The Way Christ Became the Author of Eternal Salvation (vv. 7-8)
Through His Endurance of Deepest Humiliation
Since the glory of God in salvation and our entire peace of conscience and power unto godliness depend upon clear and right views of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the apostle surveys his priestly work from every possible angle. We cannot exhaust his fullness, and all the danger is on the other side – not making too much of him, but too little. Our fears and frustrations that tempt us to turn from him or make our hearts cold toward him are nothing more than a failure to set our minds and affections upon his glory. As our Head, he endured the cross before he obtained the crown. “In the days of his flesh” reminds us of how low he descended, even into the depths of our hell, in order to rescue us. Our salvation required the Son of God to take upon himself a true and complete human nature! His wonderful condescension set the angels to singing, but it was an ugly humiliation he willingly endured because of our wickedness. There was nothing outwardly beautiful about him. The prophet foretold that men would hide their faces from him, which in fact happened (Isa. 53:3). None was ever as despised or disfigured as he was. And yet, he assumed our flesh and lived days of weakness in order to raise us up and be our compassionate and merciful high priest (2:17). All our Redeemer’s tears and trials ever tended toward this end – that by bearing our sorrows and being tempted in all ways as we are, he might sympathize with us and overcome sin and death for us by his vicarious sufferings on the cross.
His entire life was an offering up to God. The idea is liturgical and supports the Spirit’s overarching theme of Christ’s priesthood. Even in his lowliness, our Savior was bearing as a faithful priest the sins and weaknesses of his people. We thus find that he prayed constantly to his Father, sometimes all night (Luke 6:12). This is so well-known as to need no long commentary, except that his faithfulness is one of the greatest encouragements to persevere and hold fast to him. If Jesus offered up prayers and supplications in the days of his flesh, much more is he bearing us up from his exalted position at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 7:25)? He knows what our days of flesh are like. Is there not often so much coming and going that we feel stretched and torn one way then another? Do not disappointments make us lose our way and our hope? Then, let but a small temptation arise suddenly, but we are unable to throw it off or turn away because we are so otherwise busy or tired or despairing. We allow life’s troubles to hide our Father’s loving face behind clouds of frustration and guilt. To make matters worse, we do not call upon our Father or ask for his promised Spirit to help and guide us. Jesus knows our sin and weakness. He lived in the days of flesh. His days were often marked by tears and sadness and pain. Have you faced loss and felt the pinch of hunger or at least uncertainty as to how the Lord would provide? Our Savior lived with poverty and suffering. Tears were his daily food (Ps. 42:3). And yet, “The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Ps. 34:6).
Gethsemane must be chiefly intended here, for the “strong crying and tears” were vehemently offered in that hour of engulfing darkness. A bitter cup stood starkly before him. He was not yet at the cross, which presented its horrors to his waking eyes. The cup was in part his anticipation of those horrors – of being judicially forsaken by his Father; of the HOLY ONE becoming sin for us; of the sword of divine justice striking down the Beloved of the Father; of his being crushed, making his soul an offering for sin; of the wrath of God against sin being poured out upon him as the Lamb of God, the scapegoat, the burnt offering for sin. The thought of these things – and as the Son of God he felt them acutely and personally, for his holiness also was offended by man’s sin; his justice as God must also be satisfied. As the righteous Judge, he cannot clear and declare sinners to be righteous before his tribunal unless not a single charge can be raised against them but a positive righteousness be possessed by them. It is no wonder that he cast himself upon the ground, begging for the cup to pass from him – he would not have had a true human nature otherwise. He would have been a senseless and unworthy sacrifice otherwise.
It is only in light of our Savior’s knowledge of what his death actually was that his strong cries and tears can be seen for what they are – our Savior looking into the abyss of hell into which he is about to descend for us. It was no natural fear of death that gripped him in that hour. What kind of Savior, what kind of man would he be if he went to his death with less courage and calmness than other martyrs and soldiers? But his was no natural death. It was not merely laying down one’s life for his friend, as a soldier might nobly do upon the battlefield or a father might for his family when facing a domestic intruder. Many have willingly taken bullets and spears and cannon fire in their face without regret or tear. It is a wondrous thing that as strong as self-preservation can be, stronger yet can be others-preservation.
