Lifelong Slavery

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We are delighted to welcome this morning Mr. Isaiah English.
Just briefly, a little bit about Isaiah.
He just recently graduated from Reform Theological Seminary
in Charlotte, North Carolina with his MDiv.
That was just, what, two weeks ago.
And then they moved their stuff to the Boardwalk Chapel.
He’s spending the summer, he and his wife,
Callie, at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey
for a summer internship.
So we’re glad you took time out of your busy chapel schedule
to be with us today.
Welcome, brother.
Well, good morning.
This morning we’ll be reading from, you can see in the bulletin,
Hebrews chapter 2.
And our passage will be Hebrews 2, verses 14 through 15.
But I’m going to read starting in verse 5
to help us see the whole context of this.
Join me in prayer, if you would, as we prepare to come and hear
God’s word.
Our Father in heaven, we thank you
that you have preserved your word for us.
You have written it down.
We do not need to simply rely on our memory,
but you have written it down and preserved it for us.
And we need not just the written word,
but we need your spirit to illuminate it
to our minds and hearts.
We need you to open up our hearts that we would believe it,
accept it, and it would change our lives.
So we ask that you would make us ready and willing to hear,
believe, and obey your word.
We pray that you would open it up to us for Jesus’ sake
this morning.
Amen.
Amen.
Hear now the word of the Lord from Hebrews chapter 2,
starting in verse 5.
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world
to come of which we are speaking.
It has been testified somewhere.
What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man,
that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels.
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.
Now, in putting everything in subjection to him,
he left nothing outside his control.
At present, we do not see everything in subjection
to him, but we see him, who for a little while
was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus,
crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering
of death, so that by the grace of God,
he might taste death for everyone.
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.
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified
have one source.
That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
saying, I will tell of your name to my brothers.
In the midst of the congregation,
I will sing your praise.
And again, I will put my trust in him.
And again, behold, I and the children God has given me.
Since, therefore, the children share in flesh and blood,
he himself likewise partook of the same things,
so 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 is not angels that he helps,
but he helps the offspring of Abraham.
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 is able to help those who are being tempted.
Amen.
You may be seated.
I’ll just read again the verses we’ll be focusing on is 14
through 15.
Since, therefore, the children share in flesh and blood,
he himself likewise partook of the same things,
so 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 is not angels that he helps,
all those who, through fear of death,
were subject to lifelong slavery.
Are you afraid to die?
I’m not asking whether you think you ought to be afraid
or whether you ought not to.
If you were totally honest, are you afraid to die?
Even for Christians, the prospect of death
is often scary if we’re perfectly
honest with ourselves.
Death involves uncertainty.
Very few people facing it have ever experienced it.
While some people crave new experiences,
that doesn’t usually translate into an eagerness for death.
The only ones seeking death are usually
looking for an escape from pain and misery.
The unknown of death can appear to offer an elusive possibility
of relief.
There’s a certain dread that death carries.
But the fear of death is more than the fear of the dark
or the unknown.
It has to do with death’s origin and purpose.
Death was instituted as a judgment for sin.
It’s an unnatural separation that’s
foreign to the good order of creation.
Adam and Eve first disobeyed God and separated themselves
from him spiritually.
God said, in the day you eat it, you will die.
But to demonstrate the spiritual effects of sin,
God imposed the curse of physical death on all creation.
All mankind will eventually find their spiritual selves
separated from the bodies that we commonly call death.
The unnatural separation of man’s spiritual and physical
realities is a judgment from God.
And it’s a picture of what sin does to us spiritually.
But even this is not the full picture,
because physical death is not the end of our existence.
For sinful men, death is their entrance into judgment.
To stand before the great judge of all the earth
and give an account of the myriad of ways
that they have defied the Almighty Maker of heaven
and earth and lived for themselves their own rules
instead of his, finally to be cast into eternal suffering
for their life of sin.
So this leaves us, those alive, with an ever-present nagging
fear of what comes next.
The writer of Hebrews calls this slavery, lifelong slavery.
But he wants us to see how Jesus came to deliver us
from this lifelong slavery.
In our passage this morning, Jesus does three things.
He partakes in order to destroy.
And he destroys in order to deliver.
And he delivers in order to free.
He partakes of flesh and blood.
He destroys the one who has the power of death.
And he delivers slaves from bondage.
Point number one.
Jesus, the first thing he does is
he partakes of flesh and blood.
In order to deliver rebellious sinners
from lifelong slavery of death, Jesus
had to start by partaking of flesh and blood.
