God's Provision to Come into His Presence
Jesus – Author and Finisher of our Faith
– Hebrews 12
Faith is the means by which we come into and live in the presence of God. Faith is integral to what God does in and through our lives. And all that God does in our life is through faith in Jesus. Hebrews 12 continues the practical section which began at the end of chapter 10.
In Hebrews 11 we saw faith defined and examples of faith lived out in life. Paul referred to a number of Old Testament characters as examples of the faith. Faith in God was the means by which the people of Hebrews 11 "obtained a good testimony" (Hebrews 11:2). The people of Hebrews 11 believed in God's existence and that God would reward those who diligently sought Him (Hebrews 11:6). The people of this great chapter set the example of those who "framed" their lives by faith in God (Hebrews 11:3).
Hebrews 11 closes with the statement that, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40). This is a statement of hope; or faith for the future. Hebrews 12 speaks to us of hope. This is a kind of "Where do we go from here?" chapter. It's interesting that the last three chapters of Hebrews cover first faith (Hebrews 11), then hope (Hebrews 12) and then love (Hebrews 13). Let's look at Hebrews 12 and see what we have to look forward to.
Hebrews 12 (NKJV)
12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Therefore connects what precedes with what follows. In light of the faith exemplified in chapter 11 there are a few things for us to consider.
First, we are in a race. Paul illustrates life as "the race that is set before us." Our spiritual life is like a race. To run a race implies we train and discipline ourselves to run in that race. It means we get in shape and stay in shape. To run a marathon may take months, even years to prepare for. To run a 5K or 10K or any length race requires training, if you want to finish. Running a race can be physically stressful. But the more you train the more able your body is able to endure the strain. And the more you train the more enjoyable the journey of the run will be. If you don't train on the other hand, you may not be able to finish the race. If you don't train you will feel the pain; you might even have a heart attack; you might not be able to finish the race.
Similarly, we should seek to get into and stay in spiritual shape. I am a big sports fan. When my team is in a critical playoff game or a nail biter I am often tempted to ease the stress by grabbing a bag of chips or some ice cream and indulging. At the moment of consumption there is "pleasure for a season," but the in my next workout I'll feel clogged and heavy and truly say with regret, Why did I eat that stuff? You pay for your indulgences. If you eat right you'll workout and perform well and with strength. But if you eat wrong, you'll have to painfully work that junk through and out of your system. And that's no fun. We should eat a balanced and regular diet of God's word. We should obtain the proper mind and heart set by prayer. And we should train with others so we can cheer and challenge each other on. Speaking of cheering.
Second, we are being cheered on by those who have run and completed the race before us. Paul says, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses." With these words Paul is painting a picture for us. We who are still alive continue to run in the race of life. And in the stadium arena we run in the stands are filled with people of faith who have run the race before us. They are cheering us on. We look to them for inspiration. We look to their examples to follow in our training and what to expect in this race. By looking to the people in the word of God we find the perfect winning strategy to run the race. Of course Jesus is at the head of all those who have preceded us in running this race of life. He is our Trainer. He is our Holy Coach. He is the One who runs alongside us cheering us on and keeping us from stumbling when we reach the point of exhaustion. Jesus gives us and helps us break through those barriers in the race so we can catch our second breath.
It's interesting that Paul uses the phrase "cloud of witnesses." In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 when Paul speaks of the rapture he refers to being "caught up together with them in the clouds." Maybe the clouds we will be caught up in will be a crowd filled with our cheering spectator brethren. Like running into a crowd of cheering spectator friends at the finish line. Something to think about.
Third, run light. Paul says, " let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us." Have you ever seen a long distance runner? They wear the lightest clothes possible. They have shoes that are feather light. There is no excess baggage. They remove any weight that would weight them down because they know that to run light is to run fast and to run fast is to finish and place better in the race. Paul here associates sin with ensnaring weight; like bobbed wire or a ball and chain.
The term "ensnares" (Greek euperistatos) means besetting, ensnaring, entangling, thwarting in every direction. This is the only place in the Bible where this word is found. The idea is that the nature of sin is to trip us up and impede us from running efficiently and effectively. Like running through a forest and getting caught up in a fallen branch or underbrush, sin entangles the runner and slows them down. Like a runner caught up in bobbed wire, or some other entangling mesh, sin slows us down, can even stop us, and needs to be set aside.
