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Hebrews 4

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Verses 1-10

Heb 4:1-10

CONCERNING THE REST WHICH REMAINS
FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD

Hebrews 4:1-10

Hebrews 4:1 ---Let us therefore fear,—The proper object of fear is danger. And as the Hebrew Christians were then in danger of falling away, the Apostle very properly appeals here to their sense of fear, for the purpose of exciting them to greater diligence in the Divine life. For he well knew that everything depended on their attaining to that rest which remains for the people of God. If they failed in this, they failed in everything. In that event, their confession would be all in vain, and life itself would be worse than an abor­tion.

Hebrews 4:1 ---lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest,—The participle being left (kataleipomenees) is in the present tense, implying that the promise of entering God’s rest is made sure to all Christians who, like Joshua and Caleb, continue faithful to the end of life. This the Apostle here assumes, for the present, on the grounds already stated. But lest anyone should doubt the reality of such a rest, he immediately takes up the consideration of this subject, and makes it his main theme in this paragraph.

Hebrews 4:1 ---any of you should seem to come short of it.—Or more ex­actly, Lest any of you may seem (dokee) to have come short of it (hustereekenai). That is, lest it may appear at the end of your course or on the day of final reckoning, that any of you shall have failed to reach the heavenly rest, the sabbatism that remains for the people of God. The Apostle would, in a word, have his Hebrew brethren in Christ take heed, lest while there is remaining to them a promise of entering into God’s rest, any of them should, like their fathers in the wilderness, fall short of it through their own obstinate unbelief.

Hebrews 4:2 ---For unto us was the gospel preached, etc.—This is a very inaccurate translation of the original, and conveys to the English reader quite an erroneous impression. Literally rendered the passage stands thus: For we are evangelized (esmen eueengelis- tnenoi) as well as they. That is, the promise of entering into rest, on given conditions, has been made to us Christians, as well as to the ancient Hebrews. The assertion is designed to set forth more directly and categorically what is assumed in the first verse, viz., that there is really left to us a promise of entering into God’s rest. The Apostle means to say that the joyful promise of entering into rest, made first to the Israelites, has respect to us as well as to them. Primarily, it had reference to the possession of Canaan; and secondarily, to that better rest of which the rest in Canaan was but a type. This same promise, in its second intention, still remains for the encouragement and consolation of all God’s people. Into it they will all finally enter; unless, like the Israelites, they fall by the way on account of their own practical infidelity.

Hebrews 4:2 ---but the word preached did not profit them,Literally, the word of hearing (ho logos tees akoees) did not profit them. They heard the message which God delivered to them through Moses, but they were not profited by it.

Hebrews 4:2 ---not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.—Or as rendered by Erasmus and others: “not having been mingled by means of faith with them that heard it.” The word rendered mixed (sugkekramenos) is used metaphorically, and seems to have reference to the mixing of food with the digestive fluids, in order to its being appropriated to the wants of the body; or, according to the above version of Erasmus, it may refer to the food’s being in­corporated with the tissues of the body by means of these fluids. In both cases the meaning is substantially the same. Food taken into the stomach, unless it be properly digested and appropriated, is of no benefit whatever to the physical organs, but rather an in­jury. And just so it is with the word of hearing. If it is received as seed on the highway, or on stony ground, or among thorns, it is of no service whatever to those who hear it. But when it is well understood, and received into good and honest hearts, it then be­comes as food to the soul, and gives life, and health, and strength to the whole inner man. Then indeed it is more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold; and it is “sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb.”

The Israelites were mostly of the stony-ground hearers. They at first received the word with all readiness of mind and promised obedience to its requirements. See Exodus 19:7-8, and Exodus 24:3. But they had no root in themselves; and hence when trials and tribula­tions came, they stumbled and fell. And just so it is with thou­sands of nominal professors in our own day and generation. Under, it may be, the judgments of God or the exciting influences of a protracted meeting, they receive the word with gladness. For a time they are very zealous for the glory of God and the salvation of souls; and many of them are no doubt honest in their profes­sions. But they lack stability. They have no root in themselves. And before the soul is sufficiently nourished, even while the food is in process of digestion, they stumble and fall, as did the Israelites in the wilderness. But others, like Joshua and Caleb, receive the word into good and honest hearts, “and bring forth fruit with pa­tience.”

According to the reading of the Common English Version and also that of Erasmus, the perfect passive participle sunkekramenos relates to logos in the nominative singular. But many manuscripts have the accusative plural (sunkekramenos) ; according to which the reading would be as follows: “Nevertheless the word of hear­ing did not profit them, unmingled as they were in faith with its hearers”; or more freely, “but the word preached did not profit them, because they did not believingly associate with those who obeyed it, such as Joshua and Caleb.” This reading is on the whole preferred by Alford, but it is now very properly rejected by most expositors; being, as they say, inconsistent with the plain and obvious thought of the writer, that “the word did not profit be­cause it was not received in faith.”

Hebrews 4:3 ---For we who have believed do enter into rest:—into the rest; that is, the promised rest. In verse first, our author speaksof a promise being left us of entering into God’s rest; and in the second verse, he says, the good news of entering into God’s rest on given conditions, was proclaimed to us as well as to the ancient Is­raelites. And now in the third, he further categorically affirms that all believers in Christ do actually enter into this rest: and as evidence of this, he again quotes from the ninety-fifth Psalm. The exclusion of some on the ground of their unbelief, implies the ad­mission of others on the ground of their belief.

Hebrews 4:3 ---if they shall enter into my rest:—The word here rendered if (ei) should be rendered not, as in Hebrews 3:11. The form of the expres­sion is elliptical, being borrowed from the usual mode of taking an oath among the Hebrews, and is equivalent to a strong negative. Thus in 2 Samuel 3:35, David says, “So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread or aught else, till the sun be down.” This is but a solemn and emphatic way of expressing his purpose not to eat anything till after sunset. And so also in this connection, God is here represented as declaring with the solemnity of an oath, that the disobedient Israelites who rebelled against him at Kadesh Barnea, should never enter into his rest.

Hebrews 4:3 ---although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.—The logical connection of this clause is somewhat ob­scure in consequence of the passage being so very elliptical. But the Apostle refers here manifestly to the sabbatical rest, which had been sanctified for the glory of God and the good of mankind even from the foundation of the world, or from the time that God fin­ished the work of creation. (Genesis 2:2.) For, to say that the works were finished from the foundation of the world, is equivalent to saying that the Sabbath, commemorative of God’s rest, was sancti­fied and observed from the same ever memorable epoch. Such is the law of all commemorative institutions. The Passover, for ex­ample, the Pentecost, the Lord’s Day, and the Lord’s Supper, were all established in close connection with the events which they were severally intended to celebrate. And hence it is obvious that the oath of God at Kadesh Barnea could not have reference to the sab­batical rest; for this, the Hebrews with others had long enjoyed. But in making this oath Jehovah must have had reference to a fu­ture rest; a rest into which the apostate Israelites never entered. That this is the meaning of this very elliptical passage, is plain from what follows.

Hebrews 4:4 ---For he spake, etc.—The allusion here is to Genesis 2:2; and the object of the Apostle in referring to it, is merely to amplify and illustrate still further what he has with characteristic brevity spo­ken of in the preceding verse. He here very clearly intimates that the sabbatical rest was instituted by God, at the close of the Adamic renovation, when on the seventh day “he rested from all his works which he had made.” And hence it follows, as before stated, that this rest cannot be identical with that from which a whole generation of the Israelites were forever excluded.

Hebrews 4:5 ---And in this place again,—In what place? Evidently, in the place which our author has under consideration, and to which he refers in the third verse. But what is this ? Most expositors agree that the reference is to Psalms 95:11; for here the very words of our text occur in the Septuagint, and they are a fair and literal rendering of the original Hebrew. But in the seventh verse, our author clearly refers to Psalms 95:7-8; and as he cites this in proof of a new proposition relating to a much later period, it is alleged by some that in the former case the reference must be to Numbers 14:28-30. There is no difficulty, however, in supposing that in both cases the Apostle refers to the ninety-fifth Psalm. But the citation made in the third and fifth verses is applied only to those Israelites who rebelled against God under Moses, and who on this account were not allowed to enter the land of Canaan; whereas the citation in the seventh verse applies to those of a later period. The argu­ment of the Apostle may, then, be briefly stated as follows: He shows first by referring to Genesis 2:2, that the sabbatical rest was instituted from the foundation of the world, when God had finished the work of creation. And then he proves from Psalms 95:11, that twenty-five hundred years after that important epoch, when the Is­raelites rebelled at Kadesh Barnea, God made oath concerning a rest which was then in the future and from which that perverse and rebellious generation were forever excluded. And hence he infers that this rest could not be the rest of the seventh day, which from the beginning had been enjoyed by all the true worshipers of Jehovah.

Hebrews 4:6 ---Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein,—The argument of the Apostle is simply this: A rest was provided and offered to the Israelites. But those to whom it was first offered in the time of Moses failed to enter it, on account of their waywardness and unbelief. God, however, provides nothing in vain. He makes no experiments; and he is never disappointed in any of his plans and purposes. The rest provided remains, therefore, for all true Israelites, who, like Joshua and Caleb, have faith in God and rely on his promises. And hence it follows, as stated in the first and third verses, that there is a rest remaining for the people of God ; and that we who believe do enter into it.

But here again there is seeming ground for another objection. Though the first generation of the Israelites redeemed from Egyp­tian bondage, failed to enter the land of Canaan, it was not so with the second. Under Joshua, they crossed the Jordan, and took pos­session of the promised inheritance. And hence it might be in­ferred by some that this was a fulfillment of the promise in its full­est sense; and consequently that outside of Judaism there is really no promised rest for the believer. To the refutation of this objec­tion the Apostle therefore next turns his attention.

Hebrews 4:7 ---Again, he limiteth a certain day,—The object of the Apos­tle in this verse is to refute the objection just stated. This he does by referring to the fact that in Psalms 95:7-11, David by the Spirit warns the people of his own generation against the sin of unbelief, lest they too should, like their fathers under Moses, fail to enter into the enjoyment of the promised rest. “To-day,” he says, “if ye hear his voice, harden not your heart as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness, where your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with that generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” The Psalmist refers back to the time when the Israelites were invited to go up from Kadesh Barnea, and take possession of the land of Canaan. (Numbers 13.) But they refused to do so, and were on account of their dis­obedience condemned to die in the wilderness. (Numbers 14.) And from these well known historical facts David warns and admon­ishes his own contemporaries, and through them all subsequent generations, not to do as the rebellious Israelites had done under Moses; but to promptly enter God’s rest whenever invited to do so. If ye hear his voice today, obey it today. And hence it is clearly implied, that even in the time of David, the Israelites, though in the possession of Canaan, had really not entered into God’s rest. The expression, “after so long a time,” means the time that had intervened between Moses and David: and in the phrase, “as has been said before,” the Apostle refers back to what he had said in Hebrews 3:7-8.

Hebrews 4:8 ---For if Jesus, etc.—Our translators have here very greatly and unnecessarily perplexed the English reader by using the name Jesus instead of Joshua: though it should be observed that these names are identical in Greek. The name Jesous (Ieesious) is al­ways used in Hellenistic Greek for the Hebrew Y’hoshua in the earlier books of the Old Testament, and for Yeshua in the later books. See note on 2: 13. There can be no doubt, however, that Paul refers here to Joshua the son of Nun, who, after the death of Moses, conducted the Israelites across the Jordan into the prom­ised land. There, the people enjoyed comparative rest. See Joshua 1:15 Joshua 22:4, etc. But it was not the true rest—the rest of God. For had it been so, then, as our author says, God would not after­ward have spoken through David of another day of entering into his rest.

Hebrews 4:9 ---There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.—This is the Apostle’s conclusion logically deduced from all the premises. Over and above the sabbatical rest and the rest of Canaan, there still remains a rest, a sabbatism (sabbatismos), for every child of God. It is God’s rest; a rest which he has provided, and such as that which he himself enjoys; a rest from all the toils and ills of this sinful and wearisome life. Of this the Christian has even now a foretaste in the Kingdom and patience of God’s dear Son. “Come unto me,” says Christ, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29.) You shall even now be released from the oppressive burdens of sin, and find rest to your souls, through the belief of the truth and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. But it is of the heavenly rest, the eternal sabba­tism, of which our author here speaks particularly: for in the elev­enth verse of this chapter he exhorts even his Christian brethren to labor now so as to finally enter the promised rest.

