Hebrews
Instructor's Notes

CHAPTER TWELVE


OVERVIEW:

Commentary on Hebrews, by John Gill

this chapter the apostle presses to a constant exercise of faith and patience, amidst the various afflictions the saints are exercised with; delivers out several exhortations useful in the Christian life; and shows the difference between the legal and Gospel dispensations. Having in the preceding chapter given many illustrious instances and examples of faith, he makes use of this cloud of witnesses, as he calls them, to engage the Hebrews to drop their unbelief, and run with faith and patience the race set before them (v. 1), and which he further urges from the example of Christ; from his concern in faith, being the author and finisher of it; from what he suffered when here on earth, both the contradiction of sinners, and the death of the cross, for the joy o having his people with him in heaven; and from his glorious state, being set down at the right hand of God. Whereas, as yet, they had not been called to shed their blood in their warfare against sin (vv. 2,3,4). And that they must expect chastisement, and should bear it patiently, he cites a passage of Scripture out of Proverbs 3:11,12. which suggests, that those who are the children of God, and are loved and received by him, are chastened and scourged (vv. 5, 6). Wherefore this was no other than dealing with them as children; and should they not be thus dealt with, it would be an argument they were bastards, and not sons (vv. 7, 8). And next the apostle argues from the right of parents to chastise their children, and the subjection that is yielded to them; that if the corrections of them, who were the fathers of their bodies, were quietly submitted to; then much more should those of the father of their souls; and the rather, since the chastenings of the former are only for temporal good, and according to their fallible judgments; whereas the latter are for spiritual profit, and an in crease of holiness (vv. 9, 10). And though it must be allowed that no chastening, for the present time, is matter of joy, but of grief; yet the effects of them are the peaceable fruits of righteousness, to them that are exercised by them (v. 11). Wherefore the apostle exhorts the believing Hebrews to encourage themselves and others under afflictions; and to behave in such manner, and carry it so evenly, that they might not be an occasion of stumbling to weak believers (vv. 12, 13). He exhorts them in general to follow peace with all men, and particularly holiness; which is absolutely necessary to the beatific vision of God (v.14), and to take care that no heresy or immorality spring up among them, and be connived at, and cherished by them, to the troubling of some, and defiling of others (v.15). and particularly, lest the sin of uncleanness, or any sort of profaneness should be found among them; of which Esau, the brother of Jacob from whence they sprung, was guilty; whose profaneness lay in selling his birthright for a morsel of meat, and whose punishment was, that he should be deprived of the blessing; which decree was irrevocable, not withstanding his tears (vv. 16,17), and to enforce these exhortations, the apostle observes to these believers, that they were not now under the law, but in a Gospel church-state. The terror of the legal dispensation they were delivered from is described by the place where the law was given, a mount burning with fire; by circumstances attending it, blackness, darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet; by the matter of it, a voice of words, which they that heard, entreated they might hear no more; and by the effect the whole had upon Moses-himself, who quaked and trembled at what he saw and heard (vv. 18, 19, 20, 21). The happiness of the Gospel dispensation, or of the Gospel church-state, is expressed by the names of it, called Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the new Jerusalem; and by the company the saints have there, and their fellowship with them; angles innumerable; elect men, whose names are written in heaven, and whose spirits are made perfectly just; God the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant; whose blood being sprinkled on their consciences, spoke peace and pardon to them; such as neither Abel’s blood nor sacrifice could speak (vv. 22,23,24). From whence the apostle argues, that care should be taken not to neglect and despise the voice of Christ, who is now in heaven, and speaks from thence in his Gospel and ordinances; seeing they escaped not who rejected him that spake on earth, at Mount Sinai, which was shaken by his voice; and the rather, since it appears from a prophecy in Haggai 2:6, 7. that under the Gospel dispensation, not only the earth but the heavens would be shaken (vv. 25, 26), which is an emblem of the shaking and removing the ordinances of the ceremonial law, that Gospel ordinances might take place, and remain for ever (v. 27). Upon the whole, the apostle exhorts the believing Hebrews, that seeing they had received the immovable kingdom of grace, and were admitted into the Gospel dispensation, or church-state; that they would hold fast the Gospel of the grace of God, and serve the Lord, according to his revealed will, with reverence and godly fear, which would be acceptable to him; or otherwise he would be consuming fire; as he is to all the despisers and neglecters of his Gospel and ordinances (vv. 28,29).

 Hebrews 12:1-29

 Part Three: The Superiority of the Christian’s Walk of Faith (10:19-13:25)

II. Endurance of Faith 12:1-29
     A. Example of Christ’s Endurance 12:1-4
     B. Exhortation to Endure God’s Chastening 12:5-24
     C. Fifth Warning: Danger of Refusing God 12:25-29

INTRODUCTION: Hebrews 12:1-3

The apostle having illustrated the nature and power of faith in the previous chapter, proceeds in this to exhort those to whom he wrote to apply the same principles to their own case, and to urge them to manifest the same steady confidence in God and perseverance in their holy walk.

Throughout this study, we have noted the emphasis in being steadfast in our faith. Here the emphasis continues, with our own life of faith described as a race in which we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses as mentioned in the previous chapter. These great heroes of the faith “bear witness” by their exemplary lives and encourage us in running the race of faith.

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

·        “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about” - the apostle represents those whom he had referred to in the previous chapter.

