Our Captain Made Perfect Through Sufferings
But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, "I WILL PROCLAIM THY NAME TO MY BRETHREN. IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING THY PRAISE." 13 And again, "I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM." And again, "BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME."
Jesus Is Not an Angel
Let me try to bring you into the sequence of thought in chapters 1 and 2 of Hebrews. The writer wants us to realize that Jesus Christ is not an angel. He is worshiped by angels (1:6) because he is himself God (1:8). He is God's final decisive word to the world in these last days. God has spoken to us in these last days by a Son (1:2). And this writer wants us to join the angels in worshiping this great God-revealing, God-expressing Son. So he piles up glories in 1:2–4: he is the heir of all things; through him all things were made; he is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of God's nature; he upholds the universe by the word of his power; he made purification for sins once for all time and then sat down at the right hand of the Majesty of God in heaven where he reigns today until all his enemies are put under his feet (1:13).
Do Not Neglect Such a Great Salvation
Now on the basis of that tremendous celebration of the greatness of Christ, the writer in chapter 2 warns us about the utter craziness of not paying attention to this final Word of God (1:1–2), and of neglecting our great salvation (1:3). "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" He says it is suicidal to hear about such a great Savior and such a great salvation and then to neglect it while we busy ourselves with other things and prove by our neglect that we do not think it is great, and therefore have never really seen it and tasted it in truth.
Then he goes on to talk in 2:5ff. about the greatness of what our salvation really is. And what he focuses on is the purpose of God for us humans to one day have a magnificent position of glory and honor under God and over the creation he has made. In 2:6–8 he quotes Psalm 8 about how man is crowned with glory and honor and has all things in subjection under his feet. But he is not naïve. He knows that this great destiny appointed for man is not now a reality. So he says at the end of verse 8: "But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him." Instead of gloriously ruling over creation, man suffers and dies. We may be able to get to the moon and wipe out polio and split the atom, but we cannot stop aging and death. Psalm 8 has a fulfillment that is not yet seen.
Jesus Is the Forerunner of a New Humanity
What then is the answer to our hopeless subjection to death? How are we going to attain the destiny that Psalm 8 holds out to us? The answer the writer gives is that Jesus Christ came into the world as a human being so that he could be the forerunner of a new humanity that will burst the bonds of sin and futility and death and enter the glory and honor promised by God.
This is what he says in verse 9. We don't see all things yet subject to man, but what do we see now?
But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
In other words, even though you and I do not yet have the glory and honor promised in Psalm 8 because we suffer and die, nevertheless Jesus has come into the world as a human being and has broken through the futility and death and risen into the glory and honor promised to us so that he is our "Captain" or "Forerunner."
He Is Bringing Many Sons to Glory
The reason I call him a Captain and Forerunner is because verse 10 makes clear that what the Son of God was doing when he became a human being was "leading many sons to glory." Look at verse 10: "For it was fitting for Him [i.e., God the Father], for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings." Now there are a lot of important things to see in that verse, but notice first just this: what God is doing in sending his Son into the world to suffer is bringing many sons to glory.
What glory is he talking about? It's the same glory promised in Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:7, "You have crowned him with glory and honor and appointed him over the works of your hands." This is the glory we have fallen from in our sin and rebellion against God. But now God is undertaking a "great salvation." He sends his Son to taste death for us, deliver us from the futility and defeat and misery and condemnation of sin and death, and lead us to glory. To do this he has suffered and entered before us into that very glory, as verse 9 says: "Jesus, because of the suffering of death [is] crowned with glory and honor."
So he is our Forerunner. He becomes a human being. He suffers and he dies in our place. He rises from the dead victorious, and he enters into glory. Why? So that he might "lead many sons to glory."
So what we need to see here is that the writer is still talking about the Great Salvation mentioned in verse 3. Our great salvation is that we are destined for glory through the incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus Christ our Forerunner. The promise of Psalm 8 will be fulfilled for us because it has already been fulfilled in Jesus, our Forerunner. He "tasted death for us" so that he could "lead us to glory."
