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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

Entering into rest

Hebrews 4:1-11

Most of the Israelites who left Egypt with Moses died in the wilderness before they came to the Land of Promise. They did not enter in because of unbelief. They did not believe God; they did not trust his promises, power, or providence. This example is given by Paul to show the evil nature of unbelief and to warn us who profess faith in Christ (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Hebrews 4:1 . ‘Let us therefore fear.’ This is not a fear that the grace, goodness, and righteousness of Christ shall fail or desert us; but it is a cautious fear and a watchfulness over our own faith in him (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10). This promise of rest which we have in Christ is two-fold:

1. There is the present rest we have in Christ (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:10). We are free from the bondage of fear, from the yoke of ceremonialism and works. We rest in his love, righteousness, and acceptance.

2. There is the future, eternal rest of heaven! When we enter that land, we will be eternally free from all temptation, doubt, fear, and sin (Revelation 21:1-5).

With so much at stake, we should be wholeheartedly dedicated to seeking the Lord in saving faith (Philippians 3:8-11).

Hebrews 4:2 . The gospel of Christ has been preached to us (the gospel of grace, not of works; the gospel of God's Son his deity, his perfect obedience, his substitutionary atonement, his resurrection and intercession; how that in Christ the law of God is honored and the justice of God is satisfied, Romans 3:25-26). But this gospel of Christ was preached to them also by type, promise, sacrifice, and example. It did them no good. It did not save them nor profit them because they did not believe God! Abraham believed God (Romans 4:20-25). ‘The Just shall live by faith.’

Hebrews 4:3 . We who have believed on Christ and who have received him do now enter into rest. This is spiritual rest rest from salvation by works, from the burden of the law, and from all toil and labor to gain life. It is an enjoyment of inward peace and rest, notwithstanding trials, toils, labors, and temptations. We have spiritual ease and comfort in Christ, our Lord. Only believers enjoy this rest. God has sworn that those who believe shall not perish (Romans 5:1; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:33-35).

Paul begins here to describe this spiritual rest we have in Christ by removing all other rests mentioned in scripture.

Hebrews 4:3-4 . The ‘rest’ which believers now enjoy in Christ is not the rest of God following the creation of the world. God made the worlds in six days and rested from the works of creation, not the works of providence; for in them he works even now!

Hebrews 4:5 . Another rest is Canaan or typical rest. The unbelieving Jews did not enter into Canaan but turned around and wandered in the wilderness until they died.

Hebrews 4:6 . Some did enter in and must enter into the typical rest, although those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of their unbelief. Joshua did lead a people into Canaan! The type must be fulfilled, and Canaan must be inhabited by the people of God.

Hebrews 4:7 . God set a day when men would by faith enter into this true rest which he promised. It is the gospel dispensation! Today is the day of salvation; now is the accepted time. It is no longer a typical rest, but a possession.

Hebrews 4:8 . Joshua brought them into a land of rest where they had rest for a while from their temporal enemies and where they enjoyed for a season the blessings of God. But this was not that true spiritual rest in Christ, or God would not have spoken of another day.

Hebrews 4:9 . The people whom God hath chosen, for whom Christ died, and who believe on him do enter into a spiritual rest. heaven is but a perfection and a continuation of what he begins in our hearts when he brings us to faith (John 6:37-40).

Hebrews 4:10 . Paul speaks here of Christ. Christ had a work to do in preaching the gospel and in obtaining the salvation and redemption of his people. This work was given to him and he finished it. He ceased from these works never to do them again, he is seated, having entered his rest, as God ceased from the works of creation when he had finished them. It does no violence to the word to apply this to the believer who ceases from a works' religion and by faith rests in Christ.

Hebrews 4:11 . Let us strive by faith (seeking the Lord and looking only to him) to enter with him into that rest.

'Tis done, the great transaction's done;

I am my Lord's, and he is mine.’

This rest, peace, and joy in Christ is not full for many of us. We enter more and more by faith, prayer, hearing the word, and attendance on the ordinances of Christ.

Verses 12-16

Christ the word of God

Hebrews 4:12-16

Hebrews 4:12 . Does ‘the Word of God’ here mean the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ; or does the passage refer to the Bible and to the gospel? You will find John Owen, John Gill, and a host of others who say this is Christ, our Lord, who is the Word. On the other side, John Calvin and others all declare it is the Scriptures that Paul is calling the word of God. Why can't it be both? Christ and the Scriptures must go together! As Christ reveals the Father, so this Book reveals Christ; they cannot be separated. Christ is the Truth; Christ is the Gospel. It is only because Christ is alive that his word is alive and effectual (John 1:1-4; John 1:14; John 5:39; Luke 24:44-46; Acts 10:43).

1. The word is alive. The word ‘quick’ is an old English word for alive. This is a living Book, the words of our living Redeemer (1 Peter 1:23-25; James 1:18). The word is the Living Seed.

2. The word is powerful. Our Lord and his word are active and effectual. He spoke for the elect in the council and covenant of grace (Hebrews 7:22). He spoke all things out of nothing in creation (Hebrews 11:3; Genesis 1:6; Genesis 1:9). He spoke and revealed the Father (John 14:10). He spoke and the dead came forth (John 5:24-25).

3. The word is sharp as a two-edged sword. The word is all edge; it has no blunt side. It is alive all over. You cannot come near the word of God without its having some effect on you (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Our Lord comes ‘not to send peace but a sword,’ and that sword begins in our own souls, wounding and killing. However, it kills nothing but that which ought to be killed our pride, envy, lust, and sins.

4. The word is piercing and can find its way anywhere. Although the soul and spirit are invisible and the joints and marrow are covered and hid, so penetrating is the divine word that it reaches the most hidden and secret things of men and women. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Christ knows the heart and will make manifest all that is therein by his word (Luke 16:15).

Hebrews 4:13 . Christ, our Lord, is omniscient. There is no creature, angel or man, but what is known to him and seen by him (John 2:23-25). He knows unbelievers, he knows false professors, and he knows his sheep (John 10:14). There is not a thought, an imagination, a motive, a word, or a deed that he does not know. It is all uncovered and opened to him with whom we have to do. Christ the incarnate Word and Christ the revealed and written word will be dealt with by every creature. Believers have to do with him now as our Prophet, Priest, and King. We have to do with his righteousness, his blood, and his intercession! Unbelievers will have to do with him in that great day (John 5:22; John 12:48-49).

Hebrews 4:14 . Christ is called the Great High Priest because of the deity of his person, the efficacy of his sacrifice, and the place in which he officiates--heaven! (Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 9:24.) he is also great in respect to the continuation of his priesthood. Insomuch as we have such a great High Priest and such a certain hope of eternal life in him, let us hold fast our faith in him. Let us hold fast our inward confidence, make use of the means of grace such as prayer, worship, study, and fellowship, and by words and deeds show forth his praise (Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14).

Hebrews 4:15 . Though he is God and totally without any sin, he is able to sympathize with his people; for when he came to this earth, he was tempted and tried in all points as we are, yet he knew no sin. He understands our weaknesses and infirmities, our pains and tears, our temptations from Satan. This union with Christ not only brings his pity and sympathy but also his divine assistance, support, and deliverance (1 John 2:1).

Hebrews 4:16 . ‘Let US’ (all believers, all who love Christ and rest in his redemptive work) ‘come boldly’ (without fear of being turned away because of our sins and infirmities, without fear of condemnation) before ‘the throne of grace’ (because Christ obeyed the law and died for our sins, the throne of judgment and justice is now a throne of grace). here we will find mercy and grace for every need (Hebrews 10:19-24).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/hebrews-4.html. 2013.
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