Proclamation and Praise

 

Hebrews 2:12 and the Role of Christ in Worship
Jesus Christ in His incarnation was "made for a little while lower than the angels" (Heb. 2:9), subjected Himself to death on a cross (Phil. 2:8), and has therefore been exalted to the Father's right hand (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:3--now exalted over the angels once again!) and "crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9). This was all done as the supreme expression of the grace of God, in order that Jesus "might taste death for everyone" and bring "many sons to glory" (Heb. 2:9-10).

God the Son willingly submitted Himself to the Father in an unfathomable covenant of voluntary subordination in eternity past; the Father then sent the Son (John 20:21; though Paul tells us that the Son "emptied Himself," Phil. 2:7); and the Son fulfilled the Father's will perfectly (John 17:4), even to the point of being perfected "through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10).

Even in His glorified state, there is a sense in which Jesus Christ remains (willingly) in a subordinate position in relation to the Father; for instance, Jesus explained to His disciples that even in His exaltation He would still ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). We often tend to think that Jesus' representative and mediatory work was pretty much completed at the cross; and that now, having received back the full expression of His glory as God (John 17:5; Phil. 2:9), He relates to us solely as God to man; and that His intercession for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25) is pretty much conducted as a divine transaction between two members of the Trinity.

But it is a wondrous fact that Jesus Christ is still fully human as well as fully divine even in His exalted position with the Father, and continues to play a unique role in mediating between God and man. Christ mediates our ongoing relationship with our heavenly Father, which is to say He mediates our life of worship (which sums up all that we are to be and do as we live under grace before Him-- cf. John 4:23; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:31).

The writer of Hebrews portrays this ongoing relationship between God and believer, and Christ's role in that relationship, in a wonderful way in 2:12.

The Context of Hebrews 2:12

Having described the self-humbling of Christ and subsequent exaltation in 2:9-10, as we have seen, the author goes on in verse 11 to make an amazing statement: that Christ in His self-emptying has so subordinated Himself to the Father and so identified Himself with us that it can be said that Jesus Christ ("He who sanctifies") and believers ("those who are sanctified") can both be said to come "from one Father." And not only that, but Christ's identification with us finds its most profound fulfillment in the fact that "He is not ashamed to call [us] His brethren"! This is a profound truth, to be sure: that He who the Father has "appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world" (Heb. 1:2), and who is "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (1:3), should be willing to call us brethren!

The Content of Hebrews 2:12

God to Man

Having made that astonishing statement, the writer goes in 2:12 to describe Christ's ongoing mediating role, in Messianic words quoted from Psalm 22:22. First Christ says (through the Psalmist),

"I will proclaim Your name to my brethren."

As in His earthly ministry, Jesus' first concern is the glory of the Father; and His role is that of mediating the truth about God to us, of lifting up the reputation of God and extolling His character before His people.

Worship involves the declaration of God's revelation and the grateful response of God's people. The Scriptures are the record of God's revelation to men; and Jesus Christ thus proclaims the Father's glory as He mediates the communication of biblical truth to the hearts of the people. In this way, with the aid of the Holy Spirit who has been sent to guide us into understanding the truth about God (John 16:13), Christ indeed proclaims to us the name (the sum total of the glorious attributes and character) of the Father.

This understanding has profound implications for how we look at what happens in corporate worship. The ministry of preaching is seen to be an extraordinarily important and holy task, as the preacher undertakes the sobering responsibility of a being a channel for Christ's own ministry of proclaiming the name of the Father to His brethren. In a sense the preacher performs a "sub-priestly" function of representing before the congregation Christ in His high-priestly role (Heb. 7:23--8:2) of mediating the Father's divine will to the people. The Son of God speaks through the faithful preacher to display the wonders of God's glory.

There are of course other ways besides preaching in which the communication of revelation can take place in corporate worship, other ways in which Christ proclaims the Father's name to us: through any presentation of Scripture (spoken, as in calls to worship, unison and responsive readings, etc.; sung, in Scripture texts set to music; visual, printed in bulletins, displayed on banners, etc.); or through the accurate communication of scriptural truth, paraphrases of Scripture or commentary on Scripture (as in comments by the worship leader, testimonies, song and anthem texts). And of course Christ can work through all of these means (and more) outside of the worship service in our individual walks of worship.

Man to God

The other half of Christ's mediating work in worship is probably less familiar to us.

"In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise." (Heb. 2:12b)

Jesus Christ in His full humanity mediates not only the revelation of God to man, but also mediates the response of man to God. In our worship (be it corporate or individual, formal or in our daily walk), Christ does not just receive our worship as God's co-equal, but in His grand condescension and consummate manhood He Himself is the supreme and perfect worshiper (cf. 2:12b, "I will sing Your praise")! And not only that, but He leads His brethren in all their responses of worship to God the Father ("in the midst of the congregation"). He is not content to receive worship at the Father's right hand from those whom He has graciously redeemed; rather He insists on standing with His brothers and sisters; and not just joining in-- but actually leading the chorus of grateful response to the Father for His grace!

This amazing truth means that in corporate worship it is not only the preacher who has the awe-inspiring duty of representing or standing in the place of Christ, and of being a conduit of his ministry to His body: so does the worship leader. The worship leader leads, and sings, and conducts, but it is Christ who is actually leading the worship-- on behalf of, and along with, His brethren!

As the preacher is properly a channel for Christ's own ministry of proclamation from God to man, so the worship leader is to be channel for Christ's ministry of praise to the Father! And thankfully, as the truth of God can shine forth and do its work even in spite of a mediocre human preacher-- exactly because it is Christ Himself who is ultimately the One proclaiming-- so too the worship leader's (as well as the people's) limited and feeble expressions of praise are lifted up, absorbed, and transformed into Christ's own perfect offering of worship. Our worship is worthy and acceptable because He is worthy and acceptable; our worship is excellent to the extent that it connects with and relies on the excellence of Christ.

This is grace applied to the deepest levels of our Christian walk; this is divine enablement provided for the life of faith in all of its fullness. Whether in corporate worship, individual worship, or in our daily walk (which too is to be worship, Rom. 12:1), there is not a single bit of God's truth which we apprehend without it being mediated to our minds and hearts through Christ in His ministry of proclaiming the Father's name to the brethren. Similarly, in any of the above contexts (corporate, individual, or lifestyle worship) there is no response of adoration or gratitude or commitment lifted up to the Father which is not initiated and enabled by the Son in His ministry of praise to the Father in the company of His brethren.

What could give God greater pleasure, in relationship to those He has created in His own image, than to see them receiving His revealed truth and responding in love and worship? And by His marvelous and gracious design, what He requires He enables, for it is He who is "working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ [in His mediatorial ministry of Proclamation and Praise] . . .to whom be the glory forever and ever! Amen!" (Heb. 13:21)

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