14 “ Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—
15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.” Hebrews 2:14-16
One of the great arguments in Christianity is over the nature of Christ. Did He have a perfect nature or did He take on a sinful nature? The answer to these questions begins with our understanding of the ministry of Jesus. Was Jesus my example or was He my substitute? For many Christians, they see Jesus as their example in regards of how to live. They look at the life of Jesus and believe that they also must live exactly as Jesus did without sin or failure.
Others, myself included, believe that Jesus was my substitute and because I am unable to keep the laws of God nor live a perfect life nor offer a perfect sacrifice in my body for sin, Jesus does those things on my behalf. When I accept the grace of God as my substitute for sin and its penalty of death I enter into a saving relationship with God.
Now these verses in Hebrews 2:14-16 have become a proving ground for those who believe Jesus is our example. They believe Jesus came to Earth laying aside His divinity and took on the fallen humanity with all the possibilities that He could fail in His mission to save us. They believe that if Jesus was tempted to the point of failure and submitted to those temptations He would be lost and thus unable to be our Savior. The result would be that we would be lost as well.
In a nutshell here is what they believe. Jesus came in weak sinful fallen flesh and came to show us that we also could overcome sin as He did through obedience to the Law. In other word’s, what Jesus accomplished by not surrendering to sin we could also accomplish by not surrendering to sin. How is that possible? They answer it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit is to give us strength and power not to give in to any sin just as Jesus through the Spirit’s leading was able to overcome all sin.
In order for this to work they must have Jesus inhabit a totally fallen humanity that was subject to all sin and able to overcome sin through determination and prayer.
For those of us who were raised in this form of Christianity it is a daunting task to be like Jesus. Guilt is a constant companion since every little sin and every failure to live up to the standards of Scripture is a denial of the power of God the Father and the Holy Spirit to give victory over sin.
This is the belief that led Martin Luther into despair and discouragement throughout the first years of his Christian life. It was only when he discovered the grace of God that provides a substitute in Christ for our sins that he began to rejoice in the Word of God and the grace of God. It is for the very reason that we can’t keep the law or overcome sin that Jesus came to this Earth and lived the life we can’t and died the death that should have been ours.
Jesus was born with the weaknesses of human flesh but not with the propensities of sin. Jesus was fully human in the flesh but He was also fully God and God does not fail. This is what the writer of Hebrews is telling us in verse 14, “ Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—.”
Jesus shared in our humanity or, to put it more bluntly, He was human with bones and flesh and blood. But that does not mean He had a sinful nature. Jesus had a full human body but not a fallen humanity. Jesus is fully human though He doesn’t possess the corruption of other human beings. It is important for us to remember that to have a fallen nature is to be guilty before God. If Jesus really had a fallen nature He would be guilty before God and in need of a Savior Himself.
Jesus was born without a fallen nature but He could be tempted, but even there He would not sin. Theologian Luke Stamps states it quite clearly, “We are not to imagine that Christ blissfully waltzed through life untrammeled by the suffering, sorrows, and pains of fallen human experience. The Gospels present Jesus as one who was hungry, tired, thirsty, grief-stricken, and even morally tempted and vulnerable to conflicting desires (besides his wilderness temptations, we might also think of his struggle in Gethsemane).
But none of this requires his assumption of a fallen nature. No, Christ is in possession of an unfallen human nature, but during his state of humiliation he lived and moved and had his being in a fallen world. So even the incarnate God was not immune from the horrors of fallen existence.”
It is only as we understand the sinless nature of Christ that we can contemplate what is being said in Hebrews 2:14-16. It is because Jesus came to this earth and lived as a human yet without sin that He is able to deliver us from the hold and power of Satan. Because of our fallen natures we have been held in bondage by Satan and death. But because of Jesus sacrifice and grace at Calvary we are able to have freedom from the power of Satan, death, and sin.
If I could live a perfect life of never sinning, (by the way this of course is an impossibility) I would still be guilty before God because of my sinful nature. I can never save myself because I cannot overcome the power of sin that controls my very being. The idea that Jesus came to be an example to us of how we can overcome sin through striving, struggling, and effort will always lead to failure. Anyone who believes they are close to perfection is a long way from it.
Instead Jesus offers us His perfect obedience to the law, His substitution in taking the penalty for sin upon Himself on our behalf. These are all accredited to us by faith in the grace of a loving Father. It is only when we understand that we can’t keep the law as it was meant to be kept that we understand our need of a savior and it is because of Jesus’ perfect life lived in the flesh that our salvation is assured. Because without Jesus’ perfection there would have been no Calvary.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. Martin Luther once wrote to a friend, “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not.”