Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 12

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and HebrewsHaldane on Romans and Hebrews

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Verse 1

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

The witnesses here spoken of are commonly understood of those to whom reference had been made in the preceding chapter, who, having themselves obtained the victory, are now spectators of those who are engaged in the combat; and, no doubt, reference is made in the New Testament to those games which were so celebrated in Greece. But the testimony borne by the elders, who obtained a good report, as stated in the preceding chapter, rather seems to be their testimony to the efficacy of faith, to which the Apostle had ascribed all the great actions they had performed.

Faith is the spring of all holy affections and of all noble actions, of which a variety of examples had been brought forward in the preceding chapter. Now the witnesses summoned were so numerous, and the testimony delivered so various, that believers are warned and encouraged to lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and to run with patience the race that is set before us. The sin which doth so easily beset us, is evidently unbelief. The Apostle is treating of faith, than which there is nothing in which we are so prone to fail. We naturally walk by sight, but the Christian life is a life of faith. The world, and the things of the world, are constantly soliciting our attention, and by means of them the god of this world is ever attempting to draw our minds away from God, but we are to resist him steadfast in the faith.

The prophet condemns our natural proneness to self-confidence in the following striking passage:—"For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee; and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be loft as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill." . Our Lord, when asked how the Jews might work the work of God, replies, "This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent;" but we are ever prone to let slip the truth, and to mind the things which are seen and temporal, rather than those things which are unseen and eternal. Faith is the gift of God implanted by his Spirit, and the same power is requisite for maintaining as for implanting it at first. So that if the believer grieves the Holy Spirit of God he is like Samson shorn of his locks, and becomes weak and as another man. We are constantly apt to start aside from God, like a deceitful bow; so that the Apostle may well term unbelief the sin that doth most easily beset us. Faith is the principal, indeed we may say the material, of which the Christian armor is forged; the shield of faith, and for an helmet the hope of salvation, founded on faith; the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; which profits only when mixed with faith; and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, which profits nothing unless mixed with faith; praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, we must ask in faith, nothing wavering, else we need not expect to obtain anything of the Lord. In short, faith, so to speak, is the staple of every part of the Christian armor.

Let us run...—The Christian life is here compared to a race. It is worthy of notice that it is sometimes described as a rest, a state of repose, and at other times as demanding the greatest exertion: "For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not." Jeremiah 30:15. "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest." Hebrews 4:3. Again, "So run that ye may obtain." 1 Corinthians 9:24. "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Corinthians 9:20; 1 Corinthians 9:27. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14. But these apparently opposite characteristics are perfectly consistent. All the believer's confidence is in the power and grace of Christ, without whom he can do nothing. All his springs are in Christ, Psalm 87 :, who works in him to will and to do of his good pleasure; but at the same time he is to be sober, to be vigilant, to fight the good fight of faith, that he may lay hold on eternal life. He is to take to him all the armor of God, of which, while we have seen faith is the chief, we might say the sole material, the greatest diligence and activity are required in using it. Nothing requires more of persevering activity than a race, and here we are called to run with patience the race set before us. The believer requires patience, that after he has done the will of God he may inherit the promises. Chap6:12.

Verse 2

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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Here again faith is introduced under the figure of looking unto Jesus; he is here described as our pattern and example. Some suppose that the Apostle here represents Jesus as the judge who determines who shall receive the prize; but he is rather represented as our model, our leader. In the witnesses whom the Apostle had summoned in the preceding chapter we see many great actions performed through faith, but where are the actors? They have, with the rest of mankind, descended to the grave; but in looking to Jesus we see faith perfected and completed. For the joy set before Him of redeeming his people from death, of ransoming them from the power of the grave, and, in the midst of the great congregation, singing praises to his Father. Chap.

He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.— Here we see faith perfected or completed. In all the other instances we see but the beginning of faith, but in our great pattern we see its complete triumph. As the Apostle bad already stated that the worthies who lived under the old dispensation had not received the promise; they were dead and buried, they were, so to speak, detained in the grave, that they, and those who trod in their steps, might all be made perfect in one glorious body; but we behold Jesus, after unexampled sufferings, wearing the conqueror's crown, and gone before to prepare mansions in which his followers may for ever dwell.

