There is perhaps no part of God's word which sheds such Divine light upon suffering as the Epistle to the Hebrews. It does this because it teaches us what suffering was to the Son of God. It perfected His humanity. It so fitted Him for His work as the Compassionate High Priest. It proved that He, who had fulfilled God's will in suffering obedience, was indeed worthy to be its executor in glory, and to sit down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. 'It became God, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.' 'Though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered, and having been made perfect, became the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.' As He said Himself of His suffering, 'I sanctify myself,' so we see here that His sufferings were indeed to Him the pathway to perfection and holiness.
What Christ was and won was all for us. The power which suffering was proved to have in Him to work out perfection, the power which He imparted to it in sanctifying Himself through suffering, is the power of the new life that comes from Him to us. In the light of His example we can see, in the faith of His power we too can prove, that suffering is to God's child the token of the Father's love, and the channel of His richest blessing. To such faith the apparent mystery of suffering is seen to be nothing but a Divine need -- the light affliction that works out -- yea, works out and actually effects the exceeding weight of glory. We agree not only to what is written, 'It became Him to make the Author of salvation perfect through suffering,' but understand somewhat how Divinely becoming and meet it is that we too should be sanctified by suffering.
'He chasteneth us for our profit, that we should be made partakers of His holiness.' Of all the precious words Holy Scripture has for the sorrowful, there is hardly one that leads us more directly and more deeply into the fulness of blessing that suffering is meant to bring. It is His Holiness, God's own Holiness, we are to be made partakers of. The Epistle had spoken very clearly of our sanctification from its Divine side, as wrought out for us, and to be wrought in us, by Jesus Himself. 'He which sanctifieth and they which are sanctified are all of one.' 'We have been sanctified by the one offering of Christ.' In our text we have the other side, the progressive work by which we are personally to accept and voluntarily to appropriate this Divine Holiness. In view of all there is in us that is at variance with God's will, and that must be discovered and broken down, before we understand what it is to give up our will and delight in God's; in view of the personal fellowship of suffering which alone can lead to the full appreciation of what Jesus bore and did for us; in view, too, of the full personal entrance into and satisfaction with the love of God as our sufficient portion; chastisement and suffering are indispensable elements in God's work of making holy. In these three aspects we shall see how what the Son needed is what we need, how what was of such unspeakable value to the Son will to us be no less rich in blessing.
Chastisement leads to the acceptance of God's will. We have seen how God's will is our sanctification; how it is in the will of God Christ has sanctified us; yea more, how He found the power to sanctify us in sanctifying Himself by the entire surrender of His will to God. His 'I delight to do Thy will' derived its worth from His continual 'Not my will.' And wherever God comes with chastisement or suffering, the very first object He has in view is, to ask and to work in us union with His own blessed will, that through it we may have union with Himself and His love. He comes in some one single point in which His will crosses our most cherished affection or desire, and asks the surrender of what we will to what He wills. When this is done willingly and lovingly, He leads the soul on to see how the claim for the sacrifice in the individual matter is the assertion of a principle -- that in everything His will is to be our one desire. Happy the soul to whom affliction is not a series of single acts of conflict and submission to single acts of His will, but an entrance into the school where we prove and approve all the good and perfect and acceptable will of God.
It has sometimes appeared, even to God's children, as if affliction were not a blessing: it so rouses the evil nature, and calls forth all the opposition of the heart against God's will, that it has brought the loss of the peace and the piety that once appeared to reign. Even in such cases it is working out God's purpose. 'That He might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart,' is still His object in leading into the wilderness. To an extent we are not aware of, our religion is often selfish and superficial: when we accept the teaching of chastisement in discovering the self-will and love of the world which still prevails, we have learnt one of its first and most needful lessons.
This lesson has special difficulty when the trial does not come direct from God, but through men or circumstances. In looking at second causes, and in seeking for their removal, in the feeling of indignation or of grief, we often entirely forget to see God's will in everything His Providence allows. As long as we do so, the chastisement is fruitless; and perhaps only hardens the more. If, in our study of the pathway of Holiness, there has been awakened in us the desire to accept and adore, and stand complete in, all the will of God, let us in the very first place seek to recognise that will in everything that comes on us. The sin of him who vexes us is not God's will. But it is God's will that we should be in that position of difficulty to be tried and tested. Let our first thought be: this position of difficulty is my Father's will for me: I accept that will as my place now where He sees it fit to try me. Such acceptance of the trial is the way to turn it into blessing. It will lead on to an ever clearer abiding in all the will of God all the day.
Chastisement leads to the fellowship of God's Son. The will of God out of Christ is a law we cannot fulfil. The will of God in Christ is a life that fills us. He came in the name of our fallen humanity, and accepted all God's will as it rested on us, both in the demands of the law, and in the consequences which sin had brought upon man. He gave Himself entirely to God's will, whatever it cost Him. And so He paved for us a way through suffering, not only through it in the sense of past it and out of it, but by means and in virtue of it, into the love and glory of the Father. And it is in the power which Christ gives in fellowship with Himself that we too can love the way of the Cross, as the best and most blessed way to the Crown. Scripture says that the will of God is our sanctification, and also that Christ is our Sanctification. It is only in Christ that we have the power to love and rejoice in the will of God. In Him we have the power. He became our Sanctification once for all by delighting to do that will; He becomes our Sanctification in personal experience, by teaching us to delight to do it. He learned to do it; He could not become perfect in doing it otherwise than by suffering. In suffering He draws nigh; He makes our suffering the fellowship of His suffering; and in it makes Himself, who was perfected through suffering, our Sanctification.