I'm a novice runner. When I firsts started running I carried my wallet, keys, water bottle, audio equipment for music or audio books to listen to on the run and more than enough clothes to keep me warm in wet and or cold weather. I ran with a load. But as I became more practiced I discovered ways to run light. Running is a lot more enjoyable when you run light than when you carry unnecessary loads of cumbersome stuff. The same is true in the race of life. The things of this world weight us down and distract us from the race. Learn to run light; to discard unnecessary stuff that loads you down and makes running harder.
Sin weighs us down. And besetting sin can be a particular sin that we struggle with that weighs us down. The idea of a besetting sin is that it is a sin that is particularly cumbersome and entangling to the runner. A sin that is besetting may be different for individuals. Different things trip up different runners. Similarly, different sins trip up different Christians. For some a besetting sin may be sexual sin. For others it may be greed or a lust for money and material things. For others it may be an addiction to pleasure or fame or self-glory. For others a besetting sin may be an untamed tongue. A besetting sin is a sin that ensnares you and that you have particular difficulty setting aside. If we are to run the race and finish the race of life, such things must be set aside and cast away from us. We should avoid besetting sins and anything that would compromise us and put us in a place of vulnerability to give in to such sin. We need to lay such things aside.
The phrase "lay aside" is translated from the Greek term apotithemi which means to put away, cast off, lay apart, lay aside, lay down, rid oneself of, take off, renounce. In Romans 13:12 Paul, when exhorting people to live in light of the return of Jesus, uses this term stating, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." When writing to the Ephesians and Colossians Paul uses this term to exhort believers to "put off" the things associated with the sinful nature and the "old man" of the flesh (Ephesians 4:22, 25; Colossians 3:8). We see similar uses of this term elsewhere in the New Testament (James 1:21; 1 Peter2:1). To cast off entangling sin is an act of faith. By faith we cast besetting sin away. By faith we kick it off and stomp it down. Like a spider web that we walk into in the dark we should immediately and with all faithful purpose and intent cast aside and distance ourselves from any sin that entangles us.
Fourth, run with endurance; don't give up. Paul then says, " and let us run with endurance." "Endurance" (Greek hypomone) means cheerful or hopeful endurance, patience, patient continuance, patient waiting, steadfastness, perseverance. The idea is to press on to complete the race. Every race has its unexpected developments. A spectator may jump on the course. A blister may develop on your foot. You may get a cramp. You may get spiked by another runner. You may get cut off by a competitor. You may run into stormy weather. Any number of things might happen in a race. But the key is to run on. We must "run with endurance." No matter what, keep the faith, run on and run through difficulties if necessary.
"For the race of life, believers are to trim down, that is, get rid of the sin of unbelief which will impede their progress. Forsaking all other impediments to faith, they are to run the race "with patience," i.e., "endurance" (NASB) (hupomonēs). They are to finish what they have begun."
2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It's impossible to run effectively when you are looking backward. A distracted runner is a dangerous runner for they are the ones who run into others or cause accidents. If you try to run while looking back it throws off your equilibrium and blinds you to what lays ahead of you. Look back in a race and you just might run into a tree. Look back, and you'll trip and maybe twist an ankle. Look back and you might not see an accident happening right in front of you and you might just become a part of it. Look back and you won't see the finish line.
Instead of looking back we are to look forward to Jesus. "Looking unto" (Greek aphorao) means to look attentively to, to turn your eyes away from other things and concentrate on this particular object, fix your eyes on. The grammar of the word (Present/Active/Participle) has the sense of keep on looking toward, keep on focusing on. If we are going to run effectively and finish well we need to focus on Jesus; concentrate on Him.
If you want to know how to run look and keep looking at Jesus. Jesus is the "Author" (Greek archegos) or the leader, ruler, prince, author, originator of our faith. Jesus invented this faith-run of life. Jesus is the best Runner. Jesus wrote the book on how to run this race of life. Jesus is the Master Runner. We look to Him to learn how to run.
