Perfect Through Suffering

Perfect Through Suffering

In 1970, Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, where he predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death—regardless of any mitigating efforts we might implement. The opening sentence reads: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” He went on to blame nearly every social problem upon the fact that we simply have too many people. 

His doomsday prediction was based upon a faulty hypothesis that overpopulation of the planet had reach unrecoverable proportions. Ehrlich’s book may have been the most influential book of the twentieth century—to devastating results.

Now, more than half a century later, we find ourselves in nearly the exact opposite problem. Historically low fertility rates across the globe threaten to begin a reduction in the population. Kevin DeYoung addresses the problem well in his article “The Case for Kids.”

Though individuals make their choices for many reasons, as a species we are suffering from a profound spiritual sickness—a metaphysical malaise in which children seem a burden on our time and a drag on our pursuit of happiness. Our malady is a lack of faith, and nowhere is the disbelief more startling than in the countries that once made up Christendom. “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven,” God promised a delighted Abraham (Gen. 26:4). Today, in the lands of Abraham’s offspring, that blessing strikes most as a curse.

I began with all of that to make this simple point: If Christians cannot be inconvenienced to have children, how will they ever view suffering as crucial to their sanctification?

The author of Hebrews has been building a steady case for the superiority of Jesus. Departing from Jesus, as he warns repeatedly throughout Hebrews, would be a grave mistake considering what they would be giving up. To turn away from the pinnacle of special revelation is unrecoverable (Heb 2:3).

Last week, we considered Heb 2:6-9. Jesus was made lower than the angels—“for a little while”—in order that he might suffer in their place. Suffering was necessary in order to make a way for salvation. The writer will continue with this line of reasoning.

We tend to view suffering as something to be avoided. But if the gospel is true, then that view of suffering is false.

The paradox of the gospel is that we enjoy salvation because our Savior suffered condemnation.

Read Hebrews 2:10-13.

I. The  Founder  of Our Salvation (10)

The suffering Christ endured was “fitting” for his role as the redeemer. It was consistent with the Covenant of Redemption—the agreement among the godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) for the plan of redemption. The Son of God suffered for the purpose of “bringing many sons to glory.”

We will see this “founder” language again in Hebrews 12:2. It could also be translated as “Author” and “leader” (Acts 3:155:31). This emphasizes the sovereignty and authority of the Son to accomplish the work of salvation. The fact that the one who had all authority found it fitting to suffer, implies that there was no other way to save us. All other methods and means of salvation are vain. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).

But, in what sense is Jesus made perfect? The author repeats this in Heb 5:97:28. This does not mean that he was sinful and had to become perfect. That would contradict what the author says later (Heb 4:15). Rather, it means that Jesus completed the work of redemption. He brought the plan of redemption to its perfect conclusion by his suffering upon the cross. 

The perfection of Jesus is presented—strategically for this particular audience—by way of contrast to the means of acceptance that came before. The author will elaborate on this further when he compares and contrasts the work of Christ as the “great high priest” with the work of the high priests throughout the Old Testament (Heb 4:14-5:10). His suffering fully equipped Jesus for his High Priestly office.

Salvation Through Suffering

Far from being a setback to his Messianic status, suffering was a necessary component of the redemption that Jesus came to accomplish. Had Jesus avoided suffering, he would not have been our Savior.

But, because Jesus did suffer, we know that our suffering is one of the mysterious ways that we can enjoy deeper fellowship with him (Phil 3:10). He is the kind older brother who meets us in our suffering and provides the support that we need to endure.

Since Jesus is the author of our salvation, our only hope—from beginning to end—is found in him. John Calvin points out that God ordinarily brings various trials into our lives so that we live “under the cross.” This is how the members of Christ’s body are conformed into his image (Rom 8:29).

“It is indeed a singular consolation, calculated to mitigate the bitterness of the cross, when the faithful hear, that by sorrows and tribulations they are sanctified for glory as Christ himself was; and hence they see a sufficient reason why they should lovingly kiss the cross rather than dread it.”

Since our atonement rests in the One “for whom and by whom all things exist”—we can have the assurance that our salvation cannot fail. In fact, our salvation is as secure as if we had already been brought to glory! Hear the promise of Proverbs 23:18, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” 

› Jesus is not only the founder of our salvation, but he is also…

II. The  Source  of Our Sanctification (11)

In the previous verse we saw what Jesus did, “bringing many sons to glory,” but in this verse we see that he accomplished that by making them holy.

“He who sanctifies…”—Even as God sanctified Israel from her wicked neighbors, and the priests for their religious work, Jesus sanctifies believers as a kingdom of priests (Rev 1:61 Pt 2:9). To sanctify literally means to set apart or to make holy. Jesus sanctifies his brethren by separating them from the pollution of their sin.

