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Hebrews 12:1-29 (web)

Plea for Preserving Faith III

Throw Off Hinderances

12:1 Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
12:2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
12:3 For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,
that you don't grow weary, fainting in your souls.

12:4 You have not yet resisted to blood, striving against sin;

Endure Discipline

12:5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with children,
"My son, don't take lightly the chastening of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by him;
12:6 For whom the Lord loves, he chastens,
And scourges every son whom he receives."
12:7 It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with children,
for what son is there whom his father doesn't discipline?
12:8 But if you are without discipline, whereof all have been made partakers,
then are you illegitimate, and not children.

12:9 Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us,and we paid them respect.
Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?

12:10 For they indeed, for a few days, punished us as seemed good to them;
but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.

12:11 All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous;
yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby.

Live a Holy Life

12:12 Therefore, lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees,
12:13 and make straight paths for your feet, (Is 35:3)
so that which is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

12:14 Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord,

12:15 looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the grace of God;
lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled;

12:16 lest there be any sexually immoral person, or profane person,
as Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal. (Gen 25+)
12:17 For you know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing,he was rejected,
for he found no place for a change of mind though he sought it diligently with tears.

12:18 For you have not come to a mountain that might be touched,
and that burned with fire, and to blackness, darkness, tempest,
12:19 the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words;
which those who heard it begged that not one more word should be spoken to them,
12:20 for they could not stand that which was commanded,
"If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned;"
{TR adds "or shot with an arrow" [see Exodus 19:12-13]}
12:21 and so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said,
"I am terrified and trembling." (Ex 19:16)

12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels,
12:23 to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,
to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
12:24 to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel.

12:25 See that you don't refuse him who speaks.
For if they didn't escape when they refused him who warned on the Earth,
how much more will we not escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven,
12:26 whose voice shook the earth, then, but now he has promised, saying,
"Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens." (Is 13:13)

12:27 This phrase, "Yet once more," signifies the removing of those things that are shaken,
as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain.
12:28 Therefore, receiving a kingdom that can't be shaken,
let us have grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe,
12:29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Deut 4:24)

Discussion Questions

vs 1 What is the race? What is the Objective?
What kinds of things can hinder us from accomplishing the objective?
vs 2 What does it mean to fix our eyes on Jesus?
vs 3 Do you find that the people around you discourage you (directly or indirectly) from running the race?
vs 5-11 How have you benefited from the discipline that you received from your parents?
Have you respected them more as a result, or resented them more?
Or, as a parent, how and why do you discipline your children?
vs 12-13 What does it mean to "make level paths for your feet"?
How would you know if your paths weren't level?
vs 14 Do you find there to be a conflict between living a holy life and living at peace with all men?
Did Jesus ever run into this conflict?
vs 15 What's an example of a "bitter root" that causes trouble?
vs 16 How might sexual immorality be likened to what Esau did?
Considering the contrast between vs 18-21 and vs 22-24, how might a Christian's attitude differ from a Jew living under the old covenant?
How do the facts that God is a consuming fire and the earth will be shaken give a positive attitutde of hope for the future to the Christian?


How does this section describe the quality of faith characteristic of Christians?

It seeks to extricate itself from anything that hinders it from following Christ, particularly those things which tend to lead to sin. And in this context, it welcomes God's discipline - whether such be hardships in one's life due to our own sin or those that God introduces into our lives to prevent sin from taking a hold on us. It submits itself to the Word of God - as found in the Bible - never refusing to listen.

vs 1 In living the Christian life we should have the sense that we are trying to achieve an objective. We need always to have applications of faith in mind, for we are servants of Christ.

Therefore we should consider what unnecessary things are hindering us from serving Christ. Also what causes us to get entrapped in sin. We should avoid such things. And we should not be satisfied with mediocre service, but persist day after day. What can I do today to serve Christ? Develop a ministry and persevere in it.

vs 2 On the other hand, our primary focus shouldn't simply be on ministry. It should be on Christ. Practically speaking I would recommend studying the gospels periodically to make sure our concept of Christ is consistent with the Bible and to identify with Christ in our practical living.