O ye suffering ones! all ye whom the Father is chastening! come and see Jesus suffering, giving up His will, being made perfect, sanctifying Himself. His suffering is the secret of His Holiness, of His Glory, of His Life. Will you not thank God for anything that can admit you into the nearer fellowship of your blessed Lord? Shall we not accept every trial, great or small, as the call of His love to be one with Himself in living only for God's will. This is Holiness, to be one with Jesus as He does the will of God, to abide in Jesus who was made perfect through suffering.
Chastisement leads to the enjoyment of God's love. Many a father has been surprised as he made his first experience of how a child, after being punished in love, began to cling to him more tenderly than before. Even so, while to those who live at a distance from their Father, the misery in this world appears to be the one thing that shakes their faith in God's Love, it is just through suffering that His children learn to know the Reality of that Love. The chastening is so distinctly a father's prerogative; it leads so directly to the confession of its needfulness and its lovingness; it wakens so powerfully the longing for pardon and comfort and deliverance, that it does indeed become, strange though this may seem, one of the surest guides into the deeper experience of the Divine Love. Chastening is the school in which the blessed lesson is learnt that the will of God is all Love, and that Holiness is the fire of Love, consuming that it may purify, destroying the dross only that it may assimilate into its own perfect purity all that yields itself to the wondrous change.
'We know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love: and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in Him.' Man's destiny is fellowship with God, the fellowship, the mutual indwelling of love. It is only by faith that this Love of God can be known. And faith can only grow by exercise, can only thrive in trial: when visible things fail, its energy is roused to yield itself to be possessed by the Invisible, by the Divine. Chastisement is the nurse of faith; one of its chosen attendants, to lead deeper into the Love of God. This is the new and living way, the way of the rent flesh in fellowship with Jesus leading up into the Holiest of all. There it is seen how the Justice that will not spare the child, and the Love that sustains and sanctifies it, are both one in the Holiness of God.
0 ye chastened saints! who are so specially being led in the way that goes through the rent veil of the flesh, you have boldness to enter in. Draw near; come and dwell in the Holiest of all. Make your abode in the Holiest of all: there you are made partakers of His Holiness. Chastisement is bringing your heart into unity with God's Will, God's Son, God's Love. Abide in God's Will. Abide in God's Son. Abide in God's Love. Dwell, within the veil, in the Holiest of all.
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
Most Holy God! once again I bless Thee for the wondrous revelation of Thy Holiness. Not only have I heard Thee speak, 'I am holy,' but Thou hast invited me to fellowship with Thyself: 'Be holy, as I am holy.' Blessed be Thy name! I have heard more even: 'I make holy,' is Thy word of promise, pledging Thine own Power to work out the purpose of Thy Love. I do thank Thee for what Thou hast revealed in Thy Son, in Thy Spirit, in Thy Word, of the path of Holiness. But how shall I bless Thee for the lesson of this day, that there is not a loss or sorrow, not a pain or care, not a temptation or trial, but Thy love also means it, and makes it, to be a help in working out the holiness of Thy people. Through each Thou drawest to Thyself, that they may taste how, in accepting Thy Will of Love, there is blessing and deliverance.
Blessed Father! Thou knowest how often I have looked upon the circumstances and the difficulties of this life as hindrances. Oh, let them all, in the light of Thy holy purpose to make us partakers of Thy Holiness, in the light of Thy Will and Thy Love, from this hour be helps. Let, above all, the path of Thy Blessed Son, proving how suffering is the discipline of a Father's love, and surrender the secret of holiness, and sacrifice the entrance to the Holiest of all, be so revealed that in the power of His Spirit and His grace that path may become mine. Let even chastening, even the least, be from Thine own hand, making me partaker of Thy Holiness. Amen.
1. How wonderful the revelation in the Epistle to the Hebrews of the holiness and the holy making power of suffering, as seen in the Son of God! 'He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.' 'It became God to make the Author of our salvation perfect through suffering, for both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.' 'In that He Himself hath suffered, He is able to succour.' 'We behold Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.' Suffering is the way of the rent veil, the new and living way Jesus walked in and opened for us. Let all sufferers study this. Let all who are 'holy in Christ' here learn to know the Christ in whom they are holy, and the way in which He sanctified Himself and sanctifies us.
2. If we begin by realizing the sympathy of Jesus with us in our suffering, it will lead us on to what is more: sympathy with Jesus in His suffering, fellowship with Him to suffer even as He did.
3. Let suffering and holiness be inseparably linked, as in God's mind and in Christ's person, so in your life through the Spirit. 'It became God to make Him perfect through suffering; for both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.' Let every trial, small or great, be the touch of God's hand, laying hold on you, to lead you to holiness. Give yourself into that hand.
4. 'Insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth on you.'