·        “With so great a cloud of witnesses,” - here the apostle takes for granted that he has already proved this fact...the witnesses here referred to are plainly the worthies under the former economy ...the O. T. saints, the instances of whose faith and patience and suffering for the cause of true religion bore a noble testimony to God, by which they received a good report from Him and will hereafter be witnesses for Him...their “witness” recorded their achievements, and sufferings, and attainments, attend in the most satisfactory way the power of faith, its necessity, and its sufficiency for the purposes of duty and trial.

·        “Let us lay aside every weight,” - or burden or sin which is a weight...the word “weight” usual meaning is that of weight of burden and there is allusion here, doubtless, to the runners in the games who were careful not to encumber themselves with anything that was heavy. Sin is a burden for the Christian running the race set before him...every transgression is to be laid aside as a burden...it is to be laid of Christ. Such as,

Ž      Luke 21:34-36— “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

·        “And the sin which doth so easily beset us,” - meaning the corruption of nature in general or some particular sin...these types of sin shall encumber, if not make impossible, the race that is to be run by the true Christian.

Ž      Colossians 3:8— “8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”

Ž      1 Peter 2:1 & 2— “1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”

Ž      James 1:21— “21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

·        “And let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” - the race that we are to run is in the world; the prize run for is the heavenly glory; the mark to direct in it, is Christ. Many are the runners, but it is only the overcomers that shall receive the prize, which being held by Christ is given to them. The mark set is given to the Christian by means of the Gospel. This race is to be “run with patience” because of the many exercises in the way and because of the length of the race always remembering the prize that is set before us. This race does not require one quick burst of energy but rather, this race is one of endurance. It requires a sustained effort over a period of time. Jesus often taught his disciples the need for patient endurance.

Ž      Luke 8:12— “12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”

Ž      Matthew 10:22— “22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

Ž      Matthew 24:13— “13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

·        “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;” - Jesus is, the beginning, perfecter, and rewarder of our faith. He is to be looked upon with the eye of understanding, that is, the eye of faith...faith is the spiritual sight of Christ...the Author of eternal salvation and it is to Him that we are to look for salvation. As the “finisher of our faith,” Christ is the author or the sufficient cause of it. He is the fulfiller and the fulfilling of all scripture-promises and prophecies. Christ is the finisher through the very power of God...Christ gives the very blessings of God to all that are His...He carries on the work of faith, and He will perform it with power. We are to focus on Christ if we are to run the race.

1.      Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith:

Ž      Hebrews 2:10— “10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

2.      He is the beginning and the end:

Ž      Revelation 1:8 & 11— “8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

3.      He has blazed the trail for us:

a.       As our forerunner:

Ž      Hebrews 6: 19 & 20— “ 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”

b.      He has opened a “new and living way.”

Ž      Hebrews 10:20— “ 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”

4.      He now helps us finish it:

Ž      Hebrews 7:25— “ 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

·        “Who for the joy that was set before him” - Christ, instead of being in the bosom of the Father, came into this world; and suffered shame and disgrace of the cross for the sake of the salvation of all the elect, who are His joy, and on which His heart is set or determined.

·        “Endured the cross,” - This joy lead Christ to bear the opposition that they made to Him, both in their words and behavior...this is not to be understood as only the cross of wood on which His body was to hang, but all the sufferings He had to endure from the cradle to the cross...yet, Christ did endure the tortures and sufferings of the cross (Why should the Christian wear a cross about his neck? This was an instrument of torture; it signifies that Christ had to suffer and pay the penalty for which we were unable to pay...what is there to be proud of here that we should wear it as an emblem of victory?...a victory of which the very blood and life of the Son of God was necessitated to win [this is a personal commentary by the writer of this study guide. Each person must decide such things for themselves; but we are to praise God through His Son and not through the cross). …Notice the next statement…

·        “Despising the shame,” - that is, of the cross, for it was an ignominious (shameful, disgraceful, despicable, degrading) death as well as a painful death. He endured with patience and as such we are not to be ashamed of the reproach of Christ, but count it an honor to be worthy to suffer reproach for the sake of Christ.

·        “And is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - that is, in heaven which is an expression of His majesty and glory of God...an honor due Christ as an equal to God and having completed His work of salvation.

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

·        “For consider him” - that is, attentively reflect on His example that you may be able to bear your trials in a proper manner...we are to consider the greatness of Christ’s person, as God, the Son of God, the heir of all things, as the Savior of all lost sinners....we are to consider the vast difference between Him and ourselves...if He suffered reproach in His greatness, what should we expect.

·        “That endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,” - the Jews of the day denied His deity, His sonship, His person, His offices, and they treated Him with contempt as a priest and as Savior. They were against His actions, plans, perverted his sayings, and ridiculed His claims. Yet, regardless of their opposition, Christ persevered in the course that He had marked out, and went patiently forward in the execution of His plans. The idea is, that we are to pursue the path of duty and follow the dictates of conscience...let the world say what they will about it. In doing this we cannot find a better example than Christ, our Savior.

·        “Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” - The meaning is, that there is a great danger of being disheartened and wearied out by the opposition which one will meet with if he be Christian. But with the shinning example of One who never disheartened, who being appointed and sent by God to be a Savior, came to be the author of salvation, and to Him only should we look for so great a salvation.

