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Hebrews 12:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Wherefore - This is an inference drawn from the examples produced in the preceding chapter, and on this account both should be read in connection.

Compassed about - Here is another allusion to the Olympic games: the agonistae, or contenders, were often greatly animated by the consideration that the eyes of the principal men of their country were fixed upon them; and by this they were induced to make the most extraordinary exertions.

Cloud of witnesses - Νεφος μαρτυρων . Both the Greeks and Latins frequently use the term cloud, to express a great number of persons or things; so in Euripides, Phoeniss. ver. 257: νεφος ασπιδων πυκνον, a dense cloud of shields; and Statius, Thebiad., lib. ix., ver. 120: jaculantum nubes, a cloud of spearmen. The same metaphor frequently occurs.

Let us lay aside every weight - As those who ran in the Olympic races would throw aside every thing that might impede them in their course; so Christians, professing to go to heaven, must throw aside every thing that might hinder them in their Christian race. Whatever weighs down our hearts or affections to earth and sense is to be carefully avoided; for no man, with the love of the world in his heart, can ever reach the kingdom of heaven.

The sin which doth so easily beset - Ευπεριστατον ἁμαρτιαν· The well circumstanced sin; that which has every thing in its favor, time, and place, and opportunity; the heart and the object; and a sin in which all these things frequently occur, and consequently the transgression is frequently committed. Ευπεριστατος is derived from ευ, well, περι, about, and ἱστημι, I stand; the sin that stands well, or is favorably situated, ever surrounding the person and soliciting his acquiescence. What we term the easily besetting sin is the sin of our constitution, the sin of our trade, that in which our worldly honor, secular profit, and sensual gratification are most frequently felt and consulted. Some understand it of original sin, as that by which we are enveloped in body, soul, and spirit. Whatever it may be, the word gives us to understand that it is what meets us at every turn; that it is always presenting itself to us; that as a pair of compasses describe a circle by the revolution of one leg, while the other is at rest in the center, so this, springing from that point of corruption within, called the carnal mind, surrounds us in every place; we are bounded by it, and often hemmed in on every side; it is a circular, well fortified wall, over which we must leap, or through which we must break. The man who is addicted to a particular species of sin (for every sinner has his way) is represented as a prisoner in this strong fortress.

In laying aside the weight, there is an allusion to the long garments worn in the eastern countries, which, if not laid aside or tucked up in the girdle, would greatly incommode the traveler, and utterly prevent a man from running a race. The easily besetting sin of the Hebrews was an aptness to be drawn aside from their attachment to the Gospel, for fear of persecution.

Let us run with patience the race - Τρεχωμεν τον προκειμενον ἡμιν αγωνα· Let us start, run on, and continue running, till we get to the goal. This figure is a favourite among the Greek writers; so Euripides, Alcest., ver. 489: Ου τον δ 'αγωνα πρωτον αν δραμοιμ 'εγω· This is not the first race that I shall run. Id. Iphig. in Aulid., ver. 1456: Δεινους αγωνας δια σε κεινον δει δραμειν· He must run a hard race for thee. This is a race which is of infinite moment to us: the prize is ineffably great; and, if we lose it, it is not a simple loss, for the whole soul perishes.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore - In view of what has been said in the previous chapter.

Seeing we also are encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses - The apostle represents those to whom he had referred in the previous chapter, as looking on to witness the efforts which Christians make, and the manner in which they live. There is allusion here, doubtless, to the ancient games. A great multitude of spectators usually occupied the circular seats in the amphitheater, from which they could easily behold the combatants; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In like manner, the apostle represents Christians as encompassed with the multitude of worthies to whom he had referred in the previous chapter. It cannot be fairly inferred from this that he means to say that all those ancient worthies were actually looking at the conduct of Christians, and saw their conflicts. It is a figurative representation, such as is common, and means that we ought to act as if they were in sight, and cheered us on. How far the spirits of the just who are departed from this world are permitted to behold what is done on earth - if at all - is not revealed in the Scriptures. The phrase, “a cloud of witnesses,” means many witnesses, or a number so great that they seem to be a cloud. The comparison of a multitude of persons to a cloud is common in the classic writers; see Homer II. 4:274,23:133; Statius 1:340, and other instances adduced in Wetstein, in loc.; compare notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Let us lay aside every weight - The word rendered “weight” - ὄγκον ogkon- means what is crooked or hooked, and thence any thing that is attached or suspended by a hook that is, by its whole weight, and hence means weight; see “Passow.” It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The word is often used in the classic writers in the sense of swelling, tumour, pride. Its usual meaning is that of weight or burden, and there is allusion here, doubtless, to the runners in the games who were careful not to encumber themselves with anything that was heavy. Hence, their clothes were so made as not to impede their running, and hence, they were careful in their training not to overburden themselves with food, and in every way to remove what would be an impediment or hindrance. As applied to the racers it does not mean that they began to run with anything like a burden, and then threw it away - as persons sometimes aid their jumping by taking a stone in their hands to acquire increased momentum - but that they were careful not to allow anything that would be a weight or an encumbrance.