Verse 3

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Believers are exposed to sorrow and affliction, but there never was sorrow like that with which Jesus was afflicted, Sam; and, by considering Him, His original glory, and the depth of His humiliation and sufferings, in connexion with the glory in which He is now enthroned, and into which He is about to introduce all His blood-bought sheep, they ought to be guarded against weariness and fainting.

Verse 4

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

They had indeed suffered much, but they had not been called, as many who had gone before them, and as the Captain of their salvation had done, to seal their testimony with their blood.

Verse 5

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My Song of Solomon, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.

And they had forgotten the exhortation, in which they are addressed as children, "My Song of Solomon, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him."

Verses 6-8

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

For whom the Lord loveth.—So far from the chastening of the Lord being an evidence of indifference or disregard, it is a proof of love.

This is illustrated by the conduct of a wise and affectionate father. In chastening you, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son does not the father chasten?

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all the children of God are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Men are ashamed of their illegitimate children; they remind them of their sins, and send them out of the house, and pay little attention to their education.

Verse 9

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

Besides, we have had fathers, &c, who corrected us, and, so far from diminishing our respect for them, it led us to give them reverence; and shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of our spirits, and live? [There is probably a reference here to Deuteronomy 21:18, in which the rebellious son was commanded to be put to death.]

Verse 10

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Parents often chastise their children, not so much from principle as from passion; not so much with a desire to do them good, as to gratify their own irritation: but the Father of our spirits only chastens His children for their profit. He makes their own wickedness correct them, and their backslidings to reprove them, that they may know and see that it is an evil thing that they have forsaken the Lord their God, and that His fear was not in them. Jeremiah 2:19.

Verse 11

V:11—Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

It is true that no chastening seemeth for the present to be joyous, but grievous: but afterwards, &c. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and know the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." James 5:11. When Joab refused to come to Absalom, he commanded his servants to set his field of barley on fire. Thus, we are prone to forget God, to restrain prayer, and to sink into formality, but are reminded by affliction of our entire dependence upon God. We forsake the fountain of living water, and hew out for ourselves broken cisterns, cisterns that can hold no water; but are reminded, by their being dried up, of our folly, and then are made to turn to the strong hold. Hosea 2:6-7. Moses describes the Lord chastening Israel as a man chastening his son as a mark of his love. Deuteronomy 8:5.

Verse 12

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.

This may either refer to themselves or others. If the former, those whose hands hang down, and their knees are feeble through weariness and fatigue, are exhorted to lift them up, to resume their courage. If it refers to others, it is an exhortation to bear one another's burdens, to take a lively interest in the welfare of their brethren, and to endeavour to animate and encourage them, sympathizing with them in their sorrows, and to comfort and exhort each other by the motives which had been suggested.

Verse 13

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

And to beware of casting a stumbling block in the way of others, as far as lies in our power, to facilitate each other's progress by our influence and example, lest the weak be turned out of the way; but we should rather aim at their being strengthened and restored to soundness.

Verse 14

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

The exhortation implies that there may be difficulty in maintaining peace, men's tempers and interest frequently clash, and this produces strife and division, James 4:1. Peace is much enforced both on believers and others in the Word of God. We ought not only to be peaceably disposed ourselves, but to endeavour to promote peace among others. "Blessed," says our Lord, "are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God," Matthew 5:9; and His Apostle says, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." Romans 12:18; Romans 14:19. A peaceful disposition is intimately connected with success in diffusing the truth. The Apostle tells us the fruit (or seed) of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace, James 3:18. Connected with peace is holiness, or conformity to God. We shall all receive the deeds done in the body, whether they were good or bad. We are all far deficient. In many things we all offend. If we say we are perfect, it only proves us to be perverse. There is a struggle in the mind of every believer, a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin in his members. But he Isaiah, through the Spirit, communicated to every believer through Christ to mortify the love of sin, to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Faith purifies the heart, and, although this purification is very partial, yet we are to follow after it, and remember that faith without works is dead being alone; and that it is vain to call Christ "Lord, Lord," if we do not the things which He says. We shall all be judged by our works, and therefore we ought to walk, not as fools, but as wise. The nearer we live to God, the more effectually the truth is working in us, the more of it we shall perceive; but if we give place to the devil, if we say, The Lord delayeth His coming, we are in danger of stumbling on the dark mountains. It is true, our acceptance with God is founded solely on the righteousness of Christ, but every man who possesses the hope of the Gospel purifieth himself, even as He is pure. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.

