Hebrews 12

Hebrews chapter 12, class 16. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ

May 13, 2009

Tod Kennedy

Main points to emphasize in Hebrew 12

  1. To successfully run the Christian life race, we must shed our distractions, get rid of our area of weakness sin, and faithfully and consistently live God’s plan for us.
  2. To run the Christian life race we need to focus our attention on Jesus, the leader and hero of the faith.
  3. God’s discipline is training and preparation for practical life and godliness, and some just punishment for sin when needed.
  4. Watch how we live the Christian life so that we do not follow the wrong ideas and people because they can trip us up. Pursue peace and holiness, not bitterness and self-centeredness.
  5. Listen when God speaks—He is the creator and judge.
  6. God’s kingdom, to which we are coming, is secure. We show our gratitude to Him by our reverent service to God.


  1. Hebrews 12:1-3. Run the Christian way of life race.
  2. Hebrews 12:4-11. God disciplines and trains believers so they may benefit and share his holiness.
  3. Hebrews 12:12-24. Be strong and follow the right course.
  4. Hebrews 12:25-29. Listen to God, the judge of the earth and heavens.

Exposition of Hebrews 12

  1. Hebrews 12:1-3. Run the Christian way of life race. This is an athletic competition metaphor.
    1. Verse 1. The witnesses are those of chapter 12. They have witnessed to the fact that one can live by faith even in very bad circumstances. Witness is μάρτυς martus, one to testifies to something, S3144. Our word martyr comes from this.
      1. Every encumbrance ὄγκος ogkos, S3591, bulk, size, mass, weight, trouble, and even self-importance. A Greek would prepare for the games by months of rigorous training in order to shed excess weight and harmful habits while he strengthened his mind and body. Here it refers to things in life that weigh us down and therefore hinder the day to day life. They could be people, job, hobby, goals, interests, or anything that is a detail which comes to hinder our Christian life.
      2. The sin is probably unbelief in view of chapter 11. Especially that which was the main problem to the Hebrews—rethinking Jesus Christ and his completed work. Hebrews 6 indicates this problem. It then may also refer to any area of weakness that a believer struggles with. Wavering on the person and work of Jesus, or some other area of weakness that we struggle with which constricts us and prevents successful running our race.
      3. “Entangles” is εὐπερίστατος euperistatos, S2139, something constricting or causing distress. It explains “sin.”
      4. We are told to run with endurance the race that is set before us.
        1. “Race” is ἀγών, agon, a place of competition, the struggle, the battle, the competition. S73.
        2. “Endurance” is ὑπομονή, hupomone, S5281. the capacity to hold up under difficulty, and therefore to endure. Hupomone has more to do with circumstances that the individual is tested with. In training for athletic competition the trainee must endure muscular stress, mental stress, isolation, correct diets, and of course coaches and fans. We believers endure the obstacles in our training and running—details of life, bad doctrine, pet areas of sin, and bad attitudes.
    2. Verse 2. We are to watch the leader, the champion whom we are following. See Matthew 14:22-33, the story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, but once he stopped watching Jesus he began to sink. He became occupied with the details around him. In life—whether family, athletics, military, school, work—we focus on the leader, the one in authority and responsible, the expert, the one we trust and depend upon. In the Christian life Jesus Christ is our leader—He lived perfectly; He trusted God the Father; He always followed the Father’s will; He obeyed the Father; He depended on the Holy Spirit; He knew and applied the Scripture; He resisted sin; and He completed the course set before Him. We are to keep the eyes of our life upon Jesus Christ by knowing and applying the Scripture, by trusting Him, by following Him, by depending on the Holy Spirit, and by resisting sin so that we may complete the life course that God set before us.
      1. “Fixing our eyes” is ἀφοράω, aphoraw, S872, to have in view, to look with attention and without distraction, to give attention to one thing to the exclusion of others. The form is present active participle, nominative plural. It modifies “run.” It is a participle of attendant circumstance or a circumstantial participle of manner. The first translates as a finite verb. The second indicates the way we run.
      2. Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith.
        1. Author is ἀρχηγός, archegos, S747, founder, prince, chief, originator, and even hero. This is Jesus.
        2. Perfecter is τελειωτής, teleiotes, S5051, accomplisher, finisher, one who brings something to a successful conclusion. Jesus accomplished all that was needed by his life, his death, his resurrection, his resurrection, by his seating at the Father’s right hand, and now by his intercession.
      3. Jesus’ faithful endurance is an example and motivation for us when we are ignored, ridiculed, slandered, and attacked by unbelievers.
  2. Hebrews 12:4-11. God disciplines and trains believers so they may benefit and share his holiness.