We have here, then, another beautiful illustration of the symboli­cal nature and character of the Old Testament economy. As soon as God had finished the work of creation he instituted the Sabbath —(1) for the purpose of commemorating his rest; (2) for the benefit of mankind, by giving them rest from physical labor, and leading them also to higher measures of spiritual culture and en­joyment (Mark 2:27) ; and (3) that it might be a means of fore­shadowing the heavenly rest, which even then he had in his eternal counsels provided for his faithful and obedient children. Nor was this the only Old Testament symbolical representation of God’s rest. The idea of a future sabbatism was afterward greatly inten­sified by sundry legal observances, such as the rest of the seventh year and the year of Jubilee. And even in the promise of Canaan to Abraham and to his seed for an everlasting possession, there was implied also a promise of Heaven and of a heavenly rest to all who have the faith of Abraham. See Genesis 12:7 Genesis 13:14-17 Genesis 15:18 Genesis 17:8 Genesis 24:7 Genesis 26:4; Exodus 33:1, etc. And hence it is that in Psalms 95:11, the word rest is substituted for land, as in the origi­nal form of the oath given in Numbers 14:28-30.

Hebrews 4:10 ---For he that is entered into his rest,—To whom does the Apostle here refer as having entered into rest? To Christ, say some, as Owen, Stark, Ebrard, and Alford; and to any and every departed saint, say others, as Bleek, Liinemann, Stuart, Delitzsch, and others. Which is right? Manifestly the latter, for the follow­ing reasons: (1) Because this view is most in harmony with the context. The object of our author in this verse is to assign a reason for calling the rest which remains for God’s people a sabbatism; such a rest as God himself has enjoyed ever since he laid the foun­dations of the Earth, and of which the weekly Sabbath was but a symbol. There is, he says, remaining for the people of God, and of course for-every one of them, not merely a rest (katapausis) ; such as the Israelites enjoyed in Canaan, but a keeping of a sabbath (sabbatismos), such as God himself now enjoys. For he (every saint) who enters into God’s rest, ceases from his labors and keeps a sabbath, just as God did after he had finished the work of crea­tion. The bearing of all this on the Apostle’s argument is there­fore very plain and obvious. But what could be the object of the writer in referring here to Christ ? And if it was his purpose to do so, then why did he not name him? Why should he refer in this very general and indefinite way to one whose name does not ap­pear in the entire paragraph? (2) The view which we have taken of this matter is also most in harmony with the known facts of the case. It is not true that Christ has yet finished his proper work of regeneration, and entered into his rest, as God did when he had finished the work of creation. That he has finished the work of his earthly mission and made an atonement for our sins, is of course joyfully conceded. But these labors were only preparatory to the great work of recreating the world; a work which is still in prog­ress. Indeed, the whole Christian era is, by Christ himself, called the period of regeneration. (Matthew 19:28.) And hence the work of Christ will continue until he shall have renovated the heavens and the Earth and delivered up the Kingdom to the Father. Then, and not till then, will he keep a sabbath. But now every saint, who, like Joshua and Caleb, is faithful to the end of life, en­ters then into the enjoyment of God’s rest; which in a subordinate sense is also his own rest. For “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.’’ (Revelation 14:13.)

It is not to be inferred from this, however, that the spirits of the just made perfect are in a state of slumber, or of slothful inactivity. By no means. The four living creatures and the twenty-four Eld­ers are, throughout the vision of the Apocalypse, represented as worshiping God day and night, and participating even with rapture in the joys of Heaven, as they behold from time to time the triumphs of him who by his own blood has redeemed them to God “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 4:6-11 Revelation 5:5-14 Revelation 6:1 Revelation 6:3 Revelation 6:5 Revelation 6:7, etc.) And so Lazarus was, after death, carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22) ; and the penitent thief went immediately with Christ into paradise (Luke 23:43). To the same effect is also the testimony of Paul. Speaking of Christians, he says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8); and to be present with the Lord is to be unspeakably happy (Philippians 1:23). These pas­sages are therefore wholly inconsistent with the doctrine of soul- sleeping. They severally imply a state of conscious activity and enjoyment after death, as well as of freedom from the toils and sorrows of this eventful life. There can be no doubt, then, that we will be all actively employed after death. But we will be no more wearied by our exertions: for the redeemed, though serving God day and night in his temple, will “hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the Sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16 Revelation 1:7.)

Commentary on Hebrews 4:1-10 by Donald E. Boatman

Hebrews 4:1 --Let us fear

He must be talking to Christian people:

a. 1 Peter 1:17 : “—pass the time with fear.”

b. Christians must take heed to the dangers that confront all Christians.

Hebrews 4:1 --fear therefore lest haply

A trail of bleaching bones and graves in the wilderness, and their wandering in the wilderness forty long years ought to startle us:

a. Romans 11:20 : “—by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not high minded but fear.”

b. It is not a fear that shakes the confidence, but one that fills with concern and alerts one.

Hebrews 4:1 --a promise being left

Milligan: “The participle ‘being left’ is in the present tense”:

a. This implies the promise is here now, but is made sure to only those who, like Joshua and Caleb, continue faithful to the end.

b. We will be disappointed by failure unless we by fear work at our salvation.

Hebrews 4:1 --should seem to have come short of it

Sin is “to miss the mark”:

a. “Come short” alludes to the Grecian games, and is applied to the loser, no matter how close he came to being the winner.

b. At the end of the day, if you are not finished, you fall short.

c. In the day of judgment, if you have failed to arrive and have never crossed Jordan, you will not be saved.

Hebrews 4:2 --For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us even as also they

They had an earthly rest preached; we have a heavenly rest.

a. Milligan says: “Literally it should read ‘we are evangelized as well as they’.”

b. This ties in with Hebrews 1:2 : “—spoken to us in His Son.”

c. See Ephesians 1:9 : “—making known unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him.”

The church is to preach these good tidings:

1 Peter 4:10 : “—steward of the manifold grace of God.”

Ephesians 3:10 : “—that might be made known through the church.”

Hebrews 4:2 --but the word of hearing did not profit them

They would not go up.

a. Deuteronomy 1:20-21 : “—and I said unto you, ye are come unto the hill country—go up—take possession—fear not; be not dismayed.” Deuteronomy 1:26 : “—yet ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of Jehovah, your God.”

b. Good tidings were rejected for the ten spies’ evil reports.

Jesus spoke of a similar people, Matthew 23:37 : “Ye would not.”

a. The test of a sermon is, “what profit?”

b. Some preaching is beautiful, but to no profit.

Hebrews 4:2 --because it was not united by faith

Hearing is useless unless tied to or laid hold of:

a. The word “united” is also translated “mixed.”

b. The place of faith is described in Hebrews 11.

“Mixed” is described by Milligan: “This is metaphorically used and seems to have reference to the mixing of food with digestive fluids in order to be appropriated to the wants of the body.”

Faith is to affect one’s actions, character and destiny:

a. Jesus likened the hearer who does not obey to the foolish man building upon the sand. Matthew 7:26-27.

b. Of the spies, only Joshua and Caleb, “mixed faith”.

Hebrews 4:2 --with them that heard

Faith is the person’s responsibility:

a. God gives us grace, not faith.

b. We do the uniting, the mixing.

We have been given ears to hear along with God’s grace; now, as hearers we are to unite the message with faith.

a. Grace saves, Ephesians 2:8, but only by faith on man’s part.

b. Heaven is not a place for faithless people. If heaven were obtained by the grace of God only, everyone would be there.

Hebrews 4:3 --For we who have believed

Is faith all that is necessary?

a. Let James answer. James 2:17 : “Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone.” James 2:24 : “We see then how that by works, a man is justified and not by faith only.”

b. Faith discussed here is the active kind like Joshua’s.

He talks of faith, for it is the beginning of our experience.

Hebrews 4:3 --do enter into that rest

What is our “rest”?

a. Scriptures that show kinds of rest:

1. 2 Timothy 1:7 : From fear—“not given us a spirit of fear.” Romans 8:15 : “For we have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear.”

2. Romans 8:2 : Bondage to sin—“For the law of the spirit of life made me free from the law of sin and death.”

3. Galatians 5:1 : Bondage from law—“Be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.”

4. Romans 8:1 : From condemnation—“There is therefore now no condemnation.”

b. McKnight says that the rest here spoken of is all future rest. It is an inward rest on earth for us, although the final rest will be future.

1. Peace of conscience.

2. Joy in the Holy Spirit.

3. Saved from the guilt and power of sin.

Rest is obtained by accepting the words of God:

a. Illustration of it: 2 Chronicles 32:8—Hezekiah spoke to his people when the Assyrians came against them. “With him is an arm of flesh: but with us is Jehovah our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah King of Judah.”

b. Sinners are restless, for sin does not satisfy.

Use of the word “rest” in the New Testament:

a. Jesus and rest:

Matthew 11:28-29 : “I will give you rest.”

b. Rest and persecution:

1. Acts 9:31 : “Then had the churches rest.”

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:7 : “And to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power in flaming fire.”

c. Rest as a blessing on man by God.

1 Peter 4:14 : “Spirit of God resteth upon you.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 : “Power of Christ may dwell upon you.”

The word “rest” should be understood in the same way as “salvation”.

a. We are saved, but salvation includes now, as well as our experience of heaven.

b. We have rest now, but rest in heaven will be the greatest joy of us all.

Hebrews 4:3 --even as he hath said, As I sware in My wrath

Psalms 95:11 is quoted here in rather a strange setting, it seems, on the first reading of it. The author, like Jesus, quoted often from the Old Testament, which proves its accepted inspiration.

Hebrews 4:3 --they shall not enter into My rest

King James version: “If they shall enter”:

a. Milligan: The word should not be rendered “if” but “not”.

b. This expression “if” seems not widely accepted.

Why this negative statement is to verify a positive one preceding it:

a. He argues that, since men are by the oath of God excluded from God’s rest on account of unbelief, this implies that all who believe shall enter into His rest.

b. It is an argument from what is contrary.

Hebrews 4:3 --although the works were finished from the foundation of the world

Some suggested explanations of this expression:

a. It probably means the completion of the creation in six days, followed by a rest.

1. The rest of God was after the creation. God looked upon it and saw that it was good.

2. Sin broke the rest of God.

b. McKnight says that this rest is mentioned to show it was not the seventh day, but a future rest which they could have had by believing.

c. Calvin says: “To define what our rest is, he reminds us of what Moses relates, that God, having finished the creation of the world, immediately rested from His works; and he finally concludes that the true rest of the faithful will be when they shall rest as God did.”

d. Milligan feels that it is used to point out the sabbatical rest sanctified by God for His glory and all mankind.

Although there was a rest from the beginning, we can miss it by unbelief:

a. Reading it with the warning, we can see the danger of our not entering God’s eternal rest, just as Israel missed their rest.

b. Man and God will have rest when sin and unbelief are ended.

Study Questions

528. The expression “let us” would include whom?

529. Who does he say should fear?

530. What kind of a fear is it?

531. What does 1 Peter 1:17 say about fear?

532. What have we seen from Chapter Three to cause fear?

533. What are we to fear?

534. Define “lest haply”.

535. Does the expression, “being left”, indicate a present promise?

536. If we should fear, then does it sound as though all will be saved—eternal security?

537. If a generation could be lost, is it not a serious warning to us?

538. What has he stated here that should cause us to fear?

539. What is the promise referred to here?

540. What is meant, “come short of the promise”?

541. How can you come short of a promise?

542. Why had good tidings been preached to them? Why did it fail?

543. How do our good tidings compare with theirs?

544. What would have been the profit to them?

545. Compare Deuteronomy 1:20; Deuteronomy 1:26 with our backsliding.

546. Is it inferred that faith alone is sufficient?

547. Give an exegesis of the expression, “not united by faith”.

548. Compare Matthew 7:26-27 with the idea of mixing faith and obedience.

549. Does faith affect one’s character and conduct?

550. Is faith our part, or God’s part, in salvation?

551. How does the word of hearing profit us?

552. Does God give grace, or faith? cf. Ephesians 2:8.

553. How does the hearer unite his faith?

554. If God gives faith, who might we expect to see in heaven? How many?

555. What good does food do if it is not mixed with the blood-stream?

556. Compare Jerusalem on the subject of hearing Christ.

557. Compare James 2:17-24.

558. “We who have believed” would refer to whom?