CONCLUSION: Hebrews 12:1-3

Running the race of faith requires both negative and positive elements. Negatively, we must lay aside things which would hinder us; positively, we must keep our focus on Jesus who has made our salvation possible. In both cases, the Word of God (the Bible) is crucial for in it we learn what sort of things we must lay aside and, we learn about our Lord, what He endured, and as such, His example should be an inspiration for us to run the race with all diligence. If we are not now running the race of faith, then it is incumbent on us to lay aside the excess baggage of the world and the sin that weighs us down.

INTRODUCTION: Hebrews 12:4-11

In encouraging his readers to “run the race that is set before them,” the “writer” of this Epistle mentions the need for endurance. The suggestion is made that the race will not be an easy one and as proof it is shown that the “forerunner” Himself had to endure hostility from sinners and eventually the cross.

They will now be reminded that they have yet to endure what the Lord endured; They had “not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin,” and the possibility that decisions for Christ bring with them persecutions that were likely to intensify. To help them in this regards, the “writer” reminds them of “the chastening of the Lord by quoting from well known passages from Proverbs. Here he expounds upon the purpose of the Lord’s chastening showing them how the Lord might use such hardships, even persecutions, to “chasten” them for their good.

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

·        The Jewish believers to whom the Epistle was written were reminded that even though they had “resisted” (stood against) the sin of unbelief because of their identification with Jesus, they had not yet been asked to die while struggling (wrestling against) with the temptation to apostatize. Jesus and the O.T. saints were to be reminders to all believers that it is possible to endure such persecution even to the point of dying. The eternal nature of the reward is far superior to anything that can be gained by “giving up in the struggle.” To continue living in the present age at the expense of forsaking Christ and His eternal kingdom is to squander the greatest treasure for a mere pittance. Resistance may require the shedding of blood unto death for the Christian...can we expect less than that which our Lord suffered. We must strive against sin which is our principal antagonist.

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

·        “And ye have forgotten the exhortation” - (See Prov. 3:11-12) the object of the apostle introducing it here is, to show that the afflictions were designed on the part of God to produce some happy effects in the lives of His people, and that they ought, therefore, to bear them patiently. Those that are loved of God, are chastened by Him, and loved while they are chastened...their chastening is in love...that we might be more and more partakers of holiness, and not be condemned with the world.

Ž      Proverbs 3:11 & 12— “11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”

·        “Which speaketh unto you as unto children,” - that is, as the children of God, or of Christ...there is a sense as to the application...the correction is designed and is given in love by God for our instruction...it is grace in exercise for correction for the good of them that are loved by the Father...this correction is not to be despised but understood as something useful and profitable that will be for our good.

·        “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,” - literally, do not regard it as a small matter or as a trivial thing...the kind of correction here designed is to correct us of our faults of which the nature is discipline...the idea here is that God will correct His children in general and when they wander in their faults in order to bring them back to Himself.

What does the word “chastening” mean? The Greek word is paideia (paideia) and in the KJV it is variously translated as “chastening, nurture, instruction, chastisement.” Thayer defines the word saying that it is “the whole training and education of children which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose commands, admonitions, reproof, and punishment.” In adults this same “chastening” cultivates the soul by correcting mistakes and curbing passions. This instruction is aimed at increasing virtue and turning men from their evil ways.

·        “Nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:” - we are not to faint when we are rebuked of the Lord because these rebukes are not in a way of wrath, but love. We are to take notice of the affliction because it has a definite purpose and therefore we are to bear up patiently under them and study the design of the rebuke so that we may grow by it in our walk.

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Herein is an important truth. Some deny the truth that chastening is of the Lord believing that a loving God would never bring suffering to His children. Many believe that any suffering is due solely to the influence of Satan which they interpret from the Book of Job. Yet Satan himself could not do anything unless God allowed it; Job’s adversity came ultimately from the Lord.

Ž      Job 42:11— “11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

·        “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” - all men are not the objects of God’s love, only His special chosen people in Christ...God loves those that He quickens and calls by His grace, justifies, pardons, and accepts in Christ...those that He causes to love Him. Yet, as a universal rule, God sends trials on those whom He truly loves...He sends chastisement that is deserved, this is deemed a chastisement of love. The very fact that He corrects us shows that He has towards us a father’s feelings, and exercises towards us a paternal care. If He did not, He would let us go on without attention, and leave us to pursue a course of sin that would involve us in ruin.

·        “And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” - that is, whom He receives or acknowledges as His child...those that He has predestinated to the adoption of children, and in the covenant of His grace has declared Himself a father to. The meaning is the same as in the former part of this verse, that every one who becomes a child of God is treated by Him with that watchful care which shows that He sustains towards them a paternal relationship.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

The Bible clearly teaches the chastening is of the Lord.

1.      In the Old Testament:

Ž      Deuteronomy 8:5— “5 Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.”

Ž      Proverbs 3:11-12— “11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”

2.      In the New Testament:

Ž      1 Corinthians 11:31-32—31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

Ž      Revelation 3:19— “19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

Ž      Hebrews 12:7 & 8— “7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”

·        “If ye endure chastening,” - that is, in faith, with patience, with courage and constancy, with humility and reverence...we are called to undergo or to experience correction. Chastening should be considered from where it comes and the purpose for why it is sent.

·        “God dealeth with you as with sons;” - God does not cast us off and regard us as if we were not related to Him...chastening is owing of them that are His children. God only chastens when it is necessary and when He does it is in love and mercy, and for our good.

