Christ Perfected Through Suffering
April 26th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Hebrews 2: 9-15
4-26-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor, bringing the morning message from the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews. The last time that I spoke here, Sunday before last, we left off at the eighth verse. And today we begin at Hebrews 2:9 and continue through Hebrews 2:15:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
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.
For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee.
And again, I will put My trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.
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 hath the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
The title of the sermon is The Path of Sorrow or Christ Perfected through Suffering. And, the text is all of it, but especially this: "For it became Him . . . to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" [Hebrews 2:10].
There is no book that can stand the test of sorrow and suffering like the Bible. Other books intrigue us for an hour and our hearts are gay and light. We read them for pleasure. They are pleasantly perused. But when the days are dark and the heart is heavy, we turn to the Bible. It was born in the fires. Its every word is bathed in tears. And it was written in blood. This is the purpose of the author in writing this epistle to the little congregation of Hebrew Christians. He was writing to solace them in the grief and pain and sorrow and anguish of a terrible persecution.
To be a disciple of Christ anywhere in those first Christian centuries carried with it a burden, sometimes the confiscation of property, sometimes the forfeiture of life itself. And this little congregation of Hebrew Christians had not only borne the abuse and offense heaped upon them by their enemies, they had not only borne the confiscation of their property, they had not only borne the interdiction that proscribed their worship in the Temple and their sharing in the feasts of their fathers and in the worship of all of the beauty of that glorious place, but finally, they had come to be beset by terrible intellectual doubts concerning Christ Himself.
It was hard for them, a Jewish people, who was looking for a Messiah to deliver them from national shame and ignominy, from the deliverance of servitude and slavery; it was hard for them to believe that this thorn-crowned, dying and crucified Christ was the Messiah of national desire. So, the author of this epistle writes to that little congregation concerning the exaltation of this dying and crucified Lord Jesus.
In the first chapter, he has written to them of the exaltation of Christ above all of the angelic hosts of heaven [Hebrews 1:5-14]. In the second chapter, he writes of the exaltation of Christ in His incarnation [Hebrews 2:7-10]: that it is not unthinkable that God should appear in human form and in human flesh [Hebrews 2:14], because the man God made originally was to be, under God, the ruler of all of the works of God’s hands [Genesis 1:28]. And, for God to manifest Himself in human flesh and in human form was not an indignity to God, for it was only the man God made who could think God’s thoughts and return God’s love.
And now, the author turns, in the passage of my text, to speaking of the shame and reproach and suffering of Christ because, to the Jew, that was so opposite to the ideas of glory and favor and honor and dominion and power that their Messiah was to possess. And instead of sovereignty, instead of glory, instead of dominion, they found in Christ agony and tears and sobs and crying and death.
So, the problem that he’s facing is this: shall the sufferings of Christ deny our faith in Him as Lord and Christ and Messiah and Savior? Does it behoove Christ, God’s Son, that He should suffer and die? For, to the Jew, the sufferings of Christ obscured His glory and His power.
Now, the author does not in anywise minimize the sufferings of our Lord. He owns them. He names them. In the fifth chapter, he even describes them:
In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that that He feared;
Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered;
[Hebrews 5:7, 8]
And then, here again: "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].
The very opposite from denying the sufferings of our Lord, this author dwells upon them. And he presents them in a most unique and unusual way. And what the author says of the sufferings of our Lord is the burden of the message this morning.
The first thing he avows is this: that our Lord suffered because He was obedient to a mandate of God. It was the plan and the purpose of God that the Messiah, the Christ, the Son should suffer. And that’s what he means when he says here: "For it became Him – God – 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 suffering" [Hebrews 2:10].
Now you can have no idea of the meaning of the author unless you understand what he means by that word teleios, which is translated here "perfect." For to us, teleios, perfect, means sinless perfection. It had no connotation of anything like that in the original Scriptures.
