-What is the besetting sin in Hebrews 12:1?

QUESTION: What is the besetting sin in Hebrews 12:1? “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, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV

ANSWER: Since God does not tell us explicitly which sin so easily besets or ensnares us, we must be careful not to be dogmatic about this. Each of us is an individual. As an individual, I have my own particular sins to contend with, and you have yours. Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the temple wisely said, “Whatever prayer ... is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel ... each one knows the plague of his own heart” (1 Ki. 8:38 NKJV). Let’s each ask the Lord, “What are You saying to me through Your Word? What sin is it that’s entangling me and keeping me from running the faith race as You want me to run it?”

Yet when one reads the Epistle to the Hebrews carefully, there is a sin that seems to stand out repeatedly. These believers were under pressure to turn from Christ in the glory, invisible to human sight, and turn back to Judaism with all that appealed to the senses: a tradition of prophets, angels and God-given leaders; an impressive priesthood, sacrifices and a place of worship; and a succession of heroes who had pleased God. Throughout this letter the best that Judaism had to offer is contrasted with Christ. The conclusion is that Christ is better than all He can be compared to.

But, He could not be seen. Judaism originated with God and offered that which was visible and tangible. Christ is absolutely real, but must be apprehended by faith. God had once brought Israel out of Egypt, but He did not immediately bring them into the Promised Land. The wilderness did not flow with milk and honey. It was fraught with difficulties. Repeatedly Israel was ready to give up the hope God set before them and turn back to Egypt. Experience meant more to them than faith. Their great besetting sin was unbelief.

While each individual may have weights (things harmless in themselves but hindrances to running a race) to lay aside and his own particular sin to struggle against, this sin of unbelief was the great problem for these New Testament Jewish believers, too. Hebrews 11 sets before them the fact that the many heroes they loved and respected were all characterized by faith. Their eyes were on a goal. For the Christian, the goal and example is Christ. He ran the race by faith, and would not be deterred. There was a joy set before Him. Our eyes are now to be on Him. James and the elders at Jerusalem had told Paul, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20). How much better it would have been for them to have their focus on Christ rather than on the law! But it was easier, humanly speaking, to be occupied with the visible, tangible and traditional than to run the race with endurance, looking to Jesus. There was less suffering for them that way.

What about us? Are we willing to suffer hardship in the race of faith? Doesn’t it seem easier to follow the traditional pathways we see many other Christians following than to fix our eyes on Jesus and, like Him, walk the pathway of obedience to God’s Word? Faith has never been easy, but in the long run it is wonderfully rewarding!

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website:


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