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Exaltation through Abasement

5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?


You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,


subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12saying,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

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5. For unto the angels, etc. He again proves by another argument that Christ ought to be obeyed; for the Father has conferred on him the sovereignty of the whole world, while the angels are wholly destitute of such an honor. It hence follows that none of the angels should stand in the way of his preeminence who alone possesses supremacy.

But first, the Psalm which he quotes must be examined, for it seems to be unfitly applied to Christ. David there mentions the benefits which God bestows on mankind; for after having contemplated God’s power as manifested in heaven and the stars, he comes to man, among whom the wonderful goodness of God appears in a peculiar manner. He does not, then, speak of any particular person, but of all mankind. To this I answer, that all this affords no reason why the words should not be applied to the person of Christ. I indeed allow that man was at first put in possession of the world, that he might rule over all the works of God; but by his own defection he deserved the loss of his dominion, for it was a just punishment for ingratitude as to one thus favored, that the Lord, whom he refused to acknowledge and faithfully to worship, should have deprived him of a right previously granted to him. As soon, then, as Adam alienated himself from God through sin, he was justly deprived of the good things which he had received; not that he was denied the use of them, but that he would have had no right to them after he had forsaken God. And in the very use of them God intended that there should be some tokens of this loss of right, such as these, — the wild beasts ferociously attack us, those who ought to be awed by our presence are dreaded by us, some never obey us, others can hardly be trained to submit, and they do us harm in various ways; the earth answers not our expectations in cultivating it; the sky, the air, the sea, and other things are often adverse to us. But were all creatures to continue in subjection, yet whatever the sons of Adam possessed would be deemed a robbery; for what can they call their own when they themselves are not God’s?

This foundation being laid, it is evident that God’s bounty belongs not to us until the right lost in Adam be restored by Christ. For this reason Paul teaches us that food is sanctified to us by faith, (1 Timothy 4:5;) and in another place he declares that to the unbelieving nothing is clean, for they have a polluted conscience. (Titus 1:16.)

We found at the beginning of this epistle that Christ has been appointed by the Father the heir of all things. Doubtless, as he ascribes the whole inheritance to one, he excludes all others as aliens, and justly too, for we are all become exiles from God’s kingdom. What food, then, God has destined for his own family, we leave no right to take. But Christ, by whom we are admitted into this family, at the same time admits us into a participation of this right, so that we may enjoy the whole world, together with the favor of God. Hence Paul teaches us that Abraham was by faith made an heir of the world, that is, because he was united to the body of Christ. (Romans 4:13) If men, then, are precluded from all God’s bounty until they receive a right to it through Christ, it follows that the dominion mentioned in the Psalm was lost to us in Adam, and that on this account it must again be restored as a donation. Now, the restoration begins with Christ as the head. There is, then, no doubt but that we are to look to him whenever the dominion of man over all creatures is spoken of.

To this the reference is made when the Apostle mentions the world to come, or the future world, for he understands by it the renovated world. To make the thing clearer, let us suppose two worlds, — the first the old, corrupted by Adam’s sin; the other, later in time, as renewed by Christ. The state of the first creation has become wholly decayed, and with man has fallen as far as man himself is concerned. Until, then, a new restitution be made by Christ, this Psalm will not be fulfilled. It hence now appears that here the world to come is not that which we hope for after the resurrection, but that which began at the beginning of Christ’s kingdom; but it will no doubt have its full accomplishment in our final redemption.

But why he suppressed the name of David does not appear to me. Doubtless he says one, or some one, not in contempt, but for honor’s sake, designating him as one of the prophets or a renowned writer.

7. Thou madest him, etc. A new difficulty now arises as to the explanation of the words. I have already shown that the passage is fitly applicable to the Son of God; but the Apostle seems now to turn the words from that meaning in which David understood them; for a little, βραχύ τι seems to refer to time, as it means a little while, and designates the abasement of Christ’s humiliation; and he confines the glory to the day of resurrection, while David extends it generally to the whole life of man.

To this I answer, that it was not the Apostle’s design to give an exact explanation of the words. For there is nothing improperly done, when verbal allusions are made to embellish a subject in hand, as Paul does in quoting a passage in Romans 10:6, from Moses, “Who shall ascend into heaven,” etc., he does not join the words “heaven and hell” for the purpose of explanation, but as ornaments. The meaning of David is this, — “O Lord, thou hast raised man to such a dignity, that it differs but little from divine or angelic honor; for he is set a ruler over the whole world.” This meaning the Apostle did not intend to overthrow, nor to turn to something else; but he only bids us to consider the abasement of Christ, which appeared for a short time, and then the glory with which he is perpetually crowned; and this he does more by alluding to expressions than by explaining what David understood. 3535     See Appendix G.