We see this in verse 14.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood,
he himself likewise partook of the same things.
Now what does it mean to say that Jesus partakes
of flesh and blood?
This verse says that the purpose for his partaking
was because the children share in flesh and blood.
He refers to the children here because the quote from Isaiah
8, verses 18 in Hebrews, verse 13 says,
the children God has given me.
So the writer is picking up the word children
to refer to human beings.
If we look down at verses 16 and 17,
we see that he’s talking about human beings as opposed
to any other creature, not angels.
He’s talking about the incarnation.
Incarnation comes from the word carne, the Latin,
which means flesh.
So incarnation means putting on or becoming flesh.
The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God,
absolutely fully divine, somehow mysteriously
took on a full human nature in the person of Jesus Christ.
The larger catechism, question 36 says,
it asks, who is the mediator of the covenant of grace?
The answer, the only mediator of the covenant of grace
is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God
of one substance with the Father in the fullness of time
became man.
And so was and continues to be both God and man,
two distinct natures and one person forever.
But it goes on, how did Jesus, the Son of God, become man?
Christ, the Son of God, became man
by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul,
being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost
in the womb of the Virgin Mary of her substance
and born of her yet without sin.
And then we have the question, why was it required
that the mediator should be God?
It was required that the mediator should be God,
that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking
under the infinite wrath of God and the power of death.
To give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience
and intercession, he must be God.
And to satisfy God’s justice, procure God’s favor,
purchase a peculiar people, and give his spirit to them,
conquer all their enemies, and bring them
into everlasting salvation, the mediator has to be God.
But the mediator also had to be man.
Why was it required that the mediator should be man?
Answer, it was required that the mediator should be man,
that he might help or advance our human nature.
He might perform obedience to the law.
He might suffer and make intercession for us
in our nature.
He might have a fellow feeling of our infirmities,
that we might receive the adoption of sons
and have comfort in our lives.
And have comfort and access with boldness
onto the throne of grace.
Almost all of the proof texts that the catechism cites
for why Jesus became man come from the book of Hebrews.
Jesus became man to have an identical experience with us.
Since we experience flesh and blood,
since we possess that, since we are humans
who have physical and spiritual components
subject to the temptation of Satan,
Jesus determined to completely identify with us
for a number of reasons, but particularly in this passage,
in order to die.
God cannot die.
Yet, in order to deliver his people
from the righteous judgment of God for their sin,
God must die.
So God became man.
God took on flesh and blood
so that he could give his body, shed his blood
to satisfy the wrath of God for sin.
There’s a Puritan named John Howe,
who says the wrong that man had done to the divine majesty
should be expiated by none but man
and could be by none but God.
Behold then the wonderful conjunction
of both one in Emmanuel.
When we look at verse 17 of our passage, we see this.
It says, 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.
Jesus took on the same human nature that you and I have.
He became a full, complete human.
He has eyes, ears, a nose, arms, legs,
heart, lungs, feet, toes.
Notice I said has, not had.
Remember Jesus is not just,
did not just become man for a season
and then leave behind his body or throw it away.
He is forever God and man.
He did this to become a merciful high priest
who had experienced our weaknesses and sufferings
and every single one of our temptations,
but also faithful that he resisted every single temptation,
every single time, never failing once to fully hate sin
and to love righteousness.
He did this to take away the wrath, to make propitiation,
to cause the wrath of God to be poured out against sin
in his own death, to observe it fully in himself
so there might be none to spill over
onto those who are in him.
Jesus partook of the same flesh and blood in us, as us.
But he did this for a purpose.
He did this in order to destroy.
And secondly, Jesus destroys the one
who has the power of death.
There is an older, well-known book
that my wife and I listened to a couple years ago,
an audio book called Ready Player One.
Well, I’m not recommending this book per se
since it has some instances of objectionable content.
There’s a fascinating scene
which I think relates to our passage.
In case you’re not familiar with the book,
I’ll quickly catch you up on the premise.
It’s a dystopian novel about a world
which has attempted to go entirely virtual,
resulting in millions of people sitting around
with virtual reality headsets on doing nothing else.
The richest man and founder of the company has just died,
promising his company to the one who can discover the secret
and beat the game that he created.
However, there is, of course, a villainous,
competitive company who, instead of playing by the rules,
has hired or enslaved an army of volunteers or employees
to achieve total control of the virtual world.
They’re willing to stop at nothing,
even killing people in real life
in order to get them out of the game.
But the protagonist, he realizes the only way
to stop this company is to hack into their computers
from the inside, from within the company network.
