Hebrews With A Hebrew – Part 25

Written by Neil Silverberg

May 29, 2024

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

In this new chapter, the writer uses an athletic metaphor to present to his readers the attitude they should have to run the race well. In the previous chapter, he refers to the great personages in the Hall of Faith as a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrew 12:1). The author uses the metaphor of running a race with perseverance to teach how believers must walk in this life in order to live the Christian life properly.

The writer of Hebrews is not the only one who uses this metaphor to depict Christian life. Paul often used athletic analogies to portray the Christian life. Consider his “fight the fight,” or “run with patience,” or “wrestle not with flesh and blood” statements. His writings are peppered with references to the Greek games. It’s beneficial for the Bible student to understand this context” (Google, What is Paul’s Metaphor of the Athlete?). His main purpose in using this metaphor is to lay stress on the importance of self-control in the Christian life. In the same way that runners must practice self-discipline in order to compete in a race, so must those who are serious about running the race of the Christian life.

They are to run the race in light of the fact that they are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Some have taken this to mean that these witnesses can actually see us from heaven; that they are literally watching us. But it is doubtful that that is what the writer is saying in this statement. Rather, they are those mentioned in the previous chapter who ran the race throughout the Old Testament and from whom we now draw inspiration and comfort. “They have triumphantly completed their course, and we who are now contestants in the struggle” (Hebrews, pg. 519).  It could also be referring to the martyrs who gave their lives to maintain their testimony.

The writer goes on to remind the readers that runners in a race must strip themselves of any garments that might weigh them down. In the same way, he exhorts his readers to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.” This is the Doctrine of Sanctification; the entire change that occurs in the life of a believer as he or she walks with Jesus. We must progressively let go of those things that weigh us down, especially the “sin which clings so closely.” The author specifically mentions the need to run the race with endurance. This is the English word the writer uses to translate the Greek term “hupomene”, which the Google dictionary carries the meaning of “being able to stand up even underneath the heavy load of trial, persecution, adversity, trouble, and pain. This is exactly what perseverance is—the ability to stand up under pressure.”

The writer calls upon believers to “look to Jesus (12:2). The Greek term that is used here could translate this “looking away to Jesus.” What, therefore, are we to look away from? Obviously, ourselves. It is not so much that we are to look to Jesus in our personal relationship to Him, but that we are to look to Him as our Model for how we must live the Christian life. We must look to Him as both the Founder (the one who initiates our faith) and Perfecter (the One who completes our faith).

The writer speaks of the “joy that was set before him”, allowing Him to “endure the cross” (12:2). He despised the shame of the cross and, as a result, sat down at the “right hand of the throne of God.” The joy was knowing that through the work he bore on the cross, he made the way for eternal redemption for the children of God. And after he endured the cross, he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, giving us the assurance that we also, if we endure suffering, shall one day sit down at the throne of God. This is also stated clearly by the apostle Paul in the Roman letter:The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16).


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