STUDIES IN HEBREWS

© Rosemary Bardsley, 2002

STUDY TWELVE: THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF FAITH

Not only are we surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses to the perseverance of true faith (12:1) we are also to run the race looking, with undivided attention, at Jesus.(The word is not a command, as in the NIV - 'let us fix our eyes on Jesus' - but a present participle, describing how we are to run the race: we are to run looking at Jesus.)

A. THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF FAITH

Jesus is called 'the author and perfecter of faith' (the 'our' is not in the Greek text). There are two meanings here:

[1] one, that Jesus is the source or origin, and the goal or end of faith. He is the one who generates and gives faith. If he did not reveal God to us we would believe only in a lie, a weak substitute for the one true God. Jesus is the Light, the Truth, the Way - to see him is to see God, to know him is to know God - hence he, and he alone is the author, or source, of true faith. Aside from faith generated by Christ all faith is worthless for its object is worthless. In that Christ is the goal or end of faith, he is the one to whom our faith is directed and in whom it finds its hoped for end; just as he generated faith in our hearts, even so he will not disappoint us. All that we believe about God because of Christ, all that we trust God for because of Christ is, and will be, validated by Christ. In him all that faith believes has is expected outcome. He is the consummation of faith.

[2] the second meaning is the one that has specific relation to the context of the letter to the Hebrews . It is this: they are told to run looking at Jesus Christ 'as the one who has blazed the trail of faith and as the one who Himself ran the race of faith to its triumphant finish' (FF Bruce, p351). In this way the man, Jesus, is the Witness above all others that true faith endures. The writer is telling his readers: you have all these men and women of faith surrounding you as witnesses to the endurance of faith under pressure, and without the ultimate realization of the promises made to them; in addition, you have Jesus: he, above all these others, leads the way in the race of faith, triumphing over all that was opposed to him, enduring the shame, enduring the scorn and ridicule, enduring the cross, bringing faith to its intended goal. 'Christ in the days of His flesh trod undeviatingly the path of faith, and as the Perfecter has brought it to a perfect end in His own Person. Thus He is the leader of all others who tread that path' (WE Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p88).

Earlier in Hebrews we read:

'In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering' (2:10), and 'Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him ... ' (2:18-3:2a).

FF Bruce comments: 'for the great salvation which the gospel proclaims was not only "spoken through the Lord", as we have been told above, but was procured for us by Him through His passion. He is the Pathfinder, the Pioneer of our salvation; this is the meaning of the word archegos, rendered "author" here in ARV and "captain" in AV. He is the Saviour who blazed the trail of salvation along which alone God's "many sons" could be brought to glory. Man, created by God for His glory, was prevented by sin from attaining that glory until the Son of Man came and opened up by His death a new way by which man might reach the goal for which he was made. As His people's representative and forerunner He has now entered into the presence of God to secure their entry there' (p43).

And 'He endured keen trials and temptations Himself, not only the trials incidental to our human lot, but those subtle temptations which attended His messianic calling. Time and again the temptation came to Him from many directions to choose some less costly way of fulfilling that calling than the way of suffering and death, but He resisted it to the end and set His face steadfastly to accomplish the purpose for which He had come into the world. Now His people were not only enduring those trials which are common to mankind, but were being tempted in their turn to be disloyal to God and give up their Christian profession. What a source of strength it was to them to be assured that in the presence of God they had as their champion and intercessor one who had known similar and even sorer temptations, and had withstood them victoriously!' (p 53).

So we are told to run 'looking at Jesus' 'fixing our eyes on Jesus', because he has run this same race of faith to the max, suffering opposition, suffering intense pressure to give up and give in.

B. THE RACE THAT JESUS RAN

We will look now at the Gospel record of the opposition and pressure that confronted Jesus. We will 'consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men' as we are commanded in Hebrews 12:3. In John 17:4 his testimony to the Father was 'I have finished the work you gave me to do'. He had run the race. He had almost finished the course set before him. There remained yet one more massive exposure to pressure and temptation, which he faced in the Garden of Gethsemane. His steadfastness there, his endurance there, led on to his ultimate suffering and his ultimate victory in the cross.

References
Type of opposition/pressure/testing

Matthew 4;

Mark 1:13;

Luke 4:1-13

He was tempted by the devil.

Matthew 9:3;

John 5:18; 10:31-33.

Accused of blasphemy.

Matthew 9:11;

Mark 2:16;

Luke 5:30; 7:39; 15:2; 19:7

Questioned because he associated with tax-collectors and sinners.

