Lesson 139

Hebrews 12–13

“Lesson 139: Hebrews 12–13,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Paul counseled the Jewish members of the Church to run the race of discipleship by following the example of Jesus Christ. He also explained the blessings of receiving the Lord’s chastisement. Paul exhorted the Saints to do the will of God so they can be made perfect through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Note: Lesson 140 provides an opportunity for two students to teach. Select two students in advance and give them copies of the designated portions of lesson 140 so they can prepare. Encourage them to study the lesson material prayerfully and to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost in their preparation and teaching.

Suggestions for Teaching

Hebrews 12

Paul counsels the Saints to run the race of life with faith and patience

drawing, runner

On the board, draw a simple line drawing of a runner. Ask the class to describe what difficulties a runner might encounter as he or she runs a long-distance race. (You could also ask if any students in the class have run long-distance races and then ask a student who has what difficulties he or she has experienced when running a long-distance race.)

  • What can motivate a runner to keep running even when he or she faces fatigue or other difficulties?

  • In what ways is life as a disciple of Jesus Christ like an endurance race?

  • What difficulties might we face as disciples of Jesus Christ?

Ask students to think about what difficulties they face (or have faced) as followers of Jesus Christ. Invite students to look for truths as they study Hebrews 12 that can help them to keep following Jesus Christ even when it becomes difficult.

Invite a student to read Hebrews 12:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul told the Saints they needed to do to successfully run the race of discipleship.

  • What did Paul tell the Saints they needed to do to successfully run the race of discipleship?

Invite a student to the front of class, and give him or her a backpack to put on. Fill the backpack with rocks, then ask students to explain how wearing a backpack filled with rocks would affect a runner.

  • In what ways are our sins like a backpack filled with rocks?

Ask the student to remove the backpack, and invite him or her to be seated.

  • What does it mean to run the race of discipleship with patience?

Invite a student to read Hebrews 12:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul told the Saints to do that would help them put aside their sins and patiently endure opposition. Explain that the word contradiction in verse 3 refers to opposition (see verse 3, footnote a).

  • Based on what Paul taught the Saints, what can help us put aside our sins and patiently endure opposition? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify a principle similar to the following: As we look to the example of Jesus Christ, we can find strength to put aside our sins and patiently endure opposition.)

  • According to verse 2, what did Jesus Christ do that Paul told the Saints to look to as an example?

The Crucifixion

Display the picture The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 57; see also LDS.org), and explain that Paul told the Saints that Jesus Christ was willing to suffer death on the cross and endure the shame of the world because He knew the joy that He would receive if He remained faithful to Heavenly Father.

  • How do you think looking to the example of Jesus Christ can help us when we are faced with suffering and obstacles?

Ask students to think about their present challenges and how looking to the example of Jesus Christ can help them with those challenges.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how the example of Jesus Christ can help us put aside our sins and continue with patience.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.

“But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us” (“None Were with Him,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 88).

Encourage students to set aside time each day, perhaps as part of their scripture study, to look to the example of Jesus Christ so they can find strength to put aside their sins and patiently endure opposition.

To prepare students to identify another principle Paul taught in Hebrews 12, invite them to think about a time when someone corrected them. Ask them to recall how they reacted to that correction.

  • Why can it be difficult to receive correction from someone?

  • What are some reasons you think people might seek to correct us, especially when those people know we may not like their correction?

Explain that as we run the race of discipleship, we can expect to be chastened, or corrected. Invite a student to read Hebrews 12:6–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for who will correct us and why. In this context, the word bastards in verse 8 means those born out of wedlock, who were not considered legal heirs.

  • Who will correct us as we run the race of discipleship?

  • According to Paul, why does Heavenly Father chasten, or correct, us?

  • In what ways is Heavenly Father’s chastening an indication of His love for His children?

Invite students to take 30 seconds to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals some of the ways Heavenly Father might correct us. Ask several students to report to the class what they wrote. Make sure students understand that although chastening can come in many ways, not every trial or suffering we experience comes from God.

  • In verse 9, what did Paul say we should do when Heavenly Father corrects and chastens us?

  • What does it mean to “be in subjection,” or submit, to Heavenly Father? (To be humble, teachable, and willing to make changes in our lives to align with His will.)

Write the following incomplete phrase on the board: If we submit to chastening from Heavenly Father, we will …

Explain that in verse 10, Paul acknowledged that our earthly fathers may sometimes chastise us in an imperfect way, but Heavenly Father’s chastening is perfect and is designed for our benefit. Invite a student to read Hebrews 12:10–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught will happen if we submit to chastening from Heavenly Father. Explain that the phrase “partakers of his holiness” in verse 10 refers to becoming more like God.

