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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Hebrews 12

Verse 1

Heb 12:1. This is an illustration drawn from the footraces that were ponular in ancient times. There were always some witnesses whose business was to look on to see that the runners observed the "rules of the game." Knowing that they were being watched. the contestants would be more careful to do their best to run according to the regulations. The word cloud means a great throng. and the witnesses refers to the list of worthies who are described in the preceding chanter. Those persons were dead and hence could not actually be looking on as the Christians were running the race. The idea is that the examples of faith that were performed by those characters should serve as an incentive for us to do our best also. Weight is from a Greek word that is defined in the lexicon as anything that might be a hindrance. The contestants in the races would discard all extra clothing or whatever was attached to their bodies that would make it more difficult or uncertain in runing the race. Likewise the Christian should put off all practices or other conditions that would interfere with the service to Christ. Paul specifies one such hindrance which is the sin which Both so easily beset us. That sin is evidently unbelief, since the importance of belief (or faith) is the subject of the entire eleventh chapter. A lack of faith in the Lord would necessarily hinder anyone from rendering acceptable service. Patience means endurance or perseverance, and the Christian must not be irregular or unsteady in his service, but should continue steadfastly to the end. Race is from AGON which means any kind of contest in general use, but is here applied to the contest of the footrace. Is set before us denotes that the contest is open for us, but we must voluntarily enter it if we engage in it at all.

Verse 2

Heb 12:2. A runner would forget the things behind him and be looking toward the goal and what it would mean to reach it. Likewise the Christian should have his eyes on Jesus who has set the goal at the end of a faithful life. Author means one who sets an example for others to follow, and finisher is one who carries out that example by a faithful life unto the end. The pronoun our is not in the original and is not necessary to the thought in the mind of the apostle. The sentence denotes the faith of the Gospel as it is demonstrated by the life of Christ. The joy that was set before Jesus was that of being the Saviour of the world, even though it required Him to die on the cross. Despising means to belittle or count as nothing the shame of such a death. It was bad enough to die at all, the just for the unjust, but it was more humiliating to die by crucifixion because only the worst of criminals were usually executed by that means. That is why Paul makes the remark that Jesus obeyed his Father unto death, "even the death on the cross" (Php 2:8). Christ was rewarded for his humble service by being seated at the right hand of God, and those who fashion their lives after the pattern set by Jesus will be permitted to live with him and God.

Verse 3

Heb 12:3. Christians were persecuted for the sake of Jesus and often thought their sufferings were unnecessary. On this account they sought to avoid it by deserting Him and going back to Moses as their lawgiver. But Jesus also suffered for righteousness' sake, including mistreatment from sinners who were usually contradicting His teaching. Christians should consider this example and take courage for the conflict. Faint in your minds means to be discouraged on account of trials.

Verse 4

Heb 12:4. They had not suffered as much as Jesus did, for he was compelled to defend His faith to the extent of shedding his blood.

Verse 5

Heb 12:5. The exhortation referred to is in Pro 3:11-12. This exhortation by Solomon is based on a truth that is in force under all ages of the world, hence Paul cites it and applies it to the servants of God in the Christian Dispensation. Despise not denotes that they should not belittle or disrespect the correction. Chastening refers to the discipline that a righteous parent will exercise upon his son for disobedience. To faint means to become despondent over the rebukes of our Heavenly Father.

Verse 6

Heb 12:6. The Lord chastises his children because of His love for them, even to the extent of scourging (suffering them to be afflicted) for their training.

Verse 7

Heb 12:7. Paul is making his comparison to an earthly parent who is the proper kind, not one who fails in his duty of controlling his children. God chastens his children for their good as do fleshly fathers their sons. Christians are exhorted to submit humbly to the chastisement from God, on the principle that His love for them prompts the correction.

Verse 8

Heb 12:8. Bastards and not sons. Even so-called "illegitimate" boys are sons of men and women, and are brought forth by the same law of reproduction that is the source of all human beings. Hence the term as used In contrast with sons is employed in a technical or legal sense. The idea is that if a man refrained from using discipline on a boy it would be on the ground that he was not his son; that he belonged to another outside his own family. Likewise, if a professed Christian objects to being chastised by the Lord, it implies that he does not claim to be a son of the Lord.

