Some Thoughts on Hebrews – Perfection and Recovering Addicts

I always find it exciting when my reading for EBC overlaps with things that my wife is learning about. That happened this week as I was reading through George Guthrie’s commentary on Hebrews. As I was studying Hebrews and what Guthrie had to say about Hebrews 5:8-9, I was struck by one of Guthrie’s examples, the one about addicts and recovery…

Hebrews 5:8-9 teaches that Christ learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, Christ became the source of eternal salvation….

A sloppy reading of this verse results in some big problems…. “What! Christ learned obedience? Was he not obedient before? What! Christ was made perfect? Was he not perfect all along?”

Some people argue that Christ need to share in our moral imperfections, or else how could he represent us as a high priest? My wife was put in an analogous situation this week… You see, my wife works with a alcohol and drug recovery program; this week somebody told her that you can’t help people through recovery unless you yourself are in recovery. She was really struck by this statement because she had never had to go through a recovery process – she has never been an alcoholic or drug addict. As she was sharing this with me I was able to show her that Christ, though being sinless, can still help us, sympathize with us, and represent us as our high priest. He didn’t need to be a sinner to help us (in fact if he were a sinner he would be of no help to us!). My wife doesn’t need to be a recovering addict to help addicts either!

Having read this passage though I can see where the confusion lies. Our understanding of the word “perfect” is tinged with moral perfection rather than a “teleological” sense. In other words, this passage refers more to the concept of “finishing” or being made “complete” rather than “becoming even more morally upright.” In other words, this verse refers to how Jesus finished the course…

This is the same thing we are called to do – we are called to finish the course. Thankfully Jesus helps us persevere and finish strong.

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