Jesus is the "Finisher" (Greek teleiotes) the completer, the accomplisher of our faith. Jesus is the one who brings faith to completion. He is the One who legitimizes the run. Jesus is the One who guarantees the prize at the end of the run. In the Tour De France bicycle race there are hundreds of bicycles racing. In the race there are what are called pelotons. A peloton is a group of bikes and their riders grouped together so closely that they can't be distinguished. And because they are close together they receive the same time as the leader of the pack. We are in a peloton with Jesus as the Leader of our pack. Because He leads us His finishing time is put to our account. Because we are a part of His peloton we receive His time. Our finish and time is gauged by Jesus in a similar way.
Jesus ran with joy. If you want the right attitude for running this race look and keep looking to Jesus. Jesus attitude for the race He ran was joy - "who for the joy that was set before Him." Jesus' attitude for the race He was called to run was that of joy. "Joy" (Greek chara) is confident assurance, calm delight, gladness. Joy is that inner assurance birthed by faith that the plan of God is true and that God is faithful and worthy of our trust to bring us through the race of life. Jesus saw what the cross would accomplish and it gave Him great joy. The salvation from sin for the sinner and the reconciliation of an eternal relationship with God gave Jesus great joy. Jesus was willing to run through brick walls and up onto a cross to accomplish His race that would win the prize of redemption. And now through faith in Jesus He shares the benefits of that prize, eternal life with Him.
Jesus had an attitude of endurance. Paul states Jesus "endured the cross." The word "endured" (Greek hypmeno) means to stay under, to remain, to bear, to undergo, to abide, to persevere, to endure, to endure suffering. Jesus didn't let obstacles encountered in His race deter Him. Jesus pressed on no matter what. The race of life is going to have obstacles. But we must not allow ourselves to get discouraged, sidetracked or off of our race course. No matter what, like Jesus, with Jesus, we by faith endure.
Jesus guarded His thoughts. Jesus ran with joy and endured the cross while " despising the shame." "Despising" (Greek kataphroneo) means to think against, think little of, despise, to disdain, di-esteem. Jesus didn't allow His thoughts and thinking to be polluted. He guarded His thoughts. He would not allow thoughts of "shame" (Greek aischyne) or dishonesty, disgrace, or confusion associated with one who is ashamed. He kept His eye on the prize of redemption.
Jesus won the race. It states of Jesus that He, "and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." We should keep our eyes on Jesus and follow His lead because in the end HE WON THE RACE HE WAS ENTERED IN. Jesus is a Winner. To sit at the right hand of the throne of God is to be in a place of victory as well as a place of equality with God. If we follow Jesus' lead, we too will finish the race well and arrive in heaven with Him.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
We shouldn't be surprised when we encounter "hostility from sinners" as we run this race of life. We shouldn't run naively. We should be aware and prepared for and expect hostility from sinners as we run our race. They will fling slurs at us and may throw rocks at us. They will try to tempt us off course. They will be motivated by Satan himself. They will try to impede our efforts in the race of life. When these obstacles occur, just "consider" (Greek analogidzomai) or estimate, think about, and contemplate that the same types of things happened to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our race of faith.
When we take our eyes off of Jesus is when we put ourselves in danger of becoming "weary" (Greek kamno) or overcome with toil, fatigued, tired out, sick, faint, wearied and "discouraged" (Greek eklyo) or dissipated in strength, weakened in commitment to finish, exhausted "in your souls." However, when we keep our eyes of faith on Jesus, we will find strength to run on and courage to endure.
4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed in a self-pity party. When we focus on ourselves and our own personal circumstances and not on Jesus, the result is to see our problems as giants and ourselves as grasshoppers (e.g. Numbers 14). We may be persecuted, but we have yet to shed blood like Jesus did as He strove against sin. We need to keep our personal circumstances in proper perspective. Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Jesus and then you'll have the right outlook on the race of life.
The sense of meaning according to the context in which this part of Hebrews was written can be summed up as:
The Jewish believers to whom the epistle was written were reminded that even though they had "resisted" (antikatestēte, "stood against") the sin of unbelief because of their identification with Jesus, they had not yet been asked to die while struggling (antagōnizomenoi, "wrestling against") with the temptation to apostatize. Jesus and the Old Testament saints are reminders to all believers that it is possible to endure such persecution even to the point of dying. The eternal nature of the reward is far superior to anything that can be gained by "giving up in the struggle." To continue living in the present age at the expense of forsaking Christ and His eternal kingdom is to squander the greatest treasure for a mere pittance.