Verse 9

Heb 12:9. All good persons remember with appreciation the punishment they received from their fathers in the days of their minority, for they realize that it was for their good. How much more should we accept with humility the correction from the Father of spirits (our spiritual Father) and live a life of uprightness.

Verse 10

Heb 12:10. For a few days. During the days when we were minors which was a comparatively short time in the light of the endless future. Their own pleasure. Not that the fathers obtained any enjoyment from the punishing of their children, but the word means that it was according to their best judgment. God is infinite in judgment and totally unselfish in His motive for chastising his children, and does it solely for their own advantage.

Verse 11

Heb 12:11. Punishment is always unpleasant to the body and cannot bring any enjoyment for the time being. The good done is to be realized in the form of a better line of conduct by having been corrected from a life of waywardness. Of course this is on condition that the children are exercised thereby, which means they take the correction properly and amend their ways.

Verse 12

Heb 12:12. Hands hanging down and feeble knees indicate a spirit of despair or aversion to the chastisement for the punishment of wrong. Such persons should take a different attitude in the matter and look upon the situation as one where they really have been favored.

Verse 13

Heb 12:13. Make straight paths. Christians are not permitted to devise their own plan of religious life; that has been done by the Lord. The meaning is that they should be careful to walk In the path that has been prepared for them. They should do this not only for their own sake, but for others who may be influenced by their example. Otherwise if they do that which is not right, those who have less knowledge or ability might be confused and caused to lose the way. Instead of such a result, their lives should be such that the lame or weaker ones may be healed or led aright.

Verse 14

Heb 12:14. Follow peace should be on the basis of Jas 3:17 which requires the peace to be in harmony with the pure wisdom from above. Paul recognizes the necessity of this proviso in Rom 12:18 whore he says "if it be possible." Holiness is the same as righteousness and without it no man shall sec the Lord which means to enjoy Him.

Verse 15

Heb 12:15. Look diligently denotes the idea of being careful how one conducts himself, otherwise he may get out of the right path and fall from the grace or favor of God. Root of bitterness means a feeling of hatred against others, which could be only a source of trouble among disciples that would spread defilement among them.

Verse 16

Heb 12:16. This verse specifies some of the things referred to in general terms in the preceding one. Fornicators should not be permitted to remain among the disciples because of their evil influence (1Co 5:6-7). A profane person is one who makes a temporal use of a sacred thing. That is what Esau did when he sold his birthright (a sacred possession) for a mess of food (a temporal article). In general practice it means any disciple who would try to obtain some earthly advantage out of his profession of faith in Christ.

Verse 17

Heb 12:17. Found no place for repentance. Repentance means more than sorrow or regret for a mistake, but also requires that it be corrected. Esau knew afterward that he had acted foolishly in selling his birthright, but he had no opportunity for getting it back, for Jacob would not give it up.

Verse 18

Heb 12:18. From here through several verses the apostle returns to the leading subject of the epistle, namely, the contrasts between the system under Moses and that under Christ. The mount that might be touched was Sinai because it was a literal one (Exo 19:12), and it was from this mount that the old law was given. The rest of the verse is descriptive of the conditions when the Israelites approached the area.

Verse 19

Heb 12:19. This continues the conditions at Sinai which are recorded in Exo 20:19 and other passages in connection therewith.

Verse 20

Heb 12:20. Could not endure that which was commanded sounds as if God required something that the people could not do, which we know was not the case. The meaning is that the conditions were so awe-inspiring that it overwhelmed them with terror. The things mentioned in the latter half of the verse are recorded in Exo 19:12-13.

Verse 21

Heb 12:21. This remark of Moses is not recorded in Exodus, but Paul was inspired and was able to report this part of the circumstance for our information.

