About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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God Disciplines His Sons (ch.12:1-13)


Chapter 12 opens with these words, "therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us."  The great cloud of witnesses is the Old Testament people that the writer has just talked about.  He is basically saying that if they can persevere and keep their faith until death so can you.


I don't believe these witnesses are in heaven right now watching our every move.  Maybe they are, but there is no Biblical passage that would suggest such a thing.  I think the allusion to a "cloud of witnesses" suggest that they, like us, are witnesses to the truth of the gospel.  They are not witnessing what we are presently doing here on earth.


The authors says, "throw off” the things that hinder you.  He doesn’t say drop these things off.  He says throw them off.  To me this suggests getting rid of these things quickly and efficiently, by throwing them as far as they will go.  There seems to be an intensity in the word "throw."   The farther they are thrown away, the less likely we will pick them up again.  These things can be anything that gets in our way of trusting God in the things He wants us to do and the way He wants us to live.


The verb "throw off" in Greek is an aorist verb.  This would suggest a one time throwing off.  It would suggest that we sit down and decide once and for all to get rid of everything and anything that might get in the way of effectively serving Jesus. 


I believe the things the author is talking about are not bad things.  The word "sin" in this phrase makes that clear.  The author distinguishes between sin and things that weigh us down.  These things are anything, even good things, that just slow us down in maturing in the Lord and doing his will.  They can be hobbies, your work, even unnecessary religious activity.  Our temptation in the western world today is a temptation to live a materialistic life.  There is nothing wrong with having good and nice things but our problem today is that the desire for these things outweighs our desire to serve Jesus.  This should not be.       


The author continues on by saying that we should get rid of the sin that also gets in our way.  So the writer is talking about ordinary things of life as well as sin that prohibits us from being effective in our faith.


The last part of verse 1 is a sporting metaphor.  The author tells his readers that they should persevere, like those of old.  They should run the race that God has set for them to run.  The point here is that everyone has a race to run.  Everyone is called by God to do something in His service.  No one is excluded.  We should then understand that the work Jesus has given us to do is to be understood in terms of a race, a race that is meant to be fun and meant to run.  I was one of the fastest 100 yard dash runners in my class when I was in high school.  When I ran, I ran as hard as I could.  I didn't look around to see who was beside me.  I ran to win.  I was intently focused on the finish line.  I had one thought and one thought only.  I wanted to win this race.  That should be our motivation in life.  We want to win the race Jesus has set for us to run.  We want to complete God's will, whatever that may be, and, we want to finish His will as a winner.           


Verse 2 says that "we should fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter (or the completer) of our faith."  I used to believe that this phrase meant that it was Jesus Himself who helped us first believe in Him because we on our own do not have the full ability to put our trust in Jesus as we should have.  I still believe that this is a valid New Testament truth based on such passages as Romans 12:5 where Paul tells us that faith in Jesus is actually a gift from God.  Upon further study I don't believe though that the author of Hebrews is saying this in this phrase, and I have changed my thinking because of the Greek word "achegos" that translated as "author" in this verse.  The Greek noun means one who leads.  Archegos is a leader, a leader who has initiated something for others to follow.  In this sense of the word, Jesus was the author, the one who first took the lead in the way of living Christians should follow.  Not only this Greek word makes this clear, but the context itself makes this clear.  The words that follow make this clear.  "Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross."  Jesus took the lead in living a life of perseverance and endurance.  He is the original author of such a life style that Christians must follow.  This is how we should understand the word "author" in this verse.  So, if we are to follow Jesus, we are to follow Him in enduring any hardship that comes our way because of the race He has called us to run, and, there will be hardships along the way.  


Another thing we should make clear here is that the word "perfector" should be understood as "completer."  Since Jesus has taken the original lead in the path we are to take, so He will lead us to the very end of this path.                


The writer goes on to say that for the joy that was set before Him Jesus endured the cross.  Even Jesus Himself had to trust His father.  Jesus had hope that there was great joy beyond the cross, and He was right.  After He ascended into Heaven He sat down at the right hand of the throne to rule alongside His Father.  At that moment in time, and in that place, Jesus began to experience the joy.  

I believe the author has Isaiah 53:10 and 11 in mind when he penned these words.  These verses speak to the joy the Messiah would have once His sufferings had been complete.    


Verse 3 encourages the readers to "consider Him (Jesus)."  If the men and women in the Old Testament had to endure, look at Jesus.  Jesus Himself had to endure much more than any of them.  He did this for all of us.  Therefore, if Jesus endured for us, we can endure hardship for Him by keeping our trust in Him no matter what comes our way, and as humans, much comes our way.  It could be sickness, persecution, loss of income, or whatever.  There are many things in life that fight against our faith.


