Gleanings in the Godhead
by A.W. Pink
Revised: February 14, 2005
Part 2: Excellencies Which
Pertain to God the Son as Christ
39. The Helpfulness of Christ
One Of The Apostle’s purposes in writing the epistle to the Hebrews is to strengthen the faith of those who were sorely tried and wavering—and by parity of reason all who are weak in grace. "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18). The method he followed in prosecuting that end was to set forth the transcendent excellency of Christ, with His good will to the sons of men. He exhibits at length the perfections of His person, His offices, and His work. He declares that He is the Son of God, who has been made the Heir of all things; that He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. Full demonstration was made of His immeasurable superiority to angels, yet so infinite was His condescension and so great His love to those given Him by the Father that He took a place lower than that occupied by celestial creatures; yet, "in all things . . . to be made like unto his brethren" (Heb. 2:17). In His offices He is revealed as the supreme Prophet, the final spokesman of Deity (Heb. 1:1-2), as a glorious king (Heb. 1:8), as "a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb. 2:17); in His work as making "reconciliation [lit. "propitiation"] for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17), as ever living to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25), as "bringing many sons unto glory" (Heb. 2:10).
So amazing was the grace of this august Being that He not only partook of the nature of those He came here to save, but also He entered fully into their circumstances, became subject to their infirmities, was tempted in all respects as they are (inward corruption excepted). He shed His precious blood and died a shameful death in their stead and on their behalf; and all of this to manifest the reality and abundance of His mercy unto sinners, fire their hearts, and draw out the affections of believers to Him. The apostle points out one of the blessed consequences of the Son’s having become incarnate and entered into fellowship with His suffering people. First, the Lord of glory came down into the realm of temptation. Scripture is always to be understood in its widest possible latitude; therefore "tempt" is signifying put to the proof, subjected to trials and troubles, solicited to evil. Christ was tempted by God, by men, by the devil. Second, He "suffered" while being tempted. Those temptations were not mere make-believe, but real and painful. It could not be otherwise, for not only did He partake of all human sensibilities, but also His holiness felt acutely every form of evil. Third, the remembrance of His sufferings makes Him the more mindful of ours.
"For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." Let us consider first the timeliness and preciousness of those words to those to whom they were originally addressed. The Hebrews saints were Jews who had been convened in the days of Christ and under the preaching of the apostles, and they were in peculiarly trying circumstances. Their unconverted countrymen regarded them as apostates from Moses, and therefore from Jehovah Himself. They would have no fellowship with them, but instead regarded them with the utmost contempt and treated them most cruelly. This resulted in great distress and privation, so that they "endured a great fight of afflictions," were "made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions," even to "the spoiling of their goods" (Heb. 10:32-34), because of their continued loyalty to Christ. Hence they were strongly tempted to abandon the Christian profession, resume their former place under Judaism, and thereby escape further trouble. Now it was to believers in such a situation that our text was addressed. The apostle reminds them that Christ Himself was severely tempted, that He was subjected to worse trials than ours; yet He endured the same and emerged a victorious Overcomer. Then he assured them that the Savior was able to sustain, comfort, and strengthen them.
There are Christians today who are in circumstances similar to those of the oppressed Hebrews. The world hates them, and does so in proportion to their fidelity and conformity to Christ. Some are treated harshly by ungodly relatives. Some suffer at the hands of graceless professors. Others experience divine chastisement or perplexing providences, or are passing through the waters of bereavement or a painful sickness. At such times Satan is particularly active, launching his fiercest attacks, tempting them in various ways. Here is relief—real, present, all-sufficient relief. Turn your heart and eye to the Savior, and consider how well qualified He is to succor you. He is clothed with our humanity, and therefore capable of being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." The experience through which He passed fit Him to pity us. He knows all about your case, fully understands your trials and gauges the strength of your temptation. He is not an indifferent spectator, but full of compassion. He wept by the grave of Lazarus—and He is the same today as yesterday. He is faithful in responding to the appeals of His people.
"He is able to succor" no matter what form the temptation or trial takes. "Succour" is a comprehensive word: it means "to befriend," "to assist those in need," "to strengthen the weak." But the Greek term is even more striking and beautifully expressive: it signifies to hasten in response to a cry of distress, literally to "run in to the call" of another. Chrysostom interpreted it, "He gives out His hand unto them with all readiness." A blessed illustration is seen in the case of Christ stretching forth His hand to catch hold of Peter as he began to sink in the sea (Matthew 14:30-31). That was the Savior succouring one of His own. The same tender benevolence was yet more fully exemplified where we behold Him as the good Samaritan tending the wounded traveler (Luke 10:33-35). "He is able." The Greek word implies both fitness and a willingness to do a thing. Christ is alike competent and ready to undertake for His people. There is no unwillingness in Him. The straitness is always in us. "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him" (Heb. 7:25) signifies readiness as well as ability.
During His sojourn on this earth, was He not ever ready to heal diseased bodies? And do you think that He is now unwilling to minister to distressed souls? Perish the thought. He was always at the disposal of the maimed, the blind, the palsied, yes, of the repellent leper too. He was ever prepared, uncomplainingly, to relieve suffering, though it cost Him something—"there went virtue out of him" (Luke 6:19)—and though much unbelief was expressed by those He befriended. As it was then apart of His mission to heal the sick, so it is now a part of His ministry to bind up the brokenhearted. What a Savior is ours! The almighty God, the all-tender Man. One who is infinitely above us in His original nature and present glory, yet One who became flesh and blood, lived on the same plane as we do, experienced the same troubles, and suffered as we, though far more acutely. Then how well qualified He is to supply your every need! Cast all your care upon Him, knowing that He cares for you.
Whatever your circumstances, the succouring Savior is all-sufficient and enters sympathetically into
your condition. He knew what it was to be weary (John 4:6) and exhausted (Mark 4:36-38). He knew
what it was to suffer hunger and thirst. Are you homeless? He had not a place to lay His head. Are
you in straitened circumstances? He was cradled in a manger. Are you grief-stricken? He was the
Man of sorrows. Are you misunderstood by fellow believers? So was He by His own disciples.
Whatever your lot, He can enter fully into it. He experienced all the miseries of mankind, and has not
forgotten them. Are you assailed by Satan? So was He. Do blasphemous thoughts at times torment
your mind? The devil tempted Him idolatrously to worship him. Are you in such desperation as to
think of making an end of yourself? Satan challenged Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of
the temple. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, sin excepted."
Angels may pity, but they can have no fellow feeling. But Christ’s compassion (to suffer with) moves Him to succor. In some instances He does so before the temptation comes, and in a variety of ways. He prepares for it by forewarning of the same; as with Israel being afflicted in Egypt (Gen. 15:13), and Paul (Acts 9:16)—in our case by causing His providences to presage the temptation; by fitting us for them, as Christ was anointed with the Spirit before the devil tempted Him; or by melting the heart with a sense of His goodness, which moves us to say,
He succours under temptation; in some cases by the powerful application of a precept or promise, which as a cable holds the heart fast amid the storm; by a providential interposition which prevents our executing the evil intention, or by removing the temptation itself; by giving us to prove the sufficiency of His grace (2 Cor. 1:2). He succours after temptation, by giving us a spirit of contrition (Luke 22:61-62), moving us to confess our sins. As angels ministered to Him after His conflict with Satan, so He ministers to us. Then no matter how dire your situation or acute your suffering, apply to Christ for relief and deliverance, and count upon His help. It is when the child is most ill that the mother comes and sits beside it (Isa. 66:13).