·        “For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” - that is, He evinces towards His son the care which shows that He sustains the relation of a father. If we deserve correction, He corrects us; and He aims by all proper means to exhibit the appropriate care and character of a father. As we receive such attention from an earthly parent, we ought to expect to receive similar notice from our Father in heaven.

The “fact” of the Lord’s chastening cannot be questioned by anyone who accepts the Bible.

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

·        “But if ye be without chastisement,” - If one has never met with anything that is adapted to correct their faults, to subdue their temper, to chide their wanderings, it would prove that they were in a condition of illegitimacy.

·        “Whereof all are partakers,” - that is, all the true children of God can be expected to receive such correction...we are all in a state of imperfection and prone to sin; therefore, God does not exempt any where correction is required.

·        “Then are ye bastards, and not sons.” - all are not sons that claim a profession of religion; and if they are not chastised, they are not the children of God...if a professed Christian should pass along through life without any occurrence that would indicate the paternal care and attention designed to correct their faults, it would show that they never had been God’s children, but were cast off and wholly disregarded.

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

·        “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh” - this is given as an additional consideration to induce us to receive chastisement with submission. The argument in this verse is derived from the difference in the spirit and design with which we are corrected by God and an earthly parent. When God corrects it is without passion or improper feelings...it is just in all cases....without temper.

·        “Which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:” - our own fathers corrected us in due season, in love and in instruction to prevent our ruin and as such “we gave them reverence,” that is, we submitted to them; honored them; loved them. Painful at the time as correction might have been, yet when we have fully understood the design of it, we have loved them the more. The effect of such discipline, properly administered, is to produce real veneration for a parent.

·        “Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” - that is, since God’s government is so much more perfect; since He has a better right to control us; and since His administration is free from all the defects which attend parental discipline on earth, there is a much higher reason for bowing with submission and reverence to Him. We should bow to His sovereignty, resign to His will, be humble under His mighty hand, be still and quite, and bear all patiently; the advantage arising from such subjection is life. “And live,” means that His fatherly chastisements are adapted to secure our spiritual life...He corrects us that He may promote our final happiness, and His afflictions are the means of saving us from eternal death. We shall “live” more comfortably, and more to the glory of God, in communion and fellowship with him here, and in heaven to all eternity.

The how of the Lord’s chastening is seen in the form of instructive discipline. There is both “instructive” and “corrective” chastening or discipline. “Instructive” chastening is designed to prevent the need for “corrective” chastening. “Instructive” discipline is seen most often in the form of teaching, in the form of warnings and admonitions.

Ž      John 15:2 & 3— “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”

One way that God chastens us is through is Word. But “instructive discipline can also be in the form of tribulation. In the case of Job his suffering was not because he needed correction; yet God allowed knowing it that it would make Job better.

Ž      Job 1:1 &8— “1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. 8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”

In the case of the early Christians, their persecution was a form of chastisement (Heb. 12:4-6), their persecution was for the cause of Christ and not because of their wickedness. Nevertheless, God allowed it, knowing that it would make them stronger and serve as an instrument in the spreading of the Gospel.

Ž      Romans 5:3 & 4— “3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”

Ž      James 1:2-4— “2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Ž      1 Peter 5:8-10— “8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

·        “For they verily for a few days chastened us” - parental correction is but for a few days...it is temporal in respect to time spent on earth. This verse contrasts the correction of the parent to the correction of God. One of the circumstances is, that the corrections of earthly parents had a much less important object than those of God...His correction is for the end of our eternal bliss.

·        “After their own pleasure;” - as seemed good to them, in the best way and manner; to the best of their judgments, which are but fallible.

·        “But he for our profit,” - God never acts from passion, from caprice, from the love of power or superiority, but always for our good...we do not lose the love of God...we gain a greater degree of spiritual knowledge and a larger stock of experience through God’s correction.

·        “That we might be partakers of his holiness.” - that is, become so holy that it may be said that we are partakers of the very holiness of God.

Ž      2 Peter 1:4— “4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

This is the elevated object at which God aims by our trials....it is, that He may make us more pure and holy, and thus promote our own best interest.

Chastening comes in the form of corrective discipline.

When “instructive” discipline is not heeded, “corrective” discipline follows. Note the example of Judah and Israel: failure to heed God’s word would bring judgment upon Judah.

Ž      Amos 2:4-5— “4 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked: 5 But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.”

God made repeated efforts to bring Judah back to Himself:

Ž      Amos 4:6-12— “6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. 8 So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”

Such efforts included famine, drought, pestilence, plague, war, and earthquakes. These were not supernatural events, but acts of nature brought on by the providential working of God. Yet, there were some that understood the value of such affliction.

Ž      Psalm 119: 67 & 71— “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

What about corrective discipline today?

If God would use Providence to encourage Israel to repent before it was too late, would not the same God use Providence to chastise His erring children today? Does He love us any less? I know of no scriptural reason why God would not use His providence to bring about events in our lives which would serve to, wake us up, cause us to reflect on our lives and our relationship to God, and encourage us to repent and turn back to Him if we are straying.

There are several passages that suggest that God might bring some form of “corrective” discipline if we do not heed His “instructive” discipline. Some of the Corinthians had already begun to experience God’s chastisement, which they could have avoided if they had “judged” themselves (by heeding His word).

Ž      1 Corinthians 11:30-32— “30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

Jesus spoke of some way in which He would punish some at Thyatira that would be evident to all.