In Gethsemane the last lap of the race of life got so treacherous that Jesus sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:39-46). We may be stressed, but the sweat from our prayers has yet to turn to blood.
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
Paul now quotes Proverbs 3:11-12. He quotes these verses to introduce the fact that what God allows us to encounter in life is often a means He uses to discipline us. The word "exhortation" (Greek paraklesis) has a compound meaning - "It has both the idea of admonition and a sense of comfort and encouragement. Whenever this word is used, it not only confronts believers with their failure to behave in the proper way, but it also reminds them of the provisions which God has made to enable them to do what He desires them to do."  God is always working with every incident in life to disciple or teach us more about this race of life as well as to instill a greater appreciation for our relationship with Him and a greater depth of spiritual understanding.
"Chastening" (Greek paideia) can also be translated discipline, teaching, training. "Rebuked" (Greek elencho) means refute, convict, or reprove, investigate, to examine. The idea is a cross-examination to prove or disprove something. God loves us enough to discipline us in a way that directs us into His best and blessing. At times, when we get off course because of sin, God interacts with us to reason with us (e.g. Isaiah 1:18).
The chastening of the Lord is not punishment but corrective. Jesus cleansed the Temple of the things that were defiling it and misrepresenting He did so with a whip (John 2). Similarly He will cleanse our lives, our bodies which are the temple of the Holy Spirit, from anything that hinders us living in His presence (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:18-20). He corrects us when we have gotten off course. Correction is for course corrections. He is willing and able to correct us with firmness if necessary. That's because the gate or path we follow in Him is narrow not broad and the most important thing is to stay on His narrow course (Matthew 7:13-14).
The chastening of the Lord is based on consequences more than confrontation. God doesn't get in our face and shake a finger to us. Instead, He warns and disciplines us about the danger of sin. Then He gives us free will. Sin has consequences. When we sin it will come to the surface (e.g. Numbers 32:23). There is a principle of reaping and sowing that involves consequences for our choices (e.g. Galatians 6:7-9). And the consequences for sinful choices correct us (e.g. Jeremiah 2:19). God forgives our sins in Christ. But if we continue in sin we will suffer the consequences connected to them. David is a good example of this. His sin with Bathsheba was forgiven (Psalm 51). But the consequences of his sinful scenario were enduring (e.g. 2 Samuel 11-18). Sometimes God will simply allow the consequences of our sin to play itself out in our lives. The chaos caused by sin is a heavy paddle of discipline.
But here's the thing. If we go to God in repentance He forgives. And when we offer Him the scars caused by sin in our life He is able to take them and use them for His glory. The Old and New Testament are filled with reasons to avoid sin.
The immature in faith are often distracted by incidental difficulties in life. The trials of life are a threat to divert our attention from the Lord. This leads to all kinds of compounded problems. the more fruitful path to take when difficulties hit us is to prayerfully seek the Lord; to look at our trials from God's perspective in terms of what He might want to accomplish in and through us. And all of this God does in love. God loves us and whatever He allows into our life is something that has the potential (if we approach it in faith) to draw us deeper with God and closer to God and all of this in His love.
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
Because we are sons of God He disciplines us. A father disciplines his son because it is his responsibility to instill in and train that son to become a productive man in society. The lack of discipline of a father toward a child is evidence of illegitimacy or that there is no paternal tie there.
Ever wonder why when you the Christian do something wrong you get caught but when a sinner does something wrong they frequently get away with it? God cares about and loves you too much as His child to allow you to run a wayward undisciplined path. He draws you into line by discipline in life. Remember that.
9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
If we respected our earthly natural fathers when the disciplined us we should do no less toward God when He disciplines us. An earthly father's discipline is temporary in worth. But God's discipline is eternal in worth. An earthly father disciplines his children so they will not be an embarrassment to him. God disciplines us for our own good not because God is concerned we will embarrass Him. God's objective for our discipline is "that we may be partakers of His holiness."
11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Like medicine it may not taste good but it will being healing and health in the end.
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
This is another way of exhorting us to prepare and discipline ourselves to run the race of life. "The exhortation here is, “You’ve been disciplined. You’ve been injured and sidelined by your sin. But you’ve been healed by your Father. Now wipe away your tears and get back into the race, where you’ll be able to run better than before.”
