Having just provided his readers with a who’s-who list of Old Testament saints who did not shrink back in unbelief and perish, the author now provides them with an even better example of faithfulness; Jesus Christ Himself.
Unlike all the examples the author drew from in the Old Testament though, the example he presents his readers with in Jesus Christ is one in which the example has finished the race.
Those Old Testament saints, none of them finished the race. The author tells us this in chapter 11, verse 39. “ . . . and all these, though commended for their faith, died WITHOUT receiving the promise.”
They died while still in the race in other words, before they could cross the finish line.
But Jesus has crossed the finish line. He has received the promise. Therefore, as our example we see in Him one whose faith was perfected and completed.
By perfected and completed the author does not mean that Jesus’ faith had been incomplete or corrupt. No, what he means instead is Jesus has obtained the object of His faith. In other words, what He believed would happen has indeed happened. He obeyed His Father perfectly, and by offering His body to God at the cross, He has delivered His elect from the just and eternal punishment for their sins. His resurrection proved He had succeeded.
The author uses the analogy of a race to make his point. In the same way a long distance marathon runner must prepare himself to endure for the long and grueling race ahead of him, so we too must prepare ourselves to endure in our faith for the long and grueling road ahead of us. “Let us run with endurance,” he says.
This characteristic of endurance is present in each of his examples from the Old Testament. He gave examples of men and women who had ENDURED in their faith in the gospel to the very end, even though they never received what was promised.
Like those Old Testament saints, we too are in a very long marathon that is going to last the rest of our lives unless the Lord returns first. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to endure all the way to the end.
We must remain steadfast and fixed in our faith in the gospel of the cross of Christ. After all, it was the cross of Christ all those Old Testament examples are a witness to. Therefore, if they endured to the end, then so must we.
Earlier in his epistle, in chapter four, the author used the word “rest” instead of the word race. He instructed his readers to “strive to enter into God’s rest.”
In this earlier chapter he gave them an example from the Old Testament just like he did later in chapter 11.
Except the Old Testament example he gave them in chapter four was not like the example he gave them in chapter 11. Rather then giving them an example of someone who had SUCCESSFULLY entered God’s rest, he instead gave them an example of someone who had failed to enter that rest.
The example he gave in chapter four was of those former Hebrew slaves who had escaped Egypt only to then later draw back in fear and doubt when it came time to enter the promised land. Right as they had approached the finish line ready to cross into the land of promise, they drew back from it with fear and doubt. As a result, all but two of them perished in the wilderness.
Let us learn from their example, the author told his readers. The fear of punishment is where we were before we were made righteous and then made to believe the gospel. Therefore, having escaped the judgment that is coming upon the earth, let us not draw back in fear now that we have believed the good news.
For this reason he says here in chapter 12, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us.
Notice that. Not just sin, but THE sin. Most modern translations remove the word “the”. They translate this part of the verse as, “let us lay aside every weight and sin.” This misses the point.
The author is not instructing his readers to trade in their immodest, immoral behavior for a more virtuous lifestyle.
Let me pause here to say yes, we are commanded elsewhere in Scripture to do this. We are instructed to put away anger, put away malice, put away jealousy, and to clothe ourselves with Christ. But this is not what the author is talking about here in chapter 12 of Hebrews.
For the entirety of his epistle thus far, the author has been talking to his readers about their faith in the gospel. Let us hold fast our confession of hope without wavering. Let us not draw back in fear and doubt, because if you do draw back in fear and doubt, then understand there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, but instead only a fearful expectation of judgment.
Rather than drawing back in fear and doubt, learn instead from the Old Testament saints who remained steadfast in their faith even though they never obtained the promise in their lifetimes.
Therefore, (and remember what I told you before about the word therefore – whenever you see the word therefore, see what it’s there for).
Therefore, since we have this great cloud of witnesses from the Old Testament, let us lay aside every weight and THE sin which so easily ensnares us. THE SIN. The sin of what? The sin of laziness? The sin of jealousy? The sin of bitterness? The sin of adultery?
No! The sin of unbelief! The sin of fear and doubt!
