Pastor David B. Curtis


Help for the Tempted

Hebrews 2:16-18

Delivered 10/08/2000

In Hebrews 2:5-18, we are taught the doctrine of the true humanity of Jesus Christ. This paragraph is one of the most thorough and carefully worked and developed portions to be found anywhere in Scripture of the doctrine of the incarnation and humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In chapter one, we saw that Jesus Christ is superior to angels, because he is God. In chapter two, we see that Jesus Christ is superior to angels, because he is a man. The New Covenant age was not to be ruled by angels but man.

Hebrews 2:5 (NKJV) For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.

Now, something that we must see here is that in the phrase "world to come" the author uses the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to", and "be on the point of" - see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon.

Whatever this "world" was, the writer is telling them that it was "about to come." It was near in time; soon to arrive. The author tells us that this world is one that he has been talking about. "Of which we speak" - this phrase looks back to 1:10-14 which emphasizes the covenantal changes which took place at the Lord's second coming. The Greek word mello is also used in 1:14. So, the world spoken of in 2:5 that is "about to come" is the same world that is spoken of in 1:10-14.

Commenting on Hebrews 2:5, John Owen writes, "By the expression 'the world to come,' is intended no other but the promised state of the Church under the gospel." Owen goes on to say, "The world whereof the Apostle treats was immediately made subject unto Jesus -- this is, the Church of the New Testament."

So, it is Christ and not angels who rule in the "world to come" the New Covenant or Church age. Hence, Christ is superior to angels.

In verses 14-15, the humanity of Jesus Christ is further explained. They tell us the meaning and purpose of the incarnation. God became a man, yet never ceased to be God. The ultimate end and purpose of the incarnation was that by that death as a man, a sinless man, he may redeem man and thus break the devil's hold on man.

Let's resume our study this morning with verse 16:

Hebrews 2:16 (NKJV) For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.

The words "give aid" are from the Greek word epilambanomai which means: "to lay hold of, take possession of." By a metaphor drawn from laying hold of another to rescue him from peril, the word came to mean: "to lay hold of for the purpose of helping." It is used in Hebrews 8:9 where God recalls how he "took" Israel by the hand to bring them out of Egypt. It is also used in:

Matthew 14:31 (NKJV) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

It is used here of Christ stretching out his hand and rescuing Peter from drowning. The verb carries with it the idea of "help and deliverance."

How did Christ "give aid" to the seed of Abraham?

He assumed human nature, as Hebrews 2:14 teaches, that He might die and pay man's sin debt. Christ became a man that he might die for man.

1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.

The message of liberal theology teaches that we don't need anyone to die for our sins. It teaches that Jesus' death is just a good example of someone being willing to sacrifice himself to help others. Beyond that, His death was not necessary.

They say that Jesus may have been called by or sent by God, but His real mission was to rectify social wrongs - a mission we must continue today so that we can create the better future that we all hope we are fervently moving towards.

Thus we have freedom from God, freedom from authority, freedom from the past, freedom from evil, and a life remade in our own image. We have made great progress (we think) as a human race. This belief in our progress is supposedly proven by the world of technology we have created. However, progress in technology is one thing. Progress in the human condition is another.

Somehow we think that the ability to make better cars and better airplanes and better medicines and better theories proves that we have the ability to make a better self.

Part of this "better yourself" agenda is for man to find a way to transcend his own mortality, which would be a great miracle. And for man to rise above his own corruption, which would be an even greater miracle!

The answer for all of this, for humanities dilemma, is only found in Jesus. Human beings are fallen sinful creatures. We have no innate goodness. Society's evils emanate from the evils in man's heart. Saving our self is beyond our self to accomplish. Living our lives by God's design is impossible for self to fulfill. Jesus died to pay our sin debt. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. He gave us aid by doing for us what we could never do for our self - make us right with God.


This is a very important question. Our text teaches that Jesus died to "give aid" to the seed of Abraham, so we must know who this seed is.

In Genesis 17, we see God making a covenant with Abraham and his seed:

Genesis 17:7-8 (NKJV) "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants (zera', seed) after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. 8 "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

God talks to Abraham about his "seed." God is speaking to Abraham in this context of his literal, physical, biological offspring. Those who will come from his loins. Who is in the covenant with Abraham? Abraham and his seed, his physical offspring. Concerning this seed, God promised that if would be very fruitful, they will multiply. God is telling Abraham that his physical offspring will be many.

