Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Cheering on the Christian Runner (Heb 12.1-3)

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 27, 2014 at 6:00 am


A famous college football coach, Lou Holtz, once said, “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” He was able to lead many teams to victory.

Absolutely nothing is more worthwhile than the Christian life. When we come to die, this is all that matters: “Have we come to Christ and lived for Him to the end?” Our eternal happiness depends on this.

And living for Christ has its own adversities. Lou Holtz and his men faced other football teams. A Christian faces the world, the flesh, and the devil. They openly oppose us one minute and try to seduce us the next, and we are called to resist them constantly. It is easy to become discouraged and to wonder if we can finish as Christians.

Scripture helps us in a thousand ways. For example,

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, 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. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Heb 12.1-3).

The analogy: The Christian life is like a marathon race

The Christian life has a clear sports analogy; it is like a marathon race. Several things are similar: it is voluntary, it is hard, and it has an end with a reward. Like runners, we feel tempted to quit along the way. That temptation is here described as being “wearied and faint in your minds” (v. 3). We must not “get tired and stop trying” (NCV). We need to be cheered on in the race.

The Boston Marathon has a famously hard stretch known as “Heartbreak Hill” at mile 20 of 26. Each year they set up a “cheer zone” at the top of the hill so friends and family can inspire their favorite runner to finish the race. These Bible verses are a cheer for the Christian runner.

The cheer: “Let us run the race with endurance” and finish as champions

The main idea is an exhortation: “Let us run with patience [endurance, steadfastness] the race that is set before us.” This is the one thing necessary. You must endure to finish the race. Every day, you have to put one foot instead of the other, spiritually speaking. To motivate us, this passage cheers us on with several things I would bring to your attention.

I. Consider those who have gone before

Hebrews 11 is a roster of champions that have finished the race before us. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and too many others to mention, are all brought before us for the inspiration of their noble examples. Knowing the stories of these champions will invigorate us.

Then Hebrews 12 begins, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (ESV). Many have thought this means they are witnesses of us, as if they were watching us from elevated stands, but I don’t think that is the idea. Another translation puts it this way, “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” (NLT). Their examples witness or testify to something, the certainty of spiritual victory by faith. The phrase “by faith” or “through faith” appears 21 times in Hebrews 11. Millions of people have run this race and finished well. They did it by faith. So can you. Only believe God and His Word, and keep running!

II. Consider the encouragement you have now

The rest of verse 1 sounds like a spiritual coach telling us how to succeed, and just knowing how is very important.

1)         “Let us lay aside every weight.” The ancient competitive runner tried to become as light as possible. He adopted a strict regimen of diet and exercise to get slim and strong. On race day, the ancient Greek athlete stripped off his clothes and ran naked. A Christian needs to focus on spiritual things, leaving behind everything that makes holiness harder to practice. That includes some things that are innocent enough in themselves just because they are a distraction from what is more important.

2)         “Let us lay aside . . . the sin which doth so easily beset us,” or, “the sin which clings so closely” (ESV). You and I both have our “besetting sins,” the last ones to go. Since they drag us down spiritually, they should have our special attention for repentance. We can run the race best when we “always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24.16), and so can say, like Paul, “I am not aware of anything against myself” (1 Cor 4.4).

3)         “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Living as a Christian is more than just not sinning. It is a positive, sustained effort to follow Jesus, in worship and in service to others every day, driven by His love in my heart. Nike has a slogan, “Just do it!” This exhortation is like that.

III. Consider Jesus at the finish line waiting for you

The last and best part of the cheer is in verses 2-3a (q.v.). Jesus ran this race of faith long ago and He finished well. His trials were worse than ours, since He suffered the humiliation and pain of the cross. He looked forward to the joy that would be His at the end. Now we Christians can also endure if we keep looking to Him and considering Him. Only a steady, believing gaze on Him will keep us pounding the pavement on Heartbreak Hill.

It is as if Jesus Christ is now standing at the finish line cheering us on. He cheers us by the grace He gave to countless others in glory. He cheers us by the helpful advice found everywhere in Scripture. He cheers us by being there for us when we come to the end, exhausted from this spiritual marathon, and we fall into His arms, and He is so pleased, with so much love for His champions! Jesus is not only the greatest example to us, but He Himself is the reward for finishing the race! When a Christian dies, he or she is immediately with the Lord in blissful rest from all the hardship of this life’s marathon. So run with endurance until He embraces you. Amen. Ω

Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA

An Exposition of Question 19 of An Orthodox Catechism, by Hercules Collins

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 26, 2014 at 11:20 am

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Q. 19. From what source do you know this [i.e., who the mediator is]?

