The Danger of Drifting
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The Danger of Drifting

Hebrews 2:1–18  (ID: 1904)

People don’t just wake up one morning and suddenly decide to forsake their faith in Christ. Instead, when men and women abandon their beliefs, it’s usually the culmination of a series of missteps, compromises, or poor choices. Reviewing Hebrews’s cautions against neglecting our salvation, Alistair Begg calls our attention to the warning signs that signal our faith may be slipping so that we can avoid drifting away from our Savior.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Hebrews, Volume 1

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ Hebrews 1:1–6:20 Series ID: 15801

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to take your Bibles and turn once again to Hebrews chapter 2. And for those of you who were present last time, you will perhaps recall the pace with which we proceeded through the first chapter in considering it in the morning and then again in the evening. And that will give you some idea as to how we plan to proceed. It’s very possible for us to spend a tremendously long time studying the book of Hebrews. It’s not inconceivable that we could never have gone beyond the first verse of the first chapter last Sunday. You know, certainly, that we’re well capable of the “snail’s pace” approach. But I don’t want to do that in this particular series on Hebrews. Maybe there will be a day, if God spares us, when we can return and survey the book at a greater sense of detail—if you like, microscopically rather than telescopically. But for now, I want it to be the latter rather than the former.

I keep in mind the words of Spurgeon in the early biography of Spurgeon, My Early Years, where he recounts there, and I quote him: “I have a very lively, or rather … deadly, recollection of a certain series of discourses on the Hebrews, which made a deep impression on my mind of the most undesirable kind. I wished frequently that the Hebrews had kept the Epistle to themselves, for it sadly bored a poor Gentile lad.”[1] Now, I recognize that there may well be others who will feel that way fairly quickly. And in order, in part, to mitigate that, and also because I want to deal with the broad sweep of things, we’re going to proceed at a fairly swift clip. And if you care to study on your own, then hopefully I will do, as often happens with a good teacher, stimulate the desire personally to go back, to read more, and to dig deeper. If that is the case, then I will feel that I have accomplished on both fronts what I most desire—namely, to deal with the broad sweep of Hebrews, and two, to inculcate in each of us a genuine desire to know more about this wonderful New Testament letter.

Now, we come this morning to chapter 2, in the awareness of the fact that in chapter 1 the writer has established the identity and the superiority of the Son, the Lord Jesus. They and we—the readers then and now—should be in no doubt as to the uniqueness of Jesus or as to his supremacy over the angels. The writer has quoted extensively from the Old Testament, as we saw last time, in order to make his point with clarity. And having laid down this great compendium of theological truth—as wonderful a Christology as can be found in any chapter of the New Testament—he then immediately makes a point of application. Now, we referred to this last time in introducing the book in general, but I want to draw your attention to three things in the first four verses.

A Vital Warning

First of all, notice how he brings before his readers a vital warning. And the warning is very clear that we should not “drift away.”[2] It’s fairly obvious that he didn’t fear his readers making some kind of dramatic U-turn, a monumental slide away from the faith, a dramatic crossroads experience where they turn back and no longer proceed to follow Christ. He is actually more concerned about what is more often the case—namely, the slow, steady, imperceptible drift as a result of paying no attention.

Someone was telling me just this week, as we were talking about driving in the snow and all the things that can happen to you if you take your eye off the road—he told me that he was driving in a certain part of the city; he had his girlfriend in the car. As they were coming up to a traffic light, he decided that he would steal a kiss from her, stole the kiss, turned round, and drove into somebody coming in the opposite direction. Turned back to her, and said, “That’s one of the more expensive kisses that you ever gave me.” She’s now his wife. But he said, “It only took a split second, and I was in deep trouble.” That is exactly the writer’s point. It will only take a split second for us to begin to drift off course. And he wants to warn against that.

In 6:12, he says to the readers there, “We do[n’t] want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” Don’t become lazy about your Bible. Don’t become lazy about learning the basics. Don’t become lazy about gathering together in public worship. Don’t let these things slide, because if you do, he says, “I sound for you this vital warning: there is a grave danger that you will drift away.”