559. Is it persons who have believed the Old Testament example?

560. The word “rest” seems to have a prominent part here. What is involved? Of what are we free?

561. Is rest all future?

562. Read these verses to see what our rest might be. 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:15; Galatians 5:1.

563. What kind of experiences are eliminated by the peace and rest of the Christian?

564. What use is made of the term “rest” in other places in the Bible? cf. Matthew 11:28-29; Acts 9:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 4:14.

565. Read 2 Chronicles 32:8 for an example of a faith that “rests”.

566. Does the word “rest” carry a similar idea as the word “saved”?

567. Discuss the King James translation, “if they shall enter.”

568. What works are referred to in Hebrews 4:3?

569. What opinions do commentators have on the “works” here referred to?

570. Does this make God’s plan of salvation of long standing, if it refers to God’s early plan of giving man rest from sin?

571. If God has always had provision for man’s rest, and it was lost by unbelief, what should we conclude?

572. Does the scripture back up this logic?

573. What does the “seventh day” refer to? cf. Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 31:17.

Hebrews 4:4 --For He hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise.

Moses spoke of the first day of rest.

a. Genesis 2:2-3.

b. Exodus 31:17 : “For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”

Why does the author mention it here?

a. Milligan says: “To amplify and illustrate further what he has spoken in the preceding verse.”

b. Milligan feels that this rest cannot be identical with that from which a whole generation of the Israelites were forever excluded.

Hebrews 4:4 --and God rested on the seventh day from all His works

This day of rest was instituted by God from the foundation of the world, Twenty-five hundred years later God spoke of a future rest which the Israelites were to be denied.

What is God doing now? The scriptures indirectly answer for us.

Hebrews 1:3 : Christ is spoken of as “upholding all things by the word of his power”, John 5:17 : “My Father worketh until now and I work—.” John 6:29 : “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent,” Acts 17:28 : “In Him we live and move.”

Hebrews 4:5 --and in this place again

Psalms 95:11 : Most authorities agree that “place” is to be in italics—not in the original manuscript.

Hebrews 4:5 --They shall not enter into My rest

Clarke says that this was a second rest promised to the obedient seed of Abraham—spoken in the days of David, when the Jews actually possessed the land.

McKnight feels that it refers to the rest in Canaan, and was God’s rest for two reasons:

a. God rested from introducing them after their settlement.

b. They were free to worship, free from the fear of their enemies.

Study Questions

574. When did God first speak of a rest for His people?

575. God’s rest after six days of creation was what kind of a rest?

576. Why does Paul mention it here? What is the lesson?

577. Why the indefinite “somewhere”?

578. How many years after the first seventh day did God give man a seventh day?

579. Does God work today?

580. Are two different rests referred to here as seen by the word “again”?

581. In what ways could the Israelites’ experience in Canaan be considered a rest?

Hebrews 4:6 --Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto

The King James version says “some must enter”:

a. This carries the idea of necessity.

b. God did not forsake all men, but some did receive the promise, the faithful ones, Joshua and Caleb.

God’s promise to Abraham must not fail, so God used the next generation to conquer the land.

Hebrews 4:6 --and they to whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in

Good news of freedom from bondage, news of prosperity, were all rejected for a discouraging report of ten spies:

a. Read the good news in Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 33:3.

b. How they could turn away from God’s providential care seems a mystery to us.

Before we condemn that generation, look at the warnings for our generation:

a. Acts 20:29-30 : “—speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples.”

b. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 : “—form of godliness.”

c. 2 Timothy 1:15.

Hebrews 4:6 --because of disobedience

Faithlessness is an equivalent to disobedience.

Believers need to watch out today:

a. They can fall away and be lost, or Israel’s example means nothing.

b. If a believer, a Christian, cannot be lost, then Paul wasted much time in this book.

Hebrews 4:7 --he again

(Psalms 95:7-8 very likely).

The frequency of Old Testament quotations indicates why the gospel was to the Jew first:

a. The Old Testament was the Word of God, much of it a type of the New Testament, and much of it a lesson.

b. The Jew had a background which gave him an advantage.

Hebrews 4:7 --defineth

It is also translated “limited”:

a. A certain time in which God’s grace will work, for He limits man.

b. See Genesis 6:3 : “My spirit will not always strive with man.” God is no weakling. He practices longsuffering, but there is a line man cannot cross.

Hebrews 4:7 --a certain day To-day

When God decides on the day, it will not be tomorrow, but today:

a. Parents in their weakness say “tomorrow,” and then forget to discipline tomorrow.

b. Parents do much threatening which means little but not so with God.

Some feel that this section was David’s way of referring back to Moses’ day for a lesson in David’s day.

Hebrews 4:7 --saying in David so long a time afterward

David by the Spirit is warning the people of his own day—living later by about 500 or 600 years, of the danger of unbelief:

a. Such a warning is never out of date.

b. Every generation needs to be warned, for men always err and disobey.

Hebrews 4:7 --(even as hath been said before), To-day if ye shall hear His voice harden not your hearts

One generation can harden its heart as easily as another. The Christian dispensation is no different than any other, so we must heed this warning.

Hebrews 4:8 --For if Joshua had given them rest

“Joshua” in the Greek is “Jesus”. In Acts 7:45, it is translated “Jesus”. Both names mean “saviour”.

The people did enjoy comparative rest. Joshua 1:15 : “. . . until the Lord have given your brethren rest.” Joshua 22:4 : “And now the Lord your God hath given rest.” This was not the true rest. God has something better in store for His people.

They to whom David addressed the Psalm were in possession of that land, but they were reminded of the duty of seeking a better rest.

Hebrews 4:8 --he would not have spoken afterward of another day

Who is “he”?

a. If it is Joshua, when did he speak it?

1. Newell feels it refers to Joshua’s farewell address in Joshua 23:1-4, where he tells them to complete the conquest.

2. It shows the incomplete work of Joshua; more rest was needed.

b. “He” must refer to God, who spoke afterward through David, says Milligan.

1. This is not the best rendering.

2. The context has shown that Joshua failed, so he had to speak again in his farewell address of rest.

3. To clinch his argument, David was quoted in Hebrews 4:7.

Study Questions

582. Is a second rest promised in the days of David correct according to Clarke?

583. What is implied by the expression, “some should enter”?

584. Would God’s plan of salvation have failed if all had failed to enter?

585. What were the good tidings of God? of the ten spies? of Joshua?

586. What has been the main factor in man’s failure in the past to enter into the rest of God?

587. What verses in the New Testament warn us against similar experiences?

588. If man, who had received the promise, lost out that day, should we not assume there is danger today?

589. What actually caused this disobedience?

590. If man can’t be lost, what is the purpose of the teaching of this verse?

591. What other word may be used in place of the word “defineth” of Hebrews 4:7?

592. Compare Genesis 6:3 for God’s limitation.

593. What is the significance of this limitation?

594. Compare Galatians 4:4 with God’s limitation of time.

595. If Moses and David found hardened hearts, is it likely that human nature has changed?

596. What hardens a heart?

597. Did Joshua ever promise another rest? Cf. Joshua 1:15; Joshua 22:1-4.

598. Why is it likely not Jesus who is referred to here?

599. Why is “Joshua” also translated “Jesus” in the footnote?

600. Why is it likely Joshua is referred to and not David?

601. Who is referred to by “he would not have spoken afterward of another day”?

602. Was Joshua’s rest complete? Is this why God declared it again through David in Hebrews 4:7?

603. If the rest refers to Joshua’s farewell words, then why is David quoted in Hebrews 4:7?

Hebrews 4:9 --There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God

“There remaineth therefore” suggests that there is something better yet to follow:

a. Sabbath is a symbol of the rest yet to come.

b. This is the consummation of the new creature in Christ.

c. Jesus, Matthew 11:28-29 : “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden—.”

d. Rest fulfilled in Revelation 14:13 : “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.” cf. Revelation 21:1-5.

“Rest” here is sabbath rest, a state of rest:

a. It is not a state of inactivity, but release from the body of sin.

b. It is rest from this body of pain, sorrow and affliction.

Hebrews 4:9 --for the people of God

There is the very opposite of comfort and rest for those who are not God’s people. Luke 16:24 : “For I am tormented in this flame.” Revelation 14:11 : “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image and receiveth a mark . . .”

Hebrews 4:10 --For he that is entered into His rest

Who is referred to here?

a. One view favors Christ:

1. For this view, we have only the idea that Christ is resting from his earthly mission.

2. Against it we have several factors:

a) First: Christ is not resting, since He is preparing mansions, making intercession for us, etc.

b) Second: Jesus is not mentioned here at all.

c) Third: We are exhorted by Hebrews 4:11 to enter into the rest, as though it is the Christian’s rest as referred to in Hebrews 4:10.

b. A second view is that it is just a general statement of man entering into rest:

1. McKnight expresses it: “For the believer who is entered into God’s rest, hath himself also rested from his works of trial and suffering.”

2. Milligan says this view is most in harmony with the context.

Hebrews 4:10 --hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.

The Christian enters into a rest, just as did God when He rested:

a. Now every saint who, like Joshua and Caleb, is faithful enters into God’s rest.

b. As certainly as God rested, so shall we rest. “His works” may refer to several things:

1. His own works that have no part in his salvation:

a) The Jew must give up the works of the old law.

b) The moral man must give up thinking that a moral life is able to save.

2. “That work which the child of God does in being faithful”:

a) The work of God was good, and no doubt the good work of Christian people is referred to here in the parallel.

b) The life of self-denial comes to an end, and one enters into a rest with God.

Study Questions

604. Is David reminding them of seeking a greater rest?

605. What is the significance of the words “a sabbath rest for the people of God”?

606. When is this period of rest?

607. Is it a cessation of activity, or is another idea implied in our rest?

608. If the people of God have rest, what will the others have? Cf. Luke 16:24; Revelation 14:10.

609. Who is the “he” in Hebrews 4:10?

610. Why is it not Jesus?

611. Is Jesus resting?

612. What are the works referred to?

Commentary on Hebrews 4:1-10 by Burton Coffman

EXHORTATION CONTINUED;

THE CHRISTIAN’S REST ATTAINED BY FAITH;

THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD;

THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST;

BOLDNESS AT THE THRONE OF GRACE

Hebrews 4:1 --Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise of being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)

Why should people fear, especially Christians? Simply because great and eternal rewards are subject to forfeit as long as people are in the flesh, because a powerful and aggressive foe in the person of Satan and his hosts are opposed to us, and because the multitude of distractions, temptations, and necessary labors of life constantly tend to produce that one moment of life in which inattention can lead to everlasting ruin. This fear is reinforced by the thought that many others failed, even after a glorious beginning.

The first thirteen verses of this chapter conclude the second exhortation, or warning, and the idea of "a rest" for the people of God, already mentioned in Hebrews 4:18, is taken up and further elaborated. "Rest" in the usage at this place is a much more varied and extensive thing than merely entering Canaan, for it is a concept that is made to stand for all the spiritual and eternal rewards of faith. The Christian rest includes rest in Christ, as procured by taking his yoke and learning of him (Matthew 11:28-29), rest from the labors of life (Revelation 14:13), and rest with the Lord in heaven throughout all eternity; and although the author of Hebrews might have preached the Christian rest from the standpoint of Christ’s teachings and those of the apostles, he elected to base his appeal upon the Old Testament, equally valid, and better designed to woo his readers back from a reversion to Judaism; hence the statement that "there was a promise LEFT," in the sense of being "left open." How so? Five hundred years, almost, after Israel entered Canaan, David in Psalms 95:7-11 spoke of there being a rest for God’s people, indicating that their final entry into Canaan was not the full attainment of that rest, and that something much more than that was involved.

Again, the word "haply" injects the idea of inadvertence. Alas, it must be supposed that the far greater part of Christians falling away from faith in Christ do so unintentionally. Few indeed ever decide boldly against the Lord, and move decisively against him; but, on the contrary, they allow inattention to spiritual things, carelessness in attending worship, neglect of daily prayer and study of the Word, and encroachments upon their time due to worldly and pleasure-loving friends to divert their attention first, and later their whole life and conduct from the path of honor and duty. It is hard to imagine a more urgent and persistent warning than the one given here.

