SUNDAY MAY 24 2020
This morning I would like to comment on Hebrews chapter four.
4 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
6 Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
7 Again, he limits a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9 There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.
10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
This passage addresses the promise that God has laid up for us ‘His rest,’ and that we need to be diligent in our Christian walk so that we will not “come short,” or “fall short,” of the requirement of entering into this rest. Whenever we read scriptures like this or of similar ilk we begin fearing that they could be referring to the possible loss of one’s salvation. I will address the error of that sort of thinking in a moment, but first I wish to unpack the entire chapter.
ENTERING HIS REST
What is His rest? The passage here uses two examples that act as metaphors for His rest. The first is the comparison to His rest on the 7th day of creation. This resulted when He stopped His work and rested from His labour. So the rest spoken of here relates to a cessation of our labour. But this is not all. His rest is also related to the preparation of ‘a place,’ here the promised land prepared for the Jewish people coming out of Egypt during the time of Joshua. But because the people were not obedient they were denied the opportunity of entering into their rest – the land. So, this rest implies a place prepared for believers who exercise obedience and faith. These two aspects of God’s rest are both expressed in the Greek word used here for rest – “katapausis,” G2663 in Strong’s which carries the following meanings: a ‘putting to rest,’ as in the calming of the winds, and a ‘resting place.’ So, the two examples used here in Hebrews four – God ceasing from His labours – a putting to rest, and the prepared promised land – a resting place, reflect the full meaning of the word “katapausis.”This prepared resting place is also used as a metaphor as in: the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells and of which He has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended. The root word of our katapausis means: ‘to make quiet, to cause to be at rest, to grant rest, to lead to a quiet abode,’ [think Ps. 23]; to still, restrain, to cause one’s strivings to desist. A second root of our katapausis refers to the keeping of the Sabbath, the 7th day of the week. So, let’s summarize thus far.
Heb. 4:1 – “Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.” [RSV]. We have a promised reward awaiting us which is referred to as ‘His rest.’ This rest is both a rest from labour, as in a Sabbath rest, and a place of rest. This place of rest will be related to the Millennium Kingdom at the end of the age. And, since a day is as a thousand years to the Lord, [2 Peter 3:8] and since God laboured six days and rested on the seventh, so mankind will labour for 6000 years and rest for the 7th millennium of 1000 years in the Kingdom age. This first verse also implies that similar to those disobedient during the time of Joshua who were thus refused entrance into their rest, so too, there is a similar danger to us involving our entering into His rest. It is beyond the scope of this message to delve into the depth of what this ‘denial of entrance’ may mean. We do know it does not imply a loss of salvation but rather some degree of loss of privilege or reward or standing. More on this in a moment. Verse two gives us some enlightenment concerning what may determine our worthiness in this area. We have received the word as did they – those of Joshua’s time – but they did not mix the word with faith. The lesson for us is that we must make sure we mix faith with our hearing of the word. Mixture is usually not a good thing. The little leaven concept of mixture springs to mind, as does the mixture of clay and iron of Daniel two.
One mixture, however, is good and in fact is necessary – mixing faith with the word. Bake a cake for the Lord – one part word, one part faith, stir well and present something pleasing to the Lord. You apply faith to the word – you read what the word says about you and you apply faith and go and live it out.
But, what does it mean to mix faith with the word? The word says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they will be as wool.” [Is.1:18] You read this passage and accept it on faith, and go and live your life accordingly – free from guilt, or worry about Hell fire, or striving to make yourself better in the eyes of God. Unlike those of Joshua’s time, we do not allow unbelief in the word to stop us from stepping out and living the journey God has planned for us. AND we take Matthew 22:29 to heart! “Jesus answered them, ‘You are deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures.’” How can we apply faith to the word if we don’t know the word? Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” So our faith is absolutely essential to our pleasing God. We must add faith to every aspect of our walk. Where are our priorities? Is the study of the word of God in your top ten, top twenty? You need something, the word, to which to apply your faith.
