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The Example of Jesus

12

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.


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1. Wherefore, seeing we also, etc. This conclusion is, as it were, an epilogue to the former chapter, by which he shows the end for which he gave a catalogue of the saints who excelled in faith under the Law, even that every one should be prepared to imitate them; and he calls a large multitude metaphorically a cloud, for he sets what is dense in opposition to what is thinly scattered. 242242     A cloud for a large multitude is a classical metaphor, and not scriptural. A cloud of footmen, and a cloud of birds, are used by Homer; and a cloud of footmen and horsemen, by Livy. — Ed. Had they been a few in number, yet they ought to have roused us by their example; but as they were a vast throng, they ought more powerfully to stimulate us.

He says that we are so surrounded by this dense throng, that wherever we turn our eyes many examples of faith immediately meet us. The word witnesses I do not take in a general sense, as though he called them the martyrs of God, and I apply it to the case before us, as though he had said that faith is sufficiently proved by their testimony, so that no doubt ought to be entertained; for the virtues of the saints are so many testimonies to confirm us, that we, relying on them as our guides and associates, ought to go onward to God with more alacrity.

Let us lay aside every weight, or every burden, etc. As he refers to the likeness of a race, he bids us to be lightly equipped; for nothing more prevents haste than to be encumbered with burdens. Now there are various burdens which delay and impede our spiritual course, such as the love of this present life, the pleasures of the world, the lusts of the flesh, worldly cares, riches also and honors, and other things of this kind. Whosoever, then, would run in the course prescribed by Christ, must first disentangle himself from all these impediments, for we are already of ourselves more tardy than we ought to be, so no other causes of delay should be added.

We are not however bidden to cast away riches or other blessings of this life, except so far as they retard our course for Satan by these as by toils retains and impedes us.

Now, the metaphor of a race is often to be found in Scripture; but here it means not any kind of race, but a running contest, which is wont to call forth the greatest exertions. The import of what is said then is, that we are engaged in a contest, even in a race the most celebrated, that many witnesses stand around us, that the Son of God is the umpire who invites and exhorts us to secure the prize, and that therefore it would be most disgraceful for us to grow weary or inactive in the midst of our course. And at the same time the holy men whom he mentioned, are not only witnesses, but have been associates in the same race, who have beforehand shown the way to us; and yet he preferred calling them witnesses rather than runners, in order to intimate that they are not rivals, seeking to snatch from us the prize, but approves to applaud and hail our victory; and Christ also is not only the umpire, but also extends his hand to us, and supplies us with strength and energy; in short, he prepares and fits us to enter on our course, and by his power leads us on to the end of the race.

And the sin which does so easily beset us, or, stand around us, etc. This is the heaviest burden that impedes us. And he says that we are entangled, in order that we may know, that no one is fit to run except he has stripped off all toils and snares. He speaks not of outward, or, as they say, of actual sin, but of the very fountain, even concupiscence or lust, which so possesses every part of us, that we feel that we are on every side held by its snares. 243243     See Appendix P 2.

Let us run with patience, etc. By this word patience, we are ever reminded of what the Apostle meant to be mainly regarded in faith, even that we are in spirit to seek the kingdom of God, which is invisible to the flesh, and exceeds all that our minds can comprehend; for they who are occupied in meditating on this kingdom can easily disregard all earthly things. He thus could not more effectually withdraw the Jews from their ceremonies, than by calling their attention to the real exercises of faith, by which they might learn that Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, and far superior to the elements of the world.

2. Who for the joy that was set before him, etc. Though the expression in Latin is somewhat ambiguous, yet according to the words in Greek the Apostle’s meaning is quite clear; for he intimates, that though it was free to Christ to exempt himself from all trouble and to lead a happy life, abounding in all good things, he yet underwent a death that was bitter, and in every way ignominious. For the expression, for joy, is the same as, instead of joy; and joy includes every kind of enjoyment. And he says, set before him, because the power of availing himself of this joy was possessed by Christ, had it so pleased him. At the same time if any one thinks that the preposition ἀντὶ denotes the final cause, I do not much object; then the meaning would be, that Christ refused not the death of the cross, because he saw its blessed issue. I still prefer the former exposition. 244244     See Appendix Q 2.

