Bible Commentary

Hebrews 12

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Hebrews 12)

Verse 1

[1] 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,

Wherefore, being encompassed with a cloud — A great multitude, tending upward with a holy swiftness.

Of witnesses — Of the power of faith.

Let us lay aside every weight — As all who run a race take care to do. Let us throw off whatever weighs us down, or damps the vigour of our Soul.

And the sin which easily besetteth us — As doth the sin of our constitution, the sin of our education, the sin of our profession.

Verse 2

[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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Looking — From all other things.

To Jesus — As the wounded Israelites to the brazen serpent. Our crucified Lord was prefigured by the lifting up of this; our guilt, by the stings of the fiery serpents; and our faith, by their looking up to the miraculous remedy.

The author and finisher of our faith — Who begins it in us, carries it on, and perfects it.

Who for the joy that was set before him — Patiently and willingly endured the cross, with all the pains annexed thereto.

And is set down — Where there is fulness of joy.

Verse 3

[3] For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Consider — Draw the comparison and think. The Lord bore all this; and shall his servants bear nothing? Him that endured such contradiction from sinners - Such enmity and opposition of every kind Lest ye be weary - Dull and languid, and so actually faint in your course.

Verse 4

[4] Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Unto blood — Unto wounds and death.

Verse 5

[5] And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

And yet ye seem already to have forgotten the exhortation - Wherein God speaketh to you with the utmost tenderness.

Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord — Do not slight or make little of it; do not impute any affliction to chance or second causes but see and revere the hand of God in it.

Neither faint when thou art rebuked of him — But endure it patiently and fruitfully. Proverbs 3:11, etc.

Verse 6

[6] For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

For — All springs from love; therefore neither despise nor faint.

Verse 7

[7] If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

Whom his father chasteneth not — When he offends.

Verse 8

[8] But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Of which all sons are partakers - More or less.

Verse 9

[9] Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

And we reverenced them — We neither despised nor fainted under their correction.

Shall we not much rather — Submit with reverence and meekness To the Father of spirits - That we may live with him for ever. Perhaps these expressions, fathers of our flesh, and Father of spirits, intimate that our earthly fathers are only the parents of our bodies, our souls not being originally derived from them, but all created by the immediate power of God; perhaps, at the beginning of the world.

Verse 10

[10] For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

For they verily for a few days — How few are even all our day on earth! Chastened us as they thought good - Though frequently they erred therein, by too much either of indulgence or severity. But he always, unquestionably, for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness - That is, of himself and his glorious image.

Verse 11

[11] Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Now all chastening — Whether from our earthly or heavenly Father, Is for the present grievous, yet it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness - Holiness and happiness.

To them that are exercised thereby — That receive this exercise as from God, and improve it according to his will.

Verse 12

[12] Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

Wherefore lift up the hands — Whether your own or your brethren's.

That hang down — Unable to continue the combat.

And the feeble knees — Unable to continue the race. Isaiah 35:3.

Verse 13

[13] And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

And make straight paths both for your own and for their feet - Remove every hinderance, every offence.

That the lame — They who are weak, scarce able to walk.

Be not turned out of the way — Of faith and holiness.

Verse 14

[14] Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Follow peace with all men — This second branch of the exhortation concerns our neighbours; the third, God.

And holiness — The not following after all holiness, is the direct way to fall into sin of every kind.

Verse 15

[15] Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Looking diligently, lest any one — If he do not lift up the hands that hang down.

Fall from the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness — Of envy, anger, suspicion.

Springing up — Destroy the sweet peace; lest any, not following after holiness, fall into fornication or profaneness. In general, any corruption, either in doctrine or practice, is a root of bitterness, and may pollute many.

Verse 16

[16] Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Esau was profane for so slighting the blessing which went along with the birth-right.

Verse 17

[17] For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

He was rejected — He could not obtain it.

For he found no place for repentance — There was no room for any such repentance as would regain what he had lost.

Though he sought it — The blessing of the birth-right.

Diligently with tears — He sought too late. Let us use the present time.

Verse 18

[18] For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

For — A strong reason this why they ought the more to regard the whole exhortation drawn from the priesthood of Christ: because both salvation and vengeance are now nearer at hand.

