The Fittingness of Christ’s Work
“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 all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (vv. 10–11).- Hebrews 2:10–13
Over the centuries, many people have rejected the Christian faith because certain essential Christian doctrines have been stumbling blocks to them. Muslims, for instance, have had trouble with the incarnation because they believe it entails the transformation of God into a mere man. Yet that is a misunderstanding of the incarnation, for the doctrine of the incarnation holds that God the Son added to Himself a human nature without in any way changing or lessening His deity. He is truly God and truly man at the same time. As Augustine of Hippo comments on Hebrews 2:5–9, “In order to be a mediator, [the Son] willed to take ‘the form of a servant’ below the angels, being simultaneously the way of life on earth and life itself in heaven.”
Some of those who have rejected the gospel have done so because they cannot conceive of a suffering Messiah. “Christ crucified” was a stumbling block in particular to first-century Jews (1 Cor. 1:23) because they could not reconcile a suffering Messiah with their notion of the Messiah’s task as overthrowing the Roman Empire. But for those who understand the whole scope of biblical revelation, the incarnation and suffering of Jesus are most fitting for the purpose of saving men and women. Today’s passage expresses the fittingness of Jesus’ suffering for our salvation.
Jesus suffered in order to “bring many sons to glory,” and this was “fitting” (Heb. 2:10). To know why, we must think through some biblical ideas that are assumed in today’s passage and fleshed out further in later chapters of Hebrews. When human beings fell into sin in Adam, we incurred the punishment of death and condemnation under the wrath of God (Rom. 5:12–21). Because God is just, He must execute this judgment, but Scripture says that He will graciously accept the proper substitute in place of sinners. This is the fundamental principle of the sacrificial system, but the blood of animals cannot take away sin and judgment. Only the blood of one who is like us, of one who is truly human, can atone for sin. Christ’s suffering was fitting for our salvation because the shedding of His blood was the only way to save us (Rom. 3:21–26; Heb. 9:1–10:28).
Hebrews 2:11–13 goes on to cite several texts from the books of Psalms and Isaiah in order to demonstrate the humanity of Christ and therefore His solidarity with human sinners. Because He is like us—truly human in every way, but without sin—He can save us.
Because God has decreed that death is the punishment for sin (Gen. 2:16–17), the only way that we could be saved was through the death of another in our place. We could not have been saved without the death of Christ, and so we should never take this essential truth of the faith lightly. Let us take care never to treat the atoning death of Jesus flippantly, and let us always remember our need of it.
Passages for Further Study