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 HEBREWS 12:1-2, those besetting sins!

 

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

 

 

LESSON 1, "SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES"

Today we begin a study of Hebrews 12:1-2, just those two verses. They are vast in scope! Truly the Psalmist was right when he praised God and His Word, "Thy commandment is exceeding broad." Psalm 119:96 here uses a word for "broad," spelled "rachab," that means "large or wide." Three times in the Bible it's even translated "proud!" And once, "liberty!" God's Word brings liberty! James 1:25 well may have called it "the perfect law of liberty!" Here's "rachab" again in Psalm 119, verse 45. "And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts."

Maybe Hebrews 12:1-2 will give us a broader, larger view of the Christian life! And of Jesus our Saviour! And, while the Text seems to limit one's lifestyle, "lay aside," the very opposite is the case! To rid oneself of sins is the first step to real liberty, liberty in the Spirit of God!

Here it is, every word. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

The first fact we learn here concerns a "cloud of witnesses!" The noun "cloud" is "nephos," only used here in all the Bible. A word spelled nearly the same, "nephros," means "kidneys" in Greek. You can see in it our word "nephrologist," a kidney doctor! I know that because of my wife's physical condition. "Nephros" too is only found once in the New Testament!

Our "cloud" here is obviously a reference to a large group of people. It appears that similar uses of the word occur in ancient literature, including Homer and Herodotus.

These "witnesses" are not merely spectators! True, "martus" means an eye-witness, but so much more as well! It is one who has seen, but is quite willing to get involved! To go to court! To sit in front of the judge and jury and gallery and "testify" to what he saw! These are conquerors, victors, in the battle for truth and godliness and faith!

Our two-verse Text, sitting under the shadow of Hebrews 11 as it does, leaves no doubt as to whom Paul has in mind! Review Hebrews 11, the great chapter of faith, God's "hall of fame" or better, "hall of faith!" There you meet Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Sara and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and so many more!

They are the "cloud of witnesses!"

But what are they doing, these heavenly saints?

They are "compassing about" the saints of God! Get this verb! "Perikaimai" it is, lovely! "Keimai" means "to lie," as a baby in its bed or a dead body in its casket. Add to that the prefix, "peri," which itself just means "around," and you get "lying all around!" Gathered about us! Like a squad of cheerleaders encouraging the team forward!

Do I believe the departed saints can really see us? It would not surprise me a bit! Would that not be the literal interpretation to these words today?

"Perikaimai" is also a present participle in this context. The action is thus continuous, on-going! They're still looking today! So are the angels it appears! "Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into." 1st Peter 1:12 implies that anytime the Gospel is being preached, angels are keenly interested! And present! And observing!

"Wherefore seeing" utilizes an adverbial expression, "toigaroun," three little blended words that ultimately mean something like "therefore" or "consequently," still building on the truths and principles of Hebrews chapter eleven.

One more verb, untranslated really, is "echo." This "seeing of the witnesses" is something that has been given us! We are to "hold on" to it! Think about it! Ponder their presence!

They are, as we shall see tomorrow, going to "spur" us to godly action! Exhorters every one, they motivate us, "provoking us to love and good works" even!

Amen!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, "LET US LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT"

Paul called them "weights." He did so because he was using a word picture, a metaphor, comparing the Christian life to a runner speeding down the racetrack!

Now you probably know the verse we're going to discuss. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

For today we concentrate just on one clause, "Let us lay aside every weight."

The verb "lay aside" is "apotithemi." Its root, "tithemi," means "to set, put or place" something in a specific location, "to lay it down." Then the little prefix, "apo," means "from" or "away from," the idea of separation being suggested. Therefore, to "lay aside" a thing is to put it away from you. Forsake it! Leaving it behind, you go forward and onward to other things! The construction here is that of an aorist participle, the action having been completed at some time in the past.