Ye are not come to the mountain that could be touched — That was of an earthy, material nature.

Verse 19

[19] And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

The sound of a trumpet — Formed, without doubt, by the ministry of angels, and preparatory to the words, that is, the Ten Commandments, which were uttered with a loud voice, Deuteronomy 5:22.

Verse 20

[20] (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

For they could not bear — The terror which seized them, when they heard those words proclaimed, If even a beast, etc. Exodus 19:12, etc.

Verse 21

[21] And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

Even Moses - Though admitted to so near an intercourse with God, who "spake to him as a man speaketh to his friend." At other times he acted as a mediator between God and the people. But while the ten words were pronounced, he stood as one of the hearers, Exodus 19:25; Exodus 20:19.

Verse 22

[22] But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

But ye — Who believe in Christ.

Are come — The apostle does not here speak of their coming to the church militant, but of that glorious privilege of New Testament believers, their communion with the church triumphant. But this is far more apparent to the eyes of celestial spirits than to ours which are yet veiled. St. Paul here shows an excellent knowledge of the heavenly economy, worthy of him who had been caught up into the third heaven.

To mount Sion — A spiritual mountain.

To the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem — All these glorious titles belong to the New Testament church.

And to an innumerable company — Including all that are afterwards mentioned.

Verse 23

[23] To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

To the general assembly — The word properly signifies a stated convention on some festival occasion.

And church — The whole body of true believers, whether on earth or in paradise. Of the first-born-The first-born of Israel were enrolled by Moses; but these are enrolled in heaven, as citizens there. It is observable, that in this beautiful gradation, these first-born are placed nearer to God than the angels. See James 1:18.

And to God the Judge of all — Propitious to you, adverse to your enemies.

And to the spirits — The separate souls.

Of just men — It seems to mean, of New Testament believers. The number of these, being not yet large, is mentioned distinct from the innumerable company of just men whom their Judge hath acquitted. These are now made perfect in an higher sense than any who are still alive. Accordingly, St. Paul, while yet on earth, denies that he was thus made perfect, Philippians 3:12.

Verse 24

[24] And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

To Jesus, the mediator — Through whom they had been perfected.

And to the blood of sprinkling — To all the virtue of his precious blood shed for you, whereby ye are sprinkled from an evil conscience. This blood of sprinkling was the foundation of our Lord's mediatorial office. Here the gradation is at the highest point.

Which speaketh better things than that of Abel — Which cried for vengeance.

Verse 25

[25] See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

Refuse not — By unbelief.

Him that speaketh — And whose speaking even now is a prelude to the final scene. The same voice which spake both by the law and in the gospel, when heard from heaven, will shake heaven and earth.

For if they escaped not — His vengeance.

Much more shall not we — Those of us who turn from him that speaketh from heaven - That is, who came from heaven to speak to us.

Verse 26

[26] Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

Whose voice then shook the earth — When he spoke from mount Sinai.

But now — With regard to his next speaking.

He hath promised — It is a joyful promise to the saints, though dreadful to the wicked.

Yet once more I will shake, not only the earth, but also the heaven — These words may refer in a lower sense to the dissolution of the Jewish church and state; but in their full sense they undoubtedly look much farther, even to the end of all things. This universal shaking began at the first coming of Christ. It will be consummated at his second coming. Haggai 2:6.

Verse 27

[27] And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

The things which are shaken — Namely, heaven and earth.

As being made — And consequently liable to change.

That the things which are not shaken may remain — Even "the new heavens and the new earth," Revelation 21:1.

Verse 28

[28] Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Therefore let us, receiving — By willing and joyful faith.

A kingdom — More glorious than the present heaven and earth.

Hold fast the grace, whereby we may serve God — In every thought, word, and work.

With reverence — Literally, with shame. Arising from a deep consciousness of our own unworthiness.

And godly fear — A tender, jealous fear of offending, arising from a sense of the gracious majesty of God.

Verse 29

[29] For our God is a consuming fire.

For our God is a consuming fire — in the strictness of his justice, and purity of his holiness.

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