And if you think about the drifting away, if I may return to a subject that I’ve left well alone for a while… Thirty or forty years ago in the United States of America, in a congregation like this where you had faithful, committed people, there would not be the dramatic falloff in attendance at evening worship that there is today. It was customary for those who were committed to the family of God to gather for the meals, and therefore, if there was one meal served, they gathered for one; if there were two, they gathered for two; and so on. But it never really crossed their minds to absent themselves in that way. Liberal churches began to close their doors in the evening because they had precious little to say; they’d used it all up in the morning, and it wasn’t that good in any case. The people were beginning to get on to that, and few of them were coming in the morning; there was gonna come a time where they may as well close it down in the morning. And people who were committed used to look at that and say, “My, my, I wonder why they don’t have an evening service,” and then all of a sudden the drift began to set in amongst those who were committed, and who were following, and who were desiring to go after Christ. And then there was just a slight, slow, gradual drift, to the point where we are the only evangelical church for miles around that has an evening service.

When men and women drift away from the Son of God and from the gospel, there is absolutely no place for them to go.

Now, why is this? Well, we can say all kinds of reasons that are sociological, etc., but I want to tell you that when a person learns to drift away from the evening service, it will become easier to drift away from the morning service, and it will become increasingly easy to drift away from all services altogether, and to drift away and be gone. Won’t come about, for most of us, as a dramatic decision one day—we wake up in the morning and say, “Today, I am becoming an atheist,” and then we proceed to establish a pattern of atheistic behavior. No. It will come imperceptibly. Our children will notice it before we do as adults. Our wives, our husbands, will notice the slow, steady drift. It’s a vital warning. “Don’t become lazy,” he says. “You want to be there at the end? You want to breast the tape? You want to receive the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?[3] Then heed this vital warning. I am warning you, lest we drift away.” Pay attention to the basics.

A Crucial Question

And then he asks this crucial question—still in the first four verses—the crucial question that begins in verse 2: “How [will] we escape” he says, “if we ignore such a great salvation?” Now, he sets it up by referring to the giving of the law. You can cross-reference this by turning to Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19—I don’t want to take time with it just now. But what he is saying, this: he’s arguing from the Old to the New, from the promise to the fulfillment. He says, “If men and women receive just punishment for rejecting God in the Old Testament, then do you think that we’re gonna be able to avoid punishment for rejecting him in the New Testament?”

And, of course, it’s a rhetorical question, assuming the answer no. How will we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? The answer is, you can’t escape if you ignore such a great salvation. For here is the only basis of salvation. So when men and women turn away, drift away, from the Son of God and from the gospel, there is absolutely no place for them to go. And that’s the dramatic, solemn truth which runs through the whole of Hebrews and keeps sounding this amazing warning.

For example, we’ll come to it in Hebrews 10:26, where he says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” That doesn’t sound very nice. He says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there’s no sacrifice for sins left, there’s nothing you can do, there’s no place you can go.” Because if there is only one place where sacrifices for sins have been made, and that is at the cross, and we drift away from the cross, and we reject what is represented in the cross, he said, “There’s nothing that you can look forward to except judgment and a raging fire that will consume you.” And then he argues in the exact same way: “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot?”[4]

That’s a very important point, in passing, because people frequently come and say, “Well, I’m glad that we don’t have the God of the Old Testament, you know. I’m glad we have the God of the New Testament. We don’t have that punishment in the Old Testament.” I saw just a fleeting moment of Dick Morris interviewed by Larry King, on Larry King Live, the other evening. The only piece that I saw was him explaining that he had found forgiveness somewhere, but he said it wasn’t the kind of forgiveness that was on offer from the apostle Paul, a kind of “punishment-damnation” forgiveness; it was the kind of forgiveness that was on offer by Jesus Christ. I wanna jump down the TV, say, “Wait a minute! You can’t say that; that is absolutely bogus what you’re saying!” But that’s what happens all the time: “Oh, you don’t believe in the Old Testament God of judgment, do you?” Yes I do. And I believe in the New Testament God of judgment as well. That’s exactly what the writer is saying. If they receive just punishment in the Old Testament for spurning the law of God, then we’ll receive just punishment in the New Testament from drifting away from the only salvation that is held out to us, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Great Salvation

So he sounds a vital warning, and then he asks a crucial question, and then he turns them to a great salvation. Incidentally, just to illustrate what we’re doing, in passing: under the previous regime, this would be my whole message, right? A vital warning, and whatever the second point was that I’ve just forgotten, and then the third point, “A Great Salvation.” But we’ve gotta keep moving here, so we’re moving.