So, the weight must be laid aside prior to one's running the race! Otherwise, his or her efforts might be frustrated. His goal not reached, unattained! No one can move as fast as he otherwise might, if he or she is weighted down with unnecessary freight.

Then next we must consider the noun Paul uses for "weight." It's "ogkos" and is only used here in all the Bible! It's history is ambiguous. Some believe it comes from "agkale," a "bend" such as the arm does at the elbow. There is reason to believe that this may be the origin of our word "ache." Yet these facts do not yet define the word. It means a "mass" carried by someone, bulging outward and bending one's back! It speaks to the volume one carries, not necessarily the overall weight. "Barus" is the Greek word to indicate heaviness. "Ogkos" is rather a bulky encumbrance.

Obviously, Paul is using "weight" here as a synonym for "sin" as mentioned in the next clause of our verse. " ... let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us ...."

Some sins, Christians get this since he's writing to us Believers here, may not seem particularly uncomfortable! Not "heavy" at all! In fact, they may temporarily be exhilarating! Load lifting nearly!

But that's not the point!

They are massive, bulky, occupying too much room!

Then, they are hindrances!

Cumbersome! This adjective is built upon the French word stem "combre," an "obstruction or barrier."

The criteria here for ridding oneself of such a "weight" is not just how bad it is! Or how much it costs! Or how thrilling it might be!

Rather, will it impede my progress?

Will it slow my running?

This approximates Paul's great command, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1st Thessalonians 5:22, just the "appearance!" That's "eidos," the very "shape or fashion or sight" of it! Not indulging at all! Not even allowing the thing to approach you! At it's very "hint," abstain! Hold off! Refrain, "apecho" is the Greek verb.

This gives new meaning to the term "weight loss!" For the Christian brother or sister anyway!

Oh! One more quick thought about our verb, "lay aside." It is used in Colossians 3:8 of a person "taking off" certain sins, just like a man removes his clothing before going to bed. Paul in fact has several "put off ... put on" passages. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." Romans 13:12

Furthermore, with "apotithemi" being consistent in all these references, we are to separate from some other things too!

"Wherefore putting away lying." Ephesians 4:25

"Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth." Colossians 3:8

"Lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness." James 1:21

"Laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings ...." 1st Peter 2:1

Then, back to our Text ... "Let us lay aside every weight ...." Hebrews 12:1

Dear friend today, what's holding you back?

What is retarding your spiritual progress?

Identify it!

God will help! "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Then jettison it immediately!

Get rid of it!

Your speed will dramatically increase!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, THAT EASILY BESETTING SIN!

"Let us lay aside ... the sin which doth so easily beset us," so wrote Paul in Hebrews 12:1.

Learning yesterday that the verb "lay aside," in Greek "apotithemi," means "to place away" from you a certain thing, separation from an entity, we today concentrate both on the noun "sin" and its descriptive clause about "easily besetting" us.

The whole verse looks like this: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Again, this is Hebrews 12:1.

This specific word for sin is "hamartia" and means "to have lost a share in something." To have missed one's portion! It really pictures sin as a robber! Taking away from us some wonderful things God had planned! "Hamartia," just the noun, is found nearly 200 times in the Bible! Add the verb and you get another three dozen or more times.

Sin may at first seem pleasant, "for a season," but in the long run, it costs immensely! One Preacher called it "the most expensive thing in the world!"

But Paul here seems to have a particular sin in mind! It would no doubt vary with each individual. Perhaps that's why he uses the singular number here, "sin," not "sins."

"Doth so easily beset" translates "euperistatos," literally a graphic descriptive expression meaning "standing all around!" The prefix "eu" means "good or well" or here, "easy!" And "peri" means "around."

A sin or habit or lifestyle that "follows" you everywhere you go!

It stalks you!

Pursues you!

One author recently wrote a book called "Respectable Sins." I imagine he uses our Text verse too, about those persistent sins that just will not let go! An older author, now with the Lord, penned "The Sins Of the Saints," along the same line of thought.