To be mindful and to visit mean the same thing, except that the second is somewhat fuller, for it sets forth the presence of God by the effect.

8. For in that he put all in subjection under him; or, doubtless in subjecting all things to him, etc. One might think the argument to be this, — “To the man whom David speaks all things are subjected, but to mankind all things are not made subject; then he does not speak of any individual man.” But this reasoning cannot stand, for the minor proposition is true also of Christ; for all things are not as yet made subject to him, as Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 15:28. There is therefore another sentence; for after having laid down this truth, that Christ has universal dominion over all creatures, he adds, as an objection, “But all things do not as yet obey the authority of Christ.” To meet this objection he teaches us that yet now is seen completed in Christ what he immediately adds respecting glory and honor, as if he had said, “Though universal subjection does not as yet appear to us, let us be satisfied that he has passed through death, and has been exalted to the highest state of honor; for that which is as yet wanting, will in its time be completed.”

But first, this offends some, that the Apostle concludes with too much refinement, that there is nothing not made subject to Christ, as David includes all things generally; for the various kinds of things which he enumerates afterwards prove no such thing, such as beasts of the field, fishes of the sea, and birds of the air. To this I reply, that a general declaration ought not to be confined to these species, for David meant no other thing than to give some instances of his power over things the most conspicuous, or indeed to extend it to things even the lowest, that we may know that nothing is ours except through the bounty of God and our union with Christ. We may, therefore, explain the passage thus, — “Thou hast made subject to him all things, not only things needful for eternal blessedness, but also such inferior things as serve to supply the wants of the body.” However this may be, the inferior dominion over animals depends on the higher.

It is again asked, “Why does he say that we see not all things made subject to Christ?” The solution of this question you will find in that passage already quoted from Paul; and in the first chapter of this Epistle we said a few things on the subject. As Christ carries on war continually with various enemies, it is doubtless evident that he has no quiet possession of his kingdom. He is not, however, under the necessity of waging war; but it happens through his will that his enemies are not to be subdued till the last day, in order that we may be tried and proved by fresh exercises.

9. But we see Jesus, etc. As the meaning of the words, βραχύ τι “a little” is ambiguous, 3636     There is no doubt but that the expression is capable of being understood as “little” in degree, or as “little” in time; but in the Psalm the former is evidently the meaning, and there is no reason for a different meaning here: Christ, in becoming man, assumed a nature inferior to that of angels. Many of the fathers, indeed, and some moderns, have thought that time is what is intended “for a little while;” but this is not true, for Christ continues in the nature which has assumed, though it be now refined and perfected. The inferiority of nature is admitted, but that inferiority is as it were compensated by a superiority of honor and glory. Our version is the Vulgate, which Doddridge has also adopted, and also Stuart and Bloomfield. — Ed. he looks to the thing itself, as exhibited in the person of Christ, rather then to the exact meaning of the words, as I have already said; and he presents to our meditation the glory after the resurrection, which David extends to all the gifts by which man is adorned by God’s bounty; but in this embellishment, which leaves the literal sense entire, there is nothing unsuitable or improper.

For the suffering of death, etc. It is the same as though it was said that Christ, having passed through death, was exalted into the glory which he has obtained, according to what Paul teaches us in Philippians 2:8-10; not that Christ obtained anything for himself individually, as sophists say, who have devised the notion that he first earned eternal life for himself and then for us; for the way or means, so to speak, of obtaining glory, is only indicated here. Besides, Christ is crowned with glory for this end, that every knee should bow to him. (Philippians 2:10.) We may therefore reason from the final cause that all things are delivered into his hand.

That he by the grace of God, 3737     See Appendix H. etc. He refers to the cause and the fruit of Christ’s death, lest he should be thought to detract anything from his dignity. For when we hear that so much good has been obtained for us, there is no place left for contempt, for admiration of the divine goodness fills the whole mind. By saying for every man, he means not only that he might be ample to others, as Chrysostom says, who brings the example of a physician tasting first a bitter draught, that the patient might not refuse to drink it; but he means that Christ died for us, and that by taking upon him what was due to us, he redeemed us from the curse of death. And it is added, that this was done through the grace of God, for the cause of redemption was the infinite love of God towards us, through which it was that he spared not even his own Son. What Chrysostom says of tasting of death, as though he touched it with his lips, because Christ emerged from death a conqueror, I will not refute nor condemn, though I know not whether the Apostle meant to speak in a manner so refined. 3838     There is no doubt but that is a fanciful refinement. To taste food, according to the language of Scripture, is to eat it. See Acts 10:11; 20:11; 23:14. To taste death is to die, to undergo death, and nothing else. See Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27. Stuart observes that the word for taste in Hebrew is taken in the same sense, and also in classic Greek authors. “For every man,” ὑπὲρ πάντος, that is “man,” mentioned in verse 6; and the “man” there means all the faithful, to whom God in Noah restored the dominion lost in Adam; but this dominion was not renewed to man as a fallen being, but as made righteous by faith. — Ed.