Matthew 9:34; 12:24;

Mark 3:22;

Luke 11:15

Accused of working with Satan's power.

Matthew 12:1-14;

Mark 3:23-3:5;

Luke 6:1-11; 13:14:

John 5:10-16; 9:16

Opposed because of his actions on the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:14; 21:46; 22:15; 26:3-5, 14ff;

Mark 3:6; 11:18: 12:12; 14:10,11;

Luke 11:53,54; 20:19-20; 22:2-6;

John 5:18; 7:30, 32,44; 11:49-53, 57

Target of murderous plots.

Matthew 12:38; 16:1;

Mark 8:11-12;

Luke 11:16;

John 6:30ff

Pressured to provide signs.

Matthew 13:55ff; 23:37;

Mark 6:1-5

Luke 4:28-30; 7:30

John 1:11,12; 7:5

Rejected by his own.

Matthew 14:31; 16:8ff; 17:17-21

Mark 4:40; 6:6; 8:14-21; 9:19,23

Luke 8:25; 9:41

Surrounded by little faith.

Matthew 15:2

Mark 2:18

Luke 5:33

Opposition because of ritual law.

Matthew 16:21; 17:22ff; 26:1,2,12,36-46

Mark 8:31,32; 9:31; 10:32-34; 14:8,33-42

Luke 9:22,44; 18:31-33; 22:14-22,39-46

John 2:19-22; 12:23-33; 13:1,18

Awareness of his impending fate at the hands of the Jews.

Matthew 16:22-23

Mark 8:33

Misunderstood and opposed by Peter, as a tool of Satan.

Matthew 19:13; 20:20-28

Mark 9:32-37; 10:13;

Luke 9:46-56; 18:34

His priorities misunderstood.

Matthew 21:23

Mark 11:27-33

Luke 20:1-8

His authority questioned.

Matthew 22:45

Mark 10:2; 12:13-34;

Luke 20:20-40

John 8:1-11

Target of theological and political traps.

Matthew 26:31-35

Mark 14:18-31

Luke 22:31-34

John 13:31-38

Awareness of the weakness of his disciples' commitment.

Matthew 26:57-27:56

Mark 14:53-15:39;

Luke 22:47-23:49;

John 18:1-19:37

Unjustly tried, abused, mocked and crucified.

Mark 3:21

Thought to be out of his mind.

Mark 3:20

John 7:20; 8:48-52; 10:20

Accused of having an evil spirit.

John 2:23-25

Attracted false believers.

John 5:16-47; 6:25-70; 7:25-44; 8:12-58; 10:1-21, 24-38; 14:7-9.

Misunderstood/not recognized in terms of his identity.

John 5:17-18; 6:41ff; 8:12-59

Opposition because of his claims about his identity.

John 6:60-66

His followers left because of his claims.

John 7:7

Hated.

John 7:12

Accused of deceiving the people.

All of this is included when the writer to the Hebrews says 'looking, with undivided attention, at Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith'. Jesus has run the race, has fought the fight of faith, before us. He is the Pioneer of faith. He is the Blazer of the trail. He does not ask us to endure pressures of which he knows nothing; rather he has met every kind of anti-god, anti-faith pressure head on. Not only this; he has also come right through, with faith intact, with faith victorious. In him human faith finds its ultimate and perfect expression.

So we are exhorted to 'fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of (our) faith'.

C. THE MINDSET OF JESUS

'Let us fix our eyes on Jesus ... who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame ... ' (12:2).

[1] ' ... for the joy set before him ... ' Every race has a finish line. Every contest has a prize or reward. The expected goal for which Jesus ran this ultimate race is here condensed into one word: 'joy'.

What is this 'joy' that motivated and empowered Jesus to persevere? What was in his mind as he suffered, right through his life, the opposition and rejection of sinful men? There are several answers to this question:

  • (a) the joy of doing his Father's will: The desire and commitment to do the will of his Father is the undergirding mindset of Jesus Christ. In Psalm 40:8 (quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 as the utterance of Jesus) this delight in doing God's will is stated: I delight to do your will (KJV). It is evident in the words of Jesus in John 4:34, where he states that to do God's will and finish God's work is his 'food' - it is that which sustains and strengthens him. It is expressed also in John 5:30 - 'I seek not to please myself but him who sent me' and in John 6:38 - 'I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me'. As we have already seen, Jesus summed up his life with the words 'I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do' (John 17:4). This is the mind of Christ: that at the bottom line nothing else mattered except doing the will of his Father: that was his delight; that was his desire; that was his commitment. That is the mindset of perfect faith.
  • (b) the joy of 'bringing many sons to glory' (Hebrews 2:10): In Isaiah 53:11 (KJV) we read 'He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: for he shall bear their iniquities' and in Zephaniah 3:17 we read 'He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.' Jesus himself, by way of parables, twice called to us 'Rejoice with me; for I have found (that) which was lost' (Luke 15:6, 9, KJV), and once was astounded at our lack of feeling: 'We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found' (Luke 15:32). For this joy, this joy of finding the lost, this joy of giving eternal life to those who are spiritually dead, this joy of restoring and reinstating us as God's children - for this joy Jesus endured.
  • (c) the joy of returning to his rightful glory in heaven. Jesus prayed 'And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began' (John 17:5; see also John 13:32). Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of this glory on the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:28-37); Paul was blinded by it in Acts 9; John saw it in a vision (Revelation 1:9-19). Jesus was and is the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8); it was he whom Isaiah saw in the temple (Isaiah 6; John 12:41). Beyond the rejection, beyond the opposition, beyond the pain and the suffering, beyond the pressure, Jesus knew that there was a restoration of his eternal glory. For this joy he also endured.

[2] Endurance: We are told that Jesus 'endured the cross' and 'endured such opposition from sinful men' (Hebrews 12:2,3). He hung in there, not giving up, not giving in under the prolonged and intense pressure that culminated in the cross. Like a marathon runner, Jesus was there for the long haul. This persistent endurance is expressed in Luke's comment 'As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem' (Luke 9:51) and Jesus' statement: 'Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?' (John 18:11). Reaching its ultimate expression in the cross, this endurance also pulsates right through the Gospels, as Jesus suffered all that is listed in the table above. For the joy that was set before him Jesus endured all of this.

For your study: Look again at that list of pressures that Jesus was subjected to, and as you read through it remember that this person suffering all of this rejection, all of this refusal to believe his word, all of this denial of his right to make the claims he made, this person, this Jesus, had it in his power to withhold his sustaining, life-giving word and all of those opposing him would have ceased to exist. Meditate on the power of his patience and power of his grace. God with us rejected by us. He who is the truth, called a liar. He who is God designated a blasphemer. He, to whom is due all the worship of all the creatures on the earth, and with whose praise all that is in the heavens and on the earth pulsates, this Jesus endured. Without giving up. Without lashing out. To the end.

[3] 'scorning its shame' ('despising the shame' KJV). Because of the joy that was before him Jesus 'despised' the shame. This is speaking of his mindset, his mental attitude to all that he was subjected to, to all that is listed in the table above, and above all, this is speaking of his mental attitude to the cross - to the utter shame and ignominy and public humiliation of that death and what led up to it. The verb translated 'scorning' or 'despising' is kataphroneo which literally means to 'think down upon'. Here we are told that in Jesus' mind he considered the shame of the cross of no significance, no importance - not worth allowing to have any impact upon him and his commitment to his purpose. This mindset is put before us in Philippians 2:5-11 where we are taught that Jesus 'made himself nothing ... he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!' Far from denying that there was any shame or humiliation, this verse affirms that there was shame, but such was the pure faith of Jesus, such was his commitment to the joy set before him, that he despised that shame. The depth and the greatness of this we sinful humans can never understand: we can only stand in awe and worship. We deserve the shame and humiliation: he did not. We are but sinners: he, as stated before, is the Lord of glory. We have been surrounded by sin and shame all of our brief lives: he is the holy One who inhabits eternity.

Yet true faith can grasp something from his example here: those of true faith also know that there is joy set before them; those of true faith also know that all is not as it seems, that, just as it was with the Lord Jesus, so it is with the true believe: there is more than meets the eye: that even now we are the children of God, even though the world does not know it (1 John 3:1-2), and that there is a reality that supersedes the visible, tangible reality, a reality that encourages us also to 'think down upon' any shame, humiliation and ignominy that comes to us because we name his name. Those who truly know the ultimate Wisdom can be content for the brief space of this life to be thought fools. Such is the mindset of faith.

D. 'CONSIDER HIM ... '

Having already told us to look fixedly to Jesus, to the exclusion of all else, our writer now tells us to 'consider him' (12:3). The word is not the usual word for 'consider' but one that seems to mean 'reckon it all up and come to a calculated and reasoned conclusion'. In other words God wants us to really think about Jesus and his attitude to the suffering and opposition he encountered from sinful men. It is this' considering' of Jesus which will prevent us from growing weary and losing heart when we are subjected to persecution, misunderstanding and discouragement.