Place in this category something like a short temper!

Worry!

Grumbling!

Gossip or slander!

Some little "hidden" habit!

Doubt!

Impatience!

Overindulgence!

Ungratefulness!

Or another one, yours or mine!

Yet these things can be overcome!

That's the point of the whole verse!

And keep in mind the context here, Paul calls these sins "weights," hindrances to our running the race! The Christian path of life!

Encumbrances!

And they must go!

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Oh, by the way, Paul does not leave us clueless! He will eventually tell us how to win the victory! In a glance: "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Amen to Hebrews 12:2 here!

 

 

LESSON 4, RUNNING WITH PATIENCE, ESPECIALLY THE RUNNING!

Paul is developing one of his athletic metaphors, a word picture taken from the Olympic Games of his day. His Greek Churches especially would have been extremely familiar with such.

In Hebrews 12 the Apostle has us running a race. He plainly encourages, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us."

The verb "treko" actually means "to run" and is used about 20 times in the New Testament. Here's an example of two men running, literally. They are Peter and John and Jesus has risen! "So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre." John 20:4

Only with Paul is "treko" used figuratively. To him such "running" is a symbol of vigorously living the Christian life, fervently! Staying on track! Obeying the rules! Finishing the course!

Listen to Paul long before the end of his Ministry. "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24 and its "finishing the course" motif is definitely taken from the racetrack.

Encouraging the Corinthians to be faithful, the Corinthians who lived so near the Isthmian Games in southern Greece, Paul wrote: "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." 1st Corinthians 9:24

Then, immediately, he puts himself into that race! "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." It's a spiritual race!

And, near his very death, Paul could valiantly pen: "I have finished my course." That's athletic talk! The runner again! But, obviously, Paul compares it to his spiritual life, "I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:6

To Paul, even the Word of God, the Scriptures themselves, can run! Using "treko," he writes: "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course ("treko"), and be glorified, even as it is with you." 2nd Thessalonians 3:1

Even the Psalmist, when speaking of the Lord, teaches us: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: His word runneth very swiftly." Psalm 147:14

Christian friend, are YOU running the race today?

Or have you slowed your pace?

Maybe even stopped to rest a while?

Or have you broken one of the rules?

Disqualified yourself?

Are you keeping your eyes on the Finish Line?

Are you mindful of the rewards?

Do you remember those who are watching your efforts, that great "cloud of witnesses?"

Don't be like the Galatians, on the verge of running in "vain!" To whom Paul asked, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?"

Some of us today need to hear some encouraging words!

Others need a firm word of rebuke!

But all of us need to be doing this: "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

He's all we need!

If a view of Him, like Hebrews 12:2 presents Him, does not motivate us, we just might not be in the race at all!

Are you running well?

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, "PATIENCE," THE EXACT WORD PAUL USED

Often when we are studying just a single verse of Scripture, or maybe even two verses, we have the "luxury" of spending more time on a single word or phrase or clause.

If we this week were analyzing an eight-verse Text, which we often do, we would almost be obligated to cover a whole verse each day. And that's good too!

But today we shall slow down and get just one little word. I will capitalize and underline it for you. Watch carefully. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

Patience!

Spelled "hupomone" in Greek, it is pronounced hoop-om-on-ay,' accenting that last syllable. Used somewhere around 35 times in the New Testament, it's a pivotal noun in Bible study.

Really it blends two other Greek words, a preposition and a verb. "Hupo" means "under or beneath" basically. Especially when expressed in the dative case, as it is here.

And "mone," a noun built on the verb "meno," means "to remain, to stay to continue, to stand, to endure," even "to tarry" a few times. It's translated "abide" 61 times in the Scriptures.

This little term gives us a vivid word picture! Patience, hupomone, just a short preposition wedded to a noun, equals something like this: "Still standing, even  while the load is heavy!"