10. For it became him, etc. His object is, to make Christ’s humiliation to appear glorious to the godly; for when he is said to have been clothed with our flesh, he seems to be classed with the common order of men; and the cross brought him lower than all men. We must therefore take heed, lest Christ should be less esteemed, because he willingly humbled himself for us; and this is what is here spoken of. For the Apostle shows that this very thing ought to be deemed honorable to the Son of God, that he was by these means consecrated the Captain of our salvation.

He first assumes it as granted, that we ought to be satisfied with God’s decree; for as all things are sustained by his power, so all things ought to serve to his glory. No betters cause, then, can be found out than the good pleasure of God. Such is the purport of the circumlocution which he employs, for whom, and by whom, are all things. He might by one word have named God; but his purpose was to remind us, that what is to be deemed best is that which he appoints, whose will and glory is the right end of all things. 3939     Having vindicated Christ’s superiority over angels, he being “crowned with glory and honor,” notwithstanding his assumption of human nature, and for his sufferings, the Apostle now, as it were, goes back, and proves the necessity of what has been done; showing how needful it was for him to become man, and to suffer as he did; and we find he states two especial reasons — that he might reconcile us to God and be able to sympathize with his people. — Ed.

It does not, however, appear as yet what he intends by saying, that it became Christ to be thus consecrated. But this depends on the ordinary way which God adopts in dealing with his own people; for his will is to exercise them with various trials, so that they may spend their whole life under the cross. It was hence necessary that Christ, as the first­begotten, should by the cross be inaugurated into his supremacy, since that is the common lot and condition of all. This is the conforming of the head with the members, of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:29.

It is indeed a singular consolation, calculated to mitigate the bitterness of the cross, when the faithful hear, that by sorrows and tribulations they are sanctified for glory as Christ himself was; and hence they see a sufficient reason why they should lovingly kiss the cross rather than dread it. And when this is the case, then doubtless the reproach of the cross of Christ immediately disappears, and its glory shines forth; for who can despise what is sacred, nay, what God sanctifies? Who can deem that ignominious, by which we are prepared for glory? And yet both these things are said here of the death of Christ.

By whom are all things, etc. When creation is spoken of, it is ascribed to the Son as his own world, for by him were all things created; but here the Apostle means no other thing than that all creatures continue or are preserved by the power of God. What we have rendered consecrated, others have rendered made perfect. But as the word, τελειῶσαι which he uses, is of a doubtful meaning, I think it clear that the word I leave adopted is more suitable to the context. 4040     Our version seems more intelligible — “to make perfect.” As it appears afterwards his perfection consisted in his having made an atonement for sin, and in being capable of sympathy with his people. God made him perfectly qualified to be the Captain or leader in our salvation, that is, in the work of saving us, even through sufferings, as thereby he procured our salvation and became experimentally acquainted with the temptations and trials of humanity.
   The sense given by Stuart and some others, borrowed from the use of the word in the classics, which is that of crowning or rewarding the victor at the games is not suitable here; for what follows clearly shows that its meaning is what has been stated.

   Both Scott and Stuart connect “the bringing many sons unto glory” with “the captain of their salvation.” One thing is indeed thus gained, the cases seem to suit better; but then the sense is violated. When the sentence is thus rendered, there is no antecedent to “their” connected with “salvation;” and the faithful are not called the “sons” of Christ, but his brethren. As to the case of the participle for “bringing,” an accusative for a dative, it is an anomaly, says Bloomfield, that sometimes occurs in Paul’s writings and also in the classics. — Ed.
For what is meant is the settled and regular way or method by which the sons of God are initiated, so that they may obtain their own honor, and be thus separated from the rest of the world; and then immediately sanctification is mentioned.

11. For both he that sanctifieth, etc. He proves that it was necessary that what he had said should be fulfilled in the person of Christ on account of his connection with his members; and he also teaches that it was a remarkable evidence of the divine goodness that he put on our flesh. hence he says, that they are all of one, that is, that the author of holiness and we are made partakers of it, are all of one nature, as I understated the expression. It is commonly understood of one Adam; and some refer it to God, and not without reasons; but I rather think that one nature is meant, and one I consider to be in the neuter gender, as though he had said, that they are made out of the same mass. 4141     Though many, ancient and modern, such as Chrysostom, Beza, Grotius and Bloomfield, regard “God” as meant here by “one”, yet the context is in favor of the view taken by Calvin, which is also adopted by Dr. Owen and Stuart. The 14th verse seems to decide the question.
   The word to sanctify ἁγιάζω, means — 1. To consecrate, to set apart to a holy use or to an office, Matthew 23:19; John 17:19; — 2. To purify from pollution, either ceremonially, Hebrew 9:13, or morally and spiritually, 1 Thessalonians 5:23; — 3. To purify from the guilt of sin by a free remission, Hebrews 10:10, compared with verses 14 and 18. Now, which of these meanings are we to take here? Calvin takes the second, that is to purify from pollution, or to make spiritually holy; others, such as Stuart and Bloomfield, take the last meaning, and the latter gives the rendering, “the expiator and the expiated,” This is more consistent with the general tenor of the passage. The subject is not sanctification properly so called, but expiation or atonement. See verses 9 and 17. — Ed.

