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the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 12

Edwards' Family Bible New TestamentFamily Bible NT

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Verse 1

Compassed about-cloud of witnesses ; the reference is to the Grecian games, in which the racers were surrounded by a vast multitude of spectators. Here the witnesses are those who have themselves run the heavenly race and obtained the reward of faith.

Every weight ; every thing which can hinder our progress in the way to heaven, just as the earthly racers lay aside every incumbrance, especially the sin to which we are most exposed.

Verse 2

Looking unto Jesus ; not merely as an example, but also as the author and finisher of faith and of all which was needed for perseverance in duty, even to eternal life.

The joy ; of redeeming multitudes which no man can number from eternal sinning and suffering, and raising them to eternal holiness and bliss.

Despising the shame ; the shame of being crucified. It is right to regard our own happiness, to be influenced by the hope of future reward, and for the sake of obtaining it to perform labors, make sacrifices, suffer trials, and endure, when called to it, even death itself, that we may follow Christ and be partakers of his joy.

Verse 3

Consider him ; meditate much on the character and work of Christ, especially his patience under sufferings, that you may be strengthened and encouraged in following his example.

Verse 4

Ye have not yet ; been called as Christ was to suffer death for resisting sin.

Verse 5

The exhortation ; Proverbs 3:11-12 ; Revelation 3:19 .

Verse 7

Chastening ; trials designed to correct your faults and make you better.

Verse 8

All ; the children of God.

Are ye bastards ; treated as such; your faults are not corrected, but you are left to go unreformed to ruin.

Verse 9

Fathers of our flesh ; earthly parents.

Father of spirits ; God.

Verse 10

After their own pleasure ; as they chose or thought best.

Be partakers ; become holy like him. God never sends trials because he has any pleasure in afflicting his people, but to make them more useful and happy than they would be without them. Hence a cheerful and hearty submission is required not only by the glory of God, but by our own highest good.

Verse 11

The peaceable fruit of righteousness ; the chastisement yields, like a good tree, the good fruit of righteousness, which always has for its companion "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." Philippians 4:7 .

Verse 12

Lift up ; encourage and animate the desponding. Isaiah 35:3-4 .

Verse 13

Make straight paths for your feet ; walk in the plain way of duty, and that not merely for your own sake, but for the sake of feeble and halting among your brethren; that they, by your good example, may be kept in the right way, and healed of their spiritual infirmities.

Verse 14

Follow peace with all ; so far as duty will permit.

See the Lord ; dwell with or enjoy him.

Verse 15

Any man ; that is, as the connection shows, any man who belongs to your Christian community.

Fail of the grace of God ; of his grace which bestows eternal life, by being found at last unholy and unprepared for heaven.

Any root of bitterness ; any doctrine or practice adapted to lead men to apostatize from Christ and perish. The words quoted, from Deuteronomy 29:18 , were originally applied to such a root of bitterness, consisting in apostasy from Jehovah to idolatry.

Verse 16

Fornicator-profane person ; examples of the "root of bitterness" just referred to. A profane person is here one who, like Esau, despises sacred things and gives up spiritual blessings for sensual enjoyments.

One morsel of meat ; Genesis 25:29-34 .

Birthright ; right by birth to high temporal and spiritual blessings.

Verse 17

No place of repentance ; whether we refer the word repentance to Esau, as some do, or with others, to Isaac, the sense remains substantially the same. In the former case the meaning will be that Esau could not make his own repentance avail to change his father’s mind; in the latter, that he could not induce Isaac to repent by taking the blessing of the birthright from Jacob, and giving it to him. He had sold it for a mess of pottage, and it was gone for ever. Genesis 27:34-40 . So would be the blessings of following Christ, if they should renounce him to escape suffering or to enjoy worldly good. Great care, watchfulness, and prayer, are needful even in Christians, lest they should fail of heaven; and great effort is needful in sinners, however high their privileges and however enlightened or closely connected with Christians they may be, in order to enter and pursue the way that leads to life.

Verses 18-29

Now follows an exhortation which contains, first, and encouragement drawn from the gracious character of the Christian dispensation, as contrasted with the severity of the Mosaic law; secondly, a warning against apostasy under such a glorious dispensation, in view of its greater guilt and severer punishment.

The mount ; Sinai and the terrors which surrounded it at the giving of the law. Exodus 19:9-25 ; Exodus 20:1-22 . Here, as in Galatians 4:24-25 , Sinai represents the whole Mosaic economy.