Jesus endured a great deal of humiliation, but he looked beyond the cross with joy. Yet if you examine the gospel accounts, he wasn't jumping for joy to be crucified. Biblical joy is not the same as the world's joy. And even Christians can have a misconception about joy as an emotion. Despite what some claim, Christians can indeed be joyful without smiling. Joy is a profound and deep feeling and it produces confidence in spite of persecution.

vs 3 If you are ministering correctly, you will face opposition. This can be discouraging, but it's part of the ministry, and gives us an opportunity to identify with Christ.

vs 4 The fact that they hadn't experience the shedding of blood would indicate this was written before there was major persecution of the Christians.

vs 5,6 When God disciplines us, we shouldn't take it too lightly. Sin can have a corrupting influence on our life. If our behavior is significantly deviant from that expected of a child of God, we may even question our salvation status. (2Cor 13:5) But on the other hand, we shouldn't take it too seriously. For if we have been saved, we need not worry about losing our salvation. For those born of God are not destined for wrath, but for glory.

vs 7-11 God's discipline could be either to experience the result of our sin directly, or He could warn us indirectly through circumstances and people. Fathers can understand the frustration that God must face in trying to discipline his children. If fathers love their children, they will develop in them convictions and habits which are edifying and stir them away from things that are harmful. If children don't cooperate, then stronger measures will be taken.

Some fathers may be surprised at the idea that their children respect them for disciplining them. In many families, it seems that many children are left to simply raise themselves. And it seems politically incorrect for parents to discipline their children. With "freedom" as an idol, discipline is often viewed as something evil. But in the end, proper discipline gains respect.

vs 12-13 We should try to make our Christian lifestyle easier to live both for ourselves and others. Thus we should remove things which cause us to become unnecessarily distracted and sin. We need to develop habits that are edifying. And beware of inappropriate relationships.

vs 14 Although Christians will face opposition, we shouldn't try and generate unnecessary conflicts. It is seldom necessary to break the law or even be rude to others in practicing the Christian life. Consider Jesus. His country was under occupation by idol worshipping Romans. Yet he was not hostile towards them. His main opposition came from the religious leaders because he humiliated them through his teachings.

Also, it's easier to be martyred than it is to live a holy life. So we must make great effort at separating from sin.

vs 15 Bitterness is often a reaction to God's discipline, especially when people are in the process of coming to Christ, but lack the proper humility to respond correctly to God's leading. For God often brings us through humiliating circumstances so as to develop humility in us. But if we don't react properly, others may use it as an excuse to also be bitter at their circumstances.

Consider some source of humiliation in your life and thank God for that source of humiliation. For through it God is developing in you a Christlike character. Remember Paul's affliction:

So God may bring affliction to us through Satan or other people, yet these are for our good if we respond to them properly.

vs 16-17 Licentiousness is what it's talking about. A licentious person rejects the Lordship of Christ, refusing to recognize boundaries of right and wrong either from the Bible or from his conscience, and he becomes corrupted in his heart to do shameful things without feeling shame. The effect is a corruption of the mind and the conscience such that repentance may not be possible.

vs 18-24 God does not approach the believers as he revealed Himself to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai when he gave them the Law. That event represented a pre-salvation stage in the process of conversion. For "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Gal 3:24 It does this by revealing God's holiness and standard of justice, thus giving us conviction of sin and ultimately revealing our need for a Savior.

Rather believers are like those who are acceptable to God, who crossed the Jordan and took the promise land. Our names are written in heaven. And we are justified by the blood of Christ. Abel's blood cries out for justice, but Jesus' blood satisfies the need for justice.

vs 25 But we should make sure that we have responded properly to the gospel. For it is not sufficient to accept Christ as Savior, but not Lord. There are many nominal Christians who will go to hell because they had not responded properly to God.

vs 28 All sin will be removed from the Christians and the effects of sin from creation.

vs 29 "Our God is a consuming fire" sounds like we're back at Mount Sinai. But actually the believers view this in a positive way. For God is going to burn up their sin. We see this in the judgment of Christians mention in 1Cor 3:11-15

It is not the believer who is burned, but his sin. Our lives are like a book, God burns up all the pages which represent our acts of sin and whatever remains we get rewarded for. Thus our loses are only loses of potential rewards.

Literally God forgets our sins. This is the New Covenant mentioned in chapter 10.

Another aspect of God as a consuming fire is the fact that the closer we get to God, the more our sin is revealed and God's holiness becomes more clear to us and what idols we hold in our hearts. The quote from Deut 24 in context says:
Throw off Hinderances

Heb 12:1 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.

By "great cloud of witnesses" he is not referring to people looking down on us from heaven, but rather those, as in the previous chapter, who have walked by faith and witnessed God grace and faithfulness. They serve as an example for us to follow.

