1 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,
Now we come to the supreme example of faith—our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the prime example of persistence by faith.
Chapter 12 continues the thought of endurance by faith begun in chapter 11. The converted Jews to whom God wrote Hebrews were tempted to relapse back into the Old Testament economy. Their challenge was to continue under the New Covenant by faith. This would take the effort of a marathon runner in a grueling race.
The “therefore” here is a marker of result from the heroes of faith in chapter 11.
we also [emphatic],
The two words “we also” are emphatic in the Greek. New Testament believers as well walk by faith.
since we are surrounded
All the heroes of faith from chapter 11 surround the readers of Hebrews with great testimonies. They testify to the efficacy of faith in God. They were no fickle followers of God.
by so great a cloud of witnesses [testifiers],
The “cloud” here is the entire group of those who walked by faith in chapter 11. A “cloud” represents a massive body of people. They overcame obstacles by faith. By faith they persisted by faith in the face of great challenges. They faced the Red Sea and the walls of Jericho, conquered Canaan, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fire of a furnace, and many other challenges.
These “witnesses” are not witnessing our lives, but we witness their lives as expounded in chapter 11. They testify to the power of faith in God’s promises. These “witnesses” are not spectators but earlier contestants who walked by faith.
let us lay aside [throw off]
An athlete must prepare for his or her contest with rigor. This was true of Greek athletes in the Isthmian games. The words “lay aside” mean to take off a garment (Ac 7:58). Metaphorically it means to put away a hindrance or sin (Ro 13:12; Eph 4:22, 25; Co 3:8–9). The Christian also is to set aside anything that hinders his or her walk with God. Believers are to do it just like the Old Testament saints did it—by faith.
every weight [emphatic],
It is important to distinguish between a weight and a sin. A “weight” is something superfluous to a purpose. It is simply an encumbrance but not necessarily evil. It is a handicap that keeps us from reaching our goal. A “weight” then is not a sin necessarily but a hindrance to a walk of faith. It is anything that retards our walk.
The word “weight” means bulk, mass. A “weight” is any unwieldiness that hinders our walk with God. This person is to put aside anything that would retard or impede his faith. The word “weight” is emphatic. This is anything that hinders a runner’s progress. Runners of the first century ran naked; they divested themselves of anything that might hamper their running while they ran in a stadium.
The Christian is to lay aside not only sinful things but any encumbrance that would hinder our walk with the Lord.
The Christian runner rids himself or herself of anything that hinders the Christian life. Nothing should retard the race. Nothing should be an encumbrance in the Christian race. We are to lay aside not only a sin but anything that would impede a walk by faith.
A weight may not be a sin but something that keeps us from running a successful race. It is anything, maybe even something good in itself, that keeps us from winning the spiritual life. It is anything that discourages us from living the life that we should. There is nothing wrong with clothing, but too much clothing can hinder a person in a footrace. It is not a good idea to put on a fur coat if a person wants to win either a sprint or a distance run.
Harmless and innocent things may keep us from that walk of faith. We should set aside anything that hinders our walk by faith. Legitimate activities could weigh us down. Anything that interferes with Bible study or prayer would be a hindrance. We often feed on spiritual junk food and not the Word of God. There are some things more important than family, career, a secure retirement, or making money. Nothing should interfere with our spiritual growth or worship. There are many things we must set aside if we are to win the Christian race of walking by faith.