INTERESTING FACTS : John Hart, JUDGE; LEGISLATOR; SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION
"[T]hanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27] . . . principally, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner . . . to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God."[1
DAILY READING : HEBREWS 1 - 6; 7 - 10
TEXT : Hebrews 4:1 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. 4:2 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. 4:3 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. 4:4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 4:5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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.
THEME : FAITHFULNESS
Preface to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews, on which the reader is about to enter, is by far the most important and useful of all the apostolic writings; all the doctrines of the Gospel are in it embodied, illustrated, and enforced in a manner the most lucid, by references and examples the most striking and illustrious, and by arguments the most cogent and convincing. It is an epitome of the dispensations of God to man, from the foundation of the world to the advent of Christ. It is not only the sum of the Gospel, but the sum and completion of the Law, on which it is also a most beautiful and luminous comment. Without this, the law of Moses had never been fully understood, nor God's design in giving it. With this, all is clear and plain, and the ways of God with man rendered consistent and harmonious. The Apostle appears to have taken a portion of one of his own epistles for his text - Christ is the End of the Law for Righteousness to them that Believe, and has most amply and impressively demonstrated his proposition. All the rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices of the Mosaic institution are shown to have had Christ for their object and end, and to have had neither intention nor meaning but in reference to him; yea, as a system to be without substance, as a law to be without reason, and its enactments to be both impossible and absurd, if taken out of this reference and connection. Never were premises more clearly stated; never was an argument handled in a more masterly manner; and never was a conclusion more legitimately and satisfactorily brought forth. The matter is everywhere the most interesting; the manner is throughout the most engaging; and the language is most beautifully adapted to the whole, everywhere appropriate, always nervous and energetic, dignified as is the subject, pure and elegant as that of the most accomplished Grecian orators, and harmonious and diversified as the music of the spheres.
So many are the beauties, so great the excellency, so instructive the matter, so pleasing the manner, and so exceedingly interesting the whole, that the work may be read a hundred times over without perceiving any thing of sameness, and with new and increased information at each reading. This latter is an excellency which belongs to the whole revelation of God; but to no part of it in such a peculiar and supereminent manner as to the Epistle to the Hebrews.
To explain and illustrate this epistle multitudes have toiled hard; and exhibited much industry, much learning, and much piety. I also will show my opinion; and ten thousand may succeed me, and still bring out something that is new. That it was written to Jews, naturally such, the whole structure of the epistle proves. Had it been written to the Gentiles, not one in ten thousand of them could have comprehended the argument, because unacquainted with the Jewish system; the knowledge of which the writer of this epistle everywhere supposes. He who is well acquainted with the Mosaic law sits down to the study of this epistle with double advantages; and he who knows the traditions of the elders, and the Mishnaic illustrations of the written, and pretended oral law of the Jews, is still more likely to enter into and comprehend the Apostle's meaning. No man has adopted a more likely way of explaining its phraseology than Schoettgen, who has traced its peculiar diction to Jewish sources; and, according to him, the proposition of the whole epistle is this: -
Jesus of Nazareth Is the True God
And in order to convince the Jews of the truth of this proposition, the Apostle uses but three arguments:
1. Christ is superior to the angels.
2. He is superior to Moses.
3. He is superior to Aaron.
These arguments would appear more distinctly were it not for the improper division of the chapters; as he who divided them in the middle ages (a division to which we are still unreasonably attached) had but a superficial knowledge of the word of God. In consequence of this it is that one peculiar excellency of the Apostle is not noticed, viz. his application of every argument, and the strong exhortation founded on it. Schoettgen has very properly remarked, that commentators in general have greatly misunderstood the Apostle's meaning through their unacquaintance with the Jewish writings and their peculiar phraseology, to which the Apostle is continually referring, and of which he makes incessant use. He also supposes, allowing for the immediate and direct inspiration of the Apostle, that he had in view this remarkable saying of the rabbins, on Isa_52:13 : "Behold, my servant will deal prudently." Rab. Tanchum, quoting Yalcut Simeoni, part ii., fol. 53, says: זה מלך המשיה, "This is the King Messiah, who shall be greatly extolled, and elevated: he shall be elevated beyond Abraham; shall be more eminent than Moses; and more exalted than ממלאכי השרה the ministering angels." Or, as it is expressed in Yalcut Kadosh, fol. 144: משיה גדול מן האבות ומן משה ומן מלאכי השרה Mashiach gadol min ha-aboth; umin Mosheh; umin Malakey hashshareth. "The Messiah is greater than the patriarchs; than Moses; and than the ministering angels." These sayings he shows to have been fulfilled in our Messiah; and as he dwells on the superiority of our LORD to all these illustrious persons because they were at the very top of all comparisons among the Jews; he, according to their opinion, who was greater than all these, must be greater than all created beings.
This is the point which the Apostle undertakes to prove, in order that he may show the Godhead of Christ; therefore, if we find him proving that Jesus was greater than the patriarchs, greater than Aaron, greater than Moses, and greater than the angels, he must be understood to mean, according to the Jewish phraseology, that Jesus is an uncreated Being, infinitely greater than all others, whether earthly or heavenly. For, as they allowed the greatest eminence (next to God) to angelic beings, the Apostle concludes "that he who is greater than the angels is truly God: but Christ is greater than the angels; therefore Christ is truly God." Nothing can be clearer than that this is the Apostle's grand argument; and the proofs and illustrations of it meet the reader in almost every verse.