We are to throw off everything which hinders us in the race and the sin in which we are easily entangled.  "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1Cor 9:24

Now there are things which would hinder us which of themselves may not be sin. Paul says to Timothy, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairsó he wants to please his commanding officer." 2Tim 2:4 Consider what may be hindering you from living effectively and fruitfully in service to the Lord. While eliminating unnecessary responsibilities may help to this end, it may also be a matter of prioritizing one's responsibilities. For example Paul writes, "From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. I would like you to be free from concern." 1Cor 7:29-32a He then speaks of the benefit of singleness to this end and goes on to say, "I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." 1Cor 7:35 While he's not speaking by way of command here, the principle is to seek circumstances which allow for undivided devotion to the Lord.

Again, this is not to avoid responsibilities, but to avoid unnecessary responsibilities. In fact professional Christians have chosen to leave the secular workplace and get paid for doing ministry, but in fact this is something that Paul advises against. For it may hinder others from coming to Christ, and sets a poor example. (2Thess 3:7-10) For this reason Paul refused to exercise his right to get paid for ministry saying, "we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ." 1Cor 9:12b

Beyond our rights, freedoms and responsibilities there is also sin in which we are easily entangled. It is not difficult even for those born of God to get unintentionally entangled in sin, though not overcome by it, but rather persevere to the end. But there are also those "Christians" who "if they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning." 2Pet 2:20

1Ti 4:16  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. Both behavior and doctrine incorporate running the race. False doctrines can be stumbling blocks. Paul writes of the false doctrine of the circumcision which was influencing the Galatian churches and says, "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Gal 5:7 While the circumcision advocated legalism, there is also the heresy of  licentiousness. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:" 1Cor 6:9a and he goes on to speak of lifestyle behaviors of the wicked.

But perseverance is the measure of the true believer, thus John writes, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19
Fixed on Jesus

Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author (Prince) 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.

Here "author" is an incorrect translation. The word means "leader", as is indeed it's sole usage in the 23 cases in which it is used in the Old Testament LXX and of the few cases it's used in the New we have for example Acts 5:31a "God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior"  He leads, we follow. And part of what is involved in following is following his example. Thus the verse which follows speak of the example he set, which again affirms that this speaks of his leadership, not his authorship. And it is by following him our faith is perfected.

What it means to have our faith "perfected" is to develop a matured faith, one which is application oriented and stands in face of opposition. Peter speaks of adding these qualities to one's faith, "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." 2Peter 1:5-7 And by exercising our spiritual gifts we can help to perfect the faith of others. Paul writes, "night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?" 1Th 3:10

But as for the phrase "for the joy set before him endured the cross", one would not get that impression from reading the gospel accounts. However it does not say that he endured the cross joyfully, but rather one could say that he endured the cross in light of the joy which was to come as a result. The joy of saving people from sin, which is consistent with Ps 22, part of which Jesus quoted on the cross and ends with a joyful note.

Another possibility noted by one commentator, John Gill, that the Greek work "for" (anti) can mean "instead of". In that case, he says, "instead of living a joyful and comfortable life on earth,  he suffered a shameful and an accursed death; and instead of the temporal joy and glory the Jews proposed to him,  he endured the shame and pain of the cross:"

In any case the example he set was to exercise faith in the face of difficulties and opposing circumstances.

An Encouraging Example

Heb 12:3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The opposition he faced ranged from apathy to open physical hostility. "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces" Is 53:3 "Even his own brothers did not believe in him." John 7:5 His family considered him crazy, "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."" Mark 3:20,21 He was slandered. He was humiliated and mistreated.

"Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Gal 6:9 "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" Heb 10:36

Resist to Death

Heb 12:4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

This is mentioned in contrast to Christ an in contrast to those spoken of in chapter 11 who "were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword." Heb 11:37a In other words, God expects us to endure more suffering and trouble as a consequence of our faith than we have experienced so far. We should be willing to die for our faith. Concerning the end times Jesus said, "they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My nameís sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." Mt 24:9-13 So do not presume that you or anyone else is saved if they are not willing to endure such things.

Receive Discipline

Heb 12:5-8  And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lordís discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." (Proverbs 3:11,12) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

In regards to the Lord's disciple, his rebuke, it's much like a father disciplining his son. Often children overreact in two ways. Some will just brush it off, making light of it, not taking it seriously. "He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding." Pr 15:32 Others may lose heart, get totally discourage, which is why fathers are instructed, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children." Eph 6:4a by being over demanding. Or "fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." Col 3:21 Yet the instruction here in Hebrews shows us that such a reaction is not necessarily the father's fault. Else, seeing as God is the perfect father, such would never occur in his case, and yet we have this instruction indicating that in fact there are those who overreact to God's discipline and lose heart.