Hebrews 4:2 --For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they; but the word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard.

This does not mean that the Jews had the same gospel preached unto them that Christians have received, but that JUST AS they received a good word about the promised rest, so have Christians. There is also here a plain indication of the source of that faith deemed so necessary to salvation, in that it is called a "word of hearing." Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:16 ff). It is God’s word itself, then, that has the power to enter the heart and produce faith. The rendition of the last clause here has been the subject of many disputes and disagreements among scholars, but fortunately the meaning is obvious. As Bruce said it, "The sense is plain enough; the good news had to be assimilated or appropriated by faith if it was to bring any benefit to the hearers."[1]

ENDNOTE:

[1] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 70.

Hebrews 4:3 --For we who have believed do enter into that rest; even as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

The use of the present tense, "we do enter into that rest," stresses the first and immediate phase of the Christian’s rest and focuses the attention of the believer upon the benefits and joys of that Christian service which are already his and in the process of being enjoyed by him. This verse again strikes at the tragic failure of Israel who, though entering Canaan, did not in fact enter into God’s rest, in the higher and better sense of becoming a holy nation of righteous and devoted worshipers of God, as God had commanded them (Exodus 19:3-6); but on the other hand, they rebelled against God time and again; they rejected the theocracy, demanded a king like the nations around them, worshipped idols, oppressed the poor, and even made their children pass through the fire to Molech! Thus, while entering a type of God’s rest, they failed to attain any reality of it; and furthermore, all this came about in spite of the fact that God was fully prepared to welcome them into such a glorious rest, indeed, had been anticipating it "from the foundation of the world."

What is meant by "the foundation of the world"? The words are used in Hebrews 9:26; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8 and the message these references carry is that God’s plans and purposes for people predate the formation of the world itself. "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). And this coincides with Paul’s word that "We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7). All efforts to construe "the foundation of the world" as a reference to its reconstruction following the disaster in Eden must be viewed as incorrect, since, by definition, God’s "eternal purpose" (Ephesians 8:11) has existed always, and the world has not. Regarding the efforts of some scholars to lessen the force of this, Bruce said, "The attempt to render it `downfall of the world’ and link it with the catastrophic interpretation of Genesis 1:2 cannot be sustained."[2] Dummelow’s perception of this is also helpful:

The promise of rest applies to us who are Christians, seeing that those to whom the promise was made failed to attain it. And their failure was not due to the fact that the rest had not been prepared, because it existed since the day that God finished his work of creation. This is proved by the words, "And God rested" in one place, and the words "my rest" in another. God’s rest is therefore a fact, and it is clearly his purpose that some shall enter into it.[3]

[2] Ibid., p. 71.

[3] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1019,

Hebrews 4:4 --For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.

Genesis 2:2 is the text in the author’s mind in these words; and the argument is that God’s resting on the seventh day, unaccompanied by any subsequent declaration that he has left off resting, makes the rest of God still available for them that will receive it, as it has been from the time God finished creation. The rest God promised his people is thus a share of his own rest and pertains to the felicity and serenity that flow from faithful and humble obedience to God’s will. Some interpreters attempt to find millennial implications in the concept of God’s rest; but as Bruce stated,

The identification of the rest of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews with a coming millennium has, indeed, been ably defended; but it involves the importation of a concept which is in fact alien to it.[4]

It should be noted that the "seventh day" of this verse can be nothing other than the seventh day of creation on which God rested and not the Hebrew sabbath. The rest of God is a far greater and more wonderful thing than any system of merely keeping sabbaths or even entering Canaan, both of which things the Jews certainly did; but in the procurement of that more noble rest, they failed.

One of the most significant revelations of this chapter is that the seventh day of Creation is still in progress. God rested on the seventh day from all his works (of creation). God is still resting, Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 4:11. People should take pains to enter that rest because it is yet available. The Bishop of Edinburgh stated that, "From this argument, it is mandatory to conclude that the seventh day is still in progress?

ENDNOTE:

[4] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 75.

Hebrews 4:5 --And in this place again, They shall not enter into my rest.

This quotation, as in Hebrews 4:3, is again from Psalms 95:11, serving the purpose, alongside of the quotation from Genesis 2:2, of identifying the rest spoken of here as that of God himself, following the six days of creation, and to which heavenly rest God has always invited people to come and share. To make this place any kind of an argument for people’s keeping the sabbath day is to miss the entire argument of the epistle in this portion. The argument is that a rest remains BECAUSE IT WAS NOT ENTERED by the Hebrews! Therefore, it was not entering Canaan nor keeping the sabbath day, for they did that. Thus, the marvelous rest referred to here can be neither of those things but must be understood as a reference back to the rest of God himself which is still in progress, a rest the Jews could have entered but did not, and likewise a rest that many now have the right to enter but may come short of it; hence the warning.

Hebrews 4:6 --Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto, and they unto whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience.

This is a summary of the argument. God desires and has purposed from all eternity that some shall enter into his rest; and, seeing that Israel did not, as proved by David’s saying so in Psalms 95, the way is still open for whomsoever will accept the invitation.

Hebrews 4:7 --He again defineth a certain day, Today, saying in David so long a time afterward (even as hath been said before) Today if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts.

Interrupting his chain of thought, and repeating the scriptural basis of it, he appeals again to Psalms 95:7-11, ascribed to David. The thesis turns on the fact that it was "long afterward" (about 500 years) that David urged the people AT THAT TIME, "today," to hear God’s voice, to refrain from hardening their hearts, and to enter the rest of God. He thus proved that the rest had not been entered by Israel, that it was open 500 years after Canaan was entered, and that it was still available when the author of Hebrews wrote. This rather extensive appeal is a classical example of the use of repetition to drive home a point; hence the oft-repeated reference and the recurrence, as of a refrain, "Today ... harden not your hearts."

Hebrews 4:8 --For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken of another day.

This means that if Joshua had given the people the rest spoken of here, in that he led them into Canaan, then David would not have held it up as something yet unattained such a long time after that. The words "Jesus" and "Joshua" are one word, just as the names "Juan" and "John" are the same; and this clears up the translation of this name as "Jesus" in the KJV in this verse. However, it is plain enough that not our Lord, but the ancient Hebrew captain who succeeded Moses and led the children of Israel into Canaan, is the person meant by the author of Hebrews in this verse. The English Revised Version (1885) is therefore correct. Joshua, due to his name, and the fact that he led Israel into the promised land, is viewed as one of the lesser types of the Master. However, there are more contrasts than similarities between them, as witness the following: (1) Joshua in the conquest of Canaan benefited himself and his posterity (Joshua 18:49,50): Christ’s ministry benefited not himself but his followers only. The rest that Jesus made available to his disciples was already his own. (2) Joshua did not ALONE conquer Canaan but was aided extensively by all the Israelites; Christ trod the winepress alone (Isaiah 63:3). (3) The conquest of Canaan did not cost Joshua either wounds or death; but Jesus won the eternal land of promise at the cost of suffering and death (1 Peter 1:18-19). (4) Joshua could not totally expel the old inhabitants of Canaan; but the victory of Christ was complete over death, sin, Satan and the grave.

Hebrews 4:9 --There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.

Barmby’s brief comment on this verse is concise and interesting.

The conclusion is now drawn: the true nature of the rest intended being beautifully denoted by the word "sabbath rest," which refers to the divine rest from "the foundation of the world," while the offer of it to true belivers always, and not to Israelites only, is intimated by the phrase, "the people of God."ENDNOTE:

Hebrews 4:10 --For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his.

The effort to make the person who has entered into his rest to be the Saviour appears forced, although some able scholars defend that meaning of it. The view here is that it pertains to the rest which any true follower of the Lamb enters upon his becoming a Christian. Rest is a universal human longing; and, although in youth the desire for rest might not be so urgently felt, its need and urgency, with increasing rigor, appear more and more as life unfolds. The promise of it, like a fleeting mirage, beckons beyond each pressing complex of frustrations, problems, duties, and sorrows; and for countless travelers from time to eternity, there must be frequent emotion, if expressed or not, which contains the cry of the Psalmist, "O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest" (Psalms 55:6); or the hope of Job to be where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest" (Job 3:17). The thought of ceasing from his own works, on the part of the Christian, is also intriguing. If God is resting from his works, what is there that man can do? Does he propose to move everything alone? Surely the works of righteousness, that is, human righteousness, cannot avail unto salvation.

This verse also has its application to Christ. He did indeed finish the work of his earthly ministry and enter into that eternal rest to which his followers are invited to come. All who will receive it are invited; and Christ, as representative man, has already entered upon the rest, or into it. The recurring and overwhelming thought of that "rest" so much discussed here is the eternal nature and purity of it, utterly distinguishing it from Canaan, or earthly sabbaths, which even at best were dim and imperfect symbols of a genuine reality, the rest of God. That rest is inherent in the very nature of God, who himself rested on the seventh day of creation, and who surely purposed that his people should share in it, that sharing being made possible only through the sacrifice of Christ.

Verses 11-13

Heb 4:11-13

FURTHER EXHORTATION TO STRIVE EARNESTLY TO ENTER

INTO GOD’S REST, IN VIEW ESPECIALLY OF THE ALL PENETRATING

AND HEART-SEARCHING CHARACTER OF GOD’S WORD

Hebrews 4:11-13

Hebrews 4:11 ---Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest.—That is to say, since it is an established fact that there is remaining for the people of God a sabbatical rest; and since it is true that we are all invited to enter into that rest; it therefore becomes us to strive ear­nestly (spondasomen) to do so; lest we too, like the Israelites under Moses, fall short of it through unbelief and disobedience. For them the symbolical rest of Canaan was freely provided; and God himself was present and ready to lead them into it. But they disobeyed him, and rebelled against him; and as a consequence they perished in the wilderness, short of the promised land. And just so, says Paul, it will be with us, if we follow their example. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. In order to gain admission into God’s ever­lasting Kingdom, we must give all diligence in adding to our “faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to god­liness brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness love.” (2 Peter 1:5-11.)

Care must be taken, however, that in all our efforts to enter the promised rest we strive lawfully; and with constant reference to that purity of heart and perfection of character which God re­quires; and without which, no one will ever enjoy his presence or keep a sabbath with him. (12: 14.) It is not always the man who works most that will finally receive and enjoy most; for there are first that shall be last; and there are last that shall be first. (Matthew 19:30.) It should never be forgotten that by the deeds of law no flesh is justified in the sight of God. (Romans 3:20.) There is noth­ing in these legal acts and observances to purify the soul and fit it for the rest of God: “for Christ is the end of the law for righteous­ness to every one that believeth.” (Romans 10:4.) It is only through the rich merits of his blood, the indwelling and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, and the constant use of all the means which Heaven has provided for our growth in grace and progress in the Divine life, that we can be prepared for the promised rest. The whole inner man must be cleansed from every mark of sin and from every stain of iniquity, before we can have that full and per­fect communion with God which the redeemed will finally enjoy, and which is in fact the consummation of all happiness. And hence he says to everyone who would enter into his rest, “Become ye holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16.)

And hence we see the duty of constant self-examination while we are endeavoring to work out our salvation with fear and trem­bling (2 Corinthians 13:5) ; for it is God that works in us (Philippians 2:13). His word tries us, and proves us, and searches us even to the very center of our being. This, our author very beautifully and forcibly illustrates in the two following verses.

Hebrews 4:12 ---For the word of God is quick, and powerful,—In this verse, the Apostle gives a reason why we should all be so very ear­nest and particular in our endeavors to prepare and qualify our­selves, through Divine grace, for the enjoyment of the rest which remains for the people of God. A single mistake here may prove fatal. For though we keep the whole law, save that we offend only in one point, we are guilty of all. (James 2:10.) Though, like Naa- man, we dip ourselves seven times in the waters of the Jordan, and though our persons may seem to be all pure and holy in the eyes of men and angels, there may, nevertheless, be some secret sin cher­ished in our hearts, that will wholly unfit us for the fellowship of God and the society of Heaven. And if so, it will not escape the eye of him who searches the hearts of the children of men. For the judgment of God is according to truth (kata aletheian) in all cases (Romans 2:2); and his word, by which we are to be judged at the last day, is, like its Author, “living and powerful.”

