Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In the last chapter we looked at what faith was and concluded studying about the faith of the Patriarchs. We saw how they endured hardship by faith and achieved great things for the Lord. Apostle Paul relayed all of their encounters as an introduction to today’s study. He started off verse 1 of chapter 12 by saying . . . “Therefore . . .”
Verse 1: Application Of The Demonstrations Of Enduring Faith
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
The MSG version says:
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins”
a. Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
The Apostle Paul uses the example the previous champions of faith in chapter 11 as spectators from the heavens, cheering us as we press on to overcome present discouragement as in an athletic competition.We must picture those who have gone before us being witnesses to us of faith and endurance, in all they have lived and experienced. Their experiences should keep us encouraged.
b. Let us lay aside every weight
Sin can hold us back. But there are also things that may not be sin (every weight) but are merely hindrances that can keep us from running effectively the race God has for us.
Our choices are not always between right and wrong, but between something that may hinder us and something else that may not. Is there a weight in your life you must lay aside?
c. And the sin which so easily ensnares us
The words easily ensnares is translated from an ancient Greek word (euperistaton), which can be translated four ways: “easily avoided,” “admired,” “ensnaring,” or “dangerous.”
Let us lay them all aside:
• Some sins can be easily avoided, but are not
• Some sins are admired, yet must be laid aside
• Some sins are ensnaring and thus especially harmful
• Some sins are more dangerous than others are
d. Let us run with endurance
God has set before every one of us – a race. You must run it, and it will involve effort and commitment. The assumption is this race will not be easy, but the proper path to run has been set before us by God. The Aramaic can be translated “the race [personally] appointed to us.” God has a destiny for each of us that we are to give ourselves fully to reach.
Endurance is needed to run that race. Again, this “Endurance translates the ancient Greek word “which does not mean the patience which sits down and accepts things but the patience which masters them.” It is a determination, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected.”
In Acts 20:24 Paul pictured himself as a runner who had a race to finish, and nothing would keep Paul from finishing the race with joy. In that passage, Paul spoke of my race – he had his race to run, we have our own – but God calls us to finish it with joy, and that only happens with endurance.
e. The race that is set before us
Race is the ancient Greek word agona, a word used for conflict or struggle of many kinds, and a favourite word of Paul (Philippians 1:30, Colossians 2:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:7).
Verse 2: The Ultimate Example - Jesus Christ.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The MSG version says:
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”
a. Looking unto Jesus
We can only run the race as we look to Jesus and have our eyes locked on to Him. He is our focus, our inspiration, and our example. This implies a definite looking away from other things and a present looking unto Jesus.
b. The author and finisher of our faith
Jesus is not only the author of our faith; He is the finisher of it also. The idea of He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) was comforting indeed to these discouraged Christians.
He is not only there with us at the starting line and at the finish line, but with us all along the way of the race that He sets before us.
c. Who for the joy that was set before Him
Jesus did not regard the cross itself as a joy. But He could look past the horror of the cross to enjoy the joy beyond it. The same mentality would enable these Jewish Christians (and we ourselves) to endure.
d. Endured the cross
Jesus was able to endure the ordeal of the cross because He understood the good that would come of it – the good of a redeemed, rescued people honouring God for all eternity.
Knowing all the good that would flow from this most agonizing experience, Jesus was able to do it and to endure it with triumph. Through the ordeal of the cross:
• He kept His tongue.
• He kept His course.
• He kept His progress.
• He kept His joy.
• He kept His love.
e. Despising the shame
One of the most prominent elements of the torture of the cross was its extreme shame. Jesus did not welcome this shame – He despised it – yet He endured through it to victory.
Shame is a significant trial. Daniel 12:2 says that shame will be an aspect of the terrors of hell:
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Jesus bore this hellish shame to accomplish our redemption.
• He bore a shameful accusation: blasphemy.
• He bore shameful mocking.
• He bore a shameful beating.
• He wore a shameful crown.
• He wore a shameful robe.
• He bore a shameful death on the cross.
This is a stumbling block to many. They will do just about anything for Jesus except endure shame or embarrassment.
f. And has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
This speaks of Jesus’ glorification. The same promise of being glorified (though in a different sense) after our shame is true for the Christian.
Verses 3-4: Consider Jesus
“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”
The MSG version says:
“When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed!"
a. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself
Even in their difficulty if they would consider Jesus they could be encouraged, not discouraged, knowing that they were following in the footsteps of Jesus. As Paul wrote, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:17)
Think of all the hostility Jesus endured from sinners:
• At His own synagogue in Nazareth they wanted to kill Him.
• The religious leaders constantly tried to trap and embarrass Him.
• They lied about Jesus, saying He was a drunkard and a glutton.
• He was betrayed by one of His own disciples.
• He was mocked and beaten by many.
• His own people cried out against Him, “Crucify Him!”
b. Lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls
Knowing that Jesus doesn’t ask more of us than what He has Himself experienced, and that He knows exactly what we are going through will keep us from becoming weary and discouraged in your souls.
c. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin
Many Jewish Christians then, like many Christians today complain and get discouraged when they face difficulties. Here the Apostle was not going to sugar coat the situation and pamper them with statements like “everything is going to be alright.” Instead, he pointed it out to them that they should continue to strive against sin and be ready to continue even to the point of shedding blood because others have suffered far worse, not to mention what Jesus went through!
The race set before us; though difficult, is not an uncommon race. The patriarchs of faith ran in it, Jesus did the same. And the proper path to run in it has been set before us by God. The Apostle Paul’s admonishment for us is that when we find our faith dwindling, what we need to shoot adrenaline into our souls and get us going again, is by going over Jesus’ story again, item by item, all the hostility he went through and how He was able to endure it with triumph.
Parts of this study was culled from: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/hebrews-12/