Welcome back to our study of the book of Hebrews, today we’ll be looking at Hebrews 12:1-4 part 1-Do not grow weary.
Last week we talked about the triumph of faith, and chapter 11 was entirely dedicated to explain what faith ought to look like in the life of the believer. According to the word of God, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word. We learned that faith is a gift of God and is a pre requisite to pleasing God. We also saw that being pleasing to God doesn’t prevent us from going through struggles. For some, God is glorified through their suffering and death ( Abel) while for others, He is glorified through their deliverance. In Chapter 12, the writer will tell us how God works in us so that we exude the type of trust that pleases Him, so gird up your loins.
How Not To Grow Weary In Our Walk With God?
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do Not Grow Weary
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:1-4 Explanation Verse By Verse
- Verse 1
We need to remember that when the writer to the Hebrews was penning down his letter, there was no chapter division. Last week we ended chapter 11 but that doesn’t mean that the author’s train of thoughts has ceased. Chapter 12 is a continuation of chapter 11, that’s how we ought to read the entire letter to the Hebrews. In the last verses of chapter 11, we talked about the triumph of faith. Chapter 12 begins with the word therefore. So the writer is basically saying to his readers: in light of everything that has been said about “faith”, a decision has to be made. Romans 15:4 will help us understand verse 1 even better, the Scripture says:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
The account of the men and women of faith mentioned in chapter 11 was recorded for us so that we could learn from them; they serve as a great cloud of witnesses the Scripture says. By the testimony of their lives, the writer says that his readers and us can learn how to live to please God, this is the whole reason why chapter 11 was given. God Himself bore witness that they were pleasing to Him, for they lived by faith. I absolutely love the old testament, because it tells us about the changed lives of regular men and women likes us, folks that we can relate to. Listen to what James 5:17-18
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
This is exactly the point of the writer when he uses the phrase “ so great a cloud of witnesses”. He is using the saints of old as a model of a faith filled life that his readers and us can learn from, they are a great cloud of witnesses. The writer is saying because of all these reasons, the following must be done. The original readers must lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely in order that they may run with endurance the race set before them. This is a command, and the Holy Spirit is commanding the original readers and us to do that. This is a call to examine ourselves to see what distractions are keeping us from serving God wholeheartedly. He mentions two different things, every weight, so I’m assuming that the weight may not necessarily mean something sinful. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12
All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
That is the thought that is being conveyed here. The weight can be any distraction that isn’t beneficial. I’m not sure what that meant for the original readers, it could be comfort, the pursuit of goals that really do not have any eternal value. The second thing that can prevent anyone from serving God wholeheartedly is “Sin”. And the writer uses a very interesting word to describe the devastating deceitfulness of sin- clinging. It has a way of wrapping us up, entangling us in a web of lies, deceit and unproductivity. Sin separates us from God. The Scripture tells us that blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. In 1 John, we are told to confess our sins daily that our fellowship with God may not be broken. It is very important, because unconfessed sins can cripple our walk with the Lord, see 1 Samuel 3:1. The reason why the writer wants his readers and us to let aside any weight and sin is so that they( we) can run with perseverance the race set before them(us). The Christian life is a pilgrimage, no sooner than we gain victory over a sin are we confronted with another sin our life. God does it gradually and the sanctification process is lifelong on this side of eternity. Paul understood that and mentioned it in Romans 8 :18-25. We are in a marathon not in a sprint. In this particular passage, the main sin the writer was mentioning was the sin of unbelief, not trusting God. He spent the entire chapter 11 talking about the antidote to unbelief. Chapter 4 and 10 warned us about unbelief. It can easily cling to us.
- Verse 2
How do we run the race with perseverance/ endurance? The first steps were given in verse 1- remember the saints of old, lay aside any known weights or sins. But even doing that doesn’t mean that one won’t grow weary. The writer was well aware of that when he was addressing his readers, and gives them the antidote to discouragement. He has been saying since the beginning of his letter that the readers ought not to neglect the great salvation that was wrought for them by God through Jesus. He is reiterating that point here, “ looking to Jesus” means keeping one’s gaze on Jesus, keeping one’s focus on Jesus, looking intently at Jesus. But why do that? Because He is the author and perfecter of our faith. What does it mean? The Scripture tells us that it is God who works in us both to will and act according to His good purpose. Basically the writer is telling his readers that to run with endurance, we must be totally dependent on Jesus ( because He birthed our faith and He will see to it that His purposes for our lives are accomplished). Jesus told his disciples in John 15 1-5
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”.
The only way the readers and us are going to live victorious lives is if we totally depend on Jesus. He endured the cross, he despised its shame and because of what He accomplished , God gave Him the highest place of honor and seated Him at His right Hand. Jesus said in John 16:33
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Jesus was set on accomplishing the work the Father had given him and HE didn’t allow any weight or sin to stand in the way. He suffered the ultimate shame by being nailed on the cross, being the Son of God, but even that didn’t deter Him from fulfilling the will of God, dying as the lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. He is our ultimate example and role model, and He hasn’t left us to fight the fight in our own strength. He has given us of his Spirit that we may overcome like He overcame. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8:10-11
10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
The condition is “ if Christ is in you”, if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you”. If those conditions are met, then we are promised victory, we are promised that we’ll run the race with endurance.
- Verses 3-4
The Lord didn’t just author our faith and left us without any examples to follow. The writer calls his readers and us to look carefully at Jesus’ own life and pay attention to all the hostility that was directed at him. We read in Isaiah 53 :7
”He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;”
Jesus Himself says in John 15:18-20
”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to the original readers that they were being persecuted, and us as well. It is going to happen. Persecution/ oppression come in different forms, they could be physical, emotional, spiritual, .. The writer is inviting his readers and us to consider what Jesus has encountered in His own life and endured so that when they or we face persecution, we won’t grow weary or fainthearted. We have a master that understands the human experience and we are told in Hebrews 4:14-16
“14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Jesus’ struggles against sin led to His death on the cross. His ultimate test occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He triumphed even through His death. So the writer is exhorting all of us ( original readers and today’s readers) to continue to resist sin, even if it means death to our physical body. Scripture tells us not to be afraid of the one who can kill the body and after that can do nothing else, but to fear the one who has power to cast into Hell. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In the book of Exodus, the two midwives displayed this kind of resistance to sin as they disregarded Pharaoh’s order to kill the Hebrew males. The Scripture said that they feared God and as a result they resisted the sinful king’s edict.
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