As applied to Christians it means that they should remove all which would obstruct their progress in the Christian course. Thus, it is fair to apply it to whatever would be an impediment in our efforts to win the crown of life. It is not the same thing in all persons. In one it may be pride; in another vanity; in another worldliness; in another a violent and almost ungovernable temper; in another a corrupt imagination; in another a heavy, leaden, insensible heart; in another some improper and unholy attachment. Whatever it may be, we are exhorted to lay it aside, and this general direction may be applied to anything which prevents our making the highest possible attainment in the divine life. Some persons would make much more progress if they would throw away many of their personal ornaments; some, if they would disencumber themselves of the heavy weight of gold which they are endeavoring to carry with them. So some very light objects, in themselves considered, become material encumbrances. Even a feather or a ring - such may be the fondness for these toys - may become such a weight that they will never make much progress toward the prize.

And the sin which doth so easily beset us - The word which is here rendered “easily beset” - εὐπερίστατον euperistaton- “euperistaton” - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly means, “standing well around;” and hence, denotes what is near, or at hand, or readily occurring. So Chrysostom explains it. Passow defines it as meaning “easy to encircle.” Tyndale renders it “the sin that hangeth on us.” Theodoret and others explain the word as if derived from περίστασις peristasis- a word which sometimes means affliction, peril - and hence, regard it as denoting what is full of peril, or the sin which so easily subjects one to calamity. Bloomfield supposes, in accordance with the opinion of Grotius, Crellius, Kype, Kuinoel, and others, that it means “the sin which especially winds around us, and hinders our course,” with allusion to the long Oriental garments. According to this, the meaning would be, that as a runner would be careful not to encumber himself with a garment which would be apt to wind around his legs in running, and hinder him, so it should be with the Christian, who especially ought to lay aside everything which resembles this; that is, all sin, which must impede his course. The former of these interpretations, however, is most commonly adopted, and best agrees with the established sense of the word. It will then mean that we are to lay aside every encumbrance, particularly or especially - for so the word καὶ kai“and,” should be rendered here “the sins to which we are most exposed.” Such sins are appropriately called “easily besetting sins.” They are those to which we are particularly liable. They are such sins as the following:

(1) Those to which we are particularly exposed by our natural temperament, or disposition. In some this is pride, in others indolence, or gaiety, or levity, or avarice, or ambition, or sensuality.

(2) those in which we freely indulged before we became Christians. They will be likely to return with power, and we are far more likely from the laws of association, to fall into them than into any other. Thus, a man who has been intemperate is in special danger from that quarter; a man who has been an infidel, is in special danger of scepticism: one who has been avaricious, proud, frivolous, or ambitious, is in special danger, even after conversion, of again committing these sins.

(3) sins to which we are exposed by our profession, by our relations to others, or by our situation in life. They whose condition will entitle them to associate with what are regarded as the more elevated classes of society, are in special danger of indulging in the methods of living, and of amusement that are common among them; they who are prospered in the world are in danger of losing the simplicity and spirituality of their religion; they who hold a civil office are in danger of becoming mere politicians, and of losing the very form and substance of piety.

(4) sins to which we are exposed from some special weakness in our character. On some points we may be in no danger. We may be constitutionally so firm as not to be especially liable to certain forms of sin. But every man has one or more weak points in his character; and it is there that he is particularly exposed. A bow may be in the main very strong. All along its length there may be no danger of its giving way - save at one place where it has been made too thin, or where the material was defective - and if it ever breaks, it will of course be at that point. That is the point, therefore, which needs to be guarded and strengthened. So in reference to character. There is always some weak point which needs specially to be guarded, and our principal danger is there. Self-knowledge, so necessary in leading a holy life, consists much in searching out those weak points of character where we are most exposed; and our progress in the Christian course will be determined much by the fidelity with which we guard and strengthen them.

