The Arguments Proper, 2:10-12:29

3. God's people persevere through suffering by faith, 11:1-12:24

vi] Looking to Jesus



These three verses serve to introduce the author's exhortation to faithful endurance, v1-17; "Run the race with perseverance and look to Jesus", Kistemaker. "


i] Context: See 11:1-3. These three verses introduce the second part of the third main argument, God's people persevering in times of suffering through the instrument of faith. This part of the argument, covering 12:1-17, makes the point that, following the example set by Jesus, a believer should strive, as an athlete strives, to reach their eternal goal. It leads to the rhetorical climax of Hebrews, 12:18-24, Mount Zion.


ii] Background: A general introduction; See 1:1-4.


iii] Structure: This passage, Looking to Jesus, presents as follows:

Exhortations set on the example of the great-ones of faith, v1-3:

As a dedicated athlete:

Let us run with endurance, v1-2;

"having laid aside all that hinders";

"having fixed our eyes on Jesus."

Let us compare our situation with that faced by Jesus, v3:

iJna mh, "lest / so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."


Some commentators argue that these three verses form a chiastic structure, so Vanhoye.


iv] Interpretation:

Given the example of the great-ones of faith, believers are to apply themselves in their Christian life as an athlete applies themselves to their chosen sport. We cannot run the race "unless we have first got rid of everything that would hinder us, the sins that cling to us and keep us back", Neil, v1. In running the race we are to set our eyes on Jesus who has run the race before us, reached the goal, won the prize and so has set the path for us to follow and coaches us (and sometimes carries us!) in order that we may share in the prize, v2. And "when [we] become weary on the way, and grow faint at heart because there seems no end to the trials [we] have to endure, let [us] consider Jesus", Bruce, let us compare our situation with his. He did not lose heart, but endured the cross and is now enthroned in heaven. By focusing on Jesus "we will not grow weary and lose heart", v3.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 12:1

Looking to Jesus, v1-3: a) The Christian life is a race to be run by all of us, v1-2. First, let us lay aside all that hinders: In chapter 11 our author lists some great ones of the past who persevered in difficult times by holding onto the promises of God. In the face of difficult circumstances they trusted God, even though the circumstance they faced seemed to deny what they believed. From the witness of these great ones the writer encourages us do likewise. Let us run the race set before us with patient endurance that we may gain the promised prize, cf. 1Cor.9:24. First, let us discard all that can "easily entangle", all that can "easily distract". Let us cast off every weight which slows us down, every sin which drags on us, holds us back, trips us up; let us set aside every "sin that clings so closely", NRSV.

toigaroun "therefore" - An emphatic form of gar drawing a logical conclusion, "So therefore".

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "since" - having. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, "because we have", as NIV.

kai hJmeiV "we" - and we. Emphatic, "we ourselves too", Kistemaker. The central players in our writer's exhortation, namely "we" and "Christ", return in this literary unit.

perikeimenon (perikeimai) pres. part. "are surrounded" - [..... a cloud of witnesses] surrounding, bounding [us]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "a cloud of witnesses", witnesses "who surround us". These "witnesses" are the men and women of faith, chapter 11.

tosouton pro. "such a great [cloud of witnesses]" - Denoting quantity, and this with "cloud" meaning "throng", gives us "many witnesses". "Surrounded by a vast crowd of spectators", Barclay. The word "witnesses" is moving toward the idea of "martyrs", Moffatt, cf. Bruce p347.

apoqemenoi (apotiqhmi) aor. part. "let us throw off" - having put off, laid aside, put away. The participle is possibly imperatival, as NIV, properly classify as attendant circumstance to the main verb "let us run", a hortatory subjunctive. Yet, it could be treated as modal, modifying the main verb "let us run"; "let us run .... having thrown off / got rid off".

ogkon (oV) "[everything] that hinders" - impediment, encumbrance, weight. "Everything that gets in the way", TEV.

euperistaton adj. "[the sin] that so easily entangles" - easily distracting, easily ensnaring. The adjective limits "the sin", although probably sin in general, "the burden of sin/guilt", rather than some specific sin, so "entangling sin". "Which holds on to us so tightly", TEV.

trecwmen (trecw) subj. "let us run" - Hortatory subjunctive.

dia + gen. "with [perseverance]" - This prepositional phrase is best treated as attendant circumstance, as NIV. It is an unusual way of expressing attendant circumstance, but given the abundance of participles it is an understandable choice, cf. Rom.8:25 for a similar construction.

prokeimenon (prokeimai) pres. part. "[the race] marked out for [us]" - laying before. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the race", "the race which lays before us". "The race which stretches in front of us", Barclay.