It's a man or woman walking down the road, maybe on his way to Church, and the further he goes the heavier a particular burden becomes to him. Or she is given so many heartaches and headaches and responsibilities that she nearly collapses under the load! But ... and here's the point ... our subject does not fall down! He or she continues, joyfully, expectantly, trusting the Lord anyway, and finally reaches the goal, the house of God, ready to worship and learn God's Word and love other fellow believers!

Going forward, while much has been piled upon us from above!

Progress ... under pressure!

Not quitting ... no matter the circumstances!

One source defines "hupomone" as "cheerful endurance, constancy!"

The King James Bible adds, "continuance."

Paul already in this verse has taken some weight off of us, that easily besetting "sin" that hindered us so! And now the Apostle acknowledges that another "weight" might be added to our backs, even as we serve the Lord!

But there's a big difference here, spiritually and psychologically and physically too! Yes, a vast difference exists between the heaviness of sin and the heaviness of life's circumstances, situations that God obviously has allowed to come our way!

One, the sin, produces guilt, the other does not!

One is disobedience, the other is not!

One brings judgment, the other does not!

One, the sins, make us weaker! The other, the God ordained providences of life, make us stronger!

The sins will trip you, making you stumble! The trials will stabilize you, exercising your spiritual muscles!

Paul is implying that any sustained consistent running of the Christian race, a marathon rather than a sprint, will take some real endurance!

Problems will come while you're on the track, and they will either "break" you or "make" you!

You see, technically, the only real way to develop patience is through such hardships. At least Paul said this in Romans 5:3, "Knowing that tribulation worketh patience." Then James 1:3 adds, "The trying of your faith worketh patience."

I just found a verse that says God is "the God of patience!" Romans 15:5, "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus." If God is That, the God of patience, He then is the Source of patience too! He's the Giver of patience! But He uses "means" to dispense that great character trait, that great likeness to Himself, patience! And that "means" of getting more patience is learning to maintain one's godliness ... while under pressure! March onward ... even though you're being pressed downward! Stand tall, even when (especially when) hard times have come!

Don't quit!

If you do, you will lose your rewards! Not lose your soul's salvation, but the rewards that faithful service brings! "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." Hebrews 10:36

The only way "to bring forth fruit" in the Christian life is, according to Jesus in John 15, "to abide" in our Lord! And that verb, "to abide" is our little friend "meno!" That's the "meno" of "hupomone"  fame, "patience!"

No patience, no fruit!

Impatience and fruit-bearing are mutually exclusive terms!

Here's our Lord explaining His parable of the sower, concentrating particularly on the seed that fell into good ground, "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." Note the ending to Luke 8:15 here, "bringing forth fruit with patience!"

Indeed!

Patience, a necessary grace for the long run we call the Christian life!

Anyone today "under a load?"

Trusting God to help you, don't relent one bit! Stay faithful! Don't fall! In fact, charge! Go forward with Jesus!

Be at Church Sunday!

Sing the hymns, every word!

Take you Bible, open it and follow the Preacher verse by verse!

Say "amen" a few times!

Love the brethren!

Go home shouting!

And live for God another week, no matter what comes your way!

By the way, if you can do all that ... "patience" is already growing deep down in your heart!

Praise the Lord!

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, "THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US"

Paul talking about athletics!

The combination almost sounds strange.

Paul is so spiritual that he honestly writes, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

Yet repeatedly in his writings he refers to sprints and marathons and wrestling matches and boxing contests and rigorous training and even finish lines! The rewards these skilled young people win, garlands that soon perish, are his subject in 1st Corinthians 9:25. "Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible."

And in today's verse, its last clause, such a word picture again surfaces. Paul here talks again about "the race that is set before us."

The whole verse, with our section capitalized: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us ...." Hebrews 12:1

The noun "race" is a translation of the Greek word "agon." Look at it! It already is freighted with English overtones! It, simply stated, is our word "agony!"

