Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 3 * BOOK 52
Hebrews 11:24 – 12:17
As we get our mail each day, we just want to thank God for each of you. I’ve got a couple of letters that I’ve been carrying in my Bible, and I just ask people, “Can you believe this?” And I just let them read it. It is just unbelievable the testimonies that we get of how, after just watching the program for a time or two, the Lord just reaches out and brings them into a saving knowledge. So we do welcome your letters and your prayers. Okay, Hebrews chapter 12, we only just got a little start in verse 1 on the last program so we’ll just pick up as though we never even started. And the verse says:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,…” Making reference of course, to all these that have been mentioned in this great faith chapter 11. And when you stop to realize that, then this is what we are to do. But we want to stop here to cover this “cloud of witnesses” around which there is so much confusion. How many times have you heard or have you read that all those that have gone on before are up there like in an amphitheater watching us. Horror of horrors! That wouldn’t be Heaven. That’d be anything but! If they’d have to be up there seeing what’s going on down here – no way. But the witnesses, as we showed in our last program and we’re going to redo it, is from the Greek word “martyras,” whereas the word if it meant spectators then it would be “autopisis” from which we get autopsy. And what do you do at an autopsy? You look at it. And that’s the Greek word, but the Greek word here in chapter 12 is “martyras.”
Now let’s do like we did in the last program. Let’s go back to John’s Gospel chapter 1, where John the Baptist is a witness of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. John’s Gospel chapter 1, starting at verse 6.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (this is John the Baptist) 7. The same came for a witness, (a martyras, an M-A-R-T-Y-R-A-S) to bear witness of the Light,…”
Now do you get the concept? John the Baptist wasn’t sitting there in an amphitheater watching Jesus perform His miracles. That’s not what it meant. John the Baptist was confirming Who He was. His whole ministry was to announce that the Messiah had come. He was a witness to Who He was. See the difference? All right, now then let’s go back and briefly look at Hebrews 12 verse 1 again so that we get this locked in to our thinking,
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,”
“Martyras.” Like John the Baptist, who is confirming that the God of Scripture is real. That’s their purpose. That’s why we started out two programs ago with Romans 15:4. All these things were written for our “learning.” To prove to us that we’re not placing our faith in something that is not true. It is true! The witnesses have proven it. All right, now the other term as I’ve already made mention of is “autopisis” and that is used in II Peter chapter 1. And this is witnesses we see here who are looking at something that’s being performed. This is the other meaning and is not the one used in Hebrews 12:1. Now let’s look at it here in II Peter chapter 1 verse 16, where Peter writes:
II Peter 1:16-17
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Now remember, Peter says, “we were eyewitnesses of all this, we saw this.” Now verse 18, “
II Peter 1:18
“And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” What’s he talking about? The Mount of Transfiguration. Now for Peter, James and John it was just like sitting in a theater, and they were watching all this unfold. They heard the voice from Heaven. They saw Moses and Elijah appear and then they saw Christ transfigured right in front of them. They saw all that. That’s the different meaning. But Hebrews chapter 12:1 isn’t talking in that vein. Hebrews is saying that these people in the Old economy are proof that our faith has been placed in something concrete and real and believable. Not that they’re sitting up there watching us perform. You see the difference?
And see, here’s where a lot of times, like I’ve always said, I’m not a Greek student but once in a while it behooves us to just compare words, how they’re used in the New Testament and that’s our best rule of thumb. All right now then, we come back to Hebrews chapter 12, seeing then that we have all these past people of faith who prove that God is real, and now we can trust Him, and we can believe Him. All right, now that being the case, let’s read on:
“…let us lay aside every weight,.…” Now, you know, this is another reason I think Hebrews is written by the Apostle Paul. What does Paul constantly refer to in his illustrations? Well, the Olympics. Over and over – running the race; beating the air like a boxer, see? All right, here again, when he says lay aside every weight, what do you suppose he’s thinking about? An Olympic runner. An Olympic runner isn’t going to win the 100-yard dash if he’s got lead weights in his shoes. He’ll never make it. So what’d they do? They got down to the bare minimum so that they wouldn’t have to be carrying any extra weight, so they could run the race to victory.
All right, that’s what we’re to do as believers. We’re to shed anything that would tend to slow us down. Now, every one of you can determine on your own what’s the weight that is slowing you down. It’s different for all of us. Totally different. We don’t all have the same weight. Now let’s read the next part of the verse.
