10. (a) How do we know Jesus’ sufferings were intensely real? (b) What objective was gained because of passing the supreme test?
10 Having traced the outline of Paul’s argument thus far, and appreciating some of its fine points, let us look once more at his words recorded at Hebrews 5:8-10. Just previously he reminds us that Jesus’ sufferings were intensely real, that he “offered up supplications and also petitions to the one [God] who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears.” Yes, it was indeed a superhuman test. Then comes the key statement: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” Continuing, the first reason is given for this trialsome course: “Because he has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” He was now fully qualified.
11. How is obedience stressed at Hebrews 5:9, also when Jesus gave his commission to his followers?
11 Notice the emphasis laid on obedience. Not only did Jesus have to learn and prove his own obedience, but he is responsible for salvation only “to all those obeying him,” not just trusting him. Only those learning obedience under test, involving suffering, gain the blessing of obedience, eternal salvation.
12. (a) What fundamental principle highlights the importance of obedience? (b) In the light of God’s Word, how searching is the test of obedience?
12 We come now to the consideration of those leading questions: How did Jesus learn obedience? and how was he thereby made perfect? The question of obedience involves a fundamental principle, or truth, that applies, not only to Jesus and those making up Abraham’s seed, but to all God’s intelligent creatures. That great truth lies in the fact of Jehovah’s rightful and righteous universal sovereignty over all his creatures. All must prove their full recognition of this by proving obedient under whatever test Jehovah provides or allows. The first test was made in Eden. The final test comes after the thousand-year reign of Christ. (Rev. 20:7-10) In each case the Bible shows this test cannot be treated lightly, that no one can take for granted that he will succeed. The test is real, revealing the heart attitude prompting the obedience or disobedience to Jehovah’s expressed will. Are you willing to accede to Jehovah’s sovereignty over you, without qualification, over your heart and mind and your whole life?
13. In what two senses is perfection spoken of in the Bible and in everyday use?
13 Before further discussing obedience, let us consider the question of perfection. To understand this properly, we must first realize that both in the Bible and everyday speech, perfection is spoken of in two senses. (1) When we say something is perfect we sometimes mean it is entirely flawless and cannot go wrong. It is fully developed, the finished article. That would be perfection in the absolute and final sense. Primarily, this is true of Jehovah. The Bible says of him: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deut. 32:4) (2) Perfection, however, is often used and spoken of in a relative or limited sense, limited to a certain sphere and not going beyond that. A synthetically produced commercial diamond, for instance, is perfect for use in an electric drill, but not, please note, for an engagement ring.
14. (a) How did Eve come to miss the mark of perfection, leading to what question? (b) What special quality and ability were given man, thus magnifying God’s purpose regarding man?
14 In this connection, take the Bible example of Adam and Eve where obedience also comes into the picture. The man was perfect in a relative sense in his own sphere, perfectly fitted to exercise headship in carrying out the Creator’s purpose regarding the earth and his immediate family. The woman, in her sphere, was perfectly suited for being a mother and an ideal companion for her husband. But all too soon she went wrong. She sinned, that is, she missed the mark of perfection. How? She went beyond her God-given assignment and tried to assume her husband’s God-given quality and acted as her own head. She proved disobedient to her husband and to her Creator. Still, the age-old question crops up, How could they possibly have sinned, seemingly so quickly and easily, if they were really perfect? Well, do not forget that other marvelous quality they each enjoyed in perfection, namely, a perfectly free mind and will, the ability to think and reason things out, each along one’s own lines if one chose to do so, reaching one’s own conclusions and making one’s own decisions. They had perfect freedom of choice. In fact, if it had been that they lacked the ability to be either obedient or disobedient, having no choice, then they would have been imperfect from God’s viewpoint. Please note that God’s purpose is to have this earth filled, not just with obedient men and women, but with men and women who have passed the test as to their voluntary and deep-rooted devotion and loyalty to him in acknowledgment of his rightful sovereignty. He does not desire from any one of us an automatic, mechanical, matter-of-course or enforced worship and service. Rather, he desires a reasoned-out, willing service, springing spontaneously from a loving heart.