But he commends to us the patience of Christ on two accounts, because he endured a most bitter death, and because he despised shame. He then mentions the glorious end of his death, that the faithful might know that all the evils which they may endure will end in their salvation and glory, provided they follow Christ. So also says James, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and ye know the end.” (James 5:11.) Then the Apostle means that the end of our sufferings will be the same with those of Christ, according to what is said by Paul, “If we suffer with him, we shall also reign together.” (Romans 8:17.)

3. For consider him, etc. He enforces his exhortation by comparing Christ with us; for if the Son of God, whom it behaves all to adore, willingly underwent such severe conflicts, who of us should dare to refuse to submit with him to the same? For this one thought alone ought to be sufficient to conquer all temptations, that is, when we know that we are companions or associates of the Son of God, and that he, who was so far above us, willingly came down to our condition, in order that he might animate us by his own example; yea, it is thus that we gather courage, which would otherwise melt away, and turn as it were into despair.

4. Ye have not yet, resisted unto blood, etc. He proceeds farther, for he reminds us, that even when the ungodly persecute us for Christ’s sake, we are then contending against sin. Into this contest Christ could not enter, for he was pure and free from all sin; in this respect, however, we are unlike him, for sin always dwells in us, and afflictions serve to subdue and put it to flight.

In the first place we know that all the evils which are in the world, and especially death, proceed from sin; but this is not what the Apostle treats of; he only teaches us, that the persecutions which we endure for the Gospel’s sake, are on another account useful to us, even because they are remedies to destroy sin; for in this way God keeps us under the yoke of his discipline, lest our flesh should become wanton; he sometimes also thus checks the impetuous, and sometimes punishes our sins, that we may in future be more cautious. Whether then he applies remedies to our sins, or anticipates us before we sin, he thus exercises us in the conflict with sin, referred to by the Apostle. With this honor indeed the Son of God favors us, that he by no means regards what we suffer for his Gospel as a punishment for sin. It behooves us still to acknowledge what we hear from the Apostle in this place, that we so plead and defend the cause of Christ against the ungodly, that at the same time we are carrying on war with sin, our intestine enemy. Thus God’s grace towards us is twofold — the remedies he applies to heal our vices, he employs for the purpose of defending his gospel. 245245     “Striving against sin,” or contending or fighting against sin, — the sin of apostasy, says Grotius, — the sin of their persecutors, say Macknight and Stuart, sin being considered here as standing for sinners, the abstract for the concrete. The Apostle says, that they had not yet resisted — resisted what? This he seems to explain by saying, “contending against sin.” It was then, the assault of sin that they had not yet resisted unto blood; and that sin was evidently apostasy, the sin plausibly presented to them, or ready to encompass and entangle them, mentioned in the first verse.
   The phraseology here is similar to what is in the preceding verse; a participle ends the sentence, and that qualifies the foregoing verb — “that ye may not become wearied, being faint in your souls.” Faintness or despondency in mind would inevitably be accompanied with weariness. Faith or strength of mind is necessary to prevent fatigue or weariness while engaged in contests and great trials; and as a preventive of despondency, we are directed attentively to consider how our savior bore the extreme trials which he had to endure. — Ed.

But let us bear in mind whom he is here addressing, even those who had joyfully suffered the loss of their goods and had endured many reproaches; and yet he charges them with sloth, because they were fainting half way in the contest, and were not going on strenuously to the end. There is therefore no reason for us to ask a discharge from the Lord, whatever service we may have performed; for Christ will have no discharged soldiers, but those who have conquered death itself.




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