Second, let us set our eyes on Jesus, v2. The second piece of advice is that we focus on the performance of a classic athlete. Jesus is the supreme example of the Christian athlete who has run the race and reached the goal. That is why he is the "pioneer" (trail-blazer, or pathfinder, is better than the NIV "author") of the life of faith. In the running of his race, Jesus faced the full weight of suffering which comes upon those who choose to submit to the living God rather than the powers of this age. Jesus "endured the cross", "scorning its shame", setting aside the joys of earthly life. This is why he is the "perfecter of faith" ("our" is not in the Gk.); he sets the perfect example. Against all odds, Jesus trusted the will of God, living it out day-by-day.

aforwnteV (aforaw) pres. part. "let us fix our eye on [Jesus]" - looking up to, fixing gaze on, concentrate on. The participle is imperatival, attendant on the hortatory subjunctive, "let run" (v1), although possibly modal, expressing how to run, "run our appointed race ..... eyes fixed on Jesus", Moffatt. The prefix apo strengthens the looking, a looking without distraction, and the present tense, being durative, expresses ongoing looking. "We must concentrate on nothing but Jesus", Barclay.

ton ... archgon kai teleiwthn "the author and perfecter" - pioneer, trail-blazer, author, leader, founder, prince / and / perfecter. Possibly "beginning and end" is being implied; "the founder of our faith and the one who brings it to perfection", Cassirer.

thV pistewV gen. "of our faith" - of the faith. The presence of the article may indicate that "the faith", in the sense of assembled propositional truth, is intended, but this is unlikely. "Faith", in the sense of a firm reliance on the divine will/word/revelation, is more likely. This faith is exemplified in the Old Testament saints listed in chapter 11, but is particularly exemplified, and more pointedly realized, in Christ. The genitive "of faith" is probably adjectival, limiting both nouns "pioneer" and "perfecter", but possibly verbal, objective; "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the champion (trail-blazer) in the exercise of faith and the one who brought faith to complete expression", Lane.

o} "who" - Personal pronoun = "Jesus".

anti + gen. "for" - instead of. This preposition very rarely takes a causal sense, "for / because of", which meaning would imply that Jesus endured the cross because he wanted to gain the joy set before him; "in order to reach his own appointed joy", Moffatt. The more likely meanings are either i] "in the place of", expressing exchange, or ii] "instead of", expressing substitution. Either way, it was only exchange/substitution for a time. Ellingworth has a take on this prepositional clause which he ultimately doesn't accept, but which is worth considering; "Instead of (earthly) joy which was within his grasp, Jesus endured the cross and thus obtained greater joy in heaven." Most commentators / translators opt for "because of / for the sake of" = "for", the "joy" being heavenly.

prokeimenhV (prokeimai) pres. part. "[the joy] set before [him]" - being set before. The participle is adjectival, limiting "joy", "the joy which was set before him".

uJpemeinen (uJpomenw) aor. "endured [the cross]" - patiently endured.

katafronhsaV (katafronew) aor. part. "scorning [its shame]" - having scorned, despised. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "endured", "endured .... and scorned ....", although possibly adverbial, concessive, "endured the cross although scorned its shame", even possibly modal, expressing how he endured the cross, "thinking nothing of its shame", Moffatt.

kekaqiken (kaqizw) perf. "sat down" - he has sat down. The perfect tense is taken to express a past event with ongoing consequences, or simply stative. Jesus is even now sitting at the right hand of the Ancient of Days bringing all things into subjection to himself.


b) Let us compare our situation with the situation that Jesus faced, v3. Therefore, "let us fix our eyes on Jesus." The Christian athlete needs to focus on the outstanding performance of Jesus. Jesus' life shows us how we can run the race of faith; he is the supreme inspirer of faith. "Consider him", therefore, the one who "endured such opposition from sinful men" and did so trusting God. We must let the example of Jesus' life inspire us in our life of faith, so that we "will not grow weary and lose heart" in the day-to-day grind of living for God in a world falling apart.

analogisasqe (analogizomai) aor. imp. "consider" - consider, reckon up. Barclay draws out the idea strongly; "the way to avoid the failure of your nerve and heart is to compare your situation with the situation of him who met the opposition of sinners with such constancy and courage."

ton ... uJpomemenhkota (uJpomenw) perf. part. "him who endured" - the one having endured. The participle serves as a substantive, while the perfect tense indicates that Christ endured and endures.

toiauthn "such" - such a one. Expressing a quality, unlike v1 which expresses quantity.

antilogian (a) "opposition" - controversy, hostility, speaking against. "Think about how much those sinners who hated him caused him to suffer", TH.

twn aJmartwlwn (oV) "[from] sinful men" - the sinful. "Sinners".

eiV "-" - against [himself]. The preposition here expresses disadvantage; "let your minds dwell on him who has borne up patiently with so much hostility against himself on the part of sinful men", Cassirer.

iJna + subj. "so that [you will not grow weary]" - that [you may not be weary]. Introducing a purpose clause, "in order that", or hypothetical result, "so that".

ekluomenoi (ekluomai) pres. pas. part. "and lose heart" - losing heart, become weary or slack, give out, BAGD. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "grow weary"; "not grow weary and be discouraged". Physical language is being used to express "mental or spiritual exhaustion", Attridge, resulting in "apathy", Ellingworth, and/or a "loss of faith", Lane.

taiV yucaiV (h) "-" - in the souls [of you]. The dative is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to your souls." The sense is "in your very being". Most likely "lose heart in your souls", rather than "grow weary in your souls". "So, don't let yourselves become discouraged and give up", TEV.


Hebrews Introduction



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