    1. This section emphasizes that God our heavenly Father trains and disciplines believers and He does so that we may share His holiness and come to have the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
      1. Holiness ἁγιότης agiotes, S41, holiness or moral purity, here and in 2 Corinthians 1:12 (10).
      2. And come to have the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” δικαιοσύνη dikaiosune, S1343, righteousness, justice, integrity (11).
    2. “Discipline” or “disciplined” is used 8 times in this section. The noun is παιδεία paideia, training, teaching, education, upbringing, correction, chastisement; and the verb is παιδεύω, paideuo, to train, educate, correct, give guidance, and to punish. We also have the word “reprove” and “scourge.”
    3. God trains and educates us and at times must use corrective punishment. All this is so that we grow and mature as believers. God wants us to take on his character and by that we honor him and bless ourselves.
  3. Hebrews 12:12-24. Be strong and follow the right course.
    1. We have exhortations or commands:
      1. Strengthen the hands and knees (12), ἀνορθόω, anorthoo, S461, restore to health, set straight or set right, straighten up, aorist active imperative, 2 plural. Following the original athletic metaphor or a general time of weakness, this command is for correction of the problem due to bad training or areas of weakness in the spiritual life.
      2. Make straight paths for your feet (13), ποιέω poieo, S4160, to make, to produce, to do, present active imperative, 2 plural. Here the paths are wheel paths or tracks. It refers to the direction of life. Straight (orthos S3717) paths (trochia S5163) are needed. Rutted paths make for accidents and hinders right living. The author says to go in the right direction and live right. The weaker believer will be harmed by wrong paths of life.
      3. Pursue peace and sanctification (14). Pursue is διώκω dioko, S1377, in the present active imperative. Peace with all people. Sanctification is better translated holiness (ἁγιασμός hagiasmos,S38, holiness, consecration, sanctification, personal dedication to the interests of God). Here it refers to experiential holiness in life. Then the author makes a principle: “without it (sanctification) no one will see the Lord.” Since sin can never be in God’s presence, believers should also pursue sanctification throughout life. This is not saying that unless one pursues sanctification now, he cannot go to heaven and see the Lord.
      4. See to it (15). ἐπισκοπέω episkopeo, S1983, present active participle, to look on, inspect, observe, give attention to. Participle of attendant circumstance stating another command. Here is a warning to live in grace and avoid bitterness.
    2. Verse 16-17 is a warning that those who refuse grace and embrace bitterness forfeit God’s blessings, though not eternal salvation.
    3. Verses 18-21 warn about the severity of God’s judgment. Sinai is the historical illustration. See Exodus 19:9-23 and Deuteronomy 9:8-19.
    4. Verse 22-24. The author now contrasts these Hebrew believers with those at Sinai. Then was the old covenant; now is the new covenant. How important it is to live in grace to the fullest, to follow Jesus, to accept training and corrective discipline, and gain all the blessings that go with the new covenant. The new has replaced the old. There is now the heavenly Jerusalem, the angels, the church, God, the spirits of the Old Testament believers, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. All of these truths should motivate them to “run with endurance the race set before us” of verse 1.
  4. Hebrews 12:25-29. Listen to God, the judge of the earth and heavens.
    1. Verse 25 has the controlling command of this last section.
      1. “See to it” is βλέπω blepo, S991, in the present active imperative, 2 plural. It means to see with the eye and figuratively to pay close attention to. We have the present imperative of command.
      2. “Do not refuse” παραιτέομαι paraiteomai, S3868, to ask for, request, to decline, to refuse, avoid, reject, to beg off from; aorist middle subjunctive with the negative me. This is a strong construction. It is a warning.
      3. God is the one who they are to listen to. They listen through the Holy Spirit speaking through the Bible. Take the warning given in the Old Testament incident of Moses and the Hebrew people at Sinai.
    2. Verses 26-27. God judged then. He is going to judge once more. This judgment will occur after the millennial kingdom period. God will destroy the old and cursed world. That which remains then is eternal. Second Peter speaks of this judgment.
    3. Verses 28-29 concludes with the statement that we have a kingdom and will physically enter into it in the future. That kingdom cannot be harmed. It is eternal.
      1. “Therefore since we receive this unshakable kingdom, let us have grace.” He then makes an application: since we will receive this kingdom we should have grace or use the grace God has given to us.
      2. “through which let us serve.” The word for serve is λατρεύω latreuo, S3000, the word for “religious” service in this passage. It is present active subjunctive for an exhortation.
      3. The service is to God and we do it with recognition of his greatness, his holiness, his majesty.
      4. Because, verse 29, God is the one and only judge. “Consuming fire” pictures God’s inescapable judgment on those who reject him.
  5. Review the points of emphasis with Hebrews 12 text.