But the only way to do that,
he has to hack into the government debt record
and falsify his own credit record,
making it appear as though he were impossibly indebted,
prompting them, the company, to capture and enslave him
to pay back the debt.
In order to destroy this company,
he ascribes debt to himself, which was not his,
willingly enters enslavement
in order to hack into the company from the inside
so that he can plant a bug that will destroy them.
This is what the author of Hebrews is saying Jesus did.
He took on a debt of sin that was not his,
submitted himself to a death he did not deserve
in order to destroy death from the inside.
He entered death,
something that was completely impossible for God,
which is why he became man, so that he could die.
But now, why does the writer of Hebrews say,
destroy the one who has the power of death,
that is the devil?
How does the devil have the power of death?
Well, if you would, turn with me to Zechariah 3.
If you have your Pew Bibles, it’s on page 944.
Zechariah 3 is one of the minor prophets,
just a little ways back from Matthew in the Old Testament.
In Zechariah 3, we have an interesting scene
starting in verse 1.
It says, then he showed me Joshua the high priest
standing before the angel of the Lord
and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
Notice what Satan’s role is in this passage.
Zechariah has a vision and he sees Joshua,
the high priest who’s come back from exile,
who’s trying to minister to the people of Israel.
In this vision, Joshua is standing
before the judgment seat of God.
And in this courtroom scene, the prosecutor is Satan.
Although Satan is the ultimate liar,
he doesn’t even need to lie in this case.
Joshua’s sins are clear to see.
Satan’s making his case.
God, you must judge this man.
Your holy law, your holy justice demands
that you destroy this sinful priest.
And send him to hell.
Thankfully, in the next verse,
we see God step in and defend Joshua.
Look down at verse two.
And the Lord said to Satan, the Lord rebuke you, Satan.
The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you.
Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?
Now Joshua was standing before the angel,
clothed with filthy garments.
And the angel said to those who were standing before him,
remove the filthy garments from him.
And he said to him, behold,
I have taken your iniquity away from you
and I will clothe you with pure vestments.
In Revelation 12, there’s a battle in heaven
and Satan is defeated.
And in verse 10, we read,
and I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,
now the salvation and power and kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Christ have come.
For the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down,
the one who accuses them night and day before God.
Notice how Satan is described.
Satan’s greatest power has never been
his physical abilities to cause destruction
as he did to Job’s sheep, his cattle,
his servants, and even his children.
There are many places in the world
in which people are ruled by fear of demons
killing their children,
afflicting them with diseases and curses.
But this is not where Satan’s greatest power lies.
His power lies in his ability
to call on God’s condemning justice for your sin.
If you remember the story of Job,
Satan had to ask permission from God
for every destructive action he brought on Job.
In every instance, Satan’s power was in attempting
to leverage God, to incite God against Job.
Satan did everything he could to get Job to sin,
knowing that as soon as Job sinned,
God’s holiness would obligate him to justly punish him.
Satan’s entire mission is to get you to sin
so that God will be obligated by his holy justice
to bring his wrath upon you.
Satan will play both sides, tempting you to sin,
suggesting it’s not that bad,
maybe you can get away with it this time.
Yet as soon as you do, he’s dancing with joy
as the prosecuting attorney,
knowing he’s got a rock-solid case against you.
Every instance of temptation from Satan is entrapment.
Entrapment is when a law enforcement attempts
to secretly enable a person to commit a crime
so that then they will have evidence
to then prosecute that person for the crime.
Satan has no authority to condemn anyone to hell.
Hell is God’s judgment for sinners,
including Satan himself,
but Satan does everything in his power
to bring down that judgment of God
upon as many people as possible.
This is why Satan is described as having the power of death.
Death is what will bring us into the presence of God.
Satan, the prosecutor,
can’t wait for your day in court to arrive.
He holds the power of accusation
to bring down the holy wrath of God upon you
for all the ways that you’ve rebelled against the Most High.
But as the author of Hebrews points out in the book,
and as well in our text,
Jesus came to die,
to bear that full punishment for sin.
In 1 Corinthians 15, it says,
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin.
The power of sin is in the law.
Like a honeybee which can only sting once and then die,
death stung Jesus,
leaving it harmless for those of us that are in Christ.
Jesus destroyed the devil in a completely unexpected way.
He disarmed him by taking the punishment on himself,
leaving nothing for the devil to accuse us with.
The devil says,
but King David committed adultery and murder,
and the Lord responds,
and Jesus was put to death.
