"Christ in you the hope
of glory" is the essence of the Christian life.
Christianity is being
conformed in the image of God's Son, Jesus Christ.
It is constantly "looking
unto Jesus" trustfully, submissively, lovingly. It
is a heart occupied with, and a mind stayed on Him.
Genuine Christianity is a
life lived in communion with Christ. The living
Christ must be the passion and reality of our souls.
He must be in possession of all we are. "For me to
live is Christ." "Christ lives in me; and the life
which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of
the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20).
Christianity is Christ
living in me and through me to His glory. The secret
of our own intimate personal relationship with the
Lord is a personal experience with the crucified and
Our sufficiency to live
the Christian life is found in "Jesus Christ [who]
is the same yesterday and today and forever"
The writer of Hebrews
regarded the Christian life as an endurance race, a
marathon, not a 50-yard dash. The successful runner
always keeps his eyes on the goal. The runner in the
race of life must keep his eyes focused on Jesus
Christ or he stumbles and falls.
"Therefore, since we have
so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us
also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which
so easily entangles us, and let us run with
endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our
eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right
hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has
endured such hostility by sinners against Himself,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart"
(Hebrews 12:1-3, NASB95). All Scripture quoted are
from New American Standard Bible 1995 Update unless
Christians today have a
great multitude of glorious examples of enduring
faith in God.
Great Examples of
Enduring Faith in the Race of Life
The context is Hebrews
chapter eleven. The emphasis is on the testimonies
of these great Old Testament saints who bore witness
to the faithfulness of God. The runners in chapter
twelve are to look at them rather than these
faithful witnesses looking upon the runners. It is
not what they see in us, but what we see in them
that is stressed. A. B. Davidson says, "They
surround us as a cloud, and we realize their
presence, without supposing that they are conscious
"Great cloud of
The "cloud of witnesses"
is a common metaphor for a large number of people.
This vast multitude of witnesses are unquestionably
the countless heroes of faith in Hebrews eleven who
bear witness, and testify to the fact of God having
fulfilled all of His promises in the person and work
of Jesus Christ. He is the one who is greater than
the angels, the prophets, Moses, the old covenant,
the high priest, the sacrifices, etc. They bore
"witness" (marturon) to what they personally
knew. These witnesses are not passive, and they are
not silent. They speak to us through the pages of
the Old Testament. They cheer us on through their
testimonies as we read them. Their biblical voices
encourage us to run the race. Their experiences
stand as a testimony to us as to what pleases God.
They are examples of the enduring faith of men and
women who believe in God. The word acquired its
distinctive sense of the Christian "martyr."
Nothing can be drawn from
this passage as to the relation between the living
and the dead. There is simply no evidence anywhere
in the Scriptures that the dead are watching us. The
context is these Old Testament saints gave witness
to God at work in their lives. Many of them were
faithful unto death. They sealed their testimonies
as martyrs. The main idea is that believers
today should be encouraged and stimulated by their
examples of faith.
Lay aside every
Obstacle to Run the Race of Life
"Therefore, since we are
surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us
also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so
closely, and let us run with endurance the race that
is set before us" (ESV).
"Lay aside every weight"
(ESV). The word is ogkon, meaning "mass,"
"weight" or "burden" "impediment," and in the
athletic world meant the bulk of unnecessary
bodyweight that needed to be removed by the right
exercise in training before the race. At the time of
the contest the Greek contestants were required to
be stripped naked. Metaphorically it means anything
that would hinder the runner in the spiritual race.
"Lay aside" (apothemenoi)
or "rid oneself of" or "putting off from one's self"
suggests something thrown off like a garment, which
is anything that would be a hindrance to the runner.
Let us strip for the race, says the writer. It could
be anything good or bad as long as it impedes the
runner. Get rid of any and every hindrance to the
Christian life. Get rid of everything that is in the
way. Remove anything that you would stumble or trip
over. All that does not help hinders the spiritual
runner. We must get rid even of innocent things that
keep us from running the best way possible.
"Do you not know that
those who run in a race all run, but only one
receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may
win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises
self-control in all things. They then do it to
receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I
box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I
discipline my body and make it my slave, so that,
after I have preached to others, I myself will not
be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul
had a fear of running in vain (Gal. 2:2).
There are many
obstructions in the Christian life which unless they
are removed will impede our progress. The Christian
runner must throw off everything that would be a
hindrance to his winning the race. Anything that
would hold us back must come off. We are to lay
aside every kind of weight, any and every hindrance
that would weigh us down. What are the things in
your life that impede your running the race?
