Perseverance: Hebrews 4

(Heb 4)  Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.

The writer compares the promised “rest” of Ps 95 with the rest we are promised. The new heavens and new earth will be our Promised Land (which is how our hope is often expressed in Old Testament prophecy, but that’s for another day). He says we both heard the good news, but hearing the message was of no value to the Israelites as they lacked faith.

One could argue that they never had faith and so were never saved. But, of course, they had enough faith to paint the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts. Ray Vander Laan points out that in Egypt, blood on a doorpost would have meant a death sentence for the Israelites had God not intervened. It was an act of great faith.

But there’s no need to speculate. The author will explain himself plainly.

3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.

The author now says that our “rest” is the same rest that God enjoyed in the seventh day of Creation. His point is that the true rest isn’t in Palestine, but with God.

Notice that the author blames the Israelites’ failure to enter the Promised Land on a lack of faith in v. 2, but in v. 6 he blames it on disobedience. Of course, the disobedience he is referring to didn’t happen until they reached the Promised Land and refused to go in. And this was caused by a lack of faith — faith that God would give them the victory.

(Num 14:6-9)  Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

This is faith: “the LORD … will give it to us.” Only Joshua and Caleb were confident enough in God’s promises to act on them.

7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

The writer continues to explain that the true rest of God is not found in Palestine but in joining God in his rest. Therefore, we work until we rest with God. This means, of course, that Christians don’t retire. So long as our health holds, as the song goes, “We’ll work till Jesus comes.”

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

In context, “the word of God is living and active” surely means that the Torah’s account of the Exodus remains alive and active today to judge us. Of course, God’s word comes from God, who knows everything, and so we must remember that we’ll be required to given an account.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

But the writer shifts from a stern warning to a promise of grace and confidence. Our confidence is found in the greatness of Jesus who sympathizes with us and understands what life in the flesh is like. Even though he never succumbed to temptation, he understands. Therefore, we receive grace when we need grace — which is when we sin.

It’s astonishing that so many teach a “grace” that comes only to those who’ve already defeated sin. But the grace we receive through Jesus is for the weak — provided we “hold firmly to the faith we profess.”

The lesson is that Christians should be confident in God’s grace, but that we must “make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” You see, my own efforts will encourage others. We do not live to ourselves alone. The way we make certain that “no one will fall” is by all of us making every effort. Making it to the end is a community effort.

We’ll be judged as individuals, but whether we pass that judgment will depend on the efforts others make on our behalves. After all, nearly every adult Israelite died in the desert — in large part due to their failure to encourage one another. Instead, 10 of their 12 leaders lacked faith, and the great majority followed their lead.

It’s critically important, therefore, that we be part of churches that encourage us to make it to the end and that love us enough to straighten us out when we need it. That’s true love.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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5 Responses to Perseverance: Hebrews 4

  1. Bob Harry says:

    Jay

    One of the greatest gifts is the one of being an "encourager". Most members in the Churches of Christ so badly need help to continue the race due to the pressures of daily living in a world of so much uncertainty about what tomorrow will bring.

    Onr of the most important trait of a leader is to inspire and encourage. I would implore you to teach your elders to be cheerleaders to all members and to instruct preachers to preach as Hebrews12 stated, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses so we can throw off all that hinders our race. What ever you think about Joel Olsten, one thing he does well is to preach an uplifting, can do, encouraging sermon.

    We need leaders who can encourage. I have not seen many so called /church staff and /elders who can encourage much less even talk to the members.

    This and the last few posts are so edifying , I cannot improve on what you have said , especially communion.

    You need to be the torchbearer for the Lord's Church. many of us are too old to do much but encourage you as a relatively young, bright Elder to carry on the perserverance to teach the simplicity of the Gospel and Golden rule to obey.

    Church doctrine means something totally different to me than what the legalistic preacher convention teach.

    It is a mystery to me how so many early Christians were martyred because they followed the teaching of the Gospel by "word of mouth' that was simple and not compounded by the legal twist of faith church doctrines that many spin doctors place on us today.You have made the Gospel simple as it should be.

    The many books of the NT were letters of more encouragement than legal doctrine. The former great Peter Marshall always said about what he quoted… in context with the scripture….he always tried to teach in context of the truth of what writer was trying to convey.

    Thanks for your posts. Maybe with your help and other young men of like mind we will get the true essence of the Gospel right.

    God's speed to you.

    Bob

  2. One Cup Man says:

    Amen Jay!! Encouragement is a ministry of its own. We need more folks like Barnabus (Son of Encouragement).

  3. nick gill says:

    Remember that an encourager isn't just someone who pats people on the back and says, "Keep up the good work" or "Hang in there!"

    An encourager:
    Shares (Acts 5, of course),

    Risks (Acts 9:29, where Barnabas risks his honor to vouch for Paul and Acts 15:36-41, where Barnabas risks his relationship with Paul to vouch for John Mark),

    Remembers (Acts 11:25-26, when Barnabas remembers Paul's gifts when Antioch needs them), and

    Steps Aside (Acts 13:9ff, where "Barnabas and Paul" becomes "Paul and Barnabas" for the rest of the narrative).

    Encouraging is a fierce and passionate gift! May God grant us more and more men and women who will really encourage His family!

  4. Bob Harry says:

    An encourager is anyone who either restores or fortifies another' s faith in Jesus by a loving admonition or just saying I love you and we need you.

    How many in Church have told you that we need you, we love you or can we pray for you?

    Encouragement is a lost or ignored gift in todays church.

    Bob

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hebrews 4:1-2 “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”

    The unsaved participate partaking that which is of Christ all the time. The gospel had been preached to these people, they gained knowledge of Christ, they have been to churches, they have tasted heavenly things, they have seen the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit manifested in their presence. They were to go on to a full genuine acceptance or to fall to a willful conscious enmity against Christ, and the sin of rejecting Him, and putting Him to an open shame. Those who don’t hold firm were never eternally saved. The writer of Hebrews is speaking to the unsaved who have heard the truth, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ.

    As we see the writer also speaks to the beloved present to those who have genuine faith as in verses 6:9-20.

    “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

    The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”(John 10:27-30), Paul gives us assurance saying, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39), “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). We can be confident that God keeps us as He promises to complete what He started in us, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).

    We should be encouraged by God’s faithfulness to always help us and protect us.

    Psalm 18:1-2 “I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

    Psalm 18:28 “For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.”

    Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”

    Psalm 36:5 “Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

    Psalm 37:39-40 “But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him.”

    Psalm 48:14 “For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.”

    Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”

    Psalm 63:7-8 “Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.”

    Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

    Psalm 91:1-2 “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

    Psalm 94:18 “If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up.”

    Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

    Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

    Psalm 138:7 “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.”

    People need to totally embrace Christ with all of their life, not just part of it. I trust God with all of my life, everything about me is in His hands, my weaknesses, my fears, my doubts. Whatever Satan wants to throw at me, God is with me, He will protect me. I encourage other people who are learning to trust God that they can trust Him with all of their life.

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