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. If you don't run with purpose you'll never get anywhere. Here we are exhorted to make peace and holiness the target of the race of life. "Pursue" (Greek dioko) means to pursue, run after, to follow, to run swiftly in order to catch, to press on toward.
Peace. We are to pursue peace with God which comes through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. Romans 5:1f.). And we should pursue the peace of God which comes through prayer and trust in Jesus (e.g. Philippians 4:6-9). And such peace should move us to live at peace "with all people." That means we should live peaceably with others in the body of Christ. But it also means we should seek to live peaceably with those outside the body of Christ too. We are to be known for our peace by the people around us.
Holiness. The word "holiness" (Greek hagiasmos) means purity, sanctification, consecration, separateness-uniqueness. It is God's will that we live a sanctified or holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). God is holy and we His children should follow in holiness too (e.g. 1 Peter 1:15-16). A holy life is not merely a life of dos and don'ts. A holy life, the life of distinction to be lived by the followers of God, is a life motivated in all things by God's love.
Love is the mark of the Spirit on the life of the Christian. We are to love God supremely and others sacrificially (Matthew 22:37-40). When we share God's truth we do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). Love is what makes anything we do meaningful (1 Corinthians 13). Love is not something we manufacture ourselves. Love is a product of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-25). Love should be the compelling force in all we do (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). Love is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:14). Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Followers of Jesus are to be known by His love (John 13:35).
Love is manifested and measured, according to Jesus, by our obedience to His commandments (John 14:15 and 21). These commandments are:
1. Repent - The first thing Jesus preached was for people to repent or turn from their sins (Matthew 4:17). Jesus calls us out of sin, to have victory over sin, not to sin.
2. Follow Him - Jesus called people to follow Him which implies living a life after His steps or with Him as our Model in and for life (Matthew 4:19; 8:22). The only way anyone can do this is through the help of the Holy Spirit. We must be born again of the Spirit and be changed within and empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus (John 3; Romans 8; Galatians 5). Paul reiterated our call to follow Jesus when he was inspired to state that God's plan for us is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Peter also affirmed this saying we should follow in the steps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21). And John affirmed this saying we should walk or live as Jesus lived (1 John 2:6). This is the essence of holy living. And Jesus walked in love (1 John 4:7-12; cf. also Ephesians 5:1-2).
3. Shine - Jesus commands us to "Let your light shine" (Matthew 5:16). This means we are to be reflectors of God. The purpose of letting our light shine is to glorify God. We aren't to shine the spotlight on ourselves. We are to shine the light on God by reflecting His influence in and through our lives. To shine God's light would be to reflect the presence of God in our lives. Some examples of shinning commands of Jesus would be:
a. Being reconciled to others (Matthew 5:23-24).
b. Keeping your mind free of lust or sinful thinking (Matthew 5:27-30).
c. Being straightforward and trustworthy (Matthew 5:34).
d. Not reacting to offenders in pride but instead responding in humility keeping God's kingdom priorities of salvation in view (Matthew 5:39-42).
e. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44-46).
f. Seek to be perfect; or to fulfill God's purposes for yourself and others (Matthew 5:48).
g. Pray as Jesus instructed us to pray; focusing genuinely on God; not hypocritically to be seen by others (Matthew 6:1-18).
h. Don't hypocritically judge others (Matthew 7:1).
i. Focus on those who are genuinely seeking God not those who will trample and mockingly reject what is holy (Matthew 7:6).
j. Treat people the way you would want them to treat you (Matthew 7:12).
k. Seek God's narrow way not the broad way of the world (Matthew 7:113-14).
l. Be aware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-16).
m. Pray to God to send workers in the fields of evangelistic harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
n. Fear or revere God not people (Matthew 10:28).
o. Come to Jesus and rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).
p. Be forgiving even with repeat offenders (Matthew 18:21-22). Don't embarrass offenders publically but first seek to deal with their sin privately. If they don't respond then go to them with one or two other witnesses. Then if this fails to move them to repent it may be necessary for a public consideration of their offense (Matthew 18:15-17).
q. Be a good citizen (Matthew 22:21).
r. Take communion together to remember our salvation is based on the loving sacrifice of Jesus (Matthew 26:26-27).
s. Guard against sin and giving into temptation (Matthew 26:41).
t. Guard against being greedy in any way (Luke 12:15).
u. Care and be considerate of the poor (Luke 14:12-14).
