Because the angelic host was so highly regarded in 1st century Judaism, and because Jesus was crucified, which symbolized to the Jews that Jesus was accursed, the author of Hebrews has been showing that Jesus, by becoming man, accomplished His work in our behalf, yet still is superior to the angels.
God didn’t “subject the world to come” to angels, but to Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:5). He was, for a “little while lower than the angels” but now is “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:7). Yet, He became man so that he might “taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9) and “bring many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). The picture of verse 10 is of a great family procession as it winds its way through this life and moves ever upward to “glory.” Leading the procession is the pioneer, the captain, the champion of our salvation. He has gone before us as the perfect man—living a perfect, sinless, spotless life—overcoming every temptation and hardship—dying as the perfect atonement for all our sins—then resurrected to glory—and now leading us over his bloodstained path to the same glory.
The endless procession follows its leader until they are before the throne. “After this I looked,” says John, “and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
The great retinue is made up of redeemed sons and daughters who all part of the family of the Father and the Son. Their hearts’ cry is, “Abba ! Father!” They are brothers and sisters, “fellow heirs with Christ,” the pioneer of their salvation (Romans 8:15–17; cf. Galatians 4:5, 6; Ephesians 1:5).
Our author goes on from this foundational truth to say…
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is 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.”
Christ, through his humanity and through His death on the cross shows His solidarity to us. We are “of the same family” (NIV, “from one source,” ESV) and are “brothers.” In the context of this family relationship, He sanctifies us. The “he who sanctifies” in this context is Jesus, who sanctifies us principally through His death (cf. Heb. 10:10, 14). United to Him, we receive His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
Verse 11 shows that Jesus (“he who sanctifies”) and every believer (“those who are sanctified”) all come from the same stock, we have a common paternity, Adam. Jesus and all humanity share the same human ancestor. Jesus Christ was 100 percent homo sapiens, just as all of us are descendants of Adam. But his relationship to humanity was different than that of any other man, because he imparts holiness to those who are in him, the second Adam. Sin came to all humanity through “one man,” Adam. But righteousness comes through the “one man,” Christ (cf. Romans 5:12, 19).
As believers, however, we also have a common paternity in God the Father. Of course, Jesus is Son in a unique and special relationship to the Father, but through adoption we have become sons of God in a real, though different sense. As such, we become co-heirs with Christ. Jesus brought us into the family of God by entering into the family of man. His incarnation, perfect life and substitutionary death created, through the Holy Spirit, a bond between Jesus Christ and every believer forever. We are God’s sons, brothers of Jesus Christ.
Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit we have been united to Christ, and His divine nature has been given to us (2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Peter 1:3). This does not mean that we are now divine. We are in no way equal to God. But it means that our old nature has been radically changed, or exchanged, for a new nature, a nature that loves God and loves righteousness.
Thus, Christ is “not ashamed to call [believers] brothers.” Isn’t that a fantastic statement? Jesus Christ could call us much worse things, like weak, sinners, enemies (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10).
A. B. Bruce says…
“On the contrary, he calls them brothers with all his heart, with the fervour of love, with the eloquence of earnest conviction” (A. B. Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1988), p. 16).
Christ glories in these family designations: “These are my brothers and sisters!”
Isn’t it wonderfully liberating to know that Jesus is never ashamed to own me as his brother? And why is that? It is certainly not because of my daily behavior, as if I’m always pleasing to Him. No. It is because He has sanctified us.
This is definitive sanctification, which happened the moment we believed. We were made “saints.” Christians are people who have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Acts 20:32; Heb. 10:10, 14; 1 Pet. 1:2). We are “holy” by virtue of God’s calling and our faith union with him.
God counts us as righteous because He sees the righteousness of Christ in us. Jesus Christ is unashamed to call us his brothers because He sees Himself in us. He is proud of me! His chest swells up with pride when he thinks of me.
This expresses the destiny of believers. Believers will be glorified and there will be no condemnation or shame. Unbelievers, however, will be filled with shame as God turns His back on them forever.
This is different from progressive sanctification, which is the day-by-day process by which I cooperate with the Holy Spirit in making me more like Jesus Christ. In progressive sanctification we “become what we are.”