It has long been a question with expositors, whether “the word” that is here spoken of is the personal Word, the Logos that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), or the “word of hearing” (4: 2), called also “the word of salvation” (Acts 13:26). Many of the ancients and some of the moderns understand by it the per­sonal Word; who, as they say, “is living and powerful, and his judgment is sharper and more penetrating than any two-edged sword.” But it is far more simple and natural, as most modern commentators concede, to understand by this the instrumental word, which, as a sharp, two-edged sword, proceeds out of the mouth of the personal Word (Revelation 1:16 Revelation 2:12 Revelation 19:15 Revelation 19:21), with which he now smites the nations; and by means of which he will finally judge all who hear it. This word “is living and powerful,” because it is always supported by him who is himself the fountain of life (Psalms 36:9) and the source of all power (Romans 13:1). It is not a lifeless abstraction, but a living concrete embodiment of God’s will, going wherever he pleases, and doing whatever he re­quires. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the Earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so,” says Jehovah, “shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11.) See references.

Hebrews 4:12 ---and sharper than any two-edged sword,—Or “more cutting than any two-mouth sword.” This can scarcely be predicated, with propriety, of the personal Word; but it applies well to the in­strumental word, the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), which goeth out of the mouth of him that sits upon the horse, and with which he smites the nations (Revelation 19:15).

Hebrews 4:12 ---piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, etc. —This passage has given rise to an almost endless number and va­riety of queries and explanations; the consideration of many of which would be of but little service to the reader. I will therefore confine my remarks on it to such matters as seem necessary in order to a fair understanding of the mind of the Spirit. And (1) What is the meaning of soul and spirit in this connection? From the days of Pythagoras (500 B.C.), and more especially from the time of Plato (350 B.C.), the doctrine of a trinity in human nature became somewhat prevalent. These philosophers both taught, in substance, that man consists of a material body (soma), an animal soul (psuche), and an immortal spirit (tineuma). The soul was by them regarded as the seat of animal life, together with its sev­eral instincts, passions, and appetites; and the spirit was supposed to be the seat of the higher intellectual and moral faculties. In this sense, Paul manifestly uses these terms both in our text and also in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. But whether he aims here to speak of man as he really is, or merely to use by way of accommodation the current phraseology of the Greeks, is not so clear. In either case he would equally accomplish his main purpose, which is simply to indicate to his readers by the use of these terms the whole incorporeal nature of man. (2) What does our author mean by the joints (harmoi) and the marrows (mueloi) ? Does he use these words in a literal sense to denote the inner and more concealed parts of the body ? or does he use them metaphorically to denote the most secret and re­condite recesses of the soul and the spirit? The critics are much divided on this point; and it must be confessed that it is not an easy matter to arrive with absolute certainty at the exact meaning of the passage. But after a careful examination of both the text and the context, I am constrained to think with Bengel, Bleek, DeWette, Tholuck, Liinemann, Moll, Alford, and others, that these words are used figuratively to denote the inmost essence of man’s spiritual nature. This view of the matter is favored (a) by the use of the single conjunction and (kai) between the words soul and spirit, and the compound conjunction both and (te kai) between the words joints and marrows; thus indicating that these two sets of words are not coordinate, but that the latter phrase is subordi­nate to the former.

Literally rendered, the passage reads as fol­lows : piercing through even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrows; and is a discerner of the thoughts and purposes of the heart. The phrase, joints and mar­rows, seems to be a proverbial expression, indicative of the inmost parts of anything; and it is used here to denote the extreme thor­oughness of the dividing process effected in the soul and in the spirit by means of the word of God. (b) This view is also most in harmony with the ascending climax at which the writer evidently aims in the construction of this sentence. The word of God is, first, living; then it is full of power and energy; then it divides and lays bare the soul and the spirit even to the extent of their joints and their marrows; and then rising above the essence of man’s na­ture, it enters inquisitively and judicially into the realms of his ideas, affections, and desires, and passes judgment on the thoughts and purposes of his heart. Nor does our author stop even here; but passing now from the word of God to God himself as its au­thor, he caps the climax by representing all created things as being naked and fully exposed to the eyes of him to whom we are re­sponsible, and to whom we shall have to render a final account. This is all very beautiful and in perfect harmony with the highly rhetorical character of the Epistle. But who does not feel the in­consistency of passing, in the course of this climax, from the soul and spirit of man to even the most concealed parts of his physical organization ?

If the view taken of this passage is correct, then it follows that the once prevalent notion of a separation of the soul from the spirit, and of the joints from the marrows, is incorrect. The sepa­ration takes place within the region of the soul and the region of the spirit; not between them. The living word cleaves and lays bare all parts of the soul and all parts of the spirit, even to the extent of their joints and their marrows; so that all the perfections and imperfections of man’s spiritual nature are made perfectly manifest. And not only so, but even the thoughts and purposes of his heart are, by this infallible Judge, fully analyzed and perfectly classified.

Hebrews 4:13 ---Neither is there any creature, etc.—There is here a mani­fest transition from the word of God, as his efficient and soul-pene­trating instrument, to God himself, in whose presence all things are naked (gumna), presenting themselves as they really are, without any kind of covering; and opened (tetrachelimena), with their heads thrown back, and their faces and necks exposed to full view. This is the proper meaning of the word; but from what is the metaphor taken? Some say, from the ancient custom of offer­ing sacrifice. The victim was first slain; then it was flayed, cut open, and exposed to the eye of the priest for inspection. Others think that the Apostle refers here to the Roman custom of bending back the necks of criminals, so as to expose their faces more fully to the eyes of the public. To this Pliny refers in his panegyric on the emperor Trajan. Speaking of the emperor’s endeavors to promote virtue and suppress vice, he says, “There is nothing, how­ever, in this age, that affects us more pleasingly and deservedly than to see from above the supine faces and reverted necks of the informers. We thus know them, and are pleased when, as expiat­ing victims of public disquietude, they are led away to lingering punishments and sufferings more terrible than even the blood of the guilty.” (Panegyr. xxxiv. 3.) Others again suppose that there is an allusion here to the custom of wrestlers who were wont to seize their antagonists by their throats, and bend back their heads and necks for the purpose of more easily effecting their overthrow. On the whole, it seems most probable that the expression had ref­erence primarily to the exposure of criminals; and that Paul used it in its then current sense to denote simply that all creatures stand before God with their necks, as it were, bent backward, and their faces fully exposed to the all-seeing “eyes of him with whom we have to do.’

REFLECTIONS

  • Christians are all of one holy brotherhood. (3:1.) It mat­ters not how much they may differ from one another in wealth, tal­ents, learning, and social advantages, they are nevertheless all one in Christ Jesus. The rich should not therefore despise the poor, nor should the poor envy the rich. But all should strive to main­tain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”; and to promote each other’s good, as heirs of the grace of life and joint heirs of the eternal inheritance.

  • To think much about Christ as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, will be of great service to us in many ways (verse 1). It will serve, for instance, to increase our faith in him and our confidence in the perfection and efficacy of the gospel plan of salvation through him. It will increase our love for God, who has so tenderly loved us as to send his own Son to redeem us. It will correct and restrain our selfishness, and make us more zealous for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. And, in a word, it will make us all more humble, more prayerful, and more earnest in our endeavors to “live soberly, and righteously, and godly.”

  • How much, how very much may depend on the fidelity of God’s ministers (verse 5). Had the servants of Christ all acted as did Moses, and observed faithfully the more full and encouraging instructions of the Holy Spirit that are given to us in the New Testament, how very different would be both the Church and the world today. How many that are now idolaters would be Chris­tians; and how many of those that are now eternally lost, might today be rejoicing among the spirits of the just made perfect.

  • God still dwells with his people (verse 6). The Church of God is the house of God, as it is written, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple.” (2 Corinthians 6:16.) Why, then, do we not draw nigh to him who has come so very near to us? Why not, like Enoch and Moses, walk with him, as seeing him who is invisible? Why not avoid everything that is offensive in his sight, such as the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life ? And why not, like Christ, humbly endeavor to do the will of God in all things? Surely this is but our highest happiness, as it is also our most reasonable service.

  • Fidelity to the end of life is essential in order to the final en­joyment of the great salvation (verses 6, 14). With such warn­ings and admonitions before us as those which are given in this section, it is all folly to rely for happiness on the imaginary “un­conditional decrees” of God; or on the once prevalent doctrine of “final perseverance.” “He that endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22.) Without this actual perseverance on our part, through the abounding grace of God, nothing can save us from the torments of the damned. It is not enough that God has sent his Son into the world to save it; and that Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to convince mankind “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” It is not enough that we have confessed Christ, and that we have been actually washed from our past sins in his blood. We must also continue to persevere in well-doing, seeking for honor, and glory, and immortality, if we would enjoy eternal life. (Romans 2:7.) “For if we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more [a] sacrifice for sins.” (10: 26.) “Let him [then] that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12.)

  • Let no one, then trifle with the commands of God, and with the promptings of an enlightened conscience; no, not even for a day or an hour (verses 7, 13). “To-day, if ye hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness.” All unnecessary delay is dangerous, because it is sinful and serves to harden the hearts of those who yield to its se­ductive influence. And hence the law of the Kingdom of Heaven is (1) to hear; (2) to believe; and (3) to obey from the heart that form of doctrine which is delivered to us in the Gospel. The primi­tive Christians did this; and then went on their way rejoicing. See Acts passim.

  • But the power of sin over the human heart is very great (verse 13). The unregenerate are slaves to its influence. See Romans 6:6-7 Romans 6:17 Romans 6:20 Romans 7:13-23. And even the Christian, enlight­ened and assisted as he is by the Holy Spirit, has need to be con­stantly on his guard, lest he too be ensnared and hardened through its deceitfulness. (1 Corinthians 9:27.) And hence the great importance and necessity of that mutual exhortation and encouragement which our author so earnestly recommends. “Exhort one another daily,” he says, “while it is called To-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” And again he says to the Gala­tian brethren, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2.) God has made us all fellow-helpers one of another, by committing to us the word of reconciliation and exhortation.

  • Why, then, are we so very unfaithful to the trust which God has committed to us in this particular? Why do we not exhort one another daily? Why are we so prone to talk about anything and everything else rather than about the one thing needful? When we meet with our brethren, we are all wont to ask for their welfare. We inquire very particularly about their prosperity in business, and also about their physical health, comforts, and enjoy­ments. But how many of us are in the habit of inquiring after the state and condition of their souls? How many mutual inquiries are made about one another’s progress in the Divine life; and about the peculiar trials, difficulties, and dangers that beset us, and against which we have to contend in our feeble efforts to reach the heavenly rest? That there is a great want of fidelity among Chris­tians in this respect, admits, I think, of no doubt. But why is it so? Has it ceased to be true that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” ? Or does this habit of worldly conver­sation about secular matters, indicate an alarming want of spiritu­ality in our own poor unbelieving hearts? That public sentiment is a great barrier in the way of religious conversation in the social circle, I freely admit. It is really amazing to what an extent the Devil has succeeded in persuading the people, that it is impolite to speak of God, or of Christ, or of Heaven, in the parlor or on the public highway. And the fear of giving offense, no doubt, often constrains many a Christian to withhold his lips from speaking good, even when the fire of God’s grace is burning in his soul. (Psalms 39:1-3.) But after making all due allowance for the bind­ing obligations of public sentiment within proper limits, it must, I fear, be conceded that this general delinquency on the part of Christians is fearfully indicative of our own want of faith in God and in the word of his grace. Christ, it is true, never cast pearls before swine; and in some cases he refrained from working mira­cles on account of the extreme wickedness and infidelity of the people. See Matthew 13:58, and Mark 6:5-6. But still, the main burden of his conversation, wherever he went, was “the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” May God grant us all grace to walk in his footsteps.

  • Our greatest want has always been a want of faith in God and in the word of his grace (verses 18, 19). It was this that first brought sin into the world. (Genesis 3:6.) It was this that filled the antediluvian earth with violence, and brought in a flood of waters on the ungodly. It was this that caused the dispersion from Babel, and that soon after filled the world with idolatry. It was this that brought down fire and brimstone from Heaven on Sodom and Go­morrah, and made these cities of the plain a monument of God’s hatred of sin. It was this that so often brought down God’s judg­ments on even his own chosen people in the wilderness and in Ca­naan, and that has made their descendants a proverb and a by­word in every nation under Heaven. It was this that divided the Church of God, and that filled the dwelling-place of the Most High with all manner of Jewish and Gentile abominations. And it is this that now deprives us all of a thousand spiritual enjoyments, and that will hereafter shut the gates of Heaven against millions who, like the rebellious Israelites, will seek to enter into God’s rest when it is too late. (Luke 13:24-30.) No wonder, then, that our blessed Savior so often sums up all sin under the head of unbelief. “When he [the Comforter] is come,” says Christ, “he will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on me.” (John 16:9.) See also John 3:18-21 John 5:39-47 John 8:24 John 15:22-25, etc. Let us, then, all beware, lest there be also in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in apostatizing from the living God.

