The Bible teaches us that when Christ brings us to heaven, He does not do so while holding His nose. Many have sought to abase the creature too much, in effect placing sinners beyond the reach of a Savior. This does not honor Him at all. Our need was truly desperate; apart from Him we were completely lost. But when He saved, He saved. Too many in the Reformed tradition think that it honors God to live their lives in three accumulated feet of total depravity, and from time to time they go completely under. Others, of the “happy, happy, happy all the day” school of thought, have slight views of sin, and hence slight views of grace. Some think that sin is so great that grace can’t deal with it. Others think that sin is so trivial that not very much grace is needed. But both disparage the greatness of the grace of God.
When Christ saves, He saves to the uttermost. He actually delivers us. He forgives us, and this makes a profound difference in how we respond to Him, and in how we live our daily lives. One of the great differences His salvation brings is summed up in the word joy. We are obviously acquainted with the joy that our salvation should bring to us. But in this portion of Hebrews, we see the joy which our salvation brings to Him. And this is the real mind-bender.
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’ And again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again: ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me” (Heb. 2: 11-13).
In the previous verse of this chapter (v. 10), we learned that Christ is the prince, the captain of our salvation. He is the Lord of salvation, and hence the Lord of the saved. Now we should note carefully what the prince of salvation does here. He says something, and in that statement He identifies certain people as His brethren. Whom does He call brethren?
First, those who are under His authority are in the process of being sanctified. We know that our holiness here is not the ground of our salvation at all. No creature was ever put right with God through his own pitiful efforts, whether he lives on Greenville St. or Auburn Ave. At the same time, we know that where there is no holiness, there is no heaven. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Christ identifies His brethren as those who are being sanctified.
Secondly, we must note that this sanctification is not something we do “for God.” Who is the one who sanctifies? Christ sanctifies. Who are being santified? The answer is — those who are being led to salvation. We don’t sanctify ourselves, in whole or in part, so that God will have something to do with us. God has something to do with us in Christ, and that something is sanctification.
Christ and His people are “all of one.” We share in a common new humanity in Christ; we are one people. The one who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all one. Consequently, Chirst is not ashamed to call us His brethren. He is not ashamed because the purpose of God is manifest throughout the process — even though the process is not yet complete. In our justification, we are completed. In our sanctification, we will be completed. In neither case is Christ ashamed. He is not ashamed of what He has done for us, and He is not ashamed of what He will do for us.
We learn later in Hebrews that Christ endured the cross, despising the shame of it, because of the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:1-2). In this place, we learn that Christ sings praise to God in the midst of the congregation. We are gathered together as a great assembly, as a great congregation, and Christ is in the midst of us. From within our midst, He sings the praises of God. He is the singer, He is the soloist. How easy is it for us to forget that our God is full, everlastingly full, of joy.
This joy includes His joy over the salvation of creatures such as ourselves. In Luke 15, notice how Christ speaks of the finding of the lost sheep and the lost coin. “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Notice that this is not angels rejoicing. This is angels watching God rejoice. This is joy in the presence of the angels of God. We worship and serve a God who delights in saving His people. Of course the angels rejoice over repentance, just as we do, but this joy is derivative. We reflect this joy, as the moon reflects sunlight. God is filled to overflowing with joy, and one of His reasons for joy is the state of the people He has forgiven.
In our zeal to protect the holiness and justice of God, we have in effect slandered Him. No creature can approach the happiness of the triune God. “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17). God is glad, and God is joyful. Okay. Most Christians can deal with that. Must be an attributes-of-God thing. But note this. He rejoices over His people with gladness. He looks at your church, assembled as you were yesterday, and He breaks into song. That is the weird part.
Our response must consequently not be mumbling our way through psalms and hymns. We have been saved by someone who does not do this. God through Christ wanted to save us, and rejoices in having done so. He is not at all sorry about it.
The three quotations from the Old Testament in this passage are all offered to make the same basic point. Christ, our Lord, is one of us. The quotations are from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8 respectively. Consider the 22nd Psalm. This exultation immediately follows the prophecy of the resurrection. And in Isaiah 8, the prophet is speaking of the cornerstone, which is also the rock of stumbling. We are His brothers, and so we do not stumble over Him. We show that we have not stumbling over Him by singing just as He sings.