Hebrews 12 Commentary

Discipline in the Christian life (12:1-11)

The examples of true faith that the writer has just given should encourage the Jewish Christians to face their difficulties with similar perseverance. They must remove the sin that hinders, and strengthen themselves to withstand defeat. They will be encouraged to endure as they consider the sufferings that Jesus endured and the heavenly reward that he now enjoys (12:1-2).

Whatever these Christians may have to endure, their sufferings are small when compared with those of Jesus Christ. At least their faith has not yet cost them their lives (3-4). God uses trials and difficulties to train, and sometimes chastise, his children, but this is no reason for them to become discouraged. Such discipline is proof of his love, for he loves them as a father loves a child. One who is not experiencing God’s discipline is not a child of his at all (5-8).


Children submit to their parents’ discipline. In the same way Christians should submit to their heavenly Father’s discipline. His purpose is to use their trials to make them into the sorts of people that he, in his superior wisdom, wants them to be (9-10). Such experiences may be unpleasant at the time, but those who have learnt a right attitude towards their troubles will benefit in an increasingly fruitful Christian life (11).

Endurance without bitterness (12:12-17)

Christians must not allow life’s trials to discourage them, but meet their difficulties with boldness and confidence (12-13). One way to help prevent people from turning away from Christ is to develop holiness among believers and to deal with those who show signs of bitterness. Such people can quickly have a bad influence on others (14-15). The story of Esau illustrates the hopelessness of the person who deliberately rejects God’s promised inheritance for the sake of some temporary gain (16-17).

God’s mercy and God’s judgment (12:18-29)

There is no similarity between the experience of Israelite people under the old covenant and that of Christians under the new. Events that accompanied the giving of the law at Mount Sinai show that people saw the old covenant as something terrifying (18-21; cf. Exod 19:12-13; 20:18-19). By contrast, Christians see the new covenant as something joyful. They are not kept at a distance from God as the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, but come right into his unseen heavenly presence. They are members of the community of God’s people, where they are united with the faithful of all ages (22-23).

Because of Christ’s blood, believers do not fear judgment. The death of Abel called for judgment on the murderer, but the death of Christ brings forgiveness for the sinner (24; cf. Gen 4:10).

The same God who spoke to Israel from Mount Sinai now speaks to all people from heaven. Those who refuse to listen to him will be punished as Israel was. God’s voice shook the earth at Mount Sinai; one day he will shake the earth again, not literally but figuratively, for he will judge the whole creation (25-26). After this judgment, only that which is eternal will remain; the rest will pass away (27). In view of this fiery judgment from the holy God, Christians should be the more thankful that they belong to his heavenly kingdom, and respond with reverent worship (28-29).

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