Hebrews 4 Bible study

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Chapter 4

 

Rest for the People of God.

 

1,2. Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

 

In the previous chapter Paul began by expounding Psalm 95 to warn against the danger of unbelief. He pursues this further in chapter 4, which concerns the promise of rest given by the gospel of Christ.

 

Since God has given a promise concerning his rest for "today", then this must be a reference to the rest given through the gospel - pardon for sin and peace with God through Jesus Christ. The promise given to Israel was to be received and acted upon by faith, so the promise of eternal life must be received and acted upon by faith e.g. John 3.16.

 

Paul warns that we should make sure that we do not miss out on the promise because of unbelief. This certainly applies to those who have not put their trust in Christ. However, throughout this epistle the warning is given to those who have already begun the Christian life that they should remain on the pathway of faith. The tragedy of the Exodus was that they received the "gospel", that is, a message of good news which related to their possession of the promised land. Yet although they received the promise, they failed to enter Canaan because of their unbelief. Similarly, the gospel which proclaims eternal life in Christ will be of no use to anyone who does not personally appropriate that promise by faith. "He who believes in the son has eternal life" This faith is not to be a put your hand up in the meeting and say I believe type of faith, but a fixed attitude and purpose of life, to follow on after the Saviour.

 

It is characteristic of the NT epistles that faith is described as the responsibility of the hearers. Saving faith is the gift of God - but many fail to receive it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, yet many hear the word of God and still fail to believe it. In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of those who hear the word but the devil comes and snatches it away so that they do not believe. So although faith is the gift of God, there is clearly a human element to the process of faith, the willingness of the individual to believe must be present before God can impart saving faith.

 

Those who fail to believe the son of God will throughout eternity only have themselves to blame. This passage of Hebrews clearly teaches us that it is our responsibility to believe the word of God.

 

3,4. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "As in my anger I swore, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."

 

The rest spoken of in Psalm 95 is not the rest of the Sabbath which God finished the works of creation, for that time had long passed before in David he speaks again about a rest for "today".

 

5 - 9. And again in this place it says, "They shall not enter my rest." Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day--"today"--saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God.

 

It is not a reference to the "rest" of Canaan, which the children of Israel were not allowed to enter. Even the children of those who died in the wilderness, who later entered with Joshua and Caleb, did not find that "rest" which God speaks here, for if they had done so, why would God, many years later, speak of a "rest" in connection with another day? Clearly a different rest is meant and since a warning is given that we should not to fail to enter it by unbelief, then surely those who enter it do so by faith. So Paul concludes this part of his argument with "there remains a rest for the people of God."

 

10. For those who enter God's rest also cease from their labors as God did from His.

 

The word "rest" conveys the idea of ceasing from work, just as God did on the seventh day of creation. Those who believe in Jesus Christ have stopped trying to attain a right standing before God and acceptance with him, by works, for they trust in the finished work of Christ on Calvary (John 19:30).

 

11. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

 

The warning against unbelief is repeated for the fourth time in this epistle. We must make every effort not to follow the example of unbelieving Israel. This warning was written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to return to the old faith. That would be to reject the gospel just as the Israelites rejected entrance into Canaan. Unbelief IS disobedience.

 

 

The Word of God.

 

12,13. Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

 

We cannot hope to get away with the sin of unbelief, our hide it from God. For the word of God, which judges us, is alive. Its energetic power performs that which it sets out to achieve. Its penetrating action reaches the very inward nature of man, soul and spirit, and is able to distinguish between the two. This is how God reveals to us as Christians what is of himself and what is of the sinful nature in our hearts. His word then gives us the power to overcome and changes us.

 

God is fully acquainted with the working of the body - the joints and marrow. And of the mind - a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is no part of man's being, nor of the rest of His creation that is not entirely known to God, "naked and bear before Him." We shall all give account before him of our deeds, and whether we have truly believed in his son.

 

 

Our Great High Priest.

 

14 - 16. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

Keeping the faith is not something we do by ourselves. We depend on Jesus our great High Priest, who is the author and finisher of our faith. He is great because he is God's Son who has passed through all the heavens to sit down at God's right hand. During his life on earth, Jesus was tested and tried in all points like we are, yet he remained without sin. This perfect Saviour is still able to sympathize with our weakness and support us in our experience. As we come to the throne of grace, God's presence in prayer, we come through the Lord Jesus, who will freely give us his grace and mercy, that is, his help for any and every situation, so that we might continue to walk in the way of the Lord. Our continuance in the faith is not a matter of self effort, but of our reliance on the Saviour's support.

Hebrews 1  2  3 4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13 

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