Are You Running for Sonship or Merely Being Religious (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Posted: May 6, 2013 in Faith, Jesus Christ, Sonship
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PerfeHebrews 12 What makes the course worth runningction

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect[1]. Hebrews 11:39-40

  • teleióō; complete, mature. To complete, make perfect by reaching the intended goal.

Gods Purpose for us is Sonship by FaithWhat makes us perfect? Why did the Old Testament Heroes of faith have to wait on us to be made perfect?

Becasue they could not have Sonship until the Only Begotten Son had proven Himself to be the perfect Son! God’s purpose for our lives is to live as Sons by Faith. Faith will bring us to the perfection God has in mind for us-Sonship. In order for that to happen, we must agree to run the course God has for us, and run it not in the flesh, but by Faith in Jesus Christ and His power for life!

Faith Brings us to Perfection

Faith is essential to making us perfect! Faith is more than a belief. It is belief that expresses itself in two essential life changing components – the hope for God arising from need, and the resulting desire to demonstrate the reality of God’s Kingdom in our daily living. (Hebrews 11:1,6)

Faith in God has always been Essential

Faith Makes You PerfectGod wanted his people to realize the importance of living by faith. He outlined a life of faith in the first five books of the Bible. He gave them a way of living that He hoped would lead them to live a life of faith, and they turned it into a burdensome set of rules and laws. There was no demonstration of the supernatural reality of God’s Kingdom. Their obedience was not relationship based but a fleshly fear and tradition religious observance. There was no faith that arose from a heart-felt need for this loving and awesome invisible God. God’s Kingdom became a list of physical chores that was impossible to complete in the flesh. Their lives failed to demonstrate the invisible God who desires to walk and live among us. The Jews followed a religion as best they could in their own strength, and in so doing lost sight of the power of this awesome invisible God. The God of Awesome Power became a God of the past to the generations who followed. They grew up hearing, but no longer saw for themselves.

We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. Psalm 44:1

A few verses from Leviticus (26:1-4) illustrate God’s heart for His people and His desire for them to understand the need for living by faith:

“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God.”

1. I am the only God that can meet all your needs. I am invisible, and there is no image that can adequately express me. Your lives are the means of my expression.

“You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.”

2. Simply demonstrate my reality by doing something the whole world will be in awe at: observe the Sabbath, and reverence my sanctuary as if I was really there (I AM). (Understand that most heathen places of worship were anything but reverential)

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,”

3. Follow the Way, the Truth and the Life (Need for Jesus Christ)

  1. Walk in (He is the Way)
  2. Observe my (His Word is the Truth for our living)
  3. Do them (His life is to be our daily life)

Their lives were to be lived in the power of God’s Word and God’s Way. His Word contained designs for living that would do miraculous things in their health, finances and safety, far beyond their fleshly abilities. God wanted them to live in full need of His provision and power.

“Then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” Leviticus 26:1-4

4. I Will…

  1. If the people’s faith led them to live lives in demonstration of His reality, God would do amazing things.
  2. The picture contained in the verses paint a portrait of the Garden of Eden (although tainted by sin)
  3. God would walk among His people because they were living representatives of His Kingdom.

Why did the Jews fail to see God’s desire for a relationship in His Law? Why did they turn God’s design for relationship into a religion of burdensome laws that failed to reproduce God’s life in them?

Failure of the Law

The failure was the Law. Hebrews 8:7 says it was flawed. It contained the elements of a relationship, but made no provision for a fundamental change in the heart. This was critical, because this relationship with God is not a matter of fleshly obedience. As Paul says:

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. Romans 2:28-29

Life Changing Faith Requires a New Heart

Christ ministers a New HeartFor faith to be life-changing, there must be a provision for a changed heart. The flesh with all of its desires and corruption is too much to overcome. The power of the flesh had to be destroyed.