This is reflected, for example, in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” That is, our consecrated status must become evident in real life; “be what you are,” as we like to say (cf. 1 Pet. 1:16). But the New Testament writers generally address this matter of personal godliness in other categories—they use the terminology of renewal, transformation, becoming like Christ, becoming godly and pure, living out what God has worked in us, even the now/not yet experience of glorification (2 Cor. 3:18), and so on.
Finally, there is ultimate sanctification, which will happen the moment we see Christ. Then we will become like Him in fact just as we have been in God’s eyes from the moment of salvation.
Verses 12 and 13 quote three passages from the Old Testament. These quotations illustrate that Jesus will not blush to identify with the people of God. The emphasis in the first quotation is on the character (name, reputation) that Jesus Christ and believers share. The point of the second quotation is that Jesus, as well as His followers, trusted God. This is the basis for intimate fellowship. Daily trust in God characterized Jesus, and it characterizes Christians who continue to follow God faithfully. The point of the third quotation is that believers are Jesus Christ’s spiritual children. As such He will provide for us and prepare us for the future—like a loving parent who has had greater experience traveling the same path (cf. John 14:1-3)
The writer of Hebrews then quotes from Psalm 22:22—a Messianic psalm—in which Christ refers to his people as his brothers. What a marvel of grace—that Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven, took upon himself a human nature and human body, making Him vulnerable to suffering and death, all so that we could be born again into a new nature and be a part of His family.
Jesus says, “I will tell (or declare) of your name to my brothers.” Jesus magnifies the name of God so that our hearts will be filled with wonder and adoration and praise. He is our worship leader.
From Psalm 22, this first quote stems from that portion of Scripture that the early church perceived as containing significant prophecies of Christ’s sufferings. It begins with the cry of anguish from the cross (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46), then verses 16-28 speak of the piercing of Christ’s body and casting lots for his garments (Matthew 27:35; John 19:23, 31-36).
Psalm 22:14, 15 describe his agonies: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”
But later the psalm turns to a declaration of praise in the very midst of suffering, in which the righteous one expresses joy and praise for God’s attention to his cry for help. This is why He declares God’s name to his brothers.
This idea will tie in to the idea of trust in verse 13.
The later part of verse 12 says, “in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
Did you realize that you have a singing God?
Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that He sings love songs over us. Here He is leading in worship, singing praise to God.
“Behold, then, in your midst, O Church of God, in the days of his flesh there stood this glorious One whom angels worship, who is the brightness of his Father’s glory in the very heaven of heavens; yet when he stood here, it was to join in the worship of his people, declaring the Father’s name unto his brethren, and with them singing praises unto the Most High. Does not this bring him very near to you? Does it not seem as if he might come at any moment, and sit in that pew with you; I feel as if already he stood on this platform side by side with me; why should he not?”
John Calvin remarks here: “This teaching is the very strongest encouragement to us to bring yet more fervent zeal to the praise of God, when we hear that Christ leads our praise and is the Chief Conductor of our hymns” (Hugh Montefiore, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1964), pp. 63, 64).
Note that it is only to his brothers, his congregation, that Jesus sings praises to God. Unbelievers will not participate in this.
This verse supports the author’s proclamation of solidarity between Jesus and believers in two ways. First, he sees in its reference to “brothers” the establishment of a spiritual family relationship made possible by the Son’s sacrificial death. Second, the phrase “in the congregation” places emphasis on Jesus’ location in our midst on the earth, where he was for a little while “lower than the angels,” thus referring to His incarnation.
Here in verse 13 he quotes from Isaiah 8:17 and 18, two short declarations: “I will put my trust in him.” And then “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
Isaiah 8:17 is also a Messianic passage. Isaiah 8 is sandwiched between chapters of immense messianic teaching. Chapter 7 of Isaiah is decidedly messianic, containing the famous prophecy of Christ’s birth: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). And chapter 9 is likewise messianic with its equally famous prophecy of Christ’s names: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). But most of all, chapter 8 itself is a well-mined quarry of messianic prophecies. Verse 8 with its prophecy of the name “Immanuel” (along with Isaiah 7:14) is used in Matthew 1:23. Verse 12, an exhortation to have courage, is quoted in 1 Peter 3:14ff. And verse 14, which describes “a rock of stumbling,” is applied to Christ in Romans 9:33 and 1 Peter 2:8. So the whole of Isaiah 8 (though it is by and about Isaiah) has a rich messianic aroma!
