What is Man?

Hebrews 2:5-18.

E. L. Bevir.

Christian Friend vol. 19, 1892, p. 122.

We need to be subject to the Word to understand in any measure what the counsels of God and their fulfilment really are. If the first chapter of the Hebrews gives us our blessed Lord's eternal Godhead, and His divine glory manifested here upon earth, and hereafter in the kingdom and in the endless ages, the second chapter presents to us that of the Son of man.

This is not intended to be an exposition of the passage, but merely a few brief remarks.

The question here is: "What is man?" and it is answered in so striking a manner that we at once perceive that the one who asks the question is the only one who can answer it. (See verses 6-8.) If we listen to anything, but a divine answer to this question, we shall be in danger of being led astray, even by such men as Job; worse still if we listen to such an answer as that of the accomplished deist, who could say that the proper study of mankind is man. The answer here bursts upon us with extraordinary beauty: "Crowned with glory and honour … all things put under his feet." God's counsels have been fulfilled so far that the Son of man is crowned with glory and honour, and occupies the place of holding universal sway, although we see not yet all things put under Him.

I have been much in countries where angels are looked upon as the highest and brightest of beings, next to God; but we shall find. here that they must give place to the glory of man, according to God's counsels. In the first chapter, our Lord's divine glory is seen to be infinitely superior to that of angels; but here it is as man that we see Him, and He is not alone, for associated with Him are many sons whom God is bringing to glory, redeemed men, who are to share with Him all that He has, as man, according to God's counsels. Do we really believe, beloved brethren, that our place and calling is far higher than that of angels? All the poetic dreams of seraphs and of an imagined heavenly hierarchy disappear, and we receive by faith the revelation that the world to come is put under man, that is, under the most glorious Son of man, and those who are with Him.

If we have a calling and hope superior to that of angels, we shall not be debasing ourselves in the meantime with the things of this world. He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one. It has often been remarked that there are in this passage four reasons for our blessed Lord's suffering, and that the first is that of the glory of God. (v. 10.) He has been made perfect as the Captain of our salvation by sufferings, for He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one.

"All of one what?" I recollect this question being asked of an old servant of God, who replied: "You must not add anything to this profound and abstract expression; to add anything would weaken it, just as (to make an illustration) if you added anything to a pure argent escutcheon in heraldry, you would diminish its value."* It is manhood according to God's counsels; He that sanctifieth (Christ), and we that are sanctified, set aside entirely from this world, are all of one. The Holy Ghost sometimes gives us immense statements of the kind, that we may apprehend the extent of the position that we occupy according to God's counsels.

*He quoted the phrase: Additio probat minorem; that is, any addition will show less value.

But our hearts are lifted up in praise to Him who did not take up (take by the hand to help) angels, but the seed of Abraham. He suffered to bring us out of the degradation in which we were - the three other reasons for His suffering, besides that for God's glory, are to destroy Satan's power (verse 14); to atone for sins (verse 17); and to succour those tempted (verse 18)and to bring us through everything as men redeemed, and all "of one" with Him. The very start of the race for us is glorious, for the Lord is not ashamed to call us brethren (verse 12), and surely the next passage quoted, (verse 13) refers to His own blessed place of dependence when He was here, and in which we are now, and I have no doubt that we shall know the full blessed force of "Behold Me, and the children which God hath given me," when Jesus shall present us, with our very bodies changed and made like unto His glorious body, to God, in heaven itself.

We are able thus to understand the answer to the question: "What is man?" for although we see not yet all things put under Him, yet we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; we are associated with Him; He is not ashamed to call us brethren, and the foundation upon which we stand is that of the redemption accomplished by Him at the cost of His infinite sufferings. Death has been tasted for everything, and Satan's power destroyed, and the Captain of our salvation leads us through the wilderness in a manner worthy of the God who formed these glorious counsels as to the Son of man, and those associated with Him.

We cannot plead weakness or difficulties of the way as an excuse for not entering into God's thoughts about the Glorious Man of His counsels. The very difficulties become an occasion of calling forth the active intercession of the Lord as High Priest, and this not only (as we selfishly imagine) to help us, as a present thing, out of our difficulties, but to keep us in the sense of our place in the presence of the God of glory, the Author of the deep and wondrous counsel of setting man at the head of the universe - the answer to the question, "What is man?"

In Psalm 8, the glory of Jehovah, our Lord, is set above the heavens. In the New Testament the heavenly places are filled with glorified men, and the blank left is filled up (seen only in a glimpse in the Old Testament, in Daniel's nocturnal vision, where the saints of the heavenly places come with the supremely glorious Son of man to take the kingdom); the blank, I mean, that is left in the eighth Psalm where Jesus' glory as the Son of man is set above the heavens.

The danger for us is to forget that it became Him (the God of these wondrous counsels) thus to carry out His stupendous plan. It is not merely that we are men redeemed and being led to heaven, but being led according to the glory of God. Even in this world a man of great power and means would carry out a vast design in a manner worthy of himself. Thus Solomon, in bringing Jerusalem up to its state of beauty and earthly glory, accomplished it in a manner worthy of the powerful and wise king. This is a mere illustration; silver was quite a base metal in Solomon's time, and, alas! the gold soon got changed into brass in Rehoboam's time. But if Solomon carried out his plans in a regal way, what must be the accomplishment of the counsels of the God of glory?

This is the true answer to the question. It became Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, to make the leader of the salvation of the sanctified ones, perfect through sufferings. God is thus leading us to glory in a manner worthy of His own stupendous counsels, and we can make no excuse for not entering into them, for the very One who has laid the foundation, at the cost of infinite suffering, for their accomplishment, is leading us on, redeemed as we are, to the highest heaven, the climax of all our hopes.

The Eternal Son became Man in order that God's counsels should thus be accomplished; the enemy's power is broken, and Jesus himself is at the right hand of the Majesty on high to keep our hearts and minds in the full sense and enjoyment of our nearness to God.

"What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the Son of man, that thou visitest Him? Thou hast crowned Him with glory and honour… O, Jehovah, our Lord, how great is Thy name in all the earth!" Surely we, the saints of the heavenly places, can break into still higher praise, in extolling the glory of His grace wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved!  E. L. B.

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If the ascended Christ is to fill all things with redemption glory, the whole universe will be an eternal witness to His exaltation as the answer of God to His work on the cross.

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If Christ is to be everything practically to us, we must be nothing. It is only therefore when we accept death upon all that we are, and are thus free from ourselves and the world, that He becomes the absorbing object of our souls.