The Greek lexicons, just fancy dictionaries, say that an "agon" is "a place where a contest is held, the arena or the stadium." Another adds, "the assembly of the Greeks at their national games." Then a third, "an athletic contest for a prize at the Olympic or Isthmian Games."

Those are  the textbook definitions.

Now let's discuss the way the Holy Spirit uses the word in the New Testament. He is the Author, you know!

I will capitalize each use of "agon" for you. Get a "feel" for the word's range of meanings. Ask the Lord to help you.

The Philippians were suffering too, for their faith! And Paul was in prison when he wrote these words. "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me." Philippians 1:28-29 agrees! To live for Jesus will entail some conflict! Some "agon," that is, "agony!"

Paul's care and burden for the Churches was so great that he characterized it as "agony!" Here's Colossians 2:1 to prove the point. "For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh."

Often when Paul preached, his message of Grace was ridiculed. "But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention." 1st Thessalonians 2:2

To Timothy, using our "race" word, "agon" still. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." 1st Timothy 6:12 now says that our "race" is also a "fight! See the intensity here, intensity required to live a victorious Christian life!

Then Paul, near his death, says confidently: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." 2nd Timothy 4:7-8 pictures Paul's whole Christian life as a contest! A fight! A race! A battle!

Now, for just a minute, let's look at a few times when "agon," our word for today, is used as a verb. Look for the action, grueling difficult action!

Again we notice 1st Timothy 6:12. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." See it? "Fight" in Greek is spelled "agonizomai." That is, "to agonize!"

Here's a Brother agonizing in prayer! "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Colossians 4:12 beautifully translates "agonize" as "laboring fervently!"

You get what is being said by now!

Paul is not painting the Christian journey as a stroll in the park! It is rather a race to be run, a fight to be fought, a contest to be entered, difficulty to be endured!

That, folks, is reality!

The "health and wealth" preachers might do well to read these verses more often! Much more often!

Truthfully, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Paul, in 2nd Timothy 3:12

And this "race" of ours has been "set before" us ... by the Lord Himself! He has chosen our course!

Remember, "the race that is set before us."

The verb "set before" is "prokeimai," which by definition blends the preposition "pro" (in front of) and the verb "keimai" (to lie down, to be laid down, as an infant in a crib) ... revealing a predetermined path!

Some of us may have longer races than others!

Some may run uphill more than others!

Some may have greater obstacles to overcome!

And a few well may disqualify themselves before finishing!

But, praise the Lord, most will complete the race!

With rewards!

Crowns!

To place at Jesus' Feet!

It's Paul again, from 1st Corinthians 9:24. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain."

Salvation is by grace through faith! A gift from God! Through Jesus' shed Blood on the Cross of Calvary!

But Christian service, once an individual is saved, is another matter! No one said that godly living would always be easy!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, "LOOKING UNTO JESUS"

Paul the Apostle is big on "motives."

What is it that motivates a man or woman to do such and such a thing?

Here's an example: "For the love of Christ constraineth us." 2nd Corinthians 5:14 shows us that one of the driving forces in Paul's life was the pure Love of Christ!

Here's another one, Grace! "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1st Corinthians 15:10 just said that God's Grace, deep within Paul, enabled him to labor more abundantly than all the other disciples! Verse 9 had just mentioned the other apostles.

But today's Text perhaps shows us one of the greatest Motivators of all! And it does so with three powerful words, only three!

"Looking unto Jesus!"

Here's how they fit into the immediate context. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Here in Hebrews 12:1-2 I have capitalized and underlined the clause we're studying.

The Factor that keeps me "in the race," regardless of the burdens, even the impediments, is Jesus!

"Looking unto Jesus!"

It is He Who died on Calvary, not quitting until redemption had been procured!

It is He Who shed Blood unto death, never wavering!

It is He Who carried the load, the sin burden, of all the world ... making propitiation with the Father!