Keeping in step with his analogy, let us lay aside every weight that would slow us down and force us to give up the race.
Let us learn from this great cloud of witnesses in the Old Testament. Let us follow their example by not clinging to anything that would drag us down into fear and doubt. Let us not permit anything to get in our way that would distract us from the truth of the gospel.
Is this going to include things like abstaining from bawdy, immoral behavior while putting into practice more virtuous behavior? Yes. Of course it is. After all, bawdy behavior can sometimes indeed lead us into a situation where we might find ourselves drawing back in fear and doubt. But this abstinence is not itself the point.
Rather, we abstain because we don’t want that bawdy behavior interfering or distracting us from the gospel of our salvation. We don’t want to introduce something into our lives which might later drag us down into unbelief.
This said, one of the biggest weights by far is false doctrine.
Take for example, verse 14. In verse 14 the author instructs his readers to “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people, and especially reformed people, interpret the word “holy” here to mean our virtue. So they will tell us something like if we do not strive to be virtuous, then we will not see the Lord.
This is a false gospel of works righteousness. This false gospel tells us that what we do makes the difference between saved and lost.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you reformed people are drowning in this junk. In fact, let me give you a little taste of reformed history here to help you see this point even better.
Back in 1967 Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave a keynote speech at an annual conference attended by reformed pastors and teachers and theology professors from all over the world.
If you don’t know who Lloyd-Jones was, then know that he was a spiritual pervert who was and is still greatly respected by thousands of reformed people who themselves are spiritual perverts. When I say spiritual pervert, I mean he detested the gospel of God’s sovereign grace. He taught instead a gospel of works righteousness.
But that aside, at this conference in 1967 he gave a lecture on what he believed to be the dangers of Sandemanianism.
A little about Sandemanianism.
Sandemanianism is the name which spiritually perverted reformed people like Lloyd-Jones gave to folks who agreed with Robert Sandeman.
Sandeman was a Scottish minister who later moved to America. He was the spiritual opposite of Lloyd-Jones. In other words, he loved the true gospel of God’s sovereign grace and faithfully preached it.
As part of his love for the gospel he took very seriously Christ’s command to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but even expose them.” The way he did this was by outing all the popular preachers of his day who he believed were teaching a false gospel.
In his book he named these men by name. He explained how they were perverting the gospel of God’s sovereign grace, and he warned his readers to have nothing to do with them. He was not polite about it either. Rather, he eviscerated and mocked the false gospels of these men.
But one last very important thing about Sandeman. He also remained steadfast in his agreement with Scripture that faith is “bare intellectual assent.” What he meant by this is faith is something we do intellectually rather than mystically. Today we say faith is “mere” intellectual assent. Sandeman used the word “bare” instead of “mere.”
As you can probably guess, Sandeman’s Biblically consistent view of faith put him right at the very top of the popular reformed enemies list. Most of his contemporaries detested his book. Most of ours still do.
He is easily one of the most slandered gospel writers in the world even still today. He has been falsely accused, libeled and slandered by just about all the most popular theologians.
One of those people who rejected Sandeman’s gospel and his view of faith was infamous English Baptist minister Andrew Fuller, and it was Fuller’s answer to Sandeman that served as the subject of Lloyd-Jones’ lecture.
Andrew Fuller, as I mentioned, was an English minister. He began preaching a few decades after Sandeman had died. Fuller taught what is today called the governmental theory of the atonement. More about this in just a moment.
Fuller believed guilt, as the punishment for sin, is non-transferrable. This means he believed our guilt could not have been charged to Christ, because he argued that although an innocent person could take the physical punishment for a guilty man, the innocent man would nevertheless continue to remain innocent.
This means that in Fuller’s mind Christ did not bear His people’s guilt on the cross, because Christ could never have ceased to be innocent.
Fuller concluded from this argument that Christ had only borne the EFFECTS of sin rather than the sin itself. In doing so, and here is where the governmental theory comes into play, Fuller argued that Christ’s death had merely served to show the world God had been angry with sin, while His resurrection showed the world God was now no longer angry with sin.
