THE GREAT INCENTIVE TO RUN THE RACE (Hebrews 12:2)
It would seem that the great incentive to run the race with patience would be the fact that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses; the testimony of all the Old Testament should inspire us to run. And, indeed, their witness, when heard by faith from the sacred record, does spur us on to greater effort and heights of faith! However, that which the writer cites as the impelling consideration of faith is that we look away from everything else to Jesus.
What distinguishes Jesus from all others in the “cloud of witnesses” is that He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. The term Author means “the first leader, the beginner.” The term is translated “leader” in Acts 3: 15, in Acts 5:31 it is translated “Prince” in the phrase “Prince of life.” Here it is translated in the KJV “author.” This translation underscores that he is the originator of faith. He brings about faith by his mediatorial labors. He is the builder of the house. That is why Jesus is greater than Moses. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth became through Jesus Christ. Christ brought this about as a new creation. Old things are passed away and all things are become new in Him. And because he is the one who works faith, he is also the one who finishes, perfects faith. He is the (teleiooteen) Finisher. All that lies between that beginning and that perfection is the work of Jesus. There is, therefore, nothing in all of our running which is not the work of this Jesus of Nazareth, who is greater than Moses. And, therefore, we look away from all other things unto Him.
It is indeed interesting and profitable to discern that, in the book of Hebrews, the name “Jesus” has a peculiar significance wherever it is employed by the writer. Such is the case in all of the nine (9) instances in which it occurs. When the writer would underscore that all things shall be subjected unto Christ we are informed that we do not yet see that all things are subjected unto Christ, but what we do see gives every reason to believe that this will one day come to pass. The reason? We see Jesus, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor! (Hebrews 2:9). When the greatness of Christ in relationship to Moses in his office must be shown then we are told “to consider the Apostle and High priest of our confession, even Jesus, who was faithful to Him that appointed him.” He is the Builder of the house of God. And this house is the church, even we the believers who remain faithful. Small wonder that we are told that to run the race we must “look to Jesus.” When all the assurance of the blessed hope which is ours is underscored by the writer and the immutability of God’s decree must comfort us, then we are told that this is attained in this Jesus, who has gone as the forerunner within the vail of the sanctuary in the heavens. He has become a priest for us forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 6:20) And when the certainty of salvation must be underscored in the Mediator of the better covenant, the writer speaks of Jesus as the surety of a better covenant in His blood. (Hebrews 7:22) If we need boldness to enter into the sanctuary of the Lord then we are pointed to the “blood of Jesus” who is the great high priest in the house of God. (Hebrews 10:19) All the church of the firstborn in glory are there only because of the blood of Jesus which speaks better things than that of Abel. His blood does not call for God’s vengeance, but for pardoning mercy! (Hebrews 12:24) This is the Jesus, who suffered, without the gate of the city of Jerusalem at the place of the skull, in order that we might go outside of Judaism to be partaker of his reproach. (Hebrews 13:12) This is the Jesus, who is the great shepherd of the sheep; His is the blood of the covenant. He is the Lord Jesus, King over all. (Hebrews 13:20)
Bearing this grand use of the name “Jesus” in mind we no longer need to ask: why look away to Jesus? He is Jehovah saves, or Jehovah is salvation. And, therefore, we do not merely look to Jesus, but we look away from all else to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith!
And then what must we notice in this Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith? We notice that this Jesus, too, did run His race with patience; he is the forerunner. (Hebrews 6:20) He ran before us as the sacrificial priest who brings the sacrifice for the sins of the people. He is the anchor of our hope within the most holy place. And to be such a Savior for all His own was the purpose of His running. There was a “joy set before Him” to be perfected one day in all His people, even as he once said, “my joy in you that your joy may be full”. (John 15:11) As Christ Jesus did run, thus must we run too. We have the same goal in mind in our running as he; we as those who are saved, and He as the Saviour of us, His people. And this joy which was set before Christ He never left out of view in His Messianic consciousness: He even looked beyond the Cross to the crown. When He spoke of the suffering to come upon Him, spoke of this to His disciples, it is ever as the way for the triumphant glory of “being raised the third day”. (Matt. 16:21; Luke 13:33) We must suffer with Him to be glorified with Him.