Let's look at what God promised Abraham in:

Genesis 15:5 (NKJV) Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

He is speaking about the physical decedents of Abraham. They will be as many as the stars in the sky.

Genesis 22:17 (NKJV) "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.

They will not only be as the stars of the sky, but they will also be as the sands of the sea shore - another metaphor to show Abraham that his biological seed, who are all in the covenant, shall multiply greatly.

This promise of the seed and its multiplication is traced throughout the book of Genesis. In Genesis 26:4 it is given to Isaac.

Genesis 26:4 (NKJV) "And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;

It is given to Jacob in:-

Genesis 28:14 (NKJV) "Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Let me ask you a question. "Did God keep his promise to the physical seed of Abraham? Did they ever become as many as the sand on the seashore and the stars of heaven? That is, so great as to be almost innumerable?" You should all be screaming out "Yes!" We know that God keeps all His promises. Notice what is said in 1 Kings, speaking of the golden age when Solomon was the king:

1 Kings 4:20 (NKJV) Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing.

There was a literal promise given to Abraham and there was a literal fulfillment of this promise. Now, that literal promise of God is a type pointing to something that was yet to come. There is more significance to this type than literal seed. So now, let's move into the New Covenant where we see this Old Covenant type fulfilled. The Old Testament types like the sacrificing of bulls and goats were shadows, they were not an end in themselves. They were shadows of spiritual realities - they pointed to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the same manner, the physical seed was a type that pointed to New Covenant realities.

Let's look at the type of the "seed" and see if we can see the anti-type. We saw in the Old Covenant that the seed referred to the physical offspring that came from Abraham. But, in the New Covenant, we find that the physicalness is broken. In the New Covenant, we find that the seed of Abraham represents believers, who are called His seed.

Galatians 3:16 (NKJV) Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.
Galatians 3:26 (NKJV) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:29 (NKJV) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

So, that literal dimension of being physical offspring is broken for a spiritual and greater sense in the New Covenant. And we must not get bogged down in the physical of it and miss its true sense. We must move from the type to the anti-type.

Let's consider what the tern "father" means. We understand that a father is the physical head of a family. But the concept of father also refers to a class of individuals. Notice what is said in:

Genesis 4:20-21 (NKJV) And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.

Jabal is said to be the "father" of all who lived in tents and raised livestock. Did Moses mean to say that everyone who lived in a tent and had livestock were physical offspring of Jabal? No, of course not. They followed the pattern of this man, Jabal.

It also says that Jubal is the father of all who play the harp or flute. It is not that all harp players and flute players are the physical decedents of Jubal. It is referring to them following the pattern of the first man who played the harp.

Paul picks up this theme as he identifies for us that spiritual reality of "seed." Let's look at Romans:

Romans 4:11-12 (NKJV) And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

We see here that the physicalness is broken, "the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised" - even Gentiles are sons of Abraham. Because they follow the pattern of faith that Abraham set in his life - " but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham...."

What does it mean to be "seed" of Abraham, to have Abraham as our father? It means that you are a man or woman who walks in the faith of our father, Abraham. We believe the promises of God, as did our father Abraham. This causes us to be his offspring. There is a distinction between the physicalness of the Old and the figurative of the New. Look at how Paul breaks the physicalness of the Old Covenant types by what he says in:

Romans 2:28-29 (NKJV) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Jew means: "a true son of Abraham who brings praise to God." Paul shows that to be a son of Abraham is no longer physical, it is now spiritual!

Who is it that is a participant in the New Covenant? The answer is: "the children of Abraham."

The Lord Jesus Christ foreshadows this transition from the physical to the spiritual. Remember, in John, chapter 8, the Jews say to him, "Abraham is our father" and the Lord responds:

John 8:39 (NKJV) They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.

He was telling them that the true children of Abraham were children of faith. The issue is no longer biological offspring, that reverts back to the shadows. To say that biological offspring are in the covenant is tantamount to worshiping with bulls and goats. It is looking upon the shadow and not perceiving the reality found in Christ and in the New Covenant.

Who are the true children of Abraham?

Galatians 3:6-7 (NKJV) just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

Only those who believe are the children of Abraham.

Romans 9:6 (NKJV) But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

This verse teaches us a very important truth - there are two Israels. Within national Israel is "true Israel," or "spiritual Israel." Israel is not a term like Ammon, Moab, Greece, or Rome. Israel cannot be defined in terms of physical descent, or understood simply on the human side; it is created not by blood or soil but by the promise of God. Romans 9:6 clearly teaches us that there are two Israel's. There is ethnic, physical, national Israel and there is true, spiritual Israel, God's chosen people.