“…those who are sanctified…”—Jesus sets apart believers from the world and assigns them the priestly work of living sacrificially for others (1 Jn 3:16, even Gentiles 1 Pt 2:12), interceding on behalf of others (1 Tim 2:1-2), and proclaiming the message of reconciliation between God and man (2 Cor 5:18-19).

“…all have one source.”— “Source” is actually supplied by the English translation. The Greek simply says, “all are of one.” This leaves us with two primary interpretations:

1. God is the origin from which Jesus receives the authority to sanctify and from which believers receive their sanctification. They have a common Heavenly Father.

2. Adam is the beginning of humanity from which both Jesus, the sanctifier, and the sanctified can trace their family lineage. They have a common humanity.

Either way, both options would emphasize that we belong to the same family as our elder brother, Jesus. That is why the author points to the humility of Jesus, who was not ashamed to call sinful humans his brothers.

Suffering Is Sanctifying

The difference between success and failure in work and life is oftentimes the ability to persevere beyond repeated failures. Grit is widely recognized as one of the key components for achievement. It’s the ability to “stick with it” a little bit longer than everyone else. That means, in many cases, you must be willing to endure past the breaking point of those around you (athletics). Or it may mean the willingness to try again after facing another rejection (relationships, entertainment industry). Or it might look like suffering with joy, as Paul encouraged believers in Rome.

Romans 5:3–5 ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

This doesn’t mean we enjoy pain, but it does mean that we recognize there is a purpose for every trial we face.

Motivation For Sanctification

This original audience was tempted to retreat to a pattern of living that would remove them from their present trials. Surely, you can grasp how strong that temptation must have been. But relief from suffering cannot be the motivation of the believer, especially when we see how foundational it is to the gospel.

The cross of suffering, which Jesus bore on our behalf, not only secured our salvation, but it modeled a motivation for sanctification. Rather than seeking relief from the cross, as his prayer in Gethsemane began (Mt 26:39), he was ultimately motivated by the will of the Father.

If you aren’t sure what God’s will for you life is, you can be assured it will involve “your sanctification” (1 Thes 4:3). Bavinck’s discussion of sanctification is helpful:

“Sanctification…is not exhausted by what is done for and in believers. Granted, in the first place it is a work and gift of God (Phil. 1:61 Thess. 5:23), a process in which humans are passive just as they are in regeneration, of which it is the continuation. But based on this work of God in humans, it acquires, in the second place, an active meaning, and people themselves are called and equipped to sanctify themselves and devote their whole life to God (Rom. 12:12 Cor. 7:11 Thess. 4:3Heb. 12:14; and so forth).”

Our assurance of glory does not rest in the degree of our progressive sanctification. It rests in the finished work of our exalted Savior—who is not ashamed to call us brothers! We have been clothed in his honor, passively “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6), yet—in light of that guaranteed future—we are actively called to live as members of the covenant household.

› Now, the author provides Scripture proof that Jesus is…

III. The  Grounds  for Our Adoption (12-13)

This theme really began in v.10 “bringing many sons to glory” and then it was reiterated at the end of v.11 where we learn that Jesus is not ashamed to call “those who are sanctified” his “brothers”. Since they both share in the divine source of their ministry, they are more than business partners, they belong to the same family. But, as he has done with his previous arguments, he now supports his point from Scripture.

The author quotes from an important location in Psalm 22. This is another Messianic psalm written by David. It was also utilized as a “prayer song.” It opens with the same words that Jesus uttered from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34). The psalm goes back and forth between the suffering of the Messiah and his statements of ongoing trust in the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. It prophecies of his mockery (Ps 22:6-8), his thirst (Ps 22:15), the piercing of his hands and feet as he was nailed to the cross (Ps 22:16), the casting of lots over his garments (Ps 22:18). But, Ps 22:22marks a transition to thanksgiving. This is where the Anointed One begins to praise God for his rescue.

He also quotes a phrase that can be found in several passages. In one example, David places his trust in the Lord under threat of a violent death (2 Sam 22:3-6). Isaiah also proclaims his hope in God despite the fact that he has learned of the coming Assyrian invasion (Is 8:17) and Babylonian captivity (Is 12:2).

Next he quotes from Isaiah 8:18. Isaiah’s children represented God’s covenant faithfulness in the past, just as the children the Father gave to the Son have been brought into the family of God (Jn 17:6).


Departing from Jesus is not merely returning to a former relationship with God, it is not merely taking a few steps back, it is abandoning the heavenly family into which we have been adopted.

Rather than contemplating something so devastating, we should rest in the fact that Jesus secured our adoption by completing the work of reconciliation.

With Christ as our surety, we can confidently trust in him and know that he will not lose any of those the Father has given to him (Jn 10:28).