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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

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Verses 1-16



Hebrews 4:1

Let us fear, therefore, lest, a promise being still left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short. This verse is a renewed warning against remissness, based (as is shown by the connecting οὖν) on the preceding argument, but introducing also, by means of the clause, καταλειπομένης, etc., a new thought, the elucidation of which is the subject of what follows. The new thought is that the true "rest of God," typified only by the rest of Canaan, remains still for the attainment of Christians. That this is the ease has not yet been shown; and hence the clause, "a promise being still left." etc., does not point to a conclusion already arrived at, but to what is coming. The new thought is taken up in Hebrews 4:2, and what has been thus intimated in Hebrews 4:1 is asserted as a conclusion after proof in Hebrews 4:9. ἄρα ἀπολείπεται, etc. A different view of the drift of the warning in this verse, main-rained very decidedly by Ebrard, demands attention. It rests on the interpretation of δοκῇ ὑστερήκεναι, which is taken to mean "should think that he has come too late," i.e. for the promise of the rest, under the idea that its meaning had been exhausted in the rest of Canaan. It may be said in support of this view that such is the most obvious meaning of the phrase; that δοκεῖν in the New Testament most commonly means "think" or "suppose;" that the primary sense of ὑστερεῖν is that of being behindhand, either in place or in time; and that the perfect ὑστερήκεναι is thus accounted for, whereas, according to the usual interpretation, the whole phrase is unsuitable: why was not ὑστερήση written, if a mere warning against remissness was intended? Further, it may be said that what immediately follows is in favor of this view of the purport of the caution in Hebrews 4:1, being an evident carrying out of its idea. Thus the verse is supposed to be not at all a continuation of the previous hortatory section, but rather serving as the thesis of the coming argumentative section, though put in the form of a caution because imperfect appreciation of the view to be now established was at the root of the danger of the Hebrew Christians. Some of them at least did not fully grasp the true character of the gospel as being the fulfill-merit of the old dispensation, the realization of its types and promises. They were inclined to rest in the Law as a revelation to which the gospel was only supplementary, and hence to regard the promised land, the offer of which was before their time, as the only rest intended; and therefore the writer, after adducing the example of the Israelites under Moses as a warning against remissness, prefaces his exposition. of the true rest of God by a warning against misapprehending it. But against this view of the meaning of δοκῇ ὑστερήκεναι there are the following reasons:

(1) The word φοβήθωμεν suggests rather (like βλέπετε) a warning against conduct that might lead to forfeiture than a correction of an inadequate conception; and οὖν connects the warning with what has gone before, in which the view of what the true rest is has not entered.

(2) Though δοκεῖν is most frequently used in the New Testament in its sense of "thinking," "seeming to one's self," yet it has there, as in Greek generally, the sense also of "appearing," "seeming to others;" dud certainly, as far as the word itself is concerned, may have this sense here. Also the verb ὑστερεῖν, though its primary idea (as of ὕστερος) is that of "coming after," is nevertheless invariably used in the New Testament to express "deficiency," or "falling short" (cf. especially in this Epistle, Hebrews 12:15): it is never elsewhere (though capable of the meaning) used to express lateness in time.

(3) The phrase, δοκῇ ὑστερήκεναι, in the sense of "seem to have fallen short" (rather than ὑστερήσῃ) is capable of being accounted for. One explanation of it, adopted by Alford, is indeed hardly tenable. He accounts for the past tense by supposing reference to the final judgment; taking it to mean, "lest any one of you should then appear [i.e. be found] to have fallen short." But the word δοκεῖν, which, however used, refers, not to what is made evident, but to what is thought or seems, refuses to be thus misinterpreted. It is better to take it as a softening expression. We may suppose that the writer (with a delicacy that reminds us of St. Paul) was unwilling to imply his own expectation of any failure; and so he only bids his readers beware of so living as even to present the appearance of it or suggest the thought of it to others. According to this view, the tense of ὑστερήκεναι is intelligible, the supposed deficiency spoken of being previous to its being perceived or suspected. It is not necessary to supply an understood genitive, such as "the promise," or "the rest," after ὑστερήκεναι. It may be used (as elsewhere) absolutely, to express deficiency or failure; i.e. in the conditions required for attainment. One view of its meaning is that it has reference to the idea of being behindhand in a race: but there is nothing in the context to suggest this figure.

(4) It is not necessary that Hebrews 4:1 should express only the idea of the following argument; it does sufficiently express it in the clause, καταλειπομέμης, etc; and it is in the style of this Epistle to connect new trains of argument by a continuous chain of thought with what has gone before (cf. the beginning of Hebrews 2:1-18. and 3). Though there is uncertainty as to the sequence of thought in the several clauses of the following argument (Hebrews 4:2-11), its general drift is clear. Its leading ideas are these: The invitation to enter God's rest contained in the psalm shows that the rest of Canaan, which, though forfeited under Moses, had long been actually attained under Joshua, was not the final rest intended. What, then, is meant by this remarkable term, "my rest," i.e. God's own rest? Our thoughts go back to the beginning of the Bible, where a rest of God himself is spoken of; where he is said to have rested on the seventh day from all his works. Participation, then, in that heavenly rest—a true sabbath rest with God—is what the term implies. Though this rest began "from the foundation of the world," man's destined share in if, however long delayed, was intimated by the typical history of the Israelites under Moses, and by the warning and renewed invitation of the psalm. This renewed invitation makes it plain that it is still attainable by God's people. It has at last been made attainable by Christ. who, as our great High Priest, has himself entered it, and leads us into it if we are but faithful.

Hebrews 4:2

For truly we have had good tidings (or, a gospel) preached unto us, even as also they: but the word of hearing did not profit them, not being mingled by faith with those that heard it. The meaning and purpose of the first part of this verse is plain, as is also the general intention of the second; viz. to account parenthetically for the gospel to the Israelites under Moses having failed of its purpose, and at the same time to renew the warning of their example with respect to the gospel now preached to Christians. But the passage is still one of singular difficulty, on account both of the various readings of it, and of the peculiarity of the language used whatever reading be adopted. With respect to the various readings, the main and indeed only important question is between

(1) συγκεκραμένος agreeing with λόγος ἀκοῆς, and

(2) συγκεκραμένους, agreeing with ἐκείνους. The variation between συγκεκραμ and συγκεκερασμ, being only different forms of the participle, does not affect the meaning.

Then the readings τῶν ἀκουσάντων and τοῖς ἀκούσθεισιν for τοῖς ἀκούσασι rest on such slight authority, and are so likely to have been substitutions (the latter to make the reading συγκεκραμένους intelligible), that they need not be considered.

(1) The reading of the Textus Receptus, following the Vulgate, is μὴ συγκεκραμένος τῇ πίστει τοῖς ἀλούσασιν. But

(2) the great preponderance of ancient authority (including that of all the uncial manuscripts except א) supports συγκεκραμένους or συγκεκερασμένους The latter, then, must be accepted as the true reading, if authority alone is to be our guide. But then comes the difficulty of making any sense of it. The only way of doing so is to understand τοῖς ἀκούσασιν ("those who heard") in the sense of "those who hearkened;" the sense of the passage being "The word of hearing did not profit them, because they were not united by faith with those who not only heard, but hearkened and obeyed." Most of the Fathers, reading συγκεκραμένους, take τοῖς ἀκούσασιν to refer in this sense to Caleb and Joshua. But, if what has been said above be true as to these exceptions to the general unbelief not having been in the writer's mind, such an allusion is highly improbable. Some (Alford, e.g) take τοῖς ἀκούσασιν with no historical reference, but as denoting hearkeners generally. Alford, however, though adopting this as the best solution of an acknowledged difficulty, confesses himself not satisfied with it, as well he may. A very serious objection to either view, even apart from the strangeness of the whole expression if such be its meaning, is that, though the verb ἀκούειν is certainly used elsewhere in the sense thus assigned to it, the whole context here suggests different one. Cf. supra (Hebrews 3:16), τινὲς γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν: and especially ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς immediately preceding. Ἀκοῆς, denoting hearing only, seems to have suggested the use of the participle ἀκούσασιν, to which it would therefore be most unnatural to assign a different meaning. If, then, all devices for making sense of the best supported text prove unsatisfactory, and if the Textus Receptus gives an intelligible meaning, we might surely be justified in adopting the latter, however ill supported. Internal evidence (though great caution should be used in our estimate of it) need not yield entirely to external, nor common sense to authority, in the determination of true readings. But in this case the argument from internal probability has now been strengthened by the discovery of the reading συγκεκερασμένος in the Sinaitic Codex (א). This, then, being adopted, though the expression be peculiar, the meaning is no longer obscure, whether we take τῇ πίστει or τοῖς ἀκούσασιν as governed by συγκεκραμένος. It may be either that "the word of hearing did not profit them because it was not mingled with their faith to those that heard;" or "because it was not mingled by faith with those that heard it." In the latter case the idea is that of the necessity of the spoken word entering the heart, and being (so to speak) assimilated by the hearers through the instrumentality of faith, in order to profit them.

Hebrews 4:3

For we do enter into the rest, we who have believed (οἱ πιστεύσαντες, the historical aorist, pointing to the time when Christians became believers; with a reference also to τῇ πίστει in the preceding verse: but the emphasis is on the first word in the sentence, εἰσερχόμεθα: "For we Christian believers have an entrance into the rest intended") even as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. This seems to be a concise enunciation of the proof, unfolded in the verses that follow, of the true rest being one into which Christians have still an entrance. The idea is that, though God's own rest had been from the beginning, and man had not yet entered it, yet the possibility of his doing so had not ceased to be intimated: it had continued open potentially to man.

Hebrews 4:4, Hebrews 4:5

For he hath said somewhere (που cf. Hebrews 2:6) of the seventh day on this wise, And God rested the seventh day from all his works; and in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Here the argument is carried out. The first passage quoted shows what must be understood by the "rest of God;" the second shows that it still remains open, that "it remaineth that some should enter thereinto." This being the case—

Hebrews 4:6, Hebrews 4:7

Since therefore it remains that some should enter into it, and they to whom the good tidings were before preached entered not in because of disobedience, he again defineth a certain day, saying in David, after so long a time, Today; as it hath been before said, Today, if ye will hear his voice, etc. The continued openness of the rest, and the failure of the Israelites of old to enter it, are the reasons why a further day for entering was defined in the psalm. But here the thought is suggested that the Israelites had not finally failed, for that, though those under Moses did so, the next generation under Joshua did attain the promised laud. No, it is replied; the rest of the promised land was but a type after all; it was not the true rest of God: otherwise the psalmist could not have still assigned a day for entering it so long after the arrival at Shiloh;—

Hebrews 4:8, Hebrews 4:9

For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. The conclusion is now drawn: There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God; the true nature of the rest intended being beautifully denoted by the word σαββατισμὸς, which refers to the Divine rest "from the foundation of the world," while the offer of it to true believers always, and not to the Israelites only, is intimated by the phrase, "the people of God."

Hebrews 4:10

For he that is entered into his rest (God's, as before) hath himself also rested from his works, as from his own God. There are two ways of understanding this verse. Its general intention is, indeed, clear. It accounts for the use of the word σαββατισμὸς which precedes, expressing that the true meaning of "God's rest" is not satisfied by any earthly rest, but only by one like his. The question is whether the verse is to be taken as a general proposition or as referring specifically to Christ. In favor of the latter view is the aorist κατέπαυσεν. The literal translation would be "He that entered … himself also rested." Ebrard, on this ground, strenuously defends the reference to Christ; and also on the ground of parallelism with Hebrews 2:9 in the first division of the general argument. In the first division (Hebrews 2:1-18) the course of thought was—Dominion over creation has been assigned to man: man has not attained it: Jesus has; and in Jesus man fulfils his destiny. In this second division the corresponding course of drought is—God's rest has been offered to man: man has not attained it: Jesus has; and in Jesus man may enter it. And thus (as has been explained above) the conclusion that Jesus is the High Priest of humanity is led up to by two parallel lines of argument. But the third of the propositions of the second line of argument (corresponding to Hebrews 2:9 in the first) is not distinctly expressed unless it be in the verse before us; and therefore this verse, on this ground as well as that of the use of the aorist, is taken to refer to Christ. On the other hand, it is argued (Bleek, De Wette, Delitzsch, etc) that, if a specific reference to Christ had been intended, he would have been mentioned, so as to make the meaning clear; and secondly, that the aorist κατέπαυσε is legitimate, though the proposition be a general one. Delitzsch explains it thus: "The author might have written καταπαύει or (more classically) καταπέπαυται: but he has taken up into the main proposition the κατέπαυσεν, which properly belongs (according to Genesis 2:2) to the clause of comparison: whosoever has entered God's rest, of him the 'κατέπαυσεν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὑτοῦ holds good in the same manner as of God." And, further, it is to be observed that the Greek aorist may sometimes be put for the present, "to express an action completely determined, every doubt as to its truth and unalterableness being removed". In this instance the idea might be—he that has entered into God's rest rested, when he so entered, from all his works, etc. On the whole, it appears that specific reference to Christ is not apparent from the immediate context, or required by the mere language used. Still, in consideration of the general argument, we may take the writer to have meant his readers to understand that it was Christ who had so entered the rest of God, so as to lead God's people into it. That this is so appears from Hebrews 2:14, Ἔχοντες οὗν ἀρχιερέα μέγαν διελη;υθότα τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, which seems to require that preceding link of thought.—Among man's deepest feelings is a longing for rest. Haply in the freshness and ardor of early life not deeply felt, it recurs from time to time, and grows stronger with advancing years. Nothing in life fully satisfies this longing. Labors, distresses, disappointments, anxieties, never allow the desired repose. Few there are whose hearts have not sometimes echoed the psalmist's words, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I flee away, and be at rest!" Many since Job have felt something of his longing to be where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Is there to be no satisfaction ever of this deep human craving? Holy Scripture meets it as it meets all others. It spoke of a rest of God above creation from the beginning of time; it intimated man's part and interest in it by the weekly sabbath which he was to keep with God. But this was, after all, but a symbol and earnest of something unattained. At length a fuller realization of the longed-for rest was held out to the chosen people, and the Promised Land was pictured beforehand in the colors of an earthly Paradise. Forfeited, when first offered, through the people's unworthiness (representing by an historical parable the bar to man's entrance into the eternal rest), it was attained at last. But the true rest still came not. Canaan, like the sabbath, proved but a symbol of something unattained. Yet the old longing for rest went on, and inspired men went on proclaiming it as attainable and still to come. The irrepressible craving, the suggestive symbols, the prophetic anticipations, are all fulfilled in Christ. He, when he had passed with us through this earthly scene of labor, entered, with our nature, into that eternal rest of God, to prepare a place for us, having by his atonement removed the bar to human entrance. Through our faith in him we are assured that our deep-seated craving for satisfaction unattained as yet, which we express by the term "rest," is a true inward prophecy, and that, though we find it not here, we may through him, if we are faithful, confidently expect it there, where "beyond these voices there is peace."