Galatians 3:29 (NKJV) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

We inherit all the promises made to Abraham through Christ. Everything we are and have is by virtue of our union with Christ, which only comes by faith. Listen carefully, the Abrahamic Covenant was a promise made to Abraham and to Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, that he would be made great, the father of many nations, and that in him would all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise was fulfilled physically in Abraham, and spiritually and ultimately in Christ.

Israel is God's people by faith, and all who believe in Christ receive the promises that God made to Israel. The Church, those of us who have trusted Christ, are the Israel of God. Believers and only believers are "true Jews."

Galatians 6:15-16 (NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Zionism - is a political movement built on the belief that the national Jews deserve by right the land of Palestine as their own. Do they? Modern unbelieving Jews have absolutely no theological, and therefore no historical and legal right to the land of Palestine. Modern day Judaism is a cult, they are covenant breakers, Christ rejecters, and are under the curse of God. Christian Zionism, which much of the Church today holds to, is blasphemy. It is a heresy. Christians have no theological stake whatsoever in the modern state of Israel. Israel is an anti-God, anti-Christ nation.

1 John 2:22-23 (NKJV) Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Judaism denies the Son and is a cult, and unless the Jews turn to Jesus Christ, they remain under the curse of God.

Revelation 2:9 (NKJV) "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Revelation 3:9 (NKJV) "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie; indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

Who would say they are Jews but National Israel? They are Abraham's physical descendants, but spiritually, they are the children of the devil. A true Jew, a true Israelite is one who has trusted in Jesus Christ and has been circumcised in heart.

The Church is not a temporary interruption in God's prophetic program for Israel, as Dispensationalism teaches. The Church is the prophetic fulfillment of that program because the Church is true Israel. Covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of the true Israel of God.

"They are not all Israel, which are of Israel" -- the purpose of this distinction is to show that the covenantal promise of God did not have respect to Israel after the flesh but to true Israel, believers in Jesus Christ.

So, when our text in Hebrews says that Christ "gives aid to the seed of Abraham,"it is referring to all who have put their trust in Christ - Christians.

Hebrews 2:16 (NKJV) For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.

Notice that our text says, "He does not give aid to angels" - the idea here is that the Lord Jesus Christ in His work on the cross, did not provide for the salvation of fallen angels but for the salvation of fallen men. Does this bother any of you? This is Election! In perfect righteousness, God passed by fallen angels and in infinite mercy condescension stooped to "give aid" to man. Why? Because He chose to. I don't know anyone who is bothered by the fact that God chose men and not angels, but I know plenty of people who are bothered that God chooses some out of humanity. Why doesn't it bother them that God didn't choose to redeem angels?

Hebrews 2:17 (NKJV) 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.

We looked at this verse in our study of verses 14-15 so we won't deal with it extensively today. We saw that when you compare this verse with the flow of thought in verses 14 and 15, you see that both of them speak of Christ having to become like us.

One thing that I want to point out in this verse is the words "all things." In His incarnation, Jesus Christ became like us in "all things" except for sin. The incarnation involves far more than Christ taking to himself flesh and blood or human nature. He not only took human nature but the conditions of life and experience which being human entails.

He is not only one with us, because he took our nature. But also he is one with us because he shares our sufferings. He has experienced first hand all the weaknesses of humanity and all its frustrations and temptations, yet He did not give in to sin.

In verse 17, the term "high priest" occurs for the first time in Hebrews. In no other book of the New Testament is Jesus described as high priest. Chapters 5-10 of Hebrews fully develop the doctrine of Jesus' high priesthood, and we'll look at it in detail when we get there.

For now, let me just say that the primary function of the high priest in the Old Testament was to make sin offerings for the people so that their sins could be forgiven, and to make intercession for the people. So why did Jesus have to become a human - like us - in order to be a high priest for us? Because the offering he had to give was the offering of himself. He needed to be a human high priest, so that he could lay down his life not only as the priest who makes the offering, but also as the offering that he makes.

Verse 17 says that Christ made "propitiation for the sins of the people." To understand Propitiation is to understand the gospel, and without it, you have no gospel. The Greek word used here is hilaskomai, which means: "the removal of wrath by the offering of a sacrifice." It is the turning of God's wrath away from the sinner by a sacrifice made to satisfy God, to bring back God's favor toward the one who is offering that sacrifice. The ultimate purpose of the incarnation was to pacify the wrath of God.

