Hebrews 12:1-3

Hebrews 12:1‑3  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The distinctly hortative part of the Epistle now follows, though we have had exhortation interspersed almost from the first. But henceforth it greatly predominates with weighty words of instruction also in both the closing chapters. The object throughout is to deepen the faith of those used to religious objects of sight, to establish souls in the unseen and heavenly through the word and Spirit of God, and to unfold Christ's glory in person, work, and offices. He is here accordingly introduced not as the object of faith as before, but as the Chief, fullness, and crown of all who from the first trod the path of faith here below.
“Wherefore let us also, having so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, lay aside every weight and the readily besetting sin, and run with endurance the race set before us, looking off unto Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith; who for the joy lying before Him endured crucifixion, despising shame, and is set down at [the] right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that hath endured such contradiction by the sinners against Himself, that ye be not wearied, fainting in your souls” (Heb. 12:1-31Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (Hebrews 12:1‑3)).
The witnesses who lie all around are those described and summarized in the chapters before, not spectators of us, as some have unintelligently imagined, but men that obtained testimony from God in virtue of faith. Now and then, here and there, mainly of the chosen people, but carefully shown to have lived and suffered in faith before Abraham, they form a grand cloud, each characterized by some proved fidelity to God's will, a few by more than one, none more than “the friend of God.” But what was he, variously tried and faithful, compared with “Jesus,” as this Epistle often and with divine intent calls our Lord? In His path, in His testimony, for this is what is here in question, the light shone full and unretracted. Its unwavering equality marks its unity of perfection. Yet never had been, never can there be again, such depths and such comprehensiveness of trial, apart from that which it was His alone to bear, in His suffering once for sins to effect everlasting redemption.
Hence the saints are urged, laying aside as a settled thing every weight and the sin that so besets and entangles them, to run with endurance the race lying before them, looking with full view on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. To be sanctified through the offering of His body is a divine act of grace with an abiding effect (Heb. 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)). Reconciliation to God, and justification, as in the Epistle to the Romans and elsewhere, are not a gradual process, like growth or practical holiness. But even in practice we are called on, not to be getting rid of every weight that encumbers and the sin that besets in continuous detail, but, to have done with such and all as a fixed principle and an accomplished act. There are habits and superfluities that hinder the Christian, anxious thoughts and cares, that oppress and distract the spirit. To run well in such circumstances is as impracticable as if the sin broke out which demands self-judgment and humiliation. Parley is fatal, delay dangerous. Both weights and sin therefore are to be put off absolutely. It is in vain to trust our moral power. We must look away, from everyone and everything without or within, to Him Who is as mighty to deliver as He graciously waits on our need. Power is not in the first man but in the Second; and even here, surely we may say, that God is thereby as in all things glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom is the glory and the might for the ages of the ages, Amen.
But it is not without importance to understand that our Lord is here presented, not as the objective channel of the grace we ever need, but as the unrivaled leader and completer of faith in the whole extent of its course. “Our” faith misleads, especially with “author and finisher,” as if the Holy Spirit were here setting Him forth as beginning faith in our souls and carrying it on to the end, its source and sustainer. Not so: He is viewed as the chief and perfecter in the race of faith in its entirety. In that race let us run. It cannot be without endurance, any more than faith, right through. But “through” or “by means of” endurance is here inadequate. The apostle uses the preposition also to express condition, as in Rom. 2:2727And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (Romans 2:27). “With” in this case is right. In a world departed from God the believer's course lies through persecution, detraction, and hatred; and thus he must make his way with endurance or patience.
Herein our Lord was proved to the uttermost; “Who for the joy lying before Him endured crucifixion, despising shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Compare Matt. 11 at the end, and John 13:31-32; 14, 1731Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. (John 13:31‑32), as testimony of the joy in His view; but love, yea the Father's glory, was His motive, however the future joy cheered Him along the way. Even for us it is the same thing in principle; and the new nature, in the knowledge of God and His Son, renders us capable of it. Reward, however glorious, is never the motive; yet is it most animating in the face of danger and trial.
“Crucifixion” is here used to express the character of what the Lord endured, as we cannot say “cross” in English without an article, though we can speak of “shame” in being despised. The answer to it is His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. The suffering and the glorious issue are alike His only. No one sits there but Himself Who vindicated the glory of God compromised utterly by man. Now is man in His person set on an immutable foundation by the death of the cross. God is glorified in Him, as He glorified Him in Himself, and this immediately, without waiting for the day when the world-kingdom of Him and His Christ shall come. The Son of Man is set down at the right hand of God's throne. He has carried manhood into that glory whence He came down in love to do the will of God, accomplished redemption, and gone back again in God's righteousness, which we are made in Him.
Therefore the word is, “consider Him that hath endured such gainsaying, or contradiction, by the sinners against Himself, that ye be not wearied, fainting in your souls.” This is a great danger, and never excusable; for there He sits to cheer and bless Who has endured such gainsaying as none other did or could. They were sinners against themselves undoubtedly, as read the Sinaitic, and the Clermont MSS., &c. But the far more solemn fact is that they were the sinners against Himself, Who endured all in love to win them to God. Who ever met with a people (His people!) so rebellious? Disciples so fearful and cowardly? Betrayed by one, denied by another, deserted by all the most trusted! It was not only the sinners contradicted, but the saints fled, yea, God Himself forsook, as it must be if sin was to be judged fully. Oh, how little have the saints to weary them in comparison? and why faint in their souls who see Him on high, their sacrifice and Priest, life, righteousness, and glory?