This was accomplished once and for all by Jesus Christ. He overcame all! He became the living power behind the “Way, Truth and Life” request of Leviticus 26:3. Instead of God waiting upon man to “walk, observe and do” before “He will”, God acted and gave us His Son as our “Way, Truth and Life.” (John 14:6)

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we now have the promise of a new heart, a heart that has the power to “walk, observe and do…”(from Lev 26:3). We have the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39) and the promise that we are no longer servants of sin and the flesh (Romans 6:6-7). The power of Satan has been completely destroyed (1 John 3:8). This is why Paul can confidently assure us:

„ and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

„ But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, Romans 6:17

The success of our living by faith and enjoying a supernatural relationship with an invisible God depends totally upon having a new heart! The writer of Hebrews confirms this when he illustrates the power of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. Hebrews 8:7-11

Once more Paul brings this home in Galatians.

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Galatians 6:15

Our works do not matter unless they come from a new heart created by the new birth of the Holy Spirit. Faith is the only means of pleasing God (Heb 11:6), for faith alone is the transformative power whereby we are declared righteous (Heb 11:7,Rom 4:3), declared justified (Rom 5:1) and declared to be God’s Son (Gal 3:26).

Ridderbos has this to say on the connection between faith and the entire Christian life:

“One can conclude nothing other than that faith is the way in which, having died and risen with Christ, life through the Spirit, putting on the new man, being renewed after the image of Christ, regeneration, in short, the new creation of God, is realized and individualized.”[2]

So it is by faith that we walk in God, observe His design and do His will. It is by faith that we have life that is overcoming and eternal. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).

Sonship is God’s Design of Perfection for Us!

Perfection is SonshipGod is bringing all who by faith give their lives to His Son for His intended Goal and that is complete Sonship.

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:5-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption[i] as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

God’s design and plan for all born again believers is achieve “toga virilis” status in the Kingdom. “Toga virilis” was the ceremony whereby the father declared his boy to be a true “Son”, a man, mature, able to vote and conduct business on the father’s behalf. Indeed, the son was to be regarded as an extension of the father. The son was to be the manager and heir of the father’s estate. All that the father had was the sons. A father could even go outside the family if he did not think his boys were worthy. He could ‘adopt’ another young man and place him as the Son to manage his goods and inherit everything.

We are to be worthy heirs of all that is His, placed as Sons by His grace. Sons who will reign as Priests with the authority of Jesus Christ over the New Heaven and New Earth, which will be joined, for the desire of God dwelling with man will be realized for all eternity. Paradise will be found, for Christ has secured the “Title Deed” to the Earth (Rev 5:1-11)!

Fulfilling God’s Design to receive adoption as sons is why Hebrews 12:1 & 2 are so important. There is a great deal at stake in our completing the course. Following Christ and being conformed to His likeness as Sons is not a leisurely stroll. It is not a 50 meter dash. It is not a onetime confession you make as a youth. Attaining the Adoption and “toga virilis” status of Sonship is a life-long journey that requires endurance and a faith commitment to Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Hebrews  is  all  about  our  Perfection  as Sons

  • Hebrews is about our Perfection as SonsFor it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10
  • And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, Hebrews 5:9
  • (For the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19
  • For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:28
  • (Which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, Hebrews 9:9
  • But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) Hebrews 9:11
  • For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1
  • For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
  • Since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:40
  • and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, Hebrews 12:23
  • Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:21

Jesus Endured the Cross and Achieved Complete Sonship

  • For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10
  • And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, Hebrews 5:9
The Perfection of Christ as Son enables our perfection as Sons

Sonship Requires a Decision

I am not talking about children of God. You can remain a baby or a toddler if you want. Babies don’t have faith; for they are too busy feeding off their surroundings. They do not have the ability to reach up and grow in faith. Toddlers are too busy trying to avoid falling. They do not need faith because they are too focused on the obstacles round them, or the bright shiny toys.