In order to save time, I have copied out of the New Testament instances of the use of that word teleios, which is translated "perfect" [Hebrews 2:10]. Here is one instance. In Hebrews 5:13-14, the author says: "For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are teleios" – that are perfect." Well, what it means is strong meat belongeth to them that are mature, that are of full age, that are full-grown, that are complete. They have arrived, you would say. The Authorized Version translates it "they are of full age" [Hebrews 5:14].
Now, here’s another one. In James 1:4: "Let patience have her teleios work, that ye may be teleios and entire, wanting nothing." Teleios there means complete in all of its parts, this and this and this and finally this.
Now, the verbal form of that word carries the same idea: "perfect, to complete, to arrive at its appointed purpose and goal." In John 4:34, Jesus said unto them: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to teleioo His work – to finish, to complete His work.
Again, he says, in John 19:28: "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now teleios, accomplished that the scripture might be teleios, fulfilled, saith: ‘I thirst.’"
Now, I’ll not read the rest. There are many forms of the word, but they all mean the same thing. Teleios, translated "perfect" in the Bible, means "complete." It has arrived at the purpose for which it was made.
An acorn would be teleios if it finally became a great oak. A cog in a wheel would be teleios if it fit beautifully and accomplished the purpose for which it was cast. So, when it says here "It became God, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation teleios through suffering" [Hebrews 2:10] – that is, it was the purpose of God in bringing many sons to glory, that we should arrive at the Mount of Transfiguration and behold the glory of the Lord [Matthew 17:1-5], that we should arrive at the mount of Olivet and behold the ascension of the Lord [Acts 1:9-10], and that, some day, we should arrive at the glorious and beautiful city of God, a regenerated and a new people [Revelation 21:1-5].
But, in order to arrive there, in order to gain that ultimate goal, it was also the purpose of God that the path lead through the glades of Gethsemane, through the awful hours of Calvary, and even to the silence and darkness of the grave. So, the author says the sufferings of our Lord were a part of the great plan and purpose of God in bringing many sons unto glory [Hebrews 2:10]. What happened to Christ was something that God mandated and ordained.
Now, he says that our Lord identified Himself with His brethren: "For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying" – and, then, he quotes from the twenty-second Psalm: "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee" [Hebrews 2:11-12; Psalm 22:2]. And, again, then he quotes from the eighteenth Psalm: "I will put my trust in Him." And, again, quoting from the eighth of Isaiah: "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" [Hebrews 2:13; Isaiah 8:18].
He’s quoting there passages that identify our Lord with His people. Then he spells it out for himself: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" [Hebrews 2:14]. This was the purpose of God: that the incarnate Son should be like us [Matthew 1:23; John 1:14].
A group of pilgrims need a great heart. An army needs a captain. Wayfaring pilgrims need a guide. And we poor creatures of the dust need a Savior and a helper [Hebrews 2:11]. And we have one in Him – made like unto us and not ashamed to call us His brethren.
All of His stooping and all of His bowing and all of His humiliation and His shame and His tears and His cries and His death were of God, to identify the Lord with us. We can speak to Him, the author says, of our sorrows; He understands. We can carry to Him our griefs; He was grieved. We can carry to Him all of the tears and sobs and sorrows and weepings of life, for He has known them. And ultimately and finally, we can carry to Him the hour of our death, for He suffered death [Hebrews 2:9]. That is a part of the perfection of Christ that is it’s a part of the accomplished mission of Jesus. God mandated it [Hebrews 2:10]. And, He was obedient even unto that death [Philippians 2:8], identifying Himself with us.
Now he speaks here of several things which I haven’t time even to discuss. Every syllable of this is a sermon. He speaks of some things that were wrought for us in this submissiveness, this yieldedness, of God’s Son to shame and disgrace.
Here’s one of them: "That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" [Hebrews 2:9]. One of the results of the suffering of Christ was our redemption, our pardon [1 Peter 1:18-19]. He died that we should not have to die [2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]. He died in our stead and in our place. "The chastisement of our peace is upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed" [Isaiah 53:5]. All of the fury and judgment and wrath of heaven against sin that should have fallen upon me has fallen upon Him, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" [Hebrews 2:9].
