Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Hebrews 2:11-18 - Our participation in the divine nature

 St Thomas' exposition of Hebrews 2:11-18 focuses on the importance of Christ's humanity in effecting our salvation.

11 The Son who sanctifies and the sons who are sanctified have a common origin, all of them; he is not ashamed, then, to own them as his brethren. 
Qui enim sanctificat, et qui sanctificantur, ex uno omnes. Propter quam causam non confunditur fratres eos vocare, 

Christ is the mediator and author of salvation: He that sanctifies: he shows that we depend on Christ, for the one sanctified depends on the sanctifier: ‘Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate’ (Heb. 13:12). Therefore, it has been well said that because He is the author and sanctifier, we depend on him...

Christ depends on the Father: He depends on the Father, from Whom He has power to sanctify...he shows that the Father is the finisher of Christ by the merit of the Passion, so that in this, Christ depends on the Father...

The Father brings us into glory: Heirs of God; co-heirs with Christ’ (Rom. 8:17)....which also shows that we depend on God...because He and we depend on the Father, he is not ashamed to call them brethren, because all are of the same Father...
12 I will proclaim thy renown, he says, to my brethren; with the church around me I will praise thee; and elsewhere he says, I will put my trust in him, and then, Here stand I, and the children God has given me. 
dicens: Nuntiabo nomen tuum fratribus meis: in medio ecclesiæ laudabo te. Et iterum: Ego ero fidens in eum. Et iterum: Ecce ego, et pueri mei, quos dedit mihi Deus.

In the midst of the Church: Then he shows the fruit of this manifestation when he says, in the midst of the congregation will I praise you. As if to say: This forms a great Church in the midst of which I will praise you. He says, in the midst, because just as a pillar in the midst of a house supports it and a lamp in the midst of a house gives light and the heart in the midst of the body gives life, so Christ is in the midst of the Church...

The priesthood of Christ: On this point it should be noted that before the Law it was the custom that all the firstborn were priests...[Note: ie from Adam up until the time of the institution of the levitical priesthood under Moses]

Christ's trust in the Father: ...hope is one thing and trust another: for hope is the expectation of future happiness; and this was not in Christ, because He was happy from the instant of His conception. But trust is the expectation of help, and in regard to this there was hope in Christ, inasmuch as He awaited help from the Father during His Passion. Therefore, whenever we read that Christ had hope, this is not to be understood as referring to its principal, which is happiness, but as referring to the glory of the resurrection and of the glory conferred on His body...But sometimes hope is firm and without fear; then it is called trust. This is the hope Christ had.
14 And since these children have a common inheritance of flesh and blood, he too shared that inheritance with them. By his death he would depose the prince of death, that is, the devil; he would deliver those multitudes who lived all the while as slaves, made over to the fear of death. After all, he does not make himself the angels’ champion, no sign of that; it is the sons of Abraham that he champions. And so he must needs become altogether like his brethren; he would be a high priest who could feel for us and be our true representative before God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. It is because he himself has been tried by suffering, that he has power to help us in the trials we undergo.

Our participation in the divine nature: He says, therefore, I have said that He and the children have all one origin and that He called them brethren. Consequently, it was fitting that He be like them, not only because He confers on them a participation in the divine nature, which is from grace, but also because He assumed their nature...By flesh and blood can also be understood the flesh and blood of Christ according to the statement: ‘He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood’ (Jn. 6:55), of which the children, i.e., the apostles, partook at the last supper and of which Christ partook: ‘He drank His own blood’, as Chrysostom says.

The prince of death: But how does the devil have the power of death? For this is God’s prerogative: ‘The Lord kills and makes alive’ (1 Sam. 2:6); ‘I will kill and I will make to live’ (Dt. 32:39). I answer that a judge has the power of death in one way, because he inflicts death, when he punishes with death; but a thief has it another way in the sense of deserving death because of demerit. God has the power of death in the first way: For in what day you shall eat of it, you shall die the death’ (Gen. 2:17). But the devil in the second way, because by persuading men to sin, he yielded him over to death: ‘by the envy of the devil, death came into the world’ (Wis. 2:24).

Christ as our mediator: has two functions: one sets Him over the whole human race as judge: ‘He gave him power to do judgment, because He is the Son of man’ (Jn. 5:27); the other is in relation to God, before Whom He intercedes for us as our advocate. In a judge mercy is desired particularly by the guilty; but in an advocate fidelity. Now both of these qualities were exhibited by Christ during His Passion. Hence, in regard to the first, he says that by His Passion He was made like unto his brethren, that he might become merciful.

Christ as high priest: ...In addition He is a faithful advocate; hence, he is called a faithful high priest. ‘But Christ, being come a high priest of the good things to come’ (Heb. 9:11); and it is required that He be faithful: ‘Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful’ (1 Cor. 4:2): and all this that He might be a propitiation for the sins of the people, for whom He willed to die.

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