In order to better appreciate this scripture, we will need to clearly grasp some basic concepts involved or implied in the context of the book of Hebrew and the meaning of the Greek words used here. I don’t have the time to expound many of the scripture references here. I highly recommend you to take time to ponder on them. It will help to untangle many misunderstandings and confusion that plagued the religious thinkings throughout the Church Age.
Leading to this portion of scriptures, the author of Hebrew expounded on the way of our Sonship in Christ in Chapter 2, and His superiority to angels in Chapter 1 and to Moses in Chapters 3. He also brought out the concept of a new covenant and spiritual priesthood as a ministry in Heaven, enacted when Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father after His ascension.
The major points he is making are that
- Jesus is the perfect representation of God the Father and He is able to teach or impart to us a life of God’s glory or honor better than that of angels.
- Jesus is the builder of a spiritual household of God’s Family as an heir or the Son of God, not as a slave or servant like Moses was.
- Jesus is the apostle and the high priest of a new covenant of eternal life, the order of Melchizedek, which is put into effect after He is designated (officiated) in such a name or title. With it, the blessing of salvation to those who obey the faith he preached and their ministry in His stead (name) under His headship or leadership.
Let us examine the keywords here:
Learn ( to be disciplined or discipled)
- Here this Greek word means to be educated as a disciple or to learn a certain way of life. The root meaning of the word implied “quick to hear”. Like a servant who waits at the doorpost for instructions from his master, or a young heart who is keenly to absorb and practice the lessons from his father or his teacher. (Isa 50:4-5, Isa. 54:11-16, John 6:43-51)
- This way of learning is by example and through “constant use or practice”, like a man eating food every day in order to mature in stature from a babe to a full-grown man. Or building a wonderful house with solid stones from foundation up. (Heb. 5:11-6:3, Isa 7:11-16, John 21:18, 1 Pet. 1:22-2:10, 1 Cor. 2:4-10, etc)
Obedience is the result of education of certain discipline or discipleship. It is not merely about one’s deeds or actions, but rather the person under a certain way of life or a certain culture of life. It should be understood as a yielded life or a life flowing out of certain wisdom or counsel. (Rom 1:5, Rom 8:1-17, Matt 11:7-30)
It is not a religious performance, but a new life in and through the Spirit of God the Father as a son. (Phil. 3:3-16)
Suffering (undergoing discipline)
In Greek, this word had two meanings:
4248 πάσχω (paschō): vb.; ≡ Str 3958; TDNT 5.904—1. LN 24.78 suffer (Lk 22:15); 2. LN 90.66 undergo an experience, implying suffering or (Gal 3:4, Rev 2:10), for another interp, see prior
It is obvious that the translation of this word should be using the second meaning. That is to “undergo an experience”. The reason why the first meaning is used in the first place and many commentaries seem never take issue with it is itself very revealing in one’s understanding of the discipline of Sonship.
Many presume that the suffering here might be mainly about Jesus’ suffering on before and on the Cross. He fully obeyed the Father’s will so much as that he did not shrink back from such a death. To a great extent, this is true. (Heb 2:9-18, 12:1-3)
But I suggest that the author here evidently is more concerned about the kind of life that Jesus was able to mature into before His final acts of obedience, as evidenced in the struggle He endured in the Garden of Gethsemane and His death on the Cross. It is a life of constant self-discipline that always choose to forgo His own will and willingly choose to quickly obey the will of God His Father in order to please Him as a perfect son.
I also want to propose that the mainstay or intention of the author did not confine this experience to Jesus Himself merely, as many did when expounding these verses. It is actually pointing to the same death (the crucifixion of our old self or the sinful nature in us) through divine discipline as a son of God by the Spirit of Holiness who raised Jesus from the dead. (Rom. 1:4) This journey or way from spiritual death to spiritual life that Jesus opened up for us is the pattern of discipleship as a son of God. (Rom. 6)
To quote Heb 5:13-14 as a context:
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
The same concept of the discipline of a spiritual son is well expounded in Heb. 12:2-11.
To sum up, let me paraphrase Heb 5:8-9
Although He (Jesus Christ) was a son, He matured, as a good disciple (of God the Father’s counsel), into a life of perfect yielded-ness through the things He was disciplined under. Once he was made perfect (entered maturity), he become of the source (pattern, model, image) for the salvation (liberation from the power of sin and death) of others who choose to yield (follow as obedient disciple) to the same way of life (fullness of the life of sonship in God)…