Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12:1

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,

(a) Lay aside every encumbrance. The burdensome requirements of the law are like heavy stones that slow us down.

(b) Let us run with endurance. When we understand that we have been perfected by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:14), we are free to run without hindrance.

Hebrews 12:2

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.

(a) The author and perfecter of faith. What Jesus starts, he finishes.

Because it is Christ who sustains us (Rom. 11:18, Eph. 5:29) and sanctifies us (1 Th. 5:23), we can be confident that he will complete the good work he has begun in us (Php. 1:6).

(b) Sat down at the right hand. The Son shares his Father’s throne; see entry for Matt. 22:44.

Hebrews 12:4

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

“You have faced persecution for the gospel, but you’re still alive.”

Hebrews 12:5

and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

(a) Do not regard lightly. What you are going through is no small thing.

(b) Discipline. The English word discipline (paideia) is related to the word disciple and hints at the original meaning of the word: to discipline means to tutor or train. It is related to a word (paideuo) that means to train up a child. It is a positive word that has nothing to do with punishment.

(c) Nor faint. “Keep your chin up. The persecution you are experiencing is not from God, but it does show that you are his son.”

In context, the author is talking about persecution and the possibility of shedding blood or dying for the gospel (verse 4). The danger is not that we might fail to endure and be cast off as sons, but that we might grow weary and lose heart (verse 3). To help us endure, we need a change in perspective. “Don’t see yourself as a victim; look at it as training. This wouldn’t be happening to you except that you are God’s sons.” If they world hated and persecuted Jesus, it will hate and persecute those who follow him (Joh 15:18).

(d) Reproved by him. The original word for reproved (elegcho) is the same word that is translated as convict in John 16:8. The Spirit of grace is not a legalistic fault-finder. He convicts, reproves and guides us by bringing things into the light.

Hebrews 12:6


(a) The Lord loves. The Lord does not discipline or train us as a father who hates his son, but as a father who loves and delights in us.

(b) He disciplines means he trains (see previous verse). Like the good father he is, God trains his children (Heb. 12:7).

(c) He scourges. This verse and the one before it are cut from Proverbs 3:11-12 which has no mention of scourging. The original quote ends: “Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” Somehow the word corrects got changed to scourges – which completely changes the meaning of the original proverb.

Scourging was a first-century punishment reserved for slaves and criminals; it was never used on sons or citizens. Every other time the word appears in the New Testament, it is associated with unjust punishment inflicted upon the just – either Jesus (Matt 20:19, Mark 10:34, Luke 18:33, John 19:1) or those who follow him (Matt 10:7, 23:34). To say that God scourges his sons is to suggest that he is more wicked and unjust than the crooked Romans. Since Jesus is the exact radiance of the Father (Heb. 1:3), we can be certain that God never whips, flagellates, or scourges his dearly-loved children.

Why do most Greek texts say “he scourges”? The evidence suggests the original proverb was misquoted or miscopied. Aramaic versions of the New Testament, which may predate Greek texts, say “God draws aside.” The Passion Translation is an English Bible based on the Aramaic text and it translates this passage as follows: “When He draws you to Himself, it proves you are His delightful child.”

Some Church Fathers believe the book of Hebrews was originally written in Hebrew. According to Dr. Andrew Farley, there is an ancient Hebrew word that can mean either “to scourge” or “to inquire into.” So one way to read this passage is that God disciplines (trains) and inquires deeply into us for the purpose of revealing what’s inside.

To help us understand our heavenly Father, Jesus told the story of the prodigal son. The son was a wicked sinner who wished his father dead, yet the father did not drag the rebellious boy to the city gates and stone him as the law required (Deut. 21:18-21). Nor did he flog him with whips. The father loved the son unconditionally and in the end it was the father’s love that saved him. Similarly, it is the fathomless love of our heavenly Father that saves and trains us. As we learn more about the limitless love of God, we grow and become his confident children.

Further reading: “Does God scourge us?

Hebrews 12:7

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

When we go through trials and persecution, we can learn things about the grace of God. God is never the one persecuting us, but if we keep our eyes on the Lord, the experience can produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness (verse 11). Therefore, encourage one another (verses 12-13), pursue peace with all (verse 14), and see to it that no one misses out on the grace of God (verse 15).

Hebrews 12:8

But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

All of God’s children are trained and face opposition in one form or another. If we weren’t his children the world wouldn’t hate us (John 15:18-19).

Hebrews 12:11

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

(a) Discipline means training and has nothing to do with punishment; see entry for Heb. 12:5.

(b) Sorrowful. In context, the author is talking about persecution and the possibility of shedding blood or dying for the gospel (verse 4). The danger is not that we might fail to endure and be cast off as sons, but that we might grow weary and lose heart (verse 3). To help us endure, we need a change in perspective. “Don’t see yourself as a victim; look at it as training. This wouldn’t be happening to you except that you are God’s sons” (verse 5). If you weren’t God’s children, you wouldn’t be persecuted (verse 8).

