Run the Christian Race.
The Urgent Appeal to Run the Christian Race.
The writer depicts the Christian life as a race in the amphitheatre. The metaphor is borrowed from the Greek games. There is the arena surrounded by tiers of seats which are thronged by spectators who watch the various contests and cheer on their chosen champions. The conditions of success are described. The runners throw off their superfluous garments, so that they may be free to exert their maximum strength and gain their maximum speed. Their footsteps never flag and their efforts are never relaxed.
Their eyes are fixed steadily upon the goal and they strain every nerve to win the prize. The use of this metaphor seems to have been very popular and there are frequent references to it in the N.T.
1 Corinthians 9: 24—27
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we are incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 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.
where Paul draws lessons both from the footrace and the boxing match. Every verse of (Heb 12:1—2) is based on the metaphor, and every phrase is used with telling effect. As the Amphitheatre is surrounded tiers by seats from which the spectators watch the games, so the arena of life is surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. The allusion, of course, is to the list of heroes enumerated in (Heb Chapter 11) who are represented as being intensely interested in the struggle of the early church, since they without us cannot be made perfect.
To succeed in the Christian race we must lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us. The meaning of the last phrase has been much disputed, as the Greek word is never found and its significance is uncertain. The best suggestion is that it means “close fitting,” or “clinging closely round,” and refers to the hampering effect of sin, which, like a clinging robe, impedes the steps of the runner of the heavenly race.
Let us run with patience. Patience here means “steadfastness,” or “loyalty,” and the phrase should be translated, therefore, “Let us run with unflinching purpose” Looking unto Jesus. As the eyes of the runner in the race are fixed upon its goal, so the eyes of the Christian must be fixed upon Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. The word translated author is found also in 2:10 where Christ is described as the author of salvation.
Hebrews 2:10 For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
The phrase used here is very significant. Christ here is not only the author or founder of the Christian faith; He is the completer or finisher as well, He can never, therefore, be superseded. He has spoken not only the first word but the last word too. Christianity, therefore, is final in a sense in which the O.T. revelation could never be. Hence the Christian life must be an imitatio Christi (Imitatio Christi = All that followers of Christ are to be and do rightly flows from God's intentions for human life together,) But what is it in Christ that ought to dominate the vision of the Christian? The answer to this question is given in the following phrase,
Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the crucifixion, despising shame.
We should interpret the word joy by giving it the sense Bergson ascribes to it. “Nature,” says Bergson “has set up a sign which apprises us every time our activity is in full expansion. That sign is joy. True joy is always an emphatic signal of the triumph of life. Wherever joy is, creation has been, and the richer the creation the greater the joy. True joy is always the symbol of creative work.”
It was because the work of redemption was the greatest creative act ever wrought that the joy of Jesus was supreme, and it was this sense of joy that enabled Him to despise the shame and endure the crucifixion.
The meaning of the Suffering
The reference to the suffering of Christ in v2 leads the writer on to discuss the meaning of the sufferings of the Christians of his day. He has already in (Hebrews 2:10 above, and Hebrews 5:8—9 dealt with some aspects of the problem and shown how Christ Himself was made perfect through suffering and learned obedience through the things which He suffered.
8 Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered;
9 And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him;
He now proceeds to apply this principle to the sufferings which befell the Christians of his time under stress of persecution. “Take Christ as your example,” he urges. “Think of all the sufferings which He endured at the hands of His enemies, and it will keep your hearts from fainting and failing.
Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
His sufferings were far greater than yours, for you have not yet had to shed your blood, as He did, in resistance to evil.
Hebrews 12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
You must not forget the appeal which God makes to you in the words of the book of Proverbs, where suffering is described as the chastening or discipline of the Lord. The disciplines the man He loves and scourges everyone upon everyone He bestows the name of son.
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
It is therefore for the sake of discipline that you have to endure these sufferings. God is treating you as sons, and discipline is a necessary element in such a relationship. If you were not sons, there would have been no grounds for this remedial discipline.
Hebrews 12: 7—8
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
If discipline were absent, it would mean that God did not regard you as sons. We recognise the right of earthly parents to punish their children for their good; ought we not to submit to the Father of our spirits when he disciplines us for advantage that we may attain eternal life?
Hebrews 12:9 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?
Our fathers exercised discipline over us during our youth for their own ends and according to their own standards and ideas (which sometimes, may have been erroneous), but God never makes mistakes; His discipline is perfect and the end which He has in view is to make us partakers of His own holiness.
Hebrews 12:10 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.
Discipline at the time always seems to be irksome and painful, but when it is Divine discipline it produces in its final issue, a life of peace and righteousness.”
An Exhortation to Pursue the Christian Ideal.
“Since suffering is a discipline, we must not allow ourselves to be dismayed by it. We must not let our hands hang listlessly down or our knees grow weak. We must encourage the flagging energies of fainting souls and try to smooth the path of life for them, that the road may be made easier for them, so that those who are lame may not have their feet dislocated by the rough places in the way.
12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
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.
We must always set before ourselves the two supreme elements in the Christian ideal—peace and consecration. (Consecration = the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word consecration literally means "association with the sacred").
Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
We must watch carefully lest any of us may miss the grace of God. We must strive after these virtues not only for our own personal lives but for the life of the Christian community as well. We must always be on our guard lest the poisonous root of bitterness spring up and contaminate the church. We must also see to it that no member of the church is guilty of immorality or lives a profane life like Esau (to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt) Esau should be a warning to us all. For a single plate of food he sold his birthright.
Hebrews 12:16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright
He lost his blessing forever even though he made the most strenuous efforts to regain it. He found no place of repentance.”
Hebrew 12:17 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.