A. Out of the gospel which God first made known in paradise (a), and afterwards did spread it abroad by the patriarchs and prophets (b), shadowed it by sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (c), and lastly accomplished it by His only begotten Son, Christ our Lord (d).

(a) Gen. 3:15.

(b) Gen. 22:18; 49:10-11; Acts 3:22; 10:43; Rom. 1:2; Heb. 1:1.

(c) John 5:46; Heb. 10:7ff.

(d) Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24; 4:4; Heb. 13:8.

 This is a marvelous statement. Where do we learn about the Mediator? “Out of the gospel,” the Catechism asserts. The gospel is the good news of a Mediator, ordained by God, who takes care of our sin problem, which includes our guilt and lack of righteousness unto eternal life.

Here the Catechism asserts that the gospel was revealed very soon after Adam and Eve fell into sin. It asserts that it was spread subsequently by the patriarchs and prophets. It was shadowed or typified by the sacrificial system and other ceremonies in the Old Testament. And finally, it was accomplished by our Lord. Our Confession says something similar to this. In 7.3, we read, “This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament.”

Both the Catechism and our Confession cite Genesis 3:15, which says, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (NASB). This is actually given in the form of a curse on the serpent, the pawn of the devil. The promise is that one will come from a woman who will deal a death-blow to the devil and all the effects of the devil on the earth. In 1 John 3:8, we read, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (NASB). The promise of a skull-crushing seed of a woman is very old and it is the first revelation of good news for sinners. It is fulfilled in the incarnation, life, ministry, sufferings, death, and victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Both the Catechism and our Confession assert that the gospel was in the Old Testament. Listen to the words of Paul in Romans 1:1-3a, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which [gospel] He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son…” (NASB). The gospel was first revealed as a promise in the Old Testament.

Both the Catechism and our Confession assert that the gospel was accomplished by our Lord Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. When we read the New Testament, it is clear that it views the coming, ministry, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord as the fulfillment of promises given long before the New Testament was written. For example, listen to Paul before King Agrippa, “22 So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23 NASB).

We learn about the Mediator in the gospel, which was first promised in the Old Testament then accomplished by our Lord as recorded for us in the New Testament.

Richard Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA

Five Books on Credobaptism versus Paedobaptism

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

A couple of young people who occasionally drive from Williamsburg to attend our church, recently asked me to recommend some books on a confessional perspective on believer’s baptism by immersion, as they are studying the issue of credobaptism versus paedobaptism.  Here are five suggestions (listed in chronological order by the year published) with a few annotations: order

  1. John L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858; Gano Books, 1990).

This is the companion volume to Dagg’s Manual of Theology(1857).  It provides a classic defense of believers’ baptism by immersion (pp. 13-73).  Special focus is given to the linguistic argument regarding the verb baptizo with references to its uses in ancient Greek.

String Pearls

  1. Fred Malone, A String of Pearls Unstrung (Founders Press, 1998).

This booklet, originally written in 1977, describes the author’s transition from being a Presbyterian to being a Baptist.  It can be read online here.  For a fuller treatment on the subject of baptism you can also read his book, The Baptism of Disciples Alone:  A covenantal argument for credobaptism versus paedobaptism (Founders Press, 2003).


  1. Samuel E. Waldron, Biblical Baptism:  A Reformed Defense of Believers’ Baptism (Truth for Eternity Ministries, 1998).

This 80 page booklet from a leading contemporary Reformed Baptist systematic theologian provides a careful exegetical, theological, and practical discussion of baptism.


  1. Hal Brunson, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror:  Two Parables of Paedobaptism and One Parable of the Death of Christ (iUniverse, 2007).

This self-published book from a former Southern Baptist who considered becoming a Presbyterian but who eventually became a confessional Baptist offers a creative take on the topic by imagining a discussion between the Presbyterian B. B. Warfield, the dispensationalist J. N. Darby, and the confessional Baptist C. H. Spurgeon.


  1. W. Gary Crampton, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism:  A Critique of the Westminster Standards on the Subjects of Baptism (Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2010).

A pastor and scholar describes his transition from the Presbyterian to the confessional Baptist position through a study of the Westminster Standards.  For my written review of this book look here (for the same review in audio look here).


Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor
Christ Reformed Baptist Church
Charlottesville, Virginia

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