Verse 15

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.

Looking...—We ought to maintain a holy jealousy over ourselves, knowing how prone we are to sin and to apostasy, and that our adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; but the Apostle appears to have in view our watching over each other in love. The precept is in direct opposition to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The word is repeatedly rendered "come short," Romans 3:13; Hebrews 4:1. It is in the margin "fall from;" and, indeed, while we may be confident that He who hath begun a good work will carry it on to the day of Christ, and that the election shall obtain eternal life, we can only know that we are the subjects of Divine grace by holding fast the truth as it is in Jesus, and abiding in the doctrine of Christ. "For some receive the word with joy, but have no root, and in time of temptation fall away;" and although there is an essential difference between saving and temporary faith, it may be impossible for a time to distinguish them. Empty professors go out from believers, because they were not of them; had they been Song of Solomon, they would no doubt have continued with them; but, in the meantime, their profession and practice may be such as to make it meet for others to think that God has begun a good work in them.

But, from the connexion of the passage, it would appear that the Apostle is treating of that watchfulness which believers are commanded to exercise over their brethren; not watching for each other's halting, but, knowing the temptations and dangers to which all are exposed, not only to mind their own things, but the things of others, and to be prepared to caution those who are exposed to peculiar temptations; at least, this is included in the precept; and they were not only to obey this exhortation from regard to their brethren, for they were personally concerned. One sinner destroys much good; and, as a spark may kindle a great flame, so many might be defiled by one root of bitterness springing up to trouble them. The Apostle here refers to Deuteronomy 29:18, "Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood," and thereby many be defiled. In general, men do not perish alone in their iniquity; they infect others, and embolden them to transgress.

Verse 16

Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Let there be.—This is one of those sins which we are expressly taught exclude men from the kingdom of God, . This is one of those fleshy lusts which war against the soul. The word is frequently employed in regard to Israel departing from God, being seduced into the worship of idols; but whether taken literally or figuratively, it is an act of rebellion against God.

Or profane person; that Isaiah, one who disregards spiritual blessings, preferring things which are seen and temporal, to those things which are unseen and eternal. The character is illustrated by the example of Esau, who, for a morsel of bread, sold his birthright. Esau was the firstborn, but this did not entitle him to the blessing of Abraham; for before the children were born it had been said, "The elder shall serve the younger." But he was probably unacquainted with this. His seniority appeared to give him a claim to be the representative of his father and grandfather, and, consequently, to obtain the high privilege of being the progenitor of Christ. But for one morsel of meat he sold his birthright. His conduct affords a striking emblem of those who prefer the gratification of their appetites to the enjoyment of the eternal inheritance. What do they enjoy here?—A momentary gratification, to which they sacrifice all their future well-being.

It appears, from the history of Jacob"s family, that, although the blessing of Abraham did not necessarily descend to the firstborn, 1 Chronicles 5:1, yet there appears to have been a preference of the elder. Accordingly Jacob, in blessing his sons, passes over the three eldest, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, on account of their conduct, and sets Judah above all his brethren. Now, the preeminence both of Jacob over Esau, and of Judah over his three elder brethren, was according to the purpose of God, as appears by the names given them at their birth. Jacob means "supplanter," and he did supplant Esau; Judah means "praise," and, said his father, "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise." Thus, the purpose of God was effected through the wickedness of those who appeared to have the best right to the blessing.

Verse 17

For ye know how that afterward when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Esau was very desirous of inheriting the blessing. He carefully obeyed when commanded by his father to procure him savoury food; and when, in his absence, Jacob had been blessed, Esau in vain besought his father with tears to bestow it upon him. It could not be; the blessing was irreversibly bestowed; he found no place of repentance. Some understand repentance in his father, leading him to revoke the blessing; but it rather appears to refer to himself. His sorrow was unavailing.

