4:1-16

Hebrews 4:1-16

 

Hebrews 3:7 - 4:16 is the second of the five so-called “warning passages” in the book of Hebrews.  In this session we will focus on all of chapter 4.  Four times in this chapter the writer uses the phrase “let us…”

·         Verse 1 – “…let us fear…”

·         Verse 11 – “…let us therefore be diligent…”

·         Verse 14 – “…let us hold fast our confession…”

·         Verse 16 – “…let us therefore draw near…”

These four statements summarize well the thought of this chapter.

 

Verse 1 – “…let us fear…”

1.   It's important to understand the command of this verse is very specific...doesn't say that Christians are to fear everything... actually mentions only one thing we need to fear...we'll explore that one thing in a moment, but at this point want to caution you not to read more into the command "let us fear" than the writer intended...

2.   There are a multitude of things that we need not fear...for example, we need not fear --

·         --God...while we should reverence and respect and stand in awe of God, we do not need to fear Him because the Scripture tells us "For God so loved the world...[and]... God is love..."

·         --Being alone because God has said, "Fear not for I am with you..."

·         --Death because Lord we serve is Lord who proclaimed, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies..." and then He, Himself, faced and conquered death...

·         --Satan because Scripture affirms, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world..."

·         --Not having basic necessities of life --food, clothing, and shelter because Jesus said, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things [food, clothing, and shelter] shall be added to you."

      And the list could go on and on...someone has calculated that there are 365 "fear nots" in the Bible...one for every day of the year...

3.   In the book The Applause of Heaven [pp.79-80] Max Lucado says that because of his many enemies, Joseph Stalin lived in constant fear...went to great lengths to protect himself from harm--

--had seven different bedrooms, each carefully guarded and no-one knew for sure where he was sleeping...

--had five chauffeur-driven limousines, each with closed curtains so people could not tell in which car he was riding...

--had a servant whose sole responsibility was to monitor and protect his tea bags from being poisoned...

      And some people seem to think Christians should live that way...

4.   Want you to understand that the phrase "let us fear" in Hebrews 4:1 does not mean Christians should be constantly cowering in fear...we have more reason to be bold, courageous, and confident than any people in the world... however, if look carefully at Hebrews 4:1 will see the one thing we are to fear...and that one thing is failing to enter what the writer of Hebrews calls "His rest" or "God's rest"...

5.   The key to understanding this verse is understanding what the writer of Hebrews means by the word "rest"...it is the key word in this section of Hebrews being used 12 times from 3:7-4:13...used in basically three ways--

--sometimes used in reference to God's resting on the seventh day of the creation process...

--sometimes used in reference to Israel's rest in Canaan which an entire generation missed because they balked at crossing the Jordan River...

--sometimes used of the Christian's rest of living in close fellowship with God...

6,   And it's that third type of rest --the rest of close fellowship with God-- which Christians should fear missing...just as the Israelites who had been freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt missed out on the special rest in Canaan, so it's possible for Christians who have been freed from the bondage of sin to miss out on their special rest in God...to put it another way, it is possible to have peace with God (to be saved) but not have the peace of God in our lives because of lack of trust or disobedience...

7.   Why should we fear not having this rest, this peace of God in our lives?...we should fear because of the great blessings we miss when it's not there!...in his commentary on Hebrews John MacArthur points out four specific things the word rest  means--

--Means to be free from things that worry and disturb us - When enter God's rest find inward calmness, quietness, composure...not that we don't experiences nuisances and hassles, but those things don't bother us as they once did... able deal with difficulties of life much more effectively...

--Means to be settle, fixed, secure - When enter God's rest a stability comes to our lives...don't run from one philosophy/teacher/religion/life-style to another...not tossed to and fro by every idea, fad, trend that comes along...are established, rooted, grounded in Christ...

--Means to remain confident, to keep trusting - When enter God's rest have unshakable confidence in our salvation... have absolute trust in God's desire and ability to keep us in Him...

--Means to lean on - When enter God's rest means that for the remainder of our lives in this world and for all eternity can lean on God...can be sure He will never fail us...can count on Him for everything we need...

8.   And MacArthur writes:  "The rest spoken of in Hebrews 3 and 4 includes all these meanings.  It is full, blessed, sweet, satisfying, peaceful.  It is what God offers every person in Christ."

