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 (NIV)

Meditating on Scripture is a wonderful thing! As I read through Hebrews, I am asking God to highlight themes, verses and truths that He wants me to notice. So in reading Hebrews chapter 2 today, I got stuck on verse 10. The NIV translation says that Jesus was made “perfect through suffering.” Well, that begs the question:

Was Jesus not perfect before He suffered on earth?

That messes with my theology a bit because God is perfect and Jesus is and always has been fully God. In fact in this verse, it describes God as being the One “for whom and through whom everything exists,” yet we read in chapter 1 that the universe was made through Jesus (v2) and that He sustains it by His powerful Word (v3). Further, in John 10:30, Jesus says “I and the Father are one.” More subtly (to us 21st century Christians anyway), Jesus proved over and over again that He was God by forgiving sins. Such actions were anything but subtle to the Jews in Jesus’ time. They understood that only God could forgive sins. Every time Jesus said “your sins are forgiven” he was making a very loud and clear statement to the Jews that He was God. (See Matthew 9:2-6 for a great example of this.)

So Jesus was perfect before He suffered on earth, yet Hebrews 2:10 tells us that he was made perfect through suffering. I read the verse in many different translations and I read it in context (i.e., reading through the entire passage and fitting it with the passages around it). I then read several commentaries to see what they thought of the verse. I learned some things – they added to my head knowledge, but didn’t satisfy my spirit. Few commentaries even addressed verse 10.

So I laid the passage aside and read a couple of chapters of 2 Samuel (following our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule). I then went back to the passage in Hebrews. Still nothing. So I agreed with God that I would meditate on the passage – mull it over and over in my mind, examining it from many different angles, letting it settle in my mind, heart and spirit – all the while asking God to help me understand it – to bring revelation to me about this passage.

And He did just that! Sometimes we need to meditate on a verse for days, weeks, or even months or years before we gain insight into it. Today’s revelation came very quickly. (Thank You, Lord!) God brought to mind notes I had made from my husband’s sermon at a local nursing home just a few days ago. He was talking about the purpose of suffering and explained that suffering is both our punishment for sin and a byproduct or consequence of sin.

You know the story about what happened in the Garden. Eve violated God’s only command and ate the fruit and gave some to Adam who was standing beside her. Through their rebellion, sin entered the world. Later in the day, God was walking in the garden. That’s where I’ll pick up an abbreviated version of the story.

11“…the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten the fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

12“Yes,” Adam admitted, “but it was the woman you gave me …”

13Then the LORD God asked the woman, “How could you do such a thing?”

“The serpent tricked me,” she replied. “That’s why….”

14So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you will be punished. You are singled out from all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth to be cursed. You will grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly….”

16Then he said to the woman, “You will bear children with intense pain and suffering…”

17And to Adam he said, “…I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return.”
Genesis 3:11b-19 (NLT)

Adam’s punishment was that what had been a joy in his life – tending the beautiful, growing garden – would now become work, and hard work at that. And the beautiful garden was now a cursed place that would grow thorns and thistles. Both the people and the land (and everything dependent on the land) would now suffer. Suffering became both a punishment for Adam and Eve (and all their descendants) and a consequence of their sin as the entire earth was subjected to the curse.

Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse.
Romans 8:20

With that in your mind, let’s go back to Hebrews 2:10:

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 (NIV)

Jesus, as the author of our salvation, was made perfect – or complete through the suffering He experienced. We often say that Jesus paid the price for our sin. The price, the penalty for that sin could not be paid in full without experiencing the suffering that is both the punishment and the consequence of that sin. God could not have laid all the sin of the world upon His Son without Jesus experiencing the suffering that the sin caused. Christ was not “made perfect” through suffering, but His sacrifice was made complete through suffering; His authorship of our salvation was completed.

Imagine – imagine – the sinless one willingly experiencing the suffering that results from your sin so that he could author your salvation. That’s what He did and that’s why the new covenant is superior to the old covenant. Jesus’ suffering made His sacrifice complete. Without the suffering, there would be no salvation for you and me. I’m sorry, so very sorry, that Christ suffered because of my actions. But I’m oh, so very glad He willingly did. Another reason that Jesus is greater…than all.

3 Responses to “Jesus Made Perfect Through Suffering – Say What?”
  1. Very nice post! I was planning to address a similar question about Hebrews 5:5-9 on

    In general, before I post, I like to do what you have described above. I read and reread the passage in context. When that doesn’t help, I broaden the context and read it again. I wait a few days to see if something occurs to me later that I might have missed. I search the web to see if anyone else has a solution I might not have thought of (that’s how I came upon your post – when searching on “Hebrews Jesus made perfect”). Then – FINALLY – I’ll raise the question in a post.

    The end of your post sounds like you found an explanation from Rom 8 that you are comfortable with, but I wasn’t able to understand what that explanation was or how it applies to Heb 2. You say that Jesus was “complete through the suffering” but that doesn’t get me any further in my attempt to reconcile Heb 2:10. In whatever way Jesus’s suffering made Him “perfect”, Jesus was imperfect in some way before His suffering – there was something that suffering could improve. Something that is perfect already cannot be made any more perfect. Something that is perfect cannot be improved. And as you already point out, “Fully God” should be perfect.

    Could you clarify how you reconciled Heb 2:10 with your general understanding about Jesus? How did Rom 8 help you understand Heb 2 in a different way?

  2. Sandy says:

    Thank you, for your response & desire to understand what Scripture teaches. I certainly don’t claim to know all Truth, but will share what I understand.

    My point with Romans 8 was that all of creation has been subjected to the curse that resulted from Adam & Eve’s rebellion against God. What had been perfect now included hardship and suffering. Without experiencing that suffering, Jesus’ life on earth would not be “complete.” He, in Himself, has always been perfect. But He didn’t have the experience of suffering. For His experience here to be “perfect” – in the sense of a full experience, not as in qualitatively or “without blemish” perfect, but experientially complete – He also had to experience suffering. Christ’s sacrifice was made the perfect or complete sacrifice because He also experienced the suffering associated with the sin He paid the penalty for.

    Hope that’s a better explanation. Blessings as you study Scripture!

  3. Now I see what you meant. Thanks for explaining! What do you think about the part in Heb 5:8 where Jesus had to learn? That seems to provide some additional context to Heb 5:9 where Jesus was made perfect.

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter