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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 12

 

 

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Introduction

Hebrews 12:1-29. The exhortation begun at Hebrews 10:19 is taken up again with all the weight that has been added to it by the recollections of the past. In the knowledge that so great a multitude have witnessed to the truth of God's promises. Christians are encouraged (Hebrews 12:1 f.) to make for their goal, throwing aside all worldly interests and sinful desires, as runners in a race divest themselves of encumbering garments. Above all the other inspiring examples they are to keep before them that of Jesus, who points the way for faith in its earthly struggle, and by whom in the end it will be crowned with fulfilment. Looking forward to a joy that was still in the future, He had found strength to endure the Cross, with all the shame that attached to it, and so rose to His place at God's right hand.


Verse 1-2

Hebrews 12:1. witnesses: i.e. men who bore witness to God by faith. The idea of "spectators" is not contained in the Greek word.—easily beset us: lit. "easily entangling," an image from trailing garments.

Hebrews 12:2. of our faith: should simply be "of faith."—author is better translated "leader." The servants of God in all ages are regarded as a single host of which Jesus is the captain. He is also the perfecter of faith, since the promises will at last be fulfilled through Him.—for the joy: the words might also bear the meaning "instead of the joy that was offered Him He endured the cross." In this case the thought would be similar to that of Paul in Philippians 2:6-10 : Jesus exchanged the joys of heaven for a life of earthly suffering, and so attained to a yet higher exaltation. But the meaning given above is more in accord with the ideas enforced in this section of the epistle (cf. Hebrews 11:26).


Verses 3-13

Hebrews 12:3-13. With the example of Christ before them the readers are to show more constancy under their own sufferings. They are to think of Him whose life was so thwarted by wicked men, and thus nerve themselves to strength and patience (Hebrews 12:3). What is their struggle compared to that of Jesus? They have not yet been called on to venture their lives in the battle for righteousness, and under such sufferings as have been laid on them they have given way, forgetting that affliction is a chastisement which God imposes on His children with a loving purpose. Thus considered, it is a proof to us that we are really God's children, and if we are spared it, we may well doubt whether He acknowledges us (Hebrews 12:4-8). We did not rebel against our earthly fathers when they disciplined us; can we not believe that through the discipline we receive from our heavenly Father we shall rise to a truer life (Hebrews 12:9)? Our earthly fathers could train us only for the short period of youth, and sometimes their judgment was mistaken. God, on the other hand, unfailingly seeks our highest welfare, and disciplines us all our life long that we may grow into moral likeness to Himself (Hebrews 12:10). Suffering while it lasts is no doubt hard to bear, but the painful process has its outcome in that righteousness which alone brings peace. Let us march on, therefore, with new energy, and let those who are strong try so to direct their steps that the weaker may not be led astray and exhausted, but may be cheered on to a more vigorous advance.

Hebrews 12:3. against themselves: implies that in rejecting Christ they had defeated their own welfare; but the marginal reading, "against Himself," is simpler and better.

Hebrews 12:13 for your feet: better, "with your feet." Addressing the more capable and intelligent, the writer bids them think of themselves as pioneers, making a path for their halting comrades.


Verses 14-17

Hebrews 12:14-17. As the community is to bear up bravely under persecution, so it is to watch carefully over the purity of its own life. There must be no strife or dissension; above all, there must be moral consecration, for without this it is impossible to hold fellowship with Christ (Hebrews 12:14). The church must therefore keep anxious guard over its members, and make sure that each one of them lives up to his Christian profession. Even a single unworthy member may be like a poisonous weed, tainting the whole atmosphere round about (Hebrews 12:15). The Church must be specially watchful against men who indulge in sensual sins, or who live solely for worldly and material interests, careless, like Esau, of that higher destiny to which God has called them. Esau's later repentance did not avail him, and when he would fain have received the blessing he found that it was gone from him for ever. [Note that it was not the "place of repentance," but the "blessing," which Esau sought diligently with tears" and failed to secure.—A. J. G.] It may be, however, that the writer is also reverting to the idea of Hebrews 6:4 ff. For those who have fallen into grave sin after their conversion there can be no repentance, and they must be excluded from the Christian community.


Verses 18-29

Hebrews 12:18-29. The theme of the epistle has been the contrast of the old and the new covenants, and this contrast is now summed up in a splendid closing passage. The first covenant was established on a "mount that might be touched"—an earthly, material mountain [E. C. Selwyn, in JThS, xii. 134, suggests pephepsalmenô, "calcined."—A. J. G.]—which was encircled with terrible manifestations of fire and darkness and storm. The voice in which the Law was proclaimed struck terror into the people, and even Moses was so filled with awe at the nearness of the unapproachable God that he trembled (Hebrews 12:18-21). But in receiving the new covenant we have the vision before us of the heavenly Zion. the holy city above, of which Jerusalem with its Temple is nothing but the symbol. Drawing near to this holy city we are brought into fellowship with its inhabitants, who are myriad hosts of angels, and the whole company of the saints of former ages whose names were in the book of life. We enter into fellowship with God the universal Judge, and with His chosen servants, now released from their earthly bondage and fitted for their true life in His presence. More than all, in receiving the new covenant we are brought into fellowship with Jesus, who confirmed the covenant with His blood, which does not call to God for vengeance, like that of Abel, but for love and mercy.

Hebrews 12:22. Zion: the hill on which the Temple stood gave its name to the holy city. Christian thought took over, at least in a figurative sense, the Jewish belief that the earthly Jerusalem had its ideal counterpart in heaven (cf. Galatians 4:26, Revelation 21:2).

Hebrews 12:28. the first-born: this may possibly mean the angels, regarded as the elder brothers of men. But the following words, "who are written in heaven," seem rather to point to those heroes of the past who are commemorated in ch. 11. They cannot be finally admitted into God's fellowship "without us" (Hebrews 11:40), but their names are written already in the roll of the citizens of heaven.

Hebrews 12:25-29. The grandeur of the new covenant, as compared with the old, entails far higher obligations on those who belong to it. In the ancient time God spoke to men from the earthly mountain; now He speaks from His true dwelling-place in heaven (Hebrews 12:25). A day has been foretold (Haggai 2:6) when He will shake the whole universe as He shook the earth on the day of Sinai; and the words of the prophecy, "yet once more," imply that this will be the final shaking. For the last time, on this day of Christ's appearance which is now at hand, God will shake and test His world, so that all perishable things will fall to pieces, and only what is true and eternal will remain (Hebrews 12:26 f.). We are the heirs of that eternal order which will survive the shaking, and this thought should inspire us with a solemn sense of responsibility. Let us seek God's help, so that we may serve Him as He desires; for He is the absolutely Holy One, withering as with fire all who are disobedient to His will.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/hebrews-12.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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