Billions of His Brethren

Christ is not ashamed to be our brother. He is not ashamed to share completely in our humanity. Further than this, He was not ashamed to be identified with us in our sin and folly. This is what He did throughout the course of His ministry. He began at the baptism of John by identifying completely with sinners; it was, after all, a baptism of repentance. This troubled John; Jesus did not need to repent. Through the course of His entire ministry, He identified with Israel. He was baptized, like Israel was in the cloud and sea. He went into the wilderness for 40 days, just as Israel had for 40 years. He was tempted there, just as Israel was. After the trial, He began His conquest of Canaan, just as Israel had. In Christ, we have the arrival of the new Israel, the new man, the new way of being human. His identification with us as sinners culminated in His death on the cross, and the new humanity was established in the resurrection. This is the message of the cross.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted

(Heb. 2:14-18).

So Christ is not ashamed of us as His brethren. But we as His “children” share flesh and blood. He likewise shared in this common humanity, in order to accomplish His final and ultimate purpose. That purpose was to release us from the bondage of death, and to do so through destroying the devil, who had the power of death. As it says, Christ does not offer this redemption to angels, but rather to the seed of Abraham. Consequently, He was made like us in order to represent us to God, and to make propitiation for our sins. Sharing in our humanity, being tempted, and suffering to the point of death, means that He is able to help us — we who are tempted now.

The Bible teaches us that the sting of death comes from the fact that we are sinners, and under the curse of God (1 Cor. 15:56). Prior to the cross, we are told that the devil had authority of some kind over death. This authority is probably from his relationship to sin. He is the accuser of the brethren; the devil is the prosecutor. He loves to bring charges; the devil loves arraignments. We are accustomed to think of the devil as ultimately foul, but the devil appears as an angel of light. He does not understand himself as the ultimate dirt, but he is the ultimate digger of dirt. Christ came in order to destroy him in this office. Christ came to bring forgiveness, to throw down the power of accusation.

We do not fear death because we die; we fear death because we deserve to die. When the devil accuses us, we know that he has a point. God told Adam that the day he ate from the fruit he would surely die. Ezekiel tells us that the soul that sins shall die. Paul tells us that the wages of sin are death. If we came innocent to an experience like death, the situation would be different. But we are not innocent, and this is why we are tempted to fear death.

This is why we must come to understand the greatness of the cross, which is directly related to the greatness of Christ. The apostle Paul said that he resolved to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified. Note that the one who died is an object of knowledge in the first place. Who is He? And having answer the question, the incarnate Word of God Himself, we come to proclaim Him crucified.

We are told here that Christ came in order to destroy the devil in his princedom over death. This conquering aspect of the cross is seen in the New Testament again and again. “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:31-32). What will Jesus do in His death? He will cast out the ruler of this world. What will Jesus do in His death? He will draw all peoples to Himself. Why do I believe that, through the preaching of the gospel, the kingdom of Christ will grow and expand until it fills the earth with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea? Why do I think this? For two reasons. Because Jesus died, one, the ruler of this world has been cast out, and two, all peoples are being drawn to Jesus.

“And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:14-15). The cross was not just a defeat for the principalities and powers, technically speaking. It was a humiliating defeat; it was a rout. Christus Victor.

Remember that Christ stands in the middle of the great congregation; He is not ashamed to be with us, the children God has given Him. In the cross, Christ was not attempting to save those angels who had fallen. He offered them no help. Rather, He was saving the seed of Abraham. He had to be made like us, His brethren, so that He could make propitiation for the sins of His people. Propitiation means the turning aside of wrath. From whom is this wrath turned aside? His brethren. For whom is propitiation made? And not for us only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1ff). Put these two things together, and we see that the world will be saved, that the world will be filled with billions of His brethren, and that Jesus will sing in the midst of the great congregation indeed.

Christ was our High Priest. That which was offered to God in the sacrifice of the cross was a nature like ours, only without sin. Remember this always; the Priest who offered this sacrifice also had a nature like ours, yet without sin. Because our Priest and our Sacrifice understands temptation, and understands the human frame, He is able to help you here, now, and in the day of your dying. Our older brother has gone through it already, and has graciously removed the sting of it.

Theology That Bites Back



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