Then, another concomitant, another corollary: "He Himself took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, Satan; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" [Hebrews 2:14-15]. The author is speaking of the pagan, Mediterranean, Roman world. And when he speaks of that world, he speaks of the world since and the world before: held in bondage and in the grip of death [Hebrews 2:15].
Now, there are two ways that we fear death. We fear death physically. There is no need to hide the shrinking and the horror of the dissolution of this organization, this physical life. We share it in keeping with all of the other animal world. There is not any animal that, in the face of death, does not shrink, does not run away, does not fear.
But a man has another fear of death. There is a double fear to a man. For to an animal to die, there is nothing but the dissolution of the physical life. But for a man to die, there is an unknown, uncounted, unmet, unnamed mystery: oh, whither and where? "For the sting of death is sin" [1 Corinthians 15:56]. And a man feels: "How can I face the burning glory, the judgment of God?"
A man fears not only the dissolution of this physical life, but he also fears that great mysterious unknown and he himself so frail and so weak and so sinful. How does a man face God beyond the weariness and the shortcoming and the sin and the iniquity of his life? – a double fear of death.
Now, the author says that our Lord, the incarnate Son, took upon Him our flesh and was made like unto us; that through death He might enter the very lair of Satan himself [Hebrews 2:14]. And there where Satan reigns – and could I parenthesis to say here, had Jesus not entered that realm, there would always have been one place, one dominion, one sovereignty, where Satan would forever reign.
Sin, death, corruption, the grave; that’s not of God. That’s of the devil. That’s of Satan. That’s of the wicked one.
And, our Lord, this author says, came from the ramparts of glory to take upon Him our flesh that He might enter the lair of Satan. And, there, face to face, destroy him who reigns over corruption and the tomb and the grave and the sepulcher and the night of this death [Hebrews 2:14]. And, the author says that He has returned from that terrible conflict, face to face with death and the grave – He has returned glorious and triumphant and has delivered us from the fear of death [Hebrews 2:15].
No longer be afraid, no longer. Satan’s bruise [Genesis 3:15] can never be healed, and his power has come to naught [Ephesians 6:16]. And, death now, through Christ, is just the entrance into the glorious life that is yet to come [2 Corinthians 5:8].
Don’t be afraid. Don’t tremble. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be full of care for beyond the parting of the flesh is our Savior, who has preceded us and made a way for His children into the glorious life that is beyond [John 14:3-6].
Now, that’s what the author says has come of the incarnation of the glorious Son of God [Hebrews 2:9]. Now, he turns to the exaltation of our Lord because of His humiliation and His shame and His death: "It became Him" – it became God – "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory [Hebrews 2:10], to crown Jesus with honor and with glory because for us He tasted death" [Hebrews 2:9].
It became God [Hebrews 2:10] – this is a part of the perfection, the completion of our Lord – it became God, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things – he mentions that because he’s just bringing to our minds the infinite resources at God’s hands to honor Christ, all the universe that God has made is at God’s disposal to reward Christ. And, all the hosts of heaven who walk in the heavenly train, they are at God’s disposal to sing the praises of the Lord. It became God greatly to reward our Savior, to crown Him with glory and honor because He was obedient to the mandates of heaven, and He suffered, according to the plan of God [Hebrews 2:9]. As a Son, he bowed. As a Son, he gave filial obedience to the will of God the Father. And because of that, it has become God greatly to honor and to reward Him.
What the author is saying is this: Instead of the shame and the sufferings of Christ hiding the glory of the Son of God, the author says, they are the occasion of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus because they are a reward from God Himself [Hebrews 2:9]. The stigmata that our Lord wears in glory are signs of honor, the nail prints in His hands and the scar in His side.
