Setting

This passage continues the exhortations concerning Christian living. These exhortations are calls to respond to the grace of God. Because Christ is the author and finisher of faith, we ought to look unto Him as we run the race. Because God chastens us for good, we ought to endure in our sufferings. In this lesson, we will study God’s grace of salvation as the reason and motivation to live godly lives. This passage also contains the final warning of the epistle. While the author reassuringly reminds us of God’s grace, he also earnestly warns us against rejecting this grace.

Key Verse

(12:28)

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Outline

  • Godly Living
    (12:14-17)
  • The Heavenly Jerusalem
    (12:18-24)
  • Mount Sinai
    (12:18-21)
  • Mount Zion
    (12:22-24)
  • Warning against Refusing God
    (12:25-29)

Segment Analysis

  • 12:14-17

    1.

    In regards to peace, what can you learn from the words “pursue” and “all” (14)?

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    The word “pursue” suggests making every effort to bring about peace (cf. Mt 5:9). Peace does not come without effort. We need to make it happen. The word “all” teaches us that we cannot be selective as to whom we want to have peace with. We are to pursue peace with all regardless of who they are or how much they have wronged us.

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  • 2.

    What reason does the author give for pursuing holiness?

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    Without holiness no one will see the Lord (14). God is holy. Anyone who’s life is contrary to God’s holiness cannot expect to be acceptable to the Lord.

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  • 3a.

    What are the three things we are to carefully guard against?

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    1. Falling short of the grace of God (15).
    2. Springing up of root of bitterness (15).
    3. Becoming a fornicator or profane person like Esau (16).

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  • 3b.

    How are these precautions related to the command in verse 14?

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    The warnings in verses 15 and 16, which pertain to peace and holiness, are an expansion on verse 14.

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  • 3c.

    What do the words “looking carefully” teach us?

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    We must walk cautiously in our spiritual journey so that we would not be deceived by sin and stumble. We should always examine ourselves against God’s word and ask God’s spirit to search our hearts to see if there are any wickedness in us.

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  • 4.

    What does it mean to fall short of the grace of God? (cf. 2Cor 6:1; Gal 5:4; Heb 4:1).

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    Falling short of the grace of God means forsaking God’s grace or failing to respond to God’s grace with a life that is worthy of the gospel.

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  • 5.

    What kind of defilement is meant in verse 15?

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    The defilement here refers to the defilement by the sin of malice, which can spread through a whole community (cf. 1Cor 5:6-8; Jas 3:14-16). Just as bitter roots grow and bear bitter fruits, envy and strife also bring much trouble to the community.

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  • 6a.

    Suppose “fornicator” refers to one who commits sexual immorality in the physical sense, why is this sin listed with being profane?

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    Being profane means showing no respect for God. Committing fornication would be considered profanity because it is defiance of God’s command.

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  • 6b.

    Suppose we interpret the fornication in a spiritual sense, how does it relate to the example of Esau?

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    Choosing to obey the desires of the flesh rather than the commands of God constitutes spiritual adultery (Jas 4:4; Jer 3:20; Hos 2:5; 3:1; 9:1).

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  • 7.

    Read Gen 25:29-34; 27:30-38. How was Esau “a profane person”?

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    He despised his birthright (Gen 25:34). The birthright was a special privilege for the firstborn son among the Israelites. The firstborn was entitled to a double portion of the father’s inheritance. Esau’s contempt for his birthright was a contempt for the Lord because the blessing of the father originated from the blessings of God (cf. Gen 27:27-28).

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  • 8a.

    In what sense could a Christian today sell his birthright “for one morsel of food”?

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    If we sacrifice our commitment to serve God for the immediate gratification of the fleshly desires, we are making the same mistake as Esau. Although Esau’s choice of having the stew was not immoral in itself, his choice for food at the expense of his birthright showed that he despised God and His promises. In the same way, there may not be anything immoral in seeking higher education, greater wealth, a more comfortable life, etc, the question we must ask ourselves is, “how important is God to me, and do I truly yearn for the heavenly inheritance?” If we value God’s blessings, our choices will reflect that. We will always place God’s command and the work of the Lord over our selfish ambitions and pursuits.

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  • 8b.

    Why would anyone make such a foolish exchange?

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    Our heavenly inheritance and reward are not visible and are things of the future, but the things of this world can provide immediate gratification. Without faith, a person would choose what is seen rather than what is not seen (cf. 11:1; 2Cor 4:18).