This is a great salvation because the destiny we are saved for is great: we will one day break free from cancer and paralysis and arthritis and blindness and depression and corruption and futility and inherit the glory of the risen Son of God. He has been crowned with glory and honor (2:9); and that is where he is leading us. And it is a great salvation because the Savior is great: This is the Son of God who came, not an angel, not a mere human being, but the Son of God, who is God—worshiped and revered forever. No one less than God has come to lead us to glory. So this is a great salvation because the Forerunner is great and because the goal is great. The Forerunner is the Son of God and the goal is glory of God.
What Is the Opposite of Neglecting Our Great Salvation?
So don't neglect your great salvation. Do you neglect your salvation? Do you take the greatness of it for granted? One of the reasons for weakness in the Christian church is that so many neglect the greatness of their salvation. What is the opposite of neglecting your great salvation? Hebrews 2:1 says it's "paying close attention to what we have heard." Hebrews 3:1 says it's to "consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession." Hebrews 3:12–13 says it is "taking care lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart . . . but encouraging one another day after day . . . lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 4:16 says it is "drawing near to the throne of grace for help." Hebrews 10:23 says it is "holding fast our confession without wavering." Hebrews 10:35 says it is "not throwing away your confidence which has great reward." Hebrews 12:1–2 says it is "running the race set before us by looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:25 says it is "not refusing him who is speaking from heaven."
Not neglecting your great salvation means applying yourself to think about your salvation; and to meditate on why it is great; and to focus on the greatness of Jesus Christ the Forerunner, Captain, Pioneer, and Perfecter of our salvation; and to pray for help in all of this at the throne of grace. Not neglecting is the opposite of coasting and then dabbling and then forgetting.
My father and I collected coins zealously for several of my growing up years. We had dozens of those foldout blue books that had each coin ordered by year and place of minting. Daddy would bring new coins home from his travels and we would study them and look up their worth in the manual. Then something happened. We began to neglect it. Other things started to draw us away. We stopped focusing and planning and thinking, and began to drift. For a few years there were little spurts of recovered interest, but it didn't last. Today, I have no idea where all those blue books are. They were worth thousands of dollars, but today I have no interest and there is no connection. Maybe with you it was dolls, or baseball cards, or model airplanes. Once there was intense interest, and then neglect and drifting and forgetting.
That is the way many treat the great salvation of Jesus Christ, which is millions of times more valuable and more important than a coin collection. A short spurt of intense interest and attention. Then, as Jesus said, the "the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word." First there is a kind of hit-and-miss dabbling with the things of God, and then drifting, and then finally a forgetting and cold indifference.
The book of Hebrews is one extended, God-given help not to let that happen. This book is itself a "not neglecting" of our great salvation. Hebrews is a long meditation on the greatness of our salvation. This book models for us what we can do with our great salvation. We can ponder its greatness, and probe into why it is the way it is, and dig to the very bottom of why our salvation took place this way and not that way. That's what this writer does. And he is doing it to help us do it. This is God's Word to help us and teach us not to neglect our great salvation.
How Hebrews Encourages Us to Value Our Salvation
Let's look at how it does this in verse 10. This is the writer's meditation on part of the greatness of our salvation, namely, how fitting it was that the Son of God, who is very God, should suffer as a human being. Verse 9 ends by saying he tasted death for us. Then verse 10 explains why this was fitting, or appropriate: "For it was fitting for Him [God], for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings." So the writer is doing what we need to do often: he is meditating on the way God accomplished salvation. And he is pondering why Christ suffered. He is probing into why it was "fitting."
This is a remarkable thing. Think about it. You might think, Well God is God and he can save any way he pleases. If he does something, it is good and right. He is God. So don't try to probe into whether his way of salvation is "fitting" or not. Just accept it.
But that is not the way out writer thinks about God and about salvation. He thinks that if God does it there must be something deeply "fitting" about it. There must be something coherent or symmetrical or beautiful about it. He thinks that not neglecting our great salvation involves thinking about this. It involves asking why God did it the way he did it and coming to conclusions that cause us to worship and rejoice and obey.
It Was Fitting That the Son of God Should Suffer
So let me mention at least three things that I see in this text (not the only things) that account for the fittingness of Christ's sufferings. That's what verse 10 says is fitting: that God should perfect his Son through sufferings as a way of bringing many sons to glory.