The "sin which so
easily entangles us"
The word euperistaton
translated "easily entangles us" is found only here
in the New Testament. It probably does not refer to
one particular kind of sin, but the unique
characteristic of all sin which continually
surrounds men and easily gets a hold on them. Sin is
an ever present threat to the Christian's ability to
run the race. English Standard Version reads, "sin
which clings so closely." Sin is sticky. Once you do
it, it is hard to let go. There is tenacity about
sin which makes it cling to the sinner. It is a
heavy impediment between man and God.
"Every sin to which we
cling" is grammatically possible but it does not fit
the context well. It is best to translate "sin which
so easily entangles us" or "sin which clings so
Whatever kind of sin
impedes or slows down the Christian in the spiritual
race needs to be removed. Anything, however innocent
in itself, can become an obstacle in the race just
like a long flowing garment would impede the runner
in a race. What is it in your spiritual life that
keeps you from keeping your eyes focused on Jesus
"Run with Endurance"
the Race of Life
or perseverance or patient endurance is called for
when we are under intense pressure or persecution.
It is translated "patience, endurance, fortitude,
"But flee from these
things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the
eternal life to which you were called, and you made
the good confession in the presence of many
witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
We are dependent upon the
Holy Spirit who lives within us to win the race
(Gal. 5:16-25; Rom. 7:14-25).
Here is how the apostle
Paul ran the race: "More than that, I count all
things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have
suffered the loss of all things, and count them but
rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found
in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived
from the Law, but that which is through faith in
Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on
the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order
that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead"
The main exhortation in
the passage is let us like that great cloud of
witnesses run with patience the race God has set
before us. "The present imperative implies that the
readers have been and are now running and calls on
them to keep on more strenuously than ever," notes
R. C. Lenski.
God has set before us
the goal in race.
God Himself has set our
work and our prize before us. We can thank Him that
it is not ours to choose, but the one who knows what
is best for us has made that choice on our behalf.
The goal is Christ-likeness, "that we may share His
holiness" (v. 10). It involves our sanctification
(cf. 2 Pet. 1:4-7; Rom. 8:28-30; Col. 1:27-29).
When Christ comes we will have the joy and "have
cause to glory" because we "did not run in vain nor
toil in vain" (Phil. 2:16).
We are engaged in an
utmost serious contest that is not in the realm of
time, but has eternal consequences.
The Judge of the contest
is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Run the Race of Life
by fixing our eyes only on Jesus
In the race of faith we
must keep constantly before our eyes Him who is the
author and perfecter of faith. The gaze of faith is
focused on Jesus who has fulfilled all of the
promises of God.
"Looking to Jesus, the
founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy
that was set before him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the
throne of God" (ESV).
"Fixing our eyes on
"Looking to Jesus" (ESV)
(aphorao) "looking away from" all that
distracts and "looking to, focusing attention on
Jesus" (eis Iesous). B. F. Westcott noted it
is "not only at the first moment, but constantly
during the whole struggle." The idea is looking away
from our hindrances and keeping our gaze fixed upon
Jesus. We have eyes for no one except Jesus. Jesus
is always near and in sight to those who have
spiritual eyes. Therefore, success depends on fixing
our gaze upon Him.
Jesus is the supreme
example of faith in God. He takes the lead and sets
the example worth following. When we look over the
Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews eleven Jesus is
completely set apart from them. In Jesus alone we
see absolute dependence on God. They are followers,
He is the leader. Jesus had implicit trust in His
Father. In Him we see the complete perfection of
"Author and Perfecter
of our faith"
Jesus is the archegon,
i.e., the "originator," "founder," "leader,"
"pathfinder" and "pioneer" (Acts 3:15; 5:31; Heb.
2:10; 12:2). Jesus is the pioneer or trailblazer to
whom we focus on in the race (2 Cor. 3:18). In Jesus
faith has reached its perfection when He endured the
cross and cried out "It is finished."
Albert Barnes observed
that Jesus "is the first and the last as an example
of faith, or of confidence in God. . . . He is at
the head of all those who have furnished an example
of confidence in God, for He was Himself the most
illustrious instance of it. . . . He occupies the
elevated position of being beyond comparison above
all others in this respect." What a great God and
Savior we have!
As a Leader Jesus
precedes others by His example of faith. We follow
Him. He perfected faith and is the supreme example
Jesus is the Perfecter or
Completer (teleioten) of our faith. He has
gone before us as the trailblazer and completed the
Many translators have
rendered "the one who goes ahead of us and causes
our faith in God to be what it should be" or "and
makes perfect our confidence in God" or "the one who
makes it possible for us to trust in God, and also
to keep on trusting in Him." Our confidence in God
has always been and will always be because of Jesus.
(Ellingworth, P., & Nida, E. A. Translator's
Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews).
Moreover, Jesus alone
stimulates and evokes our faith. Jesus is the source
or origin of our faith. He is the originator of
Christian faith within the believer. He initiated
and sustained it. He is the completer or finisher
who has gone before us and has completed the course.