So let me give you three points under the third point. What about this great salvation? Well, we’re told three things, and they’re all there in the verbs. You only need a modicum of the English language to be able to do this; it’s not particularly brilliant. What about this salvation? Well, we’re told three things. Verb number one: it was “announced.” It was announced by whom? It was “announced by the Lord”[5] himself. This takes us back to the Gospels, Mark chapter 1: “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” That’s Mark 1:14. Luke 4:18 and following, in the scene in the synagogue in Nazareth where Jesus stands up, and he takes the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and he says, “The Spirit of the Lord is now upon me and has enabled me to go and proclaim good news to the poor.”[6] And suddenly, here he is on the stage of human history, announcing salvation: “Go tell everyone the news that the kingdom of God has come.” Jesus, the announcer of salvation.

So this great salvation has been announced by Christ. Secondly, “was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”[7] I don’t want to camp on this, but this gives us a little insight into who wrote or didn’t write the book of Hebrews. Those of you who are into who wrote it or who didn’t write it can wax eloquent on these things, and some of you can argue to the death for your view, which is probably very unwise, since there’s nowhere that we’re told who wrote it. But for those who say that Paul wrote it, there’s a little problem here. Because Paul, when he writes to the Galatians, informs the Galatian believers that he received firsthand from the risen Christ himself the message which he proclaimed, right?[8] This individual says, “This salvation which was first announced by the Lord was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” In other words, he identifies himself amongst the second generation of believers or of Christians. He does not identify himself as one of the apostles, that unrepeatable group of individuals who had been with Christ, who were witnesses of his resurrection. And you can read of their apostolic identity in Acts 1:21–22.

So this great salvation was “announced by the Lord,” it “was confirmed … by those who heard” it. Incidentally, you have the same emphasis in 1 John, where John, introducing his letter, says, “You know, the things that we want to assure you of are the very things that we’ve heard with our own ears, we’ve seen with our own eyes, we’ve handled this stuff. We are able to identify this for you.”[9] That is the identifying dimension of apostolic awareness and authority.

And thirdly, this great salvation has been “testified to”—on God’s part—“by signs, wonders … various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, the apostolic preaching of the cross was accompanied by wonders and by miraculous signs. Now, we know that from the early chapters of Acts. Peter goes out and preaches on the day of Pentecost, and dramatic things take place. And when, after three thousand have been added to the number of the believers, Luke provides us with a little summary statement of what’s going on, in the course of telling us that they began to “[devote] themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, [and] to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” he says, “[and by the way, during this time,] everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.”[10] The apostles’ ministry—their verbal testimony to the veracity, the truthfulness, of Jesus—was accompanied by this dramatic stuff.

I think it’s Peter Adam who says this confident appeal to the miraculous display of divine power on the part of the writer here, which accompanied the apostolic proclamation of the gospel, obviously could never have been made if the wonders described here were completely unknown to the recipients of the letter. In other words, it would have been refuted. People would have said, “No, that didn’t happen. We were around, and that’s not the case.” So the writer says, “Remember, when I’m talking about salvation, it was announced by the Lord Jesus, it was confirmed by those who heard it, and it was testified to by God from heaven, providing accompanying dramatic signs which would underpin the truthfulness of the apostolic word.”

The question is, is it reasonable to expect that since there has been no continuation of the apostles, that there should be a continuation of these dramatic signs and wonders? If the signs and wonders were dramas to confirm the apostolic role and the foundation of the church, and if God determined that apostles and prophets—who were foundational to the building of the church—that their dimension would cease in the founding of the church, why then would God continue to provide authenticating signs of apostleship if there were no apostles to be authenticated by the signs? Why would then God confirm their word when he had given, in the fullness of the Scriptures, all of the canon of Scripture finally closed? That is the great question. And it is a matter over which sincere Christians disagree.

We can say with certainty what the Bible says with certainty, and we cannot be dogmatic about what the Scriptures do not say with dogmatism.

For example, I know nothing of the sincerity of Ernest Angley. I see him on TV. It makes me… interested. But I do know this: that he believes that what he is up to there is about the signs and wonders and authenticating dimensions of apostleship. I believe him to be totally wrong, but I have no right to question his motivation or his own commitment to truthfulness, because he is not an apostle, there are none, and there is no need for signs and wonders to confirm the apostolic word. It has already been given, and “we have the word of the prophets made more certain”[11] in the Scriptures themselves.