Being receptive to rebuke should be part of the Christian life. God may bring that rebuke through one's conscience. It may come from one's own personal reading of the Bible. But it may also come through other Christians pointing out what the Bible says. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." Luke 17:3 One cannot overstate the importance of being open to correction. This subject dominates the book of Proverbs from which the author of Hebrews is quoting. Even Prov 1:7 says, "fools despise wisdom and discipline." Christians who are easily offended, who are overly sensitive to criticism are so because of pride and show themselves fools if they discard criticism or critique offhandedly.

The New Testament is filled with examples and rhetoric of rebuke, discipline and correction. It's part of the Christian life, just as in raising children, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Pr 13:24 "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death." Pr 19:18 Those not open to the Lord's discipline refuse to be treated as his children.

Discipline is a Pain

Heb 12:9-11  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 our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, 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.

Being a "disciple" involves "discipline".

One type of discipline is a consequence of misbehavior. As an example, there was a situation in the Corinthian church of which Paul noted, "When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." 1Cor 11:32 The situation was Christian's were getting sick and actually dropping dead because of their hatred for their brethren in Christ. Likewise earlier in 1Corinthians Paul instructs the church to hand a sexually immoral Christian over to Satan for discipline. "Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 1Cor 5:5

In fact Paul himself was handed over to Satan for discipline at another point, which shows another type of discipline. There's a disciple which not a consequence of misbehavior, but rather one which helps one to maintain one's humility and to grow in Christian character. Paul says, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." 2Cor 12:7 Satan is not as much our enemy as is our own pride. God will even use Satan to bring affliction upon us just so that we may develop and maintain a healthy level of humility.

Along these same lines comes SELF-discipline, where we discipline ourselves. If we exercise self-disciple we won't fall under the Lord's discipline, which is what Paul meant by saying, "if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment." 1Cor 11:31 And he says, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1Cor 9:25-27 Are you a disciple or merely a spectator? Self-discipline also goes hand in hand with self-control. God's grace should teach us self-control  "It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." Titus 2:12

Yes disciple is painful. If it's not painful, it's not discipline. For no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Human nature seeks for pleasure, and pleasure-seeking is particular pervasive in many cultures today, such as the fun-loving American culture, which is why drug abuse and sexual immorality is so rampant along with obesity and laziness. But the Christian must not make pleasure seeking a priority, but must be subject to painful discipline. To avoid hardship is not necessarily the best thing to do, neither for oneself nor for one's fellow Christian.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Gal 6:9,10

Prepare the Way

Heb 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," (Pr 4:26) so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
You can easily hurt yourself - break your ankle - running on rocky or bumpy ground. What is your path? It is firstly your direction in life and your walk is your lifestyle. If your goal is at the end of your path, then you will attain it most effectively by removing obstacles and making your path straight and narrow. The context of the quote in proverbs follows:

Prov 4:20-27 "My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;  for they are life to those who find them and health to a manís whole body.  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."

In considering one's chosen lifestyle, avoid unnecessary circumstances that lead to temptation. A person's not going to be healed from addictions if they continue to subject themselves to circumstances that lead to temptation. And there are many unnecessary distractions we subject ourselves to. If texting while driving is dangerous enough, how much more dangerous are the things that distract us from living the Christian life.

The Christian's way is to be straight and narrow. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Mt 7:13,14 And with regards to influencing others for Christ, "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." Mt 3:3b

Be a Holy Peace Maker

Heb 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Paul writes, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Rom 12:18

However I take this to mean to purse peace on God's terms, not on man's terms. For peace with God is the priority, and such can only be gained in view of God's holinesss. "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all." Acts 10:36 And "since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" Rom 5:1 "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting menís sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christís ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christís behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2Cor 5:18-20

Christ died for his enemies to make peace with them. And yet also conditioned peace upon his enemies pledging allegiance to him. Likewise when we pursue peace with all men, we must do so zealously, but on God's terms, not compromising our convictions.

"Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." Jas 3:18 

As for holiness, we learn just a few verses ago "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." Heb 2:10 He's not talking about mere positional holiness. He's talking about actual behavior. Holiness is a lifestyle. "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' (Lev 20:26)" 1Peter 1:14-16

As for "without holiness no one will see the Lord", it is of course inevitable that the saints will be made holy, just as "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption." 1Cor 15:50 But the saints will be sanctified to enter. But another way of looking at this phrase is the idea that our effort to reconcile people with God is partly dependent on our personal holiness. For without holiness they will not see the Lord through us. Thus if we are living an unholy life we will have less influence.

"Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." 2Cor 7:1 

Beware Poisonous Roots

 Heb 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

As much of Hebrews alludes to the Old Testament, here also. In this case he's alluding to the terms of the covenant the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab. mentioned in Deuteronomy 29. "Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison or wormwood." Deut 29:18b This kind of bitterness is associated with turning away from God. It can be contagious.

Let us look at a couple of examples where this word "bitterness" ("pikria" in Greek) is used in the New Testament. Foremost is Simon the Sorcerer in Acts chapter 8. He performed magic tricks and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." Acts 8:10 But he then came to hear the gospel. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. Acts 8:13 Now when Peter and John arrived they laid hands on the people and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostlesí hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." Acts 8:18-23

It's not that Simon was "bitter" in the normal sense of the word today. But rather he was full of poison - the poison of envy, poison which is contagious.  Therefore "bitter" in these references is more accurately "poisonous", as we see the word also used in Rev 8:11 "The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter."

Envy among Christians is one of the bitter roots, as is greed. Christians have developed false doctrines which have defiled much of the history of post-Biblical Christianity and have even led to Christians murdering other Christians along with other atrocities and ungodly acts, and worldly philosophies infiltrating the Christian community, causing great troube and defiling many.

Regrets as an Incentive

Heb 12:16,17 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. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

Sexual immorality is another poison root that defiles many a Christian. "The lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil;  But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell." Pr 5:3-5 "It is Godís will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality" 1Th 4:3 And "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9

In Esau's case he took lightly that which should have been taken seriously. Paul speaks of many who lived as enemies of Christ. "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." Php 3:19 Such was Esau. His stomach was his god and his mind was on earthly things.

As for Esau this again goes right along with Deut 29. For as the previous verse alludes to Deut 29:18, these verses may allude to Deut 29:19,20 "When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, 'I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.' This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven." While "no one who has been born of God will continue to sin" (1John 3:9) due to the nature of regeneration, yet there is many a "Christian" today who figure, "I'm saved and now it doesn't matter how I live.  I can go on and live a lifestyle of sin and not worry about going to hell."

As for finding no place for repentance, in Esau's case the paper was signed, the vow was taken. There was no rescinding the deal. Likewise there are times when the consequences of sin cannot be reversed. We learned in Heb 9:27 that judgement follows death, and there are no second chances. There are also sins which have natural consequences. Sexual immorality may lead to pregnancy or sexual disease, so also many other sins have natural consequences. Also while God does forgive the sins of the repentant, there is a difference between repenting from sin and regretting the consequences of sin.

Greater Implications

Heb 12:18-21 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." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."

Heb 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. 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 men, to the spirits of righteous men 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.

The writer is contrasting Old and New just as he has been doing through much of Hebrews and much as Paul did in Gal 4:24-26 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Here in Hebrews 12 he is contrasting the heavenly Jerusalem which cannot be touched against the earthly, quite literally Mount Sinai which can be touched, though at the time you would die doing so. The earthly appearance of God was associated with fire, darkness, gloom, storm. But heavenly is associated with joy and praise, the spirits of men made perfect as opposed to the flesh of men being destroyed. The heavenly Jerusalem is life while Sinai brought the law of sin and death. In heaven the names of the righteous are written in the book of life, while "no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20

Now is the Time to be Shaken

Heb 12:25-29 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 shakenó that is, created thingsó 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." (Deut 4:24)

One may be reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus, "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?" John 3:12 Or what the angel said of the rich man's brothers in Luke 16, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.í" Luke 16:31

Again - the warning on earth speaks of Sinai, the giving of the Law of Moses. Those under the Old Covenant who violated the law suffered severe consequences, but it allude to this life. The gospel message is about eternal life and eternal death. The Law is not the final thing. At Sinai the voice of God shook the earth. That which is earthly can be shaken. It is corruptible and not meant to last. While the kingdom of God has a firm foundation and will last forever in the new heavens and new earth. "The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." 2Peter 3:10-13

There's an upside to God being a consuming fire - for he consumes all that is corruptible, including our sinfulness along with the guilt of our sin and the memory of our evil deeds (Heb 8:12).  And "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each manís work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." 1Cor 3:12-15

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