God’s justice was irrelevant as far as Fuller was concerned. It wasn’t that the full penalty for breaking the law had to be paid, but rather it was that God needed a way to show something to the world. Fuller concluded from this that faith is the condition which actualizes God’s pardon.
In other words, in case you are having trouble following me here, according to Andrew Fuller, Christ had simply been a token sacrifice to show the world God’s anger with sin as well as His mercy and grace so that each person could choose to receive God’s pardon by choosing to believe God saves by grace rather than by law. This false gospel makes faith, rather than the cross of Christ, the condition for salvation.
Fuller hated definite atonement. He hated it. He hated sovereign election too. He believed both were harmful to evangelism.
He so hated definite atonement and sovereign election that he became a staunch opponent of John Gill. He constantly slandered Gill and accused him of preaching a false gospel that kept sinners out of heaven.
He was so slanderous of Gill that Abraham Booth took up pen and paper to defend the gospel as Gill preached it over against the false gospel which Fuller preached. His book “Reign of Grace” is his defense of the gospel Gill preached.
Today, you will not hear the popular preachers talk about Gill or Booth. You will hear them talking plenty though about Fuller. They love Fuller. And the reason they love him is because of his definition of faith.
You see, Fuller argued that because faith is the condition which actualizes God’s pardon, then it cannot be mere intellectual assent like Sandeman had argued. Rather, it has to be something more. It has to be something mystic. And this is why Lloyd-Jones was all too eager to hide behind Fuller at the conference where he spoke.
Fuller argued that if faith concerns only the mind, then there is no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from fake Christianity, because a fake Christian can intellectually agree with the truths of Christianity just as much as the genuine Christian can.
Nevertheless, because those truths do not grip the heart and re-orient the affections of the fake Christian, we can therefore know that the fake Christian is not genuine.
Notice what Fuller argued. He argued that unbelievers can indeed mentally, intellectually agree with God about the gospel.
Is this true? Can they do this? Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2.
1 Corinthians 2:6-14
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
Notice what Paul argues here. Only the Spirit of God comprehends the thoughts of God. Now, we can get into trouble here if we are not careful to correlate Scripture with Scripture, because what some people tell us this means is that the Spirit communicates God’s thoughts to us through some mystical, non propositional way.
No. Time and time and time again what do the Scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit uses to communicate with His people? What is the only thing the Holy Spirit uses to communicate God’s thoughts to His people?
We read it a few weeks ago in Hebrews 10. There the author told us the Spirit has witnessed to us. And what was the Spirit’s witness? It was a quotation from the Old Testament.
How does the Spirit communicate God’s thoughts to His people? Only by His written word! Sola Scriptura.
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word
1 John 1:1-4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Here John tells us that the apostles saw Jesus with their own eyes. They touched Him with their own hands. They heard Him with their own ears. And now they are telling us what they saw, heard and touched so that we may have fellowship with them.
The Holy Spirit communicates the thoughts of God to us by His holy written word alone. He communicates to us in no other way.
Very well, since this is true, how is His written word received and understood by us? It is received and understood intellectually, of course, the same way we would receive and understand any other book. The Spirit uses His written words to teach our brain His truth.
The reason why this is very crucially important especially today is because I continue to meet people who still do not understand this most basic of all principles.
Listen, the revelation which God has given to us in the pages of His written word is a revelation that is propositional in nature. A proposition, if you will recall from previous talks, is either a verbal or written statement that is either true or false.
All stop signs are red is a proposition.
The grass outside is purple is another proposition. It is a false proposition, but it is a proposition.
Yellow goes dog banana stitch. This is not a proposition. The reason why it is not a proposition is because it is just some random words thrown together which do not mean anything.
A proposition, because it is a statement which is either true or false, means it is also a logical combination of words which when combined into one sentence compose a coherent, logical statement that is either true or false. Yellow goes dog banana stitch is neither coherent nor logical.
True propositions are propositions which God has told us in His word are true. These are the only propositions which we can know for certain are true.
The truth which God has revealed to us in the pages of Scripture is not a truth which is hidden behind the words which have been written on the page. Instead, the logical meaning of the words which have been arranged into grammatically correct sentences is itself the truth which God has revealed to us. There are no hidden meanings in these sentences.