Ah, you may say, I don’t go in for all this faith stuff. I only believe what I can see – what I can understand. Well, let me respond. You gotta believe something. And every day you put your faith in things and processes you cannot see, let alone understand. You plop down onto a chair demonstrating your faith the chair will support you. You step out your front door believing gravity is still in operation that morning. You leisurely eat your breakfast totally in the dark about the chemical processes occurring within your digestive system, believing that what you are doing will prolong your days. The same can be said about the unseen process of your respiration. You believe without question that the rising and falling of your diaphragm will allow the gas exchange processes within your lungs and heart to work smoothly. And what about your immune system? Do you have the slightest concept of the micro-chemical processes that are involved? Many of us shuffle about having no concept of such things, yet we believe in these things and place our faith in them. Faith is absolutely necessary for almost everything we do. We, as Christians, are called to mix our faith with the word of God. We have a leg-up on the rest of society because our faith is in the One who designed and maintains all these other processes. And, He is the One who is called The Word of God – the Living Word, and we are privileged to be able to access the written word to which we are called to mix our faith.
Now, let’s return to an earlier thought. Let me remind you of some basic principles. The “falling short” here has nothing what-so-ever to do with the loosing of one’s salvation. I know I have presented the following before but it bears CONSTANT reminding. We have been created in the image of God. God is triune in essence and so are we. We possess spirit, soul and body. As a result of the fall, all three aspects of our personhood must needs be redeemed. The first act of our salvation involved the rebirth of our spirit – the born again experience. For believers, this is past tense, and resulted in the regeneration of our spirit. This was accomplished by a sovereign act of the Father. John 1: 12 “But as many as received him [Jesus] gave he the power to become the sons of God, [Father]”At the moment of our rebirth we receive Jesus and in Jesus is eternal life. We exchanged our sin nature for His righteousness. We became clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. We are placed in Jesus and are seen as seated in the heavenlies and we are given the Holy Spirit. We are passed from death into life and receive eternal life. We were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). This can never be lost. We have been saved from the penalty of sin – the second death. This salvation is referred to in Scripture as Justification. Secondly our soul needs to experience salvation. This is accomplished gradually as we work out what God has planted within us. Our soul consists of our mind, our emotions and our will. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit working within us. This process saves us from the power of sin for we experience the unfolding reality that sin no longer has domain over us. We are able, by the Holy Spirit, to say no to sin. Before, we were slaves to sin and it had absolute sway over us. For believers this occurs in the present tense. This process is called sanctification and it is here where we can fail or fall short with the consequence of loosing reward – the entering in of some aspects of the benefits of His rest. Thirdly, there is the salvation of our body. This process is termed glorification and occurs when we receive our resurrected bodies. This is accomplished by Jesus Himself at the moment He descends and calls us out of the earth. 1Cor. 15. This results in our freedom or salvation from the very presence of sin. At this point in time we receive rewards. So, the falling short of Hebrews 4:1 does not mean we fall from grace and become lost. What it does mean is that we run the risk of not pleasing the Lord and thereby are in danger of lose of reward or privilege or station during the Millennium Kingdom.
The Jewish wanderers of Joshua’s day did not lose their birthright due to their disobedience and lack of faith. No, they were still and always will remain God’s chosen people. What they forfeited was the reward available to them. For them they needed to journey an additional forty years, labouring in an unrelenting desert, they would not experience ‘rest from labour’ nor enjoy their ‘resting place.’ But, they remained His chosen ones, His called out ones, and they remained His inheritance. So today, our falling short will not negate our ‘son-ship,’ for we are His and always will be. However we may forfeit the rewards of intimate fellowship, authority over His works or other blessings of position.
Now, the added good news, demonstrating God’s absolute love for us, is recorded in the final three verses of Hebrews four. “Therefore since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
So, during our time of sanctification, we stumble and fall into sin, what are we to do? Throw our hands up and quit! “Oh ye of little faith,” we can hear Jesus say. What’s the solution, what gets us out of this failing?
1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” During our process of sanctification we are told we now have power over sin! That means we need not sin. We are not compelled to sin for sin no longer reigns in us as it once did. But, if, in spite of the fact that we have power over sin, in spite of the fact that we have the Holy Spirit within us, in spite of the fact that Christ took all our sin upon Himself, we still sin, even then, John tells we have an advocate with the Father! Our Advocate, our great high priest is there to make intercession for us. So then what is the process? We take the word spoken here in 1st John and we apply faith to that word and go and call upon our Advocate, our Great High Priest. And we read and believe the result given in verse 9 of 1st John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We read the word, add our faith to the word, and act accordingly. This is what is central in Peter’s teaching that “faith without works is dead.”