Only those who desire the toga virilis require faith, those who want to be Sons of God, who want to reign with Him. Sons must grow up, train, and endure tests and trial before they are awarded the toga virilis. Do you want to be a Son? Then step forward by faith and start living as if you are a Son of God! Start running the Course God has for you by Faith!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Faith gives power for SonshipFaith Provides the Power for Sonship

1. Run the Course

Therefore. Reaching back and gathering together all the heroes of faith, who by faith endured so much for promises they never obtained in this life (from chapter 11). They never knew Christ, but we have!
They are our witnesses[3]

  • does not mean spectators, but those who have born witness to the truth,

2. Run[4] with endurance[5].

  • Run with both passive endurance and active persistence.
  • Bear up under, patience, endurance as to things or circumstances. This is in contrast to makrothumía, long-suffering or endurance toward people. Hupomoné is associated with hope (patience of hope-1 Thess. 1:3) and refers to that quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial.

3. Lay aside fleshly encumbrances[6]

  • A tumor, mass, magnitude, weight, burden, impediment
  • Lay aside swollen pride, dependence upon the flesh. These are fleshly things which tend to trip us up from living by faith!

4. Lay aside sin[7]

  • Sin of self reliance, not wanting God’s design in your life
  • Guilt that accompanies your sin

5. Run the Course that God Assigns You.

  • The specific word for a race (dromos) is not used, the general term for an athletic contest (agon) being chosen. The words “set before us” (prokeimai) give one the idea that a certain type of race is placed before the Christian.
  • The idea in the word prokeimai is that of something lying before you. It is like a road that stretches out before one’s gaze[8].

Sonship requires Determined Choices

So we must consider the course before us, and determine to run it, no matter the cost. We must realize this is a marathon, and trials will be great. There can be no turning back. There can be no excuses. Remember all those who testified before to the worthwhile pursuit of this course. But also remember the one who is our ultimate example…Jesus Christ!

Running the Course with Faith Produces SonshipLook to Jesus Daily
There is No Faith for Sonship Without Jesus Christ

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

1. Looking[9] unto Jesus

  • Fix your mind intently upon Jesus.
  • The word “looking” is aphorao “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.” The word also means “to turn one’s mind to a certain thing.”[10]
  • Let this mind be in you (Phil 2:5)
  • Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2)

2. The author and perfector of our faith[11]

  • (No “our”). He is the author and the completeness of faith.
  • This means that Jesus is the one who initiates (and completes) faith in the souls of men.
  • In the context faith is treated as a way of life. The author summons a “cloud of witnesses” whose lives testify to the reward of the life of faith. Jesus stands as the chief witness for it was He who blazed the trail and gave us the ideal model of “the faith[12]

Nazi Prisoners go crazy without purposeAn Illustration from a Nazi Concentration Camp

In a Nazi concentration camp in Hungary during the Second World War prisoners were forced to do nauseating work in a sewage plant. But it was work; and something was accomplished. Then the plant was destroyed by allied bombers. So the Nazi officers arranged for the prisoners to shovel sand into carts and drag it to the other end of the plant and dump it. The next day they ordered them to shovel it back into the carts and bring it to where they started. And so it went for days.

Finally one old man began crying uncontrollably; the guards hauled him away. Another screamed until he was beaten into silence. Then a young man who had survived three years in the camp darted away from the group. The guards shouted for him to stop as he ran toward the electrified fence. The other prisoners cried out, but it was too late; there was a blinding flash and a terrible sizzling noise as smoke puffed from his smoldering flesh. In the days that followed, dozens of the prisoners went mad and ran from their work only to be shot by guards or electrocuted by the fence (Charles Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, p. 68).

You can run the course that you want, but you will drop out, go crazy or kill yourself without running for the purpose God has for you! Why don’t you lay your course at the cross and die to what you want and have planned, and tell God that you want to run for Sonship, by Faith in the power of His Son, Jesus Christ!


[1] teleióō; contracted teleió, fut. teleiósō, from téleios <G5046>, complete, mature. To complete, make perfect by reaching the intended goal. Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1373.

[2] Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of his Theology, trans. John R. de Witt (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1975), 233.

