April 12th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
Deity, God, Humanity of Christ, Hypostatic Union, Jesus, Hebrews 1959 - 1960, 1959, Hebrews
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-12-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews, from the fifth through the first half of the ninth verses [Hebrews 2:5-9]. The title of the message is The God-Man, Christ Jesus. In our preaching through the Bible, last Sunday evening, we left off at the fourth verse [Hebrews 2:4]. This morning we begin at the fifth verse, Hebrews 2:5-9:
For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou visitest him?
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands:
Thou hast also put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor . . .
You could read that a thousand years and still not ultimately know the tremendous all-important message that it carries with it. So may God help us and His Holy Spirit give us listening ears and an understanding heart as we seek to break open for our souls this marvelous, marvelous truth that the author is presenting in this wonderful passage.
It is a very difficult conception that in one person there should be God and there should be man—that in one life, in one personality there should be true deity; God of very God and man of very man—it is a difficult conception for us today. In the centuries past, the church has been torn by the great Christological controversies, all of which concern the person of Jesus Christ. Now if to us it is difficult that God should be a man, if to us that very idea is extremely hard to understand, it must have been with unparalleled force that it was difficult for these Jewish people, to whom the author wrote this letter. It was difficult for them to receive that conception that in a man there should be the true and one and only God, and that He should be God.
Now to the disciples, it was not as difficult. To the disciples, they could readily receive the doctrine of the true humanity of our Lord, for to them, they could remember with poignant, poignant memory how He looked, His stature, His height, His voice, His gestures, His manner, His countenance, everything about Him. They could never forget the first time they saw Him. Nor could they ever blot out of memory the sight of Him, seated by them in the boat, walking with them on the shores, teaching them on the hillsides. The humanity of our Lord to the disciples was very, very paramount, their memory of Him in so many places, in so many ways. Finally, one of their own number betraying Him [Matthew 26:14-16]. His agony in the garden [Luke 22:44], and His death on the cross [Luke 23:26-46]; the humanity of our Lord, to the disciples, was, most regnant.
The deity of our Lord to those disciples was not difficult to receive, for from the beginning, when they were just introduced to Him, there was a mysterious majesty about Him. There was something different and separate and apart in the Lord Jesus. His mighty miracles confirmed that wonderful mysteriousness. His words of authentic and chosen and elective power, His ableness to forgive sins [Mark 2:7-12], His oneness with the Father [John 10:27-30], the glorious transfiguration when they looked upon Him in the holy mount [Luke 9:28-35], His resurrection from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and of course in awe and in reverence as they saw His ascension up into glory [Acts 1:9-11]; to the disciples the receiving of the doctrine of the true humanity and the true deity of Jesus was not difficult.
Nor was the reception of that doctrine in the Gentile world overly difficult. In the countries and in the cities of Galatia and in Macedonia and Achaia and in Italy, in the cities of Galatia, and in the cities of the Greek world and in the cities of the Roman world, the doctrine that God should appear in human life was nothing strange or unusual at all. It was easy for them to receive it. Their very heathen gods had prepared them for this wonderful doctrine of the Lord Jesus. For the gods to appear in human flesh and to live a human life was not something unusual to the mind of the pagan Greek or Roman.
But to the Jew and the Jews to whom this letter was written, to the Jew that conception was of all doctrines most difficult. For one thing, they lived in the very country where Jesus had lived. There were houses standing there in which the Lord had slept and in which He had broken bread. There were some of their number who still lived who had seen Him. The very atmosphere of the land spoke of His human life; His relatives lived among them, the grandchildren, and maybe if these brothers lived to an age, those very men were still in their midst. That hall in which their hardest criminals were condemned was right there, where Jesus Himself had been delivered for execution. It was their own priests who clamored for His blood [John 19:5-6, 14-16]. And He was crucified like a felon [Matthew 27:38], and was buried in a grave [Matthew 27:57-60].
And to those Jewish believers, the glory of the Lord was obscured by the reminders on every hand of His humiliation and His shame and His crucifixion. It was difficult. It was most difficult for these Jewish people to receive the doctrine that this man who was crucified was also their Jehovah God.