That might be touched ; the reference is not merely to its material nature, but to the peril of touching it. Verse Hebrews 12:20 .

Verse 20

If so much as a beast touch the mountain ; much more a man. Exodus 19:12-13 ; Exodus 19:21-24 . This prohibition shadowed forth the distance from himself at which the holy God, under the Mosaic economy, kept sinful men. Compare chap Hebrews 9:8 .

Verse 22

Unto mount Zion-the city of the living God , the heavenly Jerusalem ; to the true spiritual Zion and Jerusalem, of which the earthly Zion with its city was an emblem; that is, to the privileges, hopes, and blessings of the Christian dispensation and the holy family of God under it. Compare the words of the apostle, Galatians 4:26 : "Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." An innumerable company of angels ; who make a part of God’s universal family, of which Christ is the head. Ephesians 1:10 ; Colossians 1:20 .

Verse 23

The general assembly and church ; here distinguished from "the spirits of just men made perfect"; probably meaning therefore the church on earth, so far as it consists of true believers.

The first - born ; the word in the original is plural. It describes either all God’s true children, as each admitted, in and through Christ, to the privileges of first-born sons, that is, to a preeminent place in God’s favor; or, as some think, the more eminent among them, as patriarchs, prophets, and apostles.

Which are written in heaven ; enrolled there in the Lamb’s book of life.

The spirits of just men ; who await in God’s presence the resurrection of the just.

Made perfect ; they have gone through the conflict with sin and suffering, obtained the victory, and been made perfect in holiness and blessedness; not in the sense of having reached the consummation of their bliss-which is reserved for the final resurrection-but in the sense of being for ever freed from sin and suffering.

Verse 24

The blood of sprinkling ; which cleanses our consciences from the guilt and defilement of sin, and thus speaks peace to them. Chap Hebrews 9:14 ; Hebrews 10:22 ; 1 Peter 1:2 .

That of Abel ; which called to God for vengeance. Genesis 4:10 .

Verse 25

Him that speaketh ; in the revelations, the promises, and the threatenings of the gospel.

Refused him that spake on earth ; apostatized from the Jewish religion revealed by Moses. Deuteronomy 13:6-10 .

Him that speaketh from heaven ; God, by Jesus Christ. Chap Hebrews 1:2 . The responsibilities of men are in proportion to their blessings; and if they abuse or neglect them, they will proportionably enhance their condemnation.

Verse 26

Then ; when he gave the law at mount Sinai. Exodus 19:18 .

Not the earth only , but also heaven ; Haggai 2:6-7 , where the words are, "I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come." It is a shaking and removal of every thing that is in its nature transitory and perishable, not merely the old Mosaic dispensation, but also every human power opposed to the kingdom of Christ. Compare, for the figure, Isaiah 13:13 ; Joel 3:16 ; Matthew 24:29 , and the notes on those passages.

Verse 27

Things that are shaken ; that is, as the margin, things that can be shaken. See the note to the preceding verse.

Things that are made ; nearly equivalent to things "made with hands," and therefore transitory. Chap Hebrews 9:11 .

Which cannot be shaken ; the kingdom of Christ and the eternal spiritual blessings connected with it. This shaking is the thrice repeated overturning of Ezekiel 21:27 . It covers the whole history of Christ’s kingdom from its beginning to its perfect establishment.

Verse 28

Let us have grace ; though the grace by which alone we can render acceptable service to God is his gift, yet we are responsible for possessing it, since it is freely offered to all, and all will have it who do not repel and reject it by a disobedient spirit.

Serve God ; perseveringly, to whatever troubles it may expose us.

Godly fear ; having respect to all God’s commandments. Psalms 119:6 ; Jeremiah 32:40 .

Verse 29

A consuming fire ; Deuteronomy 4:24 . He is such to all rejecters of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially those who have apostatized from him. Hence all who have set out in the way to heaven should persevere, whatever trials may assail them, till faith is swallowed up in vision, and hope in endless joy. All good reasons are on the side of perseverance in obeying God, trusting in Christ for what is needed to do this and to be accepted in it. The contrary course is most unreasonable and wicked, will be condemned by God and all good beings, and will fill those who pursue it with consuming terrors for ever.

Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fam/hebrews-12.html. American Tract Society. 1851.
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