Hebrews 12


“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

In Hebrews 11, the writer of Hebrews showed us what faith looks like. Faith is being certain in the unseen things, particularly, that God exists and that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. The writer has shown us that these heroes had that kind of faith.

They endured great tragedy, trials, and loss knowing that their faith was in the better country that God promised. They did not have their eyes and hearts in this world but desired things better than what we can have here. Realizing that we have these witnesses of faith, we ought to be motivated to live our lives in the way that they did.

These people recorded in chapter 11 are witnesses to us about what it looks like to have faith. They show us what God approved faith looks like. These people have shown us the life of faith that can be lived.

Think of the Olympics, and a huge stadium, think of the audience, those who have already run the race, cheering us on. (The faithful in Hebrews 11). Their faithfulness is our encouragement. They were able to run the race and finish. We are able to run this race and finish.

I think it is important to consider that the object of this race of faith is to finish. It is not about running fast, but running to finish. We need to run the race well. What do we need to do to run this race well so that we can finish? The writer tells us some necessary instructions for running the race.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders”. The original runners in the Olympics were men only and they ran naked (for the purpose of being lighter) so that nothing would hinder their race whilst they were running. Notice the writer is not talking about sin at this point. He will address the sin that clings to us in just a moment.

Rather, he is concerned about things that are not sins but are weighing us down. What things are weighing you down and keeping you from running the race to finish?

Many things are not sinful that we make sinful because they are hindering us from having the faith demanded by God. Money can weigh us down. There is nothing sinful about having money. We read about rich, godly people in the Scriptures.

On the other hand, we are strongly warned about money because it can so easily cause us to lose our faith. 1 Timothy 6:17-19. So many people think that their desire for money is normal and acceptable.

Yet this can be the very weight that is slowing us down. We have a focus on money rather than the heavenly country. Remember that we read about Moses who turned down the fleeting pleasures of wealth and sin because he regarded suffering with Christ to be greater wealth. Hebrews 11:25-26.

What about our comforts and ease?

We have become a very comfortable society and we demand that we have our hobbies and pleasures that we can enjoy. So we spend our time watching TV, listening to music, surfing the internet, reading books, and the like. Nothing that we enjoy to unwind and relax is sinful in itself. But these things can become weights that slow us down in our race.

These are the things that block the building of our faith because we choose these points of relaxation rather than studying our Bibles. We relax rather than pray. We chill out on the couch rather than read the Bible. We spend all of our time doing everything else but deepening our faith.

So then we think we do not have time to teach children’s Bible classes because we are spending a significant portion of our time doing things that are blocking our race of faith. No, you aren’t doing anything sinful. But the things you are doing are acting like heavyweights which are slowing you down in the race.

Even our families can get in the way of our service to God. We may have a weak spouse or a spouse that does not want us to worship God. We have to fight through that problem, realizing that God comes first, before being pleasing to our family. Luke 14:26-43.

Too often we are asking why we cannot do something as a Christian. Often we are simply trying to justify ourselves for the various actions that we want to engage in. But let us no longer ask why we cannot do something. Rather, we need to ask, “Will this help me run the race?” So do not ask, “is it wrong if I…” and fill in the blank. Ask if it will help you run the race.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Sin is heavy, weight). We need to cast off sin. This should be an obvious instruction but I do not know that we always realize that sin is slowing us down in this race. Sin is stopping you from running this race. Sin causes interference and is an obstacle on our path. What are the sins that we are not letting go of?

Sexual immorality, anger, lying, selfishness, greed, and such ruin our walk with God. Admit your addictions and get help. You must stop sinning. We are to be dead to sin and alive to Jesus. We cannot continue in sin, thinking that we are acceptable to God. Let us be reminded of the warning that the writer of Hebrews gave us previously, Hebrews 10:26-27.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. The writer already pointed out in Hebrews 10:36 that we have a need for endurance. The race that has been set out before us requires endurance. Who in chapter 11 did not need endurance for the race set before them? All of them needed endurance!