Another thing about it: in their glorification of the revelations of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, they so identified it with the mediation of angels. The law was given through angels [Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2]. And angelic messengers announced again and again the wonderful and marvelous things that had happened to Israel. There was nothing of the angelic appearance in the humanity of our Lord. There He was. There He lived. There He was crucified; there He died [Mark 15:20-36]. And here He was buried [Mark 15:43-46]. It was a difficult conception.
So the author of the book, in writing to this little band of Hebrew converts in Palestine, the author is presenting the deity of the Son of God. And he begins in the first chapter by avowing that this Lord Jesus was God in glory before the world was [Hebrews 1]. And that He was thereby above the angels, superior to all angelic orders which thing is a natural concomitant. If this is God, He is naturally above the angels. And this Lord Jesus was the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person, upholds all things by the word of His power, is sat down now on the right hand of the Majesty on high [Hebrews 1:3].
So the first chapter presents the Lord Jesus as the God of glory before the creation of the world and who is thereby, per se, above all of the angelic orders [Hebrews 1:1-14].
Now in the second chapter he presents the deity of Christ in His humanity. And that was where the Jewish people had their greatest difficulty, for humanity is so fallen and so defaced, so disgraced, until it is almost impossible to think that a man could be God.
What the author does is this, he rescues from that abysmal definition of the worm-man, he rescues that conception and brings back to us the original purpose and idea of God for the man that He made. And he avows that humanity is not immeasurably distant below the angels and that man was created in honor and in glory. And that it is the fallen man that makes it appear impossible that God should be revealed through the medium of human flesh; that Christ stooped down, in the form of humanity, that He might lift a fallen humanity back to its original place and purpose in the dignity and glory to which God had assigned it.
So as he begins the discussion of the deity of Christ revealed in human form, he makes an open and flat avowal: “Unto the angels hath God not put in subjection the world to come” [Hebrews 2:5] period! God has spoken nothing then, before, or ever about authority and dominion in this new heaven and in this new world. God hath spoken nothing of authority and dominion concerning the angels, “Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the glorious world that is to come” [Hebrews 2:5]. Nothing in the Bible, nothing from God about angelic dominion and sovereignty. But God does say something about the new creation and the dignity and the glory of the man that He hath made.
So in his argument here the author is going to follow three points. First, man was created to dignity, to honor, and to glory [Hebrews 2:7]. Second, man hath not realized that glory and that honor yet [Hebrews 2:8]. He has not fully apprehended it, laid hands upon it. Sin has defiled him and evil has corrupted him, and he has fallen away from the great original purpose of God. [Third] But we see Jesus and in Him, humanity shall realize all of the glory and honor and dignity of the purposes of God in creating mankind [Hebrews 2:9]. Now that’s his argument.
All right, let’s follow it through, “Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come” [Hebrews 2:5]. There is nothing said about it. But, now he turns to the man that God made:
But one in a certain place testified saying: What is man that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou visitest him?
Low, weak, worm of the dust, what is he?—
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands;
Thou has put all things in subjection under his feet.
That was not said to angels; that was said to the man that God hath made. And the author here is quoting from the Psalm 8 [Psalm 8:4-6]. So if I am going to have a true idea of the gospel, I must first have a true philosophy of man. And how vital that is today, to seize upon this great truth which calls for the explanation of the psalmist, when he cried, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” [Psalm 8:4]. For this exclamation of the psalmist inspired runs counter to all, practically all of the currents of modern thought.
To an animist, the man is below the creature. He bows down and worships the four-footed beast and the creeping things of the earth. To the totalitarian, man is cannon fodder. He is a pawn of the state. He is to serve the purposes of dictators and tyrants. To the materialist, man is an accident. He just happened in the evolving, mechanical, impersonal, inexorable forces of this universe that work relentlessly, pitilessly. He is a fortuitous circumstance and he happened to be evolved. And to a pseudoscientist, the man is of the same blood and of the same kin and of the same family with the gorilla and the ape and the anthropoid and the beast.