There now follows (verses 11-14) a renewal of the warning of Hebrews 3:7-1, urged now with increased force in view of the danger of slighting such a revelation as the gospel has been shown to be; after which (Hebrews 4:14, etc) come words of encouragement, based on the view, now a second time arrived at, of Christ being our great High Priest. And thus the exposition of his priesthood, which follows in Hebrews 5:1-14., is led up to.

Hebrews 4:11

Let us therefore do our diligence (σπουδάσωμεν, so translated in A.V. 2 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 4:21) to enter into that rest, lest any one fall after the same example of disobedience (ἀπειθείας: not ἀπιστίας, which means "unbelief"). It is a question, though not at all affecting the general sense of the passage, whether ἐν τῷ αὐτῶ ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ should not he translated "fall into tide same example." Πίπτειν ἐν has undoubtedly the sense of "to fall into," and is frequently so used in the LXX., and the subordinate position of πέσῃ in the sentence—between ὑποδείγπατι and τῆς ἀπειθείας—is against its being used absolutely as the emphatic word. If so, the meaning will be "fall into the same exemplar of disobedience," i.e. the kind of disobedience of which that of the Israelites was a sample. This interpretation of the phrase, being that of the Vulgate, is supported by Alford, Davison, Lunemann; though most modern commentators (Bengel, Bleek, De Wette, Tholuck, Delitzsch, Wordsworth), with Chrysostom, take πέσῃ absolutely, as in Romans 11:11 (ruat, Bengel), and ἐν τῷ αὐτῶ ὑποδείγματι as meaning, "so as to present the same (i.e. a like) example of disobedience," the ἐν, according to Delitzsch, being the ἐν of state or condition. The warning is next enforced by a vivid representation of the penetrating and resistless power of the "Word of God." The question arises whether "the Word of God" is here to be understood in St. John's sense of the Hypostatic Word, i.e. the Second Person of the holy Trinity, who became incarnate in Christ. It is so understood by the Fathers generally; and the fact of this Epistle being tinged generally with the thought and terminology of Philo (whoso use of the word λόγος, derived from the Platonic philosophy in combination with Jewish theology, seems to anticipate in some degree, however vaguely, the doctrine of St. John) gives some countenance to the view. But against it are the following considerations:—

(1) Christ is net elsewhere in this Epistle designated as "the Wear" but as" the SON." His eternal relation to the Father, though otherwise plainly intimated, is not expressed by this term, as it was by St. John.

(2) The description of the Word, as "sharper than any two-edged sword," is not suitable to the Hypostatic Word himself, but rather to the utterance of his power. Thus in Revelation 1:16, "the Son of man," and in Revelation 19:15, "he whose name is called the Word of God," has a "sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of his mouth." The sword is not himself, but that which "came forth out of his mouth." Cf. Isaiah 11:4, "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked;" cf. also Ephesians 6:17, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Hence, notwithstanding the prevailing view of the Fathers, it seems best to understand the term here as meaning generally the Divine utterance, without definite reference to the Hypo-static Word. It was the Word of God, in this sense, that debarred the ancient Israelites from their rest, and doomed them in the wilderness; it is the same Word which still more, as being uttered in the Son, is so searching and resistless now. True, it is through the Hypostatic Word that the Godhead has ever operated, of old as well as now, being God's eternal utterance of himself: the only question is whether this truth is here intended to be expressed, or, in other words, whether λόγος has here the personal sense in which St. John uses the term. It is possible that the writer passes in thought to a personal sense in the ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ of verse 13, where αὐτοῦ may refer to ὁ λόγος preceding, rather than to τοῦ Θεοῦ. But certainly at the beginning of the passage this specific sense does not seem to be suggested either by the context or the language used. Verse 12.—For living is the Word of God, and powerful (or, effectual; cf. Philemon 1:6; 1 Corinthians 16:9), and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Observe how the predicates form a climax. The Word of God is, first, living, instinct with the life of the living God who utters it, itself a living power (cf. λόγια ζῶντα, Acts 7:38); then, not only so, but also operative, effective of its purpose; then, in this its operation, more keenly cutting than any sword; cutting so as to perpetrate through and through—through the whole inner being of man to its inmost depths; then, in doing so, discerning and opening to judgment all the secrets of his consciousness. This description of the power of the Word of God is given as a reason fur the warning, σπουδάσωμενα etc., "Let us give diligence," etc; for, if we slight the Word of God, we can have no escape from its irresistible operation; we shall be thoroughly exposed and inevitably judged. The view of the Word of God having a sharply cutting operation is found in Philo, from whom Bleek cites a series of passages cognate to this in the Epistle. Cf. especially one in the treatise, 'Quis Rerum Divinorum Haeres.:' Τῷ τομεῖ τῶν συμπάντων αὐτοῦ λόγῳ ὅς εἰς τὴν ὀξοτάτης ἀκονηθεὶς αὐτοῦ λογῳ ὅς οὐδεπους λήγει τὰ αἰσθητὰ πάντα ἐπειδὰν δὲ μέχρι τῶν ἀτόμων καὶ λεγομένων ἀμερῶν διεξέλθῃ, etc. And for the comparison to a sword, cf. (as above referred to) Ephesians 6:17; Revelations Ephesians 1:16; 19:15; and Isaiah 11:4. The true reading of the part of the sentence, "of soul and spirit," etc., is ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, the τε of the Textus Receptus after ψυχῆς being ill supported. The second τε, after ἁρμῶν, is therefore most naturally taken, and so as to give the best sense, in the sense of "both," not "and;" i.e. the second clause is not to be taken as denoting a further dividing—of the bodily parts as well as of the soul and spirit, but as expressing, by recurrence to the figure of a sword, the thoroughness of the division of soul and spirit. Further, the division spoken of is surely not of the soul from the spirit, as some have taken it. Delitzsch, e.g., explains to this effect—that in fallen man his πνεῦμα, which proceeded from God and carries in itself the Divine image, has become, "as it were, extinguished;" that "through the operation of grace man recalls to mind his own true nature, though shattered by sin;" "that heavenly nature or' man reappears when Christ is formed in him;" and thus the Word of God "marks out and separates" the πνεῦμα in him from the ψυχὴ in which it had been, "as it were, extinguished." Then, taking the clause, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, to express a further process of dissection, he explains by saying that the Word of God "exhibits to man the fact that ungodly powers are working also in his bodily frame, which has now in every joint and chord and marrow become the seat of sin and death, and so "goes on to scrutinize" his bodily as well as his spiritual part," and "lays bare before the eyes of God and before his own the whole man thus described." But the idea of the separation, in the above sense, of the πνεῦμα from the ψυχὴ, even if tenable, is certainly far-fetched, and that of the corporeal dissection supposed is hardly intelligible. Further, the "dividing" of the bodily parts spoken of in the text (whether an illustration or a further process) does not suggest the separation of one part from another, since a sword does not divide the joints or the limbs (whichever be meant by apathy) from the marrow, though it may penetrate both. We may explain thus: It is well known that St. Paul divides man's complex nature into body, soul, and spirit—σῶμα ψυχὴ πνεῦμα (1 Thessalonians 5:23). His bodily organization (σῶμα) is not apparently here under consideration, except in regard to the figure of the sword; the ψυχὴ is his animal life or soul, the seat (so to speak) of his sensations, and of his natural affections and desires; his πνεῦμα is the more Divine part of his nature, in virtue of which he has a conscience, aspires after holiness, apprehends spiritual mysteries, holds communion with God, and is influenced by the Divine Spirit. The idea, then, is that, as a very keen sword not only cuts through the joints dividing bone from bone, but also through the bones themselves into the marrow within them, so the Word of God penetrates and discloses not,, only. the ψοχὴ but the πνεῦμα too, "piercing through soul and spirit, yea [with reference to the illustration used] through both joints [or, 'limbs'] and marrow." Ebrard, taking ἁρμῶν in the sense of "limbs" (a sense in which the word is used, though that of "joints" is its proper and more usual one), regards these and the "marrow" as corresponding respectively to the ψυχὴ and the νεπῦμα: the ψυχὴ being understood as "something lying deep in man, the πνεῦμα lying still deeper." Thus as a very trenchant sword cuts through, not only the limbs, but also the marrow within them, so the Word of God penetrates, not only that part of human consciousness which is expressed by ψυχὴ, but also that deeper and more inward part which is expressed by πνεῦμα. But the general sense of the passage is plain enough without our supposing this strict analogy to have been intended. Expositors, in their analysis of the meaning of passages, may often detect more than the author thought of. On κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων (translated "a discerner of"), cf. 1 Corinthians 14:24, 1 Corinthians 14:25, where the effects of the Word of God, brought to bear through the gift of prophecy on one without the gift entering into a congregation of prophesying Christians, are thus described: "he is convinced of all, he is judged [rather, 'examined,' 'scrutinized,' ἀνακρίνεται] of all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you [or, 'among you'] of a truth." So searching and judicial is the power of the Word of God, that it reaches and discloses the inmost depths of a man's consciousness—discloses them to himself, and, though he should resist, leaves him without escape, exposed and judged.

Hebrews 4:13

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and laid open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The main difficulty in this verse is as to the meaning of the word τετραχηλισμένα (translated "laid open"). The verb τραχηλίζω (which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament or LXX., but is, with its compound ἐκτραχηλίζω, not uncommon in Philo and Josephus) has in classical Greek the sense of "seizing by the throat," or "bending back the neck," as in wrestling. And this, with the further idea of "overthrowing" or "laying prostrate," is the prevailing sense in Philo, from whom Wetstein quotes many passages in illustration. Taking, then, with most modern commentators, the sense of bending back the neck as the primary one, we have only to consider what secondary meaning is here to be attached to it. Some take the idea to be that of being thrown on the ground supine, so as to be thoroughly exposed to view. So Bengel: "Τραχηλίζω, resupino, Graece et Latine dicitur pro patefacio. Corpora quae prona jacent vix nuda censentur; nam se ipsa tegunt: resupinata, secundum partes nobilissimas quasque et distinctissimas visui patent." Many (Eisner, Wolf, Baumgarten, Kuinoel, Bretschneider, Block, De Wette, etc., following Perizonius, on AElian, 'Vat. Hist.,' 12.58) see an allusion to the Roman custom of exposing criminals "reducto capite," "retortis cervieibus," so that all might see their faces (see Suetonius, 'Vitel.,' 17; Pliny, 'Panegyr.,' 34. 3). There is, however, no other known instance of the Greek verb being used with this reference, which there seems to be no necessity for assuming. The idea may be simply the general one thus expressed by Delitzsch, "that whatever shamefaced creature bows its head, and would fain withdraw and cloak itself from the eyes of God, has indeed the throat, as it were, bent back before those eyes, with no possibility of escape, exposed and naked to their view." Many of the ancients (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ecumenius, Theophylact) saw in τετραχηλισμένα a reference to the treatment of sacrificial victims, as being smitten on the neck or hung by the neck for the purpose of being flayed kern the neck downwards, or cut open thence, so as to expose rite entrails to view. But no instance is known of such use of the word τραχηλίζω, the idea of which may have been suggested to commentators by the figure of the sword in the verse preceding; which figure, however, there is no reason to suppose continued in Hebrews 4:13, the idea of which is simply complete exposure, introduced by οὐκ ἀφανὴς. The ancients take the concluding expression, πρὸς ὂν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος, as meaning "to whom our account must be given," i.e. "to whom we are responsible as our judge"—in the sense of λόγον διδόναι. The A.V. seems better to give the general idea of relation by the apt phrase, "with whom we have to do." Of course, λόγας here has no reference to the Word of God, the recurrence of the word, in a subordinate sense, being merely accidental.

