How God Brings Many Sons to Glory
What’s wrong with the world? Hardly anybody would answer, “Nothing.” Most people agree the world is racked with problems. They may disagree about the nature of those problems, their seriousness, their solutions. But nearly everybody agrees, the world suffers great problems.
The Scriptures agree—the world has massive problems. But the Scriptures evaluate these problems in relation to God. They identify the root of these problems in sin, our rebellion against God. God created the world good, well ordered, full of life. God created man to image his glory by ruling creation. The beasts of the earth lived beneath man’s dominion. Psalm 8 says God crowned man with glory and honor.
But man quickly rebelled. Instead of ruling the beasts by God’s word, man let a very crafty Serpent rule instead. When he did, it upended the created order. Man lost his glory. Man sunk humanity into shame. God cursed humanity with death. Even worse, God’s wrath was set against man. Without God, humanity becomes so curved in on itself, we lack the ability to change our desperate predicament. From glory to shame, from rulers to Satan’s slaves, from fellowship with God to punishment beneath his anger—all because of sin. That’s the root problem, according to Scripture.
But Scripture also announces the grace of God. Despite what we deserve, God gives his Son a people. He plans to lay hold of these people and lead them back to glory. That’s what verses 10-18 explain: how God acted to bring many sons (and daughters) to glory. In the process, verses 10-18 also answer the age-old question, why did God become man? Let’s read together, starting in verse 10…
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That’s why he’s not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it’s not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
How does God bring many sons to glory? That’s the question the rest of chapter 2 answers. He’s still developing the great salvation of verse 3. We must not neglect it or lose sight of its greatness. Part of the picture came in verses 5-9. God created man to rule creation. But at present, we don’t see that. We see a warped dominion. We see disorder and death. Because of Adam’s sin, we see man functioning as he was cursed, not as he was created.
But that’s not where God’s grace leaves us. In his Son, God restores to man what Adam lost. We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor, verse 9 says. Notice that word, “glory.” It comes from verse 7, where he quotes Psalm 8. The glory in view is the glory bound up with mankind ruling the new world in Jesus’ presence. The question is, though, how can rebels ever enter that glory?
It’s got something to do with Jesus being made for a little while lower than the angels—verse 9. It’s got something to do with Jesus tasting death for everyone. But the details are still fuzzy. That’s what verses 10-18 are for. They explain how God’s Son identifies with us and suffers unto death to bring the many sons to glory. So let’s answer the question: how does God, through his Son, bring many sons and daughters to glory?
- As our Founder, the Son identifies with the many sons and daughters and suffers obediently to qualify as their representative.
At the beginning of verse 10, the “he” is God the Father, “because of whom and by whom are all things.” Whether creation or redemption, the Father is the ultimate cause and sustainer of all things. He designs all things and so involves himself in them that they necessarily accomplish his purpose.
Part of his purpose in grace is to bring many sons to glory. Verse 10 adds, “It was fitting that God…in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Fitting. In other words, the Son’s sufferings aren’t the result of a mission gone bad. His sufferings fit God’s plan to get the many sons to glory. But what does it mean that he makes the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering? Or better, “through sufferings” in the plural.
Does that mean Jesus was lacking morally? That he wasn’t morally perfect and had to become that? Not at all. Jesus was born without Adam’s sin nature—Luke 1:35. Hebrews 4:15 also says Jesus was without sin. The perfection in view has more to do with Jesus’ vocation, with him qualifying as our human representative.
Remember, Adam was tested in the Garden. Adam’s obedience to the Father was tested and Adam failed. In order for Jesus to qualify as the new and greater Adam, his obedience likewise had to be tested. That is, as a man the Son had to be tested. His faith in the Father under trials had to remain true. Whatever sufferings he endured throughout the whole of his life—those sufferings were the occasion for his obedience to be tested, proven. To succeed would qualify him as our representative Savior.
To show you where I’m coming from, look at 5:7-9. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…”
See that? “Being made perfect” corresponds with him “learning obedience through what he suffered.” Again, not to make up for where he was disobedient before. But to fully experience what conforming to the Father’s will is like under the pressures of suffering. We get a sense of that in Gethsemane. Great suffering and sorrow falls on Jesus, and he prays, “Father, if possible let this cup pass. Yet not my will but yours be done.” That’s one reason he had to become a man like us in every respect. By succeeding through sufferings, he qualifies to represent us.
Or we could say it this way: he succeeds in sufferings, because he’s got a family to represent. He’s got brothers and sisters that belong to him. Look at verse 11: “For he who sanctifies [that’s Jesus] and those who are sanctified [that’s us, his people] all have one source.” Other translations have “one Father,” or “one family.” Either fits well with the rest of 11: “That’s why he’s not ashamed to call them brothers…”—and in this context, it’s safe to add “brothers and sisters.” He’s got a family to save. He’s got brothers and sisters. He must identify with the family to become their representative, to lead the fallen family members back to glory.
