“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him Who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The cloud of witnesses refers to those who were just mentioned, the great heroes of the Old Testament. By means of their actions based on the application of the doctrine in their souls, they become witnesses to the faithfulness of God. So the writer encourages these believers to follow the pattern of the great faith heroes by ridding themselves of anything that would stop their spiritual advance.
Lay aside is the Greek word “apotithemi”meaning to put away from oneself. In context, it means to prepare oneself for the advance to spiritual maturity. As members of the Royal Family of God, we have some things that might impede our advance, and they have to be removed. We have to get rid of things in our daily lives which have a tendency to tempt us to deviate from God’s plan, purpose and will. That means we have to be aware and alert with regard to certain things in our life. These distractions are not always sin, just as temptation is not a sin. Sometimes the distraction can be a person, a career, entertainment, money or a hundred other things. You sin when you yield to the temptation and do it. The sin in this verse is where you allow something or someone to hinder you from advancing in your spiritual life. These sins may be mental attitude sins, sins of the tongue, overt sins, lust, jealousy, revenge, etc. And each of us has an area of weakness that we must always guard against if we plan on successfully executing the Christian Way of Life.
Endurance in running the spiritual race points to the necessity for being consistent, and the necessity for being persistent about taking in Bible doctrine, and the consistency in applying what you learn. The implication is that we put aside the distractions and as we are advancing we endure every test we face. So endurance is persistent positive volition toward Bible teaching. Our circumstances may be prosperity or adversity, but positive volition toward Bible doctrine must continue throughout every circumstance. And the key to endurance is proper application of what we learn by means of the filling and power of the Holy Spirit.
The race that is set before us is analogous to the Christian walk (experiential sanctification). The Greek word for walk is “stoicheo,” which means to walk in a straight line or row. If we are “walking by means of the Spirit” our steps will align with His. In other words, we will allow the Holy Spirit to control “our steps.” Please remember that God is not an ogre waiting for us to fail so He can “zap” us. God loves us and wants only the best for us. Therefore, we should learn to love ourselves, which entails self-worth and self-respect. God in His grace is always there for us, even in times of our failure. Since God has compassion on us, we should have compassion on ourselves. Evaluate yourself, make the necessary corrections and move forward, one step at a time. But don’t spend time beating yourself up or condemning yourself because of some past failure. (I John 1:6-10)
Fixing our eyes means to turn our “spiritual eyes” away from distractions and concentrate or fix them elsewhere. It means to focus, to concentration on and be occupied with the Person of Jesus Christ. You become occupied with Christ when you obey the same mandates that He obeyed, concentrate on what He concentrated on (Divine Viewpoint Thinking), make positive decisions from a position of strength as He did and use the Problem-Solving Devices constantly, as He did. Christ was our example for the execution of the Christian Way of Life: our perfect role model. Therefore, it is our responsibility to learn all that we can about the life of Christ. We do this through the study of what is called in theology, Christology. Christology is the study of Christ our Savior, the God-Man. Christology is one of the most essential doctrines that we have studied because it reveals to us the Person and the work of Jesus Christ on behalf of us all. We know that the Bible is a progressive revelation of Jesus Christ and it is God’s desire that we all come to know Him. This is why we must be consistent in studying God’s Word. (Hebrews 12:2; I John 4:2; II Timothy 2:15)
Three doctrines in Christology are essential to our spiritual life. These doctrines are the hypostatic union, kenosis, and impeccability.
Jesus Christ is the unique Person of the universe. He is the only Person in history to be both fully God and fully man. The term for this unique union is derived from the Greek word hupostatis meaning essence. In the case of Christ it is both divine and human essence in one Person forever. He is the God-Man. (Hebrews 1:3) Christ was born of a virgin, therefore He was born without a sin nature. He is superior to man because He is God and because He is a sinless human being. He is the only way to God, qualified to be a substitute for all of us. Even though His two natures are united in one Person, they retain their separate identities. The attributes of one do not belong to the other. Deity remains deity and humanity remains humanity. Because of this unique union, Christ is the perfect mediator between God and man. He is the only One in history qualified to go to the Cross and pay the penalty for sin. Christ was also our prototype, in that He lived an impeccable (sinless) life under the control of God the Holy Spirit. (I Timothy 2:5)
Jesus, as a man, is seated at the right hand of the Father at this very moment. Deity is omnipresent and does not sit; only His humanity sits. And it is His humanity that will return to earth at the Second Coming. Theologically we say that Jesus is undiminished deity and true humanity in One Person forever. Undiminished deity in that He is as much God as the Father and the Holy Spirit in essence, attributes and character. True humanity in that our Lord possesses a body, a soul and a spirit. (Acts 5:31; Hebrews 1:3, 4:15,10:5; I Peter 2:24; Matthew 26:38; Mark 2:8; Luke 23:46; I John 3:3)
Christ voluntarily restricted the function of His deity. This doctrine takes its name from the Greek word kenoo, which means to deprive oneself of a rightful function. This doctrine explains how Christ, the creator of the universe, could leave Heaven and become a man. II Corinthians 8:9 tells us that even though Christ was rich, for our sakes He became poor. This is kenosis.
