a consentual agreement made between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Eternity. (Psalm 110; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 10:4-7). 

2. The underlined verb is in the passive, meaning that Christ was the recipient of the action of His person being united to full humanity. Other passages such as Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:35 specifically ascribe the miracle of the virgin birth conception to the Holy Spirit - Who is the Direct Agent involved in the incarnation. The Son agreed to have humanity joined to Himself, with the Holy Spirit uniting such a perfect human nature to Christ in the virgin birth conception.

3. Furthermore Jesus is quoting Psalm 40 wherein David, the original speaker in the Psalm, is addressing God. Unless otherwise indicated, the name "God" by itself normally refers to God the Father. God the Father is moreso indirectly involved, since He Providentially prepared the bloodline of Mary to be the bloodline through which the humanity of Jesus Christ would be incarnated and made a reality.