The full passage says
17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Due to God’s judgment that was about to come upon Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Isaiah expresses this deep trust in God, to wait upon Him and hope in Him. It wouldn’t be an easy time to maintain hope in God!
So it was with Christ as he shared the solidarity of our humanity. Isaiah’s words in the mouth of Christ—“I will put my trust in him,” quoted in 2:13—show that while undergoing persecution in the flesh Jesus depended on God. While in the frailty of human flesh, Jesus exercised faith! Even his final words on earth were words of dependence: “‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’” (Luke 23:46). What solidarity—what communion of nature—Jesus shares with the suffering church. They suffered? So did he! They were weak? So was he! They must depend on God—just as he did!
The third and final Old Testament quotation immediately follows in Isaiah 8:18, though the author of Hebrews introduces it with the formula, “And again . . .” This is because he wants to make a further point, this time about the confidence that Christ’s solidarity with his own brings.
When Isaiah originally said, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me,” he was referring to his own two physical sons, of whom he continued by saying, “[We] are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”
Both boys had been given prophetic names. One was named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which has the meaning “the spoil speeds, the prey hastes,” signifying the speedy removal of Syria and Israel as enemies of Judah (cf. Isaiah 8:1–4). The other was named Shear-jashub, which expressed the confidence, “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3). Along with this, Isaiah’s name means, “Yahweh is salvation.”
Isaiah 8:18 gives a vivid picture of confidence. Let’s envision Isaiah (“Yahweh is salvation”) standing between his two boys. He places his hand on Maher-shalal-hash-baz, whose name predicts the removal of his oppressors—“the spoil speeds, the prey hastes.” Then he places his other hand on Shear-jashub—“a remnant shall return.” Now, with both hands on his prophetically named sons, he confidently says, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.” His sons have given him the confidence that he and those sons (and, indeed, all God’s people) have a future.
These words, applied to Christ, are a sublime statement of confidence. It is as if he places his arms around the sons and daughters of the suffering church and says, “Behold, I and the children God has given me” (v. 13)—“The fact that I have this family—my brothers and sisters—is a prophecy of the future. This blessed remnant will survive the onslaught, whatever comes.”
The phrasing of this quote from Isaiah 8:18 shows how precious Jesus’ people are to Him. “He likes to dwell on that fact. They are precious to him in themselves, but far more precious as the Father’s gift to him. Some things are valued by you as keepsakes given by one you love; and so are we dear to Christ because his Father gave us to him.” (Spurgeon)
The phrase “children God has given to me” is an uncommon phrase. It parallels the fact that Christ had made himself an offering for sin, and would “see his offspring” (Isaiah 53:10), those “whom [God] gave me out of the world” (John 17:6).
Jesus had told his disciples (John 6:37) “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (cf. John 6:39; 10:29; 17:2, 6, 9, 24: 18:9). Thus, “all that the father has given me” equals the fruit of His labors. It also strongly communicates the finality of it all—being given to Jesus means that we will always be His.
Taken together, these three Messianic quotations provide such a comfort to the fearful believers, because they reveal the rich benefits coming from Christ’s solidarity with His people, through His incarnation, death and resurrection. This solidarity would not have been possible had not Christ taken on a human nature and had he not died a cruel death on the cross for us.
In each of these examples the Messiah is willing to associate Himself with His brethren, whether it be in a congregation of worship, a community of trust in the Father, or declaring a common family association.
Throughout these verses, the author of Hebrews is expressing quite strongly that Jesus’ humanity does not make Him inferior to angels, but rather it allowed Him to fulfill His purpose of redeeming to Himself a people for His own possession.
As the Cappadocians, a group of early church fathers, affirmed, “What he (Christ) did not assume he could not redeem” (Allison, p. 107, citing Gregory of Nyssa, Against the Eunomians, 2.10). To redeem people, Jesus had to assume human nature in its entirety, yet without sin.