Friday, October 16, 2015

The Vision (10.16.15): He tasted death for every man

Here are some notes from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 2:5-9:

At the close of Hebrews 2:9, we see the wonder of the substitutionary atonement:  “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

The suffering death of Jesus was not the death of a martyr.  It was not the death of a man who merely dies for a righteous cause.  It was a death that had spiritual significance and gained a tangible reward for others.

We need to acknowledge that there have been those who have misunderstood the meaning of this final phrase.  In particular, it is argued that this final statement contradicts or refutes the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption.  When it says Christ “tasted death for every man” it is argued that this means universal atonement.

To rightly divide the Word of God here we need to consider the following:

1.  “Every man” does not mean every person without exception.

“Every man” is the translators’ rendering of one Greek adjective pantos.  Christ tasted death “for every man [hyper pantos].”   Rather than assuming that the only possible meaning of this phrase is “every person without exception,” on a purely grammatical basis it must be admitted that the meaning might just as well be “every one of God’s elect” or “every saint” or “every believer” or “every redeemed man.”

2.  If we take the universal atonement interpretation, it leads to some troubling theological conclusions.

Most significantly such a view implies universal salvation or universalism.  This “love wins” mindset is particularly popular with many in our day.   If Christ tasted death for the sins of every single person without exception then this means that every single person without exception has been saved.  This, however, is clearly not what Scripture teaches (cf. John 3:36).

Many evangelical Arminians, of course, reject universal salvation and say this verse teaches that though Christ tasted death for every single person without exception there are still those who will reject Christ.  The problem with this view is that it empties the cross of its efficacy.  According to this view, Christ did not actually save anyone on the cross.  He only potentially saved people.  If the Arminian counters that Christ did indeed die for actual sins on the cross, then it suggests the illogical and unseemly notion that there are persons in hell for whose sins Christ died, but they are still under the wrath of God.

3.  We must interpret Scripture by Scripture. 

We can only understand what Hebrews 2:9 means by looking to the whole counsel of Scripture, which would include the following:

Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

The only conclusion we can reach is that Hebrews 2:9 does not teach universal redemption or hypothetic redemption.

John Owen in his comments on this verse notes that the pantos in v. 9 refers to “all and every one of the children unto whom he was a captain of salvation” (Vol. 3, p. 322).

Thus, it is both a solemn and a joyful reminder to the saints of God of what God in Christ has done for us.  The death of Christ was a death which won freedom for every person who by the grace of God would come to repent of his sins and turn to him in saving faith.  He not only tasted physical death for the elect, but he tasted spiritual death for us.  The wrath of God for our sin was laid upon his shoulders.  By his stripes we are healed.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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