Hebrews – Chapter 4

Hebrews 4:1-16 from the Commentary in Translation Version

(1)  Therefore, since a divine promise remains, let us fear to distrust itl.

We have a promise of God to enter into His Rest, yet once given that promise, we have the ability to drift away, to ignore it, if we distrust it. Again, here is the possibility of apostasy in a very subtle warning. The audience of this epistle stood in danger of slipping away, perhaps as nearly everyone theorizes, back into Judaism. They had began to mistrust the promise of Christ as one that secures, one that endures. To callously say that these people were never saved is to pass judgment on them, when it is clear that the writer of this Epistle say them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

(2)  For in fact we are also having good tidings proclaimed, even as they did, but the word heard did not profit them because it was not infused by faith in them that had heard the message.
(3)  For we who believe are entering into the Rest, as he said: So in my anger I took an oath that they will not enter into my Rest.
(4)  When his works were finished from the creation of the world, he spoke somewhere concerning the Seventh Day: And God did rest on the seventh day from all his works.
(5)  Again: They will not enter into my Rest.
(6)  Therefore, seeing this Godly promise remains over from past times: that certain ones will enter in; however, those who first did hear the good tidings entered not because of disobedience.
(7)  Again: God appointed a certain day, saying in David (after such a long time): Today, if you will hear his voice, stop hardening you heart.
(8)  For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken about another day later on,
(9)  Therefore there remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.
(10)  For the one having entered into God’s Rest, he also has rested from his works, even as God rested from his own works,
(11)  Therefore, let us do our utmost to enter into that Rest, so that no one in the same pattern of disobedience may fall.

The Greek word here, σπουδάζω, rightly means to hasten, labor, and speed. Although we may be tempted to say ‘work’ and paint the picture that the gospel is one of works so that one may attempt to ‘tip the balance’, this is not what we find here. The brush strokes leave a warning – that we must constantly build ourselves up in the faith, laboring, studying, hastening, to the day when Christ either descends or we are called home. We also see that a simple start of the journey does not guarantee us a finish. Thousands upon thousands left Egypt for the Promised Land, but how many of those that started endured to the End? The writer is again using the same picture and saying, I paraphrase, stick with it or else.

The last phase of verse 11 is more than a hypothesis, but a direct warning that if a person continues in the same pattern as the Israelites of old, then that person will fall. John Calvin says at this point,

Having pointed out the goal to which we are to advance, he exhorts us to pursue our course, which we do, when we habituate ourselves to self­denial. And as he compares entering into rest to a straight course, he sets falling in opposition to it, and thus he continues the metaphor in both clauses, at the same time he alludes to the history given by Moses of those who fell in the wilderness, because they were rebellious against God. (Numbers 26:65.) Hence he says, after the same example, signifying as though the punishment for unbelief and obstinacy is there set before us as in a picture; nor is there indeed a doubt but that a similar end awaits us, if there be found in us the same unbelief.

Then, “to fall” means to perish; or to speak more plainly, it is to fall, not as to sin, but as a punishment for it. But the figure corresponds as well with the word to “enter”, as with the sad overthrow of the fathers, by whose example he intended to terrify the Jews.

We continue,

(12)  For the word of God is living, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the separation of both soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is quick to discern the reflections and conceptions of the heart.
(13)  Neither is there no created thing able to be hidden before him, but all things are naked and have been exposed to the eyes of God, to whom we must give an account.
(14)  There, having a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession,
(15)  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to bleed in sympathy for weaknesses, but ours is one who has been tempted in all ways, in the same way as we, and yet is without sin.
(16)  Therefore, let us keep coming with a joyful sense of freedom to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in the time of need.

Post By Joel Watts (10,057 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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