Hebrews 12:4

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. Hebrews 12:4

In the Greek, there is an article which comes before the word sin. Young’s translates it as, “Not yet unto blood did ye resist — with the sin striving.” In other words, “sin” is personified here by the author. With this in mind, the verse can be properly evaluated.

The author begins with, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed.” The words are plain and obvious. Others had resisted, even to the point of bloodshed. This includes, in particular, the example of Christ – who is the main Subject of what has been said in the past two verses. However, the reference in verse 1 which speaks of “so great a cloud of witnesses” refers to those in Chapter 11. The author is telling his audience that to this point, they had not faced such a trial as would lead them to bloodshed. From there, he says, “striving against [the] sin.”

These words follow the same pattern as those found in 1 Corinthians 9. There, Paul records a race that turns into a form of combat –

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26

Here in Hebrews 12:2, the author speaks of “the race that is set before us.” He now turns to “striving against [the] sin.” It is another good hint that Paul is the author of both epistles.

The question is, “What is the author referring to?” Most commentators would say that this is speaking about resisting others during persecution, even to the point of shedding blood. But what do others have to do with “the sin.” Unless someone is forcing a person to choose to deny the faith, under the pain of punishment or death, it is unlikely talking about general persecution.

Sin, especially when personified, is something that an individual wars against internally. It is true that the previous verse said that Christ “endured such hostility from sinners against Himself,” but the true war that was being waged was against violating the Law of Moses – God’s standard for Israel – in order to prevail over the Law.

He was constantly faced with such challenges, even to the night before the cross where He shed His blood in sweat like great drops of blood. This torturous battle continued on before Israel’s leaders, King Herod, and Pilate. But He endured through each event. He shed His blood in His own agony, and His blood was shed by others who attempted to make Him sin against the law and against His heavenly Father.

In the race set before us, we are admonished to fix our eyes on Jesus who first went through these things, demonstrating that one can prevail over “the sin,” even if it necessitates the shedding of blood. Our ordeals in facing this foe may seem great, but Christ met him and prevailed over him.

Life application: The author was originally writing to first century Jewish believers who were considering returning to temple worship, most likely for security and safety from persecution. This persecution was certainly increasing as the Jewish believers and non-believers began to become more and more distinct.

The entire book of Hebrews is written to demonstrate the “greater than” nature of Christ in His many roles – Prophet, Priest, King, Lawgiver, etc. By turning back to temple worship, they would be moving from a greater to a lesser. In addition to this, the author reminded them that it is “not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Yes, there is a still struggle with sin, but he makes it perfectly clear that all sin is completely atoned for by Christ Jesus’ sacrifice, whereas the temple sacrifices were temporary and passing away.

In their daily lives and “striving against [the] sin,” they hadn’t faced such great trails that they had “yet” shed their blood. By saying this, he was comparing them with Jesus who had. He faced opposition and eventually the cross, and He became the great example for each believer to follow – even to the point of death. Remember, all of this follows on the heels of Chapter 11 which noted the faith and perseverance of past believers. Prior to that in Chapter 10, the recipients were reminded of their own faithfulness in their earlier years.

As is evident, the author is masterfully preparing them for the long haul by looking back to the past. By doing so, he is giving them the much-needed confidence they would need for the increasingly hard road which lay ahead. In the end, the imperative to fix our eyes on Jesus still stands today. If we can remember those simple words, all else will always find its proper place.

Lord, it is our honest desire to follow You no matter what lies ahead. Thank You for the logical, orderly, and uplifting way in which Your word builds us up in the ability to accomplish this. Let us never lose sight of that which is most important – following Jesus’ example no matter what the cost. Amen.

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