Hebrews 4:14

To the interposed minatory warning of the three preceding verses now succeeds encouragement, based on the view, which has been now a second time led up to, of Christ being our great High Priest, who can both sympathize and succor. The passage answers closely in thought to the conclusion of Hebrews 2:1-18., and might naturally have followed there; but that, before taking up the subject of Christ's priesthood, the writer had another line of thought to pursue, leading up (as has been explained) to the same conclusion. The οὖν at the beginning of Hebrews 2:14 either connects κρατῶμεν ("let us hold fast") with the verses immediately preceding in the sense, "The Word of God being so searching and resistless, let us therefore hold fast," etc.,—in which ease the participial clause ἔχοντες, etc., is a confirmation of this exhortation (so Delitzsch); or is connected logically with the participial clause as a resumption of the whole preceding argument. Certainly the idea of the participial clause is the prominent one in the writer's mind, what follows being an expansion of it. And the position of οὖν suggests this connection. It is to be observed that, after the manner of the Epistle, this concluding exhortation serves also as a transition to the subject of the following chapters, and anticipates in some degree what is to be set forth, though all the expressions used have some ground in what has gone before. Having then a great High Priest who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. The rendering of διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανοὺς in the A.V. ("is passed into the heavens") is evidently wrong. The idea is that Christ has passed through the intermediate heavens to the immediate presence of God—to the sphere of the eternal σαββατισμὸς. In his use of the plural, τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, the writer may have had in his mind the Jewish view of an ascending series of created heavens. Clemens Alexandrinus, e.g. speaks of seven: Επτὰ οὐρανοὺς οὕς τινὲς ἀρίθμουσι κατ ἐπανάβασιν. Cf. also "the heaven and the heaven of heavens" (Deuteronomy 10:14; 2 Chronicles 6:18; Nehemiah 9:6), and "who hast set thy glory above the heavens" (Psalms 8:1), also "the third heaven," into which St. Paul was rapt (2 Corinthians 12:2). Cf. also Ephesians 4:10, Ὁ ἀναβὰς ὑπεράνω πάντων τῶν οὐρανῶν ἵνα πληρώσῃ τὰ πάντα. The conception of the phrase is that, whatever spheres of created heavens intervene between our earth and the eternal uncreated, beyond them to it Christ has gone,—into "heaven itself (αὐτὸν τὸν οὐρανὸν);" "before the face of God" (Hebrews 9:24). From this expression, together with Ephesians 4:10 (above quoted), is rightly deduced the doctrine of Christ s ubiquity even in his human nature. For, carrying that nature with him and still retaining it, he is spoken of as having passed to the region which admits no idea of limitation, and so as to "fill all things." The obvious bearing of this doctrine on that of the presence in the Eucharist may be noted in passing. (It is to be observed that "the heavens" in the plural is used (Hebrews 8:1) of the seat of the Divine majesty itself to which Christ has gone. It is the word διεληλυθότα that determines the meaning here) The designation, "Jesus the Son of God," draws attention first to the man Jesus who was known by that name in the flesh, and secondly to the "more excellent name," above expatiated on, in virtue of which he "hath passed through the heavens." The conclusion follows that it is the human Jesus, with his humanity, who, being also the Son of God, has so "passed through." There may possibly (as some think) be an intention of contrasting him with Joshua (Ιησοῦς, verse 8), who won the entrance into the typical rest. But it is not necessary to suppose this; verses 8 and 14 are at too great a distance from each other to suggest a connection of thought between them; and besides Ἰησοῦν occurred similarly at the end of Hebrews 3:1, before any mention of Joshua. The epithet μέγαν after ἀρχιερέα distinguishes Christ from all other high priests (cf. Hebrews 13:20, Τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων τὸν μέγαν). The high priest of the Law passed through the veil to the earthly symbol of the eternal glory; the "great High Priest" has passed through the heavens to the eternal glory itself. As to ὁμολογίας, cf. on Hebrews 3:1. In consideration of having such a High Priest, who, as is expressed in what follows, can both sympathize and succor, the readers are exhorted to "hold fast," not only their inward faith, but their "confession" of it before men. A besetting danger of the Hebrew Christians was that of shrinking from a full and open confession under the influence of gainsaying or persecution.

Hebrews 4:15

For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all things tempted like as we are, without sin. The power of sympathy (συμπαθήσαι) of our great High Priest is not adduced to distinguish him from other high priests, but to express, in this respect, his resemblance to them; community of nature and feeling with those for whom he mediates being essential to the conception of a high priest (see Hebrews 4:2). The sequence of thought is, "Let us hold fast our confession, not moved from it by the thought of the superhuman greatness of this High Priest of ours, who hath passed through the heavens; for he can still sympathize with our infirmities (ἀσθενείαις), having undergone our trials." Ἀσθένεια in the New Testament denotes both bodily infirmity, such as disease (cf. Matthew 8:17; Luke 5:15; John 5:5; John 11:4; Acts 28:9; 1 Timothy 5:23), and also the general weakness of human nature as opposed to Divine power, δύναμις (cf. Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2Co 12:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Corinthians 13:4). St. Paul seems to have had regard to ἀσθένεια in a comprehensive sense—including chronic malady (his "thorn in the flesh"), liability to calamities, "fear and trembling," temptation to sin—when he spoke (2 Corinthians 12:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9) of glorying in his infirmities that the power of Christ might rest upon him. With all human ἀσθενείαι, of whatever kind, Christ can sympathize in virtue of his own human experience: "Himself took our infirmities (ἀσθενείας) and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17); "himself ἐσταυρώθη ἐξ ἀσθενείας, though he now lives ἐκ δυνάμεως Θεοῦ" (2 Corinthians 13:4). The latter part of the verse corresponds in meaning with Hebrews 2:18, but with further delineation of the temptation undergone by Christ. The concluding χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας (best taken in connection with καθ ὁμοιότητα, which it immediately follows, rather than with κατὰ πάντα) is not a categorical assertion of Christ's sinlessness, though it implies it, but an exclusion of the idea of sin from-the likeness spoken of. His temptation was after the likeness of ours, "apart from sin," or "sin except." For similar expressions, though not with definite reference to temptation, cf. Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 7:26. But how is the exception of sin to be understood? Is it that, though, like us, tempted, he, unlike us, resisted temptation? Or is it that his sinless nature was incapable of being even solicited by sin? Now, the verb πειράζω means sometimes "to tempt to sin," as Satan or our own lusts tempt us (cf. 1Co 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; James 1:13, etc); and also "to prove.... to try," "to test faithfulness," as in 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:37, etc., in which sense, with reference especially to afflictive trials, the noun πειρασμὸς is commonly used (cf. Luke 8:13; Luke 22:18; Acts 20:19; Galatians 4:14; 1 Peter 4:12; James 1:12). That Christ was not only subjected to πειρασμὸς in this latter sense, but was also directly assailed by the tempter to sin (ὁ πειράζων), appears from the Gospel record. But here comes in a difficulty. There can, we conceive, be no real temptation where there is no liability to the sin suggested by temptation, still less where there is no possibility of sinning. But can we imagine any such liability, or even possibility, in the case of the Divine and Sinless One? If not, wherein did the temptation consist? How could it be at all like ours, or one through his own experience of which he can sympathize with us? It was for maintaining, on the strength of such considerations, the theoretic peccability of Christ, that Irving was expelled as heretical flora the Presbyterian communion. The question has undoubtedly its serious difficulties in common with the whole subjeer of the Divine and human in Christ. The following thoughts may, however, aid solution. That Christ, in his human nature, partook of all the original 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 have otherwise 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 to 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). He does not mean that the regenerate Christian is not exposed to and does not feel, the power of temptation; only that, so far forth as he lives in the new life from God, he is proof against it; he gives no internal assent to the seduction of the tempter; and so "that wicked one toucheth him net" (verse 18). 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. Bengel says, "Quomodo autem, sine pectate tentatus, compati potest tentatis cum peceato? In intellectu multo acrius anima salvatoris percepit imagines tentantes quam nos infirmi: in voluntato tam celeriter incursum earum retudit quam ignis aquae guttulam sibi objectam. Expertus est igitur qua virtute sit opus ad tentationes vincendas. Compati potest nam et sine peccato, et tamen vere est tentatus."

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly (literally, with boldness) unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.


Hebrews 4:1-11

The gospel rest.

In this passage the writer explains what is to be understood by the "rest" to which God had invited his ancient people, and urges the Hebrews of his own day to strive to attain it as the most Divine of all blessings.

I. THE REST OF GOD. "His rest" (Hebrews 4:1); "my rest" (Hebrews 4:3, Hebrews 4:5). Rest belongs essentially to God, for he is all-perfect and self-harmonious. Being infinite in purity and love, in knowledge and power, he is the God of peace, and dwells in undisturbed repose. The rest of God is mirrored in the institution of the sabbath (Hebrews 4:4), which commemorates his satisfaction at the close of his world-making, when he saw that his works "answered his great idea," and were "very good." God's own sabbath rest "is the substratum and basis of all peace and rest—the pledge of an ultimate and satisfactory purpose in creation" (Dr. Saphir).

II. THE REST OF GOD PROMISED TO MAN. This "promise" (Hebrews 4:1) is the result of God's fatherly love. For man, although he has fallen from his rest, is still the child of God, beloved in spite of his sad apostasy, and pitied on account of his weary moiling in the pursuits of sin. The sabbath instituted at the creation was not this rest (Hebrews 4:3-5), but only a sign and seal of it. Neither did the possession of the promised land involve the realization of the promised rest (Hebrews 4:6-9); for Israel had never for any time a restful life in Canaan, and King David, nearly five hundred years after the Hebrew occupation, speaks of entrance into God's rest as a blessing which was still future (Hebrews 4:7, Hebrews 4:8). However, the settlement of Israel in the land flowing with milk and honey was an adumbration of the gospel rest. And thus God himself said of Zion, "This is my rest for ever."

III. THE REST OF GOD REALIZED IN CHRIST. The Lord Jesus is the Joshua of our confession. He was indeed the Hope of the Jewish Church also in the time of the first Joshua, whether the people realized him to be such or not. If we follow him as our "Leader and Commander," our hearts, even in this weary, changeful world, will enter into true spiritual rest (verse 3). Christ brings us rest from guilt, rest from self-righteous striving, rest from wants, rest from fears, rest amidst life's burdens. In his "obedience unto death" he labored and was heavy laden that he might give us rest. If we stay our minds on him, we shall be "kept in perfect peace;" if we trust in him, we shall learn to rejoice that "the lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places, and that we have a goodly heritage.

IV. THE REST OF GOD CONSUMMATED IN HEAVEN. Although God has provided for us even in this world perfect rest in Christ, the limitation of our nature prevents us meanwhile from fully enjoying it; and our besetting sins may continue until the end to disturb our tranquility. But in the heavenly world the saints shall be set free forever from sin and temptation, from anxiety and sorrow. They shall enter there into the perfect sabbath-rest of God, and shall dwell in it throughout eternity (verse 9). His love shall abide upon his people, and their perfected love to him shall spring up within them unto everlasting life.

In conclusion, if we would acquire and possess this inheritance, we must:

1. Cherish godly "fear" (verse 1).

2. Cultivate faith in Christ (verse 3).

3. Be "united by faith with them that hear" (verse 2)—the Calebs and the Joshuas.

4. "Give diligence to enter into" the eternal rest (verse 11) by "following the Lord fully."

Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 4:13

The power of the Divine Word.

The writer urges here that if the Word of God condemned the unbelieving Jews in the Sinaitic desert, it will judge and condemn us also, should we prove unfaithful. The original reference is, of course, not to the written Word; but, in applying the passage to ourselves, we can think only of the promises and warnings of Holy Scripture.

I. A DESCRIPTION OF THE WORD OF GOD. (Hebrews 4:12) The representation is very vivid and impressive. The Word is, as it were, a magistrate; it judges actions, sifts motives, pronounces sentences. As such it is:

1. Living. It is "the breath of his lips"—God-breathed; and so it is never "a dead letter," but always quick with spiritual life, and ready to quicken. What Luther said of Paul's writings is true of all Scripture: its words "are not dead words; they are living creatures, and have hands and feet."

2. Energetic. The actual power of the Word is as great as the authority which it claims. It is, indeed, the supreme power among men. In the moral sphere it dominates the thought of the world. To the individual soul it is like "a fire "and "a hammer." It is "sharper than any two-edged sword"—two-edged, because it both punishes as a sword and heals as a surgeon's knife.

3. Heart-dissecting. The Word pierces into the deepest recesses of man's being. It pricks men in their hearts. It parts "soul and spirit," "joints and marrow;" i.e. it separates the animal soul from the angel-spirit in human nature. It gives sensibility and power to the heavenward side of our being; and enables us to distinguish what in us is carnal and must be subdued. It marks off to the believer's consciousness "the works of the flesh" from "the fruit of the Spirit."

4. All-discerning. The sacred writers evince a profounder knowledge of human nature than even Shakespeare or Goethe. God's Word is the touchstone of character. Rather it is an eye which detects the true spiritual condition of every one upon whom it gazes. That awful eye never closes. It reads the most secret thoughts and desires of the soul, and pronounces judgment upon the impenitent for doom. Even the manner in which a man treats the promises and threatenings of the Bible shows what that man is.

"Eye of God's Word! whene'er we turn,

Ever upon us I Thy keen gaze

Can all the depths of sin discern,

Unravel every bosom's maze.

Who that has felt thy glance of dread

Thrill through his heart's remotest cells,

About his path, about his bed,

Can doubt what spirit in thee dwells?"

II. THE SECRET OF ITS POWER. (Hebrews 4:13) Holy Scripture is thus energetic and efficacious because it is the Word of the Omniscient. It derives from him "who knows what is in man" its subtle insight into character, and its deep hold upon the world's life. The all-seeing Judge, "with whom we have to do," has invested his Word with its marvelous magisterial power. As the teachings of Scripture are an exact transcript of the nature and will of God, even the bare Word itself exercises as a Book transcendent moral influence over men. But, when accompanied with the supernatural energy of the Holy Spirit, upon which it depends for its efficacy as a means of grace, Holy Scripture becomes the very omnipotence of the Omnipotent, to arouse, convict, and condemn, as well as to comfort, sanctify, and save.