We first must start, says the author of the Hebrews, with a correct philosophy of man. “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” [Hebrews 2:6]. And this is the revelation of God. He says here in the psalm, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained” [Psalm 8:3], when I look at God’s great work, God’s great works, a man looks like a shadow. A man is like a, he’s like a fleeting cloud. Men are like the aphids on the leaves of the forest. His life is of no account. He’s so feeble. He’s so defaced. He’s so fallen. When I consider the marvelous handiwork of God, what is a man? What is a man? [Psalm 8:3-4; Hebrews 2:6].
And yet God is mindful of him. Four times in the Bible is that same question raised, “What is man?” [Job 7:17; Psalm 8:4, 144:3; Hebrews 2:6]. And each time it is answered that God is mindful of him and God visits him. God may have starry universes. And God may have planets in their courses. But God is mindful most of the man that He made and the son of man whom He visits [Hebrews 2:6]. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth us” [Psalm 103:13]. By the lowly cot, in the solitary life, in the broken heart, in the waywardness, God visits us and is mindful of us.
And not only that but God, in creating the man, “set him above the works of His hands, and crowned him with glory and honor, and made him [to have] dominion over all of the works of God’s hands” [Psalm 8:5-6]. You can see that illustrate in the creation of the man. “God created the man in His own image” [Genesis 1:27]. What God is, we are. Not in the same degree, not in the same perfection and holiness, but what God is, the man is. He is created in the image of God. The man that God made can think God’s thoughts. He can follow the planets in their motion; he can ferret out the secrets of nature.
The man that God made can respond to God. This great planetary system of the universe follows laws of which it is absolutely unconscious—it does not know, it does not feel, it does not see, it does not love, and it does not respond. But the man that God made is in God’s image: he can respond to God, he can love God, he can talk with God, he can give his life to God, he can open his soul to God—he is made in God’s image. And God is mindful of him and God visits him [Hebrews 2:6]. It will be the same thing as if you had in your arms a babe born of your flesh and born of your blood, and there you hold the babe in your arms and out yonder is a planet or over yonder is a mountain. How would you compare the planet or how would you compare the mountain to the babe created in your own image, your flesh, your blood, and your name?
Same thing as if an empress mother had in her arms a darling child, and she lived in a vast, vast richly furnished palace. But what is the palace with all of its furnishing and all of its glory and wealth and affluence, compared to the babe she holds in her arms, made in her likeness; blood of her blood, and bone of her bone? It is so, says the psalmist, about the man that God has made. He created him to think His thoughts, to love Him, to respond to Him [Psalm 103:13]. And man alone is capable of doing that. Not an ocean, not a planet, not a system, not a world; it is only man that can love God and think God’s thoughts.
And not only that, says this psalmist that the author of the Hebrews is taking as a text, not only that, but God crowned him with glory and honor and made him to have dominion over the works of God’s hands. And God put all things under his feet [Psalm 8:5-6]: God made us to rule over the world. God made us to rule over the works of His hands [Hebrews 2:7-8]. That includes the moon, that includes Venus, that includes the sun; that includes the galaxies; that includes all of God’s works. God made the man to rule over them in glory and in honor; God made us for that purpose, to ferret out these laws. God made this universe to stimulate our faculties, to discipline our moral characters.
God made this whole world to serve the man: the sun shines for him, the rain falls for him, the trees grow for him. The perfume of the flower is for him, the music of the bird is for him. God made the coal and the oil, God made the silver and the gold; God made the whole creation for the man that he might be crowned in glory and honor, that he might have dominion over the works of his hands, and that God might put all things under his feet [Hebrews 2:7-8]. That, says the author of the Hebrews using this for a text, was the purpose of God when he made the man.
