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Lowell Brueckner

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Looking unto Jesus



(An expository study of the book of Hebrews)


Chapter 12, part 1

 1. 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,

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.

3. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

4. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.


Patient endurance

 Therefore, chapter 12 begins, sending us back to the last verse of chapter 11: “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us”… therefore… We are part of this great plan of God, surrounded by Old Testament people, who were carried by faith. The witnesses are figurative, not literally looking down upon the church in the 21st Century. However, we have just witnessed their race in chapter 11. We are inspired by the faith, of which they testify, and that leads us also, states the writer, to rid ourselves, not only of the sin, to which we are so vulnerable, but also of weights caused by legitimate things. John Wesley includes “the sin of our (physical) constitution, the sin of our education, the sin of our profession.” If it is our passion to finish this race, we are to remove everything that keeps us from that, which is most important… our particular race of faith towards the eternal reward. We must just press on, when everything in our constitution cries for rest and relief.

 Let us run, not with speed, but with patient endurance, because we are running a marathon. I am learning that this is a very important part of Christian living. John wrote of it in Revelation 1:9. The same Greek word expresses it: “I, John, both your brother and companion in the… patience of Jesus Christ.”  There was a need for patient endurance, exiled on the Isle of Patmos, and there was a need for endurance against the opposing forces in Asia Minor. We have too many sprinters in the church, who wear out after a short dash.

 We learned of Moses in the last chapter, who endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (11:27). Moses ran for 80 years; first of all, for 40 years of trials, keeping his father-in-law’s sheep and then for 40 years, leading Israel through the desert. He had his eyes fixed on the invisible Jesus and that gave him the faith that carried him over those many years. Paul wrote in Romans 15:4: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” 

 As Moses, we must gaze fixedly on the author and the finisher of faith (Our is not in the original and neither is the article the. They should not be in the text). If a believer turns to the world, he will be left without hope. If he looks to the church, he will find much to discourage him and if he looks inside himself, a mountain of evidence will arise to condemn him. The secret of endurance is to look unto Jesus without distraction from any other direction. Looking to Jesus gives us courage to patiently press on: There is no disappointment in Him. 


Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961) composed the well-known hymn, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" and 500 other hymns. She testified that she sang the chorus in her soul and spirit, without any consciousness of arranging rhyme or melody. That same week, she wrote the verses. She married a rich European, but upon learning that she was going blind, he abandoned her. That was similar to the testimony of George Matheson, whose fiancée also left him for the same reason. He afterwards wrote, "Oh Love that Will Not Let Me Go". These blind Christians could see the Invisible One better than those who have normal vision. Here is that famous chorus: 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face;

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 

In the light of His glory and grace.

 The writer sums up the entire theme in writing to the Hebrews. He has exalted the person of Christ throughout his letter. He is the source of faith, therefore Paul said, “I live by the faith (not in, but) of the Son of God” (Gal.2:20). He is the Author of faith and He will carry it to a perfect completion. He is not only the Author and Finisher, but everything between, where faith is required. In Revelation 22:13, the Bible canon comes to its end and in the final words, these of Jesus are included: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” the Greek A and Z. He is everything in between and there is no one else, to whom to go. He alone has the words of eternal life (Jn.6:68).

 The Holy Spirit reveals to us the secret of the Lord’s endurance through the slow, excruciating death of the cross. It is not a new secret; Nehemiah discovered it and shared with the returned exiles: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh.8:10). The cross existed for the shame of a condemned criminal, who hung there naked, but Jesus despised the shame. See His total and complete victory over death and hell, and His acceptance by His holy Father, consequently sitting down on the throne at His right hand (2).

 We have the verb form of endurance, to endure, again in verse 3. The writer emphasizes it, because he knows that it is the great need of the Hebrew Christians, and we should know that it is ours, as well. They are up against the same hostility from Jewish sinners that Jesus experienced, and they must consider His endurance, meditate upon it and draw from it. Otherwise, they will drop out of the race, due to weariness and discouragement (3).