Ž      Revelation 2:20-23— “20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

·        “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous,” - these words anticipate an objection, taken from the grief and sorrow that comes by afflictions; and therefore how should they be for profit and advantage? However, all chastisement is intended to produce pain, and the Christian is sensitive to pain as others are. But such affliction, when viewed by faith, and judged of by sanctified reason, are seen as tokens of the love of God and Christ; are evidences of sonship; and work together either for temporal, or spiritual. or eternal good of the saints.

Ž      Romans 8:28 & 35-37— “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

·        “But grievous:” - for the present, and with carnal sense and reason, they are not a matter of joy.

·        “Nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” - that is, in the future life or in the effects of a pure life, and a more entire devotedness to God. It may be noted that when the Christian is in the midst of affliction it is often difficult to understand the reason that we are grieving. Yet, when this time does pass one may look back and often understand the need and reason for the hand of God being extended in correction. “Fruit” takes time to ripen and the fruit of righteousness takes time to mature. There is no Christian who is not ultimately benefited by trials, and who is not able at some period subsequently to say, “It was good for me that I was afflicted. Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.”

The why of the Lord’s chastening:

The Lord does chasten but not because that He delights in doing so. God found it necessary to bring judgment upon Israel.

Ž      Lamentations 1:3-5— “3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. 4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. 5 Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.”

It was not something that He wanted to do.

Ž      Lamentations 3:31-33— “31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever: 32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. 33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.”

When necessary or for our good or to correct us (Heb. 12:9) our human fathers corrected us, should we not expect the same from the “Father of spirits”, and submit to it? The result is that we are made partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:10). Our human fathers do it for what seems best to them; our heavenly Father does it for a reason that far excels any earthly purpose: that we may yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11). In the short term, the experience is unpleasant and often difficult to understand as to the reason such discipline has entered our life. But in the long term, we benefit by such “training” and come to an understanding of the causes of such discipline.

Whether “corrective” or “instructive,” chastisement is always for our good; it may be grievous (Heb. 12:11a), but it will still produce “the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11b).

CONCLUSION: Hebrews 12:4-11

It is incumbent on the Christian to daily search the Scriptures that we may conform our lives to the instruction therein given. God has given His divine design as to the manner and mode He expects our lives to conform. Yet, ignorance of His word is no excuse and such ignorance often brings about His providential chastisement.

God is always a just God and will chastise His people as He sees the need. Let us carefully weigh His instructions as given in His word. But let us not forget those that God has so graciously led into our paths as instructors. We should never kick against the goads when we are being corrected; but, we should diligently seek instruction from God in such a way as to further our walk with Him.

INTRODUCTION: Hebrews 12:12-17

In “running the race of faith” (Heb. 12:1-3), we saw the need to lay aside things that would hinder us, especially the sin of unbelief. We are instructed to have endurance, even as Jesus endured hostility and the cross. We are further to focus our gaze on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, whose own example should encourage us not to become weary and discouraged.

After reminding his readers of the value of the Lord’s chastening, the “writer” of Hebrews returns to the metaphor of “running.” We are called to “run with style” (Heb. 12:12-13); we are given instructions to pursue peace and holiness (Heb. 12:14); and with a word of caution, we are appealed to examine the example of Esau (Heb. 12:15-17). One way to describe the Christian “race”, then, is “the pursuit of peace and holiness.”

12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

·        “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down,” - In view of the facts that have been stated, that afflictions are sent from God, and are evidences of His parental watchfulness we are to “lift up the hands that hang down.” The Hebrews, during prayer, would lift up the palms of their hands to God; hands that hang down are weary and exhausted (by sin…the weight of a burden). Here we are exhorted to bear with courage the afflictions of God and exhorted to make every effort to bear them; we are to be strengthened by the God that cares enough to correct us.

·        “And the feeble knees;” - let us bend in prayer; let us show courage and resolution...the hope of victory will do much to strengthen one almost exhausted in battle...confidence in God, and the hope of heaven, and the assurance that all is for our good, will reinvigorate the enfeebled frame, and enable us to bear what we once supposed would crush us to dust.

Ž      Job 4:3-4— “3 Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. 4 Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.”

Ž      Isaiah 35:3— “3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.”

13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

·        “And make straight paths for your feet,” - The word here used for “straight” means in the sense of horizontal, that is level, plain, smooth. The meaning is, that we are to remove all obstacles out of our way, so that we need not stumble or fall. We are to walk in the paths of truth, of the word and worship of God, of faith and holiness and these paths are made “straight” by the word of God which is our rule of faith and that which we should model our walk after. We are exhorted to “Turn not to the right nor to the left; remove thy foot from evil.” We are to walk in a measure worthy of our calling...we are to attend constantly to the ordinances of Christ. While God will help us, we must make an effort.

Ž      Philippians 2:12-13— “12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

·        “Lest that which is lame be turned out of the way;” - the idea here is, that everything which would prevent those in the church who were in danger of falling, the feeble, those that were not well established, the weak, should be removed. The lame need a straight, smooth path to walk; we are not to hinder them by inconsistency in our own walks.

·        “But let it rather be healed.” - whatever is defective we should endeavor to restore to soundness, rather than to suffer the defect to be increased. The fallen believer must be restored, the weak brother confirmed, the halting professor strengthened, all are to be built up and established upon the most holy faith, and in the pure ways of the Gospel.

