Closing the Gap – Week 9 Study Guide

Heb. 12:1-7, “1 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 marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

Commentary on Hebrews 12:1-7

The chapter’s opening appeal (vv. 1–3) is based on the prior explanation of faithfulness among the people of God. The witnesses are the heroes and heroines of the previous chapter and, changing the metaphor to more biblical terms, we are watching them for encouragement rather than them watching us in examination. The challenge is to keep going in faith and hope, with the faithfulness of Jesus at great cost as the supreme incentive. The race will not be won unless there is a willingness to ‘run light’ and be rid of sins and unhelpful ways that hinder progress. The athlete will always be characterized by consistent discipline (see 1 Cor. 9:24–27). In the Christian race, this discipline will stem from a loving response to the gospel, and there will be forces to give that extra incentive to subdue the flesh and overcome laziness.[1]

With the great gallery of witnesses about us, it is important for us to run well. So we are exhorted, “Let us throw off everything that hinders.” “Everything that hinders” translates onkos (only here in the NT), a word that may mean any kind of weight. It is sometimes used of superfluous bodily weight that the athlete sheds during training. Here, however, it seems to be the race rather than the training that is in view. Athletes carried nothing with them in a race (they even ran naked), and the writer is suggesting that the Christian should “travel light.” He is not referring to sin, for that follows in the next clause. Some things that are not wrong in themselves hinder us in putting forward our best effort. So the writer tells us to get rid of them.[2]

Christians must also put off every sin. Sin forms a crippling hindrance to good running. Christians then, are to lay aside all that could hinder them in their race and are to “run with perseverance.” The author is not thinking of a short, sharp sprint but of a distance race that requires endurance and persistence. Everyone has from time to time a mild inclination to do good. The author is not talking about this but about the kind of sustained effort required of the long-distance runner who keeps on with great determination over the long course. That is what the heroes of faith did in their day, and it is that to which we are called.[3]

The writer also found encouragement for endurance from Jesus’ example. Jesus had already run the race of faith, and God had placed Him on the throne. When Christians consider the hardship He faced, they can find strength and fresh courage. God allows all Christians to experience hardship so that they might develop holiness. Even though God’s chastisement seems hard for the time, it will eventually produce righteousness in those who follow Him.[4]

We must bear in mind that Hebrews was written to people who were being persecuted. Because they had forsaken Judaism for Christ, they were facing bitter opposition. There was a danger that they might interpret their suffering as a sign of God’s displeasure. They might become discouraged and give up. Worst of all, they might be tempted to return to the temple and its ceremonies.

They should not think that their sufferings were unique. Many of the witnesses described in chapter 11 suffered severely as a result of their loyalty to the Lord, yet they endured. If they maintained unflinching perseverance with their lesser privileges, how much more should we to whom the better things of Christianity have come.[5]

The life of faith has been amply attested by this great cloud of Old Testament witnesses. (This does not mean that they watch believers today.) Hence believers ought to run with perseverance the race marked out in their Christian lives, setting aside whatever hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Their supreme Model for this continued to be Jesus, however admirable any Old Testament figure might be. He is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith. The word “author” was used in 2:10 and suggests that Jesus “pioneered” the path of faith Christians should follow. He also “perfected” the way of faith since He reached its end successfully. He kept His eye on the joy set before Him, the “joy” alluded to in 1:9 wherein He obtained an eternal throne. The believers’ share in that joy must also be kept in view. After enduring the cross and scorning its shame, Jesus assumed that triumphant position at the right hand of the throne of God which foretells His and the believers’ final victory (cf. 1:13–14).[6]

Study Guide Hebrews 12:1-7

Faith is the key to a life of faith.

  1. The race marked out for us is a life of faith. (3:1)
    • In what ways have the ones who have gone before shown us how to run?
    • In what ways have we learned from their success and from their failure that God is the faithful one?
    • Think now about the “sin that so easily entangles” and its nasty work in our lives. How does it redirect our perspective? How does it weigh us down and hinder us?
    • The good news is that you can throw off the things that hinder your life of faith. How do we do this? What can keep us from throwing it off? What role does perspective play?
    • Consider your own perspective on sinful attitudes and actions. Do you really see them as they are? Will you look honestly at them today? Will you throw them off? Are you convinced that you can?
  1. We are to consider those who have gone before, “The great cloud of witnesses,” but we’re to fix our gaze on Jesus. (vv 1-2)
    • Why is this statement true?
    • What do you see when you see Him?
    • How do we learn from others as we examine their lives without becoming a cynic or falling into “hero worship,” yet at the same time make Jesus the focus of our lives?
    • Jesus was able to endure great suffering because He had great perspective. What lessons can we learn from His example?
    • Jesus is the ultimate example for us. Day by day we’re to conform our lives to Him.
      1. How would He act if He were you?
      2. How does He want you to act?
  1. Discipline could be because of sin…or it could be the discipline of being pushed to grow up. (vv 5-6)
    • Why do we tend to think that if we suffer it indicates that God is not there, or not involved, or He doesn’t love me?
    • Consider the following statement: Paul reminds them of what was written in Proverbs 3:11-12, that God is a good parent, and good parents discipline their children. How does this statement help us to have a right perspective?
  1. Discipline here is talking about the challenges, difficulties, and persecutions that God brings into our lives to bring a harvest…or the discipline that comes from our sin to turn us around… Either way, it brings good when we respond to God. (vv 5-7)
    • What are the implications of this statement for your own life? Are the any paradigm shifts that need to happen?
  1. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:12
    • When we ponder this verse we understand the benefits of discipline, but how do we learn to love the results?
    • What role does reason play?

Closing the gap on faith and love involves discipline. Look back at Heb. 11:3, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Remember, Consider = “do the math.”

Reason—don’t fear it… consider = “Do the math” it is reasonable to have faith in God. Let’s close the gap on Faith!

 

[1] Hacking, P. H. (2006). Opening up Hebrews (p. 83). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[2] Morris, L. (1981). Hebrews. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 133–134). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[3] Morris, L. (1981). Hebrews. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[4] Lea, T. D. (1998). The General Letters. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (pp. 625–626). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2202). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Hodges, Z. C. (1985). Hebrews. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 809–810). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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