But, says the author of the Hebrews, man fell short of that glory and that honor and that purpose. He says, “But now we see not yet all things put under him” [Hebrews 2:8]. The man didn’t keep the glory of the image of God, but he defaced it. And the man didn’t measure up to the glorious dominion of his power, but he corrupted it. “But now we see not yet all things put under him” [Hebrews 2:8]. In fact, the man has so disfigured the image of God until you can hardly recognize it in him. His intellect is corrupted and he falls into ignorance and darkness and error. And his moral life is corrupted, and he follows sensuality and worldliness. And his spiritual life is so corrupted, that he bows down and worships the stars and the sun and the moon over which God had made him to rule. And he bows down in his corruption and degradation; he bows down and puts in his very temples these four-footed and creeping things. And he implores them against calamities that he bred, and he importunes them for the blessings that he seeks. As Paul said in Romans, “Sin hath reigned” [Romans 5:21]. And, the great original purpose of God for man has been disfigured, and the image has been broken, and the man has fallen from his gloriously high state for which God created him.
In one of our museums is a brick from one of the ancient temples in Chaldea, thousands of years before Christ. And every one of the bricks had an imprint in it of the seal and signature of the emperor. And this particular brick, when it was moist, they put the seal and stamp of the king on the soft brick. And when it was laid out to dry, a dog stepped over the seal and you can see it there. Underneath is the image and superscription and stamp and seal of the king of Babylon. And then over it is a dog’s track. And for these thousands of years, there that brick has stood.
That is an exact description of the man God made. In God’s image, with God’s stamp and God’s seal, and a dog’s track covers it for the centuries since he fell—disgraced, fallen, ruined, degraded below the very animals that the Lord has made. But that’s where the Jew fell into trouble. Humanity, so ruined and so fallen and so degraded, how could it ever be the medium of the revelation of God? That’s what these Jewish people asked.
But the author of the Hebrews says he wasn’t made degraded. And he wasn’t made ruined, and he wasn’t made defaced, and he wasn’t made fallen, but the man was made for honor and for glory to rule over and to have sovereignty over and to have dominion over all of the works of God’s hands! [Hebrews 2:7].
And now, he says his third point, “We see not yet all things put under him” [Hebrews 2:8]. He fell. Then his third point, “But we see Jesus” [Hebrews 2:9], who stooped down to be made like us; little lower than the angels, to lift us up to that glory and honor and dominion for which God made us. And because of His sufferings now, He is crowned with glory and honor, the Lord Jesus—doubly king, doubly Lord, doubly honorable because of the humiliation by which He stooped down to raise up a fallen and lost and ruined humanity to be made into the likeness of the glory of God [Hebrews 2:9].
Now may I say a word about that? Humanity, the author is saying, is a true and wonderful medium for the revelation of God. God could never be known in a star, in a mountain, in an ocean, in a tree, in a flower, but God can be known in a man. For a man is like God, created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]—loving like God, thinking like God—the man can respond to God, and God can reveal Himself in the man. And the honor that Jesus received, He received not for Himself alone, but He also received it for us. He tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9] that in His sufferings all of our sins might be expiated [2 Corinthians 5:21], might be atoned for [Romans 5:11], might be washed away [Romans 3:25; Revelation 1:5].
And in Christ we have by faith, we have in His crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50], we have in His resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7], we have in His ascension [Acts 1:9-10], in Christ we have the promise of all that we have ever lost in the ruin and fall of the garden of Eden [Romans 5:12], we have our paradise back again, we have our tree of life back again [Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7]. We have our river of life back again [Revelation 22:1]. We have our holy city back again [Revelation 21:2]. We have our heavenly fellowship back again [1 John 1:3]. All that we have ever lost we have in Christ Jesus our Lord, and more beside. For the glory that the author speaks of here—Jesus for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor [Hebrews 2:9]—that is not the glory here in the first chapter of Hebrews and the third verse, the glory that Jesus had before the world was” [Hebrews 1:3]. This is an added glory that God hath given Him and that all humanity gives Him in the praise of His sacrifice, of His humiliation, He who stooped down in order to lift up a fallen humanity back to its original grace and purpose in the creation of God. And because He stooped, because He humbled Himself, because He became one of us, because He tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9], there is given to Him an added glory, an added love, an added adoration, an added response.
He, who, being in the form of God, thought it not something to be seized and kept to be equal with God:
But poured Himself out, and made Himself of no reputation, and was made in the form of a man:
And being found in the likeness of a man, He humbled Himself still lower, and became obedient unto death, still lower, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, given Him a glory and an honor because of His suffering unto death, an added glory, and His name above every name; That at the name of Jesus, all knees someday shall bow, and all tongues shall someday confess He is God, He is Lord, to the glory of all of the hosts of the heaven, to the glory of the Father, and to our own salvation for ever and for ever.