Our Savior faced a different kind of death. His death was that of a substitute sacrifice for sinners. He took our judgment upon himself. Not one less stroke than justice required he had to endure. For his Bride to be saved and secured, divine justice could not have a smidgeon of a claim against her. All must be paid, paid in full, paid personally as if the sinner himself had received the full tally of God’s wrath against sin and sinners. And he faced all this as the HOLY ONE, the BELOVED of the Father. None can feel his revulsion or truly hear his primal screams for deliverance unless he senses something of the Son’s love for his Father, the God-man’s love for the Father and that his whole life was lived under his smile and favor and approbation. Yet, he must be turned inside out and be consumed under the justice of God. In our flesh, he had to receive our full and eternal hell in himself. It was more than he could bear. He was willing to bear it – “Thy will be done” – but was there no other way – “Father, if possible?” No, the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Still, the cup almost killed him, and angels were sent to revive him.
All David’s prayers are now seen in their true light – “This poor man cried” (Ps. 34:6). “The sorrows of death prevented me; the sorrows of hell compassed me” (Ps. 18:4-5). “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Ps. 22:1)? And he was heard. It may not seem that he was heard, which here implies “delivered,” for he had to go through the cross. But he was heard about that which he feared, or concerning his fears. This word has troubled expositors, for it often means godly fear or piety, but the governing preposition means “from” or “about” something. Our Savior’s strong cries and tears were evidently reflected of a fearful state of his soul – not unbelieving fear but a sane sense of the magnitude of the cross facing him. He drank the cup and endured the cross willingly and truly feeling the depths of our woe and judgment. The Father heard his cries, which he made in Gethsemane and again “from the horns of the unicorns,” as he was being skewered by men and pierced by the sword of God’s justice (Ps. 22:21). He was strengthened and delivered. “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4). “Thou will show me the path of life” (Ps. 16:10-11). He rose from his cries and tears with bold determination and beautiful meekness to do his Father’s will. He would make the final and full offering for us before his Father’s throne, make atonement for us there, his holy blood covering our filth.
Through His Learning Obedience unto Death
In this way, he “learned obedience through his sufferings.” Clearly, this was as the Son – “although he was Son” – the Son of God. He was also the Son of man, the mediator appointed by his Father. It is not that he learned to obey, for this was always his delight. He came into the world saying, “I delight to do thy will; and thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:7-8). It is more that he learned what obedience was, what our disobedience cost him and us, what his obedience would require of him in order to obtain our redemption. His was no theoretical obedience or that he simply passed through these scenes without feeling or fear. Behold his tears and the pallor of death that descended upon him in the Garden; hear his prayers for deliverance. His compassion and mercy toward us and his acceptability before the Father as the true and sufficient burnt offering, absolutely required that he give an active obedience, a personal obedience, a feeling obedience, an “obedience unto death” (Phil. 2:8). We disobeyed in life; the Captain of our salvation must obey unto death, while standing in the crosshairs of our judgment and receiving the fires of our hell upon the cross.
It was through his sufferings that he learned what obedience truly was. It is no small aside to remember that the condition of God’s favor and fellowship is perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience. He is the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God, and he has never lowered these claims. What hope do we have of ever possessing such an obedience? Jesus Christ. He gave obedience in the lowest humiliation, deepest shame, and greatest pain of judicial separation from his Father. While suffering – what a contrast to Adam’s disobedience in pristine Eden! – feeling all the pressures of becoming sin for us, of the holy burdened beyond endurance with the unholy, he obeyed. He yielded to his Father when it mattered most, when it cost him most. This, child of God, is the righteousness that is imputed to us when by faith we embrace Jesus Christ. It is a blood-stained obedience, stained with his precious blood that is worth more than all the worlds and men who ever lived. Silence the turbulent ravings of your conscience here, for they can be silenced nowhere else. Look upon the obedient Lamb of God yielding to the Father while suffering the most horrible torments of mind and body. God offers you his Son, his Son’s obedience unto death. Never has there been a more precious gift. It is the pearl of great price. It is the obedience of the Redeemer sanctified beyond all measure by his tears and groans and “Thy will be done.” “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
Through His Becoming Consecrated
And thus he became perfected (teleio,w), which here carries the sense of consecrated, as the word sometimes does in liturgical and priestly contexts. Our Savior became perfectly suited to be our GREAT HIGH PRIEST by his obedience unto death. All his tears sanctify his sufferings and enable him to enter fully into our grief and sorrows. Having drunk fully the cup of divine justice against sin and sinners, and then rising from the death in triumph over them, he is fully able to make intercession for transgressors. He is completely set apart and worthy and able to bring us to God and to settle our souls in obedience by the power of his indwelling Spirit. Thus, in every way, our Savior “became perfect.” He did all that the Father required of him. He obtained our eternal redemption (Heb. 10:12). He now anchors our souls within the presence of God. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He can do this because IT IS FINISHED: he has brought in everlasting righteousness, made an end to transgression, and sealed the everlasting covenant through his blood. Because of him, “No one can bring a charge against God’s elect.”