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

·        “Follow peace with all men,” - those that are in a natural and domestic relation to one another...do not give indulgence to those passions which lead to litigations, strife, wars: When trials arise from outside the community of believers we are exhorted to manifest a spirit of kindness towards all, even though outsiders are engaged in persecuting us...this is the temper of the Gospel...we are to make war against sin, but not with men. We are to “Pursue peace.”

1. Our Part in the pursuit of peace:

a.       We are to “pursue peace” by first seeking peace with God.

Ž      Proverbs 16:7— “7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

b.      We must first make our relationship right with God; through Jesus we can find such a peace with God.

Ž      Romans 5:1— “1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”

c.       We must let the peace of God rule in our hearts.

Ž      Colossians 3:15— “15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

2.      God Part in our pursuit of peace.

a.       Through His word.

Ž      Psalm 119:165— “165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”

b.      Through Prayer.

Ž      Philippians 4:6 & 7—’6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”

·        “And holiness,” - this is the whole of holiness; both inward and outward holiness...true holiness not ceremonial holiness. This means perfect holiness which should be the great pursuit of our life...the spirit of the true Christian is in the pursuit of holiness. As God is holy, so His children must be.

Ž      1 Peter 1:14-16— “4 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Ž      1 Thessalonians 4:7— “7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”

How can one pursue holiness?

1.      True holiness comes by faith in Christ.

Ž      Acts 26:16— “18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

2.      The work of the Holy Spirit.

Ž      1 Corinthians 6:11— “11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Ž      Titus 3:5— “5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

How do we cooperate with God in the pursuit of holiness?

1.      By offering ourselves as “slaves of righteousness.”

Ž      Romans 6:19-22— “19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”

2.      By perfecting holiness in the fear of God; which includes cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit and by putting on the new man in true righteousness.

Ž      2 Corinthians 7:1— “1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Ž      Ephesians 4:24— “24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Ž      Colossians 3:9-14— “9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 ¶ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

In many respects this is what the Christian life is all about: pursuing peace and holiness!

·        “Without which no man shall see the Lord:” - to be in communion with God, both in this life and the hereafter, a sight of holiness is necessary...as God is holy, as Christ is holy, so is heaven, and so must we be for no one has been or will be admitted to heaven in his sins.

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

·        “Looking diligently” - it is here implied that we should give careful attention to those things that are evil...in the temptations of the world...we are not to consider or participate in false doctrines or live immoral lives but we are to watch over one another.

·        “Lest any man fail of the grace of God;” - every man is in danger of failing to some degree, not from the free favor of the love of God which is everlasting, but that danger is found in that they were deficient on that which was necessary to save them...they never had it. This should be the concern of every man that calls himself Christian...to inquire diligently whether there is not reason to apprehend that when he comes to appear before God he will be found to be wholly destitute of religion. Without God’s grace, none can be saved, pursue peace, or have the holiness necessary to see God.

·        “Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” - this is an allusion to the one that may enter into the fold in sheep’s clothing but in fact is a false prophet. They that would sow the seeds of bitterness, that would lead away from the faith and corrupt the very elect if possible. One wicked man, and especially one hypocrite in the church, may be the means of destroying many others...they are rooted in evil, their pride is their vain glory.

Bitterness can also be a stumbling block in our pursuit of peace for it destroys the peace within the person that harbors it and it can destroy the congregation where it becomes manifest. It also becomes a stumbling block in one’s pursuit of holiness, because the problems that it creates cause many to become “defiled” (unholy).

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

·        “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person,” - the sin referred to is one of those which would spread corruption in the church, and against which they ought to be especially on their guard. The word “profane” here refers to one who by word or conduct treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for that which is sacred...the one that neglects religion or openly renounces the privileges that are connected with salvation. The allusion here is to one who should openly cast off all the hopes of religion for indulgence in temporary pleasure, as did Esau, who gave up his birthright for a trifling gratification (fornication is a generic term for any sort of sexual immorality including pre-martial sex, adultery, homosexuality, etc.). Notice should be given to the picture here painted concerning Esau. Esau was deemed a fornicator because he prostituted himself for something that was pleasurable to the flesh; the sin of self-indulgence.

We, also, must not become a “profane person.” A worldly person who profanes holy privileges by placing on them a “worldly estimate” as to their importance and worth. Remember, one does not have to be overtly wicked; one can displease God by simply devaluing that which is important to Him!

·        “As Esau,” - It is clearly implied here that Esau sustained the character of a fornicator and a profane person. Esau was a “profane” person because he did not properly estimate the value of his birthright. Though he would later want the blessings of his birthright, it was then to late to change his father’s mind (he found no place for repentance).

·        “Who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” - for food Esau gave up the first ranking in the family and the privileges of all which that entailed. The birthright was typical of the primogeniture (the right of inheritance) of Christ, of the adoption of the saints, and of the heavenly inheritance belonging thereunto...all of which were despised by Esau...his contempt is shown by his selling of it. Once again, the “writer” shows the Hebrews the penalty of selling their birthright.

17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

·        “For ye know how that afterward,” - when Esau came to his father, he earnestly besought him to reverse the sentence which he had pronounced (See Gen. 27:34-40). The birthright was obtained by dishonestly on the part of Jacob; but so far as Esau was concerned, it was an act of righteous retribution for the little regard he had shown for the honor of his birth.

