A Cloud of Witnesses
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
The Hebrew writer, through the inspiration of God, pens the Book of Hebrews as an encouragement to the Jews who converted to Christianity not to return to Judaism, despite the persecution, including death, that those Christians were facing because of their professed faith in Christ Jesus. These converts had begun to look back to their former life as Jews as comfortable because, at that time, there was no persecution as a Jew. However, to strengthen and encourage the brethren to remain faithful to Christ Jesus, the Hebrew writer reminds them that the blood of bull and goats (Hebrews 10:4-18) under the Law could not free them from sin and the blessings and perfection that one has in Christ Jesus comes under the Law of Grace.
The writer pens Hebrews 11, an entire chapter devoted to people by name who lived by faith, pleased God, and have greater reward awaiting them because they believed and trusted in God. Although those who lived by faith could not physically see the blessings that God had in store for them, they still trusted in God, and if we look to their lives as an example, we too have rewards awaiting us if we choose to live by faith. When the persecution and trials that we ourselves must endure for Christ’s namesake seem unbearable, Christians have Hebrews chapter 11 as a reminder that there were others who faced what we ourselves are facing now but they made it because they lived by faith (remember also I Corinthians 10:13—it’s nothing new that which we face, it is common to man but with a reminder that God is in control because He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bare).
Hebrews 12 opens with a reminder for our hope and encouragement, that Christians have so many others that have gone before us that put away sin and ran the race that God had before them, and they all made it by faith. On the occasion when Christians still find themselves a bit overwhelmed by the trials we experience on our daily walk, the Hebrew writer pens Hebrews chapter 12 to say, remember Christ what He came into the world to do and the trials and persecution that He Himself had to endure. Remember the glory that Christ had to give up to come to earth to dwell among humankind (remember Exodus 33:20); that Jesus was prophesied to bare our grief and carry our sorrows, that He would be beaten, bruised, and smitten for our sins; pierced; led like sheep to the slaughter; oppressed and judged and left alone however He did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:4-12), in fact even at His death as He hung on the cross, Jesus said Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Christians are blessed with Hebrews 12, as we are reminded that Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, suffered for the world’s unrighteousness, that by faith we will all make it having been reconciled to God because Jesus is the Savior of the Body, which is His Church (Ephesians 5:23).
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
— Damon Long