  • How do Paul’s words in verse 11 describe how we might initially feel when we are chastened?

  • According to verses 10–11, what will happen if we submit to chastening from Heavenly Father? (After students respond, complete the statement on the board as follows: If we submit to chastening from Heavenly Father, we will become more like Him and have the peace that comes from righteousness.)

Consider sharing an experience of when you submitted to chastening from Heavenly Father and felt blessed for doing so. (Be sure not to share anything that is too sacred or personal.) Invite students to ponder a time when they felt they were chastened by Heavenly Father. Ask them to think about how they responded to that correction. Encourage students to decide now to submit to Heavenly Father’s chastening that they may receive in the future.

Summarize Hebrews 12:12–29 by explaining that Paul encouraged the Saints to strengthen other Church members in the faith. He exhorted them to refrain from sin so that they would not forfeit God’s blessings like Esau did and like the children of Israel did at Mount Sinai. Paul explained that the Saints who remain faithful and serve God will receive incomparable glory and a place in His kingdom.

Hebrews 13

Paul gives various counsel to the Saints

Explain that Paul concluded his letter to the Hebrew Saints by giving them counsel on various subjects. Divide students into small groups of two or three. Invite them to read Hebrews 13:1–9, 17 together, looking for the counsel Paul gave the Saints. Instruct students to discuss the following questions in their groups when they have finished reading. You may want to write these questions on the board.

  • Which counsel do you think is most needed in our day? Why?

After sufficient time, invite several students to report how they answered the questions. Invite students to consider which portions of Paul’s counsel they could better implement in their own lives.

Summarize Hebrews 13:10–12 by explaining that Paul taught that in the time of the Old Testament, animals sacrificed as sin offerings were burned outside the camp of Israel. Similarly, Jesus Christ was sacrificed outside the city of Jerusalem. Explain that after Jesus Christ completed the Atonement, animal sacrifices were no longer required (see 3 Nephi 9:18–20).

Invite a student to read Hebrews 13:13–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what sacrifice Paul said the Saints should offer instead of animals. Consider inviting students to mark what they find.

  • What sacrifices did Paul say we should make?

  • Why do you think such offerings will please God?

Summarize Hebrews 13:17–25 by explaining that Paul counseled the Saints to obey their spiritual leaders and to pray for them. Paul prayed that God would give the Saints everything necessary for them to accomplish His will.

You may want to conclude by testifying of the truths students identified in Hebrews 12–13.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Hebrews 12:9

Help students memorize Hebrews 12:9 by inviting them to write the first letter of each word of the verse on a piece of paper. Review the scripture numerous times with your students until they can recite the verse using the first letter of each word.

  • What doctrine can we learn from this verse about our relationship to our Heavenly Father? (Students should identify the following doctrine: Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits.)

  • Why is it important to believe that we are children of God?

Testify that we are literal children of God.

Commentary and Background Information

Hebrews 12:6–11. The Lord’s chastening

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the following about the Lord’s chastening:

“Correction is vital if we would conform our lives ‘unto a perfect man, [that is,] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13). Paul said of divine correction or chastening, ‘For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’ (Hebrews 12:6). Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 97–98).

Hebrews 12:9. “The Father of spirits”

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the spirit of each person is a child of Heavenly Father:

“You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!” (“To Young Women and Men,” Ensign, May 1989, 54).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the importance of understanding that we are children of God:

“Consider the power of the idea taught in our beloved song ‘I Am a Child of God’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 301). … Here is the answer to one of life’s great questions, ‘Who am I?’ I am a child of God with a spirit lineage to heavenly parents. That parentage defines our eternal potential. That powerful idea is a potent antidepressant. It can strengthen each of us to make righteous choices and to seek the best that is within us. Establish in the mind of a young person the powerful idea that he or she is a child of God and you have given self-respect and motivation to move against the problems of life” (“Powerful Ideas,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 25).

Hebrews 12:23. “Church of the firstborn”

“Paul’s teaching that redeemed Saints join the ‘church of the firstborn’ (Hebrews 12:23) is the only biblical occurrence of this phrase. In latter-day revelations, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that the Church of the Firstborn refers to Christ’s heavenly Church, which comprises faithful, exalted Saints in the celestial kingdom (see D&C 76:54; 88:4–5). ‘Jesus was the firstborn of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, and the first to rise from the dead in the resurrection (Col. 1:13–18). Faithful Saints become members of the Church of the Firstborn in eternity (D&C 93:21–22)’ (Guide to the Scriptures, “Firstborn,” scriptures.lds.org)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 489). These Saints are “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) and eventually inherit “all that [the] Father hath” (D&C 84:38).