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“Ye have not yet rested unto blood, striving against sin.” 

Hebrews 12:4

An old legend comes to mind when we consider the implications of the text inscribed above which is preserved in the book entitled “Quo Vadis.” The title is the question: “Whither goest thou?” a question which Peter asked of Jesus in John 13:36. In verse 33 of this chapter, the Lord had said, to His disciples that He was about to leave them, and where He would go they could not come. This statement raised in Peter’s soul and which he also expresses the question: “Lord; whither goest thou?” And Jesus replied: “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.” To this Peter replies in apparent exasperation: “Why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” And Jesus replies to this with the, warning that Peter instead of following, will deny his Lord. 

Now the legend declares that Peter asked this question of the Lord again one day many years later as he was fleeing from Rome and certain death. As the story goes, he was walking swiftly south on the Appian Way, when suddenly the Lord, Who was going in the very opposite direction, met him. It is said that Peter recognized Him and asks: “Lord, whither goest Thou?” To this the Lord is said to have replied: “I go to Rome to be crucified.” Hearing this, Peter is said to have been converted from his cowardice. He turns himself about and follows to Rome where, the legend has it, he met his death by crucifixion. 

The moral of the legend consists undoubtedly in this, that even the strongest disciple of Jesus is liable to flinch when the real hour of testing comes. Especially is this true if the test requires that we lay down our lives for the cause of Christ in our fight against sin. Really, the moral simmers down to this: Not, Quo Vadis to Jesus, but, Jesus’ Quo Vadis to us. We do not ask Jesus: Whither goest Thou? but, Jesus asks us that question! 

Resisting unto blood, that is the ultimate requirement that is laid upon every disciple of Christ! 

In the battle against sin, we, like the Hebrew Christians, are liable to become wearied and faint in our minds!

Therefore the writer of this Epistle exhorts to consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself; Who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. And he prods them on with the reminder: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” 

So far you must be ready to go, if that is necessary! 

Resisting unto blood! 

Striving against sin! 

Resistance presupposes that there is some opposition, some antagonist over against which one takes his stand with the purpose to withstand or oppose it. The figure is that of a wrestler or a pugilist, who grapples or fights in the ring. The Christian is, as it were, in the ring and he not only faces an antagonist, but he grapples with him. The Christian’s life is one of effort, endurance and antagonism. O, it is very well to sing of green pastures, and walking by still waters. But there is also another side to the reality of life, namely, that of toil, pain, and resistance. It is given unto us not only to believe on Christ, but also to suffer with Him! 

The great antagonist and opponent of the Christian is sin! 

This antagonist approaches us principally in two forms! 

First of all, this horrible monster attacks us from within! Every Christian who is truly spiritual and who really knows himself will confess, I am sure, that his worst enemy is his own sinful self. As another be: fore he has said, “My worst enemy I carry under my own waistcoat.” Daily the Christian has to struggle with his evil lusts and passions. Always he .is confronted with his own faults and vices of his flesh that war against the Spirit within him. It is this struggle that the Apostle Paul calls to our attention in Romans 7:14ff, where he says: “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate that do I . . . For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do . . . I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” It is the knowledge of this spiritual battle that causes the apostle to conclude this passage with the apparently despairing out-cry: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

The other form of antagonism against which the Christian has to struggle comes to him from without. The devil and the corrupt world constitute the opposition with which daily he has to deal. Very really each day he has to meet the onslaughts of the evil one, and the temptations and judgments of a sinful world. Then, too, he has to cope with the actual sin of the world. Society, he finds, is not organized on Christian principles. And the Christian is often called upon to stand in the midst of the world as a dynamiter of the world’s social structure! 

It is this latter form of opposition that receives the emphasis in the text: “Resisting, striving against sin,” sin, namely, as it is embodied in the scheme of this world. When the Christian who is principled by the Spirit of Christ reveals himself in the midst of an evil social order, he immediately becomes marked for persecution, opposition. Light and darkness cannot agree, Christ and Belial have no concord. When these two principles of light and darkness come into contact, there needs must be opposition, antagonism, and resistance! 

The actual resistance of which the text speaks includes two things. By it is understood first of all that the one resisting places himself in opposition to another. As the soldier on the battle-field is ordered to his position in the line, or the sailor to his battle station; as the pugilist or wrestler in the ring plants his feet, keeps his guard, fastens his eyes on his opponent, so the Christian is to take his stand over against sin. 