4. Love - Jesus calls us to love everyone. First we are to love God (Matthew 22:37). Then we are to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39). All that Jesus taught can be seen under His banner of love. We must identify and correct those who are straying or who put themselves in an enemy position to God. But that shouldn't stop us from loving people. We are even to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-46). Those who follow Him are to be known by His love (John 13:34-35; 15:12, and 17).
5. Seek God's Kingdom and His righteousness first - Jesus commanded us to not be caught up in the things of this world or worries concerning such things. Instead we are to trust Him in faith and seek God's kingdom rule in our lives and in life generally. If we do that, Jesus' promise is that everything we need will be supplied by God (Matthew 6:19-34). Our life priority is to be the things of God.
6. Make Disciples - Jesus final command to His disciples was for them to make more disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). This involves preaching or sharing the gospel (Mark 16:15). This would involve calling people to repentance which is symbolized by baptism; death to the old sinful life and resurrection to new life in Christ (cf. also Romans 6:1-4). Those who repent and believe in Jesus were to then be trained in discipleship to follow Jesus commands and so that they too could then make disciples. Disciples
Holiness is therefore living out particularly the commandments of Jesus. Generally speaking holiness would also include living out the word of God (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). All of this is a work of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer (e.g. John 14-16; Acts 1:8 and the book of Acts; Romans 8; Galatians 5). Holy living is a product or fruit of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. That is what holy living is all about.
What does Paul mean when he says that without peace and holiness we won't see the Lord? Well, it might mean that peace and holiness are so integral to what it means to be a Christian that if you don't have such things it indicates you aren't a true genuine child of God. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling us through the second birth we aren't really Christians (e.g. Romans 8:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17). And the evidence of the Spirit's indwelling could be said to be peace and love. But there might be another interpretation of what is being said here.
Hebrews is a book about coming into the presence of God. Those who have not tasted the peace of God nor the holy love of the Spirit are not in a position to "see the Lord." "See" (Greek optanomai) means to gaze on, to look upon or contemplate on, to perceive, take heed, be visible. With that definition in mind it we might understand that without peace or holiness a person won't perceive or understand God. And certainly to perceive God would involve coming into His presence.
Living in peace and holiness opens our eyes to see the Lord and live in His presence. Without peace with God and the peace of God, without a sense of the work of the Spirit to make us holy, we simply won't have our eyes on God, we won't be able to see Him as He desires us to see Him. In other words, if you want to come into the presence of God and see Him as you should see Him, then pursue peace and holy living and you'll be on the right path.
15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;
How should we see God? We should see Him as a God of grace. "Looking carefully" (Greek episkopeo) means to oversee, to look diligently, beware, be aware, inspect. This is the same word used to refer to overseers in the church. There is a sense in which every believer should be an overseer in that we should all see diligently that we don't fall short of a life lived by "the grace of God." There is a sense in which all believers are to be diligent overseers in regards to the grace of God. Grace not works is the basis for salvation and coming into the presence of God. And if we are shortsighted or looking away from God's grace it leads to problems and great spiritual dangers. So look carefully at life through the lens of God's grace, otherwise you might miss precious truths and experiences of His grace.
lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Gracelessness leads to trouble in the church. The consequence of not looking carefully to live by and appreciate God's grace is that it can lead to "any root of bitterness springing up" that will "cause trouble, and by this many become defiled." "Bitterness" (Greek pikria) is extreme wickedness, bitter taste, poisonous, bitter gall. "Trouble" (Greek enochleo) is to crowd in, to annoy, to make a disturbance, trouble. "Defiled" (Greek miaino) means to taint, contaminate, to dye with another color, to pollute. Therefore, the danger of not looking carefully into God's grace is that bitterness can poison the body of Christ and cause all kinds of trouble.
What might such trouble be? It might be like the brother of the prodigal son who was upset that his father accepted his prodigal brother back so freely and even threw a party for him. The brother of the prodigal felt slighted and didn't see the graciousness of his father to receive his brother back (Luke 15). Or it might take the form of those who complain about their pay when others who worked less get the same pay as they do (Matthew 20). Jealousy over the favor of grace shown to people may be a form of the trouble such a graceless perception forms. No one deserves God's grace but God has offered grace to all. That is something we should be thankful for because it includes us!