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  • 9.

    Why was Esau not able to find ways to change what he had done?

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    Esau knew the importance of the birthright, but he chose to forfeit the blessings of God. Therefore, he had no excuse, though he later regretted his decision. In the same way, if person has known the truth and tasted the grace of God but still has an unbelieving heart, then there will be no chance for repentance (2:1-4; 6:4-6; 10:26-31).

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  • 12:18-24

    10.

    For the background of verses 18-21, read Exodus 19:7-25. a. What different feelings do Mount Sinai and Mount Zion evoke? b. Compare the locations of Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. c. Compare the voices on Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. d. Compare “exceedingly afraid and trembling” (21) and “blood of sprinkling” (24)

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    a. The descriptions of Mount Sinai evoke the feeling of terror, whereas the descriptions of Mount Zion are reassuring.
    b. One is on earth and the other in heaven (18, 22; cf. 25).
    c. The voice of words on Mount Sinai were so terrifying that “those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore” (19). But the voice on Mount Zion is the voice of Jesus the Mediator, whose blood speaks better things than that of Abel (24). In other words, Christ intercedes on our behalf, having atoned for our sins with His blood (7:25; 9:14).
    d. Associated with Mount Sinai is the fear of judgment, but on Mount Zion our sins have been atoned by the blood of Christ.

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  • 11a.

    Why are the words “you have come to” (22) significant?

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    At the foot of Mount Sinai, the people could only stand at a distance, and they were not able to see God. But we have come to Mount Zion into the very presence of God. The way to God has been opened.

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  • 11b.

    What made it possible for us to come to Mount Zion?

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    The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant (24). The mention of Jesus is the climax of the list in 22-24. The blood of Jesus has brought us the blessings of the new covenant, in which God promised us that our sins would be forgiven and that we would be His people.

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  • 12.

    Where is Mount Zion, city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem?

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    It is not a physical place, but the spiritual assembly of all the believers in Christ. It is the spiritual church in heaven (cf. Gal 4:26; Rev 3:12; 21:2, 10; Eph 2:6; Col 3:3). Believers who are in Christ have come to this heavenly city.

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  • 12:25-29

    13.

    Based on the warning of this paragraph, what was the point of comparing Mount Sinai and Mount Zion?

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    The point of the comparison is to show how great a salvation we have received (cf. 2:3) and how great our Lord Jesus Christ is (cf. 8:1). We have not come to behold at a distance the terrifying manifestations of God, but we have come into the heavenly presence of God through the saving works of Jesus Christ. It follows, then, as this paragraph points out, that we must receive this salvation with gratitude and heed the words of our Lord.

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  • 14a.

    Compare the two “shakings” (26-27).

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    At Mount Sinai, God’s voice shook the earth. But at the Lord’s coming, He will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven. It will be a cosmic event (cf. Heb 1:11-12; 2Pet 3:10; Rev 6:12-17; Isa 51:6).

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  • 14b.

    What are the things that can be shaken? What cannot be shaken? Which are you pursuing in your life?

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    The physical existence and the desires of this world will be shaken and removed (1Pet 1:24 25; 1Jn 2:17). But God’s kingdom, the new heavens and new earth, cannot be shaken (cf. 2Pet 3:11-13).

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  • 15.

    What attitude should we have toward God’s grace (28)? What kind of life should follow this attitude?

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    We ought to be thankful, living a holy life with godly fear. While we give thanks to God for our salvation, we should not be complacent. We need to live godly lives on earth as pilgrims and work out our salvation with fear and trembling (1Pet 1:13-25; Php 2:12).

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  • 16.

    “Our God is a consuming fire.” What does this statement teach about God?

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    God is just, and His judgment on the unsaved is severe. He will not let the ungodly go unpunished but will consume His enemies with His wrath.

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  • 17.

    What is the difference between the fear at Mount Sinai (18-21) and the fear that we ought to have on Mount Zion (28-29)?

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    The fear at Mount Sinai is a fear of approaching God. It is a fear that is outside the grace and mercy of God. But the fear Christians should have is a fear of someone who stands in the grace of God. It is a fear that comes from a thankful heart towards God’s amazing grace. As believers, we do not fear that God would not give us His grace, for He has already given us His grace in Jesus Christ, but we do fear that we may reject God’s grace through unbelief.

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