Did Abraham need endurance? He most certainly did need endurance. We need endurance also if we are going to finish this race of faith. So how can we have this athletic discipline necessary to finish the race? The writer of Hebrews gives us the answer.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

During these Olympics, the Emperor would often participate but most times he would be in the audience and the runners would focus their eyes on him. We can finish the race by glueing our eyes on Jesus. We need to get our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. This is a call for us to have a determined focus. We are to be looking at Jesus and nothing else! We are not to have divided attention, Luke 16:13.

Too often we are being distracted by the world. We are being distracted by all of these things that are not necessarily sinful, but they are taking our attention away from Jesus. The writer of Hebrews is calling for us to have a determined focus. Get your eyes on Jesus and off of sin! Colossians 3:1-2.

Get your eyes on Jesus and off of possessions! Get your eyes on Jesus and off of work! Get your eyes on Jesus and off of money! What are our minds focused on? What are we looking at when we fix our eyes on Jesus?

1. What Jesus did!

Jesus is described as the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith. We have seen this description used before by the writer of Hebrews. In Hebrews 2:10 we see the same language. Recall that when we studied that text we noted that the likely meaning is that Jesus is our trailblazer. Jesus has blazed the path for us to follow.

We are not going down an unknown road. We are going down the road that Jesus has blazed for us. He is our pioneer, our leader, who has led the way of faith for us. Not only this, but by following Jesus He will ‘bring our faith to completion’.

Jesus has shown us the road we need to walk.

2. How Jesus endured.

How did Jesus make it? Jesus made it the same way that those in Hebrews 11 made it. They had their eyes fixed on the promised reward, not here on earth. Jesus did the same. What does the text say that Jesus was focused upon? He was focused on ‘the joy set before Him’.

Jesus did not look at the physical, but the goal. He looked to the purpose. Jesus was able to endure because He saw the joy that was set before him.

That is how Jesus endured the cross. He held the shame of the cross in no regard. He was able to look through the cross. He did not just simply see the cross and consider its weight and meaning. He could look beyond the cross. He could see the joy of the salvation that would be offered by His act.

He did not focus on the temporary suffering of the cross. He did not focus on the mocking and shame of the cross. He counted these earthly things as nothing. He disregarded those things and saw the joy set before.

This is how we are to endure our suffering. Do not focus on the suffering. Fix your eyes on Jesus. See-through the suffering and see the joy that will come from having endurance. We have a greater promise given to us that we are able to place our hope upon.

Was Jesus right to see through the cross? Yes, because God kept His promise by exalting Jesus to the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus’ work was accomplished and He was rewarded for His faith. God keeps His promises.

The same thing is true for us. It is right for us to see through the suffering, knowing that God keeps His promises and we have a better country and better reward waiting for us.

In the first two verses of chapter 12, the writer of Hebrews taught us to fix our eyes on Jesus. We need to look to Him as our leader of faith.

We are to follow the example of the cloud of witnesses that have walked the path of faith before us by laying aside every weight that is slowing us down from righteousness and getting rid of the sin that clings so closely to us.

The writer now returns to the theme of the letter which is to encourage these Christians to not give up.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:3-4

Previously we were told to fix our eyes on Jesus. Now the writer asks for some reflection. Think about what Jesus endured. Think about what Jesus suffered. Particularly, think about the hostility Jesus endured from sinners. Think about His mistreatment that He endured from His own creation.

Why should we think about the suffering of Jesus and how He endured mistreatment? The writer says we are thinking about this so that ‘we do not grow weary or discouraged’.

The instructions that follow are to encourage us to not give up or grow weary.

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”. This seems to be asking Christians to compare their lives to what Jesus endured. Our fight against sin has not been to the extent that Jesus fought. We have not had to go as far as Jesus had to go.

Our suffering has not been to the degree that Jesus’ suffered. We know this but often forget this important point. Jesus ended up suffering all the way to the point of death, and so did many of the heroes of faith recorded in Hebrews 11.

We should not feel sorry for ourselves when we suffer. Nor should we grow weary or give up when we are considering the life of Jesus and the cloud of witnesses. It is easy for us to give up. It is human nature for us to become discouraged and want to throw in the towel.

You are fighting Satan and you are engaged in a war against sin. But your battle has not reached the degree that Jesus endured. Ephesians 6:10-18.

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 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 12:5-11

The writer continues by reminding his audience that they have been called children of God. But being called children of God does not exclude us from difficult times and suffering. Being a child does not mean that everything is going to go smoothly in life. Don’t forget the exhortation given.

