Advent Reflection #14: Not ashamed to call us brothers (John Owen on Hebrews 2:11)


I have found this excerpt from John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews 2:11 (“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers…”) to be one of the most moving and pastorally practical unpackings of the Incarnation’s significance that I’ve ever come across.  Owen can be thick going at points; I’ve learned not to be dissuaded, but to press on through the more difficult parts because there is always, always gold for the soul by the end.  Hang in there.


“That He who in Himself is thus over all, eternally blessed, holy, powerful, should take us poor worms of the earth into this relation with Himself, and avow us for His brethren, as it is not easy to be believed, so it is for ever to be admired…Yet such was His love unto us, such His constancy in the pursuit of the design and purpose of His Father in bringing many sons unto glory, that He overlooks as it were them all, and ‘is not ashamed to call us brethren.’  And if He will do this because He is of one with us, because a foundation of this relation is laid in His participation of our nature, how much more will He continue so to do when He hath perfected this relation by the communication of His Spirit!


“And this is a ground of unspeakable consolation unto believers, with supportment in every condition.  No unworthiness in them, no misery upon them, shall ever hinder the Lord Christ from owning them, and openly avowing them to be His brethren.  He is a brother born for the day of trouble, a Redeemer for the friendless and fatherless.  Let their miseries be what they will, He will be ashamed of none but of them who are ashamed of Him and His ways when persecuted and reproached.


“A little while will clear up great mistakes.  All the world shall see at the last day whom Christ will own; and it will be a great surprisal, when men shall hear Him call them brethren whom they hated, and esteemed as the offscouring of all things.  He doth it, indeed, already by His word; but they will not attend thereunto.  But at the last day they shall both see and hear, whether they will or no.  And herein, I say, lies the great consolation of believers.  The world rejects them, it may be their own relations despise them,–they are persecuted, hated, reproached; but the Lord Christ is not ashamed of them.  He will not pass by them because they are poor and in rags,–it may be, reckoned (as He Himself was for them) among malefactors.  They may see also the wisdom, grace, and love of God in this matter.  His great design in the incarnation of His Son was to bring Him into that condition wherein He might naturally care for them, as their brother; that He might not be ashamed of them, but be sensible of their wants, their state and condition in all things, and so be always ready and meet to relieve them.


“Let the world now take its course, and the men thereof do their worst; let Satan rage, and the powers of hell be stirred up against them; let them load them with reproaches and scorn, and cover them all over with the filth and dirt of their false imputations; let them bring them into rags, into dungeons, unto death; Christ comes in the midst of all this confusion and says, ‘Surely these are My brethren, the children of My Father,’ and He becomes their Saviour.”

John Owen, Hebrews 3:423.

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