  • The main business of life is to labor to enter into God’s rest. (4: 11.) Here we are all but strangers and pilgrims, traveling, like the Israelites in the wilderness, to the promised inheritance. What folly it is, then, to build costly mansions and monuments on these sandy foundations in the desert over which we are now pass­ing so rapidly on our way to the everlasting Zion! What folly it is to call our lands by our own names. (Psalms 49:11), and to lay up treasures here on Earth, where moth and rust are constantly corroding and corrupting. Let us all look rather to the end of our pilgrimage; and labor to enter into the everlasting rest which is now in reserve for every child of God. And let us rejoice, as did Paul, that it is better to depart and to be with Christ in those heav­enly mansions.

How utterly vain are all the hopes and deceits of the hypo­crite ; and with what shame and confusion of face he will stand fi­nally before God, naked and exposed to the all-penetrating eye of him with whom we have to do (verses 11-13). Then, every ref­uge of lies in which he trusted will be swept away; and all the deep, dark, and hidden recesses of his whole spiritual being will be made manifest in the light of God’s countenance, by means of the living energies of that word which pierces through to the dividing asunder of the soul and of the spirit, even to the extent of their joints and their marrows! May God save us all from such an or­deal on the day of his final reckoning.

Commentary on Hebrews 4:11-13 by Donald E. Boatman

Hebrews 4:11 --Let its therefore give diligence to enter into that rest

Here is an exhortation to labor:

a. Exertion of mind and body is a requirement of salvation.

b. This is a lawful work, in a world where men try other methods.

1. 2 Timothy 2:5 : “—strive lawfully.”

2. John 10:1; Some will be like thieves and robbers.

There is no room for predestination here, but there is an appeal to work.

Hebrews 4:11 --that no man fall after the same example of disobedience

This does not sound like the position of some who say men are saved, not in spite of apostasy but from apostasy:

a. A person may make shipwreck of his faith, for God leaves man free to choose.

b. We are no different from the Israelites.

c. There are some who put people on probation for church membership, but refuse God the privilege of allowing man to prove his worthiness for eternal life.

The example of disobedience is recorded in Numbers 26:65.

Hebrews 4:12 --for the Word of God is living

“Living” is also translated “quick”:

Some dispute whether the “word” is referring to Christ or the scripture:

a. It is not the Old Testament law. See 2 Corinthians 3:7. It was a ministration of death. Romans 4:15 : “—worketh wrath.”

b. “The word” is probably not the personal word, but the word of the Person—the Gospel.

The Word of God does not beat the air with emptiness:

a. It leads some to triumph: 2 Corinthians 2:14 : “But thanks be to God Who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.”

b. It has the power of binding and loosing. Matthew 18:18 :

1. Some, it draws to salvation; others, are driven to ruin.

2. It promises salvation to some, but pronounces vengeance on others.

c. It has the power of God in it. Romans 1:16.

It is a living Word because it is backed by a living God and a living Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 --and active

It is also translated “powerful”:

a. Romans 1:16—the power of God is the Gospel:

1. A person uses dynamite to move obstacles. The Word is God’s means of action.

2. It is God’s way to move man today.

b. No power or action is equal to it.

God deals with men not by mere influences, but through His Word, whether written or preached.

Hebrews 4:12 --and sharper than any two-edged sword

The “sword” is a metaphorical word, military expression used to illustrate the character of the Word:

a. It is a part of the Christian’s armor. Ephesians 6:17.

b. It goes out of the mouth of the Rider, with which He smites the nations. Revelation 19:15.

Two-edged sword:

a. It does double duty with one preaching or writing the Word.

b. This is simply to say that it is tremendously sharp.

Hebrews 4:12 --and piercing

The meaning is that it examines a man thoroughly:

a. It searches his thoughts and scrutinizes his will, with all of its desires.

b. Calvin insists that its character is to he confined to the faithful only, as they alone are thus searched to the quick.

It is piercing for all, Christian and non-Christian:

Titus 1:9 : “—to convict the gainsayers.”

Judges 1:15 : “—to convict all that are ungodly.”

John 16:8 : “He will convict the world.”

Hebrews 4:12 --even to the dividing of soul and spirit

Some claim only the Christian has a spirit, hence the word only deals with them.

The Word is for all, and is active toward all:

a. John 16:8 : “—when the Spirit is come He shall reprove the world of sin.”

b. Romans 1:16 : “Jew and Gentile.”

What is the difference between the soul and spirit? Views differ.

a. “Soul” means all the affection; spirit, the intellectual faculty, according to Calvin, He quotes two passages to prove it:

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 : “May your soul, body and spirit be preserved.”

2. Isaiah 26:9 : “My soul desired Thee in the night; I sought Thee with my spirit.”

b. Soul is life, and spirit is personality, say others:

1. “We do not know whether Paul was speaking of man as he really was or using a current phraseology,” says Milligan.

2. The inner man is emphasized to show how discerning the word is.

c. Greek words involved:

Body—physical.

Soul—animal soul or life.

Spirit—immortal.

Hebrews 4:12 --of both joints and marrow

Indicating that there is nothing so hard or strong in man that it can be hidden. With a sword, man is content to pierce the heart, but God’s word can delve into the inner man.

a. A sword can glance off the bone of an enemy, but nothing can resist the power of God’s word.

b. Milligan thinks this is a proverbial saying indicative of the inmost parts of a person.

Hebrews 4:12 --and quick to discern the thoughts

In the thick darkness of unbelief and hypocrisy is a horrible blindness, but God scatters this away. Vices hidden under the false appearances of virtue are known by God:

a. Men may have good reputations, yet harbor evil thoughts, and God knows it.

b. God is all-wise, so we have no secrets.

Hebrews 4:12 --and intents of the heart

Some people are evil, but lack the courage to act:

a. Many “embryo” Hitlers exist in the world, but they lack his initiative. Some people have evil intents, but appear to work from good motives:

1. Romans 16:18 : “—by fair speech deceive.”

2. Galatians 6:12 : “—make fair show in the flesh.”

3. 2 Peter 2:13 : “—sporting while they feast.”

Hebrews 4:13 --And there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight

No creature can escape God:

a. Some have tried:

1. Adam and Eve hid.

2. Cain said he wasn’t his brother’s keeper.

3. Jonah ran away, but he wasn’t away from God.

b. Some will try again, says Revelation 6:16, when they want rocks and mountains to hide them from God’s wrath.

God knows us as we really are.

“Manifest in His sight” means to be made known:

a. Evil is manifested. Galatians 5:19 : “Works of the flesh are manifest.”

b. Good is manifested. 1 Timothy 5:25 : The good words of some are manifest. 1 John 3:10 : “Children of God are manifest.”

Hebrews 4:13 --but all things are naked

There is no covering, camouflaging, or deceit before God.

“This may refer to a sacrificial term,” says Clarke:

a. An animal prepared for sacrifice was slain, then cut open so that its intestines were exposed to view.

b. It was carefully examined for imperfections.

c. It was divided exactly in two, so that the spinal marrow was cloven down the center.

Adam and Eve were told by the serpent that when they ate of the tree they would be as God. Genesis 3:5 :

a. Note that when they ate they saw their nakedness.

b. God has tried to cover man’s sin since that time.

Hebrews 4:13 --laid open before the eyes

It may mean as a criminal has his neck bent back so as to expose the face to full view so that every feature might be seen.

Hebrews 4:13 --of Him with Whom we have to do

All men must give an account of themselves:

a. The wicked cannot die and go without judgment.

Hebrews 9:27; Romans 2:6 : “Render to every man according to his deeds.”

b. Death does not end all; the skeptic cannot get by. We have to face God:

1. Vengeance is His. Romans 12:19; Nahum 1:2.

2. Judgment is His. Hebrews 10:27-31.

3. We must someday confess His Son. Philippians 2:10-11.

Study Questions

613. What is meant by “give diligence”?

614. If man is saved regardless of what he does, would this exhortation to diligence be in order?

615. Compare the idea of diligence with 2 Timothy 2:15.

616. Does this eliminate the doctrine of predestination?

617. Is man saved in spite of his apostasy according to this verse?

618. Why should Baptists put people on probation if they believe “once saved, always saved”? Is it consistent?

619. If they can put people on probation, why not extend God the same right?

620. What example of disobedience is referred to in Hebrews 4:11? Cf. Numbers 26:65.

621. Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the Word of God as “living”. Is this a reference to Christ living?

622. Is the word referred to here an Old Testament word, or the Word of Christ?

623. What scripture would teach that it is not the Old Testament word? Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:7; Romans 4:15.

624. If it is not Christ, then how can it be spoken of as “living”?

625. Quote a verse that shows that the word makes “alive”.

626. How can the Word be spoken of as being “active”? What other word could be used? Cf. Romans 1:16.

627. On what does it act?

628. Explain the significance of the expression, “sharper than any two-edged sword”.

629. Who wields this sword? Is it active without people to wield it?

630. Is it a part of a Christian’s armor? Cf. Ephesians 6:17.

631. Compare Revelation 19:15 for its use as judgment.

632. What other words could describe the idea of “piercing”?

633. How can the word of God be considered “piercing”? Cf. Titus 1:9; Judges 1:15; John 16:8.

634. Is the piercing of the spirit limited to the believers only, according to Judges 1:15; John 16:8?

635. Explain the expression, “dividing of soul and spirit”.

636. Are “soul” and “spirit” different, or is this just a current phraseology of Paul’s day?

637. Could the word “dividing” refer to a practice of the altar in dissecting the animals?

638. How can the word enter joints and marrow?

639. Is a real sword of man likely to pierce joints and marrow?

640. If not, what is meant?

641. How can the Bible discern man’s thoughts and intents?

642. Does man always know his own intents?

643. Do we know the intent of others?

644. Do we ever misjudge intents?

645. Are there “embryo” Hitlers who lack the initiative to be tyrants?

646. Do false teachers have evil intents? Cf. Romans 16:18; Galatians 6:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1.

647. What is meant by “no creature that is not manifest in His sight”? What is meant by “manifest”?

648. Have some tried to escape His sight? Who?

649. Will they try it again, according to Revelation 6:16?

650. Does this word, “creature”, include animals?

651. What is meant by, “all things are naked”?

652. Could this refer to the sacrifice being examined for flaws?

653. Who felt naked in God’s presence because of sin?

654. “Laid open” would refer to what?

655. Who is the person with Whom we have to do—God—Christ? Cf. Hebrews 9:24; Romans 2:6; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:27-31.

Commentary on Hebrews 4:11-13 by Burton Coffman

Hebrews 4:11 --Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.

Do people actually enter that rest during the present life? The answer appears to be affirmative, but only in a sense of receiving earnest of it, or in the sense of receiving it as an inheritance to be possessed now but actually entered only in the eternal world. Bruce outlined a similar opinion thus: "It is evidently an experience they do not enjoy in their present mortal state, although it belongs to them as a heritage, and by faith they may live in the good of it here and now."[6] Disobedience, as in Hebrews 3:18 (which see), is the great enemy of that final possession of the rest of God; and the ever-present possibility of disobedience and temptations that woo people to disobedience are factors that contravene the complete enjoyment of that rest in this life.

That no man fall prompted this comment by Clark:

(It means) lest he fall off from the grace of God, from the gospel and its blessings, and perish everlastingly. This is the meaning of the apostle, who never supposed that a man might not make final shipwreck of faith and of good conscience, as long as he was in a state of probation.[7]

Note the injunction to "give diligence" as in the English Revised Version (1885), or to "labor" as in the KJV, which stresses the work to be done by the believer. Without in any sense attributing to one’s own efforts any eternal merit, and without supposing such labors to place God under any obligation whatsoever, it is nevertheless one of the conditions of salvation that men labor, work, and strive to enter the narrow way. Many New Testament passages support this thought, such as Luke 13:34; Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:12; Revelation 20:12, etc.

