Thoughts on Hebrews 12:14

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 05:49 AM

There is a curious phrase found in Hebrews 12:14. Which reads as follows a couple of different translations:

  • ESV: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
  • Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
  • Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

What exactly is the author saying? Is the author declaring that those who do no seek peace will not see the Lord (in salvation)?

We need to understand the context of this verse so let’s quote the chapter from the ESV:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. 5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. 12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. 14. Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

The concept and context of the chapter is the discipline of the Father toward his children. If we are God’s child, then he disciplines us and sometimes that is painful. The pain, however, is necessary so that we become more sensitive to sin. The reason we discipline our children is to hopefully move them from a wayward path to the straight one.

When God speaks to our heart, do we listen to Him? Holiness is a process similar to that of the word “sanctification”. This means that we spend a lifetime trying to conform to God’s word as he exposes our wayward paths. If we respond [as we would expect or want our own children] in obedience and attempting to correct our ways that is considered holiness. If we, however, reject God’s path, His ways, we are demonstrating our true heart and if our true heart is not in obedience toward our Father, than our salvation is in question. Too many people go their own path rather than do what God revealed to us in His Word.

Some cross-references to this wording found in vs. 14.

  • Matthew 5:8 – blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
  • Ephesians 5:5 – For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Ephesians 5:5

The following is from John MacArthur:

12:14 Strive . . . holiness. In this epistle, it is explained as (1) a drawing near to God with full faith and a cleansed conscience (10:14, 22) and (2) a genuine acceptance of Christ as the Savior and sacrifice for sin, bringing the sinner into fellowship with God. Unbelievers will not be drawn to accept Christ if believers’ lives do not demonstrate the qualities God desires, including peace and holiness (cf. John 13:35; 1 Tim. 4:3; 1 Pet. 1:16). Hebrews 12:14


As a final thought, what the author is conveying is the difference between a true believe and what that gives lip service. A true believe strives to lives for God and follows His Word allowing the hand of God to correct and guide where necessary. A “false” believer will ignore God and go his or her own way.

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