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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." This admonition is a continuation of Ch. 3. The promise has been left us, but the promise is to faith: any who come short of it do so only through unbelief. Let us take solemnly to heart the significance of these lessons.

"For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them." Indeed, to us it has been preached in fulness: to them only "in part:" we therefore stand in a place fully as responsible as they - and more so. "But the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" That Word is itself invincible, eternal, entirely unaffected by the kind of reception it receives; but he who will not receive it cannot receive profit from it.

"For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said. As I have sworn in My wrath. If they shall enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." Let its notice as to "we which have believed" there is absolute affirmation, for the prom-ise is absolute. Yet this is followed by an "if," a question, -even though in the counsels of God the basis of rest had long been established. The true believer rests upon this basis; but the question is raised with those who have dared to raise a question as regards the truth of God's promise, that is, the unbeliever. The believer's position therefore is absolutely secure, dependent on the truth of God's Word; but the unbeliever has the oath of God to the contrary) The blessing is dependent upon God's work, the value of which is available to everyone, by faith; but unbelief is a base refusal of the blessing, because it refuses God's Word.

Verses 4 to 10 must be considered together, to be properly understood. "For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all His works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into My rest. Seeing therefore it re-maineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief; Again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also bath ceased from his own works, as God did from His."

Verse 4 illustrates the fact of how full of deeper meaning may be a brief Scriptural statement of a his-torical fact. God's rest intimates that He had in mind an eternal rest pursuant to all His working with this present creation. Verse 5 then quoting Psalms 95:11 indicates that some would not enter into His rest. Verse 6 therefore con-cludes that "some must enter therein." God's rest was not merely for His own enjoyment, but He had decreed that this was to be shared with others. The latter part of the verse shows that those who had first opportunity did not enter in. Doubtless this has direct reference to the unbelieving generation in the wilderness, but may be rightly applied to Israel the nation when the Gospel was preached "to the Jew first," and hence be a solemn warn-ing to present day Hebrews.

However, verse 7 goes further than verse 6, and quotes from David, "after so long a time." Even those who did enter into the land and had been so long in it, had not really entered God's rest, for there they were admonished not to harden their hearts. It was Joshua who had brought them into the land (Jesus is the Greek form of the same name), but he had hot given them this rest, for after their advent there, another day is spoken of. The rest therefore, as verse 9 shows, is still future.

Verse 10 explains this. In the fullest sense, it is only in the eternal state that we shall rest from our own works. All things there will be entirely of God, with no admix-ture of man's works. Toil will have no place, for toil is the result of the marring of creation. "His servants shall serve Him" infers not toil, but perfect tranquility in ser-vice. There is another sense of course in which the be-liever has entered into rest; that is, so far as conscience is concerned, and the guilt of his sins, faith in Christ has already given him rest, and he has in this regard ceased from his own works: he no longer depends on his own works to procure blessing from God. But fulness of rest is future.

"Let us therefore use diligence to enter into that rest, that no one may fall after the same example of not hearkening to the Word" (N. Trans.). The matter is of vital consequence, and well worth applying ourselves in serious earnestness. A negative attitude is fatal, for it ignores the clearly spoken Word of God. If there were any indifferences to the glory of the revelation of God in the Person of Christ, the testing of tribulation or per-secution would expose it: that person would fall. The only protection for the soul is a positive, real faith in the blessed Son of God, an ear opened to receive the Word of God as living truth. Who can dare claim the knowledge of God if he refuses Scripture as the revela-tion of God? There is certainly none other, and it remains the one solid foundation for faith.

"For the Word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow', and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (N. Trans.). How this transcends all human writings. which become mere stagnant pools in contrast to the constantly flowing freshness of this river of the water of life. Its every part is full of fresh vitality, ready to meet every demand of faith upon it, for if we fail to find fresh blessing, wisdom, encouragement, from any part, this is our own failure, for the living truth is there. Moreover, it is pregnant with energy that begets active response and results where there is faith: it is operative.

More than this, however, it cuts: it is no respecter of persons. A two-edged sword cuts both ways. If one would use it, he must be prepared for its cutting in regard to his own conduct and doctrine just as to that of others. It pierces and divides, that is, penetrating beneath the surface of things, it distinguishes in finest precision between things that differ. Soul and spirit could never be distinguished by mere observation or human wisdom. Yet the Word of God clearly discerns between the two, attributing to the former all that expresses feeling, emo-tion, passion; and to the latter intellect, reasoning, understanding, conscience. These two entities in man are entirely above natural science, though natural science actually bears witness to the necessity of their existence. But joints and marrow are more naturally understandable, and the scientist knows the distinction, the one being external, the other the necessary internal ingredient by which the joints operate effectually. This is but one sym-bolic illustration then of the Word's character of dividing in any realm between outward form and inward opera-tion. How we need this for the guidance of our own souls!