[6] J. Barmby, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 21, Hebrews, p. 109.

[7] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 78.

Hebrews 4:12 --For the word of God is living, and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The word of God is to be understood as the Bible, God’s revelation of His truth to people, especially in the sense of his commandments; and, although the passage suggests John 1:1, it would not appear that any such personalization of the word is intended here. That the word of God is "living" is corroborated by other New Testament writers such as Luke (Acts 7:38), Peter (1 Peter 1:23), and others. The word "active" shows that the word does not lie inert and dead but at all times carries within itself the mighty power of its divine author. Rather than trying to find subtle differences in the meaning of such words as "soul" and "spirit," it is perhaps just as well to view this verse as a heaping together of powerful terms for the purpose of showing the utmost ability of the word of God to penetrate the complex inward nature of man, to convict him of sin, to expose his hidden motives, and to judge the very nature of life itself. Davidson, as quoted by Bruce, said that this verse is a "rhetorical accumulation of terms to express the whole mental nature of man on all sides."[8] The passage presents God’s word as totally different from the word of men, making it infinite in power, all-seeing in discernment, and able to pierce or penetrate any human subterfuge.

ENDNOTE:

[8] Adam Clarke, Commentary (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1829), p. 711.

Hebrews 4:13 --And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Macknight sees in the words here a reference:

to the state in which the sacrifices called burnt offerings were laid on the altar. They were stripped of their skins, their breasts were ripped open, their bowels were taken out, and their backbone was cleft. This is the import of the original word. Then they were divided into quarters; so that outwardly and inwardly they were fully exposed to the eye of the priest, in order to a thorough examination (Leviticus 1:5-6); and, being found without blemish, they were laid in their natural order upon the altar and burnt.[9]

Here then is the explanation of the image in the author’s mind that caused him to mention such things as joints and marrow, the significant warning to Christians lying in the fact that the word of God is able to discover blemishes or taints of character by means of the most thorough and accurate discernment of the entire man, such being the spiritual equivalent of the priest’s minute examination of the ancient sacrifices. Not one little sin shall ever be able to crawl by the eyes of the Eternal God without receiving its just condemnation and punishment; and that is the overwhelming reason why every man should fly to Christ for refuge and forgiveness. These words of Hebrews 4:13 conclude the second great admonition of the Book of Hebrews.

ENDNOTE:

[9] A. B. Davidson, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh, Scotland, 1882), p. 96.

Verses 14-16

Heb 4:14-16

ENCOURAGEMENT TO PERSEVERE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE,

AND TO APPROACH WITH CONFIDENCE THE THRONE OF

GRACE, DRAWN FROM THE EXALTED POSITION AND THE

SYMPATHETIC LOVE OF JESUS, AS THE HIGH PRIEST OF

OUR CONFESSION

Hebrews 4:14-16

Hebrews 4:14 ---Seeing then that we have a great high priest,—The main discussion of Christ’s priesthood is to be found in what follows to the close of the eighth section. (10: 18.) But in the first three sec­tions there is enough said of him to warrant the conclusion that we have a great High Priest who has gone up through the heavens into the Holy of holies, there to appear in the prespice of God for us. And hence it is that the Apostle makes this the ground of another earnest exhortation to his Hebrew brethren to hold fast their confes­sion.

The title high priest (hiereus megas) occurs first in Lev. 21 : 10, where it is used to designate Aaron and his successors, upon whose heads the anointing oil was poured, and who were severally consecrated to put on the holy garments. The corresponding word in the New Testament (archiereus) is used to designate (1) the High Priest proper; (2) the deputy of the High Priest; (3) any­one who had ever borne the office; and (4) the head of each of the twenty-four courses of the priesthood. (1 Chron. 24.) But here, as well as in Hebrews 2:17 Hebrews 3:1 Hebrews 5:5 Hebrews 5:10 Hebrews 6:20 Hebrews 7:26 Hebrews 8:1 Hebrews 9:11 Hebrews 9:25, it refers to Christ, who, as a Priest upon his throne (Zechariah 6:13), is ever ready to receive and bless those who come unto God by him. The adjective great (megas) is used here, not in its technical sense, as it often is, to distinguish Aaron and his successors in office from Priests of the common order, but in its proper sense to denote the real, personal, and official greatness of Christ, who, as our author shows, is superior even to the angels, as well as to Moses and all the Priests of the Old Covenant.

Hebrews 4:14 ---that is passed into the heavens,—More literally, who has passed through (dieleluthota) the heavens. That is, through the aerial and sidereal heavens, on his way to the Heaven of heavens, the Most Holy Place, not made with hands; where, as a Priest, Christ offered his own blood once for all, and then sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3) ; “a minister of the Sanc­tuary and of the true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not men” (Hebrews 8:2).

Hebrews 4:14 ---Jesus the Son of God,—These words are added by way of ex­planation, to denote more definitely the power, glory, and dignity of our great High Priest. He is not of the house of Aaron; but he is the Son of God, by whom all things were created, and for whom all things were created; “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person.” See notes on Hebrews 1:2-3 Hebrews 1:8.

Hebrews 4:14 ---let us hold fast our profession.—Rather, our concession (homologia). See note on Hebrews 3:1. As Jesus is himself the subject of this confession (Matthew 16:16), we cannot renounce it without re­nouncing him also as our Savior. And to renounce Christ is to seal forever our own condemnation (Hebrews 6:4-6) : “for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Hebrews 4:15 ---For we have not a high priest which can not, etc.—Our High Priest is not only great in power, glory, and majesty, having in his hands all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:19), but he is also full of love and compassion for us. See notes Hebrews 2:17-18.

Hebrews 4:15 ---but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.—What is meant here by our Savior’s being tempted ? On this point Ebrard very justly remarks as follows: “Being tempted is, on the one hand, something different from being seduced; and, on the other hand, it is something different from mere physical suffer­ing. He who is seduced, stands not in a purely passive relation, but with his own will acquiesces in the will of seducer; but he who is tempted, is, as such, purely passive. This, however, is not merely physical passivity; headache, as such, is no temptation. But there is a moral obligation lying upon every man, not to let himself be mastered by his natural affections, which in themselves are altogether sinless, but rather to acquire the mastery over them. . . . That a poor man loves his children, and cannot bear that they perish of hunger, is in itself a natural and sinless affec­tion ; but let him be so placed as that, without danger of discovery, he could steal a piece of money, then that natural affection becomes to him a temptation. Now it is quite clear that a man may in this way find himself in a situation of being tempted, without its being necessary to suppose that there is therefore an evil inclination. The poor man may be a truly honest Christian man; the tempta­tion is there; the thought is present to his mind in all the force of a natural affection, If I were at liberty to take this gold, how I might appease the hunger of my children; but at the same time he has an immediate and lively sense of his duty, and not a breath of desire moves him to take the gold. He knows that he dare not do this: it is a settled thing with him that he is not a thief. ... So it was in reference to the temptation of Christ. He was tempted in every respect, in joy and sorrow, in fear and hope, in the most varied situations, but without sin; the being tempted was to him purely passive; purely objective.” No inclination to evil ever defiled his pure spirit. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, had no place in his affections. And hence, though tempted by the Devil through all the avenues and natural desires of the human heart, he was still “without sin.”

Hebrews 4:16 ---Let us therefore, etc.—Since it is true that we have a great High Priest who has gone up through the heavens, even into the very Heaven of heavens; and since it is also true, that though so highly exalted he nevertheless sympathizes with us in all our temp­tations, trials, and afflictions, we should on their account all be en­couraged to approach the Throne of grace with confidence. It is generally thought that the Apostle here makes allusion to the Mercy- seat, on which rested the Shekinah, the visible symbol of God’s presence in the ancient Tabernacle. And this is most likely true, if in connection with the Mercy-seat be taken also the Ark of the covenant. But it should be observed that the golden lid of the Ark is, in no part of the inspired word called a throne. Its Hebrew name is simply kapporeth, which means a lid or cover; and its Greek name is hilasterion, a propitiatory. This lid could not therefore, in any proper sense, be called by itself a throne of grace. But the whole Ark, including the lid, was a symbol of God’s throne. (Jeremiah 3:16-17.) And hence the allusion of the Apostle here is, not merely to the Mercy-seat, but to the entire Ark, from the lid of which, sprinkled as it was with blood once every year (Leviticus 16:14-15), God was pleased to make known his gracious will to the peo­ple (Exodus 25:22). Any reference, however, to the Ark of the cov­enant in this connection, is merely for the sake of illustration, for there can be no doubt that by the Throne of grace is here meant the Throne of God; which in 8: 1, is called “the throne of the Ma­jesty in the heavens”; because from it the infinitely Majestic One gives his laws and mandates to the universe. But it is here, withequal propriety, called also “the Throne of grace”; because from it God dispenses grace, mercy, and peace, to all who come to him and ask for help in the name of Jesus. For being justified by faith, we can now, through our Lord Jesus Christ, approach God as our Father, feeling fully assured that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear and answer us. (1 John 5:14.) See also Matthew 7:7-11; John 14:13 John 15:7 John 16:24. How very reasonable, then, is the exhortation that we should approach the Throne of grace with confidence (parresia), so that we may obtain mercy and find grace for seasonable help. That is, for such constant help as our trials and circumstances require. And hence we are encour­aged to pray always; to pray without ceasing; and to be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let our requests be made known unto God. See Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Commentary on Hebrews 4:14-16 by Donald E. Boatman

Hebrews 4:14 --Having then a great High Priest

Christ has two relationships, enabling man to come to God through Him:

a. An Apostle sent to teach, cf. Hebrews 3:1.

b. A Priest:

1. This Priest has proven His character by His teaching.

2. This Priest has proven His love by His death.

3. This Priest has proven His superiority by passing through the heavens.

Christ’s high priesthood met the argument of the critical Jew:

a. They could not say, “You have no tabernacle, no sacrifice, no city, no high priest.” We have indeed !

b. The title “high priest” occurs first in Leviticus 21:10 :

1. There it is used to designate Aaron and his successors.

2. We have a High Priest in heaven itself, not in an earthly tabernacle.

Hebrews 4:14 --Who hath passed through the heavens

Only Christ has done this:

a. He lived in heaven, and passed through the heavens to earth.

1. Philippians 2:5-11.

2. 1 Corinthians 10:4 : “—they (the Israelites) drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the Rock was Christ.”

b. He lived on earth, and then passed through the heavens to heaven:

1. Ascension: Acts 1:9.

2. Stephen: Acts 7:56.

3. Peter Acts 2:34-36 : “seated.”

c. He now works in heaven, and will pass again from heaven:

1. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

2. Acts 1:11 : “—Jesus—shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven”.

The Jewish high priest could pass only into the holy of holies on the great day of Atonement:

a. We have one who passed through the veil of skies.

b. Hebrews 8:1-2 is very good: “—sanctuary which the Lord pitched.”

Hebrews 4:14 --Jesus the Son of God

This identifies our High Priest. He is not of the lineage of Aaron, but of the house of God.

Hebrews 4:14 --let us hold fast our confession

Matthew 10:32 : Our confession is in a Person: That confession gives us a profession.

a. It is a work of evangelism:

1. We are saved to serve.

2. We are won to win.

3. We were told to tell.

b. It is a way of life:

1. To renounce Christ is to seal our condemnation: Hebrews 6:4-6; Acts 4:12 : “In none other is there salvation.”

2. Because of His human experience, let us draw near. Hebrews 4:15-16.

Hebrews 4:15 --For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

He is a sympathetic, compassionate High Priest, who can be touched with our feelings. Hebrews 2:17 : “Wherefore it behooved Him in all things to me made unto His brethren.”

He is successful as a High Priest:

a. Jesus stands by us in temptation. Revelation 3:10.

b. His sacrifice is complete. Hebrews 9:26 : “But now once at the end of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Hebrews 4:15 --our infirmities

“Infirmities” is a word that may be taken in various senses:

a. 2 Corinthians 12:10 suggests what might be included.

b. Probably the feeling of the soul should be included, such as fear, sorrow, dread of death.

Since He was made in the likeness of our sinful flesh, we know that he knows our feelings.

