One of the challenges facing the Christians to whom Hebrews was written was to hold fast to their faith in Christ in the midst of trials and sufferings. The citing of the examples of faith in the last chapter leads directly into the exhortations that follow. The numerous witnesses that surround us encourage us to run the race before us with endurance. The author urges us to look unto Jesus in order not to become weary. He also reminds us of God’s good purpose in sending us trials in life.
Did You Know...?
1. Cloud (12:1): “The word ‘cloud’ (nephos, only here in the NT) may be used of a mass of clouds in the sky (the more common nephele means a single cloud). But it is also used from time to time of a throng of people, when it emphasizes the number. The witnesses are a vast host.”
2. Witnesses (12:1): “The Greek word translated ‘witnesses’ is the origin of the English word ‘martyr’ and means ‘testifiers, witnesses.’” [ref]
3. “Consider Him” (12:3): “The Greek word is analogizomai, from which comes “analogy.” This is the only occurrence of the word in the New Testament, and it suggests this translation: ‘Compare yourself with.’” [ref]
- Run the Race with Endurance (12:1-4)
- Endure God’s Discipline (12:5-11)
- Strengthen and Straighten (12:12-13)
Who are the “cloud of witnesses”?Hide Answer
These are the people of faith in the past, some of whom were cited in the previous chapter. Their lives have become a testimony of faith to us.
What is required of us who run the heavenly race?Hide Answer
We need to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. We also need to run with endurance (1).
How does sin “ensnare” us?Hide Answer
Sin can entangle us, make us stumble, and disqualify us from the race. Sin is deceitful (3:13). People step into the trap of sin because it is attractive and seems harmless. Sin often starts small, but once we give sin an opportunity to work in us, it will grow and overpower us, resulting in spiritual death (Jas 1:14-15).
What “weights” can possibly hinder us in our race?Hide Answer
The “weights” refer to anything that distracts us and slows us down in our journey of faith, including ambitions, anxieties, or pleasures (Lk 8:14; 21:34). These things may not necessarily be sinful in themselves, but we should still lay them aside because they can hinder us. Sometimes, we may be so preoccupied with our careers, education, relationships, leisure, etc. that we do not have the time nor the energy to think about the things of God and our faith. We must reset our priorities so that these would not make us lose sight of our Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.
What does it mean that Jesus is the “author and finisher of faith”? How does this description relate to the exhortation in verse 1?Hide Answer
Jesus paved the way of faith for us. Today, we can come to God through faith because Christ began and completed the work of salvation. Also, it is through the help of our Lord Jesus that we can complete our journey of faith (cf. Jn 6:39; 2Tim 1:12).
How does looking unto Jesus help us in our race?Hide Answer
Our Lord Jesus is our predecessor. He endured the sufferings of the cross and has been exalted. Because He has been victorious, we who follow His steps can look to Him for strength and encouragement. When we consider Jesus, we are reminded that our sufferings are but light and momentary compared to the sufferings He went through. This thought encourages us to keep on enduring.
What does verse 4 mean?Hide Answer
For the first readers of the epistle as well as most Christians today, we have not suffered to the point of being beaten or killed.
In what ways does a Christian “strive with sin”?Hide Answer
The word “bloodshed” implies that the sin here refers to oppositions of some sort. Thus, the words “strive with sin” can be understood as enduring persecutions. However, we do not need to exclude the idea of resisting temptation. While oppositions to our faith today may not involve imprisonment or sword, they can come in more subtle forms, such as peer pressure or prevailing social values. Yielding to these oppositions is yielding to sin. In this sense, resisting temptation can also be considered “striving with sin.”
Why does the author discuss the subject of God’s chastening in this context?Hide Answer
The author is pointing out that our sufferings are not without divine purpose. He reminds us to view our striving with sin as God’s chastening.
In what forms do chastenings come?Hide Answer
From the context, we understand that divine chastening includes, but is not limited to, punishment for wrongdoing. Persecutions and trials of faith in general are also means of God’s discipline.
“And you have forgotten the exhortation…” (5). What happens when a Christian forgets the exhortation stated in 5b and 6?Hide Answer
When we do not see God’s loving purpose behind our sufferings, it is easy to become discouraged and even resentful. Instead of valuing our sufferings, we may complain about them and grumble against God.
According to this paragraph, what are the purposes of divine chastening?Hide Answer
God chastens us so that we may live (9); we may be partakers of His holiness (10); we may be trained by the chastening and reap the peaceable fruit of righteousness (11)
How is God’s chastening better than the chastening of our human fathers?Hide Answer
Our human fathers chastened us “for a few days” (during our childhood and while they are alive), but God’s chastening helps us throughout our lives. Our human fathers chastened us “as seemed best to them.” Sometimes, parents may make mistakes in their discipline and the result may not necessarily benefit the children. But God’s chastenings are always “for our profit,” for God knows what is best for us and He does not make mistakes.
What is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness”?Hide Answer
Trials in life help us develop God’s righteous character. This righteousness is peaceable because it gives us inner peace with God as well as peace with others. Once we have been trained by our chastening, we will take our sufferings with the right attitude, without grumblings against God or complaints against others.
Recall an experience in which God chastened you. How did you benefit from the chastening?
What is the meaning of the figurative language in verse 12?Hide Answer
The words, “hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” is describing a condition in which the believer has become discouraged and weary. The author encourages us to become strong in the face of sufferings, for we have Jesus Christ as our example, and we know God’s good purpose behind the sufferings.
What does it mean to make straight paths for our feet? What is the purpose for doing so?Hide Answer
We need to remove anything that cripples or entangle our feet on our heavenly journey (cf. 1). When we have become sluggish in our spiritual growth, we must take measures to find and remove the cause so that we may be healed of our spiritual ill. When we have become discouraged, we need to correct our attitude and see the divine purpose. This teaching can also apply to the community of believers. We ought to help each other remove obstacles of faith so that our weakness may become strength.
17. Are you struggling with sin in your life right now? How has this Bible passage encouraged you?