1. Let ministers "preach the Word." The faithful exhibition of the truth will lay bare the hearts of those who hear, and sometimes so thoroughly that individuals will conclude that their experiences must have been reported beforehand to the preacher. And without solid spiritual instruction no Church will receive blessing or power.

2. Let all hearers of the gospel "tremble at the Word." Every human heart should submit with holy awe to its inspection, and allow its teachings to determine belief, mould character, and control conduct.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Christ's sympathy and help.

This passage is one of the great signposts of the Epistle. In Hebrews 1:1-14., Hebrews 1:2. the writer has discussed the superiority of Christ as a King to angels; and in Hebrews 3:1-19., Hebrews 3:4. his superiority as a Prophet to Moses. He now proceeds to discourse more at length of his superiority as a Priest to Aaron.

I. A TWOFOLD STATEMENT OF DOCTRINE. This double statement concerns the cardinal truth of the Savior's priesthood.

1. Its outer aspect. (Hebrews 3:14) Fallen, sinful man needs a priest to act for him before God, and the world has sought for one long and earnestly. The Jewish religion embodied an elaborate priesthood; and its types have at length been stereotyped under the Christian dispensation. Every believer is now a priest unto God; and Jesus Christ is the Arch-Priest of the Church. The author here encourages the Hebrew converts to steadfastness, by reminding them of the reality and majesty of Christ's priesthood. He is "a great High Priest"—the Archetype and Antitype of the Jewish pontiff. His majesty appears when we consider:

(1) Where he is. He "hath passed through the heavens." Aaron went once a year through the blue veil into the sanctum sanctorum of the tabernacle; but our High Priest, after offering up himself as an expiatory sacrifice in the outer court of this world, has passed through the blue curtain of the sky into the heaven of heaven. He sits officially at the right hand of God, wearing both the priestly miter and the kingly diadem.

(2) Who he is. "Jesus, the Son of God." His greatness is personal, as well as official. He is a real man, bearing the human name, Jesus; but he is at the same time the true God, the possessor of a Divine and eternal sonship.

2. Its inner aspect. (Hebrews 3:15) This verse opens up before us the secret workings of the Redeemer's heart. It speaks of his priestly sympathy. Sympathy is a great power in human life. It bulks so largely that an eminent Scottish thinker, Adam Smith, makes it the basis of his whole system of morals. Now, says the apostle, the Savior's unparalleled greatness does not by any means render him incapable of sympathy. Although he has passed through the heavens, "heaven lies about us," and thus he is very near us. Although he left the world nineteen hundred years ago, he is yet" with us always." Although he is the Son of God, he has a human soul—a soul intensely human—which underwent a complete curriculum of trial, and graduated to its glory through suffering. Although he was "without sin," his earthly life was a life of constant temptation, as well as of constant and culminating sorrow because of sin. So he is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities"—our infirmities of health, of temper, of devotion, of resolution, of service. He knows experimentally the precise force of every evil suggestion which may try us. As the Head of the Church, he is its great Nerve-center; and he that toucheth any one of his people "toucheth the apple of his eye."

II. A TWOFOLD ENFORCEMENT OF DUTY. The double exhortation corresponds to the two aspects of the doctrine respectively. The apostle exhorts to:

1. Steadfast confessions. (Hebrews 3:14) The early Hebrew Christians found it very difficult openly to confess Christ; for their unbelieving countrymen treated all who did so as renegades from Israel, and apostates from Israel's God. But fidelity to the truth was necessary then, and it is equally necessary now. Every believer is bound publicly to confess Christ. He must do so for Christ's sake, for his own sake, and for the sake of his fellow men.

2. Constant supplication. (Hebrews 3:16) To the universe at large God's throne is a throne of majesty; to sinners, it is a throne of judgment; to believers, the presence of Christ at God's right hand makes it a "throne of grace." And the thought of our High Priest's tender sympathy should fill us with holy confidence to go daily and hourly into the Divine presence for the supplies which we need. What a joy to know that we have a Friend at court, and that he is our Sovereign's Son! As often as we look up to his open, loving face, we may use all "liberty of speech" in asking pardoning mercy for the past and helping grace for the future.


Hebrews 4:1

Fear of failing to realize the promised rest.

"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left," etc. Let us notice—

I. THE GREAT PROMISE. "A promise being left of entering into his rest." Later in the chapter (Hebrews 4:6-9) the writer shows from the Old Testament that such a promise was left to Christians. The rest promised is God's rest—"his rest;" because:

1. It corresponds with his.

(1) It is not the rest of inactivity, but of harmonious activities. "My Father," said Christ, "worketh hitherto, and I work." The highest rest is not in quiescence, but in unwearying and joyful endeavors; and it is illustrated, not by the stillness and silence of the sepulcher, but by the swift and serene movements of the planets.

"Absence of occupation is not rest;
A mind quite vacant is a mind distrest."


Robertson well says, "In creation the rest of God is exhibited as a sense of power which nothing wearies."

(2) It is not material, but spiritual; not of the senses, but of the soul. He who has this rest will have peace in his spirit even when sorely pained in his body. Like St. Paul, he may be enabled even to glory in physical "infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon" him.

(3) It is not in circumstances, but in the being. Circumstances are variable, uncertain, unreliable; no real and abiding rest can spring from them or depend upon them. But the rest which is promised in the sacred Word is not dependent upon circumstances or upon any outward things. It is a deep inward rest even amidst outward conflict.

"And central peace subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation."


"These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation," etc.

2. It is conferred by him. God is the Giver of this rest. He bestows it

(1) through the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ. Through him he removes the hindrances to this rest; e.g. guilt, servile fear, distrust of God, etc. And he inspires the spiritual conditions and constituents of this rest; e.g. the assurance of pardon, the possession of peace, the exercise of confidence in God, etc. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," etc; "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you," etc. God bestows this rest

(2) by the agency of his Holy Spirit. He brings the redemptive powers of the gospel into relation with the hearts of men. "He shall take of mine," said our Lord, "and shall declare it unto you." How great and gracious is this promise!

II. THE GRAVE POSSIBILITY. "Lest any one of you should seem to have come short of it." The grave possibility is that when the great testing-time shall come any one should be found without a personal participation in the promised rest. The word "seem" does not indicate the apparent as distinguished from the real; but is, as Alford says, "a mild term, conveying indeed a sterner intimation behind it." But how should any one come short of the promised rest? Clearly by unbelief, even as the Israelites who left Egypt came short of the rest of Canaan. To these Hebrew Christians there was more than a possibility of the failure of their faith in Jesus Christ. His system had no imposing ceremonial, no pomp or pageantry to commend it, as Judaism had. He himself was despised and rejected by the conventionally and officially great and noble, and was condemned and crucified. The claims of Christianity upon the acceptance of men were spiritual, and could only be spiritually discerned. Hence the danger of those to whom the text was primarily addressed. And still men are in danger of coming short of the attainment of the great promise. This peril arises from the temptation to seek satisfaction in visible and material things rather than in invisible and spiritual things; or to seek for ease and happiness rather than for peace and rest; or to seek for rest in the creature rather than in the Creator. Or the danger may arise from the temptation to absorption in present pursuits without due consideration of their relation to the future and the eternal.

III. THE SOLEMN EXHORTATION. "Let us therefore fear," etc. This fear is not synonymous with dread or terror; but it indicates a humble, reverent, watchful, prayerful spirit. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," etc. How would this fear guard one against coming short of the promised rest?

1. This fear is the antithesis and corrective of self-will and presumption. In humility there is security. "Gird yourselves with humility; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."

2. This fear will lead to wariness and watchfulness. It will incite to the exercise of caution and care.

3. This fear will lead to distrust of self and confidence in God. "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge." And he who puts his trust in God shall not fail to attain unto the promised rest. "Let us therefore fear, lest," etc.—W.J.

Hebrews 4:3

Rest a present possession of the Christian believer.

"For we which have believed do enter into rest." The use of the present tense here ("do enter") has caused some difficulty to some expositors. Alford explains the text thus, that they are to enter into the rest who at the time of the fulfillment of the promise shall be found to have believed. Stuart points out that in "the idiom of the Bible, the present tense is often used as a universal tense, embracing time past, present, and future." It is indisputable that the words of the text, taken alone, suggest the subject which is stated above. And if further justification of our application of the text be needed, we may adduce two facts.

1. That our Lord promises rest—and, as we understand him, present rest—to those who believe in him (Matthew 11:28-30).

2. That faith in the Lord Jesus Christ admits the soul into rest here and now is a fact of Christian consciousness. So we proceed to consider the rest which is the present privilege and possession of those who intelligently and heartily believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I. REST FROM THE GUILT AND BURDEN OF SINS IS ATTAINED BY FAITH IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. He reveals the infinite mercy of God towards the sinner, He delivers those who trust him from the condemnation of the holy Law which they have broken (John 3:14-18; Romans 8:1). He freely and fully forgave the sinners who penitently approached unto him (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48-50). He imparts freedom from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-36; Romans 6:12-22). And from this forgiveness and freedom from sin there follows rest from the dread of the punishment of sin. Thus, as regards the guilt and bondage and punishment of sin, they who believe in the Savior "do enter into rest."

II. REST FROM THE PRESSURE OF TEMPORAL ANXIETIES IS ATTAINED BY FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. There is much of mental disquietude and distress amongst men as to the possibilities of their physical life and their temporal circumstances. What if their health should fail! if heavy losses should befall them! if gaunt poverty or dreary destitution should overtake them! Now, our Lord's teaching as to the paternal providence of God, when it is truly believed, delivers the soul from these distressing apprehensions and corroding cares (see Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:6, Luke 12:7, Luke 12:22-31).

III. REST FROM THE DISTURBANCE AND DISTRESS OF SELF-WILL IS ATTAINED BY FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Much of life's unrest and sorrow springs from the absence of acquiescence in the will of God; much of positive distress arises from the opposition of our will to his holy will. Faith in our Lord delivers from this. His revelation of the Divine fatherhood, when it is heartily accepted, leads to acquiescence in the Father's will, and that is rest, as he himself teaches (Matthew 11:25-30). We are led into the truth that

"Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine."


And then into the higher experience of:

"The heart at rest

When all without tumultuous seems—
That trusts a higher will, and deems

That higher will, not mine, the best.
"O blessed life—heart, mind, and soul,

From self-born aims and wishes free,
In all at one with Deity,

And loyal to the Lord's control."


IV. REST FROM UNSATISFIED AFFECTIONS IS ATTAINED BY FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. One of the deepest needs of the human heart is to love and to be loved in return. Unreciprocated and misdirected affections cause some of the bitterest griefs of human life. Our Lord summons us to set our supreme affections upon God (Mark 12:29, 80). As the Object of our highest and holiest love, God satisfies, inspires, and delights the soul; for he is supremely good and beautiful. He reciprocates our affections; he is unchangeable, and he ever liveth.

"Oh for that choicest blessing

Of living in thy love,

And thus on earth possessing

The peace of heaven above!

Oh for the bliss that by it

The soul securely knows,

The holy calm and quiet

Of faith's serene repose!"

V. REST FROM THE SOREST SORROWS OF BEREAVEMENT AND FROM THE DREAD OF DEATH IS ATTAINED BY FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Concerning our beloved departed, "Jesus saith, Thy brother shall rise again.... I am the Resurrection and the Life," etc. He has taken the sting from death and the victory from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). "Our Savior Jesus Christ abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel." And now to the genuine Christian

"There is no death!
What seems so is transition.

This life of mortal breath

Is but a suburb of the life elysian,

Whose portal we call death."

To enter into and enjoy this spiritual rest is a privilege available to us here and now. "For we which have believed do enter into that rest."—W.J.

Hebrews 4:9

Rest a future portion of the Christian believer.

"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." We have already spoken of the rest which is the present privilege of the Christian: "We which have believed do enter into that rest." But that does not satisfy all our desire and aspiration. We crave a deeper, fuller, more perfect rest than we enjoy here. The higher life at present is one of intense and, at times, almost painful longing. Without the prospect of something better than our present best, our life would not be satisfactory. "There remaineth therefore a rest [a keeping of sabbath] for the people of God." This rest which is reserved is richer, fuller, more glorious than that which is at present realized. The words used to express them suggest this. The chief meaning of κατάπαυσις (Hebrews 4:3) is cessation, as from work, pain, etc. The rest which it indicates is mainly negative. But σαββατισμὸς (Hebrews 4:9) indicates a sabbath festal celebration, a holy keeping of sabbath; it comprises the rest of Hebrews 4:3 and considerably more. Let us consider what this sabbath rest which remains for the people of God consists in.

I. IN THE ABSENCE OF ALL THOSE DISTURBING INFLUENCES WHICH CHARACTERIZE OUR PRESENT STATE. This is the negative aspect of the rest, or what we shall rest from.

1. Rest from the struggle against sin. The people of God in heaven are more than conquerors over sin and Satan "through him that loved' them. The great tempter, and solicitation to sin, will be entirely and eternally excluded from that bright and blessed world. "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth," etc.

2. Rest from suffering, both physical and mental. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more" (Revelation 7:16, Revelation 7:17). "The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick." "And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes," etc. (Revelation 21:4).

3. Rest from the mystery and burden of life. In our present state there are seasons of darkness and perplexity when trust and hope in God involve painful effort to some souls. Such efforts will not be demanded in the blessed hereafter. Much that to us is now obscure will then be perfectly clear. The pure light of eternity will chase away the grim shadows of time; and what is to us unknown in heaven will awaken neither dread nor doubt.

4. Rest from toilsome, anxious, discouraging labor. No more men and women and children compelled to labor on long after their physical powers are tired out. No more forcing of the brain to continued effort when it already aches wearily by reason of its toils. No further summons to works of social or moral amelioration, which must be prosecuted despite difficulty, discouragement, opposition, and seeming failure. The sabbath rest which remaineth for the people of God precludes all these things.


