Help for the Tempted
“Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (v. 18).- Hebrews 2:16–18
Our Savior is greater than even the angels, and that is to our eternal benefit. As the Creator and King of glory, He has the power to help us where angels cannot, and He has even appointed the angels to serve us (Heb. 1). And because He is better than the angels, He was able to humble Himself, taking on our nature in the incarnation so that He could atone for sin and defeat the devil (Heb. 2:1–15). Jesus can provide effective assistance where no one else can.
The author of Hebrews expands on his point in today’s passage. What we might have inferred is now made explicit: “Surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (v. 16). Jesus is greater than the angels not for their benefit but for ours. But what does it mean that He helps the offspring of Abraham? Since the original audience of Hebrews was made up of Jewish Christians, they would have had a very strong consciousness of being the children of Abraham (see John 8:39). By noting that Jesus helps the offspring of Abraham, the author reinforces the superiority of Jesus and discourages the audience from going back to Judaism and any help they might get from the angels whom the Jews respected. Yet, that Jesus helps the children of Abraham does not mean that He saves only those who are ethnic Jews. Everyone who believes in Jesus for salvation is reckoned as the offspring of Abraham and his heir (Gal. 3:29). In helping the offspring of Abraham, Jesus helps all those who trust in Christ alone for salvation.
Hebrews 2:17–18 shows us that Jesus helps us by making propitiation for sin—by atoning for our transgression—and by sympathizing with us in our temptations. Jesus is no aloof Savior but One who has come as close to His people as possible by taking on a human nature. He faced the same kinds of temptations we do from things outside us that try to entice us. (Note that Jesus could not have suffered internal temptation, the desire for sin that arises spontaneously in the hearts of fallen creatures, for Jesus was not a fallen human being.) Christ knows the full weight of temptation because unlike us, He faced progressively more intense temptations without ever giving in and without ever wanting to give in. He knows what it is like to be us, though without sin. Thus, He is a Mediator who satisfies the penalty for sin and can give us exactly what we need to resist sin. In our hour of temptation, we must turn to Him, asking for assistance that He will not fail to provide (1 Cor. 10:13).
Our Great High Priest knows our struggles and the temptations we face. He can relate to us in a way that none of the “saviors” proclaimed in other religions can. Because He has faced what we face, He knows exactly what we need to persevere in the face of temptation. He will give us what we need if we turn to Him when we are tempted, asking Him to help us hate and resist the sin that wants to entice us.
Passages for Further Study