Now, I say to you again that people disagree over this. What can we say with certainty? Well, we can say with certainty what the Bible says with certainty, and we cannot be dogmatic about what the Scriptures do not say with dogmatism. 2 Corinthians 12:12: “The things that mark an apostle,” he says, “signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.” What are these signs, wonders, and miracles? They are the marks of apostleship. Since we no longer have the apostles, I do not believe we any longer have the accompanying dramatic signs and wonders. And therefore, a preoccupation with these things is to take us up all kinds of bypath alleys. And that should be no surprise to anybody.

What If God Was One of Us?

Now, those are the first four verses. And we need to proceed to verse 5 and following. If you’re using an NIV, you will notice that there is a heading there: “Jesus Made Like His Brothers.” The heading that I put over my notes was a question: “What If God Was One of Us?” “What If God Was One of Us?” A question that has been made famous in 1996 as a result of the popular song. A very vital and important question, asked, wittingly or unwittingly, by a young female singer of repute: “What if God was one of us … just [like] a stranger on the bus?”[12] Now, interestingly, that is exactly what is being addressed here as the writer reintroduces us to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he is about—if we ever get to verse 11—to point out that “both the one who makes men holy”—namely, Jesus, the Son of God—“and those who are made holy are of the same family.” “God is one of us,” he says.

Now, we’re coming to that, but in verse 5 and following, he reestablishes the matter of Christ’s superiority over the angels. He says, “It[’s] not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we[’re] speaking. But,” he says, “[however,] there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels.’” The inevitable question rises, How could it be that Christ was superior to the angels if in fact he was merely a man who had suffered and died like other men? “The son of man …. You made him a little lower than the angels.” How can he then be above the angels if he’s lower than the angels?

Well, I’m gonna tell you how it works. What we have here is a quote from the Eighth Psalm. And in quoting the Eighth Psalm, what we have is this double fulfillment, once again, to which we referred last time and to which we will refer with frequency in our study in this letter—namely, that the Eighth Psalm is descriptive of humanity, insofar as it does describe men and women as created by God, placed a little lower than the angels, etc. So on one level of meaning, the psalmist is simply considering the place of men and women within God’s created order. But because Jesus Christ represents all of humanity, as Paul says in Corinthians, as the Adam, the new Adam—1 Corinthians 15:20 and following—at another level, the writer points out, the meaning of Psalm 8 refers to Christ in all of his dignity and in all of his status; that it is messianic in its ultimate expression.

And this is how it goes: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels.”[13] What does that mean? It means that in his incarnation, in his humiliation, in his death upon the cross, Jesus was made to be lower than the angels. A. W. Pink points out that in becoming man the Lord Jesus took upon Himself a nature which was capable of dying. The angels had no such nature; and, therefore, in his humiliation, he was to be placed lower than they.[14] But it didn’t end there, because in his resurrection he was “crowned … with glory and honor,” and “everything” was “put … under his feet”: that he reigns supreme, that the highest place that is afforded in heaven is the rightful place of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And he is there, assuming his prerogative, which was his with the glory he had with the Father and the Spirit before the foundation of the world, and he is there assuming it because he has suffered as High Priest and as sacrifice for the sins of his people.

And so he says in verse 8b, “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.” And then look at this wonderful, little honest sentence: “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.” Well, isn’t that the truth? “At present we do not see everything subject to him.” So we live in this tension. We live in this “not yet” dimension that what is manifestly true in terms of the checkmate that has been established at Calvary, whereby Christ in his atoning death has rendered annulment, obsoletion, on the activities of the Evil One, that still, until we see him and are made like him, we live not only in Christ, seated with him in the heavenly places,[15] but also in Cleveland. And we know that in Christ there is all glory and honor and all things are under his control, but in Cleveland we do not yet see everything placed under him. Because we live in the world, and we live with disappointment, and we live with disfigurement, and we live with sin and with rebellion and hatred and strife, and there is not a week goes by but that we are confronted by all of this dreadful experience of our humanity.