We see not yet all things subject to the man that God made; but we see Jesus [Hebrews 2:8-9]. And there He is, the representative man; there He is, the specimen man. There He is, our Lord and our Redeemer [1 Peter 1:18-19]. And the Book says as He is, so we someday shall be—joint-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17], fellow heirs with Jesus [Ephesians 3:6]—ruling the worlds and the dominions and the empires and the kingdoms of all creation [Ephesians 1:20-23]. He is our head, and where the head is, the body, His people, His church shall also certainly be [Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18]. All authority is in His hand [Matthew 28:18], and the keys of Death and Hell swing at His side [Revelation 1:18].
And what we have lost in Eden [Romans 5:12], we shall be given again in the Paradise that is to come [Revelation 2:7]. For we see “not yet” in all things subject to the man God made [Hebrews 2:8]. But we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honor [Hebrews 2:9]. And He and His brethren are indivisibly one [John 17:21]. If He lives, we shall live [John 14:19]. If He reigns, we shall reign [Revelation 22:5]. If He is in heaven, we shall be in heaven [John 14:2-3]. And if He has dominion, we, too, someday shall have dominion [2 Timothy 2:12].
Dear people, when I try to say this thing, I am so feeble in it. Oh, that I could frame it like it really is, that I could say it like the Book presents it, that I could preach it as God revealed it. It is the most incomparable blessed message. No wonder they call it the gospel, the good tidings, the glad tidings. Lift up your head. Raise your eyes. Look, look! What wonderful incomparable things God hath wrought for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now we sing our song. And while we sing it somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? “Today, I give my heart to Christ.” Or, “Today, I put my life into the fellowship of the church.”
While we sing that song, would you come? There is a host of you in this balcony round, a stairwell at the back and at the front, come down that stairwell and here to me. In this throng on the lower floor, into that aisle and down here to the front, “Preacher, I give you my hand, I give my heart in faith to Christ, my Savior.” Or into the fellowship of His church, one somebody you, or a family you, as God shall say the word and bid you here, would you come? Would you make it now; while we stand and while we sing?
THE GOD-MAN CHRIST JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The difficult conception that in one person should be God and man
A. Difficulty pressed with unparalleled force upon the Jewish believers
1. Disciples easily received doctrine of true humanity and deity of Jesus
2. Gentiles also received the doctrine without great difficulty
3. For the Jew, it was most difficult conception
a. Glory of the Lord obscured by reminders of His humiliation
b. There was nothing of angelic appearance in the humanity of Jesus
B. The author of the epistle presents deity of the Son of God
1. First chapter presents Jesus as God of glory before creation
2. Second chapter presents deity of Christ in His humanity
a. Original divine idea of humanity
b. God has said nothing of authority and dominion concerning angels; but does speak about the new creation of the man(Hebrews 2:5)
II. Man was created to dignity, honor and glory(Hebrews 2:6-8)
A. All creation the workmanship of God(Psalm 8:1, 3-4)
1. “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”
B. To have a true idea of the gospel, must first have true philosophy of man
1. At first sight, man is utterly unworthy to be compared with vast wonders of heaven and earth(Psalm 8:1, 3)
a. Yet God is mindful of him(Psalm 103:13)
2. Dignity originally conferred may be seen in account of his creation(Psalm 8:5-6)
a. Created in the image of God(Genesis 1:27)
b. Made to have dominion(Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:6)
III. Man fell short of that glory, honor and purpose(Hebrews 2:8)
A. Man didn’t keep the glory of the image of God, but defaced it(Romans 5:21)
B. The Jew asked how fallen humanity could ever be the medium of the revelation of God
IV. “But we see Jesus”(Hebrews 2:9)
A. Man as Christ can make him
B. His humanity, suffering, ministered to His greater glory(Philippians 2:8-11)
C. He is the representative man – as He is, so we shall be