For example, Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. There are no hidden meanings in this sentence. Instead, the truth which God has revealed to us in Genesis 1:1 is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
However, false teachers like mystical numerologists have tried to tell us that the real meaning of Genesis 1:1 lies in the number of letters used in the Hebrew sentence. They tell us the logical meaning of the sentence is irrelevant, because the true meaning of the sentence is found in the total number of Hebrew letters instead.
We find a similar situation with those people who tell us faith is not “mere intellectual assent” or that we do not ONLY know Jesus doctrinally. They are telling us that God has revealed His truth to us in a way that is not propositional.
If God’s truth is not propositional, then what is it? And if it is not propositional, then how is it to be understood?
They tell us it is not only understood and assented to intellectually, but rather also “affectionately.” Ask them to explain how our affections are supposed to assent to something and they fall silent.
Listen to me very closely here, if God’s truth revealed to us in the pages of Scripture is not propositional, then the Bible does not have to be logical, coherent and self consistent. It can consist of words as randomly thrown together as dog goes banana stitch. And this is exactly what some theologians have told us.
Men like Cornelius Van Til, for instance, have argued that some parts of the Bible contradict other parts and that no part of our knowledge intersects with any part of God’s knowledge. Other men like John MacArthur and J I Packer have made their career from telling people that faith is more than just intellectually agreeing with the truth which God has revealed to us in Scripture.
Do you see why this is so very important?
I hear people all the time insist we do not only know Christ through doctrine. I encounter people on Facebook who claim the same, that we do not only know Christ doctrinally. They all insist belief is not something you do only with your head, but instead something you do mystically with your “heart.”
Put it like this, I could stand up here and scribble on the board behind me a long, drawn out, difficult calculus equation. Probably not many of you would understand what the little signs and cosigns and other marks mean, right? And probably not many of you would know how to solve the equation or how to verify whether it’s true or false.
But now suppose I drew this long equation on the board anyway and then I said to you, this equation may be true or it may be false, but you cannot verify whether it is true or false by only using your head. Instead, you have to also use your heart. What would you think of me were I to say this? I hope all of you would look at me as if I were stupid.
And yet time and again we are told by the popular preachers that faith is not “mere intellectual assent”, but rather instead something we do with our heart. And even though not a single one of these popular guys has ever seen Jesus with their own eyes, not a one of them has ever touched Jesus with their own hands, not a one of them has ever heard Jesus with their own ears; nevertheless, they still tell us anyway that we must know Jesus in some way other than by doctrine.
In the case of the mathematical equation I can take some classes in order to learn how to read the marks and solve the equation. In the case of the gospel though, unless the Holy Spirit makes the necessary neural connections in my brain, then I will never come to agree with what God has said about Christ in His word.
And yet all the same, here was Fuller arguing that unbelievers can indeed understand and agree with God that the propositions of the gospel are true. The truth though, was that Fuller had changed the gospel to something unbelievers could indeed understand and agree with.
Fuller said the purpose of the cross was simply to show the world that God was angry with sin. He did not believe it had accomplished anything for God’s elect. He did not believe the cross had put away the sins of those same elect. He did not believe it had redeemed them from the just punishment for their sins. Rather, he believed it had instead showed the world that God CAN save a man by grace if that man will let Him.
This is exactly the same thing the popular preachers have done today. They have changed the gospel into something unbelievers can agree with. What they’ve changed the gospel to differs from person to person and denomination to denomination.
For instance, some people have changed the gospel to a message about the bare historical facts of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Others have changed the gospel to a message about being justified by the Spirit making us want to live a more virtuous life and thereby prove we have made Christ the Lord of our life.
Still other have changed the gospel to a message about Jesus wanting to make America great again. Sandeman himself felt the sting of this from some in his congregation. He died in 1771, just a few short years before the American War for Independence would begin. He lost a majority of his congregation after he preached a sermon in which he encouraged them not to join what most people in the day perceived to be the coming rebellion against England. His reasoning lay not with the British crown, but rather with Christ. He took seriously Christ’s command to not rebel against the authorities He has set in place. Sandeman paid dearly for his faithfulness.