He then supports that idea with two places from the Old Testament. The first is Psalm 22. Maybe you’ve heard these words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus utters this lament from the cross. Or, perhaps you recall when the soldiers divide up Jesus’ garments; they cast lots for his clothing. John 19:24 says that happened to fulfill Psalm 22:18. Quite often the apostles apply Psalm 22 to Jesus’ sufferings.
David becomes a type or shadow pointing to Jesus. God had David write about his sufferings in such a way that they anticipated the sufferings of Jesus. Psalm 22 is about the King of Israel suffering as his people’s representative, all the while remaining faithful to the Lord. But something more in Psalm 22 is this: God eventually vindicates the King for his faithfulness; and that vindication leads to him spreading joy and worship among God’s people. That’s where our quote enters the picture: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
So we have an Israelite who represents God’s people—the king. His obedience is tested by sufferings and he remains faithful. Then we see his solidarity with the people when God vindicates him—“my brothers.” That all points to Jesus.
We find something very similar in Isaiah 8, only this time the Israelite who represents God’s people isn’t the king. It’s the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah represents the faithful remnant within Israel. God also tests his obedience through sufferings. Isaiah 8:17 depicts God hiding his face from the house of Jacob. The Assyrian invasion looms over the horizon. But neither Isaiah nor the remnant should lose hope in the Lord. Rather, as Isaiah says, “I will put my trust in him”—the first quote in verse 13.
Again, Isaiah represents God’s people. Isaiah’s obedience gets tested through sufferings. Then we find the same thing we saw in Psalm 22—Isaiah’s solidarity with the people of God. “Behold I and the children whom the Lord has given me.” Here’s what Hebrews is getting at. The Spirit that kept the remnant faithful through sufferings was the Spirit of Christ all along. The Spirit of Christ said, “I will put my trust in him.” Now Jesus is the true embodiment of the faithful remnant. He is the Israelite who represents God’s people perfectly. He is the true Israel who bears up under sufferings perfectly.
That’s the first part of how God brings the many sons to glory. God gives the Son a family—spiritual children, brothers and sisters—and the Son willingly commits himself to identify with them, endure sufferings for them, and thereby qualify himself to represent them. But there’s more: he not only represents, he delivers…
- As our Victor, the Son destroys the devil’s power and delivers the sons and daughters from the enslaving fear of death.
Verse 14, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it’s not angels that he helps [or better: lays hold of], but he [lays hold of] the offspring of Abraham.”
Recall the book of Exodus. Exodus begins by listing the names of the sons of Israel. By doing so, we’re reminded the offspring of Abraham is in Egypt; and in Egypt they become slaves. The offspring of Abraham is held captive by an oppressive Pharaoh. As the story goes, God then lays hold of them and gets them out of Egypt. Likewise, those God chooses to save are in captivity. But it’s a captivity far worse than some human ruler over some temporary regime in Egypt.
This captivity involves sin, death, and the devil. I mentioned last week that death isn’t just the natural end to life among some fixed chain of events. Death is God’s judgment against sin. To compound that problem, though, is this: the devil uses death as a weapon. You’ve heard of terrorists before. Terrorists use the fear of death to force people into acting a certain way. So do politicians to get you to vote for them—they just call it other names. People use fear and terror to enslave.
Satan is the chief terrorist. He doesn’t possess the power of death in an ultimate sense. But he uses people’s fear of death to keep them under his thumb. To wreak havoc and pain. To keep people’s mouth shut about Jesus.
Jesus became like us in order to lay hold of us and bring us out of that captivity. He does it by passing through death on our behalf. His death did two things: it nullified the devil’s power over the many sons and daughters; and it delivered them from lifelong slavery to the fear of death. How? Because his death takes care of our sin problem. The consequences of our sins make death scary. Judgment awaits the wicked. But if Jesus’ death takes away our sins, if his death averts the punishment our sins deserve, if his death achieves our reconciliation with God such that even death can’t separate us from his love—then what else is there to be afraid of?
As 1 Corinthians 15 says, the sting of death is sin. But through his death, Jesus yanked the stinger from that scorpion. Death has nothing on the Christian anymore. When it’s time for the sons and daughters to enter glory, death won’t be able to keep their bodies in the grave. Everything that would’ve kept them enslaved to death was removed through Jesus’ death. In that way, his cross achieves the death of Death.
