Made Perfect Through Sufferings—Eh, What?

One of the most astounding verses in the Bible—and there are plenty of eye-poppers—is Hebrews 2:10.


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.  KJV


The word “perfect” is a bit of a poser.  Nowadays the definition that springs most readily to mind is “without flaw.”  Perfection is seen as a hypothetical state, like some kind of Platonic form.  Strangely, the word seems to have acquired a bad connotation, bringing to mind uptight control freaks who are never satisfied.


Gentle reader, it was not always so.  When the word entered the English language in the thirteenth century (from the Latin perfectus, ptp of perficere, meaning “to finish, bring to completion”), it meant “complete, mature.”  This definition is still evident today, though not so much as the other; we see it in grammatical terms such as “past perfect” and in musical terms such as “perfect octave.”  The framers of the Constitution had this definition in mind when speaking of “a more perfect union.”


But either definition is astounding in this Scripture.  How is it possible for Jesus to be made perfect?  He is faultless and complete, without any experience making him so.  Right?  How can suffering make him complete?


Well, he was already complete in that he lacked no virtue.  But the perfection spoken of here is not a perfection of character, but of experience.  Prior to the incarnation, Jesus never had to demonstrate patience in suffering, because he didn’t have to.  Being sinless, he’d never suffered chastisement.  What’s really special about the incarnation is that it made a way for him to suffer while remaining sinless; and in so doing, he, the captain of our salvation, made a copyhead for us to follow.



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