But more: it discerns the very thoughts and intents of the heart. In these things we are all too likely to be self-deceived, and in order to maintain self-respect will seek to persuade ourselves that our motives are actually better than they are; or to hide our actual intentions or desires under a plausible cover of avowing that we want the leading of the Lord! But let us honestly read the Word of God, and it will expose to us these secret work-ings, and make manifest the counsels of the heart. This is strikingly seen in Jeremiah 42:1-22, where Johanan and the remnant of Israel required of Jeremiah as to the will of God, declaring their absolute intention of obeying God's Word. But the Word given them also discerned the actual dissembling of their hearts, (vs. 20, 21), and Jeremiah told them they would not obey the Word of God, but do their own will. Then their brazen actions proved the Word of the Lord to be right, but they excused themselves by denying it to be the Word of God! How little does man suspect the actual deceit of his own heart! May God give us to judge ourselves by His Word, the only trustworthy standard. It can be a grievous snare to us to assume that our preferences are consistent with the Word of God, then when the Word is given us to the contrary, to object that it must be a wrong translation or wrong interpretation, and thus dismiss it without honest inquiry.

But verse 13 follows on to say, "neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." While he is speaking of the Word of God, yet he says, "His sight," not "its sight." Does this not emphasize the fact that God's Word is virtually Himself. It expresses Him as nothing else on earth can do. "Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name" (Psalms 138:2). This does not of course mean the physical Bible, but God's mind and will revealed in the Bible. If men profess to honor the Name of God, then His Word must be given supreme place in their lives. Indeed, it is our one means of knowing God. And it brings us under the light of His own countenance, fully exposed by infin-ite light and wisdom. This can be welcome only to faith: unbelief is terrified of such eyes of perfect penetration: and seeks to avoid God's eyes by closing its own eyes!

The last expression of the verse is however inescap-able, "the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." To close the eyes or the ears now will not affect our having to do with Him. He will not retire from the scene, to indulge man's love for darkness. How indescribably better to welcome those eyes now than to have them expose all the hidden things of darkness at the Great White Throne; and the end eternal remorse!

Verse 14 begins a distinct division in the book, in which the Heavenly Priesthood of Christ is dwelt upon, and His eternally finished work of propitiation, in con-trast with the Aaronic priesthood on earth, the work of which was never finished. This subject continues to the end of Ch. 10.

"Having therefore a Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession" (N. Trans.). The fact of His High Priesthood has been briefly mentioned at the end of Ch. 2, and in Ch. 3:1: now the subject is to be fully devel-oped. As Aaron on the day of atonement passed through all the tabernacle, so the Lord Jesus has passed through the heavens, to the very throne of God, the ultimate in exaltation. This is our Great High Priest upon Whom faith depends for the establishing of an eternal relationship with God: He cannot fail; therefore what folly it would be to give up the confession of His Name. So firm, so unshakeable a foundation calls for the utmost holding fast of our confession.

"For we have not an High Priest not able to sympa-thize with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart" (N. Trans.). Though now exalted (and what joy to know Him as in the Glory!), yet He has previously passed through the circumstances of earth's sorrow, trial, distress, and in fullest measure, so that He understands through experience all the sorrows and trials of His saints, -"in all points tempted," not from within, but from without. For He was without sin, and certainly the corrupting influences of evil had no place in His holy body, - no sickness, disease or malady of any kind. But he has moved amid such circumstances, has felt the sorrows, has borne the sicknesses, in the sense of feeling in deepest sympathy for those so afflicted. Blessed compassion indeed! And His heart remains as tender and sympathetic as in all that wondrous path of grace. In Him too we know there was perfect, pure re-sistance of every temptation that might tend to over-whelm faith. And the secret of our own resistance is communion with Himself.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." This is no mere self-confidence, which would be "strange fire" (Leviticus 10:1-2), but firmest con-fidence in the Lord Jesus, - no trepidation or cringing apprehension, but a calm (though reverential) sense of being heartily welcome. For we find the majestic throne of God to be in truth a "throne of grace." While His great glory is maintained, yet His grace is there dispensed in fullest measure. The blessed sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is the basis of this character of grace attaching to the throne of God.

There is a distinction here drawn between obtaining mercy and finding grace to help in time of need. Mercy is that heartfelt compassion that comes into the circum-stances of sorrow or trial; it regards one as in such cir-cumstances; whereas grace is active favor, a power that lifts one above his circumstances. Note Ephesians 2:46 in this regard. Man's condition of misery is seen in verse 3, then mercy and love in verse 4, and the active work of grace in verses 5 and 6, raising up and seating together all saints in the heavenlies, in Christ. Blessed communica-tion of Divine favor. And such grace is constantly available in practical life below. What real, encouraging in-centive to constant, effectual prayer!

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/hebrews-4.html. 1897-1910.
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