 Up to this point, at least, no blood has been shed among them, so they are quailing at the threat, not the actual physical attack of the enemy. There was no martyrdom yet among the recipients of this letter and that would put us, in these days, at about the same level. Though there are many threats of coming persecution, most of us have not been physically assaulted (4). Our battle ground, as theirs at this point, is against the deceit and onslaughts of sin. We have many examples, in the church age, of those who chose death, rather than sin. They are also among the victorious in chapter 11. If we lose the battle against sin, there is no question that we will also fall before persecution (4).

 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.”

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.

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.

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.


Perfect, divine discipline

 As always, the writer will take us to the Old Testament to provide the basis, upon which he will build his case concerning the Father’s discipline. He quotes from Proverbs 3:11 and 12. The wise Solomon learned so much about the value of discipline during his lifetime. The book of Proverbs is the source, to which we Christian parents should refer, for the absolute best advice available on the subject of raising children. I know of no modern book, which I would recommend. (For those, who don’t know, Margaret and I raised eight children, who are all in the family of faith.)

 The writer makes it very clear that the book of Proverbs speaks to the Hebrew Christians, as it does to us: The exhortation which speaks to youThere is no question that the book of Proverbs, in the Old Testament, speaks valuable truth to the New Testament believer, Jew or Gentile. I am sure we will learn that, not only should we not despise the Father’s discipline, but we should highly value it (5). His rebuke gives life, although the word scourge leaves the impression that this will not be an easy lesson. Solomon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says 1) that God only disciplines those whom He loves. 2) The Lord has received every one of His own, who are those whom He disciplines, as beloved sons. Jesus even told the Laodiceans: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Rv.3:19). Those two principles alone give mighty encouragement (6).  

 Let us go on to the writer's New Testament commentary. In verse 7, he confirms Solomon’s statement that discipline is a sure sign of sonship. It is normal and consistent behavior from a father towards his son and it is expected, as common sense, that no son should go without it… all are partakers. He then concludes that if no discipline is given from the heavenly Father, the pretended believer is not truly in the family of faith, but is illegitimate (8). I have always maintained that spiritual, bastard sons, may have the church for a mother, but the Father certainly has had no part in his spiritual experience. I would go on to say that this circumstance is greatly enhanced and multiplied by the church’s flirtation with the world.

Now, we will speak to Christian parents, living in this 21st Century, because the writer refers to human parents in verses 9 and 10. He states that child discipline is something to be taken for granted, as common sense. We can see part of the perversion of modern times, as we look at society’s view on the subject. It is not taken for granted today, in fact, in some places, parents may be sentenced to prison for faithfully and compassionately (and may I say, sanely) applying the principles of scriptural discipline to their children.

 When children are properly disciplined, they will respect their parents. Unfortunately, too few Christians understand the love that there is in discipline and need to study it in the book of Proverbs. There we learn that “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Pr.13:24). Let me say that biblical love and hatred are not emotions, but a way of treatment that will determine harm or good received. A child is harmed by a lack of discipline and greatly helped through life, when discipline is applied to him as a child. I cannot go into more detail, because this subject alone, to deal with it justly and biblically, would require a book. We must go on to the spiritual discipline of the heavenly Father.

 If we do not understand parental discipline, we will never understand divine discipline. Will you please notice the phrase in verse 9… the Father of spirits? God is the Creator, not only of the physical world, but also of the spiritual. This is taught in various parts of the Bible, beginning with Numbers 16:22 and 27:16. In Isaiah 42:5, it states: “Thus says God the Lord… who spread forth the earth… who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it.” In Zechariah 12:1 similarly: “Thus says the Lord, who… forms the spirit of man within him.” Perhaps, to most of us, I am belaboring the obvious, but I want to be sure that we all understand it.