He is the Antidote, the Medicine, the Remedy to all our weariness and fainting! Look at Verse 3, Hebrews 12:3, still our context: "For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." Here "be wearied" is the very rare "kamno." It means "to be sickly, weak!" And "faint" is "eklou," literally "to come apart!" In Greek "luo" means "to loose or unloose!" And "ek" means "away from" or "out of." Get these word pictures!

Jesus is the Focus!

Again I say the words, "Looking unto Jesus!"

Now the specific verb the Holy Spirit chose here is interesting too, and very significant. "Aphorao," best I can tell, is only used twice in the whole Bible! It consists primarily of a more common verb, "horao," occurring 59 times! And "horao" means "to stare" at something or, in this case, Someone!

Then "horao" comes to mean "seeing with understanding!" Or "seeing with one's mind," as the dictionary has it! It at times even implies "looking as if having experienced the said event!"

Wow!

What a verb!

How heavily freighted with theological truth!

The old Puritan Preachers used to say of such important things, "pregnant with meaning."

Looking unto Jesus!

"Aphorao!"

But we have not yet discussed the prefix, added to "horao" here. Spelled "apo" it means "away," away in the sense of separation.

Here's its essence in Hebrews 12:2. To look away from one thing and toward Another, the Other being Jesus here!

Away from what?

From those "sins" that so easily "beset" us! That are all "around" us, "peri" being the significant preposition now.

Eyes off sin!

Eyes on Jesus!

Quit looking behind!

Start looking forward!

Maybe upward is better!

And, to top it all, "aphorao" is built here as a present participle in the active voice. This looking is something I must do! No one else can do it for me! Also it is something that must be done continually! Habitually! Without let-up! Incessantly! Staring at Jesus!

It is not an imperative verb either!

This is not a command!

Rather, it should be a desire!

Something I want to do!

Something I can't help but do!

"Looking unto Jesus!"

The preposition "unto" is inspired also! "Eis" means "into" or "upon" or even "at." It's very personal! Invasive!

And "Jesus," as you well know, is His Name as Saviour! Deliverer! Redeemer! But this aspect of Jesus' work cannot be separated from His other mighty Accomplishments! He is the All-in-All! For example, Saviour and Sanctifier! And coming King!

Of course, we shall see more about Him tomorrow, the Lord willing!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8, "THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH"

It's one of the loveliest phrases in the Bible.

Talking about Jesus, it calls Him "the Author and Finisher of our faith!"

Two great titles of our Lord, both are worthy of careful study!

Here is the "setting," the "context," in which they appear. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

The noun "author" is spelled "archegos" in Greek. It obviously contains the word "arche," meaning "beginning" or "origin" or "the first in a series." Some teachers define it as "leader." The active cause! The principle member!

What a vast range of meaning!

Connected to "arche" is the verb "ago," meaning "to lead" or "to bring forth." More precisely, "to lead by laying hold of" someone! Reaching the destination is implied here also!

Wow!

When it comes to our faith, our trust, our leaning on the Lord, "pistis" in Greek, our very conviction that what God says is true, Jesus is the "archegos."

He's the Example!

He's the Forerunner!

He's the "line leader," the old-timers said!

He's the active Cause behind our believing!

He's the Focus!

He's the Guarantee that we're going to Heaven! He's already there!

He's the Arrestor who brought us to God!

Acts 3:15 uses "archegos," translating it "Prince!" As in, "And ye killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses." This is talking about Jesus! He's that Prince of Life!

Here He is again! "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:31 implies that Jesus' "archegos" duties differ slightly from His "soter" duties, Prince and Saviour!

As my Saviour He qualified me to go to Heaven, washing me in His Blood! As Author or Prince, He's leading the way, assuring my safe arrival!

Then in Hebrews 2:10, still searching for "archegos" appearances, our word is rendered as "Captain!" Watch: "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Here "archegos" and "soteria" are linked more closely. Jesus is both Saviour and Captain!

Glory to God!

Next, Jesus is the "Finisher" of our faith as well!