1. In the conformity of our character to that of God. Purity is peace. Holiness is rest. The perfectly holy is the infinitely and ever-blessed God. The saints in heaven "have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Nor is their holiness the mere negation of moral evil, but a positive and active condition of their being. Their thoughts, sympathies, aspirations, services, are all true and pure and benevolent. They are spiritually transformed into the image of the Lord. And in this there is rest and blessedness. "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."

2. In the progress of our being towards God. Stagnation is not rest. Stationariness is not rest; it is stillness, inaction, but not rest. But harmonious growth is both restful and joyous. One of the constituents of the future rest of the good is growth—growth in mind and heart and spirit, in thought, and affection, and reverence, and holy action. In endless approximation to the infinitely Holy One will man find the rest and perfection of his being.

3. In the continuous service of God. As this rest is a "keeping of sabbath," it cannot mean a complete cessation of activity. Inactivity is not rest. "Sloth yieldeth not happiness; the bliss of a spirit is action;'

"An angel's wing would droop if long at rest,
And God himself, inactive, were no longer blest"

So we read of the bright future that "his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face." "They are before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple." T. Aquinas speaks of this service as videre, amare, et laudare. But it must not be limited to these exercises. Enough for us to know that there will be services for us to render—continuous services, blessed services, and all of them in the service of our God. The rest and joy of this service will appear if we consider:

(1) Its inspiration. Love to God is the impulse of every action, and transforms every duty into a delight.

(2) Its nature. Every service will be sacred. The spirit in which it is done will make all the work religious, worshipful.

(3) Its conditions. Freedom from all obstruction, from all restraint, and from all fatigue.

4. In conscious and continuous communion with God. "He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God, And they shall see his face." "We shall see him even as he is." All the redeemed in heaven are through Christ perfectly one with God in sympathies, purposes, principles, and joys. God alone can satisfy them. In him they rest with deepest, holiest blessedness. They are "forever with the Lord." "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." This rest is "reserved for the people of God." Only the sincere and hearty believers in Jesus Christ will ever enter upon it. The character of the rest is conclusive as to this question. To experience the perfect rest of the glorious future we must first experience the spiritual rest which is available unto us at present.—W.J.

Hebrews 4:12

Characteristics of the sacred Scriptures.

"For the Word of God is quick and powerful," etc. We take "the Word of God" here as meaning the sacred Scriptures, and the text as presenting to our notice several characteristics of them.

I. THE VITALITY OF GOD'S WORD. "The Word of God is quick," or, "living." Sometimes the written Word is spoken of as a "dead letter;" but with at least equal propriety it may be spoken of as a "living Word." "The Word of God, which liveth and abideth. For all flesh is as grass," etc. (1 Peter 1:23-25). We mention three evidences of the vitality of the Word of God.

1. Its continued and unimpaired existence notwithstanding innumerable, persistent, and powerful assaults. If these writings had not been instinct with a Divine life they would have been destroyed long ere this.

2. Its adaptation to all ages and all peoples. This book is as true and living for us today as it was for the men of the second century of our era; it is as applicable to the European as to the Asiatic.

3. Its inexhaustible interest. Like God's book of nature, it is endless in its significance and undiminishing in its attractiveness. Dr. Payne Smith has well said, "For nearly eighteen centuries men have thought and written upon that one Book, and if for eighteen more centuries men so write, yet will there still remain much that calls for fresh examination and fuller inquiry; new knowledge to be won, old truths to be better and more fully understood. The books of men have their day, and then grow obsolete. God's Word is like himself, 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever.' Time passes over it, but it ages not. Its power is as fresh as if God spake it but yesterday."

II. THE ENERGY OF GOD'S WORD. "Quick, and powerful," or active, or energizing. This power is seen:

1. In the conviction of men of sin. "Is not my Word like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" Its exhibition of infinite mercy has melted many a stubborn soul into genuine penitence.

2. In the conversion of sinners. "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." It is the instrument of spiritual regeneration. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth."

3. In the correction of faults and errors. "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction," etc.

4. In the consolation of the mourner. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope." "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and comfort, and consolation." "Comfort one another with these words."

5. In the sanctification of the believer. "Sanctify them in the truth: thy Word is truth." "Ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you." "Sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth."

III. THE PENETRATION OF GOD'S WORD. "And sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. The Word of God is frequently compared to a sword. "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." And to a two-edged sword. "Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." "As it is from the mouth that man's word proceeds; so this sword, not wielded in the hand, but proceeding from the mouth of the Son of God, is his Word (cf. Isaiah 49:2)." Here are two suggestions concerning the penetration of God's Word.

1. It searches the whole of man's nature. The "soul," i.e. man's animal soul; "spirit," i.e. man's religious spirit. By the former he is related to the brute creation; by the latter he is related to angels and to God himself, who is the "Father of spirits." The Word enters the heart and makes an impression there; it pierces through even to the spirit, and works mightily there. It divides "both joints and marrow;" it investigates the most interior and hidden parts of man's being.

2. It searches the whole of man's nature most rigorously. "Even to the dividing of soul and spirit;" not dividing the soul from the spirit, but dividing the soul itself and the spirit itself. This Word is not as an ordinary sword, but is "sharper than any two-edged sword;" and it does not as an ordinary sword cut to the bone, but through the bones and through the innermost marrow. So thoroughly and rigorously does the Word of God search man's moral nature.

IV. THE DISCRIMINATION OF GOD'S WORD. "And is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." It exercises a critical and separating power upon the thoughts and ideas, opinions and principles, of the heart. And it discovers to men the true moral character of their thoughts and intents, their opinions and principles. The Word of God frequently reveals man to himself. "The Bible," says Dr. Parker, "exposes the very innermost recesses of human nature; sets a light where no other hand ever placed a candle; lights up the pathways of our most secret life and thought; and we begin to feel that the book we must shut up when we are going to do evil is God's Book. This is the great hold, the sovereign mastery, which the Book of God has over the ages—that it knows us; that it gives articulation to our dumb reproaches; that it puts into the best words the things we reap against ourselves and cannot fully explain. Esaias knows us; Jeremiah has analyzed and dissected and anatomized us. It any man would know the human heart, he must read the human heart in God's Book."

"The sacred page
With calm attention scan! If on thy soul,
As thou dost read, a ray of purer light
Break in—oh, cheek it not; give it full scope!
Admitted, it will break the clouds which long
Have dimmed thy sight, and lead thee, till at last,
Convictions, like the sun's meridian beams,
Illuminate thy mind."

(Samuel Hayes)


Hebrews 4:13

The omniscience of God.

"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest," etc.

I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE, "There is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things," etc. All created things, high and low, great and small, visible and invisible, are comprehended in this word "creature." "His understanding is infinite." Nothing is too great for his comprehension; nothing too small for his notice (Psa 1:1-6 :11); nothing too hidden for his penetration (Psalms 139:11, Psalms 139:12).

II. THE MINUTENESS AND EXHAUSTIVENESS OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE. "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him," etc.

1. He sees all things as they really are. "All things are naked unto" his eyes. He beholds them without any covering or disguise. Things and persons are cloaked, concealed, and made to appear other than they are amongst men; but none of these things can impose upon him.

2. He sees all things thoroughly, completely. "All things are naked and opened unto," etc; Revised Version, "laid open before the eyes," etc. The word rendered "opened" is a difficult one. Alford adopts the meaning "to lay prostrate." He says, "This is the simplest and most frequent sense in the classical writers. I regard the word as signifying entire prostration and subjugation under the eye of God; not only naked, stripped of all covering and concealment, but also laid prostrate in their exposure before his eye." He translates, "lying open unto." Ebrard adopts the interpretation, "to bend any one's neck backwards, and thereby to lay bare the throat; hence in general, to lay bare." Others interpret it to lay open, as a body, by an anatomist, or as an animal by a sacrificing priest. But whatever may be the exact figure, the meaning conveyed by the figure is quite clear, viz. that God knows all things thoroughly (cf. Job 31:4; Job 34:21; Psalms 56:8; Psalms 139:1-5; Proverbs 5:21; Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:10).

III. THE SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPORTANCE OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE TO MAN. He is the God "with whom we have to do." Not "unto whom we must render our account." The clause expresses a more comprehensive relation than that. It expresses "our whole concern and relation with God." The Divine omniscience has very important practical bearings upon us.

1. As an effectual rebuke to the pride which springs from knowledge or from intellectual attainments. Compared with the knowledge of "him with whom we have to do," what does the most intelligent man know? "We are but of yesterday, and know nothing."

2. As a check upon sin, whether in thought and feeling, or in word and action. (See Job 34:21, Job 34:22; Psalms 90:8; Ecclesiastes 12:14)

3. As an encouragement to trust in him. (See 2 Chronicles 16:9; Matthew 6:32; Matthew 10:29-31)

4. As a great consolation when misinterpreted or slandered. (See Job 16:19; Job 23:1-17. Job 23:10; Psalms 37:5, Psalms 37:6)

5. As a great comfort and support in affliction and trial. (See Psalms 78:39; Psalms 103:13, Psalms 103:14) 6. As a guarantee of the triumph of his cause. His plans were formed with a full knowledge of every possible obstacle or opposition; and they anticipate and provide for the utilization of such opposition for their own furtherance and realization.—W.J.

Hebrews 4:14

A summons to steadfastness.

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest," etc.

I. THE DUTY TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. "Let us hold fast our confession," i.e. of the Christian faith.

1. Danger of renouncing this confession is implied. We have already pointed out that these Hebrew Christians were in considerable peril in this respect. £ This danger arises

(1) from opposition from without; or

(2) from subtle solicitation, which is more to be dreaded than opposition; or

(3) from negligence on our part.

2. Effort to retain this compression is enjoined. "Let us hold fast our confession." This includes:

(1) Perseverance in the Christian faith; a resolute cleaving to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

(2) Perseverance in the Christian fellowship; association with Christian people; frequenting Christian assemblies.

(3) Perseverance in the Christian practice; the continued embodiment of Christ's precepts in the life and conduct. This demands effort; e.g. watching, praying, believing, working.

II. THE MOTIVE BY WHICH WE ARE STRENGTHENED. These Hebrew Christians were encouraged to hold fast their confession because they had in Jesus Christ a perfect High Priest. The preeminence of his priesthood is adduced as a motive to their perseverance, and to ours.

1. He is pre-eminent in his office. "A great High Priest." As Alford expounds, the "one archetypal High Priest—One above all."

2. He is pre-eminent in his access. "Who hath passed through the heavens." The Jewish high priest passed behind the veil into the most holy place; but the great High Priest has passed through "the planetary heavens, the heavens of the fixed stars and the angels," unto the very presence and throne of God. "He is gone," says Ebrard, "into the dwelling-place in space of the absolute, finished, absolutely undisturbed revelation of the Father." And he is there as our Representative, and as our Forerunner. This implies the perfection of his work upon earth (cf. Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:24-26).

3. He is pre-eminent in his Person. "Jesus the Son of God." Jesus, the gracious and sympathetic Savior of men. "The Son of God," supreme in dignity, authority, and power. Here, then, is a motive to strengthen us to "hold fast our confession." Our great High Priest is perfect; he knows our difficulties and temptations; he sympathizes with us; he succors us; he is now in the presence of God on our behalf; "he ever liveth to make intercession for us," Let his sympathy and help inspire us to fidelity and perseverance.—W.J.

Hebrews 4:16

The Christian's approach to the throne of grace.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne," etc. Our text suggests the following observations:—

I. MAN'S GREAT NEED IS MERCY. "That we may receive mercy" is our great requirement. This will be obvious if we reflect for a moment on our position in relation to the government of God. Intelligent beings who have maintained their integrity and their loyalty to God, and are fulfilling his design concerning them, do not need mercy. Mercy implies demerit or ill desert on the part of those to whom it is granted. It is the mode of the Divine goodness to the unworthy and the evil. Because we are sinners we require mercy. We have no claim to God's favor; we do not merit the blessings of his goodness; by sin we have forfeited our title to his favor, and have deserved his wrath. "Every sinner stands in need of forbearing mercy. The sentence of death is upon all; all are under condemnation. Each sinner stands in need of preventing mercy. Inclined to evil from nature and habit, unless held back by preventing grace, he is continually falling into sin. The sinner stands in need of forgiving mercy. If he obtain not this, he must perish." All our salvation may be said to flow from the mercy of God. How great, then, is our need of mercy! Without it, we are lost. Having it, we have salvation.

II. MAN HAS SEASONS OF SPECIAL NEED. "And find grace to help in time of need." Alford: "Grace to help while yet there is time." Rendall: "Grace for timely help." The meaning is, to find grace for seasonable or opportune help; and thus suggesting the truth that there are seasons when man specially requires the help of Divine grace. We are ever dependent upon the mercy of God; but not infrequently we are pressed by temptations, or beset by danger, or assailed by dark doubts, or standing in slippery places, and at such times we specially need the mercy and grace of God.

1. There are times of temptation to sin, when our moral weakness is extreme, and our spiritual foes are persistent, and the tendency to sin which is within us is roused into activity. In such seasons how pressing is our need of succoring grace!

2. There are trials arising from worldly prosperity. Prosperity in temporal affairs has occasioned spiritual injury to many. It brings with it temptations to luxury, and to guilty conformity to the world, and to spiritual sloth, and false security, and presumptuous self-reliance. It is a season of special need.

3. There are trials arising from temporal adversity. In the hour of failure and defeat many a good man has felt with Asaph, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain," etc. With poverty there come, sometimes, temptations to reproach God, or to despair of his goodness, or to resort to unlawful or unworthy means to obtain temporal supplies. Hence our need of grace.