It was not godly sorrow. He was disappointed; his pride was hurt at being overreached. His repentance did him no good; it was of no advantage to him. His history is a warning to all who mind the things which are seen and temporal, rather than those which are unseen and eternal. The same truth is inculcated in the parable of the ten virgins. Five were excluded; they besought that the door might be opened; but it was too late. The door was shut.

Verse 18

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness, and tempest.

On the third month after leaving Egypt Israel came to mount Sinai, "And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount." Exodus 19:17. On that occasion God delivered the ten commandments in the hearing of all Israel, assuring them of His peculiar favor and protection if they obeyed His voice. Exodus 19:5-6. Thus they came to a mount that might be touched, a material mountain, which burned with fire, and to blackness and tempest. Hence it is called a fiery law, Deuteronomy 33:2, and its being given was accompanied with everything calculated to inspire terror and apprehension.

The blackness and darkness and tempest intimated the obscurity of the dispensation, under which the Jewish lawgiver wore a vail. 2 Corinthians 3:13.

Verse 19

And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.

This is particularly noticed in the giving of the law. We read that the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder. Exodus 19:19. This was the signal for Israel to approach. Exodus 19:18. Accordingly "when the voice of the trumpet was exceeding loud, so that all the people that were in the camp trembled," Moses "brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount." Exodus 19:16-17.

Connected with the sound of the trumpet was the voice of words. We read that the law was given by the disposition of angels, Acts 7:53, and ordained by angels, Gal. iii19. Yet we are expressly told that God spake all these words. Exodus 20:1. These different statements are harmonized by the word of the Psalmist, "The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it." Psalm 68:11. And again, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place." Psalm 68:17. The thunder, the lightning, with the tempest, and the sound of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, were very dreadful, but still more tremendous was the voice of God. It demanded supreme love to God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, Matthew 22:37-40, a demand which no man can answer; by which, therefore, every mouth is stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.

Verse 20

For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart.

They could not bear that which was commanded; the fiery law was too broad for them. It is true that only the moral law, contained in the ten commandments, is here spoken of, but it was necessarily connected with the rest of the Jewish dispensation, the meats and drinks and carnal ordinances, else it would not have been a shadow of good things to come. However insufficient the blood of bulls and goats might be to take away sin, such sacrifices were necessary for the time then present to keep up the expectation of the sacrifice of Christ.

To increase the terror and awfulness of the scene, and to make Israel feel their distance from God, "who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who cannot look upon sin, but hateth all the workers of iniquity," "if so much as a beast touched the mountain, it was to be stoned, or thrust through with a dart."

Verse 21

And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.

This is probably referred to Exodus 19:19. Moses spake, and God answered him with a voice, probably encouraging him.

Verse 22

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.

In opposition to Israel's coming to mount Sinai, (the material mountain,) the true Israel, to whom the Epistle is addressed, are represented as having come to mount Zion (not a material but a spiritual mountain). In the description of the giving of the law, in the preceding verses, everything is material and earthly. Blackness, darkness, and fire, with lurid smoke, and the sound of the trumpet, are all calculated to affect the senses and inspire terror. Here, on the contrary, everything is spiritual and heavenly. Believers are come to mount Sion. It is remarkable that Jerusalem, which under the old dispensation was chosen for the residence of the God of Israel, where his temple was built, and the sacrifices were offered, was the last place in the promised land of which Israel obtained possession in the reign of David. 2 Samuel 5:7. Hence the God of Israel is said "to have dwelt in His holy hill of Zion," Psalm 2:6, and "to love the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." Psalm 87:2. Hence Zion is called "the joy of the whole land." Psalm 48:2. On this account mount Sion is represented as the dwelling-place of God under the new and better dispensation. This is His rest for ever; here Christ is laid for a foundation, 1 Peter 2:6, and here He is said to stand at the head of His redeemed. Rev. xiv1. The city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the city which God hath prepared for His people. Ch11:16. It is called Jerusalem that is above, Gal. iv26, and the holy city, new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:2.

To an innumerable company of angels.—We have seen that thousands of angels were present at the giving of the law, and myriads of the same glorious beings are represented as all ministering to the heirs of salvation, under the direction of Him who is the head of all principalities and powers.

The whole of Israel were assembled at Sinai, and there formed into a nation, to which allusion is here made.