1. The Means of "Perfecting" the Son
First, notice that these sufferings are seen as the means by which God "perfects" his Son. What does that mean? Does it mean that Jesus was sinfully imperfect and had to suffer in order to rid himself of sin? No, because this book, more than any other letter, is insistent that Christ was free from sin (4:15; 7:26; 9:14). What then? Hebrews 5:8–9 gives the answer:
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.
Here being "made perfect" means "learning obedience" through suffering. This does not mean that he was once disobedient and then became obedient. It means that Jesus moved from untested obedience into suffering and then through suffering into tested and proven obedience. And this proving himself obedient through suffering was his "being perfected."
Now the writer says (in Hebrews 2:10) that it was fitting for Christ to attain this proven perfection through sufferings. Why? Because Christ is leading many sons to glory and so he must succeed where we failed. We have all suffered and failed to be perfected by it. Instead we murmur and complain and get angry at God and his providence. In this way we will never attain the glory of God. Psalm 8 will never be true for us. Someone must come and rescue us and lead us to glory. And if Christ is going to lead us to glory, then he must succeed in sufferings where we failed. And that he did. He was perfected in them. He always obeyed when tested, even when tested with the most horrible sufferings. So he is a fitting Captain and Forerunner and Leader to glory. And the salvation he accomplished is the greater for this fittingness.
2. For the Sake of Unity, Sympathy, and Camaraderie
Here is a second reason that it is "fitting" that Christ lead many sons to glory through sufferings. One great aim of God in salvation is that he have a great unified family of children with Jesus Christ being essentially different from and yet deeply united to his other human brothers and sisters. But if all the brothers and sisters in a family have experienced suffering except one, the unity is jeopardized. And so for the sake of a common spirit of unity and sympathy and camaraderie, even in suffering, Christ takes on human nature and leads many sons to glory through suffering and death.
I get this from the connection between verses 10 and 11. Verse 10 says that it's fitting for God to bring many sons to glory through the sufferings of his Son. And then verse 11 gives a reason for why it is fitting:
For both He who sanctifies [Jesus, cf. 13:12] and those who are sanctified [the brothers he is leading to glory] are all from one [Father, or human nature]; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying [in Psalm 22:22], "I will proclaim thy name to my brethren . . . "
In other words, the reason it is fitting for Christ to suffer to lead many sons to glory is that this suffering expresses his being a good brother. Let yourself think on this. Give some time to pondering this truth: that Christ suffered—his Father willed that he suffer (really suffer horrendous pain!)—because God aims to create a family that is so unified and so deeply interwoven and empathetic that the family would be jeopardized if the perfect oldest brother does not go through all the pain of the rest of the children. This too is part of what makes our salvation great.
3. Displaying the Infinite Value of the Father's Glory
Finally, here's a third reason why it is fitting for God to bring many sons to glory through the sufferings of his Son. God created all things and governs all things to magnify his own glory—his own freedom and self-sufficiency and all-satisfying worth. And the willingness of the Son of God to suffer in obedience to the Father shows the infinite greatness of the Father's worth and the infinite value of the Father's glory.
I get this from the key phrases in verse 10:
For it was fitting for Him [God, the father], for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
Notice the crucial words, "for whom are all things." It was fitting for this God to lead sons to glory through suffering. Which God? The God "for whom are all things." In other words, the God who creates and sustains and governs all things to magnify his glory. All things exist for the glory of God—to show how all-sufficient and all-satisfying God is in himself.
And the writer says that it is fitting for this God to lead many sons to glory through suffering. Why? Evidently because the willingness of his Son to suffer is the brightest display of the Father's glory in all the universe. In the book of Hebrews willingness to suffer loss is evidence of great confidence in God to bring us through to glory (10:32–34; 11:24–26; 13:5–6, 12–13). So with Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus "endured the cross and despised the shame for the joy that was set before him." What joy? The joy of sitting down at the right hand of God's majesty surrounded by a countless company of worshiping brothers and sisters.
So the depth of Christ's suffering was the measure of his confidence in all-satisfying joy of God's glory.
This is the ultimate reason that it was fitting for such a great and glorious God to lead many sons to glory through the suffering of his Son. It is fitting because it magnifies the glory of God most. This is finally why our salvation is so great. It is a salvation that has God at the beginning and God at the end. How can it not be an unspeakably great salvation? O do not neglect this great salvation!
©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org