In the second place, and closely related to the first, the text presents the added notion of struggling, i.e., the actual meeting of the opposition. The word that is translated “struggling” in our English version, comes from a word which often is properly transliterated by the term “agonizing.” To agonize is to struggle with pain, with great emotion. The soldier in battle not only resists his opponent by setting up the opposition, but he comes into direct combat, he struggles and agonizes with his opponent. The real soldier is not the uniformed man who sits behind a desk in Washington with a pencil behind his ear. He is the one who comes back from the front bleeding and torn, exhausted in the struggle. So, too, the Christian has the calling not only to face sin, but to grapple with it, and in the course of the struggle to agonize! 

Unto blood! 

That is the extent or extremity of the struggle as described in the words of our text! 

The meaning is not that the Christian is to shed the blood of his opponent, for sin has no blood. Though it is true that the sin of the world is embodied in the flesh and blood of the wicked; nowhere in Scripture, least of all in our text, do we read of our battle as being against flesh and blood. Nay, rather, it is against the spiritual powers of darkness. And in this battle it may be necessary that the Christian lose his own blood, i.e., his life. 

Ye have not yet resisted unto this extremity! 

Evidently there is here contrast in life and experience of the readers of this Epistle with those who are mentioned in Chapter 11 and the first part of Chapter 12. In Chapter 11 a long list is given of the heroes of faith, those veterans in the battle against sin, some of whom were stoned, sawn asunder, burned, and died in the midst of the battle. Perhaps even the Hebrew Christians knew of some, who had sealed their faith with their lives. Had they not heard of Stephen who was stoned, and of James who was killed with the sword? And does not the writer in the verses immediately preceding our text point to the greatest Agonizer of them all? Indeed, Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, is described in His capacity of the Prince of Sufferers for righteousness sake! 

Like this long list of heroes, like Jesus; Who agonized unto death, fighting against sin, ye have not done! 

And this must imply either one of two things: either the struggle of the Hebrew Christians did not as yet- demand that they go to the limit of laying down their lives; or there was something radically wrong with these Christians I And naturally, what applies to them also applies to Christians of any age, and therefore also to us I

Now we know that not all the children of God are required to seal their faith with their blood. This is due, no doubt, to the fact that the world and Satan do not always use the severest means of persecution. Not always does the Devil appear like a roaring lion. Sometimes he comes in the cloak of a lamb. Not always does he challenge the faith of God’s people with the sword of persecution. Not all the faithful are required to go to the stake because of their testimony. For this the Christian may be thankful indeed! 

On the other hand, though it is true that not all are required to resist unto blood, it is also true, as it was of the Hebrew Christian, that not all are prepared to make this tremendous sacrifice for the sake of the truth! We must remember that the opposition never really changes, though it may appear in different forms. Sin never ceases to be sin, and the wicked world not only continues to be wicked, but it develops in sin. And the Scriptures prophesy that toward the end of this age ungodliness will increase until it culminates in the man of sin. Sin, you see, is most emphatically not restrained. The philosophy that sin is restrained by a certain general or common grace of God is both contrary to Scripture and experience. That God in His providence sometimes restrains the sinner from fulfilling his evil plans, no one will deny. But sin is never restrained! 

We submit that though our present age may appear in the garb of so-called Christianity, being quite civilized, it is still the same old wicked world that always kills the prophets, crucified the Lord Jesus, and has no room for those who persistently profess that they are Jesus’ disciples in the true sense of that term! 

But how is it that Christians in general, and you and I in particular, are not shedding our blood today? 

This question may perhaps be answered, as we already suggested, by the fact that the opposition appears in the form of the lamb. Then I would warn you that he is much more dangerous than when he appears as the lion! 

But this question may also be answered by the fact that we are shrinking back from our calling to resist! Today, the Christians are few and far between who are willing to take a stand over against the system of this world! Today, it is for many the bread question, not, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” 

Nay, my brethren, we are called to resist! And let it clearly be understood that this resistance is to be first of all within you and me. Let no one go out to fight the sin of the world who has not first struggled and in principle overcome the sin within him. Then, and only then, shall we go forth to meet the antagonist in the world. No small antagonist stands ever before us. Fight him alone we can not! But in and with Jesus, the Captain of our salvation we can. Nay, more, in Jesus we already are more than conquerors! For He has overcome! In His death and resurrection, the world, sin and Satan, are already vanquished! By faith in Him we also have the victory!

Quo Vadis! 

Whither doest thou?