The writer then quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12. Do not take the Lord’s teaching lightly. Who said that life was going to be easy? Who said that as God’s children we would not need some discipline and correction along the way? Hardship should be looked at as God’s method of training and discipline.

The parent loves the child by correcting and disciplining. This text certainly enforces God’s view of parents using physical pain as a means of disciplining children. The picture is that the Lord disciplines and whips us in this life. We have a saying that is falling out of our language about being “whipped into shape.”

God is whipping us into shape because He is our Father and we are His children. Notice Hebrews 12:7, with these hardships God is treating us as His children.

“For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” This was an obvious answer in days past that every father disciplines his child. But that unfortunately is not true anymore and now we have to prove that physical discipline is not only acceptable to God but commanded by God.

So what are we being taught here? God allows bad things, hard things, and difficult things to happen to us to teach us, reprove us, discipline us, and whip us into shape. God spanks us! The atheist says there is no God because bad things happen. God says, “What kind of father would I be to you if I gave you the easy life?”

Every child needs correcting. Every child needs hardships to learn. We are not sheltered and neither should our children be sheltered from consequences and mistakes. We learn from pain. We change because of hardships.

Notice in Hebrews 12:8 that God declares that we are illegitimate children if we are left without discipline. God says that it is neglect and child abuse if He does not discipline us as children. No discipline, no whipping, and no reproof show that you are not my child and I do not love you.

Notice Hebrews 12:9. Our earthly fathers disciplined us. What was our response? Today, psychologists tell us that if we whip our children into shape that they will be more violent, that they will hate you, that they will abuse other people, and so forth.

What does God say? We learned respect. We respected our parents because they were teaching us, training us, and getting our lives ready for the world. Notice the rest of Hebrews 12:9, should we not expect God to do the same and respect Him for it?

Hebrews 12:10. Our parents disciplined us for a short time to the best of their ability. The implication is that our parents made mistakes. Some did not discipline properly. Some were too lenient. Some were too strict. Some are disciplined in selfish ways rather than according to God’s plan. But God disciplines for our own good. We suffer it is for our own good, “…that we may share his holiness.”

God is moulding our character to be holy. If we never suffered and we were not whipped into shape, we would never change. We think that we are adults and that we are through with being corrected.

“No one can tell me what to do!” God will still correct you. The shepherds of the church will still correct you. The evangelist will still correct you. We need correction and hardships to come to bring those changes about.

Thus, Hebrews 12:11 tells us that all discipline is painful. These times of correction are not fun. But these difficulties are bringing about the fruit of righteousness in our lives. But only if we allow ourselves to be trained by the difficulties.

We cannot give up. We cannot quit. We cannot decide not to learn God’s lessons. Life is hard so that we will bear fruit if we allow ourselves to be changed by the things we experience.

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” Hebrews 12:12-15

Be strong! Get a grip! Stop whining! Pull yourself together! Put things in order and prepare for your journey of faith. Don’t get out of joint but put your trust in God! Have faith! Stay with God and be healed. Quit falling apart under the weight of suffering. In our struggle against sin, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Then notice Hebrews 12:14, strive for peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Remember what the writer of Hebrews taught in Hebrews 11:6, “It is impossible to please God without faith.”

Notice this other impossibility, No one will see the Lord without holiness. We have to act differently!

We are not going to make it if we act like everyone else who falls apart in difficult times. We are called to be holy, that is, different and set apart for God’s service. We are being disciplined so that we can be holy.

We are being whipped into shape so that we can be set apart for God, for without this holiness we are not going to see God. To put it another way, without God’s correction, reproof, discipline, and whipping us into shape, we are not going to see the Lord.

Let God change you! Let Him change you by being peaceable with everyone. Don’t be a quarreller! Don’t be a fighter! Don’t be argumentative! Seek reconciliation, not fighting. Seek peace in relationships, not strife.

Hebrews 12:15 tells us that we need to let God’s correction change our hearts, ridding us of bitterness. Cut out the root of bitterness in your life. Get rid of the animosity you have that is causing you to hold a grudge against another. Be forgiving, not bitter.