We act according to the word that has been mixed with our faith and perform the work of repentance and confession to our Great High Priest. And the cleansing is accomplished.
We must settle this issue once and for all. Our salvation – justification – is not something that has been applied to us lightly. It cost the blood of Jesus. 1 Peter 1:18-19: “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” Our sin, no matter how severe it may seem to us during this present time, could never undo Christ’s work of redemption in us. To think that any action on my part could nullify what Jesus has done is ludicrous! He has given you His Holy Spirit. He has given you His righteousness. He has clothed you with His holiness. He has cast your sins in the deepest ocean. He has separated your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. You have been translated, moved, from the power of darkness (sin) into His Kingdom. There’s no going back on His part regarding the justification He has pronounced over you and before the Father and His angels. He has staked His claim upon you and nailed it firmly. Stop fearing about losing your justification. It cannot happen.
Read His word, mix your faith with it, and act accordingly. God bless and go in peace. Amen.
Dear Father in Heaven, we love You, we admire You, we exalt You and we magnify Your name. We ascribe to You Goodness, Majesty, Righteousness, Greatness, Power, and Love. You are Awesome and Almighty in every way. We come humbly before You Lord, recognizing full well that we do not deserve Your Love or Your Goodness. Each one of us was born with the rebellious heart of Adam, a heart that is proud and wants to find its own way in the world. Thank You Lord for teaching us Your Ways and Your Righteousness. No matter how hard we may try to be righteous on our own we could never measure up to Your standard of Righteousness. We are so grateful Lord that no matter how we have lived or what we may have done in the past You offer us Love, Healing and Salvation. Thank You Lord that when we look into Your Holiness, we recognize that we need You, that we want to be free of pride and rebellion and sin. Thank You Lord, that we can always come to You, at any time of the day or night, to find Forgiveness and Love.
We cannot help but think of Jesus’ answer to Peter when he asked, “How many times should I forgive my brother?”: “seventy times seven”. This is what You ask us to do for our brother, Lord, it shows us how much more You are willing to forgive us. And Father, we understand that this is not a license to sin, but it shows us how very much You understand our frames, You understand our weaknesses. Help us Lord, to apply our faith to Your Word, knowing that it will give us strength to overcome the temptation next time. We cannot help but love You Lord, You give us so much. Thank You for teaching us how to have Victory over sin. We want to please You Lord and live lives that honour You. Hallelujah!
Thank You Lord, for the Holy Spirit, who gives us power not to sin. Help us to learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and give us hearts to obey.
Thank You Lord, that Jesus, our High Priest, is every day making intercession for us, for He too understands and knows our frame.
Lord, You know every day where we are coming from and what we are going into. Help us to take time to worship You and pray each day that we may have strength for the day and refreshing from Your Word. Help us to remember that we will be less surprised by the attacks of the enemy when we prepare ourselves in advance this way. Help us to remember to put our God-given armour on. To God be the glory!
Father, You are truly amazing. You are more beautiful than diamonds, and more precious than silver or gold. Help us to appreciate You, Your beauty, and Your character. There is none like You Lord. Knowing You is the greatest joy of our everyday lives, Lord. Truly!
We want to enter Your Rest Lord! Help us to be like the apostle Paul when he said:
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. – Philippians 3:6-8 (see the Message translation after the Prayer for richer understanding and listen to the song “Knowing You”)
It is the cry of our hearts Lord to know Jesus personally and have the robust kind of Righteousness that blossoms out of that relationship. Help us to put Jesus first in our lives.
Lord, we are so troubled at times by what is happening in the world around us. Help us to rest in You, knowing that Your Word (Psalm 19), Your Love, Your Goodness and Your Peace will see us through. We miss seeing the sweet faces of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, please, make a way for our gatherings to be restored soon, and very soon.
Father, we pray for Your blessing over any who are not well, who may be suffering financially, or who are being stressed out by lack of meaningful social contact with friends and family. Fill the gaps Lord. Make a way for each person where there seems to be no way.
You are Lord of the mountains and Lord of the valleys. Thank You that we need not fear because You are with us every step of the way. Hallelujah!
These praises and prayers we offer in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.
Philippians 3:2-8 (the Message translation)
2-6 Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.
7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
Listen to this on YouTube with Lyrics if you can, its powerful:
Knowing You Jesus
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord
Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness
Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die
Songwriters: Ben Cantelon