He is waiting for us in heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 John
3:1-3). "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters
within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a
forerunner for us, having become a high priest
forever according to the order of Melchizedek"
"For I am confident of
this very thing, that He who began a good work in
you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus"
(Philippians 1:6). "Christ starts our faith and
leads it to its consummation," writes Lenski.
"Christ is the One who causes and completes the
faith of believers." Christ is "the source and the
goal of our faith."
Jesus is perfect
example of a life lived by faith.
Jesus is the man of faith
par excellence. His entire earthly life was the
embodiment of trust and total dependence on the
Father. He perfectly fulfilled the will of God.
Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can
do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He
sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does,
these things the Son also does in like manner. For
the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things
that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show
Him greater works than these, so that you will
marvel" (John 5:19-20). Then he said, "I can do
nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge;
and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My
own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John
It was an act of faith
when Jesus offered His body "once for all for sins
for all time and sat down at the right hand of God
waiting for the day when His enemies be made a
footstool for His feet. "For by one offering He has
perfected for all time those who are sanctified"
(Heb. 10:14). Because Jesus was faithful to the will
of His Father "we have confidence to enter the holy
place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way
which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that
is, His flesh" (Heb. 10:20). Now "we can draw near
with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil
conscience and our bodies washed with pure water"
(v. 22). Because Jesus was faithful He became "the
source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him"
Because He was faithful,
Jesus "is uniquely qualified to be the supplier and
sustainer of the faith of His followers," notes
Philip Hughes. He is not ashamed to call us His
brethren. He sustains us by His presence, and
empowers us by His indwelling Spirit. "We run toward
the prize of everlasting salvation and glory which
he won for us through His death on the cross."
Jesus' goal in the
Jesus endured the cross
"for the joy set before Him." It is "for" (anti) "in
view of the joy" or "because of the joy" or "for the
sake of the joy set before Him." His focus is on the
prospect of final victory when His redemptive work
is completed. The accomplished fact is He sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven.
"Joy set before
The joy is completing the
work of our salvation. It is the joy of glorifying
the Father. When Jesus said, "The hour has come for
the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:23) He was
speaking of His death. By glorified He meant
crucifixion. His glorification is one continuous
movement of which His crucifixion, resurrection, and
ascension are phases. "'Father, glorify Your name.'
Then a voice came out of heaven: 'I have both
glorified it, and will glorify it again'" (John
The joy of Jesus is also
the joy of the elect of God. It is the Father's will
that the joy of Jesus dwell in us who believe in
Him. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you
so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may
be made full" (John 15:11). It is the joy of
heaven when a sinner repents and believes on Christ.
We have yet to enter into the joy that is ours in
Christ for all eternity.
The road to joy was by
way of the cross. The joy would come in the day of
His triumph. It was joy as a reward of His suffering
on the cross. Phillips paraphrases, "because of the
joy He knew would follow His suffering." It was the
joy that was awaiting Him. Westcott observed, "The
joy was that of the work of redemption accomplished
through self-sacrifice." He enjoys the eternal
sonship in heaven where "He sat down at the right
hand of the Majesty on high." "He endured . . . and
has sat down." Suffering is wholly in the past, but
the issue of it abides for evermore. Look at what He
accomplished through His patiently enduring the
Jesus "endured the
Jesus exchanged the glory
of His divine nature for the humility of a servant.
He endured the cross. The vicarious penal atonement
was absolutely central to the purpose of His coming
to this earth (Matt. 16:21). This is a constant
theme in the gospels. God laid out the path of
suffering for Jesus (Isa. 53:4-6; Acts 2:22-23), and
filled Him with joy at his exaltation in glory when
He completed the race (Acts 2:14, 28, 33-36).
He "endured (hupomeno)
the cross, despising the shame." The idea is to
remain under, instead of fleeing and to stand one's
ground, to hold out, endure in time of trouble,
affliction and persecution. There was nothing more
shameful and disgraceful than suffering public
crucifixion. It was even more horrid for a Jewish
person. There was no lower level of humiliation
(Gal. 3:13; Deu. 21:23). It was reserved for the
vilest of criminals and lowest of social outcast in
the Roman Empire. Jesus did not allow this
humiliation to stand between Him and loyalty to
doing the will of God (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus felt the
"shame" of the cross. What men count as shame Jesus
counted as glory.
"For Christ also died for
sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that
He might bring us to God, having been put to death
in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter
3:18). The message of the cross is the power of God
unto salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16-17; 1
Cor. 1:18, 23-24).
Hebrews 12:3 says Jesus
"endured such hostility by sinners against Himself."