We must remember that Jesus Christ is coequal and coeternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He voluntarily subordinated Himself to the Father’s plan of salvation. This means He also deprived Himself of the exercise of His divine attributes. At no time did Christ “empty Himself” of His deity. He was never less than God. He simply restricted the use of His divine attributes voluntarily. (Colossians 2:9)
Jesus was born as a man and had to learn the Scriptures the same way that we do, under the control and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the One who empowered Him and sustained Him throughout His life on earth. As a man, Christ suffered in the same ways that we suffer but much greater, of course. The ultimate humiliation was suffering the divine judgment from God for our sins. (Matthew 24:36; John 8:56, 16:14; Philippians 2:8)
Christ glorified the Father by executing the Father’s plan, not by glorifying Himself. However, the limitation of kenosis ultimately glorified Christ because He was able to execute the plan perfectly, without sin. As a testimony to the fact that God is completely satisfied with the Son, Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father. This impeccable life was our prototype to demonstrate to us the fact that we too can execute God’s plan. (John 19:30; Philippians 2:5-8)
Christ remained free from the three categories of sin: the sin nature, Adam’s original sin and personal sins. The sin nature, as we have studied, is passed down genetically from the father, but Christ had no human father. The virgin birth of Christ assured that He would have no sin nature. (I Corinthians 15:22)
Without a sin nature, Adam’s original sin could not be imputed to Christ since it had no home or target as it does with the rest of humanity. Therefore, the first two categories of sin were already taken care of when He was born. Christ was born physically and spiritually alive, whereas we are born physically alive but spiritually dead (separated from God). (Romans 6:12)
Christ did, however, have to face the avoidance of personal sin. As deity, He was not able to sin and as humanity, He was able not to sin. This means that the possibility of committing personal sin existed. Christ was tempted to sin in His humanity, not in His deity. God cannot be tempted to sin, but Christ, as a man, could be tempted to sin. How could Christ accomplish the amazing task of a sinless life? The only way He succeeded in not sinning was by residing in and relying upon the power and the control of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, our Savior has paved the way for us to execute the Victorious Christian Way of Life. (James 1:13; Hebrews 4:15; I John 3:5; Matthew 4:1-4)
“Able not to sin” emphasizes Christ’s free will to make the right decisions to obey God’s mandates. Satan’s temptations of Christ were real and intense. And remember that Christ in His humanity was personally weaker than Satan, yet He was able to resist him by the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 2:7)
The filling of God the Holy Spirit is much more powerful that Satan, all his demons and this world system. Christ tested and proved the life under the control of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be sinless as Christ, but we can use the same power system that He used. And God has also given us the Rebound recovery system, something that Christ did not need, in order that we might utilize this power system to our maximum advantage. We, therefore, have no excuse for not living in the same spiritual environment in which Christ lived. We can acquire wisdom, make good decisions from a position of strength, develop a personal sense of destiny, increase our capacity for love, happiness and blessing, have complete control over our lives and bring glory and honor to God by a life of virtue and integrity.
Occupation with the Person of Christ means that Jesus Christ has become our best friend. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) It means that we are fully aware of Christ in every area of our lives and that we are staying in fellowship with Him a maximum amount of time. It means that we are thinking divine viewpoint based on our knowledge of His Word and that we have no higher goal in life than to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our words and in our actions. “…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
(II Corinthians 10:5) “But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:16b) Our minds are to be saturated with His mind. The apostle Paul is a great example of a person occupied with Christ. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is profit.” (Philippians 1:19-21)
What caused our Lord to endure the shame of the Cross and what motivated His substitutionary spiritual death was the Bible doctrine resident in His human soul. Bible doctrine resident in His soul oriented Him to the plan of God the Father. It was the plan of God the Father for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and become our Savior. He was unique in human history because of the Virgin Birth. He was unique in His life upon this earth because of His perfection. Just as we have an objective today, spiritual maturity, Christ had an objective - the Cross. Bible doctrine motivated Him not only to joyfully go to the Cross but it also motivated Him to remain on that Cross until the penalty for sin was completely paid. So doctrine resident in His soul motivated Him to endure the Cross. Just as Bible doctrine motivated and sustained Christ, it was also designed to motivate and sustain those Jewish believers in Jerusalem in AD 67 who were weary and had lost heart. And, in like manner, it will motivate and sustain us today!