The race of life is completed as we keep our eyes on Jesus. If we look behind we will stumble. We have to leave the past in the past; learn from it and press on. If we look at the runners beside us we will wallow in jealousy and a carnal selfish competitive spirit. There are people who aren't cheering you on to win. There are people, bitter trouble makers who defile a race by elbowing those around them and speaking discouraging smack. If we look at others we can be discouraged or be deluded into a proud self-appraisal. And if we try to run with our eyes on ourselves we will stumble too. It's hard to run while trying to take selfies! If we're going to finish the race don't look behind you, don't be distracted and discouraged by others, don't focus on yourself, look to Jesus the Author and Finisher, Out Holy Example and Trainer for the race.
A while ago I became very sick. It was terrible. It was a week in bed constant nausea. I couldn't move without vomiting. At one point in my illness I had nothing more to vomit and began to throw up yellow bile. It was disgusting. But that yellow bile is like the bitter rooted gossip, poisonous back biting and laying against others that is produced by graceless people. Those who miss the message of God's grace live lives of guilt. So putrid does their walk become that they try to ease their condition at the expense of others. They feel that if they can push others down that they can rise above their guilt at other's expense. And such bitter people are the products of not seeing life and God through the lens of His grace. They end up making the body of Christ nauseous. They become a bile in the belly of the body of Christ. The only cure for them is God's grace. And if they refuse God's grace and persist they may have to be expelled; God just may have to remove them.
16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
Esau is an example of the bitterness spoke of here. Esau likely learned of God's decision pronounced in a prophecy before their birth, that the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob) (Genesis 25:23). Perhaps that tainted Esau's attitude. Maybe he felt it wasn't fair. As a consequence Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew.
Why is Esau described as a "fornicator"? The term "fornicator" ( Greek pornos) means to sell, a male prostitute, whoremonger, debauched. A fornicator is a person who misuses a blessing of God. Sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed by those who in a marriage covenant have made a life commitment to be loyal and devoted to each other alone in the sight of God. A fornicator is one who selfishly takes God's gift of sexual interaction or sexual contact or sexual arousal which are gifts of God, and uses them in ungodly ways. A fornicator uses God's gift of sex in ways God never intended them to be used. A fornicator takes God's blessing and uses it to meet their own selfish, self-centered perverse ways disregarding God's user instructions. Esau was a fornicator in that he wanted God's blessings but not with any responsibility or accountability. That is fornication.
And that is "profane" (Greek bebelos) or crossing the doorway crossing the line of demarcation between right and wrong. A fornicator uses and abuses God's blessing separate from and with little concern for God's prescription and instruction for use. Esau, like many people in our day, cared little for any parameters set by God for what he did. God sets parameters and instructs us in life because as our Creator He knows what is best for us; He knows the way for us to experience abundant life; He knows the way for us to experience His best. Whenever we disregard the parameters or training instructions God provides for this race of life, we will never finish as well as we could have and we will always create trouble for ourselves to run the race with joy.
Esau never got to the point of repentance; a genuine remorse for sin and desire to not repeat his sin. It says "though he sought it diligently with tears." Don't misunderstand what is being said here. Esau did seek after repentance, he sought after what he had lost, his birthright and inheritance. Like a cry baby he was upset that his carnal behavior had led to loss. Esau was caught up on self-pity. When we don't factor God's grace into our life equation that is exactly what will happen to us.
One commentator observes:
This intrigues me, for this man who was initially a party animal, who initially tossed away his birthright without a second thought, later wept over the lack of his father’s blessing. Truly, whether a man is spiritual or carnal, whether he is perceptive of the things of God or whether he walks away from God, every single son and daughter craves the blessing of their father.
Now think with me: Just as blessing could not be given because Esau was not interested in the birthright, so, too, we cannot despise our birthright if we expect to receive the blessing of our heavenly Father. “I want that blessing,” people say as they read of the righteous never begging for bread (Psalm 37:25), of the Lord delivering those that fear Him (Psalm 34:7), or of the Lord upholding those who fall (Psalm 37:24).
But if they despise the birthright, if they don’t see the need to be born again, the blessings will not be bestowed. The Book of Hebrews was written for those who desperately desired blessing but were unable to receive it because they wanted to earn it through rules and religion instead of relationship.