Here Paul employs "teleiotes," that's "one who sits at the outer limits of maturity or perfection." Having arrived at the goal! In its verbal form, "to complete!" To consummate! To accomplish! To fulfill! Having reached this state, one can go no further!

Our word is a "hapax legomenon," occurring only here in all the New Testament corpus. We have no other Bible reference with which to compare it.

Anything lacking in my faith, Jesus can complete!

Where I'm empty, He can fill!

Where I am incomplete, He can finish!

Where I've not been yet, He has frequented!

He's the Complement to all I need!

Technically "author and finisher" here do not necessarily mean "first and last" chronologically. Other Scriptures certainly call Jesus that. In Revelation 1:11 Jesus even says of Himself: "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." That's "protos" and "eschatos."

Rather, "author and finisher" both look to the glorious end of our faith, the consummation, the culmination of it all!

There, in Heaven, when I arrive, Jesus will be waiting, having of course been in charge of my faith since its very conception, its formation.

And all my weaknesses, inequities, "blind-spots," He will indeed immediately remedy! He's the divine Completer of the saints!  We will then be "glorious, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5:27

What a future we Believers have!

In Christ our Lord!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, "THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM"

What was that "joy?"

Or does the Text  answer this question for us?

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

There are several possibilities, I think.

The opening pronoun, "Who," obviously refers to Jesus. Our Lord is its antecedent.

Jesus, hanging on the Cross, had long ago been promised something, something joyous, as an incentive!

There's nothing wrong with that.

Isaiah 53, being a prophecy of Calvary anyway, might give us some "hints." That Jesus is in view, undoubtedly, Bible believers agree. Such sections as this prove it: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." Isaiah 53:6-7, Jesus The Sin-Bearer, dying meekly!

But later in the chapter some promises are implied, from God the Father to God the Son apparently.

For example, verse 10: "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."

"He shall see His seed!"

Jesus was guaranteed offspring, seed, children, as a result of His precious Blood being shed that day! Part of His first crop began to bloom the very day He died, the "thief" who suffered at Jesus' side! We who are saved today are part of that "seed" too! We, the total body of Believers, may be a large part of the "joy" that was set before Jesus as He died!

Next, "He shall prolong His days!"

This surely refers to his resurrection! In fact, Jesus' days will never end! Eternally He is the victorious though crucified Saviour! He did not stay dead! He is "alive for evermore" according to Revelation 1:18, His Own Words!

That surely was part of His "joy!"

Furthermore, His impending resurrection was skillfully labeled by Paul as God's "approval" of His Son's Death! "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Romans 1:4, Jesus' Report Card, all A+ marks!

Then promised to Jesus is "success!" Read it again: "The pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."

"Prosper" translates "tzsalach," meaning "to advance, to succeed, to be effective, to progress mightily!" And "pleasure" or "chephetzs" just means "delight or desire or willingness!"

Just knowing how very much He was pleasing the Father might have thrilled Jesus to "endure" the old rugged Cross!

And partly to verify, partly to amplify, Isaiah 53:11 continues: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many."

To be "satisfied," in Hebrew spelled "saba," means "to be filled, satiated, completely enriched!" With us simple humans, a job well-done brings a sense of accomplishment! How much more the greatest challenge of all time and eternity?

And, of course, the very fact that our Lord was about to "justify," in Hebrew "tzsadaq," untold numbers of sinners, looking down through time! To make them righteous! Clear their guilt! Forgive their sin! Souls saved! Multitudes!

And if this is not a direct Promise, I do not know what is: "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil," God the Father to God the Son in reference to His Death on the Cross! Isaiah 53:12

"To divide a Portion" is to share the plunders of war! To distribute, to impart, to allot, even "to partner" one text says of "chalaq." Six times in the King James Version it's "flatter!" Once it's "separate," there's certainly none other like Jesus! He's a Class by Himself!

