For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham (Heb. 2:16).
The author of Hebrews explains Christ’s relationship to angels and humanity. Christ is far superior to the angels and has taken unto Himself a human nature. Today, the author further develops Christ’s incarnation in relation to the angels.
The English Standard Version (ESV) translates Hebrews 2:16 as follows: “Surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.” Interestingly, John Owen does not refer to Christ helping man or angels. Instead, he discusses how Christ did not lay hold of the nature of angels but rather the nature of Abraham’s offspring. This seems a bit strange until we consider that the verb the ESV translates as “he helps” most literally means “to lay firm hold of,” or “to appropriate.” This explains Owen’s comments; in fact, older English translations like the King James Version (KJV) translate the verse to emphasize the fact that Jesus took on Abraham’s nature and not the nature of the angels. Thus, 2:16 is additional proof for the doctrine of the Incarnation.
But we should not think that the ESV has made a mistake with its translation. Some passages are harder to render in English than others, and the refined Greek we find in Hebrews does not make the task any easier. And, after all, the ESV’s translation is not inappropriate. Christ does help the offspring of Abraham and only the offspring of Abraham. He comes and dies in order that the children of Abraham might be reconciled to God. He does not do this for the angels.
This passage sets the Incarnation in the context of covenant because it says that Christ helps the offspring of Abraham. The promises of God to bless the world were made to Abraham and his covenant seed (Rom. 4:13). We know that Christ is the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16) and so fulfills the promise made in Genesis 12:1–3 that Abraham’s seed would bless the world.
Christ blesses the world by redeeming His Church and then using her to effect change in the world. Christ is the Seed of Abraham, and Christ’s Church, being united to Christ, is also the seed of Abraham. Those in Christ are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29), and are forgiven so that they might receive the blessing of God’s covenant with their forefather, Abraham.
God promised to bless the world through Abraham’s seed. Christians receive this blessing because they are in Christ. Many have not heard the Good News about God’s blessing upon the seed of Abraham. Consider your role as a member of the household of faith, and pray that God would continue to use you as a witness to the world.
Passages for Further Study
Gen. 17:1–14; Ex. 3:6–8 2; Sam. 7:1–17; Luke 22:14–20