That the Apostle had a plan on which he drew up this epistle is very clear, from the close connection of every part. The grand divisions seem to be three: -
I. The proposition, which is very short, and is contained in chap. Heb_1:1-3. The majesty and pre-eminence of Christ.
II. The proof or arguments which support the proposition, viz.: -
Christ Is Greater than the Angels
1. Because he has a more excellent name than they, chap. Heb_1:4, Heb_1:5.
2. Because the angels of God adore him, Heb_1:6.
3. Because the angels were created by him, Heb_1:7.
4. Because, in his human nature, he was endowed with greater gifts than they, Heb_1:8, Heb_1:9.
5. Because he is eternal, Heb_1:10, Heb_1:11, Heb_1:12.
6. Because he is more highly exalted, Heb_1:13.
7. Because the angels are only the servants of God; he, the Son, Heb_1:14.
In the application of this argument he exhorts the Hebrews not to neglect Christ, chap. Heb_2:1, by arguments drawn,: -
1. From the minor to the major, Heb_2:2, Heb_2:3.
2. Because the preaching of Christ was confirmed by miracles, Heb_2:4.
3. Because, in the economy of the New Testament, angels are not the administrators; but the Messiah himself, to whom all things are subject, Heb_2:5.
Here the Apostle inserts a twofold objection, professedly drawn from Divine revelation: -
1. Christ is man, and is less than the angels. What is man - thou madest him a little lower than the angels, Heb_2:6, Heb_2:7. Therefore he cannot be superior to them.
To this it is answered:
1. Christ as a mortal man, by his death and resurrection, overcame all enemies, and subdued all things to himself; therefore he must be greater than the angels, Heb_2:9.
2. Though Christ died, and was in this respect inferior to the angels, yet it was necessary that he should take on him this mortal state, that he might be of the same nature with those whom he was to redeem; and this he did without any prejudice to his Divinity, Heb_2:10-18.
Christ Is Greater than Moses
1. Because Moses was only a servant; Christ, the LORD, Heb_3:2-6.
The application of this argument he makes from Psa_95:7-11, which he draws out at length, Heb_3:7-18; Heb_4:1-13.
Christ Is Greater than Aaron, and All the Other High Priests
1. Because he has not gone through the veil of the tabernacle to make an atonement for sin, but has entered for this purpose into heaven itself, Heb_4:14.
2. Because he is the Son of God, Heb_4:14.
3. Because it is from him we are to implore grace and mercy, Heb_4:15, Heb_4:16, and Heb_4:1, Heb_4:2, Heb_4:3.
4. Because he was consecrated High Priest by God himself, Heb_5:4-10.
5. Because he is not a priest according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedec, which was much more ancient, and much more noble, chap. 7. For the excellence and prerogatives of this order, see the notes on Heb_7:26.
6. Because he is not a typical priest, prefiguring good things to come, but the real Priest, of whom the others were but types and shadows, 8:1-9:11. For the various reasons by which this argument is supported, see also the notes on Heb_8:1-13 (note) and Hebrews 9 (note).
In this part of the epistle the Apostle inserts a digression, in which he reproves the ignorance and negligence of the Hebrews in their mode of treating the sacred Scriptures. See Heb_5:11, and chap. 6.
The application of this part contains the following exhortations: -
1. That they should carefully retain their faith in Christ as the true Messiah, Heb_10:19-23.
2. That they should be careful to live a Godly life, Heb_10:24, Heb_10:25.
3. That they should take care not to incur the punishment of disobedience, Heb_10:32-37, and Heb_12:3-12.
4. That they should place their whole confidence in God, live by faith, and not turn back to perdition Heb_10:38; Heb_12:2.
5. That they should consider and imitate the faith and obedience of their eminent ancestors, chap. 11.
6. That they should take courage, and not be remiss in the practice of the true religion, Heb_12:12-24.
7. That they should take heed not to despise the Messiah, now speaking to them from heaven, Heb_12:25-29.
III. Practical and miscellaneous exhortations relative to sundry duties, chap. 13.
All these subjects, (whether immediately designed by the Apostle himself, in this particular order, or not), are pointedly considered in this most excellent epistle; in the whole of which the superiority of Christ, his Gospel, his priesthood, and his sacrifice, over Moses, the law, the Aaronic priesthood, and the various sacrifices prescribed by the law, is most clearly and convincingly shown.
Different writers have taken different views of the order in which these subjects arc proposed, but most commentators have produced the same results.
For other matters relative to the author of the epistle, the persons to whom it was sent, the language in which it was composed, and the time and place in which it was written, the reader is referred to the introduction, where these matters are treated in sufficient detail. (Adam Clarke)[2
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "STAY FAITHFUL TO THE END."
