For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same…
I. CONSIDER THE FEAR OF DEATH, which is mentioned as one great evil from which we are delivered by Christ.
1. What is that fear of death from which Christ delivers? Fear in the general is a flight from evil, or the aversion of the mind from what we apprehend hurtful. The fear of death may be distinguished into two sorts —
(1) There is a natural fear of death. Death is an enemy to nature, a rending asunder the two parts of our constitution, so closely united and long continued together. This is not a sinful fear and is useful. It is planted in our nature by the God of nature, and is the necessary consequence of self-love, and self-preservation. It is the rising of nature against its mortal enemy; the reluctance of sense against what would hurt and destroy it, without any reasoning or consideration about it. It is universal, and common to all men: it is fixed in human nature. From this fear Christ does not deliver us; for that would be to divest us of our sensible nature, and love of ourselves; though there is a great difference of degrees in different persons very much according to their natural temper, as some have greater natural courage, and others are more tender and easily impressed. Or according to their more eminent attainments in the Divine life, or more lively exercise of their faith, which very much weakens their natural fear, and sometimes carries them much above it.
(2) There is a moral, or rational fear of death. Death, in the moral consideration of it, is a change of our state, a passage out of one world into another. It is a final determination of our main state, and a decisive turn for eternity. In this consideration of it, death appears more terrible, and is apt to raise a greater fear. Wherever there is a just apprehension of the evil of sin, and of the Divine displeasure upon the account of it, it cannot but make the thoughts of death more terrible, and add weight to the natural fear of it. Besides, there is the love of this world. And wherever the love of the world prevails above the love of the Father; wherever there is an inordinate desire of life, and a carnal frame of mind; there the thoughts of death will be most uneasy. Besides, there are the certain consequences of dying. Death transmits them to the other world, and consigns them over to judgment. Add to this the uncertainty of their minds about their future state.
2. What is that bondage to which the fear of death does subject? It is a servile spirit, under the constant awes of displeasure and dread of punishment; when the natural fear prevails, and the rational fear is heightened, and both concur in all their circumstances to give a dread to the mind, and fix it in a state of slavish bondage. Now here it will be proper to consider the evil of this temper of mind, which the apostle represents by bondage, to be the more sensible of our deliverance from it by Christ.
(1) It is a disparagement to the gospel-state, and unsuitable to the genius and design of it. The gospel is a state of liberty and freedom, in distinction from that of the law.
(2) It is highly injurious and hurtful to ourselves. For example, it destroys the peace and comfort of our minds. It gives a sting to all the miseries of life, and renders them doubly grievous. The sickness and disorders of nature are more burdensome; it gives an accent to every groan, and quickens the sense of the sharpest pain. It makes the heart sick, under all the sickness of the body. It abates the relish of the best enjoyments, and damps the joy of the most prosperous state. The fear of death disturbs the mind in the performance of holy duties, and affects every service of life, as well as every enjoyment of it. It is an enemy to gladness of heart, and flatly inconsistent with the noble exercises of love, and joy and praise. Besides, it brings us into slavery to the devil, and is a powerful snare of sin. It gives the devil a great advantage over us. It is certain no man will be a martyr for Christ, or love Him more than his own life, which yet the gospel requires of every disciple of Christ, who is under the servitude of the fear of death. To conclude with one instance more, it sometimes leads to despair. A strange contrast this, that though they are afraid to die, their fear makes them unwilling to live, and the torment of fear makes them unable to bear the burden of life.
II. CONSIDER OUR DELIVERANCE BY CHRIST FROM. THE FEAR OF DEATH, How far, and by what means, we are delivered from it. There is a fundamental deliverance, when the foundation of it is laid, and the just ground of our fear is removed, so that if we are not actually delivered, yet there is a sufficient foundation laid for it in due time, and in a proper way. And our actual deliverance is begun in this world, and commences with our faith, or hearty subjection to the gospel of Christ. The dominion of fear is broken at the same time with the dominion of sin, and it is no longer a governing principle or prevailing temper.
1. He lays the foundation of our deliverance in His own person, and by what He has done Himself for us.
(1) By His death. This is directly referred to in the context. The influence of the death of Christ to this purpose is variously represented in the Scripture. For example, by His death He made atonement for sin, and procured the forgiveness of it (Isaiah 53:10, 11; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 2:17). Besides, by His death He destroyed the devil, who had the power of death. When God the supreme judge is satisfied and reconciled, the devil loses his power to hurt them. Again, He has conquered death itself, and destroyed the power of it. It is no longer to be considered as a victorious conqueror, which lays waste all about it, and defies all control; it is a conquered enemy, though it is an enemy still. So the apostle says, "He has abolished death." When He rose from the dead, lie visibly triumphed over all the power of death, and gave a sensible evidence of the acceptance of His performance and His complete victory over all His enemies. And as He conquered it in His own person, so lie will utterly destroy it at last, for the "last enemy which shall be destroyed is death." The whole empire of death will cease, and there will be "no more any death." Add to all this, that He has changed the nature of it, and make it quite another thing. It was the execution of the Divine vengeance upon guilty rebels, but it is now a messenger of peace, and forerunner of the greatest good. It was a gloomy vale, which led down to the blackness of darkness; but it is now a passage to glory.
(2) He lays the foundation of our deliverance by the gospel revelation, which was confirmed by His death. This is one of the peculiar glories of the gospel doctrine. It reveals the glorious resurrection of the body at last. It reveals the immortal life of the other world.
2. He actually delivers from the fear of death by the influence of His grace, or the assistance and reliefs of the gospel dispensation. When we are sanctified by His spirit, we are justified by His blood, and there is "no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." If we are reconciled to God, and in a state of favour, we are delivered from the curse of the law, and have nothing to fear from the power of death. Besides, it is by subduing the inordinate love of life, and of all present and sensible good. So we are "crucified to the world by the Cross of Christ," and" the world is crucified unto us." It loses the charms and influence it had before; and no more affects us than two dead bodies lying together affect one another. Further, it is by working suitable dispositions of mind to the heavenly state; or making us spiritually and heavenly minded. A prevailing love to God and heaven will expel the torment of fear; for "perfect love casteth out fear," and so in a proportionable degree to the measure of our love. The love of Christ will make us willing to die that we may be with Him, and inspire a noble confidence of mind under the greatest dangers and terrors of death. To conclude this matter, it is by clearer prospects, and present foretastes of the future blessedness. Lessons:
1. How unreasonable are the fears of good men. Art thou afraid of the dissolution of nature? It argues great weakness of mind, and involves great absurdity to fear that which we know beforehand cannot be avoided, which is the condition of our nature, and settled by a Divine decree. Or art thou afraid of changing worlds? But why, if it be to a better world, and to a state of blessedness, should we fear a change to so great advantage? or leaving a state of guilt and imperfection.
2. How great are our obligations to Christ! How admirable was the love of our Redeemer to "partake of our flesh and blood," and submit to die for us, that He might deliver us from the fear of death! How should this endear Him to us, and recommend the gospel to our value and esteem?
(W. Harris, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
WEB: Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,