15. (a) How does the Bible explain the operation of sin from its inception? (b) How should freedom of choice be viewed and treasured?
15 So, then, man’s fall from perfection resulted from his bringing wrong thoughts into his mind. First Eve and then Adam of their own free choice meditated long enough on what was wrong so that it took root and motivated them to bad action. This is exactly as the Bible says: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire [that is, he chooses to make it his own desire, though, as with Eve, it may not be his own to begin with]. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) This principle holds true for all, whether perfect or imperfect. If we said that a perfect man could not go wrong, then we would have to say that an imperfect man could not maintain a right course, especially under pressure. Yet today we see that many imperfect creatures do stick to a right course in obeying God, even if it means suffering; whereas others deliberately pursue or abandon themselves to a wrong course. It is good to realize that the choice is set before us just as when God said to the children of Israel: “See . . . I have put life and death before you . . . and you must choose.” (Deut. 30:15, 19) Being imperfect did not stop them from choosing, did it? Getting it clear in our mind concerning perfection and obedience helps and encourages us to get the right view as to our responsibility and the privileges open to every one of us. Granted, we are imperfect, but to a large extent, even after six thousand years of sin and imperfection, we still have freedom of choice as to how we think and how we decide. This freedom of mind and will is a precious gift and carries with it a big responsibility. We should pay more than the usual attention as to how we use it.
16. (a) When on earth and before, how was Jesus perfect in a relative sense? (b) What high office was to be given him, demanding what qualities?
16 These same things apply in the case of Jesus. See how perfection in a relative or limited sense was true of him. When born here on earth, he was a perfect baby, but no more than a baby. When at the age of twelve he questioned those teachers at the temple, he was a perfect boy, but no more than a boy. (Luke 2:41-52) Similarly, in his prehuman existence, he was perfect as God’s “master worker” (Prov. 8:30), but God had in mind a much higher position for him, one demanding assured qualities in a superlative degree of proved perfection and trustworthiness and maturity. So before reaching this high office of being king and high priest, it was fitting that God’s Son should undergo the required development, the necessary training and education, the necessary disciplining and testing, in order to perfect him for his high office beyond any possibility of failure.
17. How was Jesus’ obedience crucially tested when on earth?
17 The matter of obedience also comes into the picture. True, Jesus had always been obedient before coming to earth, but his obedience had never been put to a severe test. When in conflict with spirit creatures, the ‘prince of Persia’ in Daniel’s time, also earlier with Satan himself over the body of Moses, he was not then subject to those opposers. (Dan. 10:13; Jude 9) He did not have to pay a high price for being obedient. But when he came to earth and began his ministry, his field service, it was altogether different, was it not? From Jordan to Calvary he was continually put to the test, involving much suffering. After a direct encounter with the Devil in the wilderness, there were all those hostile religious pressure groups continually at him and after him until they finally got him. Yes, he went through the mill, as we say, “with strong outcries and tears.” It was a terrible ordeal. Finally, he was crushed to death between the upper and lower millstones of those pressure groups and of Rome. However, he was not crushed or broken in spirit, or in his integrity and perfect obedience to his heavenly Father.—Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 5:7.
18. From all that he suffered and endured, what blessings did Jesus gain for himself, and what benefits for others?
18 Jesus always had faith, but now it had the tested quality. He was always true as steel, denoting loyalty and constancy, but now it was tempered steel, tempered by fire. Thus we can more fully appreciate why it was necessary for Jesus to learn by actual experience what it meant to be obedient under extreme adversity and suffering. Primarily, it was in view of the unique position ahead of him at God’s right hand, all things being put in subjection to him. Additionally, we realize that by enduring such a course faithfully he was thereby made perfect in a much wider and deeper sense than ever before. He was now fully qualified as high priest to come to our aid and give help at the right time, thus becoming responsible for the ultimate salvation, first for the many obedient sons who are to share with him in his heavenly throne, also for the many others of humanity for whom he tasted death.