Verse 22

Heb 12:22. The preceding verses describe the mount to which Christians do not come (as the Israelites did); the apostle now will describe the mount to which they have come. He does so by a series of points of identity which apply to the one divine institution under Christ, which was set up in Jerusalem which is termed Mount Zion. Christians do not actually go to the city of Jerusalem, but they come to the institution that was set up in that city. In coming to this divine institution we are brought into near relation with other spiritual places and things, to be named in this and the next two verses. City of the living God is that one in which He lives and which is the one "which hath foundations" (chapter 11:10). Heavenly Jerusalem is a contrast between Heaven above and the literal one below. The angels live in Heaven but are used in service for the people of God (chapter 1:14). By coming into the church it brings us into the benefit of these holy services.

Verse 23

Heb 12:23. General assembly is from PANEGURIS, which means the same as a mass meeting, and refers to the universal membership of the church of Christ. The same institution is composed of the firstborn which is plural in the original Greek and also is in the possessive case. The members of the church are called firstborn in a figurative sense. In old times the firstborn child was heir to the possessions of his father. Since all faithful members of the church are heirs of the spiritual possessions of Christ, they are here called the firstborn (ones). The phrase church of the firstborn is not a scriptural title or name of the church as it is erroneously used often by our brethren. Written in heaven. The names of the faithful children of God are enrolled in heaven (Luk 10:20; Rev 21:27). Membership in the church of Christ brings us into fellowship with God who is the Judge of all. It also makes us have relationship with the spirits of just men made perfect, meaning those who have reached the complete state under the providence of God, such as those described in Mat 27:53; Rom 8:29; 1Co 15:20; Eph 4:8; Jud 1:14.

Verse 24

Heb 12:24. Jesus became the mediator of the new covenant by giving that law into the world to take the place of the law of Moses. Blood of sprin- kling is so worded because under the system of Moses the blood of animals was literally sprinkled on the objects to be affected. The blood of Christ is sprinkled figuratively when men obey the Gospel which brings them into the benefits of that blood. (See 1Jn 1:7.) Speaketh better things than that of Abel. The blood of Abel cried for vengeance (Gen 4:10 Gen 4:15), while the blood of Christ calls for mercy (chapter 2:17). The word better means "more useful or serviceable." The blood of Christ opened up a way of salvation for all mankind, which was not true of the blood of Abel.

Verse 25

Heb 12:25. Him that speaketh means Christ whose blood speaks better things than that of Abel. Judaizers would have the Christians refuse Jesus by going back to Moses for their law. Moses spake on earth (at Sinai) and even his law dared not be refused (chapter 2:1, 2; 10:29). Jesus spake from heaven when he sent the Holy Spirit down to the apostles in order to give them the new law. Paul asks how can we escape rejection from the Lord if we refuse His law.

Verse 26

Heb 12:26. Whose voice means that of God, speaking in conjunction with that of Christ who was always associated with God in all that was done (Gen 1:26; Joh 1:3). Then shook the earth occurred at Sinai as described in verses 18-20. That shaking brought in a new system of religious practice, but it was one that was not destined to be permanent. Instead, God purposed to bring about one more shaking that was to be more extensive and would involve both heaven and earth; the event is predicted in Hag 2:5-9. The prediction refers to the time when the Lord was to bring in the New Covenant and thereby dis-annul all other systems that had been in use.

Verse 27

Heb 12:27. Paul explains that since there was to be but one more shaking, it signified that what would be left in force after the shaking would be so firm that it wool be useless to try the shaking again. Such was the case, for when the great shaking took place at Jerusalem on Pentecost, the Jewish and Patriarchal Dispensations were gone and only the kingdom of Christ was able to remain as our verse says.

Verse 28

Heb 12:28. We (Christians) receiving a kingdom takes place when people renounce the worldly life and come into the kingdom of Christ. Cannot be moved is explained in the preceding verse, and in Dan 2:44. With such an institution in which we may live, there is much reason for our serving God acceptably, and the apostle prays that divine grace may be had in the service. Reverence and godly fear are virtually the same, meaning profound regard for God and resolve to treat him with full devotion.

Verse 29

Heb 12:29. God is merciful to all those who will accept His mercy, but he is a revenging God upon those who do not respect His law (chapter 10:28, 29; verse 25).
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/hebrews-12.html. 1952.