Since the letter to the Hebrews specifically urges Christians to “fix your thoughts on Jesus” (Heb. 3:1, NIV; cf. 12:2), it should not surprise us that the author describes Him in more than a dozen different ways. Jesus is “Son” (Heb. 1:2); “Lord” (Heb. 2:3); “Apostle and High Priest” (Heb. 3:1); “Christ” (Heb. 5:5); “source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9, NIV); a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:11); a descendent of Judah (Heb. 7:14); “a Minister . . . of the true tabernacle” (Heb. 8:2); “the Mediator of the new covenant“ (Heb. 9:15; 12:24); “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8); and the “great Shepherd of the sheep“ (Heb.13:20).
But perhaps the most intriguing title for Jesus in the letter is “author.“ He is called the “author of . . . salvation” and the “author . . . of our faith“ (Heb. 2:10; 12:2, NIV).
This title has a rich connotation. The Greek word translated as “author” is archēgos. It expresses the idea of a leader, one who goes at the head of a group to open the way for others.
Think of a troop of commandos operating in a jungle war. They find their way blocked by a deep ravine. The situation is too urgent to find a way around. Their commanding officer manages to throw a rope across and anchor it. He then risks his life by crossing first, hand over hand. He permanently secures the rope. He creates a bridge. The way is now open for his men to cross over to the other side.
This is a pale and inadequate reflection of what the author of Hebrews means by calling Jesus the archēgos or “author” of our salvation. Our Lord is the “pioneer“ of our salvation; through His suffering, He brings many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10).
Archēgos—First and Second
Adam was the first archēgos. He was called to lead the human race in obedience, through testing, to the destination of glory. He sinned and failed, falling short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This world became a jungle where man and God, man and Satan, man and woman, man and beast, man and his environment, and man and his brother have all become entangled in hostility (Gen. 3:8—19; 4:1—12).
Jesus came as the second archēgos, the second representative man (1 Cor. 15:45—47). He entered the jungle. He broke through and subdued all its opposition to God. He dealt with God's solemn curse (Gen. 3:14, 17) and opened the way into God’s presence for all who believe in and follow Him (Heb. 10:19—20).
The Son of God took our human nature and entered into our fallen, sin-ravaged environment. He lived a life of perfect obedience for the glory of God. Bearing God’s judgment against our sin on the cross, He experienced the divine curse. Now divine blessing and restoration flow to us along the path of grace He has opened (Gal. 3:13).
Back to the Future
To be the archēgos of such a salvation, the Son of God had to begin at the beginning. In the womb of the Virgin Mary, He took our flesh. He who upholds all things had to become incarnate first as an embryo—small, fragile, dependent on His mother for physical survival. As He did so, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary so that although He was the fruit of her womb, He was “the Holy One” (Luke 1:35) from the very moment of His conception.
In Jesus, God began again from the beginning. In a world in which sin infects us all from the womb (Ps. 51:5), it was not possible to begin with a mature man. Our Lord had to begin His work in prenatal darkness, mature through every stage of life in perfect fellowship with His Father, and then die in the deeper darkness that surrounded Him on Golgotha.
Jesus was the only child ever to grow “normally” in “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). It was not, however, in an abundant Eden with perfect parents. It was in a blue-collar home in which even those who loved Him did not always understand Him.
Later, as a mature man of 30, He confronted the tempter, but not in a plentiful garden, supported by a human helper, or accompanied by beasts that would submit to His naming (Gen. 2:15—22). No, Jesus had to claw His way through the desert wilderness that human sin had created. Weakened by hunger and thirst, and surrounded by wild beasts, He had to withstand Satan. Yet there He overcame His enemy, who, serpentlike, crawled from Jesus’ holy presence, subdued by His victor's command: “Away with you, Satan!” (Matt. 4:10).
After a life of obedience, the captain of our salvation, although tortured and beaten, by His sacrificial death overcame every obstacle barring the way to fellowship with His Father. He bore our sin; He died to its dominion and thus defeated Satan. By His resurrection He overcame death, opening a “new and living way to the holy presence of God for all who believe” (Heb. 10:20). From womb to cradle, from desert to Golgotha, from tomb to throne, our Lord Jesus blazed a trail of grace. He is our archēgos!
And so we can sing with Charles Wesley:
Soar we now where Christ has led,
Following our exalted Head;
Made like him, like him we rise;
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given;
Thee we greet triumphant now;
Hail, the Resurrection, thou