Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 12

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SUMMARY.--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.

Verses 1-4

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.

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Run the Christian race with steadfast perseverance.

Looking unto Jesus. In running, Jesus should be constantly regarded as the example.

Finisher of the 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. Not only its pain, but its shame. It was in that age the most ignominious of deaths.

Set down at the right hand, etc. In the place of heavenly honor.

Consider him. When you become faint and discouraged by persecution, consider what Christ suffered from sinners.

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood. Have not been persecuted unto death.

Verses 5-11

Ye have forgotten the exhortation, etc. Surely they must have forgotten, or they would bear their tribulations more cheerfully.

My son, despise not, etc. 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.

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.

If ye endure chastening. If you are called on to suffer, it shows that God is treating you as his children.

If ye be without chastisement. 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.

We have had fathers . . . which corrected us. Every judicious father corrects his children in some way. Shall we not then submit cheerfully to the heavenly Father's correction?

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.

They chastened us. For a little while earthly parents corrected as it pleased them, but God ever watches us that we may be made holy.

Now no chastening, etc. It is never pleasant to endure the chastening, but it afterwards benefits by the holier life it insures. In sorrow we naturally cling closer to God.

Verses 12-13

Lift up the hands. See Job 4:3. The thought is, shake off all weariness, all lameness, and push right on.

Verses 14-17

Follow peace with all. Live peaceful lives.

And holiness. Pure and sinless lives.

Without which no man, etc. Without a holy life no one shall be in fellowship with God.

To see the Lord is to realize his presence with us. See Mat 5:8.

Looking diligently. 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. Any bitter opposition, or element of disturbance causing members to sin.

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.

Like Esau. See Gen 25:27-30. He illustrates what is meant by a profane person. 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.

When he would have inherited the blessing. See Gen 27:31-34. The spiritual blessing that belonged to the birthright was denied to Esau though he wept over the disappointment.

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.

Verses 18-21

For ye are not come unto the mount, etc. Ye should be diligent "for," etc. Mount Sinai and the inauguration of the law are described. It was a mountain that could be touched, a mountain of earth. It burned on that occasion with fire. See Exo 19:12-19.

And the sound of a trumpet (Exo 19:16). The trumpet blast preceded the giving of the law.

The voice of words. The voice of God proclaiming the Ten Commandments.

They . . . entreated. Filled with terror at the awful manifestation they entreated that God speak no more directly to them. (Exo 20:19.)

For they could not endure. The command and penalty of Exo 19:12, added to their terror.

Moses said. Even Moses was filled with fearful awe (Exo 19:19).

Verses 22-24

Ye are come unto Mount Zion. The law was given at Sinai; the Gospel was to go forth from Mount Zion; that is, from Jerusalem. See Psa 2:6; Joe 2:32; Rev 21:2. It is used as a type or symbol of the kingdom of heaven.

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.

An innumerable company of angels. The angels of heaven.

General assembly and church, etc. The universal church of Christ. The first born son in Israel inherited the birthright, but all the saints have the birthright and hence are called the first born. They are all enrolled, not on earthly registers, but their names are written in heaven.

To God the Judge of all, who will inflict judgment in behalf of the persecuted church.

The spirits of just men made perfect. To the fellowship of all the sainted dead now perfected above.

To Jesus. To fellowship with Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant as Moses was of the Old.

To the blood of sprinkling. To Christ's atoning blood by which our hearts are "sprinkled from an evil conscience."

That speaketh better things than that of Abel. Abel's blood cried for vengeance; Christ's pleads for mercy.

Verses 25-29

See that ye refuse not. 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?

Whose voice then shook the earth. At Sinai (Exo 19:18).

But now he hath promised. See Hag 2:6, which declares the removal of the heavens and earth at Christ's coming.

And this word, Yet once more. This means, says the apostle, that there is only one more shaking after the time of Haggai. 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.

Wherefore we, etc. We Christians have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken and which is eternal. Hence should serve God with reverence and godly fear since we are called to so high an estate.

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.

Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". "People's New Testament". 1891.