Then he says: "It became Him, became God . . . to crown Jesus with glory and honor, for through those sufferings and death of our Lord, He brought many sons unto glory [Hebrews 2:9-10]. And it would be unthinkable, this author says, that we should be brought to honor and to glory, all of us who have been saved, and the Savior remain without honor and without glory.
He became poor, that we might be rich [2 Corinthians 8:9]. He suffered death, that we might have life. Therefore, says this author, because He hath done this, He hath tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9]. He has suffered in our behalf. He has died in our stead. Therefore, as the sons of God – all of us who are saved – as we are brought to honor and to glory, it becomes God – it behooves God – therein and thereby, the more abundantly and the more wonderfully to honor Jesus our Lord and our Savior [Hebrews 2:9-10].
When we arrive into heaven and you are perfected – and, you are perfected – and all God’s children are given those glorious things the Lord hath in store for those who love Him and trust Him [1 Corinthians 2:9], the greatest honor, the author says, shall be to Jesus, the captain of our salvation [Hebrews 2:10]. It behooved God, he says, greatly to reward and to honor Christ [Hebrews 2:9].
Now, may I make the same appeal to us as the author made to these Hebrew Christians? If it behooves God, if it behooved our Father in heaven, greatly to honor Jesus, does it not also behoove us to adore and to love and to honor God’s Son and our Savior? Or, shall we reject Him because of His sufferings and His cross?
Oh, I used to hear those old-time preachers talk about that! And, they’d tell such wonderful stories. And I’d sit there in the congregation and listen to the preachers as they talk about that, and many, many, many times, just moved my heart to tears. The sufferings of the Lord: an occasion, not for the hiding of the glory of God, but an occasion for the love of God.
Sometimes they would tell stories like this. He would describe a mother in the home with such a fine, handsome husband and three or four beautiful children and the mother so disfigured and so terrible to look upon. And the man, seeing the scene, would wonder why such a find, handsome husband would marry such a disfigured woman and how those beautiful children loved her so much. And then he’d tell the story of how the little babies were all in the bedroom there, and the house was on fire. And she jeopardized her life and ran into the room and gathered her babies to her heart and came out. And they were all safe and protected, but she herself was so burned and finally so scarred.
And the preachers would tell those stories, you know, and, oh, it would just move my heart to tears. Well, every syllable those old-time preachers were preaching about – every syllable of it was true. Instead of the scars of our Lord, and the sufferings of our Lord, obscuring the divine glory, the author says they ought to make us love Him the more and adore Him the more fully and completely and beautifully. This is God suffering, God loving us, God dying for us, God weeping over us, God identifying Himself with us. This is God in the flesh, our suffering Lord in obedience to God, dying in our stead [Hebrews 2:9-10].
Now, we can just carry that on. If it behooved God, it became God, if it was fitting for God to honor the Son because of His sufferings and His death [Hebrews 2:9-10], does it not behoove us to love the Son, and to honor Jesus, to give Him the devotion of our hearts and the worship of our lives? Does it not behoove us to trust Him, and to exalt Him, and to love Him?
Oh, how ill it behooves us to waste our lives in the world and then, finally, hope to offer unto Him a husk and a carcass and a shell. How ill it behooves us to be indifferent about His worship, and His commission, and His ways, and all of the things that He has given us to do. If it hath behooved God, if it becomes God, greatly to honor and exalt Jesus, how much more does it behoove us, we, us for whom Christ suffered and for whom Christ died? [Hebrews 2:9-10].
Now, because I haven’t time to prepare a sermon, I want to give you another little sermon at the end of this is in just a few sentences: "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]. The author says that there is a purpose in the sufferings of Christ [Hebrews 2:9]. And I have spoken of them briefly this morning.