Three interpretations of the last phrase are possible. The words, though he sought it diligently with tears, may be connected with the first clause of the verse. In this case it is the blessing which he seeks to regain in vain. Or they may be connected with the clause which the R.V. puts in brackets. he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. In this case we must suppose that Esau had committed the unpardonable sin for which no forgiveness was possible, and he becomes an illustration of the terrible words of ;
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.
Putting (as they do) Him to an open shame. The warning is that if, after accepting Jesus the Nazarene as Messiah and Lord, they go back to Judaism they cut themselves off (Gal 5:4), as there is no other Messiah to be looked for, and by rejecting Him they put Him to open shame. Though the interpretation is for apostates who go back to Judaism, the application remains a solemn warning to all who profess to “believe”.
Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Hebrews 10: 26—27
26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
The Old Covenant and the New.
The warning words of the previous paragraph are now driven home by a contrast between the responsibilities involved in the two covenants, the Old and the New.
Old. The character of the Old Covenant is first described in sensuous images. “You Christians,” says the writer, “have not come, as Moses and your forefathers did, to an earthly mountain like Mount Sinai, that blazed with fire and had its head shrouded in mist and darkness, while a terrible storm raged all about it. Out of the tempest came the blare of a trumpet, and a Voice so awful that men prayed it might never be repeated. Such sanctity was attached to the mountain that no one was allowed to approach it. if even a beast committed unconscious trespass upon it, it was immediately stoned to death. So full of dread was the scene that even Moses, to whom the law of God was to be revealed, trembled with fear and said, “I am terrified and afraid.’ ” Such is the picture which the writer draws of the circumstances under which the Old Covenant was given to Israel. The unapproachable mountain stands as the symbol of an un-approachable God.
Hebrews 12: 18—21
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.
19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
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:
21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
The writer now turns to the other picture.
“You Christians have not come to a mount of terror like Sinai, but to Mount Zion and the eternal city of the living God—the New Jerusalem in heaven. It is no scene of dread that meets your eyes. The vision you see is the vision of a vestal assembly of angels and a great concourse of the first-born sons of God whose names are inscribed in the register of heaven. Amid this great assembly stands God the Judge of all men, and with Him are the spirits of just men who have been made perfect, and Christ Himself the mediator of the new covenant, who has suffered the perfect sacrifice which is far superior to that which Abel offered in the patriarchal age.
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,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Such is the contrast which the writer draws between the two pictures—the picture of horrors of Mount Sinai and the picture of the bliss and joy of heaven. The next paragraph contains an appeal based on the two visions which have just been described.
25 See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven:
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”.
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.
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:
29 For our God is a consuming fire.
“See that ye refuse not to listen to the Divine voice.” Remember the fate of those who spurned the commands which God uttered at Sinai. How much greater will be the penalty that will fall on those of us who despise the voice that comes from heaven! At Sinai God’s voice shook the earth., and the prophet Haggai has told us that another earthquake will shake the world at the end of time: ‘Once more I will shake the earth and the heavens tremble.’
Exodus 19:18 And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole Mount quaked greatly.
Haggai 2:6, 21
06 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; ‘Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;’
21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, “I will shake the heavens and the earth;”
That prophecy has yet to be fulfilled—as the phrase once more clearly denotes and this shaking will be final. In this final shock all material things will perish; only the spiritual realities will remain unshaken. We belong to a kingdom which cannot be affected by the convulsion which will destroy the material universe. let us be thankful that when the kingdoms of this world perish in the last catastrophe, the realm to which we belong will be scathe-less out of the fires. Let us serve God faithfully, and let us do it with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire and in this fire all that is unworthy and impure will be destroyed.”
In this last phrase the writer emphasises the moral severity and the sternness of God who never fails to inflict punishment on the sinner. Some scholars see in the phrase consuming fire an allusion to the cleansing and purifying influence of fire, and they suggest the inference that the final end of punishment is always remedial—but there is nothing in the phrase or in the context to warrant the interpretation, which seems quite foreign to the general teaching of the epistle.
1. All praise to the Long Suffering God for His goodness and forbearance.
2. “Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering,
3. Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
4. Blessed be the Merciful Jehovah who still desires that men would be saved!
5. “Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the TRUTH.” 1 Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the TRUTH.
6. May the Holy Spirit yet reap a harvest of souls from the fields of men who are still “crooked and perverse”. Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
7. I write this book both for humanity’s sake, and for piety towards God.
8. For there can be no Religion, more true or just, than to know the things that are.
9. And to acknowledge thanks for all things, to Him that made them.
10. Which thing I shall not cease continually to do.
11. What then should a man do, O Father, to lead his life well, seeing there is nothing here, in this world true?
12. But to be Pious and Religious, for he that does so is the best and highest Philosopher.
13. And without Philosophy, it is impossible ever to attain to the height and exactness of Piety or Religion.
14. But he that shall learn and study the things that are, and how they are ordered and governed.
15. And by whom, and for what cause, or to what end, will acknowledge thanks to the workman as to a good Father.
16. Who is an excellent nurse, and a faithful steward, and he that gives thanks shall be Pious or Religious.
17. And he that is religious shall know both where the TRUTH is, and what it is, and learning that, he will be yet more religious.
18. For NEVER, shall, or can that soul which while it is in the body lighten and lift up itself to know and comprehend.
19. That which is Good and True, slide back to the contrary; for it is infinitely enamoured thereof,
20. And forgets all Evils, and when it has learned and known its Father and Progenitor it can no more depart from that Good.
21. And once learned and fully understood let this be the end of Religion and Piety;
22. Because once you have arrived, you shall both live well, and die blessedly,
23. While your soul is not ignorant as to whether it must return and fly back again. For this only is the way to TRUTH.