·        “When he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected:” - by his father, who refused to give him the blessing, but confirmed what he had given to Jacob and it was given by God

Ž      Romans 9:11-13— “11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

·        “For he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” - that is, “no place of repentance” in the mind of Isaac...he had no place of repentance for his sin in selling his birthright. Tears are not the infallible sign of repentance...many are concerned about their sin but such concern is not true repentance...it is not a turning from...it does not spring from God or is it concerned for the glory of God...it does not render the appropriate fruits that accompanies salvation.

This passage, therefore, should not be alleged to show that a sinner cannot repent, or that he cannot find “place for repentance”...it should be used to keep us from disregarding our privileges, from turning away from the true religion, from slighting the favors of the Gospel, and from neglecting our responsibilities as a child of God...when God has pronounced a sentence excluding us from His grace, no amount of tears will render that invalid.

CONCLUSION: Hebrews 12:12-17

As we run the race of faith, peace with others and holiness before God should be our goal. To run the race with “style”, we need to get in the proper form with the lifting of the hands and the strengthening of the knees as we seek to help one another. We need to be ever watchful for pitfalls that can hinder us in our pursuit such as not utilizing God’s grace to help in the race, not allowing bitterness to become a stumbling block, and not becoming a fornicator or a profane person. As we run the race we should keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul;

Ž      1 Corinthians 9:24-27— “24 ¶ Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

INTRODUCTION: Hebrews 12:18-29

Further encouragement is now provided in the running of the race that Christians are called to compete in. With the reminder of the “mountain” to which they have come and with a warning to heed “Him who speaks.”

18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

·        “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched,” - the design of the apostle in this verse is, in general, to engage the Hebrews to adhere closely to the Gospel...they were exhorted to guard against apostasy. The Gospel contained the revelation of higher truth...there are more affecting motives that lead to obedience...the former was but the type or the emblem (Mt. Sinai; a mountain that seemed like a huge volcano and was in itself frightening to the people of Israel)...here was contained a clear revelation of the glories of heaven, and the blessed society which abides therein. The mount under the old might be touched but the mount of the new is spiritual and is touched through faith only. We have not come to such a mountain, that forces us to stand “afar off.”

·        “And that burned with fire,” - this sets forth the majesty of God and points out the end of those that were the transgressors of the law.

·        “Nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,” - the basic thrust then is that disobedience to the heavenly realities will bring a far greater judgment than rejection of the earthly realities that accompanied Moses’ institution of the Law. The effect of this contrast is spectacular because of the experience of Israel at Sinai where they were terrified by the fire, smoke, impenetrable darkness, and howling winds. This should raise the consciousness of the sinner.

19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

·        In a rising crescendo of trumpets, the thunderous voice of the Lord spoke to Moses, and the people of Israel were filled with dread. In their fear they cried out to Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19) It was fearful and overpowering that the people earnestly prayed that if they must be addressed, it might be by the familiar voice of Moses and not by the awful voice of the Deity.

20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

·        “(For they could not endure that which was commanded,” - they could not sustain the awe produced by the fact that God uttered his commands Himself. The meaning is that they could not bear up under the commands of the holy God, they requiring perfect obedience.

·        “And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:” -nothing less than death by stoning was required if someone would but touch the mount...the contrast is to the difficulty in approaching God under the old economy versus how we may approach Him with boldness now.

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

·        “And so terrible was the sight,” - that is, of the smoke, fire, and lightnings...or of God Himself...he was greatly afraid of the anger of the Lord on account of the sin of the people when he descended the mount.

·        “That Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)” - this circumstance (nowhere else recorded in Scripture) is mentioned by the apostle, to aggravate the terror of the people...that Moses, a great and good man who had much familiarity with God; who was the general leader of the people of Israel and the mediator between them and God, feared and quaked when in the presence of God...not even the best men can stand before the most holy God...for there is no righteousness of his own that allows a man to do so and there is no such thing as doing it without a Mediator and the Mediator can not be a mere man but must be the Christ.

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

·        “But ye are come unto mount Sion,” - the idea here is to contrast those that are true Christians to the Jews of the O.T., and to show that their excellencies and advantages are far superior to the religion of their fathers. This is now called “mount Sion”, because, like the Zion, it is beloved of God, chosen by Him as His place of habitation from whence proceeded the worship of Him and His ordinances were administrated (of which the holy city of Jerusalem was an emblem). When the apostle says “But ye are come,” intimates that as Christians we already reside in the heavenly place of Mount Zion.

·        “And unto the city of the living God,” - the Gospel church is a city, built on Christ, the foundation and its true inhabitants are true believers for it is the city where the “living God” dwells. There we have access to God, freedom from arrests of justice, and from condemnation and the right to our heavenly inheritance.

·        “The heavenly Jerusalem,” - the Christian’s residing place is in “the heavenly Jerusalem.” As such, we are to conduct ourselves accordingly...it is not a place where we shall reside in the future, but rather, the place where we now reside...we are born from above, or conversation is now in heaven, we are designed for this place and the doctrines and ordinances that we adhere to are from above.

·        “And to an innumerable company of angels,” - the Greek is, to myriads [for ten thousand] of angels in assembly or joyful convocation.” This refers to the angels assembled around the throne of God celebrating His praises. The meaning is that Christians in their feelings and worship become united to this vast host of holy angelic beings...therefore, from the Hebrew’s standpoint, they should not apostatize from such a true religion, for they should regard it as honorable and glorious to be identified with such a heavenly host.