Hebrews 4:15 --but one that hath been in all points tempted as we are

Christ’s threefold temptation gives us the major threats of the devil:

a. Food—satisfy the physical.

b. Pinnacle of temple—to extend the mercy of God to selfishness.

c. Kingdom—lust for power—rulership.

Hebrews 4:15 --yet without sin

Describe your mother and her virtues, but you can’t use this expression.

Other verses tell us that He was perfect:

a. 2 Corinthians 5:21 : “Him who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

b. 1 John 3:5 : “And ye know that He was manifested to take away sins; and in Him is no sin.”

Jesus was tempted without falling into sin, but this is not true of any other.

Hebrews 4:16 --Let us therefore draw near with boldness

Because of the kind of High Priest we have, we should have courage to approach Him:

a. He is not a medicine man to Whom we have to bow and feel like a helpless creature.

b. Because of His love, we should come without hesitation.

c. His experience with this life gives us encouragement. Boldness here is not brazen, but confident.

Hebrews 4:16 --unto the throne of grace

The history of the throne of grace is interesting:

a. The ark was a symbol of God’s grace. Jeremiah 3:16.

1. The lid was sprinkled with blood once a year. Leviticus 16:14-15.

2. Here was the mercy seat. Leviticus 16:2; Numbers 7:89; Exodus 25:22.

3. Now we approach God through Jesus Christ Who sits at His right hand.

The throne of mercy is God’s, but Christ is our access to God. Ephesians 2:18.

Hebrews 4:16 --that we may receive mercy

We have to make the approach, for God has done His share:

a. We must not be cast down with a sense of misery.

b. Since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s grace, we need grace and mercy.

Only God gives mercy:

a. The devil gives death, not life, and beyond this, he makes people unmerciful.

1. Hitler listened to no pleas of men.

2. Men possessed of the devil are unkind, unforgiving. God has mercy only for those who merit it:

a) Look at these verses:

1) Hebrews 10:27 : “—fearful expectation of judgment.”

2) Hebrews 10:31 : “—a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

b. If we fail to come to God for mercy, we should not expect it in the judgment.

Hebrews 4:16 --and may find grace to help us

Observe why Christ can give us help which is superior to that of the priest of the old covenant:

a. The priest under the old system had to make atonement for his own sins. Hebrews 5:2-3; Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 9:7.

b. They were after the order of Aaron. Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:11-17; Hebrews 8:4-5.

c. The old was made without an oath. Hebrews 7:20-22.

d. Theirs was temporary. Hebrews 7:23-24.

e. They offered oftentimes the same kind of sacrifices. Hebrews 9:25-26.

Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:11-12. Hebrews 10:14.

f. They entered into the holy of holies every year, Hebrews 9:7-12.

g. Christ lives to make intercession, Hebrews 7:25.

Hebrews 4:16 --in time of need

Three great needs of man in the spiritual realm:

a. We are in need when saddened. John 14:1-4.

b. We are in need when tempted. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:18.

c. We are in need at death, Psalms 23.

Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount said God would also care for our physical needs.

Summary—Exhortation

1. There is a throne of grace where God and man may meet.

2. The mercy place has the atoning blood of the Lamb of God.

3. We must come by faith. Faith and action must be mixed.

4. We may approach in boldness, confidence.

5. God still dwells with His people.

Summary – Warning

1. Faithfulness forfeited is a forfeit of eternal rest.

2. We cannot trifle with God’s words, We must act today.

3. The great aim of life is to labor for the rest.

Study Questions

656. Christ is earlier described as an apostle. Where is He here?

657. What is the difference between the two works?

658. What has Christ done to prove that He is a great high priest?

659. When was the title of “high priest” first used? See Leviticus 21:10.

660. What has Christ done that no other priest could do as far as the heavens are concerned?

661. What time of passing through is referred to here?

662. When will He pass through again?

663. What would the heavens be in type in relationship to the old system?

664. With what term does Paul identify our High Priest?

665. Since this is all true, what exhortation does he have for us?

666. What is our confession?

667. What do we confess concerning this Person?

668. Does this confession amount to a profession?

669. What can be said of our High Priest as far as sympathy is concerned?

670. How does this verse compare with Hebrews 2:17?

671. What does the word “infirmity” mean?

672. Discuss Paul’s bearing of infirmities, 2 Corinthians 12:10.

673. What is meant by “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”?

674. Do pain, sorrow, suffering help one to be understanding of others?

675. Is God able to be more sympathetic since Christ lived in the flesh?

676. What three categories of temptation did Jesus face?

677. How were the three so all-inclusive?

678. Was He tempted at other times?

679. Can you describe the most beautiful character whom you know with the expression “without sin”?

680. Is this a teaching limited to this verse? Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5.

681. Have you noticed that with the great exaltation of Christ there is an exhortation to man? What is it in Hebrews 4:16?

682. Do heathen people come boldly to their priests?

683. Does boldness allow brazenness and presumption?

684. What is meant by “boldness”?

685. What was the place of mercy in times past? Cf. Jeremiah 3:16; Leviticus 16:2; Leviticus 16:14-15.

686. What is our throne of grace? Cf. Ephesians 2:18.

687. What do we receive when we approach the mercy seat?

688. For whom does God have mercy?

689. Is God always merciful? Cf. Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 10:31.

690. If we do not come to His mercy seat now, should we expect it at the judgment?

691. What is the purpose of grace which we may find there?

692. Could the Old Testament priest help?

693. When is man in need? What are his problems?

694. Is Christ able to help?

Commentary on Hebrews 4:14-16 by Burton Coffman

DIVISION III

CHRIST IS A BETTER HIGH PRIEST

Hebrews 4:14 --Having then a great high priest who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14)

The author introduces in this verse the theme of Jesus as the great high priest and proceeds to elaborate the reasons of great superiority over any other. Jesus’ passing "through the heavens" contrasts with Aaron’s merely passing beyond certain enclosures in the tabernacle; nor should people be careful to determine just how many heavens Jesus passed through, if three or seven, according to the Hebrew speculations about such things; because, as a matter of fact, Jesus Christ has ascended far above "all heavens" (Ephesians 4:10), as Paul said; and a little later in this epistle it is said that Christ is made "higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26). On the plurality of heavens, Bruce wrote that "the plural `heavens’ as regularly used in the New Testament and the Septuagint, reflects the Hebrew word use in the Old Testament, which is always plural. What is emphasized here is his transcendence."[10] The holding fast of the believer’s confidence corresponds with what was written earlier in Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14. Throughout Hebrews, the weight of responsibility for faithfulness is made to rest upon the diligence and alertness of the believer himself; and he is repeatedly admonished to hold it fast, to glory in it, and to exhort others constantly to the same effect. He is not to be passive at all, but active in claiming the promised redemption. This verse, with the ones preceding and following it, reveals the Christian’s great high priest as doing three things that Aaron could not do. He entered God’s rest, ascended far above the heavens, and came to the very throne of grace itself.

ENDNOTE:

[10] James Macknight, Apostolic Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 526.

Hebrews 4:15 --For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are and yet without sin.

Far from feeling that our great high priest, so far removed above the heavens, is, from so vast a separation, incapable of proper sympathy for suffering and tempted Christians, the believer is invited to see that Jesus the Son of God knows all about human problems, even temptation, and that he is thereby qualified to provide the utmost sympathy and understanding for human weakness.

COULD CHRIST HAVE SINNED?

Regarding the temptation of Christ, the question inevitably appears as to the possibility, even, that Jesus could have sinned; but there seems to be no satisfactory explanation of how any person, even the Son of God, could be tempted to do anything impossible for him to do. Without the possibility of yielding to sin, how can there, in fact, be any such thing as temptation? To be sure, this is an old theological battleground. Irving was expelled from the Presbyterian communion as heretical, because he held to the theoretic peccability of Christ.[11] Barmby’s learned defense of the position that it was impossible for Jesus to have sinned is as follows:

That Christ in his original human nature, partook of all the affections of humanity - hope, fear, desire, joy, grief, indignation, shrinking from suffering, and the like - is apparent, not only from his life, but also from the fact that his assumption of our humanity would otherwise have been incomplete. Such affections are not in themselves sinful; they only are so, when, under temptation, any of them become inordinate, and serve as motives for transgression of duty. He, in virtue of his divine personality, could not through them be seduced into sin; but it does not follow that he could not, in his human nature, feel their power to seduce, or rather the power of the tempter to seduce through them, and thus have personal experience of man’s temptation. St. John says of one "born of God" that he "doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9). What is thus said of one "born of God" may be said much more, and without any qualification, of the Son of God, without denying that he too experienced the power of temptation, though altogether proof against it.[12]

Interesting and convincing as Barmby’s view is, there is much to be said on the other side of the issue; but, in advocating the view that Jesus could have sinned, there is no intention to reflect in any way against the purity and holiness of the Master, so beautifully mentioned by Milligan thus:

No inclination to evil ever defiled his pure spirit. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life had not place in his affections. And hence, though tempted by the devil through all the avenues and natural desires of the human heart, he was still "without" sin.[13]

However, it should be remembered that Christ had taken upon himself the handicap of human flesh, even the blood of harlots and Gentiles; and, as a man, Christ certainly had the capability of doing wrong if he had elected to do so; and absolutely no logical refutation appears in any of the writings seen on this subject that can explain how any person can be tempted to do that which it is impossible for him to do. If one may hazard a conjecture as to the greatest temptation of Christ, it was likely an impulse to call the whole thing off, abort his mission of redemption, call for the legions of angels, overwhelm his enemies with destruction, and consign the human race to oblivion, a fate fully deserved; and that just such a temptation did occur is seen in Christ’s mention of the twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). Only his great eternal love for people enabled our Lord to forego such a termination of his heavenly mission. This whole field of thought is clouded with the veil through which we see "darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12); dogmatism is certainly out of place, and none is intended here.

People may exclaim, "How could Christ be tempted in all points, since he had no child, did not grow old, never married, was not in business, etc., and therefore did not pass through every situation that produces temptation in men?" Such a question overlooks the fact that the basic elements of temptation are actually very few in number; and, just as all of the melodies ever written can be broken down into a few notes of the musical scales, all human temptation resolves into three basic principles, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), Christ, of course, being thoroughly tempted and tested in all of these areas and yet without sin.

[11] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 85.

[12] J. Barmby, op. cit., p. 114.

[13] Ibid.

Hebrews 4:16 --Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need.

The throne of grace is the throne of God; and certain reflections on that subject are appropriate: (1) the existence of such a thing as God’s throne reveals that the universe is a controlled and governed entity and that there is a center of power and authority, called here "the throne of grace." The universe is, therefore, not like a clock left to run down. God is upon the throne. (2) The government of all things is personal. Not a computer, but a throne; not blind senseless matter, but a person; not merely law, but the will of One on the throne - that is the concept of universal government explicit in this mention of the throne. (3) Such a throne, with its undergirdings of righteousness and justice, already mentioned in Hebrews 1:8-9, reveals the antagonism between God and evil, showing that eternal justice will prevail infinitely throughout the whole universe. (4) That throne’s being called here a "throne of grace" makes the control center appear as a source of mercy for fallen and sinful man, being called also "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:3). How wonderful, from this vale of sorrow and death and sin and shame, to lift the thoughts of the spirit toward that throne where the Lamb, or sacrifice, is seated and clothed with the mantle of total authority!

Boldly people are commanded to approach the throne of grace. Why? Man’s very nature, in the person of Christ, is seated there. He has tasted every temptation, passed through every sorrow. He knows! Out of his loving heart there flows an eternal tide of love, sympathy, and understanding of humankind, suffering the dreadful trials of their probation; and he eagerly anticipates the entry of his beloved children into the joy of their Lord (Matthew 25:23), demanding only that they love him (John 14:15), and able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him (Hebrews 7:25).

Westcott provided an excellent summary of the thought of this text, thus:

The minds of the writer and readers are full of the imagery of the Levitical system, and of the ceremonial of the high-priestly atonement; and the form of the exhortation suggests the grandeur of the position in which the Christian is placed, as compared with that of the Jew; "let us therefore," trusting the divine power and human sympathy of Jesus the Son of God, "draw near," as priests ourselves in fellowship with our High Priest - and not remain standing afar off as the congregation of Israel - "to the throne of grace," no symbolic mercy seat, but the very center of divine sovereignty and love.[14]

[14] R. Milligan, New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), Vol. Hebrews, p. 148.

[15] Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), p. 108.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/hebrews-4.html.
 
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