Therefore, the devil lies stripped of his power over the sons and daughters. We have an elder brother who passed through it already. He stands victorious on the other side. If it has no power over Jesus, it has no ultimate power over those he represents. We don’t have to fear death anymore, beloved. Lastly…
- As our High Priest, the Son makes propitiation for sins and helps the sons and daughters when they face temptations on the way to glory.
Verse 17, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he’s able to help those who are being tempted.”
Glance over at 5:1. “Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” To become our high priest, God’s Son had to be chosen from among men and appointed to act on behalf of men. He couldn’t represent us before God if he was a mere spirit, or an angel, or even just the divine Son. He wouldn’t be one with us in humanity. But he becomes one with us so that he can represent us as high priest.
And what does the high priest do? He offers sacrifices for sins on behalf of the people. God was telling a story under the Law through the priestly sacrifices. God is holy and he cannot overlook sin. He is angry with our rebellion. Yet God also chooses to love sinners, to bring sinners into relationship with him. But if he loves sinners, he must love sinners in a way that’s consistent with his holiness—that’s consistent with his love for what is good and hatred for what is evil. That means he must satisfy his holy anger somehow. He can’t sweep sin under the rug; he must deal out the judgment.
How does he do this? He provides a sacrifice to remove God’s wrath against sinners. That’s what propitiation entails. Propitiation describes God’s act to remove/satisfy his wrath against sinners in the death of Christ. The sacrifices of the high priest were only symbols. They pointed to Christ’s better sacrifice. The priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well. But Jesus is the faithful high priest. He had no sins that required a sacrifice. We have plenty that require sacrifice. But being also a merciful high priest Jesus sacrifices is his own life in place of ours.
God’s love provided what his holiness demanded. God gave his Son, and the Son willingly stood in our place to remove God’s wrath. He satisfied it forever, such that God is not against those in Christ. He’s one-hundred percent for those who belong to Christ. If you trust in Jesus, you are spared forever from God’s wrath; and God is one-hundred percent for you. The sons and daughters now have fellowship with God.
But get this as well: Jesus didn’t just die as a propitiation for our sins; he rose from the dead to become our ongoing help. Our sins are forgiven; but man, life is tough…sometimes agonizingly tough! God has that covered too. “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he’s able to help those who are being tempted.”
There’s no one more qualified to help you through your sufferings than Jesus. No one more able than Jesus. No matter what you’ve experienced, he suffered worse than us; and he endured those sufferings without sin. The pressures to quit the mission became greater and greater and greater the closer he got to the cross, but he never gave in. He was faithful to the very end; and he chose it all to reconcile you to the Lord and then to help you to glory. When you fall, his sacrifice has you covered; and when you’re tempted, he’s the ever-present help in time of need. All for whom he died to secure for glory, he also rises to help them make it to glory. His work is of one piece.
What was our problem at the outset? From glory to shame, from rulers to Satan’s slaves, from fellowship with God to punishment beneath his anger. But what have we seen God achieve for us in Christ? Jesus identifies with our humanity to bring the man sons and daughters to glory. Jesus enters death to free us from Satan’s power that we might rule as we were meant to rule. Jesus offers a sacrifice to remove God’s wrath and become our help on the way to glory. What a Savior, beloved! With that said, let me leave you with a few implications to consider from this passage. To begin…
Treasure the Son’s incarnation, that he became one with us in our humanity.
We love big-God theology. Chapter 1 was remarkable. The Son as Creator and Sustainer. The Son as the radiance of God’s glory. The Son superior to angels. The Son deserves our worship. The Son who is eternal. Truly, his majesty is above the heavens. Rightly, we defend the majesty of Jesus. Rightly, we defend the deity of Jesus against the claims of other religions who treat him only as a mere man. He is sovereign Lord of all.
At the same time, it’s not uncommon in our defense of one truth to forget the significance of another equally important truth. This same Lord of all condescended, drew near, humbled himself, became one of us. As Lord he has every right to demand our obedience; yet he stoops to learn obedience as a man, to taste what it’s like to throw himself into the Father’s care under the immense strain of many sufferings.
It’s crucial that we not neglect Jesus’ true humanity. Jesus is one person with two natures—truly God and also truly man. Human mind, soul, will, body, emotions. To lose this is to err and compromise the gospel, compromise our understanding of Jesus’ person and work. Even throughout church history, some have suggested that Christ only appeared human; or that Christ suffered only what seemed to be death; or that Christ humanity was absorbed into the divine; or that Christ couldn’t have been fully human lest he experience weakness and emotional pain. A number of these teachings came from noble attempts to protect Christ’s deity; but in doing so they’ve diminished his humanity.