“…and (lay aside) the sin which doth so easily beset us,…” Now I’m going to take this in two categories. I think there is one universal sin that plagues every believer, and what is it?Unbelief. You got it. Unbelief. We all tend to say, “Will it really happen?” See? I can never forget my dear old mother shortly before she died, we were talking about the Rapture and I’ll never forget her question. She said, “Les, He won’t miss anybody, will He?” See? What is that? Well that’s human doubt. Will He really get every believer and never miss a one when He comes for us? Faith tells us what? He won’t miss a one! Unbelief says what? How can He help it? How can He help but miss a few?
But see, that’s what unbelief does. Unbelief comes in and says, “Is it really the way I believe?” And I think that is something that besets all of us. But in the second category, we all have weaknesses that only we ourselves realize and we have to deal with that on a personal basis. So whatever it may be that slows down your Christian running of the race (that you might win the prize), that’s between you and the Lord. We all are plagued with this constant temptation to doubt but we all again have an individual weakness that besets us and Paul says, “deal with them.” Deal with these weights that tend to slow us down. Deal with unbelief. Deal with an individual weakness – and then now finish the verse,
“…and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” How did Paul put it? Let’s go back to II Timothy chapter 4 – and I just revel in things like this. This is something that everyone of us can say along with the Apostle. And I think the Lord wants everyone of us to say this with the Apostle. Now remember this is just shortly before he’s martyred.
II Timothy 4:6-7
“For I am now ready to be offered, (that is his life) and the time of my departure (that is from this life) is at hand. (Here it comes.) 7. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”
What do you suppose he’s referring to? The boxing matches in the Olympics. That was always his illustration. “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course.” Now what’s he talking about? The race. See? The course for the race. Whether it was a half-mile or quarter-mile or whatever, it was a prescribed course that those runners followed. And Paul says, “I’ve run it.”
I have run the race, “I have finished my course, (I have gone the prescribed way that God laid out for me.) I have kept the faith.” Now listen, go back with me to II Corinthians chapter 11, and in this passage, Paul isn’t bragging. You know when we were teaching Corinthians, we were constantly reminding folk that Paul had to defend his apostleship. You remember that? Well, this is what he did to defend his apostleship. This is what he went through constantly for almost 25 years for the sake of the Gospel. Well, the Lord may expect some of us to do the same thing, see? All right, II Corinthians chapter 11 and I’ll just jump right in at verse 22. And remember, he’s defending his apostleship. Some were saying, “Well who are you? We’ll follow Peter or we’ll follow Christ.” But you see this was his reply to them that said that, and questioned his Apostleship.
II Corinthians 11:22-23a
“Are they Hebrews? (speaking of the Twelve back there in Jerusalem) so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23. Are they ministers of Christ?(now in parenthesis his humility comes in even thought it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit. He said,) [I speak as a fool] (but here’s the truth of the matter. Compared to the Twelve he’s what?) I am more:…” As far as I’m concerned, he’s more the minister of Christ than all Twelve put together, and here’s the reason.
II Corinthians 11:23b
“…in labours more abundant,” Now you’ve got to know your book of Acts. What did he mean here when he said, “he had labours more abundant?” How much do you hear of the Twelve after you get past Acts chapters 2 or 3? Almost nothing with the exception of Peter, James and John. The other nine you hear nothing of. Why? They never left Jerusalem. All Twelve of them just stayed right there at Jerusalem for the most part. They didn’t go out into the Roman world. They weren’t out under all the pressures and the afflictions of the Roman Empire. Hey, they stayed in Jerusalem. In spite of all the persecution that was upon those Jewish believers, they all scattered except who? Except the apostles. They didn’t leave. They stayed in Jerusalem. But this man is out amongst that Roman Empire, and now look what happened.
II Corinthians 11:24
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” (or the thirty-nine.) And listen, none of us can even have the foggiest notion of what a horrible experience it was to be beaten with those thirty-nine stripes. Most ordinary men couldn’t even survive one of these whippings, and he went through five of them. Imagine, with the whole torso from the belt up, front and back, was made like hamburger. With no antibiotics. Can you imagine what that body looked like by the time he died? Scar tissue on scar tissue on scar tissue. But that’s what he suffered for the sake of the Gospel. But that’s only a part of it. Read on.
II Corinthians 11:25a
“Thrice (three times) was I beaten with rods, (and that is despicable. You and I can’t comprehend what it was like to be beaten with rods.) once was I stoned, …” And we picked that up of course outside of Derby and Lystra, back there in the book of Acts as they dragged him out of the city like a dead horse. That’s what the Greek implies. They tied a rope around his foot and drug him out and left him for dead. All for the sake of the Gospel.
II Corinthians 11:25b
“…thrice (three time) I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;” In other words for 24 hours straight he was in the ocean. Now verse 26. You want to remember, his ministry covered a period of about 25 years.