 The Heavenly Father is primarily interested in the internal part of man, of which He is also Creator. Understanding this principle, we can see how He will allow the physical part of man to suffer, in order to benefit the soul and spirit. In doing this disciplinary work, he is loving and compassionate. See Isaiah 57:16: “For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made.” It requires supernatural wisdom and He, being the Creator and Owner, knows how to deal with its complications. He knows the hearts of men.

 Verse 10 teaches that parental discipline is imperfect, subject to the views of the parent on the issue. God’s discipline, on the other hand, is perfect, cannot fail, and will always profit us. What will be the profit of His discipline? The text responds: That we may be partakers of His holiness. First of all, He has provided for us perfect holiness through the sacrifice of His Son. Perfect holiness is necessary in order for anyone to have access into His presence. Because we are in His beloved Son, we do have boldness to enter His presence now and throughout eternity. By providing His holiness, and by nothing less, we are guaranteed entrance into a perfect heaven. It is through the blood of Christ alone! Please, do not confuse this means of grace.

 I mentioned earlier in this study of Hebrews, that we can be assured of heaven, because of the perfect high priestly intercession of the Son of God. Now, we are learning of the Father’s perfect discipline. I asked the question, “Can our heavenly Father be anything less than perfect in His discipline? Will it accomplish His purposes?” The answer is “Yes!” and therefore we can be assured of heaven. It is not by works of righteousness, but by His grace through faith. That’s the gospel.

 I also quote this paragraph from an earlier study: “Practical sanctification is another matter. The new nature, received when we are born again, desires that we live a life that pleases God, but unfortunately, because we walk in a body which is tainted by sin, we are far from perfect in our daily walk. Therefore, as we submit to the Father´s discipline, our practical living should become more and more like Christ.” I add now: This is a life-long process that never reaches completion. Because we walk in God´s light, we become increasingly aware of our sin, and it might be easily concluded that we are not making progress. What we formerly thought was not sin, becomes sin, and what seemed like small sins become large. However, if we look back to our beginnings, we will surely see progress. This process occurs in the life of every believer. It is a fruit of our salvation and not a requirement for salvation: “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3)

 God kept the Israelites in exile for the time necessary, 70 years, and not one day beyond, in order that the proper discipline would be performed in their lives. Paul teaches the church in Corinth: “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Co.11:32, ESV). His discipline, although it may bring sickness and even death, assures us of His salvation and protects us from condemnation.

Now we can see the extent of the pain that can be experienced through His discipline, as the writer states in verse 11. However, the pain is productive, awarding a victor´s crown of peace, joy and righteousness. Observe how a child, after being chastised, seems to be freed from a great weight and happily returns to his play. 
The word exercised in the original Greek means training, as for the Olympic Games. Therefore the writer continues with the same theme as in verse 1. I hope I am not touching something too delicate here, but if you will allow me, I would like to add something interesting and importantly applicable to this teaching concerning exercise. Besides signifying training, the Strong´s complete definition is to train naked. We have been told to cast off every weight and surely the writer is speaking of the Olympic Games, where the participants and the observers were all men. Women were not allow to come near. The athletes ran and trained naked, casting off every weight. I believe this is what the writer had in mind, so please forgive the rather crude thought.
One fruit of righteousness is meekness. In Spanish and, I learned, in Romanian as well, the word for meekness, is the same word that is used for a trained animal. I think, we can apply it to the principle, which we are learning. The peaceable fruit of righteousness comes by the Father’s training. 

 Because of the importance of these lessons, it appears that I have written enough for one article and I do not think it is wise to condense this material. However, to continue with the rest of the chapter, would make it too lengthy. With physical food, we have problems digesting, when we eat too much. I would much rather that you meditate upon these things carefully, than that you have too much to read and not be able to properly study. I want the truth to enter into your heart. We will, then, leave the rest of the chapter for another time. Please do read carefully and, while reading, gaze upon Jesus and open your heart to receive whatever discipline the Father is applying for the benefit of your soul and spirit.    




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