The author speaks of growing weary and losing heart in verse 3.  That is simple human tendencies.  We get discouraged, but we are not to wallow in times of discouragement.  We can, and should, look to Jesus.  Jesus is not a figment of our imagination.  He is real.  He is there for us, but if we ignore Him, don't come to Him, in our time of weakness, He can't help us. Too many believers do not come to Jesus in times of discouragement.          


The writer in verse 4 tells his readers that they have not yet shed their blood in their struggle against sin.  None of them have died in the process of overcoming their sin, yet, Jesus did.  That being said, over the years, many people have followed Jesus in suffering unto death. 


I am uncertain what particular sin the author is speaking in verse 4.  It might be struggling against personal or sin or it might be their struggle with the sin in the world around them, the sinfulness that is causing them to be persecuted.


In verse 5 the author says that these people have forgotten the word of encouragement that addresses them as sons.   This word of encouragement is found in Proverbs 3:11 and 12 where it speaks of the Lord disciplining us as sons.  The writer relates this Old Testament Scripture to New Testament believers.  He says that the Lord still disciplines or rebukes us as sons today.   Few Christians understand that God still disciplines, rebukes, or instructs people today.  We've pushed Him far enough away from us that he no longer disciplines us.  He's left us to our own folly. 


The problem as I see it concerning this discipline is twofold.  First, we are not close enough to the Lord to know that we are actually being discipline in the hardships we experience.  We blame these hardships on people or the devil, but they might well of come from God.  Second, if we are in tune to these hardships, can we discern if they are a form of discipline?  It is not always easy to distinguish this.  It takes being open to hearing the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  It's my thinking that most western world Christians no little about the discipline of the Lord.  They don't even know they are being disciplined because, in part, they don't know God does discipline them, and, they don't think they need to be disciplined in the first place.


Notice the words "accepts" as sons at the end of verse 6.  As I have said many times; we do not accept Jesus.  He accepts us.  We cannot come to Him without the Holy Spirit inviting us.  It's not our choice to be saved.  It's only our choice once the invitation to be saved has come to us.          


Verse 7 says that we should endure hardship as being God's discipline.  This tells us that God disciplines us through hardships.  This also should help us understand the disciplining process of God.  Earlier I noted that it might be hard for us to distinguish what hardships are a form of discipline and what hardships might simply come as a result of our own fallen lives living in a fallen world.  This verse seems to suggest that, at least, God uses every hardship of life, no matter its source, as a means of disciplining us, as a means of helping us trust Him more than we presently do.  This is what 1 Peter 1:3 and following is all about.  If we have faith, our faith will be tested and proven genuine.   One who has not faith obviously will not and cannot be tested.         


The Greek word "paideuo" is the word that is translated here as "discipline."  This word means "to train or to educate."  So, the idea of discipline is more along the line of training, educating, so our trust in Jesus can be deepened.  It's a way in which we learn how to deal with sin and throw off the things in our lives that hinder our faith.       


The Greek word that is translated as "punish" in verse 6 is "mastigoo."  This literally means a whipping, as Jesus would have been whipped before He was executed.  So, this word does suggest a type of punishment that is beyond simple training as seen above.


Once again, as we see in verse 7, hardship can be a form of training for us.  It also could be a form of punishment from a loving God.  The writer goes on to say that real sons of God get disciplined.  If there is no discipline then the writer questions whether you are a real son.  Therefore, we need to understand what hardships are all about.  I am not suggesting that all hardships are a form of training or punishment.  What I believe I can say from this passage is that at least God can use hardships, if not directly from Him, to train us. 


Concerning God disciplining us, He is our Father.  Fathers discipline their children, not someone else's children.  That's why the writer states that if we don't get disciplined by God, we are not His children.  


In verse 9 we see the words "how much more" again.  These words are used a lot in this letter, yet in this instance the "how much more" is not referring to nice promises.  It is referring to the training we receive from the Father of our spirit.  The writer is saying that we expect our earthy father to discipline us, so why should we not expect our Heavenly Father to do the same, and even more so.  Again, this speaks to our present generation of Christians who think little about being trained or punished by God.  This is one reason why the western world church is so weak.  We ignore the discipline of God.


In verse 10 the writer says that this discipline is for our good and will cause us to live a holy life as we should be living.  Of course no one really likes being disciplined, but if we hang in, "it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it," as seen in verse 11.  Isn't this what being a Christian is all about?


This section ends in verse 12 with an exhortation to "strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet."  The author is telling his readers to pull themselves up and get doing the will of God.  Clear your path of obstacles that get in the way of living a life of faith and trust in Jesus.  There are things that we can do to help ourselves out in this walk of faith.  These are not works that lead to salvation.  These are not works that keep us saved.  These are practical things that help us to trust Jesus more than we are presently doing.  So, the author ends this section the way he began it.  Clear your life of clutter and do the will of God.      

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