Jesus Learned Obedience image

Jesus Learned Obedience

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Hebrews 5:8 says of Jesus: "Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." It's a puzzling text, because it sounds like it means that Jesus did not know how to obey until he started suffering. It sounds like Jesus was naturally disobedient, like we are, until the experience of the incarnation—and particularly the passion—taught him obedience.

But this is to misunderstand the word “through.” It is to read the word as if it means “by means of,” when in this context it surely means “in the midst of.” That is, Hebrews 5:8 does not mean “Jesus learned how to obey by means of his suffering,” but rather, “Jesus learned what obedience looked like in the midst of his suffering.” Here’s John Piper in The Passion of Jesus Christ:

... it doesn’t mean that he learned to stop disobeying. It means that with each new trial he learned in practice—and in pain—what it means to obey. When it says that he was “made perfect through suffering,” it doesn’t mean that he was gradually getting rid of defects. It means that he was gradually fulfilling the perfect righteousness that he had to have in order to save us ... If the Son of God had gone from incarnation to the cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and his love, he would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man.

Amen.

 

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