Bible: What Does Hebrews 12 Teach Us About the Christian's "Race," Discipline, and Destination?
Hebrews 12--Running the Christian Race/Fatherly Chastisement/Sinai and Zion Contrasted
Jesus, the Originator and Perfecter of Our Faith
Using these heroes of faith (“so great a cloud of witnesses”; see Hebrews 11) as legitimate examples to follow, the author encourages everyone to choose to reject unbelief and other besetting sins, so that they might all “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1).
[The author compares the Christian life to a race in which the runner must rid himself of hindrances and other things that trip him up or drag him down in order to compete well and finish the course.]
All believers must focus their attention upon Jesus, the One who gave them faith at the start of the race (“author, originator”) and who will eventually make it mature (“finisher, perfecter”).
By concentrating His thought on the prize of once again being with the Father in Glory (“the joy that was set before Him”), Jesus was able to withstand the pain, sorrow, and shame of the Cross, finish His redemptive work on mankind’s behalf, and rest victoriously at the place of heavenly honor beside the Father (v. 2).
Do you physically chasten your children?
The Father's Chastening
The author exhorts his readers to “consider” (keep their attention fixed upon) Jesus, who felt so much virulent hatred from sinners within His soul, as their Example; by so doing, they should have strength to continue the race and not give up (v. 3).
He reminds them that no one among them has yet suffered martyrdom as the result of their crusade against sin (v. 4).
Citing Solomon’s advice as support, the writer also tells them that they have forgotten what God’s word says about how to deal with the LORD’s fatherly chastening (vv. 5-6; cf. Prov. 3:11-12).
[Addressing his son, Solomon discusses (from a negative perspective) the right attitude to show toward God's chastening, knowing the purpose of correction: "Do not hate it, because it's for your good.
He loves you; He does not want you to go astray from doing what is right" (vv. 11-12).]
The author points out that God, like any good father, chastens His true children in order to teach them right from wrong.
If his readers do not experience any chastening, then they are illegitimate children, for God makes all true sons endure His discipline (vv. 7-8).
He argues that since they react respectfully toward their human father who carries out discipline according to his own imperfect understanding of right and wrong, they would act wisely by submitting themselves to a holy God who infallibly administers correction in order to help them become like Him (vv. 9-10).
Acknowledging that chastening seems like a painful, not joyous experience, the writer nevertheless asserts that by using the rod, God gradually produces “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” within those He trains (v. 11).
Since the body of believers he addresses is experiencing difficult times, the author uses metaphors to exhort the strong among them to encourage the weak members (“the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees”).
They should seek to live righteous lives (“make straight paths for your feet”), so that those who temporarily lack spiritual vibrancy (“what is lame”) might not suffer further painful damage, but regain the use of their “legs” (vv. 12-13).
Seeking reconciliation with those at odds with them should become a primary commitment on their part as well as endeavoring to live a holy life; people who show no practical sanctification in their life will never “see” the Lord (v. 14).
[The author asserts that people must attain to some degree of sanctification (as proof of their justification and regeneration) in order to qualify for entrance into heaven.]
Leaders among them should so minister and present the truth that
(1) every person in their care has an opportunity to avail himself of God’s grace;
(2) no bitter individual arises to ruin relationships among many believers; and
(3) no spiritually immoral person like Esau appears (vv. 15-16).
People who become like Esau cannot repent, even though they may come to realize their folly and feel sorry about what they have forfeited (v. 17; cf. Heb. 6:6).
The New Jerusalem
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The New Jerusalem, not Sinai, Awaits the Believer
The author reminds his readers of another reason why they should seek spiritual renewal: Zion (a place of grace and glory), not Sinai (a place of fear and fire), awaits them as their destination (vv. 18-24).
In this passage, he contrasts Mount Sinai—a frightening, fiery environment full of gloom and terrifying noise that neither Moses nor the Israelites could endure (vv. 18-21; cf. Ex. 19:12-13; 20:18-26; Deut. 9:19)—with Mount Zion—a city where “an innumerable company” of angels, the Church (“the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven”), God the Judge, the Old Testament saints (“the spirits of just men made perfect”), and the New Covenant’s Mediator Jesus reside as well as where the Lord’s perfect blood has been sprinkled (vv. 22-24).
Finally, the writer of Hebrews first warns his readers not to refuse to obey Lord’s commandment, and then he sets up another “if . . . (how) much more” contrast (v. 25; cf. 12:8-9; 10:29; 9:13-14).
He tries to reason them into compliance by arguing from the lesser to the greater.
That is, since the Israelites of the wilderness did not escape God’s chastisement when they refused to listen to Moses’ instructions, the current generation will surely not survive if they neglect to observe Christ’s word.
In Moses’ day, the LORD’s voice shook the ground.
However, a day is coming when He will remove the created world (“things that are made”), so that the eternal kingdom (“the things that cannot be shaken”) might remain (vv. 26-27; cf. Hag. 2:6).
In light of their receiving this unshakable kingdom, the author exhorts his readers to offer acceptable service to their holy God (“a consuming fire”) with thanksgiving and reverential awe (vv. 28-29).
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