An Appeal to Heed the Old Testament Examples, Aided by God's Chastisement.
The example of the believers of old and of Christ:
v. 1. 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,
v. 2. 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.
v. 3. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
On the basis of the example of faith as set before us in the believers of the Old Testament, the appeal of the author to be like-minded rests: Wherefore also we, having so great a cloud of witnesses encompassing us, let us likewise lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that clings to us, and through patience let us run the race set before us. Though the sacred writer, as he himself states, has cited but a few of the many cases of strong faith in the Old Testament history, yet even these are shining examples which envelop us like a bright cloud. It is a vast multitude of witnesses that have testified to the worth of faith, and wherever we may turn, we find their encouraging example. And just as they pursued their course unflinchingly and persistently till they reached their goal, so we also should be found running forward toward the heavenly object of our striving with steadfast, courageous patience. The course must be run, and it requires the very strongest endurance. We must accept the appointed course, cheerfully recognize the difficulties that beset it, and prepare our hearts and minds accordingly. Like an athlete that trains for a race with the greatest care, lest he bear even an ounce of flesh too much, so must we lay aside every encumbrance of this life, every weight, every burden that tends to hold us back in the appointed course. The greatest of these encumbrances is sin, our old evil nature, for this surrounds us, it clings to us and hinders the free use of our spiritual members, just as a long and heavy mantle which would always be in the way of an athlete running a race. Our constant endeavor, therefore, must be that we renounce this sin daily, shake off, throw aside its obstructing power.
Our success in this most necessary activity, as we must renew it daily, by daily contrition and repentance, depends upon one condition: Having our eyes fixed on the Leader and Perfecter of faith, Jesus, who, in consideration of the joy which was set before Him endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. An athlete cannot afford to have his gaze toward the goal drawn aside to the consideration of various other interests. Even so we Christians cannot afford to have distractions draw our steadfast gaze away from Jesus, who beckons us on toward salvation. For it was He that not only set us an example of unwavering faith, but also leads us in the paths of perfect trust in God; it is He in whom faith finds its perfect embodiment. He that began the good work of conversion and sanctification in us will also perfect it until the day of the final revelation of glory. His example consists in this, that He willingly endured the cross, the entire burden of the Passion culminating in His crucifixion, at the same time disregarding the shame and disgrace which men were heaping upon Him. For during all this time Jesus kept before Him the prize, the eternal joy and bliss which would be His on the completion of His task, Php_2:9. And He received His reward; He was, also according to His human nature, elevated to the position of honor and glory at the right hand of God. Having held this position by virtue of His divine nature from eternity, He now holds it also by virtue of His human nature. Of His example we must never lose sight.
Just why the example of Jesus is able to serve us so well in the course which is appointed to us is also shown: For consider (your position) by comparing Him who steadfastly endured at the hands of sinners such terrible contradiction against Himself, lest you grow weary, fainting in your souls. The author wants us to consider carefully, to make our comparison in view of the example of Christ, this being the highest inducement which he has to offer. The force of the appeal lies in this, that Christ during His whole life suffered with the repudiation of His claims. Coming to men with the full love and mercy of His heavenly Father, He told them time and again that He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. But He met only with derision, with blasphemous denial, the few disciples excepted that remained true to Him. Just as Jesus did not grow weary in His work of saving souls, so we also must not let spiritual fatigue take hold of our souls nor permit our hearts to grow faint in the great work of sanctification. His spirit should live in us and enable us to follow in His steps.