And let us run with patience the race that is set before us. - The word rendered “patience” rather means in this place, perseverance. We are to run the race without allowing ourselves to be hindered by any obstructions, and without giving out or fainting in the way. Encouraged by the example of the multitudes who have run the same race before us, and who are now looking out upon us from heaven, where they dwell, we are to persevere as they did to the end.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The persevering obedience of faith in Christ, was the race set before the Hebrews, wherein they must either win the crown of glory, or have everlasting misery for their portion; and it is set before us. By the sin that does so easily beset us, understand that sin to which we are most prone, or to which we are most exposed, from habit, age, or circumstances. This is a most important exhortation; for while a man's darling sin, be it what it will, remains unsubdued, it will hinder him from running the Christian race, as it takes from him every motive for running, and gives power to every discouragement. When weary and faint in their minds, let them recollect that the holy Jesus suffered, to save them from eternal misery. By stedfastly looking to Jesus, their thoughts would strengthen holy affections, and keep under their carnal desires. Let us then frequently consider him. What are our little trials to his agonies, or even to our deserts? What are they to the sufferings of many others? There is a proneness in believers to grow weary, and to faint under trials and afflictions; this is from the imperfection of grace and the remains of corruption. Christians should not faint under their trials. Though their enemies and persecutors may be instruments to inflict sufferings, yet they are Divine chastisements; their heavenly Father has his hand in all, and his wise end to answer by all. They must not make light of afflictions, and be without feeling under them, for they are the hand and rod of God, and are his rebukes for sin. They must not despond and sink under trials, nor fret and repine, but bear up with faith and patience. God may let others alone in their sins, but he will correct sin in his own children. In this he acts as becomes a father. Our earthly parents sometimes may chasten us, to gratify their passion, rather than to reform our manners. But the Father of our souls never willingly grieves nor afflicts his children. It is always for our profit. Our whole life here is a state of childhood, and imperfect as to spiritual things; therefore we must submit to the discipline of such a state. When we come to a perfect state, we shall be fully reconciled to all God's chastisement of us now. God's correction is not condemnation; the chastening may be borne with patience, and greatly promote holiness. Let us then learn to consider the afflictions brought on us by the malice of men, as corrections sent by our wise and gracious Father, for our spiritual good.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 934

23. See EGW on ch. 4:14; 2 Peter 1:4; Revelation 3:3. 7BC 934.1

25 (see EGW on Malachi 3:16). Seeking the Assembly of the Saints—Those who do not feel the necessity of seeking the assembly of the saints, with the precious assurance that the Lord will meet with them, show how lightly they value the help that God has provided for them. Satan is constantly at work to wound and poison the soul; in order to withstand his efforts we must breathe the atmosphere of heaven. We must individually get hold and keep hold of Christ (Manuscript 16, 1890). 7BC 934.2

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Ellen G. White
My Life Today, 313

Equipped for Victory

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Ephesians 6:16 ML 313.1

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Ellen G. White
Temperance, 144-5

When Guided by an Enlightened Conscience—The apostle Paul writes: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”—The Signs of the Times, October 2, 1907. Te 144.1

The apostle Paul here mentions the foot races, with which the Corinthians were familiar. The contestants in these races were subjected to the most severe discipline in order to fit them for the trial of their strength. Their diet was simple. Luxurious food and wine were prohibited. Their food was carefully selected. They studied to know what was best adapted to render them healthful and active, and to impart physical vigor and endurance, that they might put as heavy a tax as possible upon their strength. Every indulgence that would tend to weaken the physical powers was forbidden.—The Signs of the Times, January 27, 1909. Te 144.2

If heathen men, who were not controlled by enlightened conscience, who had not the fear of God before them, would submit to deprivation and the discipline of training, denying themselves of every weakening indulgence merely for a wreath of perishable substance and the applause of the multitude, how much more should they who are running the Christian race in the hope of immortality and the approval of High Heaven be willing to deny themselves unhealthful stimulants and indulgences, which degrade the morals, enfeeble the intellect, and bring the higher powers into subjection to the animal appetites and passions. Te 144.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 78

Our Master was a man of sorrows; He was acquainted with grief; and those who suffer with Him will reign with Him. When the Lord appeared to Saul in his conversion, He did not purpose to show him how much good he should enjoy, but what great things he should suffer for His name. Suffering has been the portion of the people of God from the days of the martyr Abel. The patriarchs suffered for being true to God and obedient to His commandments. The great Head of the church suffered for our sake; His first apostles and the primitive church suffered; the millions of martyrs suffered, and the Reformers suffered. And why should we, who have the blessed hope of immortality, to be consummated at the soon appearing of Christ, shrink from a life of suffering? Were it possible to reach the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God without suffering, we would not enjoy so rich a reward for which we had not suffered. We would shrink back from the glory; shame would seize us in the presence of those who had fought the good fight, had run the race with patience, and had laid hold on eternal life. But none will be there who have not, like Moses, chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God. The prophet John saw the multitude of the redeemed, and inquired who they were. The prompt answer came: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” 1T 78.1

When we began to present the light on the Sabbath question, we had no clearly defined idea of the third angel's message of Revelation 14:9-12. The burden of our testimony as we came before the people was that the great second advent movement was of God, that the first and second messages had gone forth, and that the third was to be given. We saw that the third message closed with the words: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” And we as clearly saw as we now see that these prophetic words suggested a Sabbath reform; but as to what the worship of the beast mentioned in the message was, or what the image and the mark of the beast were, we had no defined position. 1T 78.2

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seeing
a cloud
witnesses
let us lay
and the sin
and let us
with patience