4. There are trials arising from bodily afflictions. Sanctified sufferings are a blessing; unsanctified, they are only an evil, and a very great evil. If we rebel against the hand that afflicts us, we shall grow hard in heart, bitter in temper, impatient and distrustful, and probably some one will suggest to us that we "curse God, and die." Here is a season of peculiar need.

5. Trials arising from the bereavements of friendship. When death comes very near to us, it is accompanied with temptations to doubt the reality of the life beyond, to question the wisdom and love of God, etc.

6. Trials of our own dying hour. Great is the mystery which surrounds death. The moment of dissolution must be very solemn. Who can overcome then without "grace for timely help"?

III. THERE IS A THRONE WHENCE THE MERCY AND GRACE WE NEED MAY BE OBTAINED. "The throne of grace" is the throne of God; but of God, not as an august and awful Ruler, but as a gracious Father. It is the throne whence he bestows the blessings of mercy and grace to those who seek him. The treasures of his mercy and grace are inexhaustible, and he delights in communicating them to others. We have not to overcome any disinclination to bless us on his part. He gives freely; he gives bountifully; he delights in giving.

IV. WE HAVE AMPLE ENCOURAGEMENT TO APPROACH THE THRONE OF GRACE. "Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace." We have freedom of access to the throne, and we may have freedom of speech with him who sits thereon. We may draw near to God with confidence. This we have, or may have, through our great High Priest. He has revealed the infinite love of the Father toward us, and his delight in blessing us; he is the perfect "Mediator between God and man;" he was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," and he is able "to sympathize with our infirmities;" and he now wears our nature in heaven by his Father's throne. "Let us therefore draw near with boldness," etc.—W.J.


Hebrews 4:1-11

The more terrible result of apostasy from Christ seen in the better rest to which Christ leads.

Still dealing with the superiority of Christ to Moses. Having shown the possibility of departing from Christ as they did from Moses, he goes on to show that, since Christ was greater than Moses, the evil of departing from him was so much more terrible. There is a Divine promise of rest unexhausted in Old Testament times, and only fulfilled through faith in Christ. "Let us fear therefore, lest a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to come short of it. 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. For we which have believed do enter into that rest." This is proved (as usual) from their own Scriptures. "Even as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." That is, the promised share in God's rest cannot be that after his creative work, for it had not been enjoyed two thousand years after the creation; nor could it be the rest of Canaan, for long after the entrance into Canaan, David, in the ninety-fifth psalm, speaks o! it as still unpessessed. "He again defineth," etc. What then? "There remaineth therefore a rest," etc.

I. THE CERTAINTY OF DIVINE REST TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. This is rest on earth, for "we who have believed do," etc. This is also rest in heaven, for "let us labor therefore," etc. But these two are one. Yet so much better is the latter, the believer being ever able to say, "There remaineth a rest," etc., that we refer this mainly to the rest of the eternal world. And this is certain:

1. Because God continues his work till it is perfected. "God did rest the seventh day from all his works," because they were complete. It reminds us that God always perfects what he begins—that is a necessity of his nature. Now he has begun his work wherever "repentance toward God, and faith toward," etc., are; then he will perfect it. That makes our future rest certain, for perfection brings rest. Our sabbath must follow our perfection.

2. Because the promised rest has not yet been reached. The argument applies to us as to the Hebrews. We may have been persuaded into the Christian life by "Come unto me, and I will give you rest," but our experience is far below what is thus assured to the believer. Where we have most it falls short of the promise. Then the promise has yet to be fulfilled.

3. Because Christ rests after his redemptive work. "For he that has entered into his rest "—i.e. Christ—"he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." As the Father rested after his creative work, so did the Son after his work of redemption, and for the same reason. It was because he could say, "It is finished," that "he sat down at," etc. If, then, Christ only rested because he had made our perfect redemption secure, we know we shall enter into rest. The vision of the Redeemer resting from his work conveys the utmost assurance that to his people the blessings of redemption, in their height, and depth, and length, and breadth, are as sure as though they possessed them.

II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE DIVINE REST WHICH APPERTAINS TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The English word "rest" occurs nine times in the context, but in the ninth verse a different Greek word is used, which (as it is said to occur nowhere else in Greek literature except in one passage of Plutarch) may be said to have been coined for the occasion—sabbatismos, a sabbath-keeping. No word could convey a deeper sense of rest to the Hebrews; for they had a seventh-day sabbath, and every seventh year a sabbath year, and every seventh seven years of sabbaths the year of jubilee. See here the kind or' rest to which Jesus leads his people.

1. It will be rest in finished labor. Whatever inward rest his people have now, they have also much outer weariness—weariness of labor, sorrow, conflict, advanced age. Christ leads to rest from this. Rest for the weary brain, the aching heart, the tired feet, the tempted spirit, the weight of years; the world's sounds all hushed, and the world's work laid aside; Sunday morning after the week's toil—a sabbath-keeping.

2. It will be rest in Divine fellowship. Rest with God. Not simply life's business suspended and its shops closed, but the multitude gathered in the place of prayer to keep holy day in communion with God. "If they shall enter into my rest." In Christ, God and his people find a common rest. That Divine fellowship will be the true sabbath-keeping.

3. It will be rest in holy service. Sabbath days to his people are days of sacred work. So in heaven "they serve him day and night." One kind of work over, but another taken up, and only in this work will our spirit rest. Doing nothing rests the body, but the heart and mind only rest when their faculties are in full employ. There, lessons to learn, mysteries to comprehend, service to render, attainments to pursue, gifts to receive, talents to expend, and all absorbed in the spirit of worship. God first, last, midst, and without end. What rest that will be—work which never becomes toil, nor seeks repose it That will be sabbath-keeping.

III. THE FEAR OF LOSING THIS DIVINE REST WHICH SHOULD ANIMATE THE CHURCH. That the burden of the passage. Its first word, "Let us fear, lest," etc., and its last, "Let us labor;" etc. This fear not inconsistent with the certainty of rest to Christ's people, because it is a question whether we have a right to the assurance of his people. Therefore "fear."

1. The fact of Israel failing to enter Canaan is held up to the Church as a warning. Even those who had received all the mercies given to ancient Israel could die as outcasts in the wilderness.

2. The means by which alone that rest can be obtained are clearly defined. Faith; but faith manifests itself by obedience (Hebrews 4:6). See Revised Version. "Faith" and "Obedience" are here used almost interchangeably, as though they were the same. The existence of faith is proved by consecrated life. If the way to rest were manifold, we need not so much fear, but it is one, only one—"faith which worketh."

3. The blessedness of the promised rest makes failure to reach it the more terrible. If it were sad to lose the rest of Canaan, what to lose the rest of heaven! What to be for evermore a companion of "sabbathless Satan"!—C.N.

Hebrews 4:12-16

The Word of God discovering, the great High Priest delivering from, the apostate's sin.

This completes the argument in this section (Hebrews 3:1-19. and 4) on the sin of apostasy. Having brought his readers face to face with the awful peril of departure from the Son of God, we might suppose the writer had reached the limit of the subject. But not so; he goes on to say that this sin and doom may be true of some whose defection is hidden in the heart. But he cannot relinquish the subject there. This searching admonition closes with the revelation of the great High Priest, who will deliver those who come to him from the guilt of apostasy. Subject—The Word of God discovering, the great High -Priest delivering from, the apostate's sin.

I. THE WORD OF GOD DETECTS AND JUDGES THE SIN OF APOSTASY. "The Word of God" here probably alludes to that particular word in the ninety-fifth psalm, on which, in both these chapters, the writer has built his argument.

1. This Word is permanent. "Quick," i.e. not dead. The Word of threatening to Israel lives still. It has not to do only with a former generation. Time makes no difference to what God has said. His Word never dies; it is as true now as when it was uttered. The principles which underlie the Divine sayings are everlasting.

2. This Word is efficient. "Powerful," or active. Its utterances are always followed by corresponding results. Laws in an earthly statute-book may not be executed; he who made them may not have intended to enforce them, or has changed his mind about them, or has lost the power to carry them into effect. It can never be so with the Divine laws. God "is not man, that he should lie, nor the son," etc "hath he spoken, and shall he not do it?" He is always in one mind, and nothing can change him. Men forget that because of his long-suffering; but it is true.

3. This Word is destructive. "Sharper than," etc. To divide the soul from the spirit is equal to the parting of the body from the spirit; it is another expression for "to produce death." And this is said to be in the most painful way. Nothing could produce intenser pain or more certain death than the "dividing asunder of the joints and marrow." The figure declares that the threatenings of God will be executed with an awful intensity of suffering and completeness of destruction.

4. This Word is penetrating. "Quick to discern," etc. (the sudden transition from the penetrating power of the Word to that of God is natural. The habitual thought of Scripture in this Epistle is that of a direct Divine utterance; God and his Word are one). "Naked, and laid open," paraphrased by "turned inside out." Its demands have as much to do with heart as life, with principles as doings. There may be no outward departure, but inner backsliding; and if so, the Word discovers and judges it.

II. FROM THE SIN OF APOSTASY OUR HIGH PRIEST IS ABLE TO DELIVER US. How delightful to be able to turn from the preceding to this: "Having a great, etc."! From the fears excited we are bidden to look up to our Priest-King in the heavens.

1. The guilt of apostasy needs atonement. That need is met in the vision of Jesus as High Priest passed within the veil, to present on our behalf the blood of sprinkling, which cries for and secures mercy. "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth," etc.

2. The temptation to apostasy needs help. That need, also, is met in the vision of Jesus as High Priest, Intercessor. He bears no jeweled names on his breast, but his people's names are graven on those hands ever stretched toward the throne in prayer. "Simon, Simon, Satan hath," etc. Therefore "let us hold fast."

3. The resistance of apostasy needs sympathy. To refuse to be unfaithful often brings suffering. To cleave to Christ meant to these Hebrews the spoiling of their goods, etc. The need that brings solace and help is also met in the vision of Christ as High Priest. The "yet without sin" draws him nearer; for, to maintain a sinless heart and character, he must have experienced the keenest pains of self-crucifixion and temptation, and therefore knows this suffering at its greatest, and "is able to succor those," etc.


1. He who has apostatized is invited, for Christ is the sinner's High Priest. "We have a High Priest." Who? "Jesus belongs to the sinner." He is given to save; then he belongs to the man who needs saving. Have we part in his sacrifice? is answered by another question—Do you need it? Let such draw near.

2. He who has suffered in resisting apostasy is invited, for we may come "saying all." "Let us draw near with boldness;" literally, "saying all." We cannot tell our fears, sufferings, temptations, victories, to any creature, and our hearts get full for want of one to understand our deepest experience. Then we may go to Christ, and at his feet make a clean breast of everything, "saying all." "Pour out your hearts before him," etc. Let such draw near.

3. He who is tempted to apostasy is invited, for here "mercy and grace" are given. Mercy and grace are free—free to the undo-serving. Mercy for the past, grace for the future. Let those whose sin and infirmity and circumstances need these draw near, for such are welcome.—C.N.


Hebrews 4:1, Hebrews 4:2

Believers in Israel and in Christ.

I. THE RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN THE PROMISE AND PROSPECT OF ANCIENT ISRAEL AND BELIEVERS IN CHRIST, The Hebrew people had a promise which was given to Abraham as trustee for his descendants, which was that after many years of suffering in Egypt they should be released from slavery and oppression, and. be led to the rest and enjoyment of Canaan. It was a promise which signifies the spontaneous declaration of the kindness and mercy of Jehovah, and flowed from his love toward Israel. It is a beam from the "Father of lights," who prevents us with the blessings of goodness, and meets us with the offers of grace and loving-kindness. This thought pervades the gospel, which is the free and unsolicited gift of God to the world; for there was no cry of spiritual distress and no agony of remorse which prompted men to desire salvation. The whole of the Christian system is suffused with the light and beauty of the "promises of him who cannot lie." This required on the part of Israel suitable and becoming exertion. They were to set forth from Egypt, and then listen to his Law at Sinai, and march under the Divine guidance, that God might bring upon them all that he had spoken. Similarly believers in our Lord are to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling," and are to leave the things that are behind and reach forth to those that are before. Israel had one thing to do; and those who believe in Christ are to seek the end of their faith in their admittance into the Father's house, where, instead of perishable tent and frequent change, there are many mansions of stability and eternal peace. It is a promise of rest. The Hebrews felt that in Egypt they did not belong to the nation in whose country they dwelt. They had no thought of permanence, no civil freedom, no security of person, and no fruit from their exacted labors. It may be believed that the promise and prospect of Canaan silently influenced their hearts and quickened desires for emancipation. The prospect of rest began to be very precious as suffering abounded; and at the appointed time they rose to commence the journey to the Promised Land. Those who believe in the Captain of salvation have a Diviner hope, and are taught to look for a Divine and eternal rest, which shall embrace more blessedness than we can at present imagine. It stands in happy contrast to the toil of daily life and the sight of imperfection in ourselves and others. It signifies rest from the stern duties of the mortification and crucifixion of the flesh. It is freedom from the changeableness of our present life, in which there is nothing stable in our emotions, our relationships, and the society of which we form a part. It is a blessed contrast to the mixed condition of the present state in which there are evil men and frequent doubts. Believers often look towards this divinely promised rest to encourage patience amidst the pressure of sickness and the force and frequency of temptation. It is, therefore, no wonder that Richard Baxter, who was burdened with frequent sickness, and tried by the controversies and troubles of his day, should find relief in writing his 'Saint's Rest,' which was at once the fruit of his painful experience and his spiritual desire for the rest of heaven.

