Saturday, June 12, 2021

Learning Obedience (Hebrews 5:5-11)

"Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8–9).

If Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, and was sinless, how could He learn obedience to God through suffering, and how could He become perfect? There have been heretics throughout church history who have answered that question by saying that Jesus was a mere man, a sinner like you and me, who was possessed by God and made our Savior through adoption. We have already seen that Hebrews 1 flatly contradicts that idea. So then, what does the author of Hebrews have in mind?

What he means is this: Though Jesus was perfectly obedient in His heart, He learned what this meant practically by living the life of a man on earth. He learned what it is like to obey God when the crowds love you as well as when they hate you. He learned what it is like to obey God when God sends you to the cross. In this way, He learned what obedience means by what He went through. This is why He can sympathize with us when He takes us through the same things.

But how could He become perfect? To answer that we have to distinguish two meanings of perfect. On the one hand, Jesus was always perfect in the sense that He was morally pure and sinless. On the other hand, in the Bible the word perfect often means “mature, seasoned,” and that is what it means here. Jesus was made complete by finishing the work God put before Him.

Adam was created morally perfect, but Adam was supposed to persevere in faithful obedience to God. If Adam had persevered, he would have been crowned with glory and honor. In the same way, the Second Adam had to persevere in obedience before being rewarded with rule over all humanity and creation. Hebrews 5:10 tells us that Jesus did indeed finish His course, and was rewarded by being made a Great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek, as we shall see, is both priest and king. He rules the Promised Land of God’s rest, which we reach after we pass through the wilderness. What the author of Hebrews is saying is that we too will enter into a subordinate rulership, under Christ, when we have finished our course. But first, we must learn obedience.

As you look back over your life, can you see how Christ has led you through tough times to teach you obedience and make you more mature? Can you see that you entered into a time of greater maturity as a result? If and when you have been through these things, like Christ, help others going through them now.