18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
When God met with Moses on Mount Sinai it was an awesome sight (cf. Exodus 19). The Law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). The Law is awesome. The only problem is no one can keep it! The blessings and promises are awesome but beyond the reach of humanity. Thankfully God has made a way for us to experience His presence, promise and blessing in Christ.
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
In Christ we come to the "the living God," a heavenly place filled with "angels" (Greek angelos) or messengers, "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven." In Christ we are registered in heaven. We have the ticket needed to gain admission. In Christ we come to "God the Judge of all," our God is Highest and Holiest! We are just through faith in Christ and made perfect in Christ. We have come to Jesus our Mediator of the New Covenant based on the shed blood of Jesus.
All of this was introduced in the offering of Abel and fulfilled in Jesus. Abel's blood cried "Justice! Judgment! Revenge!" But now by the blood of Jesus th3e cry is "Mercy! Forgiveness! Grace!"
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Paul speaks of the culmination of all things. He is referring to what John was inspired to reveal from God about a New Heaven and New Earth that are coming (cf. Revelation 21-22). There is a shaking coming from God to this earth that will far surpass that of the past seen at Sinai. Just look at Revelation 6-18 and the Time of Jacob's Trouble, the Tribulation.
At present we see the unraveling of basic human decency and morality. The world is so confused it can't even figure out human gender and is hell bent on liberalizing societal mores to the extent that the privacy and safety of people is being sacrificed. With the pry bar of a manufactured transgender issue the doors of the stalls of our bathrooms are being removed. Advantage has been given to pedophiles and perverts. Shame for sin is being erased with the pencil of anarchy and lawlessness. The only laws it seems which are zealously supported these days are laws prohibiting morality and especially if such laws can discriminate against Bible believing Christians. This is not only a slippery slope for the world, it is a cliff over which they are jumping into a bottomless pit.
All of this is a product of a sinful world view that denies any absolute truth and tries to make all things relative. This has led to "truth" or "reality" not being based on any objective information but only on the transient capricious "feelings" of people. If a man wakes up one day and feels like a woman, despite his male genitalia, according to the world, he is a woman. If a woman wakes up one day and feels like a man, even though she has the genitalia of a woman, then according to the world, she is a man. Those seeking to pander to such liberal irrationalism have been quick to apply such absurdities to their stores. The Target chain of stores has done this stating they are making their bathrooms transgender friendly and open for transgender men to use women's bathrooms and visa versa. I wonder what they would say if a young person on one of their checkout lines would get a senior citizen discount on the basis of their feeling like a senior citizen? Feelings do not assure realities or truths. We may feel ten feet tall at times, but who indeed is ten feet tall? We may feel smarter than everyone else, but that usually sets us up for some humbling. I hope and pray for a revival of God that will shake this world to their God given senses. I hope and pray for a revival that will shake people to the way and truth and life that is found in Jesus. Only then will dissatisfied and sinful people find what will fill their voids - Jesus. This world needs Jesus. That message rings true in this book of Hebrews.
On top of all of this is the world financial crisis, the threat of Islam, wars and rumors of wars, ethnic strife, pestilences and disease, earth quakes and natural upheavals and I could go on and on. The birth pangs Jesus spoke about are coming closer and closer together and the Last Days are upon us. Soon a shaking birth of God's judgment will fall on this planet. Thankfully we have the hope of removal and joining Jesus at the rapture to lift us from circumstances that would otherwise depress us (e.g. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Jesus will never leave of forsake us as we will see in the final chapter of Hebrews.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
A shaking is coming to this planet. The earth, secular human society and apostate "Christianity" is unraveling at the seams. But the Kingdom of Jesus that will be set up on earth will never be shaken (cf. Revelation 20). This Kingdom will be established by God's grace. And when this grace is working in and through us we serve the Lord in an acceptable fashion with reverent respect and godly fear.
"For our God is a consuming fire." Our God is All- Loving and All-Just and Almighty!
Serve Him with reverence and godly fear, for our God is indeed a consuming fire who will consume anything which distracts you from your relationship and dependency upon Him. If you are at a place where you’re experiencing the fire of God, fear not, for if allowed to burn, the warmth and brightness of His love will, indeed, burn away all that is unfruitful and distracting in your walk with Him.
 Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.
 Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.
 Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1506). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1506–1507). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1508). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.