Or Satan says, and Peter denied Jesus,
and the Lord responds, and Jesus was put to death.
In every instance in which Satan would stand up
and accuse you before God,
calling down his righteous wrath,
God’s response is, and Jesus was put to death for that.
Jesus was crucified.
So Jesus partook of flesh and blood
in order to destroy the devil by dying,
and he destroyed the devil
in order to deliver lifelong slaves.
So thirdly, we see Jesus delivers slaves from bondage.
There’s a young woman on staff
at the Borbach Chapel this summer.
She recounts, remembers what her life was like
before she got married.
What it was like before she got a new heart
and was born again.
She said she had this constant nagging fear of death
that would keep her up at nights.
She felt like a slave to fear,
always dreading that day
that she knew was inevitably coming,
and she was not prepared for.
Perhaps there are some of you this morning
who have been living in this lifelong slavery,
dreading that day.
Jesus came to deliver you from that slavery.
He came to set captives free.
In Romans eight, verses 19 through 21, we read,
for the creation waits with eager longing,
for the revealing of the sons of God,
for the creation was subjected to futility,
not willingly, but because of him who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself
would be set free from its bondage to corruption
and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Creation was made a slave to corruption,
an inevitable path of death and disintegration
because the crown of creation, man, the image of God,
broke God’s law and committed high treason.
But Jesus came to set captives free.
In Romans eight, 38 and 39, we read,
for I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
C.S. Lewis once observed that once a man is united to God,
how could he not live forever?
And once a man is separated from God,
what could he do but wither and die?
You know, on the outside, death can look very similar
for the Christian and for the unbeliever.
But what’s very interesting is in the New Testament,
it almost always uses the term asleep
to describe the death of believers.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 15.
Verse six, then he appeared to more than 500 brothers
at one time, most of whom are still alive,
though some have fallen asleep.
Or verse 20, but in fact, Christ has been raised
from the dead, the firstfruits of those
who have fallen asleep.
Or verse 51, behold, I tell you a mystery,
we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed.
Or 1 Thessalonians 4.13, but we do not want you
to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep,
that you may not grieve as those who have no hope.
So while death may look similar on the outside,
the New Testament’s point is that it is experienced
very differently on the inside.
For those who know Jesus, death has lost the sting.
In Philippians 1.21, Paul says, for me to live is Christ
but to die is gain.
You see, this is true freedom.
When death no longer is your entrance
into the courtroom of the Holy God
where eternal condemnation waits,
but is instead your entrance into glory
and spiritual fellowship with the one
who took your punishment, you have true freedom.
What’s the worst that can happen
if you’re connected to Jesus?
In Revelation 12, it says that the saints,
those who believe in Jesus, and they conquered Satan
by the blood of the lamb, by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death.
There’s an old hymn written a few hundred years ago
that expresses this freedom beautifully.
It’s titled, It Is Not Death to Die.
Just read it here this morning.
It is not death to die, to leave this weary world,
road, and mid the brotherhood on high,
to be at home with God.
It is not death to close the eye long dimmed by tears
and wake in glorious repose to spend eternal years
It is not death to bear the wrench that sets us free
from dungeon chain to breathe the air of boundless liberty.
It is not death to fling aside this sinful dust
and rise on strong exulting wings to live among the just.
Jesus, thou Prince of Life, thy chosen cannot die.
Like thee, they conquer in the strife
to reign with thee on high.
We read in Luke four when Jesus first began his ministry
that he read from Isaiah 61,
summing up his ministry in this way.
The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has set me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to captives,
the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
Jesus came to partake of flesh and blood in order to die,
so that he could destroy the one who had the power of death
and ultimately to deliver us from the fear of death.
Amen.
Let’s pray.
Our Father in heaven, we thank you that you have
not left us in this life long slavery.
You were unwilling to allow our condemnation
to be the last word, but you have had great mercy.
You have been kind to us,
but you have had great mercy.
You are a God who proclaims liberty to the captives.
So Lord, we ask that you would help us to look to Jesus,
to put our faith in him,
to find, experience that liberty
that Jesus has come to give us.
And Lord, we ask that if there are any here this morning
who have never known that liberty for the first time
that you might grant faith, you might awaken,
you might grant that liberty to all those
who call upon your name.
And those that have known this liberty for years,
Lord, we ask that you would awaken afresh
an understanding and appreciation of that,
that we might praise you for the way
that you have done this for us.
We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
Well, in response, we’re going to be singing
hymn 512, in your bulletin there,
it says, Jesus lives and so shall I.
If you would stand and join us in singing.