Sometimes you’ll find the same in our circles. At times Christians simply assume that Jesus never sinned because he was God. It’s true that as the God-man, it was necessary for Jesus not to sin. But when the Bible presents Jesus never sinning, it does so in reference to his obedience as a man. For him to lean on his divine nature for assistance would mean he couldn’t fully identify with us in our sufferings. When you look at his obedience, you’re seeing a man as he was truly created to live, a man wholly in tune with his Father’s will, a man full of the Holy Spirit, a man constantly loving what is holy and hating what is evil—and all the while doing so in and through sufferings.
As one church father rightly put it, “What has not been assumed cannot be restored.” Or as a more recent author put it, “For redemption to reach into every darkened corner of human existence, [the Son] had to take on that existence in its entirety.”[i] Treasure this about Jesus, beloved. He became truly man—body and soul. He really assumed a human nature like ours, flesh and blood. That also means we must…
Trust that Jesus is uniquely qualified to help when you’re tempted and that he will help you when you’re tempted.
In Christ our sins are forgiven. But on the way to glory ten-thousand temptations will meet us. The enemy will hurl whatever he can and use whatever he can to derail your perseverance. Some of you are barely hanging on. It feels like the world is shattering around you. You have thoughts like, “Lord, if one more thing happens, I just don’t know if I can take it anymore.” Circumstances outside your control are forcing you into places you wouldn’t choose for anybody. You want to help others, but walking into that relationship is like walking into a tornado—it means risk, hurt, darkness, and perhaps nothing left when it’s over.
Perhaps you can identify with the man in Andrew Peterson’s song, “The Rain Keeps Falling.” There’s a woman at home and she’s praying for a light / My children are there and they love me in spite / Of the shadow I know that they see in my eyes / And the rain keeps falling. Or, perhaps you feel like nobody can really identify with the pain you feel, with the suffering you’ve endured. Nobody really gets the abuse, the anger, the dark closets when you were a boy—and you just want help.
Beloved, Jesus is uniquely qualified to help. I’m not. I don’t know the full extent of what you suffered. None of us know fully the complexities of what makes our heart ache through the night. But we do know Jesus; and Jesus is able to help. He went through the sufferings as a man to identify with our pain. He bore up under the mounting weight of temptations, and he did it without sin, depending on his Father. He experienced Satanic assault, abuse, abandonment, manipulation, liars, darkness. He saw the wreckage of our lives and said, “You’re my Father’s sons and daughters; and I will endure whatever it takes to bring you to him;” and he did it. Mercifully and faithfully, he did it for you.
He did it not only to offer the greatest sacrifice for your sins. He did it to become your ongoing help. He will help you through the temptations. He will get you to glory. He’s already there. He went before us—but not just to call you from the finish line, but to pick you up when you’ve got nothing left and carry you across it. That’s the kind of Savior we have. He’s going to come through! He already spanned heaven and earth to cancel your biggest problem—sin. Now he’s risen with perfect sympathy and absolute power to help you make it to glory. Let’s do one more…
If Jesus isn’t ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, then we shouldn’t be ashamed to call each other brothers and sisters.
Perhaps you’ve had a family member fall into various kinds of sin, and it leaves you feeling ashamed. Perhaps you’ve even been in situations where others associate you with your family members’ shameful acts, and you want to crawl in a hole and pretend you don’t know them. At times, I’ve seen Christians act in certain ways or say certain things that may be very wrong, that may need correction; but in the presence of others I’ve distanced myself. I’ve felt ashamed to call them brothers/sisters. I once had a brother tell me, “I mean I love them and all, but it’s not like I’m going to have them over for dinner.” Really? How’d that go for Peter in Galatians 2?
In some ways, fellow believers can do things that make us feel ashamed to be around them. Beloved, in those moments I’d encourage you to consider how great your own offenses have been to God, how far we’ve been from measuring up to his standards, how much shame we ourselves have merited before him. And yet Christ is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. To be clear, that doesn’t minimize the need for correction when people commit shameful acts. But it certainly informs the spirit in which we go about those corrections; and it’s a spirit that knows the true extent of Jesus’ saving work.
Can you say of the people in this room, “I’m not ashamed to call you brother, to call you sister”? If not, you need to get there—both before the Lord and with those other people. We have to treat one another in the church as Christ himself identifies with us. When we see each other through that lens, all earthly classifications will dissipate and all earthly divisions will heal. That’s what this Table should remind us about. The King of heaven and earth isn’t ashamed to spread a feast for the family and invite them to eat and drink. He identified with us. He endured sufferings for us. He defeated Satan’s stronghold and snapped Death’s chains. He satisfied God’s wrath and lives forevermore to help. All to bring you to glory. Let’s eat and drink to remember his great grace and proclaim his death until he comes again.
[i] George H. Guthrie, Hebrews, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 118.