Hebrews 2:18 (NKJV) For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Here we see some of the practical consequences of the incarnation. The word "tempted" is from the Greek word peirazo, which referred first to the action of putting someone to the test to see what good or evil is in the one tested. And secondly, because so many broke down under the test and committed sin, the word came to mean: "a solicitation to do evil". Both meanings are in view here. The word itself is neutral.

There are two propositions in this verse of extreme importance.

1. Jesus Christ, though unable to sin, was truly tempted as we are.

2. Because of the suffering endured in his being tempted, he is both willing and able to help us in our struggle with sin.

There are those who object to these propositions, so lets look at some of the objections. To the first proposition, it is objected that unless one is capable of sinning, he cannot be legitimately tempted to sin. Have you heard that?

Hodge writes, "This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. If Jesus Christ was a true man, he must have been capable of sinning. Temptation implies the possibility of sinning. If from the constatation of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect and he cannot sympathize with his people."

Is Hodge right? No! He has a false view of the nature of temptation. The reality of a given temptation does not depend on the possibility of falling or scumming to it on the part one tempted.

To say that you must be able to sin in order to be tempted is as absurd as saying that an army cannot be attacked if it cannot be conquered. I don't believe that an army could conquer the United States, but that is not to say they couldn't attack us. The power of the U.S. military is capable of resisting all attacks.

Jesus Christ in his incarnation was impeccable, he was not liable to sin, exempt from the possibility of doing wrong.

He was tempted more that any person on earth. The human nature of Christ is temptable and peccable, but combined in hypostatic union with the divine nature, He is temptable but impeccable.

Illustration: If a man in a row boat attacks an Aircraft carrier, is it really an attack? Yes. Does he have a chance of defeating the carrier? No!

Can you bend a coat hanger? Sure. If I took the same coat hanger and welded it to a steel I beam, could you still bend it. NO! Have you ever been tempted and not given in to it and sinned? I hope so. Was the temptation still real? Yes, of course!

If Jesus Christ did indeed divest himself of the exercise of the divine nature and lived among men in real dependence upon his Father and found his strength and wisdom in a pure humanity empowered by the Holy Spirit, then we can understand that his prayers were real prayers, his decisions were real decisions, his actions and reactions were genuinely human, and he is indeed our example in all things.

We need someone who knows about temptation and has said "no" to it victoriously. He is able to give help! When you are tempted to be disloyal to God, Jesus is able to help you. He is able to give help. It is not some dead "saint" or even Mary or some powerful prayer to use as a formula. It is the Living Savior who helps!

2. Because of the suffering endured in his being tempted, he is both willing and able to help us in our struggle with sin.

No matter what the temptation, trouble, or trial; Jesus is able to help, for He has faced it for you already.

EXAMPLE: You might say, "My spouse left me, what does Jesus know about that? It never happened to Him." However, Jesus knows about betrayal, desertion, unfaithfulness, and rejection. He faced these experiences and feelings. He is able to help!

When you are tempted to give in to sin, Jesus is able to help you. When you feel ashamed and unholy, Jesus is able to help you. When you feel too weak to go on and you are ready to give up on God's design for your life, Jesus is able to help you. When the fear of death is holding you back and clouding your vision, Jesus is able to help you.

The Scriptures do not say, "God helps those who help themselves." The Scriptures say, "God helps those who call upon the Name of the Lord!"

Remember that whatever you face, Jesus has already faced it and come through it in victory. Remember that wherever you go, Jesus has been there before you. When the going gets tough, you can pray "Lord, do you remember what you went through when you were here? I'm going through it now." And He will say: "Yes, I know. I will be your High Priest. I understand. I will help you."

The individuals to whom this letter was written, the Hebrews, were being persecuted for their faith, they were being ostracized, losing their jobs and friends because of their Christian testimony. They were being tempted to forsake Christianity in order to escape the suffering. The Lord is telling them and us that He understands and is able to help.

Listen believers, the Lord Jesus Christ knew the force of temptation, he endured testing more than you or I ever will. So, when you feel you can't stand any longer; when you feel the world squeezing you into its mold, come boldly before the throne of grace to find help in you time of need.

Some of you may think you're facing trials and temptations that nobody else understands. I want you to understand that there is a man at the right hand of the Father who knows what you are suffering, and, as God, he can give you the strength to resist. Jesus gives help to all those who look to Him in faith.

Continue the Series

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