(c) Peaceful fruit. In the kingdom, peace always follows righteousness (Rom. 5:1, 14:17, 2 Tim. 2:22, Heb. 7:2). When you are more conscious of his righteousness than your shortcomings, you will enjoy peace with God.

(d) The peaceful fruit of righteousness. We are not made righteous through trials and troubles. Rather, the trials of life reveal the righteousness that is already in Christ and the result is righteous fruit (living peaceably out of our right standing with the Lord rather than living in fearful reaction to life’s trials).

Hebrews 12:14

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

Pursue … sanctification. In other words, be holy. See entry for 1 Pet. 1:15.

Hebrews 12:15

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

(a) See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God. The original word for short (hustereo) is sometimes translated as lack (Mark 10:21) or destitute (Heb. 11:37). To fall short of grace is to be without grace or destitute in grace. This is not talking about those who had grace but lost it (like the Galatians who fell from grace), but those who have never received the grace of God.

(b) The grace of God refers to the goodwill, lovingkindness, and favor of God that is freely given to us so that we may partake in his divine life. See entry for Grace of God.

Hebrews 12:16

that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

Esau. Don’t be careless with the grace of God. Don’t be like Esau who traded something of lasting value (his birthright) for something that would fill his stomach.

Hebrews 12:17

For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

(a) Afterwards. The window for receiving the grace of God will not always remain open. Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2); don’t let tomorrow be the day of regret.

(b) He was rejected. When Esau came seeking the blessing, he was rejected by his father Isaac (see Gen. 27:37).

(c) He found no place for repentance. Once the birthright had been given to Jacob, Esau could not undo what had been done.

(d) With tears. Esau bitterly regretted his decision to trade the blessings of his birthright for a meal (Gen. 27:34). Similarly, if you insult the Spirit of grace by hardening your heart to the grace of God you will regret it later.

Hebrews 12:22

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,

(a) Mount Zion is another name for the city of God.

Historically, Zion was a hilltop fortress captured by David and renamed the City of David (2 Sam. 5:6–7). In the poetic language of the psalms, Zion is portrayed as a beautiful mountain city (Ps. 48:1–2, 50:2). It is known as the place where God dwells (Ps. 9:11, 74:2, 132:13, Is. 8:18). In the Old Testament, this meant the temple in Jerusalem (Ps. 135:21, Is. 30:19), but in the new covenant Mount Zion is the church.

(b) The city of the living God is a common Biblical metaphor for describing the corporate body of Christ (Heb. 11:10, 13:14, Rev. 3:12, 21:2). See entry for 2 Cor. 6:16.

(c) Myriads of angels. The Lord is served by countless numbers of angels (Deu. 33:2, Dan. 7:10). When the he returns in glory, he will be accompanied by a heavenly host of incalculable number (Zec. 14:5, Matt. 25:31, 1 Th. 3:13).

Hebrews 12:23

to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

The righteous are those who have been made right with God by receiving, through faith, the free gift of righteousness. See entry for Righteousness.

Hebrews 12:24

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

(a) The sprinkled blood. Moses ratified the old covenant by sprinkling the blood of sacrifices on the Israelites (Ex. 24:8). Similarly, the new covenant is ratified with the better blood of the Lamb.

(b) Speaks better. Abel’s blood cried out “Vengeance! Vengeance!” and the result was a curse, but Jesus’ blood cries out “Forgiveness! Forgiveness!” and those who hear it are blessed.

Hebrews 12:25

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.

(a) Do not refuse Him who is speaking. The Holy Spirit calls all to believe in Jesus (John 16:9).

(b) Turn away from Him. In the new covenant, faith is described as a rest (Rom. 4:5, Heb. 4:3), while unbelief is described as in terms of action words like hardening your heart (Heb. 3:8), trampling the Son of God underfoot (Heb. 10:29), refusing and turning away from him who warns from heaven (Heb. 12:25).

Hebrews 12:27

This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Shaken. When Jesus said “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” he was referring to the manmade temple (see entry for Matt. 24:29). Created or manmade things – religions, institutions, empires – will not last.

Things which cannot be shaken refer to the unshakeable kingdom of God (see Heb. 12:28).

Hebrews 12:29

for our God is a consuming fire.

(a) Consuming fire. In both the old covenant and the new, God is revealed as a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29). His fiery wrath is against his enemies and those things that harm his children.

(b) Fire is Old Testament image associated with divine judgment (Is. 66:15–16, Oba. 1:18, Zeph. 3:8, Mal. 4:1). Jesus often spoke of fire in connection with Judgment Day (Matt. 5:22, 13:42, 50, 18:9, 25:41, Mark 9:43, Luke 17:29–30, John 15:6). He did not dread this fire but he looked forward to it knowing that it would spell the end of sin and usher in eternity (see entry for Luke 12:49).

The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got a suggestion? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.

Leave a Reply