“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2)

Sometimes in my bible study, I bump into a phrase that I’ve read a million times, but suddenly consider it in a different way.  I’ve always loved the phrase above—“author and finisher”—but until recently, never went beyond the surface to meditate on what it should mean to me.

But when we spend some time with the words that Paul (at least we think it’s him) used, it really illuminates Jesus Christ’s role even further, and the blessings we receive as a result.

This one small phrase is an interesting illustration of how different translations can decide to lean into individual nuances of a Greek or Hebrew word, because many of our English words are much more narrow in scope.  Let’s look at a few of my favorite bible translations:

  • “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (NKJV)
  • “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (NLT)
  • “…looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua” (CJB)
  • “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (ESV)
  • “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (NIV)

I like to think of each of these two main Greek words we’ll look at today like a diamond…having many facets so that when you turn it this way and that, you see the light and color and sparkle a bit differently.

So let’s briefly explore some of these facets…

The Initiator of our faith, blazing a trail for us to follow

The word that the NKJV translates as “author” is G747, archegos, and here are some of the ways we can understand it.

First inventor of a thing, initiator, founder, pioneer

Jesus is the trailblazer, the one who went first to “go boldly where no man has gone before”, as the famous Star Trek line posits.  He was the firstborn from the dead (the first to be resurrected to ETERNAL spiritual life), and the first to ascend to heaven to be with God (Col. 1:15, John 3:13).

And, because HE has gone boldly before us and wiped clean the death penalty we’d earned, WE are also able to come boldly before the very throne of God in heaven and bask in God’s grace and mercy (Heb. 4:16).

Jesus Christ was the forerunner, like a scout sent out in advance to see what lies ahead and set up camp.  He told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for us, so that He can come back to get us (Heb. 6:20, John 1:2 and 14:1-4).

He (along with the Father) initiated the process.  No one else could be Mediator of a better covenant, one founded upon the sacrifice of our sinless Messiah as High Priest (Heb. 9).  He was the first.

Author and originator, the one who makes the rules

In the beginning was the Word, who was with God and was God, and all things were made through Him (John 1:1).  The Son, who later became our Messiah, spoke the words that created our entire physical reality and the first humans.

An author is ultimately a creator, the one whose imagination makes a story possible, who determines the setting and places the characters where they’re best suited for the story’s outcome.  The prophet Isaiah meditates on this, “We are the clay and You our potter, and all we are the work of Your hand” (Is. 64:8).

Paul echoes this, saying, “For we are His workmanship [or masterpiece, handiwork], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Chief leader, captain, prince, champion

Jesus Christ not only went before us, He LEADS us—He directs our paths, shows us the way.  A trailblazer or inventor can do amazing things on their own, but doesn’t have to bring others along on the journey.

Instead, Jesus went before us so that we can follow in His footsteps.  He blazed the trail to show us where to put our feet.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.  Then comes the end” (I Cor. 15:20-24)

Our Messiah is a champion for us, going head-to-head with the devil to overcome sin and death, and then becoming an advocate at the throne of God who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 2:14-15, 4:15).

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation [CJB: initiator of their deliverance] perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10)

The image here is of a captain leading His army into battle, positioned at the front to show them the way to victory.

Lacking nothing: the Perfecter of our faith

So let’s look at the other side then.  The word that the NKJV translates as “finisher” is G5051, teleiotes.  There’s a little less variation in the ways it can be understood and they’re so entwined that we’ll look at them all together.

Completer, finisher, bringing to a close, perfecter

One of the ways that teleiotes can be understood is “to add what is yet wanting to make a thing whole [perfect, complete]”.  We are incomplete without Christ, lacking something essential for receiving eternal life.

David prayed, “The Lord will perfect [complete] that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands” (Ps. 138:8).  If we think back to the analogy of Jesus as our author, the artist creating a masterpiece, then the idea of Him seeing what’s missing and filling in those gaps to finish the “work of His hands” makes a lot of sense.

In fact, we can “be confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Speaking of the resurrection to eternal life, Paul both cautions and encourages:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me…I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize” (Phil 3:12-14).

Jesus Christ came to live a perfect, sinless life and sacrifice Himself so that we can be made perfect and complete.  BUT WE’RE NOT THERE YET!  That’s what this life is for, not to wait around with a “just as I am” mentality, thinking that just knowing about God and Jesus Christ somehow gets us there.

Instead, we must realize that this life is a proving ground, the race that Paul speaks of.  Not because we can ever win or “earn” salvation through our own goodness or works (Eph. 2:8-9).  But the Father and the Son DO expect for us to be working toward salvation.

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reference and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” (Phil. 2:12-13, NLT).

The point is that we must work hard, but it is God working IN us, changing our hearts, calling us, and giving us the ability to follow Him.  So what are a couple of the ways we must pursue this process of perfection?

It starts by grounding ourselves continuously in the word of God.  Paul tells Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed and given for our instruction, correction, and righteousness, so that “the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 2:17).  We are to immerse ourselves in the bible, using it as a tool and guide to obey God and grow in grace and knowledge.

And we are to build Godly character, counting it as joy when we are tested and tried, when we go through the many trials and tribulations of this life.  Why?  Because this produces faith and endurance, and “when your endurance [patience, perseverance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4, CJB).

This is the work that Jesus is doing in us, as the finisher or completer of our faith—He wants us to bear fruit in order to inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:22-23).

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (I Pet 5:10)

Run with endurance

As we’ve seen, Jesus is the “author and finisher” of our faith—the initiator and completer, the creator and perfecter.  He’s the starting point and finish line of our calling, of this world’s very existence…the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).

We have been given the opportunity by the Creator of this universe to be in God’s eternal spiritual family because He initiated the process, and He WILL complete it!  Hopefully these words mean even more to us after this study.

I thought these notes from Adam Clarke’s commentary on our original verse were really interesting as we tie this all together:

This signifies, in general, captain or leader, or the first inventor of a thing.  But the reference seems to be here to the judge in the games, whose business it was to admit the contenders, and to give the prize to the conqueror. Jesus is here represented as this officer; every Christian is a contender in this race of life, and for eternal life.

The heavenly course is begun under Jesus; and under him it is completed. He is the finisher, by awarding the prize to them that are faithful unto death.

Thus he is the author or the judge under whom, and by whose permission and direction, according to the rules of the heavenly race, they are permitted to enter the lists, and commence the race, and he is the finisher, the perfecter, by awarding and giving the prize which consummates the combatants at the end of the race.

Throughout this study we’ve focused on one small phrase, but now that we understand those words even more, let’s see how the verses around it now become even richer and awe-inspiring:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12:1-3)

When we see “therefore”, it’s drawing our attention to what was written just prior, which in this case is all of the inspiring testimonies of the faithful who have come before us.

Paul ends that passage saying, “All these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Heb. 11:39-40).

Even God’s most famous faithful through the ages—Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and so many more—will not be made perfect until the firstfruits harvest is complete.  They are still sleeping, waiting for US, so we can rise together when Jesus comes to complete His work in us.

What an incredible promise!  But it comes with expectations—we have to hold up our end of the covenant, to run with endurance, not become weary, bear godly fruit, and work diligently toward receiving God’s promised salvation.

Other verse studies you’ll enjoy:

Jesus as the "author & finisher" of our faith: what does this mean? | Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the "author & finisher of our faith"...but what does it really MEAN to us? Examining these words to gain deeper understanding.

Jesus as the "author & finisher" of our faith: what does this mean? | Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the "author & finisher of our faith"...but what does it really MEAN to us? Examining these words to gain deeper understanding.

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