Hebrews 12:14: A Test Case for the Run-for-the-Prize View -- By: John Niemelä

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 23:45 (Autumn 2010)
Article: Hebrews 12:14: A Test Case for the Run-for-the-Prize View
Author: John Niemelä

Hebrews 12:14: A Test Case for the Run-for-the-Prize View

John Niemelä

Professor of New Testament:
Rocky Mountain Bible College and Seminary, Denver, CO

I. Introduction

Gabriela “Gaby” Andersen-Schiess represented Switzerland in the women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Only 400 meters remained in her race as she stumbled into the stadium. Her right leg seized and, with a twisted torso and limp left arm, she staggered. Some cheered for her; others pled for officials to pull her from the race. She refused medical attention, because that would disqualify her. Continuing perspiration proved that heat stroke had not begun, so medical personnel let her hobble forward for an agonizing five minutes and forty-four seconds. Eventually, she fell across the finish line. She was fine again within two hours.

Why did she endure such agony? Did she fear losing her native-born Swiss citizenship for failure to finish? Would she face a firing squad for quitting? Would she owe a fine for an incomplete race? No, she finished for a sense of national and personal accomplishment.

Through the use of we and us, Heb 12:1-4 urges believers to join the author in completing the Christian race:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

What is at stake in this race? Context argues that eternal reward is the issue. Unfortunately, many understand Hebrews to restrict the possession of everlasting life to those who those who finish the race, that is, to those who persevere in faith and good works to the end. Under that view the author is threatening his audience with eternal condemnation: Run for your lives, because you will perish eternally if you do not finish the race. The opposite is actually true. The author of Hebrews actually assures his readers, whom he calls “holy brethren” (3:1; cf. 10:19) and “beloved” (6:9), of their possession of life that c...

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