[3] Witnesses (μαρτύρων) does not mean spectators, but those who have born witness to the truth, as those enumerated in ch. 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer’s picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having born witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rests watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, (New York: Scribners, 1887), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, under: “Hebrews Chapter 12″.

[4] Ὑπομονὴ includes both passive endurance and active persistence. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, (New York: Scribners, 1887), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, under: “Hebrews Chapter 12″.

[5] hupomoné; fem. noun from hupoménō <G5278>, to persevere, remain under. A bearing up under, patience, endurance as to things or circumstances. This is in contrast to makrothumía <G3115>, long-suffering or endurance toward people. Hupomoné is associated with hope (1 Thess. 1:3) and refers to that quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, under: “ὑπομονή”.

[6] A tumor, mass, magnitude, weight, burden, impediment. Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, under: “ogkos”.

[7] Sin, missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God. An offense in relation to God with emphasis on guilt. Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 130.

[8] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 214.

[9] aphoráō; contracted aphoró, fut. apópsomai, from apó <G575> an intens., and horáō <G3708>, to look. To look away steadfastly or intently toward a distant object. Metaphorically, to behold in the mind, to fix the mind upon (Phil. 2:23; Heb. 12:2).Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “áphorao”.

[10] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 214.

[11]Christ is the archegon, the chief leader of this faith in that He “furnished the perfect development, the supreme example of faith, and in virtue of this He is the leader of the whole believing host of all time.” He is also the finisher of the faith spoken of in these chapters. The word is teleioo which means “to carry through completely, to finish, to make perfect or complete.”Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 2: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 214.

[12] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “árchegos”.


[i] Barclays has this to say about Roman Adoption process…

“We must understand how serious and complicated a step Roman adoption was that we really under stand the depth of meaning in this passage. Roman adoption was always rendered more serious and more difficult by the Roman patria potestas. This was the father’s power over his family; it was the power of absolute disposal and control, and in the early days was actually the power of life and death. In regard to his father, a Roman son never came of age. No matter how old he was, he was still under the patria potestas, in the absolute possession and under the absolute control, of his father. Obviously this made adoption into another family a very difficult and serious step. In adoption a person had to pass from one patria potestas to another.

There were two steps. The first was known as mancipatio, and was carried out by a symbolic sale, in which copper and scales were symbolically used. Three times the symbolism of sale was carried out. Twice the father symbolically sold his son, and twice he bought him back; but the third time he did not buy him back and thus the patria potestas was held to be broken. There followed a ceremony called vindicatio. The adopting father went to the praetor, one of the Roman magistrates, and presented a legal case for the transference of the person to be adopted into his patria potestas. When all this was completed, the adoption was complete. Clearly this was a serious and an impressive step.

But it is the consequences of adoption which are most significant for the picture that is in Paul’s mind. There were four main ones. (i) The adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. In the most binding legal way, he got a new father. (ii) It followed that he became heir to his new father’s estate. Even if other sons were afterwards born, it did not affect his rights. He was inalienably co-heir with them. (iii) In law, the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out; for instance, all debts were cancelled. He was regarded as a new person entering into a new life with which the past had nothing to do. (iv) In the eyes of the law he was absolutely the son of his new father. Roman history provides an outstanding case of how completely this was held to be true. The Emperor Claudius adopted Nero in order that he might succeed him on the throne; they were not in any sense blood relations. Claudius already had a daughter, Octavia.

To cement the alliance Nero wished to marry her. Nero and Octavia were in no sense blood relations; yet, in the eyes of the law, they were brother and sister; and before they could marry, the Roman senate had to pass special legislation.

That is what Paul is thinking of. He uses still another picture from Roman adoption. He says that God’s spirit witnesses with our spirit that we really are his children. The adoption ceremony was carried out in the presence of seven witnesses. Now, suppose the adopting father died and there was some dispute about the right of the adopted son to inherit, one or more of the seven witnesses stepped forward and swore that the adoption was genuine. Thus the right of the adopted person was guaranteed and he entered into his inheritance. So, Paul is saying, it is the Holy Spirit himself who is the witness to our adoption into the family of God.

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