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. (NKJV)
Having shown the superiority of the Lord Jesus over angels, and that He isn’t just another angel, the writer has turned his attention to the reason why the Lord Jesus entered humanity in the Incarnation, namely, to be a sacrifice for sins. And not just a sacrifice, but the sacrifice for sin.
This sacrifice wasn’t just to be a willy-nilly, haphazard affair, dependent on sinful men for its “success,” but had in mind a definite people – the brethren, the children God had given Him, the seed of Abraham – and a definite purpose – to destroy the devil and to release those who are under bondage to him.
Our text for today begins with the word, “therefore.” As someone has said, “When you see the word ‘therefore,’ you need to find out what it’s there for.” In this case, it introduces the current place the Lord Jesus holds for His people, namely, that of a merciful and faithful High Priest. In order to be able to become that,
He had to be made like His brethren.
The writer’s already mentioned that the Lord “took part” (KJV) in the flesh and blood of those for whom He came to be the Sacrifice. Though miraculously conceived, His was a real body, truly flesh and blood, as human as anyone has ever been, as human as you and I. There was only one exception: He was without sin. This is the only way He could be a suitable sacrifice, acceptable to God.
As you read through all the regulations in Leviticus, you see over and over again the requirement that both the sacrifice and the priest who officiated had to be “perfect.” No blemish was permissible. This was one of the complaints God had against Israel all through their history. In Malachi 1:8, God rebuked His people with this, “When you offer the blind [animal] as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?” See also v. 12. He says, “You wouldn’t offer this to those who rule over you! Why do you offer it to Me??”
This is why it is impossible for us to atone for our own sins. Neither we nor what we can do is “perfect.” In speaking of Israel, Isaiah 64:6 says, But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. The word translated “filthy rags” refers to a menstrual cloth or to a rag a leper might use to care for or bandage his sores. Not very pretty, is it? And it’s used of our righteousnesses – those good things we do that we think so highly of. What must our unrighteousnesses be like in His sight? If it’s objected that this refers to Israel, and it does, yet Romans 3:22, 23 says, there is no difference [between Jew and Gentile]; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Our “ethnicity” doesn’t matter. We all stand in abject depravity and sinfulness in the sight of God. Apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, we all stand condemned already before Him, John 3:18. It’s too late for good works or reformation or “religion.”
THAT is why Jesus had to be born into this world. He’s the only One Who could ever do anything about our sins.
in things pertaining to God.
Life isn’t just about family, or work, or getting ahead, or having a good time or any of the thousands of other things life may involve. Many of these, like family, have their important place, but, too often, we get wrapped up in things which are temporary, and forget the things which are eternal.
The atheist or unbeliever will tell us that this life, this world, is all there is. There is no God. There is no heaven or hell. This is it. When you’re dead, you’re dead. “Religion” is for the weak, the ignorant.
But I think life itself tells us that there has to be more than this. Years ago, a singer named Peggy Lee had a song in which, after going through all the various good things in life, she asked, “Is that all?”
“Is that all?”
Certainly, Scripture tells us that this life isn’t all there is.
…it is appointed for man once to die, but after this the judgment…, Hebrews 9:27. (NKJV)
We will yet stand before God and give an account of our lives. The faithful believer, the atheist, the agnostic, the followers of “the world’s religions,” the important, the insignificant, all of us will stand before God. And woe to us if we don’t have an Advocate there with us , cf. 1 John 2:2. I know that verse refers to the present, but I think it might apply to the future, as well.
And woe to us if we don’t have “propitiation.”
There are several words used of what Christ did on the Cross. This particular word means, “appeasement.” A poor example might be the bouquet of flowers a husband brings home to soothe an offended wife.
Romans 1:24-27 tells us that God gave early man over to his depravity. I believe this is the background to the story of the call of Abraham. God had given mankind over to judgment, but He called one man through whom He would eventually reclaim the human race to Himself. Not every member of that race will be redeemed, but the race itself will be saved. Had God not so intervened, had Christ not come, that would not happen, could not happen, cf. Romans 9:29. There would be no salvation, only richly-deserved judgment. In the OT, God chose only to reveal Himself to one nation. Though Israel was to be a witness to other nations, they had to come to her to find the truth. Judgment was still on them.
But when Christ died, He “appeased,” as it were, that wrath and judgment, so that, now, the Gospel is to be preached to every nation. We are to go to them; they don’t have to come to us.
But life isn’t just about what happens after death, it’s about “now.” So the writer concludes,
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted, v, 18.
Some people object that, since the Lord Jesus couldn’t be tempted by sin, He really can’t understand our being tempted. But may I suggest that the Lord was more bothered by sin than any of us ever will be. He was absolutely holy and sinless in the midst of a people who were anything but. Further, He knew the realities of heaven and hell in the midst of a people who often didn’t seem to care. After all, they were God’s chosen people, weren’t they? We read in the Scripture that He groaned and wept, but we never read that He laughed. This doesn’t mean that He was a miserable spoil-sport. He just knew the differences.
The word translated, “tempted,” means “tested.” It doesn’t necessarily mean “tempted to sin”. There are many “tests” in life which have nothing to do with sin. Every day brings tests of one kind or another. Just because He never used a computer or drove a Chevy doesn’t mean the Lord doesn’t know what goes on in our lives. After all, Isaiah 53:3 describes Him as A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. In speaking of Israel in the OT, Isaiah 63:9 says, In all their afflictions He was afflicted. Though we cannot “humanize” the God of Scripture, He is not the unfeeling monster the atheist and skeptic would have us to believe.
And through the Lord Jesus, God has, in a manner of speaking, been “humanized.” He brought Himself down to our level, so that He might, as it were, bring us up to His level. We’ll never be God, but we will one day be perfect. Writing to believers, the Apostle John said, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.