Now, furthermore, the believers to whom this letter was initially written were on the receiving end of personal punishment. Some of them were cut in half by swords. Some of them were burned at the stake. Many of them were tortured unmitigatingly for their commitment to Jesus Christ. And the writer writes to them, and he says, “Listen, in putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.” And he must have anticipated them saying, “But goodness gracious, at the present time we don’t see everything subject to him!” “No,” he says, “we do not. But listen, let me tell you what we do see.” He says, “We see Jesus.” He says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to be buffeted by the circumstances which are around you. Don’t allow yourself to drift away through discouragement or willful disobedience and indifference. Make sure that you keep your gaze on Christ.” He’s going to say this in chapter 3:1: “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts [in] Jesus.” He’s going to come back to it in that great purple passage in chapter 12: “looking unto Jesus, the author, the pioneer, and the perfecter of our faith.”[16] He says, “Now let’s turn our eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And that is a word to some here this morning. Is it not? Indeed, it ought to be a word to all of us. This is Christ in all of his fullness and all of his superiority. This is the work which he has accomplished. He is supreme over all, and yet we do not see it all as yet, so what shall we do? Shall we constantly be moaning and groaning? “Oh, goodness gracious, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Oh, I can’t believe that this has happened. Oh, do you see what those people were doing? Oh, what a hell we live in! Oh, what a dreadful place. Oh, I think I’ll run away and climb a high hill! Oh, I think I’ll ‘flee as a bird to the mountain.’[17] Oh, we’d better get on our way and out of here. Oh, I hope I go to heaven soon!”

No! We will see Jesus! And then when we see Christ, then we see people in the light of Christ; then they are people for whom Christ died, to whom we will go with the message of the gospel. So they won’t be scum and riffraff that we will avoid. Because when we see him, then we will see him who wept over Jerusalem, who said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks.”[18] “O Cleveland, Cleveland, how I would have gathered you to me.”

And then when we see Jesus, then we see Cleveland in a new light. When you see Jesus, you see your boss in a new light. When you see Jesus, you see your unsaved spouse in a new light. When you see Jesus, then you see the difficulties of your teenage kids in a new light. You’ve gotta see Jesus; that’s what Hebrews is about. We see Jesus! “To Jesus ev’ry day I find my heart is closer drawn,”[19] because the worse it gets around here, the more it draws me to Christ. Or it’ll make you a drifter, you see. You’ll either be drawn to him, or you’ll be drifting from him. It’s the whole thing, you know: “Two men look out from prison bars, and one sees the mud and one sees the stars.” We go through the same experience, and some are drawn to Christ, and others drift from Christ. And he says, “I’m warning you, don’t allow these things going on around you to drag you away. Don’t get sucked down that hole with them. No, no, we see Jesus!”

Family Ties

And who is this Jesus we see? He’s our big brother. You say, “Can you really say that?” Yes, I think we can. Verse 10, I put another heading in my notes. I don’t know if you care to know, but I wrote then at verse 10, “Family Ties.” Family ties. You can tell I listen to too much music and watch too much TV. My last heading was “What If God Was One of Us?” and then “Family Ties.” That may just be a point of identification for some of you.

What was Jesus doing in tasting death, verse 9? Verse 10 gives the answer: he was “bringing many sons to glory”—sons and daughters, kids—and “it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” There’s a real problem verse for home Bible study groups, isn’t it? If you’ve ever done home Bible study, you see this one coming as a leader, and you say, “We better put the coffee on.” In fact, that’d be a good time for the benediction. What are we going to do with this “made perfect”? How could the author of the salvation be made perfect? How would the perfect Son of God need to be made perfect? How can you perfect that which is perfection? And if he had to be made perfect, maybe he wasn’t perfect. And if he wasn’t perfect, then how could he be the atoning sacrifice for our sins? And by the time you’ve gone round the coffee table with that a few times, you’re ready for a good cup of coffee. Well, that’s why God gives pastors and teachers, you see, so that the Bible study group’s not just the blind leading the blind, so that you can remind one another, say, “Well, he should know something about it, and if he does he ought to tell us.” So here it is.

Let me quote F. F. Bruce. That’s the first sign of a wise man: quote someone who knows. F. F. Bruce says, “The perfect Son of God has become his people’s perfect Savior.”[20] “The perfect Son of God has become [the] people’s perfect Savior.” Reminding us that the Scriptures make clear that Jesus was in no need of moral improvement, that we do not have an imperfect Christ being made perfect by suffering. So what is being said here? Well, in order to be a perfect high priest, certain things had to be fulfilled. First, there had to be obedience to God, then there had to be the ability to sympathize with those on whose behalf the priest was acting, then there had to be the presentation of an atonement to God. And, says the writer, only Jesus fulfills these conditions perfectly. By his obedience unto death on a cross, he has been perfectly suited to be his people’s representative.

There is no other Savior, because no other than Christ was able to fulfill this role in its perfected necessity.

