As Christians, we all take for granted that Jesus Christ, as the only begotten Son of God, was perfect in every way; that he was born that way, lived that way, died that way and was resurrected that way. What then, are we to make of Hebrews 2:10 which clearly tells us that Jesus was to be ‘made’ prefect through suffering?
Let’s look at a couple of Bible versions of Hebrews 2:10 to make sure we get this interpretation correct:
King James Version: “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.”
Modern King James: “For it became Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons into glory, to perfect the Captain of their salvation through sufferings.”
Revised Version: “For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
Easy-to-Read Version: “God – the one who made all things and for whose glory all things exist – wanted many people to be his children and share his glory. So he did what he needed to do. He made perfect the one who leads those people to salvation. He made Jesus a perfect Saviour through his suffering.”
It seems quite clear from these verses Jesus was “made perfect” by God through his sufferings. Does that mean, in other words, if God needed to make Jesus perfect, Jesus could not have been born perfect? Or are we missing something here in this text?
If we now go back to Hebrews 1:1-4, we find a description by the same author which confirms beyond doubt that indeed the preincarnate Son of God was clearly prefect:
“God, who at many times and in many ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds, who being the shining splendour of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the word of His power, through Himself cleansing of our sins, He sat down on the right of the Majesty on high, being made so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
We see here that Jesus was greater than all the prophets; Jesus was the Heir of God of all things; Jesus was He who make all things which are made, including all the worlds which exist. This was the preincarnate Son of God, was who was and is, clearly prefect.
However, the Hebrews 2:10 is not talking about the preincarnate Son of God, but about the Author of our Salvation. This was a role for which Jesus was born into, but the birth and life of Jesus in themselves did not perfected Him for that role. The persecution and the suffering which He suffered were mandatory steps in His preparation as the Author of our Salvation, but it was not until He became incarnate and died for all the sins of humanity, was He perfected, was He made perfect for the role.
Webster’s Dictionary says of ‘perfect’: Finished; complete; consummate; not defective; having all that is requisite to its nature and kind; as a perfect statue; a perfect likeness; a perfect work; a perfect system. Jesus was prefect, or as the original Greek may be directly translated, He was “perfectly perfect,” such that nothing was missing or wanted or needed.
The writer of Hebrews belabours the point of perfection in Christ, such that it is both a recurring theme and an important concept, carried throughout the Book and in each case, he is wanting us to understand that Jesus has brought to both maturity and fulfilment, our Salvation. It is not something which we have done; it is all His work.
Indeed, one may see the Book of Hebrews as being the revelation of the fulfilment of Mosaic ritual and at the same time the fulfilment of the Christian calling. Even although Christ has done everything for us on the cross, and even although we as Christians receive all from Christ when we accept Him, yet there is promise which is not fulfilled until we live out that to which we are called.
As First Corinthians 15:46 says, “But not the spiritual first, but the natural; afterward the spiritual.” Thus it is for us, that this has been demonstrated for us already in the natural, before we can attain it in the spiritual. The person who demonstrated this for us, is of course Jesus Christ.
At His birth, Jesus was declared our Saviour, as in Luke 2:11 we read “For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” Yet He was then but a newborn child, and like all other newborn children, incapable of looking after Himself, let alone being the Saviour of mankind. That was the title He was given at birth, though He was still to earn it and deserve it and make it a reality. As Hebrews 2:18 shows, He soon started to earn His title: “For in that He Himself has suffered, having been tempted, He is able to rescue those who are being tempted.” Step by step Father God prepared His Son for His destiny and calling until at Gethsemane He faced His ultimate test. As Hebrews 5:7 records, “For Jesus, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong cryings and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared, though being a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
As Jesus followed through on the cross, he became as Hebrews 2:10 calls Him the Author, the Captain, the Leader, the Founder of Salvation for His followers. Not until Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary, did He bring the opportunity of eternal life to mankind. Not until Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary did He become perfect as the Author of Salvation for mankind. Before that time He was not perfect for the role of the Author of Salvation. Yes He had all the attributes, but it was not until, as Philippians 2:8 says, that “being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” that He achieve perfection for His role.
Let us make this clear, what we see here is not a case of moral perfection, which Hebrews 1:1-4 had already declared was true, but a functional perfection, for a role which Jesus went on to earn. This particular role was that of Saviour and His function, was salvation of mankind.
We can therefore see that in Hebrews 2:10 the ‘perfection’ which the author of Hebrews is referring to, is that which could only be achieved, by the death of Jesus.