II. THE CAUTION GIVEN TO CHRISTIANS LEST THEY RESEMBLE ANCIENT ISRAEL IN THEIR FAILURE TO GAIN THEIR REST. The prospect of Canaan was a gospel, or good tidings, to the Hebrews, since it assured them of a happy change in their condition. It brought before them the hope of freedom and the possession of a land, which had a fertile soil and a genial climate. It promised them the blessing of the Divine protection, ordinances of worship, and life closed in peace and hope of the future. This was good tidings to them. Good tidings of great joy are made known to us. They were announced by our Lord, who came to seek and save that which was lost, and to offer the blessings of salvation from sin now, and the perfection of our nature in the life and immortality which he has brought to light. He offers us pardon, justification, and the indwelling of the Spirit, who becomes the earnest of the purchased possession. Many of the people who started from Egypt never reached Canaan; and Moses saw that many year after year died and were buried in the wilderness, and exclaimed, "We are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled." They failed in faith, and doubted the promises of the God of their fathers. Had they believed their faith would have been turned into sight, and their hope into happy fruition. The Word did not profit them, for they came short of the rest and blessedness of Canaan. The warning which was given to Jewish believers, and is conveyed through them to others of succeeding ages, reminds us of the vast and fatal effects of unbelief. The truth which they heard was not felt and held as a Divine utterance. It teaches us that the gospel should be so admitted to influence and govern us, that it should be a part of our nature, as food received and digested becomes a part of our living structure. It is faith which gives it a presence and power in the vital forces of our souls. It unites the truth to our spiritual nature with a close and blessed association; and verifies the word of St. James, who describes it as "the engrafted Word, which is able to save our souls." The importance of faith is to be seen in our Lord's constant requirement of its presence for the attainment of salvation. The apostles follow in his hallowed footsteps, and urge believers to cherish this Divine grace lest their career should end in disappointment and failure. To come short of Canaan was a calamity, because there was a loss of good, and life was closed under the gloomy sense of transgression; but to lose the glorious inheritance of eternal life is more affecting as the awful future outweighs the small and fading interests of the life that now is. The possibility of such a loss is sufficient to awaken fear.—B.

Hebrews 4:3-10

The course of Christian effort is justified by the certainty of a future rest.

In these verses we have the gradual development of the idea of rest, which begins with the sabbath rest, in which God saw that all that he had made was very good, and he blessed the work of his hands. To keep this fact before the minds of Israel he ordained the celebration of the weekly sabbath, in which, as the Lord of time, he required his people to remit their daily labors, and acknowledge him as the Creator of heaven and earth. The next advance in the illustration of the idea of rest was the prospect of Canaan after the wandering for forty years in the wilderness. Many through unbelief fell short of its attainment. The next stage of progress in the unfolding of this thought is that in which the psalmist addresses the men of his day, who were taught to look forward to another and higher rest. This would have been unnecessary if the entrance into Canaan under the leadership of Joshua had exhausted this Divine thought. There remains, after all these illustrations of the promise of rest, something yet to come. This is the method of Divine wisdom and mercy to go from one stage of revelation to a higher, until the types and facts of the past find their completeness and perfection in the blessings of the gospel. "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual" (1 Corinthians 15:46). All Divine thoughts find their highest realization in our Lord, who said, "Behold, I make all things new." At first there was the tabernacle of the Divine presence, then the material temple built by Solomon, and then appears at last the spiritual and mystic temple against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Amid all the changes of the present life this truth of the future rest shines with a steady and cheering ray. It is for the people of God, by which phrase we understand a brief description of such as have undergone a spiritual change which forbids them to seek repose in the world, and have found true peace in Jesus Christ. They have acquired a spiritual habit of faith and hope, and are looking for a "city that hath foundations, whose Maker and Builder is God." "We who believe," saith the writer, "are entering into rest, and moving towards its enjoyment, because it is an enterprise authorized by our Lord, gives dignity to our present life, and turns our brief earthly course into a preparation for eternal joy. They have ceased from their own works, which originally were dead, and consisted of outward ceremonies, and were wrought without that faith which alone makes them acceptable to God; for they that are in the flesh cannot please him. Being regenerated, their new works are prompted by the Divine Spirit, flow from love to Christ, and are filled with spiritual life; for 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, and all things are become new.'"—B.

Hebrews 4:11-13


I. THE EXHORTATION TO EARNEST ENDEAVOR TO AVOID FAILURE AND SECURE SUCCESS. The believers to whom these words were addressed were halting between two opinions. The question was whether they should go back to the synagogue and the temple, and thus evade trial, or go forward in the brave and successful profession of Jesus Christ, and each should say, "Let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." No other subjects could approach these in importance, because they related to the life of the spirit, its power and safety now, and its eternal happiness in the life to come. The alternative is imaged by the fall and overthrow in the wilderness, and its lost labor, and the happy and successful entrance into the Promised Land. It was not a vain thing; it was for their life. The writer urges believers to labor, which term sets forth the arduousness of the enterprise and involves the exercise of watchfulness against the approach of foes, resolute self- repression, frequent prayer, and an ample and constant use of all divinely prescribed means for the preservation and furtherance of the spiritual life. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." With this view agrees the counsel of Paul, who reminds us of the strife of men in the arena for an earthly and fading crown, and hints at the severe training through which the runners pass, the rigor of their effort, which taxes all their strength of limb and speed of foot; and therefore believers should, in view of an immortal prize, labor to gain the approbation of the Judge, and realize the blessedness of Divine success.

II. THE SOLEMN FACT WITH WHICH THE EXHORTATION IS ENFORCED. This is the weighty and all-concerning truth, that the Word of God with which ancient Israel had to do is the Word which affects the life and career of all Christians. It is believed by able expounders of the Scriptures that as every word must have a speaker, it is reasonable to apply this passage to Jesus Christ, who is the Word, and out of whose mouth there goes the sharp two-edged sword (Revelation 1:16). It is quick, or living, because it is the abiding and unchangeable will of our Lord, and, when written, represents his mind concerning God, our sinfulness, our opportunity of salvation by believing in him, and our prospects of eternal life. Men die, and the prophets, apostles, and confessors are removed by death; but the Word of the Lord endureth forever. It is active and powerful, and produces changes of view and life. It awakens prayer, and elicits cheerful and efficient service for Christ. The Word which dwells richly in believers awakens melody in the heart as unto the Lord. It is divinely penetrative, and enters into the secret places of the soul. There is an impressive example in 1 Corinthians 14:24, where "one unlearned enters the assembly and "he is convinced of all, he is judged of all and thus the secrets of his heart being made manifest; and so falling down on his face he wilt worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." This passage has an admonitory aspect, which is drawn from the history of Israel. The word of condemnation was spoken, and the unbelieving generation died in the wilderness, and funeral after funeral passed through the camp to the wilderness beyond; and Moses said, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance" (Psalms 90:8). It reminds of some truths regarding ourselves and our condition of exposure to the constant observation of Jesus Christ, with whom we have to do. It declares to thoughtful minds that while we are what we are only as we appear to him, and that we should be content with his perfect knowledge of us, there is to be a final and solemn appearance before him to whom we must give an account. Apostles, evangelists, pastors, and all Christians must appear before him, to present our life for his inspection and final decision. If we have sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; if we have been merciful to his poor and persecuted followers; if we have maintained our hold of the gospel amid changes of public opinion; if we have been faithful stewards of the manifold grace of God,—we shall give up our account with joy and not with grief.—B.

Hebrews 4:14-16


I. THERE IS HERE ENCOURAGEMENT TO STEADFASTNESS FROM THE DIGNITY AND SPHERE OF OUR LORD'S MINISTRY. He is called the great High Priest, who stands in exalted contrast to Aaron and all his successors in the important duty of representing the people before God and representing God to the people. This greatness will appear in the arguments and discussions which follow, in which the holiness of his life, the value of his sacrifice, and the influence of his intercession will be explained and proved. He has passed into the heavens, and has left the material and earthly tabernacle behind him for the immediate and glorious presence of God, at whose right hand he sits and waits till all his enemies are made his footstool. If he persevered through trial and innumerable sorrows until he could cry, "It is finished," and reach the unrivalled exaltation of his heavenly priesthood, in the exercise of which he is not ashamed of his brethren, let us hold fast our profession of him in the world below. If the synagogue and Sanhedrim are against you, so might the thought be stated—Remember that the glory of your High Priest, and his love to you, claims and justifies your avowal of his cause and your attachment to his Name.

II. ENCOURAGEMENT FLOWS FROM THE SYMPATHY OF THE HIGH PRIEST. The inspired writer returns to the question which he had passingly noticed before, and alludes to the career of temptation through which the Redeemer fought his way to the glory which awaited him. He was tried by the loneliness of his spirit, for none could completely understand him. He was tempted by Pharisees and Sadducees. He was tempted by the ingratitude of men. He was specially tempted by Satan, who strove to turn him aside from his work, and stain the Lamb of God, who was to take away the sin of the world. Some of his temptations were beyond the reach of merely human experience, for his sorrows and burdens were such that it may be said, "of the people there was none with him;" "he trod the wine-press alone." He passed through all his trials without one act which was unworthy of his Divine character, and came out of the furnace of temptation without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. This qualifies him to sympathize with his afflicted followers. Angels and archangels can from their special experience offer no such help to struggling believers. Sympathy divides our sorrows and heightens our joys; and that which our Lord affords is quick in its movements and efficient in its influence. He showed this truth to Saul on the way to Damascus, and told him that in persecuting his disciples he was actually persecuting their glorified Master. If, therefore, the synagogue should despise and ill treat them, let them turn to him who in all their afflictions is afflicted, and whose grace can support them. Sympathy should inspire them with Divine confidence and hope.

"He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same."

III. ENCOURAGEMENT FROM FREE ACCESS TO THE THRONE OF GRACE. There is a precious compass and variety of thought in this appeal to Christian experience. There is the throne, which is the image of power, where Jehovah sits in glory, and all angels, all creation, all providence with its wide range and marvelous machinery, all the agencies of the Church and the gift of the Divine Spirit, are under his guidance. It is the throne of grace, and stands in contrast to the awfulness of Sinai, and the solitary chamber of the holy of holies, into which the high priest entered once a year. The throne is radiant with the Divine light, and love; for "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" and "God is love," and is exalted that he may be gracious unto us. The writer invites believers to come with boldness, and probably suggests a contrast to the ancient service of the high priest on the Day of Atonement, and the spirit of bondage in which many of the Jewish people were held. The Christian state is one of liberty and filial love. God sends forth "the Spirit of his Son, crying, Abba, Father." Since Christ is our High Priest, and the throne is one of grace, we may have access by one Spirit unto the Father, and speak to him with the reverential confidence, which he invites and will justify by affording spiritual help. This help we need in the form of mercy to pardon the faults and mistakes of our life, and to regain the waste of spiritual strength in the warfare and collisions of life. He will give grace in cheering proofs of his favor, and in maintaining our fidelity to his cause amid the strain of temptation and the examples of failure in those who once ran well and have been hindered. "He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly."—B.


Hebrews 4:1

The two gospels.

I. THE FIRST GOSPEL. That which was proclaimed to Abraham, repeated, enforced to his posterity, standing before them in the way of duty and of hope, even in the darkest days of Egyptian bondage. It was a gospel that proclaimed rest, settlement, worship, and service in the land of Canaan. And though special attention is called here to the great Abrahamic and Mosaic promise to Israel, yet be it also noted that God is ever a Being sending forth gospels when there is need of them and ground to show that there will be anything substantial in them. Never did an ἄγγελος go forth without an εὐαγγέλιον of some sort. It is we that turn gospels into the worst of news, because in benefiting others they may make it needful for us to suffer. And yet what seems bad news on the first look of it may turn out in the end to have been the best of news. The good news which Moses brought to Israel of the impending deliverance from servitude may fairly be called, in common parlance, bad news for Pharaoh and the Egyptians, seeing it meant national humiliation, the loss of so much useful labor. Yet who can doubt that even for Egypt, after all the calamities of the plagues, there was a great good in that which brought good to Israel? A gospel prominently set forth for some is really a gospel for all.

II. THE SECOND GOSPEL. A second, and yet in truth it was nothing but the fullness of the first. Liberty for the enslaved, rest for the weary, a secure and fruitful inheritance for the true children of Abraham, those of like faith with him,—these are the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so this gospel, an everlasting gospel, remains uttered forth, wherever the need of man presses. This is one of the great uses of preaching, that by it gospel promises, possibilities, and invitations are forever sounding forth in the ears of men. The complaint is that preachers are ever saying the same old thing; yet that is to a certain extent their virtue and their value. The ear that heard yesterday belonged to a man who rather preferred to hear the gospel coming from worldly wisdom; but today he has found that gospel to be no gospel, and the true heavenly message not heard at all, or only half heard, is received in all its pertinency, its sweetness, its fullness. The throng of men abounds every day in what conventionally is called bad news, news of money losses, shattered health, ruined reputation, relatives and friends passed away. Over against these how supremely important to feel that there is always good news in this, that "God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life"!—V.

Hebrews 4:2

The gospel profitless to an unbelieving heart.

With the Israelites their sin was not so much actual and active unbelief, a bold denial of Jehovah's truth, as the lack of an actual and active faith. There was no active spiritual energy in them to meet the abundant energy of their liberating and guiding God. The parable of the seed in the four kinds of ground may well be applied to them. The great bulk of them gave not the slightest real attention to any Divine word of promise or duty. Some doubtless did mean to be docile, obedient, and patient; and a few at least must have been in real accord with Jehovah's aim. But what availed a few, if the bulk of the people sat before Jehovah in carnal indifference? If we would profit by the greater gospel to us—

I. WE MUST BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE. This very thing we think we do, and yet on inquiry we find we do it not. There is no mistake when a man feels he is dealing with realities. And the way in which we not seldom talk of the gospel or behave when it is set before us shows that to us it is no reality. And yet, just because it is a reality, we shall have to deal with it some day. True strength, peace, and blessedness lie in reconciliation with God. To believe the gospel as true is to come to know this in time. But sooner or later we shall have to know that strength, peace, and blessedness lie nowhere else.