So, clearly, “perfect through suffering”—the phrase in verse 10—does not mean that Christ was in need of moral improvement, but rather that by suffering in this way Christ was perfectly suited to exercise this office for his people. By means of his incarnation, by means of his humiliation, by means of his death on this behalf, by means of his obedience to God, by means of his representation of the people to God—which you have in the great theological treatise Cur Deus Homo by Saint Anselm; you buy it and stay up at nights and read it—you have this perfection on the part of Christ. “There was,” says the hymn writer,

No other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav’n, and let us in.[21]

There was no other Savior. There is no other Savior, because no other than Christ was able to fulfill this role in its perfected necessity.

Now, in verse 11: “The one who makes men holy” is the Son of God, and “those who are made holy” are the sons of God. Not only is Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, we’re told that he is also not ashamed to acknowledge us as his brothers and sisters, the same family: “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Then he quotes first from Psalm 22 and then from Isaiah chapter 8—a further reminder that the Old Testament speaks of Christ, that all the pain and the agony and the hopes of the psalmist and the prophet are all fulfilled ultimately in the one who was to come, Jesus. But the thing I want you to note here, especially if you’ve been feeling a little bit with a problem with self-identity lately, I want you to see here this wonderful thing: “The one who makes [us] holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.” We are the Jesus people. “Jesus is not ashamed to call them [his] brothers.”

That’s not even true in our earthly situations. Sometimes we’re embarrassed when our family shows up: “Oh, goodness, here he comes; I’m going to have to introduce him.” And we’re ashamed to say, “This is my brother. This is my sister.” You say, “Well, it shouldn’t be that way.” We understand that, but it sometimes is. Or, “Here [I am],” verse 13, “and the children God has given me.” You ever had that feeling when you go to somebody’s house? Somebody throws up over the piano—one of your children—spills grape juice all over the beautiful Irish lace tablecloth. You stand there and you go, “Here I am, and the children God has given me.” You know, “Look at this mess.”

But this is triumph. Jesus is prepared to stand up, as it were, in front of the crowd and says, “Here I am, and the children God has given me. I’m here with my kids. I’m here with my brothers and sisters.” And some of you got a problem and you say, “Well, I don’t know if I’m really making a dent. I don’t know if I really count for much. I don’t know if I’m that significant.” All of your significance is here. And any significance that you or I think we’ve got somewhere else, it isn’t even in any of these other places! This is the most significant thing: “Here I am and the kids he’s given me,” he says. He comes down into Parkside Church, and he goes from person to person, and place to place, and he says, “Come here, come here, come here, come here, come here.” And then he turns to his Father, and he says, “Here I am, Parkside, and the kids God has given me.” What a motley bunch! Look as us! Stumbling, bumbling, faltering, sinning, carping, criticizing, griping, singing, not singing, liking the music, not liking the music, bunch of hoodlums, and he says, “Here I am, and the children God has given me.”

Incidentally, don’t vote on the music with those cards. I don’t care if you liked it or not! I don’t care that you thought last Sunday was the best Sunday in two and a half years. Big deal! Next Sunday may be dreadful. What are you going to do then? What’s the most significant thing? Jesus is here, and we’re his kids. Fast, slow, up, down, in, out, black, white, whatever way you want it. Jesus is here, and “Here’s the kids he gave me,” he said, an unruly bunch. That’s why the issue is not, What church am I in? That’s why the issue is not all of the external things. It is simply this: we’re in the same family. Family ties.

Are you in the family this morning? Well, you say, “How do you get in the family?” The answer’s in John chapter 1: “He came to his own, and his own received him not. But to as many as received him, to them who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.”[22] Are you in the children of God? You can be in Parkside Church and not a member of the family. You can do all kinds of religious things—and so can I—with great effervescent commitment and not be in the family. The Son of God: “The one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.”

Now, let me just mention something in passing. First of all, I do care if you liked the music last week. I shouldn’t say that I don’t care. I know someone will tell me, say, “Well, don’t tell the people you don’t care.” Okay. I do care. I’m sorry for saying that. But sometimes I get a little carried away. I do care, but I want you to know, you know… I don’t care that much. That’s me at my limit now. That’s as good as I can do.