II Corinthians 11:26a
“In journeyings often,…” Now I just told somebody at break time, we travel a lot. It isn’t because we love to. If it was for anything but the Lord, I’d rather stay home, because I love it on the ranch, and I’d rather just stay there. And so I can just get a little inkling of what Paul meant here. Why was he constantly traveling? For the sake of the Gospel. That’s all. It wasn’t that he enjoyed living out of a suitcase. He did it for the sake of the Gospel. See?
II Corinthians 11:26-28
“In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, (that’s why the Jews had beaten him and had scourged him those five times) in perils by the heathen, (the non-Jewish world) in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
And in addition to all those hardships, he was concerned for all these little congregations that he had started throughout the Roman Empire. Now that’s what it means to “run the race.” That’s what he meant when he said, “I have finished my course.” And that’s what he meant when he said, “Through it all his faith never wavered.” He kept the faith.
Well all of that is just good instruction for us. All right, so back to Hebrews chapter 12. Using himself as an example, I’m sure, he admonishes his fellow believers to “run the race with patience that is set before us.” Now move on to verse 2, as we run the race, as we fight the battles of life, we are to be:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;…” Now in another place in Hebrews it’s referred to as the “file leader.” And if you’ll remember way back, several months ago, my how long have we been in Hebrews? A year or two? It’s been a long time, but you know, I made the analogy of the words “file leader” and I went back to some of the old movies of the western cavalry and I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of how that line of horse cavalry would just wind down the mountainside. You’ve seen them. Who was at the head? Not the private, but the top-ranking officer. He led his troops. Well, that’s the picture that we’re to get here of Christ. He is our “file leader.” As we wind on into eternity, He is the Author, He is the Leader. Now, of course, Paul says, that he’s right behind Him, and then we follow behind Paul. That’s the picture he leaves.
But the whole concept here from Hebrews is that Christ is not only the “author and the finisher of our faith,” He is our file leader. We follow Him, and Him alone. All right, so we look unto Jesus, up there at the front, leading us on into eternity “and the finisher of our faith.” In other words, not only did He begin it, He finished it.
“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,…” Now that is hard to comprehend isn’t it? He knew what was coming. He knew exactly what every Roman soldier would do to Him. He knew the horrors of having all the sin of the world laid on Him, long before it happened.
Go back to Philippians. We like to use as many Scriptures as possible because that’s the name of the game, compare Scripture with Scripture. And this is one that I have used over and over on the program. Philippians chapter 2 and I usually like to start up there in verse 5. If you read it often enough, first thing you know, you can quote it – have you found that out yet? If you just use a few verses often enough, it isn’t long until you can quote them. At least be close enough that you’re not hurting it any. All right:
“Let this mind be in you, (think as He thought,) which was also in Christ Jesus: 6. Who (speaking of Christ) being in the form of God, (He was God. Never anything less than God.)thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” In other words, when He claimed to be God, He was not taking anything away from the power of the Godhead. Now verse 7:
“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, (or a bond slave is the true Greek meaning) and was made in the likeness of men: (now here it comes)8. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Now I think I shared in one of our seminars in Carolina, I don’t think I’ve ever met a believer that can comprehend ALL that took place at that cross. Now you just think about it. There is so much more there than meets human understanding – we’ll never comprehend it until we get to eternity; how that God laid all the sin and guilt of the whole human race on Him. I can’t comprehend that His shed blood was such that would pay the last iota of sin debt of the human race. I can’t understand that. I believe it, but to comprehend all this? No. And I don’t think any human being can – that all was accomplished when He finished the work of the cross.
Now just to show you that He knew just exactly what was coming, come all the way back with me to Luke 18 – verses that we’ve used in years gone by. Just to show that He knew exactly what was coming. He could have named the Roman soldiers who would taunt Him. He could have named the Roman soldiers who would nail Him to the cross. He could have named those people that sat around Him scoffing, long before it happened. And yet He never flinched. He never had second thoughts about finishing the work of the cross. All right, Luke 18 verse 31. This is shortly before they go up to Jerusalem.
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. (And here He speaks of it.) 32. For he (speaking of Himself) shall be delivered to the Gentiles, shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33. And they shall scourge him, (now you know what scourging was, that was just about like what Paul got five times.) and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” He knew it was coming to the last detail. But the Twelve didn’t. And I always tell people, don’t stop there. Read that next verse.
“And they, (the Twelve) understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” The Twelve had no idea what was going to happen. And like I’ve said over and over, that’s why they couldn’t preach Paul’s Gospel, which is faith in the death, burial and resurrection for salvation, like we see in I Corinthians 15:1-4, and Romans 10:9-10, because it hadn’t happened yet. They didn’t know it was going to happen, otherwise why would they have been sitting outside the tomb on Resurrection morning?