Luke writes in Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” He also speaks of being made perfect with the saints that went before us in Hebrews 11:40. Hebrews 10:14 can be a very confusing verse. How can we be perfected yet still be in the process of being sanctified?
The ESV Study Bible’s notes say, “Perfected for all time does not mean that believers are now already sinless, but that Christ has fully earned their perfection. which will certainly be applied to Christians in God’s good time. The eternal perfection (see 11:40, 12:23) of the saints stems from the once-for-all-nature of Jesus’ sacrifice. Hence, believers look to Christ and not to themselves for a cleansed conscious, full forgiveness of sins, and total flawlessness in the future.” As for those who are being sanctified or being made holy it says, “The Greek present participle allows for the idea of progressive sanctification in this life and/or present positional sanctification of the believer as one who from the start is deemed perfectly holy.”
Now, I think that to begin to truly comprehend and get a decent grasp on what it means to be made perfect we must go to Hebrews 2:10 which says, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The Founder of our salvation is Christ Jesus. If He, Himself, was made perfect through suffering, not that he was sinful, but that He fully obeyed then shouldn’t we expect as His followers, whom He is sanctifying, to suffer? Shouldn’t we expect to endure things that will cause us to suffer in some sort of fashion? Isn’t suffering a bi-product of being made perfect and holy?
James writes in his epistle, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
But I also love how St. Paul says it in Romans 5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
We all have sufferings and burdens to bear. Christ Himself has called us to bear our crosses.
There’s a connection between the suffering and the sanctifying.
When we endure trials, sufferings, and tribulations we can identify with the One who was perfected by suffering on the Cross.
Maybe, too often, we look at our suffering as something bad, just another part of fallen humanity.
But maybe, perhaps, suffering is a sacrament………
That suggestion may be ludicrous, but perhaps there’s truth in the pain.
The Catholics call a sacrament “a rite in which God is uniquely active”.
The Anglican Book of Common Prayer speaks of sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace”.
If suffering brings about our perfection and sanctification then isn’t that a sign of something holy taking place within us. Yes, suffering is usually the external things of life, but that outward suffering leads to a inwardly perfecting of who we are in Christ.
Suffering is a sacrament.
We are suffering like the Founder of our faith suffered. We, by our suffering, are being spurred on towards sanctification and holiness.
Christ death brought upon us the inward and invisible Grace of which The Book of Common Prayer speaks.
They all tie together. It’s by that grace that we are allowed to be perfected and made holy. And by that suffering we are spurred on toward refinement in Christ.
It is in suffering that grace is most active….
The activeness of grace brings about holiness and perfection.
I think this poem by an unknown author says it all:
The Lord came to me like a dream one day and asked, “Why do you sorrow?”
I answered, “Lord, my life is so full of pain, I can’t face one more tomorrow.”
The Lord sat down beside me, and gently took my hand.
He said, “Let me explain to you and then you’ll understand.
Each sorrow is a stepping stone you must surmount each day,
And every stepping stone you climb is a sorrow that’s passed away.
The road of life is a mountainside, with crevices in which to be caught,
But as you struggle on your way, I, the Rock, will lend support.
Every stepping stone you climb, makes spirit and heart grow strong.
Exercising character and faith this road seems painful and long.
The way is paved with stepping stones, to uplift your heart and soul,
Though difficult, they aid your way, to a City paved with gold.
I know that you are tired, for I too have walked this way,
My sorrows did they multiply, but I cleared the stones away.
I left my rock to lift you up, I left behind my story.
To give you strength to make your climb, to that special place in glory.
And never fear, the Rock is here, You’ll never climb alone
Surmount life’s sorrows, continue on, For they are but stepping stones.
If you are currently involved with a trial or time of suffering, take heart from the words of our dear brother Saint Paul:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.”
Move forward knowing that our Lord, The Suffering Servant, fulfilled His complete perfection through His suffering.
May we always seek to count it all joy in hard times and know that it makes us perfect and complete…