Notice the warning of Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.” Don’t lose your grace by not allowing yourself to be trained and moulded by God’s correction. How do we fail to obtain the grace of God? The writer is going to conclude with the example of Esau.

“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” Hebrews 12:16-17

What does Esau have to do with not giving up and accepting God’s discipline? What did Esau do?

Remember what took place in Genesis with his brother Jacob. Genesis 25:29-34. Esau went hunting and came back very hungry. Jacob had made a stew but would not give it to Esau without him giving his birthright to Jacob.

Now, the birthright was important. He would receive a double portion of the inheritance from his father. He gave up his inheritance for the stew that Jacob had made. This should bring the point of the writer of Hebrews into focus.

Esau traded the spiritually and eternally important for something that was only physically and temporarily important. He did not see the importance of his birthright. Genesis says that Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:24.

This is the teaching lesson to us. We are suffering. We are going through hardships and difficulties. Just because you are going through hardships, do not trade away your eternal inheritance with the Lord just for temporary comfort and pleasure now.

That is exactly what Esau did and he was rejected by God and did not receive the blessing either. The blessing went to his brother, Jacob, instead.

Are you going to throw away your eternal reward because you are suffering? You have not suffered to the point of shedding blood like Jesus! Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Be strong!

Look through the suffering and see the eternal reward. Don’t trade away God’s blessings and God’s inheritance for a few crumbs of this physical world.

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire to darkness, gloom and storm to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” Hebrews 12:18-21

The author begins by telling his audience what they have not come to. They have not come to what may be touched, that is, physical things. In particular, the author is describing Mount Sinai when the people of Israel came to the mountain.

To appreciate what the author is relating to, let us read Exodus 19:10-20:21 and see the power and vivid imagery of God coming to His people. Deuteronomy 5:22-27 gives us a little more information about the terrifying image of God’s presence at Sinai. It was imagery intended to bring about awe and fear.

The warnings to the people intended to bring that fear. No one was to come near the mountain. Limits were set around the mountain and no one was not to come close. If they did, they would be killed by God. Even if an animal came close to the mountain, it would be killed also.

What a powerful picture of the presence and holiness of God! Do not come near to God. Be fearful! Be afraid! Stay back! Even Moses was afraid. God is holy and this fear was to compel the people not to sin, Exodus 20:20.

But the author has told these disciples that they have not come to that mountain. They have not come to the physical things that can be touched. This is not the way it is any longer. It was that way, but not now. That is not what we have come to.

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24

Rather than explaining more, the author tells us what we have come to. We have come to Mount Zion. We have not come to the physical but, by implication, to the spiritual. We have come to Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem.

We have not come to the physical city, but to the city of the living God. By faith Abraham looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God, Hebrews 11:10. That is the city we have come to. Let us consider what else we have come to.

“Thousands of angels in joyful assembly”. Hebrews 12:22. Too often we read these descriptions and do not ask what this is telling us. We simply say that we have come to innumerable angels. But what does that mean for us? Consider the Scriptures and as we read these texts, think about where these innumerable angels are, Daniel 7:9-10 / Revelation 5:11-12.

What is the writer saying that we have come to innumerable angels? We have come to the very presence of God. We have not come to the God who had to tell the people to not come near Him because of His holiness. We have come near to God, which is the point, the writer of Hebrews made earlier in his writing, Hebrews 4:16.

“To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect”. Hebrews 12:22-23.

What else is the author telling us we have come to? Remember that the writer of Hebrews is teaching us what we have left and what we now have. This is not a third party.

He is telling us that we are part of the new covenant, we are the assembly of the saved, and our names are written in heaven. You are part of something great. You have not come to the physical. Rather, you are part of the group of people whose names are registered in heaven. Simply awesome!

We are of the firstborn, not only because Jesus is the firstborn of the dead, but because we have valued our birthright. We have not been like Esau, the firstborn, who despised his birthright inheritance and gave it away for the pleasures of this world. We are not that.

We value our inheritance with God and are part of the family of God, Hebrews 2:11. Part of this assembly is those who have died. They are also part of the family and we are joined together. Death separates us, but we are still joined together as God’s saved family.

