Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The Cloud of Witnesses
When the scriptures were first written, they weren’t written by chapter and verse. Each book was one continuous writing, or one collection of writings, such as the Psalms. They were later divided into chapters and verses in order to make it easier for us to locate specific passages of scripture.
So, to understand chapter 12, it is good to look back at chapter 11 to get the context. Also, when a sentence begins with the word “therefore,” we need to look back to what preceded it to see what it is there for.
So, that takes us back to Hebrews 11, which is considered the “Faith Chapter” of the Bible. Here we have a historical record of many people throughout history who were considered people of faith. So, how do we know they were people of faith? It is because they obeyed God and they did what he told them to do. Their actions proved their faith to be genuine.
For example, Noah was commanded of God to build an ark. By faith, thus, Noah built the ark. What if he didn’t build it? What if he just said, “I believe God,” but then he did nothing? Would he still be a person of faith? And then there is Abraham. What if, when God told him to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, he did nothing? What if he stayed put where he was? Would he still be a person of faith?
If we read that whole chapter, I believe we have our answer. Faith is not just some intellectual assent to something. And, it isn’t a one-time experience we go through in our lives. It isn’t a feeling, or a religion, or religious rituals. And, it isn’t just following a set of rules.
Faith is believing God with God-given faith, and it is divine persuasion as to who God truly is, and as to his design for our lives. And, that is that we walk in obedience to his commands.
But, we can say we believe all we want, and still not believe. The scriptures talk about this. They call it “lip service.” It is when people mouth empty confessions of faith in Jesus Christ while their hearts truly are far from God. For, they don’t honor him as God and Lord. But, they continue on in their sinful ways, and they don’t obey him – some because they think they don’t have to. But, true faith in Christ is revealed as genuine by our actions.
Throw Off All Hindrances
Is there a correlation between chapter 11 and chapter 12? Yes, of course there is. Chapter 11 leads right into chapter 12. So, since we have these witnesses from chapter 11, who witness to us with regard to what true faith in God – in Jesus Christ – looks like, what impact should that have on us today? What truth can we take away from chapter 11 which is applicable to you and to me as followers of Jesus Christ in 2020?
We should throw off (cut out) everything, and I mean everything which serves as a hindrance to our faith, which includes besetting sins (sins that so easily entangle us). And, we are to run with perseverance the race God marked out for us to run, i.e. the path of righteousness he designed for us to take. This is the essence of the gospel message.
For, the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we must put off or forsake or die to our former lives of living for sin and self, that we are to be made new in our minds and hearts of the Spirit of God, and that we are to put on Christ and his righteousness. And, we are to now walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God and no longer according to our flesh (Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).
Thus, there is a definite connection here between what genuine faith looks like and us forsaking our sins to follow our Lord in obedience to his commands. Just like love is not a feeling, but it is what we do, so it is with faith. Faith is not generated by what we do, but what we do is the result of faith, or it is the result of unbelief. For, what we do (our walk) reveals if we have faith or we don’t (Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Rom. 2:6-8; Gal. 6:7-8).
So, we need to throw off (cut out of our lives) EVERYTHING that serves as a hindrance to our walks of faith, including any sin which might be entangling us. So, by the grace of God, because of what Jesus did for us, and in the power of God’s Spirit alive within us, we can say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts. And, we can live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17).
Running the Race
And, we can run that race and walk that walk that God designed for us even before the creation of the world. We can do it in his strength and power, and by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not on our circumstances, and not on the flesh, and not on the pleasures this world is offering us.
And, that is because Jesus is the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith. Therefore, we can only do what we do, by faith in him, by yielding control of our lives over to him. For, our faith originates with him, and it is carried to completion by him.
But, because he is the one who gave us the faith, and because he is the one who carries it to completion, that means that the faith must conform to his divine purposes and will for our lives and to his commands. For, if it is genuine saving faith, it will submit to Christ as Lord, and it will surrender to his design and purpose for our lives, and it will walk in obedience to his commands. So, if it doesn’t, it isn’t genuine saving faith. It is of the flesh.
But, Jesus isn’t just the originator of our faith, and the one who carries it to completion in our lives, and he isn’t just the one who empowers and strengthens us in the faith so that we can run that race he has for us. But, he sets the example for us as to what that should look like in our lives, too.
He literally died. He gave up his life here on this earth to see us go free. And, in his death he put our sin to death. In his death and in his resurrection, he conquered sin, death, Satan and hell on our behalf so that we could walk in victory over darkness. Amen!
Although in this life he suffered much at the hands of those who opposed him, and even though he was tempted to sin in all the ways we are, and even though he was falsely accused and beaten and mocked and hung on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong, still in all of that he did not sin. He remained faithful to God the Father.
And, that is the race he has put before us. It is the walk he commanded us that we should walk. And, it involves us putting sin to death in our lives, humbling ourselves, submitting to God, and being willing to be hated, rejected, falsely accused and put to death for our obedience to Christ, and because we are sharing the gospel message with others which can set them free from darkness, and which can bring them into God’s wonderful light.
For, Jesus didn’t die on that cross just so we could escape hell and just so we could go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die with him to sin and that we might live to him and to his righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).
O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth
Author: Samuel Medley (1789)
O could I speak the matchless worth,
O could I sound the glories forth
Which in my Savior shine,
I’d soar, and touch the heav’nly strings,
and vie with Gabriel while he sings
in notes almost divine,
in notes almost divine.
I’d sing the precious blood he spilt,
my ransom from the dreadful guilt
of sin, and wrath divine:
I’d sing his glorious righteousness,
in which all perfect, heav’nly dress
my soul shall ever shine,
my soul shall ever shine.
I’d sing the characters he bears,
and all the forms of love he wears,
exalted on his throne:
in loftiest songs of sweetest praise,
I would to everlasting days
make all his glories known,
make all his glories known.
Well, the delightful day will come
when my dear Lord will bring me home,
and I shall see his face;
then with my Savior, Brother, Friend,
a blest eternity I’ll spend,
triumphant in his grace,
triumphant in his grace.
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