"To divide the spoil" is parallel to "chalaq" in the preceding paragraph. The devil has been robbed! His prisoners taken! Calvary was a violent confrontation in more than one way! Jesus is Victor! We are among His gathered treasures!  Our word here, "shalal" is translated "prey" 10 times in the Bible!

Yes, Paul was right in saying of Jesus on the Cross, "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Look!

Part of Jesus' joy too was "sitting down at the right Hand of God!" What approval that suggests! What elevation and honor and exaltation! "A Name above every name!"

That's why our Lord, at least partly why, "endured" the Cross! This is "hupomeno" again. "To remain under" the Load! To suffer all the agony and indignity and pay all the sin debt ... because of the future results of Calvary!

And the "shame" of it? Hanging there naked or nearly naked, the mockery, the embarrassment to His family, the false accusations, dying as the lowest of all life ... He merely "despised!" Discounted! Belittled! Overlooked! His eyes were elsewhere, on a further removed target, "joy" unspeakable! "Aischune" means "disgrace."

To "despise," translating "kataphroneo," means "to think down" on something. To minimize it! Nearly "to ignore" it!

Now, for all of eternity, Jesus will be praised and adored and worshipped! Largely, because of Calvary! Of course, had He never died, He would still be God the Son!

But today, this very second, in Heaven, can be heard, directed to the Lamb Of God: "A new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Revelation 5:9-12

Plus, eventually, "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever." Revelation 5:13-14

The Joy that was set before Him!

Lord, let me join too!

"Praise Thy Holy Name!"

We thank Thee today for dying that we might be saved!

May Joy be eternally Thine for such a Deed!

Hallelujah!

                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10, CONCLUSION:

We began this word study of Hebrews 12:1-2 ten days ago. The original intention was to focus on those "easily besetting sins" that Paul so skillfully mentioned.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

In fact, Paul keeps the word for sin, "hamartia" in Greek, singular in number. Just one sin!

Perhaps the Apostle assumes that even the weak Hebrews to whom he is writing will not be overcome by a host of such sins!

Just one!

And what if I, or you, had to narrow down our list of "weaknesses" or "shortcomings" or "sins" to just a single entry?

What would it be?

Temper?

Appetite?

Laziness?

Some sin of the tongue, gossip or slander or backbiting?

Sensuality of some kind?

Lack of faithful Church attendance?

Stinginess?

Ungratefulness?

Whatever!

Or, have we ever thought about it?

"Preacher, we're all human!"

You know, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41

But, wait!

Let's put the excuses aside a minute.

Why not pray as did the Psalmist? "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." This Psalm 139:23-24 request, when answered, would surely reveal that little pesky "easily besetting" sin!

Remember that "easily besetting" actually translates "euperistatos" in the Greek Text. It literally means "just standing around, without difficulty!"

If we allow such things to constantly "hang around" us, we're asking for trouble. We need to chase those "sins" or "hindrances" away from us! Put them to flight! Or if not that, at least flee from them ourselves! Paul wrote to Timothy, "Flee also youthful lusts." Run, young preacher!

For example, Joseph was seduced by his Employer's wife, Potiphar's wife. "And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me." Genesis 39:7

Now, after days of such temptation, saying "no" each time, Joseph flees! "And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out." Genesis 39:12

Joseph did not let that potential sin "stand around" his soul!

I am not implying today that your sin is sexual in nature. Likely not. Although such temptations are rampant in today's world! And invading the Church like a flood! But whatever, harsh words or unfulfilled promises or a lack of prayer, that besetting sin is hindering us in our Christian walk!

Walk, did I say walk?

Race!

Now I close, trusting the Holy Spirit to unleash the awesome power of God's Word in our hearts and lives!

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Amen!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

Hebrews 12:1-2, a great Text with a great warning! We must take heed! Our prayer is that these ten lessons might be an encouragement to you as you live for Jesus! Glory to His Name! Keep "looking unto Jesus!"

 

 

 

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