Verse 23

To the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

The firstborn of Israel were sanctified, Exodus 13:2, and the Levites taken in place of them to minister in the sanctuary. The congregation of Israel was an emblem of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, the true Israel, the righteous nation that keepeth the truth. It was a grand sight to behold all Israel assembled before God at Sinai, Israel is called the firstborn. Exodus 4:22. The genealogies of the different tribes in Israel were carefully kept, as emblems of the Lamb's book of life. Isaiah 4:3.

God the judge of all—He is revealed as such in his Son. God appeared at Sinai as the God of Israel, Exodus 20:2; 2 Corinthians 5:10, and as such believers have access unto him. At Sinai everything was calculated to alarm, but in Christ God has revealed himself to all his people as love.

Perfect— 1 Peter 5:10.—The people of God are not made perfect till the soul and body are reunited, but life and immortality are brought to light. The resurrection is exhibited in the resurrection of Christ, and therefore we are said to have come to the spirits of just men made perfect; behold them clothed with their spiritual bodies, the house which is from heaven.

Verse 24

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, and stood between God and Israel; but believers are come to a better and more glorious Mediator, the Mediator of the new covenant, not written on stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart, 2 Corinthians 3:3, and to the blood of sprinkling. Believers are saved by the blood of sprinkling. 1 Peter 1:2. Christ is their passover, and as Israel escaped by the sprinkling of blood, so do believers. Israel was sprinkled at Sinai with the blood of the covenant, and thus it was ratified. It speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, which cried for vengeance, this ensures mercy.

Verse 25

See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, how much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.

Him that speaketh—Chap.—Him that spake on earth. How vain to expect to escape from mount Sinai. At Sinai the worldly kingdom was established, the rewards and punishments of which were all temporal; now he speaketh from heaven in a far more excellent way,—better promises.

Verse 26

Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

Voice shook mount Sinai, Exodus 19:18, refers not only to the mountain shaking, but to the great change produced by taking the nation of Israel to be his peculiar people, setting them apart for himself, giving them laws and commandments, while all the other nations were left in darkness and ignorance. But now a much greater shaking was to take place, not only the earth, but the heaven was to be shaken. The first shaking only affected one nation. It took them out of their former order. It gave privileges to one nation which no other enjoyed; but now a far greater shaking was to take place, by which all nations would be affected. The heaven is higher than the earth. By the first shaking God established an earthly kingdom, confined to one nation; by the second, a heavenly kingdom, whose influence should extend to all nations, was to be established.

Verse 27

And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Now this word, once more, signifies the removing of things shaken, as of things that are made, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.— All the law and the prophets hang on the precepts to love God and our neighbour. These things remain, while the meats and drinks and carnal ordinances in which the kingdom of Israel stood are shaken and removed. The shaking of heaven refers to the far greater alteration made by the new covenant, the gathering of the saints into one body under Christ, and bestowing on them the kingdom.

Verse 28

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

We, believers, receiving a kingdom, are made kings and priests to God. This kingdom cannot be moved; it is not like the Jewish dispensation temporary and introductory, but it is abiding. From this consideration let us have grace to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Let us consider that the greater our privileges the more our responsibility. To whom much is given of them much shall be required.

Let us then have grace to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.—This is altogether different from slavish fear; it is that godly fear which arises from right views of the glorious character of God; his purity, holiness, kindness, and compassion, blended with abhorrence of sin, on which he cannot look.

Verse 29

For our God is a consuming fire.

The Apostle refers to Deuteronomy 4:24, —"For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God;" and while the Gospel exhibits the boundless riches of the love of God, it gives a more awful display of His justice, and abhorrence of sin, than if all mankind had been destroyed. He pardons sins of the deepest dye, but it is only through the death of His only begotten Son. Here we see that He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and that He cannot look upon sin. When Jesus stood in the place of sinners, the sword was called to awake against the man who was the fellow of the Almighty, and He drank to the very dregs the cup of wrath; so that while the believer joys in God through Jesus Christ, whose mercy endureth for ever, the more clear his apprehension of the way in which this mercy flows to him, the more is he impressed with the evil of sin, which is that bitter thing which God cannot look upon.

Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.