Now, the little final message, which ought to be a sermon in itself: there is a purpose in your sufferings. God has a plan. These things do not overwhelm us capriciously, adventitiously, inexorably, impersonally. But these things that overwhelm us have a purpose. They have a reason, just like it was the purpose of God that Christ should suffer [Hebrews 2:9-10]. There is a purpose in your life. There is a hand of God in the things that overwhelm you. God has a reason. And to us who are Christians, we pray that God shall reveal it to us. Why the disappointments and the sufferings and the tears? There is a purpose.
As most of you know, last week I was preaching in a revival meeting in West Texas. And Monday morning, one of the men, one of the wonderful men in the church – he’s president of a little insurance company they have out there – asked to come, and we sit together at the coffee shop until time came for the plane to take me back to Dallas.
And while we were seated there in the coffee shop, there was a man with a cane, feeling his way through the lobby, feeling his way through the door, and feeling his way to a chair and sat down over the way. And I had noted his coming. And the president of the insurance company said, "You see that blind man? I’ve heard him pray many, many times. And every time I’ve heard him pray, he thanks God for his blindness."
I said, "Why, man – he thanks God for his blindness?"
"Yes," said the president, "he thanks God for his blindness, for, you see, preacher, when he had his eyes, he was not a Christian. But, in his blindness, he found the Lord. And every time he prays, he thanks God for his blindness, for it was through his blindness that he came to see Jesus."
All of the trials and the troubles and the tribulations of our life have a meaning. They have a purpose. And it is for us, like the filial Son, to bow in submission and in obedience and seek, from God’s revelation and voice, the answer.
Why doth God lead us in this way and along this path? He has some more glorious thing for us, perfected through suffering, for often, to that place and purpose, God hath destined for us through suffering.
I hope we don’t die. I hope we just all go up to meet Jesus in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. But, if He delays His coming, we shall go through that valley. We shall meet the grim monster. We shall be buried. But He went through that valley, and He met that grim monster, and He was buried [Matthew 27:45-60]. And, He came back and said to us: "Do not be afraid. I am with you" [Matthew 28:20] And that’s enough. We don’t need anything else; He is all-adequate.
Now while see sing our song, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord. Somebody you, come into the fellowship of the church. While we sing the song and make the appeal, would you come and stand by me?
In this balcony round, coming down these stairwells, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, would you come and stand by me? To give your heart in faith to Jesus, or to put your life in the fellowship of the church, would you come? Would you make it now? A family, or one you, while we stand and while we sing.
CHRIST PERFECTED THROUGH SUFFERING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. No book can stand the test of sorrow andsuffering as the Bible
B. So this epistle – written to solace the anguish of these Hebrew Christians
1. They are beset by intellectual doubts concerning Christ
a. Paul wrote to them of the exaltation of Christ
b. Then turns to the humiliation, shame and suffering of Christ
C. Shall His sufferings deny our faith in Him as Messiah and Savior?
1. No attempt is made to minimize the sufferings of Christ (Hebrews 2:9-10, 5:7-8)
II. The sufferings of Christ were a part of the plan and purpose of God
A. Teleios – translated "perfect; sinless perfection"
1. Actually means "complete, mature, of full age"(Hebrews 5:13-14, James 1:4, John 4:34, 19:28)
B. In bringing many sons to glory, the path leads through Gethsemane, Calvary and the grave(Hebrews 2:10)
C. He is identified with us(Hebrews 2:11-14, Psalm 18, 22)
D. A purpose in His sufferings
1. Tasted death for every man – our pardon(Hebrews 2:9, Isaiah 53:5)
2. Delivered us from bondage of death(Hebrews 2:14)
III. It became God to exalt the Lord Jesus because of His sufferings(Hebrews 2:9-10)
A. Crowned with glory, honor because He carried out mandate of God
B. Many sons brought to glory through Him
IV. The appeal to us as to these Hebrew Christians
A. Shall the sufferings of Christ cause us to reject Him?
1. Sufferings of Christ are the proudest boast of the gospel
2. Old-time preachers’ stories
B. If it became God thus to honor Christ, what of us!
C. Purpose in our suffering
1. God perfecting us
2. Odessa coffee shop