Hebrews 12/ June 26
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2)
Chapter 12 breaks down under three subheadings: Christ, chastening and citizenship.
The first three verses address the centrality of Christ in our salvation and sanctification (12:1-3), which means spiritual growth into His likeness. We read, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (12:1-3)
The crowd of witnesses of which the author speaks are all those from the Old Testament who were addressed in chapter 11. Quoting Dr. Warren Wiersbe, “The people listed in ch 11 are the “cloud” that witnesses (encourage) us, ‘God can be trusted! Put your faith in His Word and keep running the race!’ When you read the Old Testament your faith should grow, for the account shows what God did in and through people who dared to trust the promises (Romans 15:4). When you read the Gospels you see the greatest example of endurance in Jesus Christ.”
In Romans 15(:4) we read, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The Old Testament is to give us encouragement in the fact of there having lived those who did not possess as much “historical data” (meaning Jesus) as do we possess yet they trusted God and walked according to His ways.
The second word is chastening (12:4-11), which means ‘discipline’. We are used to reading of God chastening those in the Old Testament, and many consider the New Testament God to only be One of love; this is hardly the case as we learn in the next scriptures, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’”. (12:4-6)
It is not only “good” to be expected from God but as well- discipline. This is not a subject discussed in most churches today, it’s more so that God wants to bless the saved ones and provide for them and forgive them, but the element of discipline must be included for those whom the Lord loves He is going to desire to keep in check in behavior. The idea of discipline is likely frightening to most believers because we are talking about “Big God-little us”, however- discipline does not necessarily mean pain and hurt but denial of things we may wish to have but don’t need or prevention of going places we don’t need to go. And how many times after something doesn’t occur that we look back and see it as good in not happening. This is explained in the next verse, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (12:11)
The final section speaks of our citizenship in heaven (12:18-29), and deals with a contrast of the expectations held by Old and New Testament saints, the former being called to God in front of Mount Sinai, of which v18 shares, “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind”, which describes the scene when God was giving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16,18). The contrast made for the Christian is our instead being called to Mount Zion of which is said, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”. (12:22-24). It is primary that we recognize we don’t come to laws but the Lord, not to rules but the Ruler. We come not to a religion but a relationship bought by the blood of Jesus, the Mediator of a covenant.