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

·        “To the general assembly” - the word here for assembly signifies a large collection and convention of men and is here used by the apostle, for the church of God, consisting of all His elect which have been meeting together in the infinite mind of God in Christ from all eternity.

·        “And church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,” - that is, we are united with the church of the first-born which consists of only God’s elect from all times. The meaning is, that by becoming Christians, we have become in fact identified with that happy and honored church, all of whose conservation is in heaven...once enrolled as a citizen we are entitled to the privileges of citizenship of the heavenly world.

·        “And to God the Judge of all,” - Christ, shall be the Judge of all in the last day, however, here it seems to be God that is here spoken of...the design of which the apostle seems to be to give a rapid glance of what there was in heaven, as disclosed by the eye of faith to the Christian...the idea is, God will do right by all that are citizens of the heavens...it is their privilege that they have complete access to Him, as Father, the God of all grace, and as the righteous Judge and that we may approach Him without the sense of terror.

·        “And to the spirits of just men made perfect,” - that is, all the saints on the earth that were made perfect in heaven...the object of God’s grace made perfect by the imputed righteousness of Christ and justified being perfectly expiated of our sins.

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

·        “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant,” - that is, of the new covenant of which Christ is the Mediator thereof...it is the coming to Christ by faith and not by the flesh...it is coming unto Him with a sense of want, the seeking of fullness that is produced through the efficacious grace of God. We are to persevere in piety because Christ has come to save His people from their sins.

·        “And to the blood of sprinkling,” - that is, the blood of Christ which is an allusion to the blood of the Passover.

·        “That speaketh better things than that of Abel.” - (Abel, “by he being dead yet speaketh) was a type of Christ in his death...Christ’s blood is far superior than that of Abel’s for Christ’s sacrifice was efficacious not for Himself but for those that He came to die for. The blood of Abel, shed by his brother Cain, still cries out in condemnation of Cain; the blood of Christ, shed for His brethren, still cleanses the consciences of sinners and covers them in righteousness.

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

·        “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.” - that is, refuse not Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant...it is through His blood by way of His Spirit that He now speaks to the elect...He is not to be refused when He speaks due to the excellency of the matter spoken of, the great and only salvation (given in the Gospel).

·        “For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth,” - that is, at Mount Sinai, those that did not listen died in the wilderness due to their lack of faith...they did not escape the divine judgment of the thrice holy God.

·        “Much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:” - that is of Christ...there have been, and are some, that turn away from Him; from a profession of Him, and His Gospel and ordinances, and draw back unto perdition...such shall not escape divine wrath and vengeance...the worst of all punishment shall be inflicted on them.

26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

·        God thundered from Sinai and the earth shook, but the days of dread and doom are not all past. The promise of future judgment of heaven and earth, referred to here, was spoken to the remnant Jews who were building the temple after they had returned from Babylon (Hag. 2:6). They were discouraged because some of the old-timers remembered the glory of Solomon’s Temple and thought the new temple was insignificant in comparison. But through Haggai, the Lord promised the future glory of their temple and His judgement of their enemies. This same promise was fulfilled in the Messiah on earth as well as in heaven.

Ž      Haggai 2:6— “6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;”

27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

·        “And this word, Yet once more,” - that is , this is reference to a great agitation or commotion in some future time, so in a very little time, and at once, something very marvelous and surprising would be effected.

·        “Signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made,” - the apostle is here contrasting the things which are fixed and stable with those which are temporary in their nature, or which are settled on no firm foundation. The former he speaks of as if they were uncreated and eternal principles of truth and righteousness. The latter he speaks of as is they were created and therefore liable, like all things which are made, to decay and to change.

·        “That those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” - such as, the kingdom and priesthood of Christ, which are everlasting as is our salvation which are wrought by Christ through the remission of our sins, justification, adoption, and sanctification...as is the Gospel and the doctrines pertaining to it.

28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

·        Since Christians are citizens of God’s eternal kingdom, they are exhorted to “keep on holding on” (echomen) to God’s grace. His grace will see them through their current trials. More importantly, it will enable them to worship and serve God as priests (latreuomen) whose sacrifices, like those offered by Abel, are acceptable to the Lord, because they are offered out of an attitude of reverence through faith (recognition of God’s greatness, righteousness, and sovereignty).

29 For our God is a consuming fire.

·        The alternative to pious service and endurance by God’s grace is apostasy which incurs God’s wrath. His wrath shall be poured out against His enemies and it will devour everything in its path. Therefore, we are to worship God and Him only of which He has the sole right in the manner of which such worship is to be rendered, both as to the external and internal parts of it. God is an absolute God, is full of wrath and vengeance but He is a God of love to those that are in Christ, He being a consuming fire to them in manner of protection towards their enemies.

CONCLUSION: Hebrews 12:18-29

God has indeed spoken: He has spoken through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2), He has spoken from Mount Zion, that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. By such, we have come through an obedient faith in Jesus (Heb. 5:9) where we can enjoy the fellowship of angels, the redeemed in heaven and on earth, and of God and Christ Himself. All this made possible by the better covenant, based on the better sacrifice of Jesus’ blood.

But with such wonderful blessings comes the responsibility of giving heed of the fact that we are not to neglect our great salvation and we are not to refuse Him who speaks from the heavenly “mountain.” Therefore, our goal should be that as expressed by the author himself:

Ž      Hebrews 12:28b— “let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:”