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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Author of Salvation Perfected Through Suffering
Text:Hebrews 2:10-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Blessed Assurance

Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation    

“Man of Sorrows,” What a Name

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“The Author of Salvation Perfected Through Suffering”
Hebrews 2:10-18

Have you ever heard something that took you totally by surprise?  Perhaps it was a statement that sounded outlandish until you thought about it, and then the proposition that seemed impossible becomes obvious, perfectly clear. That’s how verse 10 is. It takes us by surprise.  It makes a statement that initially seems impossible:  It says, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

How can that be? How can the author of Hebrews say that Jesus was made perfect through suffering?  How do you perfect what is already perfect?  After all, Jesus is the eternal Christ.  He is one with the Father.  Jesus is God himself.  He is the preeminent One through whom the universe was made.  How can you perfect Him who is perfect?

While it is true that Christ has always been perfect in every way, it was His suffering that made Him perfect as the “author of our salvation.”  For instance, to be the author - the One who wrote the book on salvation - Jesus had to suffer, even to the point of death.  Only by suffering death - death on the cross - could He destroy the devil’s power over death.  Verse 14: “Since the children have flesh and blood, He, too, shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death that is, the devil.”

The devil is the one who introduced death into the world, through his temptation of Eve.  God had warned Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). When Eve took from that forbidden fruit and gave some to Adam, she and Adam did not die an immediate physical death.  But they did die spiritually.  Death in the Bible represents separation. Adam and Eve were separated from God spiritually as soon as they sinned.  Immediately they felt shame. They tried in vain to cover their nakedness. In vain they tried to hide from the God whom they had disobeyed.

We share in that spiritual death. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that we were “dead in (our) transgressions and sins.”  The only way that we can overcome this spiritual death - this spiritual separation from God - is through the defeat of the evil one, Satan. And that necessitated the cross.  It was through His own death that Jesus rendered death - physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death - powerless.  In Revelation 1:18 Jesus declares: “... I am the first and the last; I am the living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”   That is one reason why the author of Hebrews makes the bold statement that our Savior was made perfect through suffering.

A second reason why the author of Hebrews makes the statement that Jesus was made perfect through suffering is that by his suffering Jesus made atonement for the sins of His people.  We see that in verse 17 where it says: “For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

To make atonement means that God has reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Atonement means “at-one-ment” and it comes from the whole concept of propitiation in the Greek language. To propitiate is to cover, the concept springs from the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant in the most holy place of the temple. Once a year the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, would enter the Most Holy Place to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant.

The action of the high priest in the Old Testament foreshadowed what the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, would do: Jesus covered our sins in such a way that the proper and righteous wrath of His Father, and our Father, is propitiated, appeased and we are at-one-ment - reconciled with the Father through the atoning work of the Son.

Jesus, through His sacrifice on the cross, bridged that tremendous gulf between God the Father and sinners like you and like me. But to bring this reconciliation about, to bridge that great gap between us and our holy heavenly Father, Jesus had to bear in His flesh the punishment for the sin that we have committed.

There is no way that Jesus could be the author of our salvation without this suffering. God, being a righteous, holy God cannot leave sin unpunished. Sin brings the curse of God’s righteous wrath. Galatians 3:10 quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 when it says: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”

We were under that curse because we are unable to perfectly keep God’s law. We have broken it more times than we could ever count. Furthermore, even if we were to be crucified, it would not remove the curse. In order for the curse of sin to be removed there had to be a perfect sacrifice. Just as in the Old Testament era the Passover lamb had to be perfect “without blemish or spot” so, too, Christ, our Passover Lamb, had to be without blemish, without sin.  And He was, and is, and always will be.  Hebrews 4:15 describes Him as being “tempted like us in every way, yet without sin.”

As this week progresses and we focus on the cross, and we come to Maundy Thursday and to Good Friday, as we lift the cup and take the bread of the Lord’s Supper, we must always remember that it isn’t only the sacrificial death of Christ that is the basis for our faith, but His perfect obedience as well.

His sacrificial death would not be acceptable to the Father if Jesus had not perfectly obeyed the law.  But having rendered perfect obedience, Jesus bore the curse we deserve, there on the cross. Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

By taking upon Himself the curse that we deserve for our sins Jesus has reconciled us to our heavenly Father. Our sins are atoned for - propitiated - and in their place is the perfect record of Christ's obedience and His righteousness.  In that sense, too, He who is eternally perfect was made perfect through His suffering.

A third reason why the author of Hebrews says that Jesus was made “perfect through suffering” is because through His suffering He is able to help us when we are tempted.  Verse 18: “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

He helps us by being an understanding and compassionate great High Priest. He not only sacrificed Himself for us on the cross, but He also serves as our Mediator, our representative - our Great High Priest - before God the Father. And as our representative before the Father, Jesus, because of His suffering, is perfectly understanding and compassionate.

Have you ever known anyone who is what we used to call a “goody two shoes?”   Someone who always thinks they are better than you and looks down on you. Can you imagine going to such a person to confess your sin?  They would look down at you because they consider themselves better than you. They would have no understanding, no compassion.

Although Jesus is in every way superior to us, He never looks down on us. When we confess our sins, He understands the power of the temptation to which we have fallen.  He knows what it’s like to be tempted in every way as we are.  Are you tempted by greed?   Are you tempted by a lust for power?  Are you tempted by laziness?   Are you tempted by alcohol?  Are you tempted by immoral thoughts and all the other seductions the world and devil display before our eyes?

It doesn’t matter what you have been tempted with. Jesus understands. Hebrews 4:15 states that “He has been tempted in every way just as we are” - not just some ways, not just a few temptations, but He was tempted in every way as we are - "yet was without sin.”

