Peoples New Testament, Hebrews 12
Perseverance and the Christian Race
SUMMARY OF HEBREWS 12: How to Run the Christian Race. Enduring Affliction. The Lord's Chastisement of Children. The Lesson from the Case of Esau. The Terrors of Sinai Contrasted with the Gospel. Paying Heed to the Gospel.
1 So great a cloud of witnesses. The vast cloud of witnesses named in chapter 11, who testify by their lives to the power of faith.
Let us lay aside every weight. Every hindrance. The figure used is that of the Greek foot races in the games then practiced in every province of the Roman Empire, including Palestine. Before running the runner laid off every weight.
And the sin which doth so easily beset [us]. Our besetting sin, whatever it may be. In the case of these Hebrew Christians the context shows that the besetting sin was unbelief.
And let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Run the Christian race with steadfast perseverance.
2 Looking unto Jesus. In running, Jesus should be constantly regarded as the example.
The author and finisher of [our] faith. Not "our faith", but "the faith" in the Greek. The Gospel, which rests upon faith, is meant rather than the individual faith of the saint. Jesus is its author and perfected it. He is the exemplar of all who live by faith. Hence we should look to him.
For the joy that was set before him. The joy of saving men and of sitting at God's right hand.
Endured the cross, despising the shame. Not only its pain, but its shame. It was in that age the most ignominious of deaths.
And is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. In the place of heavenly honor.
3 Consider him ... lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. When you become faint and discouraged by persecution, consider what Christ suffered from sinners.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood. Have not been persecuted unto death.
5 Ye have forgotten the exhortation. Surely they must have forgotten, or they would bear their tribulations more cheerfully.
My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord. This is quoted from Job 5:17-18. See also 2Sa 6:7-10. The thought is, Do not murmur at God's reproofs and chastenings.
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. The chastening hand does not show the anger of God, but his love. Every child is chastened and reproved for its good.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons. If you are called on to suffer, it shows that God is treating you as his children.
8 If ye be without chastisement ... then are ye bastards, and not sons. Instead of that being a fact for congratulation, it only shows that God does not regard you as children. You may call yourselves God's children, but you are not true sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected [us]. Every judicious father corrects his children in some way. Shall we not then submit cheerfully to the heavenly Father's correction?
Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits. Our earthly parents are the parents of our bodies; God is the creator of all spirits, and the author of our spiritual life. When we are born of the Spirit our new life is due to God, and we are begotten as his children.
10 They verily for a few days chastened [us] after their own pleasure. For a little while earthly parents corrected as it pleased them, but
he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness. But God ever watches us that we may be made holy.
11 No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous. It is never pleasant to endure the chastening, but
afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness. But it afterwards benefits by the holier life it insures. In sorrow we naturally cling closer to God.
12 Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. See Job 4:3 Isa 35:3 Eze 7:17. The thought is, shake off all weariness, all lameness, and push right on.
14 Follow peace with all [men]. Live peaceful lives.
And holiness. Pure and sinless lives.
Without which. Without a holy life no one shall be in fellowship with God.
No man shall see the Lord. Realize his presence with us. See Mt 5:8
15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God. Being careful that no one lags behind and falls by the way so as not to reach the final reward.
Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you]. Any bitter opposition, or element of disturbance causing members to sin.
16 Lest there [be] any fornicator. Of course such a sinner would not live the life of holiness enjoined.
Or profane person. A worldly person who profanes holy privileges by placing on them a worldly estimate.
As Esau. See Ge 25:27-30. He illustrates what is meant by a profane person.
Who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For a savory meal he bartered away a birthright bestowed by God. So any professing Christian who would sell his heavenly birthright for worldly advantages would be a profane person.
17 When he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected. See Ge 27:31-34. The spiritual blessing that belonged to the birthright was denied to Esau though he wept over the disappointment.
For he found no place of repentance. No way to correct the mistake and to secure the blessing. It was too late for this, since he had forfeited his birthright. The apostle holds up his case as a warning example.
18 For ye are not come unto the mount. Ye should be diligent. Mount Sinai and the inauguration of the law are described. It was a mountain
that might be touched, a mountain of earth,
and that burned with fire. It burned on that occasion "with fire". See Ex 19:12-19.
19 And the sound of a trumpet. See Ex 19:16. The trumpet blast preceded the giving of the law.
And the voice of words. The voice of God proclaiming the Ten Commandments.
They that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more. Filled with terror at the awful manifestation they entreated that God speak no more directly to them (Ex 20:19).
20 For they could not endure that which was commanded. The command and penalty added to their terror (Ex 19:12).
21 Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. Even Moses was filled with fearful awe (Ex 19:19).
22 Ye are come unto Mount Sion. The law was given at Sinai; the Gospel was to go forth from Mount Zion; that is, from Jerusalem. See Ps 2:6 Joe 2:32 Re 21:2. It is used as a type or symbol of the kingdom of heaven.
And unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This heavenly city is where our Lord dwells and is our eternal home. In coming to Christ we have come into the covenant which gives us the right to a place in that city.
And to an innumerable company of angels. The angels of heaven.
23 To the general assembly and church of the firtborn. The universal church of Christ. The first born son in Israel inherited the birthright (Ge 25:31 1Ch 5:1), but all the saints have the birthright and hence are called the first born. They are enrolled, not on earthly registers, but their names are written in heaven.
And to God the Judge of all, who will inflict judgment in behalf of the persecute. church.
And to the spirits of just men made perfect. To the fellowship of all the sainted dead now perfected above.
24 To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. To fellowship with Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant as Moses was of the Old.
And to the blood of sprinkling. To Christ's atoning blood by which our hearts are "sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Heb 10:22).
That speaketh better things than [that of] Abel. Abel's blood cried for vengeance; Christ's pleads for mercy.
25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. The whole Old Testament shows that those who refused to listen to God's message delivered by men did not escape. How can those escape then who refuse to listen to God's own Son?
26 Whose voice then shook the earth. At Sinai (Ex 19:18).
But now he hath promised. See Hag 2:6, which declares the removal of the heavens and earth at Christ's coming.
27 And [this word], Yet once more signifieth, etc. This means, says the apostle, that there is only one more shaking after the time of Hag 2:6. It is not a material, but moral and spiritual event. It began when Christ came and will continue until all that is temporal or erroneous be removed and only the eternal remains. Among the things removed is the covenant of Sinai.
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved. We Christians have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken and which is eternal.
Let us have grace. Hence should serve God with "reverence and godly fear" since we are called to so high an estate.
29 For our God [is] a consuming fire. Because, while God is very merciful and loving, he will not overlook willful disobedience, but will destroy those who despise his commandments.