It avails not, indeed, a little to increase our confidence, that we are united to the Son of God by a bond so close, that we can find in our nature that holiness of which we are in want; for he not only as God sanctifies us, but there is also the power of sanctifying in his human nature, not that it has it from itself, but that God had poured upon it a perfect fullness of holiness, so that from it we may all draw. And to this point this sentence refers, “For their sakes I sanctify myself.” (John 17:19.) If, then we are sinful and unclean, we have not to go far to seek a remedy; for it is offered to us in our own flesh. If any one prefers to regard as intended here that spiritual unity which the godly have with the Son of God, and which differs much from that which men commonly have among themselves, I offer no objection, though I am disposed to follow what is more commonly received, as it is not inconsistent with reason.

He is not ashamed to call them brethren. This passage is taken from Psalm 22:22. That Christ is the speaker there, or David in his name, the evangelists do especially testify, for they quote from it many verses, such as the following, — “They parted my garments,” — “They gave gall for my meat,” — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And further, the other parts of the chapter prove the same; for we may see in the history of the passion a delineation of what is there related. The end of the Psalm, which speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, can be applied to none but to Christ alone, “Turn to the Lord shall all the ends of the world; adore before him shall all the families of the nations,” — “The Lord’s is the kingdom, and he will reign over the nations.” These things are found accomplished only in Christ, who enlarged the kingdom of God not over a small space, as David did, but extended it over the whole world; it was before confined as it were within narrow limits. There is, then, no doubt but that his voice is what is referred to in this passage; and appropriately and suitably does he say that he is not ashamed; for how great is the distance between us and him? Much, then, does he let down himself, when he dignifies us with the name of brethren; for we are unworthy that he should deem us his servants. And this so great an honor conferred on us is amplified by this circumstance — Christ does not speak here as a mortal man while in the form of a servant, but when elevated after the resurrection into immortal glory. Hence this title is the same, as though he had raised us into heaven with himself. And let us remember, whenever we hear that we are called brethren by Christ, that he has clothed us, so to speak, with this honor, that together with this fraternal name we may lay hold on eternal life and every celestial blessing. 4242     “If Christ was merely a man and nothing more, where (we may ask with Abresch) would be either the great condescension, or particular kindness manifested in calling men his brethren? If however, he possessed a higher nature, if ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, Philippians 2:7, if ἐκένωσε ἑαυτὸν μορφὴν δούλου λαβὼν, Philippians 2:8; then was it an act of particular kindness and condescension in him to call men his brethren?” — Stuart

We must further notice the office which Christ assumes, which is that of proclaiming the name of God; and this began to be done when the gospel was first promulgated and is now done daily by the ministry of pastors. We hence learn, that the gospel has been presented to us for this end, that we may be brought to the knowledge of God, in order that his goodness may be celebrated by us, and that Christ is the author of the gospel in whatever manner it may be offered to us. And this is what Paul says, for he declares that he and others were ambassadors for Christ; and he exhorted men as it were in the name of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20.) And this ought to add no small reverence to the gospel, since we ought not so much to consider men as speaking to us, as Christ by his own mouth; for at the time when he promised to publish God’s name to men, he had ceased to be in the world; it was not however to no purpose that he claimed this office as his own; for he really performs it by his disciples.

12. In the midst of the Church. 4343     This quotation is made from Psalm 22:22, and from the Sept., except that the Apostle changes διηγήσομαι into ἀπαγγελῶ. The words are often used synonymously, only the latter includes the idea of a message, as it literally means to declare something from another. — Ed. It hence appears plainly, that the proclamation of God’s praises is always promoted by the teaching of the gospel; for as soon as God becomes known to us, his boundless praises sound in our hearts and in our ears; and at the same time Christ encourages us by his own example publicly to celebrate them, so that they may be heard by as many as possible. For it would not be sufficient for each one of us to thank God himself for benefits received, except we testify openly our gratitude, and thus mutually stimulate one another. And it is a truth, which may serve as a most powerful stimulant, and may lead us most fervently to praise God, when we hear that Christ leads our songs, and is the chief composer of our hymns.