The Significance of Christ’s Eternal Salvation (vv. 9-10)
He is now the Author of everlasting salvation. This is because he alone has accomplished salvation for sinners. Death could not hold him; he had to rise, for he had power to lay down his life and to take it up again (John 10:18). He alone is the Author of salvation. There is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12). He alone has revealed the Father. He alone has removed our transgressions by bearing them away through his obedience unto death. He has satisfied every claim of God’s justice against us. The salvation he has obtained for us is eternal. No more blood needs to be shed. We are secured forever by his obedience and sufferings. He will lose none of his. Do you think that if he lost none in Gethsemane, none at the cross, that he will lose any in life? He is now exalted above the heavens, the song of worshipping angels and the church victorious. He has all power and authority in heaven and earth; no one else has any power. His people have nothing to fear from the hosts of hell and the threats of men. Look at the Lamb of God. See him surrounded with fiery angels and chariots, all racing about the universe to do his will. Adore him; enlist immediately under his banner and find your life in him. The world is not what we think it is. We have nothing to fear from men, but this courage comes only when we look away from men and look upon our glorious Savior. And remember that as high as he is, he has not forgotten his tears, groans, bloody sweat, and sufferings on Calvary. He endured these to sympathize with us that he might come to our aid with compassion and power. If we doubt, remember that God called him to this office – high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek – our great King-Priest (v. 10).
The Ones Who Partake of Christ’s Eternal Salvation (v. 9)
Are our amazed rejoicings quenched in any way by “to those that obey him?” Admittedly, we might expect to find “to those that believe him.” Faith is certainly included, but these believers needed to hear about the fruit of faith – as chapter 11 will make abundantly clear. Christ is not ours by a bare profession; he is ours by an obedient and fruitful profession. This by no means implied, as the fear-mongers within the church are always screaming, that obedience is meritorious and should not even be mentioned because it is almost certain to be misunderstood. Not if we follow the plain statements of Scripture: the love of God is to keep his commandments (1 John 5:3). Jesus placed our obedience not upon a foundation of merit or guilt but upon the firm foundation of a personal favor to him – “You have done it unto me.” “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “Do you love me? Feed my lambs.” Obedience is the fruit of saving faith because it is the reflex of true love for Christ, his own love for the Father expressed through obedience being worked in us by the Spirit of holiness (John 15:9-11).
His name is Jesus. Remember what our salvation cost him. He will save us from our sins. We have a weak and half-Savior today because we have a half-understanding of man, virtually no sense of sin, and therefore little conviction leading to repentance. Sin is disobedience to God’s law. Jesus delivers us from being disobedient rebels to being God’s obedient friends. He will make his Bride holy as he is. She will learn the same obedience as her delightful way of life as he learned in order to obtain everlasting salvation for us. Let us not shy away from this. Jesus’ true friends are those who obey him (Luke 6:46). Lawless believers are his false friends (Matt. 7:21-23). If we adore him for his cries and groaning in Gethsemane, for his obedience unto death, for making his soul an offering for sin, obedience to him will hardly seem obedience. Looking upon him, we shall not think our love to be love at all (Matt. 25:37-40). He is all the wonder, all the glory, all the joy. No attention to ourselves, no drawing back in fear – only, that I may know him. I will not offer to my Lord that which cost me nothing. I am nothing, but he possesses all things. I am full of sin, but he is full of mercy and grace. Hallelujah, what a Savior!