The sad fact is, Fullerism is modern day Calvinism. In the view of modern day Calvinism, as long as you have a sincere desire to please God then it pretty much doesn’t matter what you believe about the gospel.
I know of a pastor down in Tennessee who is like this. He tells me he has no authority to tell an Arminian whether they are lost or not. What does he mean he has no authority to tell a person who believes a false gospel they are lost? I will tell you what he means. He means he believes God makes some people righteous and then leaves them in a false gospel which glorifies their flesh.
I have news for this spiritual pervert. The Pharisees had a desire to please God too. They did. They thought they were pleasing Him by crucifying Jesus! We just read it in 1 Corinthians. They never would have crucified Christ had they understood the wisdom of God. But they didn’t understand.
Cain didn’t understand. He thought he could please God by offering a sacrifice of his best broccoli and sprouts.
The heart is desperately wicked, says Jeremiah, who can know it? And yet I am told by the popular preachers that I can look to my heart to see if it has been re-oriented for proof I am a real Christian?
I’m not interested in knowing the status of a man’s heart. Rather, I’m interested in knowing what gospel he believes. The only way I’m going to find that out is by asking him to explain what he believes the gospel is.
The holiness without which no one will see the Lord is the holiness which Christ accomplished at the cross by laying His life down at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins. Strive for that holiness by resting in it.
When he says strive for peace with everyone, he does not mean strive for peace with Andrew Fuller. We are to have no peace with spiritual perverts and men who would mock the gospel by preaching a false one.
He means instead, strive for peace with the brothers in the congregation. See to it that you lay no stumbling block before a brother or sister that would lead them to abandon the race.
Esau found no place for repentance. Why? Because he liked hunting rather than staying at home to cook? No! He found no place for repentance, because he was looking for another offering besides Christ, that’s why.
There are no other offerings to be had though. This was why Esau was profane. He profaned the blood of the Lamb. He fornicated with the offering of idols. He wanted the promise, he even begged for it with tears, but he still sought another way other than Christ to obtain that promise when there was no other way to be found.
In closing, I want to read a paragraph to you from Sandeman’s book. The title of his book is Letters On Theron and Aspasio: Addressed to the Author. The following quotation comes from page 282.
“It would be tedious to take particular notice of all these forms of expression. But one thing in the general may be freely said, that where the faith necessary to justification is described, every epithet, word, name or phrase, prefixed or subjoined to Faith, not meant as descriptive of the truth believed, but of some good motion, disposition, or exercise of the human soul about it, is intended, and really serves, instead of clearing our way, to blindfold and decoy us; to impose upon us, and make us take brass for gold, and chaff for wheat; to lead us to establish our own, in opposition to the Divine righteousness, even while our mouths and our ears are filled with high sounding words about the latter. – – In vain shall we consult catechisms, confessions, and other publicly authorized standards of doctrine for direction here. These are framed by the wisdom of the scribes, and disputers of this world. We can receive no true light about this matter but from the fountain head of true knowledge, the sacred oracles of Divine revelation. Thence it will appear, that justification comes by bare faith. Ask a Christian, What’s his faith, the spring of all his hope? And he answers you in a word, The blood of Christ. Ask a proficient in the popular doctrine the same question, and he immediately begins to tell you a long-winded story of how grace enabled him to become a better man than he was, and this he calls conversion. Thus we see what a wide difference there is betwixt the false and true grace of God.”
Sandeman’s grave survives to this day. He was laid to rest in Wooster Street Cemetery in Danbury, Connecticut. Upon his headstone is etched the following epithet:
until the resurrection
the Body of
A Native of Perth, North Britain
Who in the face of Continual Opposition
From all Sorts of Men
Long and boldly contended
for the Ancient Faith;
That the bare Work of Jesus Christ
Without a Deed, or Thought on the Part of Man,
Is sufficient to present
The chief of Sinners
Spotless before GOD:
To declare this blessed Truth
As testified in the Holy Scriptures,
He left his Country – he left his Friends,
And after much patient sufferings
Finished his Labours
2d April 1771
Aged 53 years