“To Jesus”. Hebrews 12:24. This is really awesome. You have not come to the physical. You have not come to Sinai. But you have come to Jesus. Moses was the mediator of the Sinai covenant. Jesus is the mediator of the Zion covenant. We have come to the sprinkled blood, which is a picture of atonement.

“The blood of Abel”. Hebrews 12:24. The question is, which blood?

1. Is it Abel’s own blood, shed by Cain?

2. Or is it the blood that Abel himself offered in sacrifice when he slew the lamb?

It is often supposed that it was his own blood, an opinion based on Genesis 4:10 because God said to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground”.

I believe that this is a mistaken view and that the blood referred to in Hebrews 12:24, is the blood that Abel himself shed.

We need to ask ourselves, in what sense does the blood of Christ speaks better things than the blood of Abel? If there is one thing of which the blood of Abel’s sacrifice speaks, it is sin and the separation which sin creates.

Abel’s sacrifice spoke of guilt, as did every other sacrifice offered under the Patriarchal Age and the Mosaic Age that followed, and it was, like the offerings made under the Mosaic Law, which was yet to come, a confession of unworthiness before God.

But, in contrast with the blood of Abel, the blood of Christ speaks of the possibility of forgiveness of sin and the reconciliation to God which brings forgiveness.

It is not the blood of wrath, which is what the blood of Abel spoke. Abel’s death demanded vengeance on Cain. We have come to the blood of Jesus which takes away wrath and brings mercy. We are under the new covenant of Jesus. That is what we have come to.

1. Jesus is the mediator of the New Testament because of the blood He shed at Golgotha, Hebrews 9:18-26.

2. The blood of Abel cried for vengeance against the one who sinned against him, Genesis 4:10. The blood of Christ “speaks better things,” that is salvation for those who obey the Gospel, Ephesians 1:7 / Colossians 1:13-14.

“See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:25-29

Now, this is where the author’s teaching goes deep in this chapter. Unfortunately, the text has been glossed over. I listened to several sermons online and all of them missed the thunderous point that the author is making. So let’s dig deeper.

Now some may tend to read this and think that God is a kinder, gentler God. Before we approached God with fear, but now we can go to God any way we like. To prevent such thinking, the writer of Hebrews gives a warning now.

“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.” Here is another argument from the lesser to the greater. If they did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses who warned them on the Earth, how do we think we will escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven? Obviously, we will not escape judgment. Now watch what the author presents.

When God spoke at that time His voice shook the earth, Hebrews 12:26. This observation refers back to the events of Mount Sinai that we read about earlier. Exodus 19:18-19. But something has been promised for right now, the first century, when the author is writing these words.

The promise the author is referring to is found in Haggai 2:6, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” Before we read on, let us consider that this prophecy was stated by Haggai in the context of the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The author states that this promise refers to the removal of things that are shaken. What are the things that are shaken? The author is referring to the things that are made. The things that have been made must be removed so that the things which cannot be shaken can remain. What are the things that cannot be shaken?

According to Hebrews 12:27, the things that cannot be shaken are the things that have not been made with human hands. Hebrews 12:28 gives us more clarity that the things that cannot be shaken is the kingdom we are receiving. Now we cannot pass this by because he just made a critical point that is easy to miss.

The things that have been made must be removed so that the things that cannot be shaken can remain. The things that are shaken was Mount Sinai and the quotation was given in the context of the building of the physical temple in Jerusalem.

Hebrews 12:27 tells us that these things must be removed so that the unshakable kingdom of God can remain. The point is not that we can go before God any way we want. The point is that God has kept His word, bringing about an unshakable kingdom that we are able to enter because we have come to Mount Zion and not Mount Sinai. We are part of the assembly of the firstborn, those who have not thrown away their birthright inheritance.

Hebrews 12:28. Therefore, we need to be grateful for the kingdom we are receiving. We need to be thankful to be fellow partakers of the superior covenant, superior sacrifice, superior High Priest, and superior kingdom.

Let us then offer acceptable worship in reverence and awe because God is a consuming fire.

God is not lenient now. Our God is a consuming fire. We need to worship Him with reverence and awe. We need to be obedient since we are part of this unshakable kingdom.


1. Look at what you have come to!

2. Look how you are part of the unshakable kingdom!

3. Look at how you can worship God acceptably!

Go To Hebrews 13