Through Suffering Made Perfect
How often are we reminded in this world that strength begets strength? How often is that maxim repeated, “only the strong survive?” Indeed, we have even the origin and continuation of the species said to be founded upon “the survival of the fittest.” We do all look to our own strength to carry us through the storms and trials of life.
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Amen, and may the Lord speak sweetly to us through the scriptures to comfort our weary souls that tire under the burden.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)
Consider here how the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the plan of salvation wrought before the foundation of the world, chooses to carry out this great mystery. He says that Christ, the captain of our salvation, should be made perfect through suffering. By perfect, we understand that he means to convey an absolute completion of all things, that the full man may be built up. It was even necessary that Christ, as a man, was required to be built up in all things under God, to the end that he may identify with us in all.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Consider every weakness that we endure. Our Lord endured the same, and yea, even greater. For he endured what we could not. This man, who remained perfect without sin, had to endure the vast ocean of sin surrounding him at every turn. You and I become discouraged at our vocation or at social gatherings by those sinners who glory in wickedness, and often we are tempted to partake in the same.
Yet Christ, who “endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,” (Hebrews 12:3) uttered not a word of condemnation, but truth and love. He, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:23-24) He returned not an evil word in kind, but committed himself to God.
Christ was of God, and God in Christ. These two along with the Holy Ghost maintain such a bond that it transcends even the comprehension of the most adept philosophers and theologians. Such a great mystery can scarcely be revealed, but, let us turn back to our text.
This Father, whom our Lord ever willingly committed himself to in all things, made Christ pass through suffering. He did this to build him up to completion. Our Lord readily proclaims this truth in the Psalms. “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:7)
And as he says in another place, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
God has sent the trial, to the end that man should find no help but in him. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14) And again, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
To what end did Christ commit himself to such suffering at the hand of God? To the end that he may be made a partaker in our human weakness. Oh, what an immense gospel mystery! That this Lord of glory should become us! “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens…” (Hebrews 7:26) “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands…” (Hebrews 2:6-7)
Without this suffering, our Lord could not identify with our weakness. Now, I speak as a man, for far be it from me to limit the power of God.
The eternal Son took upon himself flesh to become “the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29) He “was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14) to the end that we would be united to him. “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; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) The apostle in this chapter quotes from the prophet Isaiah, who says “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.” (Isaiah 8:18)
What a wonder in Israel! That the Lord of Glory should come down from heaven to be humiliated by his creatures in order to bring the marvelous light of salvation to our fallen world!
Now, as Christ in our text is said to be “the captain” of our salvation, let us consider this station. In David, we have a figure of Christ bringing in his subjects. “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.” (1 Samuel 22:1-2)
In David, we see Christ. Christ sweetly calls all who are burdened, all who are distressed, all who hunger and thirst for heavenly relief from this world, and he offers them rest. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) This is the word of exhortation, we must enter into his rest! “Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:6-7)
The time is coming, and now is, when this captain shall become a king, and not just any king, but the King of kings. This Christ who was made perfect through suffering has risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the majesty on high. He has returned to his rightful place as the executor of God’s justice and judgment in power.
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (Psalm 24:7-8) “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” (Psalm 68:18) Oh sweet Jesus! “Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth!” (Song of Solomon 1:3) May you “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) May our reproach fall upon thee, (Psalm 69:9) “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
In this we hope, that “if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11) For this reason also we endure suffering, counting “it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2)
Christ, as our firstborn brother, was made perfect through suffering that he may become the captain of our salvation. Even so we, as children of God being made into the image of Christ, are made complete through suffering. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:11-13) And as we are made like him in the likeness of his suffering, so shall we be made like him in the likeness of his glory. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
May God transform us even now into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation and the King of his wondrous church. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)