Freedom in Christ

Let’s just finish it up. The last paragraph, I wrote—over verses 14–18, I wrote one word: “Freedom.” Freedom. The primary reason for Christ taking our human nature, said John Owen, “was not to reign in it, but [was] to suffer and die in it.”[23] And by his death, he says in 14 and following, Christ has freed his people from slavery—the slavery that comes from the fear of death. Although we must still die, nevertheless the sting has been drawn. “The sting of death is sin,”[24] says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Christ bore the penalty of sin, thereby annulling death’s condemning power. And he turns death around, and he makes it a porch, he makes it a portal, he makes it the entryway to heaven. He makes for the Christian death a narrow sunlit strip between the goodbyes of yesterday and the hellos of tomorrow. What we fear most we never experience. We fall asleep in the arms of Jesus, and we waken up, and we’re in heaven. That’s what he does.

When we’re tempted, we remember Jesus—and better still, we know that he remembers us.

This is a salvation that is unknown to the angels. That’s what verse 16 says. But it is the experience of “Abraham’s descendants.” You remember that great promise to the Abraham, “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed”?[25] Who are the true descendants of Abraham? They are those who share Abraham’s faith. And “Abraham believed God, and it was [reckoned] to him as righteousness.”[26] He was God’s friend, and we are God’s friends. “You are my friends,” said Jesus, “if you do what I command [you].”[27] And our obedience to his commands is an indication of our membership within his family.

“For this reason,” verse 17, “he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest [serving] God, and [making] atonement for the sins of the people.” This is the bridge diagram with which many of us are familiar, in telling people about the wonder of what God has done in coming to us in the person of Jesus when we are unable to get across the chasm by means of our own endeavor and religious activities. We like to draw for people on a napkin, and we say, “Here is a holy God, and here is sinful man, and he has come to us in a merciful and gracious Savior in the person of Jesus.” And we draw a cross across the chasm, and we say, “There in that cross is the answer.” This is the wonder of the gospel.

And the great encouragement of verse 18 to those of us who have been buffeted and beaten in the temptation of the week that has gone: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Tempted to what? Tempted to drift. Tempted to settle for something less. You say, “Well, Jesus didn’t know that kind of temptation.” Yes he did. The devil says to him, he says, “You know, if you just fall down and worship me, I can give you all of this. Why don’t you give up on the big scheme and go for a lesser scheme?”[28] You face that insinuation? “Well, don’t get dramatic, don’t get too carried away. Just back off a little. Don’t do a U-turn, just drift. Just drift a little.” And when we’re tempted, we remember Jesus—and better still, we know that he remembers us.

Let us pray together:

O God our Father, we thank you for the truth of your Word, and thank you that for the bits that we’ve missed or found hard to understand, we still are confronted with this amazing picture of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who “bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to [sin] and live [to] righteousness.”[29] May we heed the warning. May we answer the question. May we embrace this great salvation. Thank you for becoming one of us. Thank you for the family ties—that although we may live alone, that you, Lord Jesus, are our brother as well as our Savior. Thank you for the freedom that is found in your sacrifice. We worship you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 1, 1834–1854 (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), 73.

[2] Hebrews 2:1 (NIV 1984).

[3] Philippians 3:14 (paraphrased).

[4] Hebrews 10:28–29 (NIV 1984).

[5] Hebrews 2:3 (NIV 1984).

[6] Luke 4:18 (paraphrased).

[7] Hebrews 2:3 (NIV 1984; emphasis added).

[8] See Galatians 1:11–17.

[9] 1 John 1:1 (paraphrased).

[10] Acts 2:42–43 (NIV 1984).

[11] 2 Peter 1:19 (NIV 1984).

[12] Eric Bazilian, “One of Us” (1995).

[13] Hebrews 2:6–7 (NIV 1984).

[14] A. W. Pink, quoted in in Geoffrey B. Wilson, New Testament Commentaries, vol. 2, Philippians to Hebrews and Revelation (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2005), 340.

[15] See Ephesians 2:6.

[16] Hebrews 12:2 (paraphrased).

[17] Psalm 11:1 (paraphrased).

[18] Matthew 23:37 (paraphrased).

[19] William C. Martin, “Still Sweeter Every Day” (1899).

[20] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 43.

[21] Cecil Frances Alexander, “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” (1848).

[22] John 1:11–12 (paraphrased).

[23] John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. 2, in The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1854), 466–67.

[24] 1 Corinthians 15:56 (NIV 1984).

[25] Genesis 22:18 (paraphrased).

[26] Romans 4:3 (NIV 1984).

[27] John 15:14 (NIV 1984).

[28] See Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13.

[29] 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV 1984).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.