Hence, we must notice that Christ “endured the cross.” This cross which he endured was all the suffering of the wrath of God against the sins of the “whole human race,” all the elect out of all nations. He bore this wrath from the beginning of His life to the moment when, on the Cross, he cried out with a loud voice, “It is finished.” But notice, that He could bear the Cross because he ever saw the joy set before Him. And He weighed the shame of the Cross against this joy, and then He bore this shame of the Cross because He really despised it. He looked down upon this “shame” of being the accursed of God with a certain holy and joyous and victorious contempt. That there was a terrible “shame” connected with this Cross could not tempt Him to come down from the Cross when mocked and jeered by the mob about Him. He steadfastly endured the Cross and accepted the shame. His was the great manifestation of a patience which is rooted in infinite trust in God, which waits patiently until the end and then receives the crown of joy from the Father’s hand and is received as the Firstborn Son in glory, a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
For after Christ had thus suffered he went and “sat down on the right hand of the throne of God”. Thus Psalm 110:1 was fulfilled. He is now the Lord of lords and the King of kings. He sits on David’s throne forever. He is the Lord of glory. That is the fulfillment of the “joy which was set before Him”. One day we shall sit with Him in glory judging the world and the angels. (I Cor. 6:3)
THE SPIRITUAL CONSIDERATION IN OUR PATIENCE IN THIS RACE (Hebrews 12:3)
Faith does a bit of considering, weighing, and reckoning. It does this by the rules of the new man in Christ according to the regula fidei, the rule of faith. This is a consideration which is not possible of the natural man who has not the Spirit of Christ. He cannot even see the Kingdom of God; He is not born again out of God. Hence, faith has its own spiritual consideration.
The writer here admonished the saints unto such a consideration in regard to Christ’s suffering. The Hebrews were enduring “contradiction” from the unbelieving countrymen, the Jews, and perhaps also from unbelieving Gentiles. But it was especially from the source of the unbelieving Jews that they suffered contradiction. It was alleged by these contradictors that Jesus was not the Christ, the Messiah foretold in the Scriptures, and that His blood had not taken away all the blood of the goats and bulls of the Old Testament sacrifices, and that Aaron’s priesthood still stood as the God-appointed priesthood in the earthly temple of shadows and types. And so the Christians were “contradicted,” even to the point of being beaten and put in prison for the faith in Christ. In such a situation faith must do a bit of “considering.” It must see that this is, therefore, the order of the day for the Christians. In the world they must expect tribulation. They must expect that it will be at a very great cost that they will need to continue in the faith. They will ever, too, be contradicted by the synagogue of Satan, who is the great antagonist in this battle of contradiction. Now they will never see their own suffering, frustration and pain in proper perspective until they see that they are sharing the sufferings of Christ and suffering the same contradictions which Christ endured! Then they will see more and more that it is contradiction of “sinners” that they endure. These sinners must be seen and evaluated for what they really are! They are not weak saints, sinful saints who have much sin yet in their members and who often stumble in many ways, especially in words, and, who are, therefore, not yet perfect, in holiness; nay these are sinners who love sin, and who reject the ways of the Most High, and who slander the saints ,and pervert the gospel’ of truth with their lie of works. They would place man in the stead of God; they love the praise of men more than the praise and the approval of God. Haters and enemies of the Cross of Christ they are, and of the blessed hope of the resurrection.
Christ endured the contradiction of such sinners. And always the believers too must endure such contradiction and must see it for what it really is. And then they will not be lured into believing the false talk and siren songs of Satan which the false teachers and confessors spew and vomit forth in their matchless fury. There is nothing quite so enervating as the lack of full assurance that the enemy is really an enemy. But to be convinced that we are really dealing with an enemy we must see that we are dealing, not with our personal enemy, but that we are dealing with the very gates of hell which would prevail with its lying slanders, and even with its hot ovens, and infinite forms of cruel torture against the church. Look to Jesus and see what they did to him. That will clear the issue once and for all!
Notice that Christ endured such contradiction of sinners “against Himself!” Truly, this was contradiction without a cause. It was the undiluted hatred of hell in the hearts of hardened unbelievers, whose very destruction is nigh. These will be cast with the Dragon and with the false prophet into hell. They have no joy set before them and they cannot tolerate that God’s children rejoice in the living hope with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
This is what we must consider concerning these sinners, lest we become weary and faint in our minds.