9.   It is little wonder the Bible warns us to fear missing this blessed rest!

 

Verse 11 – “…let us therefore be diligent…”

1.      The command of v.11 is to "be diligent to enter that [God's] rest"...saw last week that in this section word rest for Christians means close relationship, fellowship with God...the writer tells us in verses just read that one key to entering God's rest is giving close attention to the word of God...

2.      It is important to understand what writer means by the phrase "the word of God" in v.12...

--in context of this part of Hebrews, for the Israelites "the word of God" meant God's command to cross over the Jordan River and take possession of the Promised Land...because they failed to give attention to God's word or command, they failed to enter the rest God had for them in Canaan...that particular event in Jewish history forms the backdrop for this section of Hebrews...

--for Christians, the word of God means God's full and complete revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ...while that revelation is not confined to the Bible, the Bible is the primary means by which God has communicated that revelation to us...therefore, not inaccurate to call the Bible the Word of God...

3.   Hebrews 4:12 tells us three things about the Word of God which are very significant...and these three things explain why we should be diligent in handling, dealing with the Word of God...

·         The word of God is “living" – The idea is that it is relevant to our lives…it speaks to the issues of everyday life...one reason we should be diligent with God's word is because in it is information which is vital for us to know...it has been described by one person as "the owner's manual for humanity"...the Bible--

--tells us how to be right with God...

--tells us how to live successfully in this world...

--tells us what to seek and what to avoid...

--what to do and what not to do...

--what pleases God and what angers God...

--instructs us in human relationships, telling us how to relate to our spouses, children, neighbors, and world in general...

--tells us about virtues and vices...

·         The word of God is “active” – The idea behind that word is that it makes a difference...it works...it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish...when people take God's word seriously and live by its teachings, positive things happen...James Russell put it this way:  "When they can find anywhere on this earth a piece of ground ten feet square where womanhood is respected, where old age is reverenced, where men and women live in decency and comfort, and where human life is respected --and God's Word ... has not been there first-- then let the critics have their say." [Source unknown]

·         The word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword” - There's interesting play on words in this passage...word translated "sword" in the phrase "sharper than any two-edged sword" actually means "dagger" or "short sword"...with that in mind look down to v.13 - "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare..."...word translated "open" is unusual word which had special use in ancient days...used to describe something done to person convicted of serious crime...when came time for sentencing and carryout of punishment, a dagger would be bound to the person's neck with the point of the dagger positioned just below the person's chin...this was to keep the convicted person from ducking his head in shame...not only was he forced to look into the faces of his judge and accusers, but everyone could look into his face and see the shame and dishonor...he word of God is like that dagger, forcing us to see ourselves as God sees us...and for that reason, we should approach it with diligence...

 

Verse 14 – “…let us hold fast our confession…”

·         “hold fast” – This exact phrase is used four times in Hebrews. The phrase carries the idea of clinging tenaciously to something.  Refusing to let go.  The verb is in present tense, denoting continuous action.

·         “confession” – We saw this word in Hebrews 3:1.  It is homologia which is a compound word made up of “the same” and “to say.”  The same thing that believers say about Jesus is that He is Lord.  Our confession is our confession of faith in Jesus as Lord.

The idea is that commitment to Jesus Christ as the great high priest who accomplishes our salvation is not just one time act.  It is a continuing process. We are to keep on holding fast, to keep on clinging tenaciously to Jesus as our high priest.  We must balance our initial decision (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9–13) with ongoing discipleship (cf. Matt. 28:19–20; Eph. 2:10). Both are crucial! [1]

 

Verse 16 – “…let us therefore draw near…”

·         "throne of grace" is synonymous with presence of God.  What remarkable difference expressed here between Christianity and Judaism.  In Judaism only high priest would enter presence of God and then only once year.  In Christianity, because of the high priesthood of Jesus, every believer encouraged to draw near God with confidence and boldness. 

·         And want you notice in v.16 purpose of drawing near  is twofold:

o   First, that "we may receive mercy" That is, that we may receive forgiveness for our sinfulness.  The greatest single need any of us have is the need for forgiveness of sin and right relationship with God. 

o   Second, that "we may find grace to help in time of need" The second greatest need any of us have is the need for strength, direction, God's presence to make it through life day after day.

And as we draw near to God through Jesus Christ, both of these needs are met.

 

Conclusion

The Bible says in Colossians that "In Jesus is all of God in a human form and you have everything you need when you have Christ." Basically that is being said in Hebrews 4. 

 

 



[1] Utley, R. J. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (48). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

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