This "hostility" (antilogian) denotes all
kinds of hostility in word and deed. This is the
concentrated hostility of evil. It is summed up in
the cruelty of the cross (Acts 2:2-24; 3:13-15).
Sometimes I have people
tell me they do not believe in the Biblical view of
the depravity of man. They have never taken a real
look at themselves. The cross of Jesus exposes the
total, radical depravity of the human heart. The
sinner is dead in trespasses and sins. He cannot
respond to God until the Holy Spirit reveals the
true condition of his heart and brings spiritual
regeneration. The human heart is wicked without
Christ. Observe the attitude of the world toward
Jesus was crowned
The day of His joy and
glory arrived when He "sat down at the right hand of
the throne of God." Jesus was exalted to the highest
place of dignity and honor in the universe. His
heavenly session is a permanent reality today (Psa.
110:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). Jesus "sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God." "Sat down"
is in the perfect tense indicating the action that
happened in the past has continuing effects or
results in the present and future time.
The book of Hebrews
begins with this theme and ends on it (Heb. 1:3;
2:9; 4:14; 5:5-10; 6:19-20; 7:26-28; 8:1; 9:11-12,
24, 28; 10:12; 12:2; 13:20). Cf. John 10:11, 17-18;
Acts 2:24, 33; 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:21; Eph. 4:10; Phil.
The believer is also
associated with the power of the resurrection (Phil.
3:10; Rom. 6:5; Col. 2:12-13; 3:1-4; Eph. 2:5-7).
If you keep your focus on
Jesus "you will not grow weary and lose heart."
"Consider him who endured
from sinners such hostility against himself, so that
you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (ESV).
"Consider Him," make a
careful reckoning by comparing Jesus and your
suffering. "Consider" (analogizomai) means
think over, consider thoughtfully, and ponder the
suffering of Jesus for you. The author wants the
readers to comparing Christ’s sufferings with the
readers’ own less severe persecutions.
"Therefore we do not lose
heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our
inner man is being renewed day by day. For
momentary, light affliction is producing for us an
eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
while we look not at the things which are seen, but
at the things which are not seen; for the things
which are seen are temporal, but the things which
are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
How are you running
the race of life?
During the race the
apostle Paul said, "But I do not consider my life of
any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish
my course and the ministry which I received from the
Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the
grace of God" (Acts 20:24). The he came to the
end of the race and could write: "For I am already
being poured out as a drink offering, and the time
of my departure has come. I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the
faith; in the future there is laid up for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and
not only to me, but also to all who have loved His
appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Jesus sets the example of
looking by faith. He is the author, file leaders,
captain, and pioneer of our faith. He perfected our
faith in the sense that He finished His course of
living by faith successively. He is the perfecter of
our faith because He is the one in whom faith has
reached its perfection. He alone is the source of
our hope and help in time of need.
What happens when we do
not keep our eyes on Jesus?
Like Peter walking on
water we sink if our eyes are not focused on Jesus
Stephen looked upon Jesus
in the hour of his martyrdom. "But being full of the
Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw
the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right
hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens
opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right
hand of God. . . They went on stoning Stephen as he
called on the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit!'" (Acts 7:55-56, 59). Stephen won the race.
I can shout with
excitement, "No Other Song have I to Sing but
Jesus." I can illustrate this enthusiasm with this
quote of C. H. Spurgeon on Christ. Listen to the
pulse beat of this man of God.
"I believe that whenever
our religion if most vital, it is most full of
Christ. . . . I can bear witness that whenever I am
in deeps of sorrow, nothing will do for me but
'Jesus only.' . . . I retreat to the innermost
citadel of our holy faith, namely, to the very heart
of Christ, when my spirit is assailed by temptation,
or besieged with sorrow and anguish. What is more,
my witness is that whenever I have high spiritual
enjoyments, enjoyments rich, rate, celestial, they
are always connected with Jesus only. . . The
sublimest, the most inebriating, the most divine of
all joys, must be found in Jesus only. . . I find if
I want to labor much, I must live on Jesus only; if
I desire to suffer patiently, I must feed on Jesus
only; if I wish to wrestle with God successfully, I
must plead Jesus only; if I aspire to conquer sin, I
must use the blood of Jesus only; if I pant to learn
the mysteries of heaven, I must seek the teachings
of Jesus only. I believe that anything which we add
to Christ lowers our position, and that the more
elevated our soul becomes, the more nearly like what
it is to be when it shall enter into the region of
the perfect, the more completely everything else
will sink, die out, and Jesus, Jesus, Jesus only,
will be the first and the last. . . . (C. H.
Spurgeon, Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon of London,
Vol. 9 (N. Y.: Funk & Wagnalls Co., n. d.), pp.
12:1-3 Looking unto Jesus in the Race of Life