You will never find anyone more understanding and compassionate than Jesus. He has always been compassionate and understanding, for He is eternal God. Yet that eternal compassion was honed and sharpened - perfected - in the words of Hebrews 2:10 because Jesus experienced every type of temptation.

Why Jesus Was Willing to Suffer

We can see then why the author of Hebrews would say that Jesus, although eternally perfect, was made perfect through suffering. But we might be inclined to ask, “Why did Jesus take on this suffering?  Why would Jesus leave the glory of heaven?  Why would He put up with all the suffering here on earth?

One reason is there in verse 11, where it says, “both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family so Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  That’s quite a statement! Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and his sisters!

I have two brothers, both older than I am. There have been a few times when I was a little embarrassed by them. But unfortunately, there have been many times when they had good reason to be ashamed and embarrassed by me.

But Jesus is never ashamed of those who believe in him. Consider Peter with his denial. The woman at the well with her immoral past. Thomas with his doubts. We might expect Jesus to be embarrassed by the conduct of such people. But Jesus was not embarrassed or ashamed to call each one of them a brother or a sister.

And the same can be said for you and for me. We all stand before the Lord as sinners. The Lord will admonish us, for He disciplines those whom He loves. His Spirit will convict us of our sin. His Word, which is a sharp, double-edged sword, will cut us at times as He graciously sanctifies us by His Word and Spirit. But then He graciously forgives, restores, and receives us to Himself as one receives their close brother or sister, and as a father receives their child.

In the last part of verse 13 He says: “Here I am, and the children God has given Me.”   You see, He is not embarrassed by us, but willingly and joyfully presents us to His heavenly Father

Another reason why Jesus willingly suffered for us is that He desired to free us from our fear of death. Verse 14 has spoken about how He shared in our humanity “in order that He might destroy him who holds the power of death that is the devil.”   And then verse 15 says: “And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  Because He has suffered death, in all its forms, Jesus frees us from the fear of death.

For the unbeliever, death is an unknown terror.  As their health fails and they realize their mortality in a new light, they often begin to think, “What if those Christians were right?  What if there really is a heaven and a hell? What if I do have to give an account to God for my life?”

Sir Thomas Scott, a member of the English Parliament back in the 1500’s who believed that religion was the source of all troubles, on his death bed said: "Until this moment I thought there was neither a God nor a hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty."

Voltaire, the outspoken French atheist, begged his physician for more time on earth. He said: "I am abandoned by God and man; I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months' life.”  When his doctor told him it could not be done, Voltaire said, "Then I shall die and go to hell!"

Contrast that to Dwight Moody the well-known evangelist of the 1800s. As he lay on his deathbed, he said to a friend who stopped by to visit: “You will read in the paper someday that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I will be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that’s all. Out of this clay tenement house into a house that is immortal, a body sin cannot touch or taint, a body fashioned like His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born in the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die but that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”      

For the believer physical death is just the doorway to heaven. It is the putting aside of an earthly tent to take up a heavenly home.  Physical death for the believer is the end of all sinning and the entrance into eternal glory. 

A third reason why Jesus was willing to suffer on our account is because He is true to all His promises. Verse 16 says “For surely it is not angels He helps but Abraham’s descendants.” The promise of verse 16 goes back to Genesis 15:5 where the Lord takes Abraham outside of his tent and says, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars if indeed you can count them. Then He said to him, ‘so shall your offspring be.’

Galatians 3:29 makes it clear that the offspring of which the Lord spoke was spiritual: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

2 Corinthians 1:20 adds: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”  Because Jesus is true to His promises - true to every promise God has made - He was willing to suffer, suffer even death on a cross.

Our Response

How do we respond as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday approach before Easter’s dawn next Sunday?

First, as believers, what praise we should have for our Lord!  Jesus, who is one with the Father, who is Himself the eternal Almighty Creator of the universe “for whom and through whom everything exists,” is also willing to be one with us, to atone for our sins and bridge the gap between sinners like ourselves and our Father in heaven!

Second, as people who face temptation daily what strength we should find as our great high priest Jesus Christ understands what it is like to face temptation and is there to help us! Don’t give in to temptation, don’t cheapen God’s grace by saying, “He understands. He will forgive.” Instead, call out in prayer to Him and find the strength to resist the temptation that is in your path and in mine.

And then, thirdly, whenever you come to that last river, that symbolic River Jordan which separates us from the promised land beyond, remember that Jesus suffered, died, and rose again, so that we who believe in Him no longer need to fear death in any of its forms.

The Heidelberg Catechism puts it so beautifully in the first question and answer: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

“That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my good. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”

May that testimony of the catechism be your testimony and mine, as we reflect not just in this passion week, but always on the suffering of our perfect Savior as He redeemed us from our sin. Amen.

                                           - bulletin outline -
“In bringing many sons to glory it was fitting that God, for whom and
  through whom everything exists, should make the author of their
  salvation perfect through suffering.” - Hebrews 2:10
       “The Author of Salvation Perfected Through Suffering”
                                        Hebrews 2:10-18
I.  Jesus is eternally perfect, one with the Father, preeminent in every
     way (Colossians 1:15-20), yet He was made “perfect through
     suffering” (10) because by His suffering:
     1) He destroyed the devil’s power over death (14)
     2) He made atonement for the sins of His people (17)
     3) He is able to help us when we are tempted (18, 4:15-16)
II. Jesus was willing to suffer because:
     1) He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (11-13)
     2) He desired to free us from our fear of death (15)
     3) He is true to His promises (16; Gen. 15:5; Gal. 3:29; 2 Cor 1:20)
III. Application: The believer, filled with praise for what Jesus has
      done, finds help when tempted and comfort even in death.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Ted Gray

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