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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Hebrews 2:16-18

Commentary On Hebrews by Jean Calvin

Hebrews 2:16-18

16. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

16. Nusquam enim angelos assumit; sed semen Abrahae assumit.

17. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

17. Unde fratribus debuit per omnia esse similis, ut misericors esset et fidelis pontifex in iis quae sunt erga Deum, ut peccata expiet populi.

18. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.

18. Ex quo enim ipsi contigit tentari, potest et iis qui tentantur, succurrere.

16. For verily, or, For nowhere, etc. By this comparison he enhances the benefit and the honor with which Christ has favored us, by putting on our flesh; for he never did so much for angels. As then it was necessary that there should be a remarkable remedy for man's dreadful ruin, it was the design of the Son of God that there should be some incomparable pledge of his love towards us which angels had not in common with us. That he preferred us to angels was not owing to our excellency, but to our misery. There is therefore no reason for us to glory as though we were superior to angels, except that our heavenly Father has manifested toward us that ampler mercy which we needed, so that the angels themselves might from on high behold so great a bounty poured on the earth. The present tense of the verb is to be understood with reference to the testimonies of Scripture, as though he set before us what had been before testified by the Prophets.

But this one passage is abundantly sufficient to lay prostrate such men as Marcion and Manicheus, and fanatical men of similar character, who denied Christ to have been a real man, begotten of human seed. For if he bore only the appearance of man, as he had before appeared in the form of an angel, there could have been no difference; but as it could not have been said that Christ became really an angel, clothed with angelic nature, it is hence said that he took upon him man's nature and not that of angels.

And the Apostle speaks of nature, and intimates that Christ, clothed with flesh, was real man, so that there was unity of person in two natures. For this passage does not favor Nestorius, who imagined a twofold Christ, as though the Son of God was not a real man but only dwelt in man's flesh. But we see that the Apostle's meaning was very different, for his object was to teach us that we find in the Son of God a brother, being a partaker of our common nature. Being not therefore satisfied with calling him man, he says that he was begotten of human seed; and he names expressly the seed of Abraham, in order that what he said might have more credit, as being taken from Scripture.

17. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, or, to be like his brethren, etc. In Christ's human nature there are two things to be considered, the real flesh and the affections or feelings. The Apostle then teaches us, that he had not only put on the real flesh of man, but also all those feelings which belong to man, and he also shows the benefit that hence proceeds; and it is the true teaching of faith when we in our case find the reason why the Son of God undertook our infirmities; for all knowledge without feeling the need of this benefit is cold and lifeless. But he teaches us that Christ was made subject to human affections, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest; which words I thus explain, |that he might be a merciful, and therefore a faithful high priest.|

For in a priest, whose office it is to appease God's wrath, to help the miserable, to raise up the fallen, to relieve the oppressed, mercy is especially required, and it is what experience produces in us; for it is a rare thing, for those who are always happy to sympathize with the sorrows of others. The following saying of Virgil was no doubt derived from daily examples found among men:

|Not ignorant of evil, I learn to aid the miserable.|

The Son of God had no need of experience that he might know the emotions of mercy; but we could not be persuaded that he is merciful and ready to help us, had he not become acquainted by experience with our miseries; but this, as other things, has been as a favor given to us. Therefore whenever any evils pass over us, let it ever occur to us, that nothing happens to us but what the Son of God has himself experienced in order that he might sympathize with us; nor let us doubt but that he is at present with us as though he suffered with us.

Faithful means one true and upright, for it is one opposite to a dissembler; and to him who fulfils not his engagements. An acquaintance with our sorrows and miseries so inclines Christ to compassion, that he is constant in imploring God's aid for us. What besides? Having purposed to make atonement for sins, he put on our nature that we might have in our own flesh the price of our redemption; in a word, that by the right of a common nature he might introduce us, together with himself, into the sanctuary of God. By the words, in things pertaining to God, he means such things as are necessary to reconcile men to God; and as the first access to God is by faith, there is need of a Mediator to remove all doubting.

18. For in that he himself has suffered, etc. Having been tried by our evils, he is ready, he says, to bring us help. The word temptation here means no other thing than experience or probation; and to be able, is to be fit, or inclined, or suitable.

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