II. WE MUST BELIEVE THE WORK TO BE NEEDFUL. The gospel includes purification, trial, discipline, service. The gospel does not always look like a gospel. For instance, Jesus says, "It is expedient for you that I go away." The gospel has allowed its heralds and its recipients to be put in prison and to go to death. Trust is needed in the reality of love behind the appearance of indifference; the heart of the believer feeling God to be near when to the worldly spectators it may seem that nothing is near but trouble, pain, loss, confusion. We have to trust God as to his way, his time, or the gospel will be profitless to us.

III. WE MUST GET OUT OF OUR HEARTS A PREFERENCE FOR BELIEVING THE FALSE. As our eyes look out upon the world with its opportunities and its varied scenes, its paths for ambition and adventure, we make gospels for ourselves out of the things we see. Nature seems full of evangelists, and we believe everything they have to say; and then at last discover the gospel to be one of our own making. For the time the false is more attractive than the true, and we mix strong faith with our hearing of it. But as a true gospel is profitless without faith, so a false gospel is profitless, however strong the faith may be. God's truth cannot do without our faith, nor our faith without God's truth.—Y.

Hebrews 4:9

The true sabbatic rest.

Note here the word employed—σαββατισμὸς. This the only occurrence of the word. It is preceded and followed by another word for rest—κατάπαυσις. There must be something in the abrupt utterance for just once of this word in Hebrews 4:9. The different word must emphasize difference of meaning. The difference seems to lie here, that there are two kinds of rest to be thought of—one the rest from toil and exertion, the rest to the weary; the other rest of cessation from work, because something is complete. Thus we have two views of the Christian's future.

I. HE IS TO HAVE REST FROM ALL THAT MAKES LIFE WEARY. The σαββατισμὸς must include the κατάπαυσις: but, then, there may also be the κατάπαυσις every day and all day long. To rest the body after toil is very important, but more important is it to be able to rest the heart. There are only too many who get no proper rest of body on Sunday because their hearts are full of unrest. It is more than can be expected from imperfect humanity that we should attain this constant restfulness of spirit; but let it be understood that the cause lies in our imperfections, and not in any absolute necessity of the case. Rest is begun in a trustful heart, and the more trust the more rest. Much of the weariness of life comes from our own needless, useless struggling. We make toilsome work by our ambitions and our fears. People prefer the toiling and the care of the life of sight to the rest of the life of trust. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul."

II. HE IS TO HAVE REST AFTER COMPLETED WORK. This is the true σαββατισμὸς. Why is the other kind of rest, the rest from toil, necessary? Because man is fallen. He works not according to the pure, original power of his creation, but under constraint; duty and inclination too often opposed; or, if not in opposition, there is immense friction between them. But if there had been no fall, the work of each individual man would have gone on calmly, equably, till it was done. Then the σαββατισμὸς would come. Look at man on parallel lines from God. God works out the great scheme and order of creation, and then ceases creating; but he is not weary when the work is done. God makes men in his own image; and the universal human race has its work to do, with each individual working in his proper place. Then, when the work is done, comes the sabbatism. Let this nobler view of rest be ours. In the heat of noonday it is permitted that we look to the sunset and think of rest from toil. But let us also take pride in the work we have to do, thinking that some day, by the Spirit of God working in us, the workmanship will be complete. God will have his particular sabbatism in us; and. we, complete in Christ, shall get our sabbatism with God.—Y.

Hebrews 4:12

Characteristics of the Word of God.

What is the connection with the context? Is it not this that the Word of God, living and abiding forever (1 Peter 1:23), stands in its constant living relation to every generation of men? So far as we are essentially in the position of that generation which came out of Egypt, so far as we have Divine promises before us the conditions of which we may neglect, so far are we the objects of the same Word of God. Essentially the same Divine visitation, judicial visitation, comes on all who fail to show that trust which is their duty. The same things must happen to all who will not believe what is true and trust what is trustworthy. And yet what is here said of the Word of God only takes a threatening aspect if we choose to have it so. The Word of God has a double function. It may penetrate, physician-like, to heal, to purify, to illuminate the depths and dark- nesses of our being, or it may penetrate to furnish the irresistible evidence for our condemnation. It is sufficient, then, that we look at the characteristics of God's Word in themselves. What they may become in action it is for us to decide.

I. THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING. Every word concerning truth and duty, every word of promise, comfort, revelation of the unseen, is like a living being sent out into the world, going to and fro in the earth, so that none of us knows when, with all its fullness of life, it may take hold of us. "Moses," says Stephen in his great discourse, "received the lively oracles (λογία ζῶντα) to give to us." It is well that we should bear in mind how the written Scriptures, though an invaluable help, are not an absolute necessity. Apart from the living Spirit of God which fills them with life, they would be, perhaps, the least comprehensible, the most perplexing, of antique writings. Nor must we be forgetful of that Divine Loges spoken of at the beginning of John's Gospel. In that Loges was life—life which was the light of men. The Word of God finding its highest expression, the expression of what would otherwise be ineffable in a manifested human life; human, yet Divine; Divine, yet human.

II. THE WORD OF GOD IS POWERFUL. Powerful, but powerful in a peculiar way. Energetic, shall we say? Leaven—leavening the whole lump, undermining cherished principles of worldly wisdom, falsehoods, prejudices, superstitions, and putting in their place the Christian—the true and the rational. Note the expression of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:12, where he speaks of life energizing in us.

III. THE WORD OF GOD IS PENETRATING. This would seem to be the characteristic most to be borne in mind, considering how language is multiplied and varied to declare it. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Some plain word of God with the Spirit's force behind it is a sword, sharper than any two-edged sword; and yet, unlike the carnal weapon, it is not for killing, nor for mischief. Here is the penetrating power which reveals all secrets, opens out all mysteries. It hacks its way in and in till it is face to face with the real man. Every man has, as it were, a holy of holies with respect to others. They cannot get behind the veil. But God is never anywhere else in relation to us. His ways are past finding out by us. But all our ways in every winding are known to him. And all this deep, infallible searching is for our good.—Y.

Hebrews 4:14

Our great High Priest passed into the heavens.

I. THE COMPARISON IMPLIED Hebrews 9:1-28. helps us here. There the writer speaks of two tabernacles—the first outside the veil, the second within. Into the second the high priest went alone once a year. There, away from the sight of the people, before the ark of the covenant containing the tables of our Law, he transacted solemn business with God on behalf of his fellow-Israelites. And not only so, this high priest was acknowledged by the whole people. They believed, or professed to believe, that he was a necessary medium of communication between God and them. And so he was for the time, and long continued so. The bulk of the Hebrew people at the time this Epistle was written had a profound regard, though also a superstitious and servile one, for the person of the high priest. There might be in the regard very little of intelligence, and very doubtful advantage; but still, there it was, a real acknowledgment, quite enough out of which to make a striking illustration of him who is the real great High Priest—Jesus, the Son of God. He also has passed through and gone behind a veil, the veil that separates the seen from the unseen. What a thought of the unseen, that it is God's true holy of holies! Doubtless there is a special reference here to the day of ascension, when Jesus rose from the midst of his disciples, and a cloud received him out of their sight.

II. HOW WE ARE TO PROFIT BY THIS COMPARISON. The comparison—the parallel—was easy enough to these Hebrew Christians. It referred them to traditions and a ritual with which they were familiar from childhood. They saw high priests continually. But we know nothing of a priest, an altar, a sacrifice. We do not hear the lowing of oxen and the bleating of sheep whose lives are to be taken away in the acceptable worship of God. We could not bring ourselves to think that such things could be of any use. Not at all doubting that they once served a purpose, we know that the purpose exists no longer. Believing that they were once somehow necessary, that is all we can say. Our experience gives us nothing whereby we may understand the necessity. Thus the question comes—How are we, who have never had anything to do with such a priest as Aaron, or any of his posterity, to get good out of this exhortation? What sort of notion are we to represent to our minds when we are told to hold fast our profession in a great High Priest passed into the heavens, when, as a matter of experience, we have never had anything to do with priests at all? It would be a great mistake to say that we are to trouble ourselves no more about the priestly idea. Though we cannot make the forms of the old Jewish priesthood a living thing to us, still we can surely do something to get at the idea which lies behind all priesthood. We are often misled by co-founding priesthood with priestcraft. The indignation of every honest heart cannot be too strong against the abomination, priestcraft. But why an abomination? Just because it is the degradation of a good thing. Priesthood is simply the office and function of the man who is set apart to act on behalf of his fellow-men in their relations to God. And looking at what is to be found in the Old Testament with respect to the priestly office, we find there was no chance for priestcraft. The true priest had to be an honest, patient man, faithful in little things, exact in minute observances, full of self-denial, and constantly attentive to the requests of all the people. The very Scriptures which exalt priesthood denounce priestcraft. Priesthood is the means whereby men are governed and blessed spiritually; priestcraft the means whereby they are spiritually crushed, and their consciences made slaves to another man's will. Priestcraft is only to be got rid of by giving the true priesthood its full force. Allowing ourselves to drift into the idea that priesthood is obsolete, we shall never get rid of priestcraft; since error only dies out as truth is planted by its side, drawing away from the roots of error all that nourished them. The priesthood in ancient Israel, with all its mere outward rites, with all its defects and lapses, did a great service. It prepared the way for the great High Priest of our acknowledgment. And, after all, priesthood is only the name; it is the thing we have to look at. Jesus is he who answers the questions no one on earth can answer; renders the services no one on earth can render; we therefore call him great High Priest. Pretenders may come in, and by their doings make the name of priest hateful; but the work of the true Priest is none the less real. And the exhortation is that we should avail ourselves of that work to the very fullest extent. Then all the good things coming to us by nature will be crowned by this best thing coming through grace. Men have helped us according to their opportunity—loving, self-denying parents, skilful instructors, watchful and wise-hearted friends, great men who have revealed themselves in books, making us feel what a noble thing it is to be partakers of human nature; and then Jesus of Nazareth comes in at last, Priest of the most high God, abiding for ever, and undertaking to satisfy our deepest wants out of the immeasurable fullness of God.—Y.

Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 4:16

The helpful nearness to man of the true High Priest.

I. THE IMPLICATION WITH REGARD TO OTHER PRIESTS. Other priests are lacking in proper sympathy with human weakness. They are lacking in a sense of the almost omnipotence of tempting influence. They themselves, in all important respects, are no better than those for whom they act. Not that they are to blame for this; other things were not expected from them. They were only to be part of an instructive and impressive ceremonial by which might be set forth, by the best means attainable at the time, something as to what a priest, an offering and an approach to God, ought to be. The very defects of the priest taken from among men emphasize the need of something immeasurably better. Sinful men should be able to sympathize with sinful men; but, as a matter of fact, they very frequently are unable to do this even in the most qualified way. They can sympathize in a measure with sickness, with temporal calamity; but too often for sin, for crime, for vice, they have nothing but denunciation with respect to men. There is a hint to us how we should recollect that the greater sinner a man is, the greater is his need for human sympathy.

II. THE PERFECTION OF PRIESTLY QUALITIES FOUND IN CHRIST. In him there is all the true priest needs. He is attracted, not by the strong side of human nature, but by the weak. Easy is it to be drawn to men in the hours of their full life, in their prime, when they are strong for action either of body or of mind; and it is pleasant to look at the results of all their effort. But it is much better, difficult though it be, to look at man in his hours of weakness and need; for it is out, of the midst of his weakness that his highest strength is to be attained. And so Jesus was drawn to men in their weakness. He came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to minister to those who really needed ministry. We do not serve rightly when we serve those who are quite able to do things for themselves. This is only to increase the indolence of the world. Christ comes to give the help that but for his coming could not be given. He sympathizes with us in all weakness, in poverty, in sickness, in feebleness of body and harassing circumstances. But his sympathy is specially with us in temptation. He was tempted in all points like as we are, i.e. his temptation was a real thing; and the temptation he had to suffer was one suited to the peculiarities of his position and his work. We are to think here, not so much of his experiences in the wilderness, as of Gethsemane (Hebrews 5:7). The temptations of the wilderness he saw through at once; they must have been very clumsy artifices in his eye. But Gethsemane tried him. The pure gold went into the furnace there that its purity might be made manifest. And thus it was shown that he was without a sin. The more we are made to feel our own sin, the more our hearts are revealed, the closer we are drawn to him who has no sin, and who shows us that sin is no essential part of human nature.

III. THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF THESE CONSIDERATIONS. We are to make full use of the Priest thus provided—a Priest not of our finding or our making. He has not come by some process of selection and training employed by men, but is of Divine appoint-merit; an Apostle from the throne of grace, beseeching us to accept him as the sufficient Interpreter of human needs and human penitence. Our attitude is to be one of approach to the throne of grace, thinking of it as such; thinking of the severities of God and the penal aspects of law as only grace in disguise. Chastisement, punishment, pain, are but grace not understood. We must have boldness, freeness, a strong sense of the right given us to approach the throne of grace. We must have a sense of how God will treat us. He will not only put us into a better state, but do it in a most compassionate and tender way. It is conceivable that a physician might perfectly cure a sick person, yet do it all like a machine, without any manifestation of heart, without a single kind or cheering word.—Y.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/hebrews-4.html. 1897.
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