The reason the Apostle Paul (he is the presumed writer of the epistle to the Hebrews) wrote to the Jewish believers was due to the fact they were going back to the Law of Moses, and in effect denying Christ. This is the entire theme of the book of Hebrews. In a word, you can say the topic of Hebrews is "backsliding." Backsliding is a serious matter once a man or woman has come to know Christ.
In our text, you are told to - "fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." With the topic of backsliding in mind, look at the word "fear." In 2nd Timothy 1:7, you are told that God has not given unto you the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. The New Testament is replete with comfort and exhortations not to be afraid, not to fear. However, when a person (or in this case an entire population of Christians) are in danger of walking away from the LORD, fearing is in order. Thus, you read the strong exhortation in the book of Hebrews -"to fear."
The fear of the LORD, another uncommon Biblical truth not mentioned much these days, is what is behind this word "fear." It belongs properly speaking, to the category of the subject of the fear of the LORD. The fear of the LORD is an exalted view of God, who he is, all that he does, and all that he can do -whether good or bad. As stated, this truth of the Holy Scriptures - the fear the LORD, is no longer heard from the pulpit. Moreover, in the times in which we live, it should be. If it were, there would be more of an effort to live in holiness and sanctification, as well as honesty, integrity, and purity.
To fall away from the LORD once a person has known him is, obviously, a serious matter. Hence, the Apostle Paul employs the word - "fear." Presumption is never a part of the fear of the LORD. This was the great mistake made in ancient Israel's history. Since they had Godly ancestors, they often made the error that because they were Jews by birth and ancestry; they were always under God's divine protection and provision. However, the Law of Moses was a covenant. This means, there were conditions to his protection and provision. Thus, to live contrary to the revealed the will of God as written in his word is presumption. Further, presumption since it is not Biblical faith, leads to backsliding, or it is evidence of the same.
In Hebrews 4:2, the Apostle Paul shares with you the principle that must be applied whenever you hear or read the word of God. Applying it to the Gospel, the Apostle Paul states - "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."
Here then, is the principle that must be in your life. You must mix the Bible with personal faith. That is, you must believe what you read and act accordingly (obey). Obedience is the signal indication that a person truly believes the Holy Scriptures. If one does not obey, they do not believe in an appropriate manner. It may not indicate total unbelief; it is just that it is not complete faith. Further, with an incomplete faith there is always the danger of falling away from the LORD. Once again, this is the theme of the book of Hebrews -falling away from the LORD, and the dangers it incurs.
The will of God for you is to have rest. It is God's desire that you rest in your mind, as well as your body. Primarily, the theme of Hebrews is finding that rest in trying [not] to please God with your own good works; that according to the Bible are never good enough. It is the atonement of Christ, the blood of Jesus Christ, that satisfies God's justice and forgives you of all sin. The Christians in the book of Hebrews were starting to walk away from this truth. Thus, once again, there was a need to "fear." Otherwise, they may have walked away from the only source of salvation - Jesus Christ.
Notice in the Hebrews 4:3 under the old covenant the LORD stated (in his wrath) the unbelieving Jews who were wandering in the wilderness were not going to enter into his rest. This example is given to you as a warning. It is to be viewed as an example not to follow. Hence, God has left a rest to his people through Jesus Christ. However, you must remain in Christ, or "abide." In other words, you are to continue following the word of God written by the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.
In Hebrews 4:9, you are encouraged with the truth that there is a "rest to the people of God." Further, when you enter into this rest, you stop "working your way to heaven." That just shall live by faith, is what the Bible says. The example given by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 4:10, is that being in Christ is similar to the Sabbath on which God rested from his labors in creating the heavens and the earth. This same type of rest is yours. Since you have Jesus Christ, you can be assured that you are saved by his death, burial, and resurrection. Further, you can relax and have joy through the peace of Christ's cross, and in the fact that is Christ in you the hope of glory that gives you strength and confidence.
In Hebrews 4:11 you are exhorted to "labor" (this Greek word means -"to use speed," and "be diligent") to enter into the rest of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul states that this should be done so that you do not "fall after the same example of unbelief." The men and women recorded in the Bible leave examples of faith as well as unbelief. Both types of people - the Godly patriarchs, Prophets, and leaders of ancient Israel in the Old Testament, as well as the Apostles and the LORD Jesus Christ in the New Testament, are there for you to learn. Obviously, the good examples of the Godly men and women in the Bible are to be emulated. Just as evident, the bad examples of sin and unbelief are to be shunned as you observe the end of those individuals. Both the Godly and the unGodly have an end. However, those ends are vastly different from one another. To tell you which to choose would be championing the obvious.
God once told his people - "choose life that ye may live." In like manner, choose faith that you may live as well. God has provided good examples and bad so you will know the difference between the two. Remember, the word of God is life and it is power. It is also sharper than any sword ever fashioned. The Holy Scriptures, that is, the words of the Apostles, Prophets, and the LORD Jesus Christ, can divide your soul and spirit and discern your innermost thoughts and the intentions of your heart. (Hebrews 4:13)
Hence, love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love the brethren. Love one another. Keep in mind, that love is the fulfilling of all of God's laws. Faith, works through love according to the Bible. Therefore, once again, you will know your faith is alive and active to the saving of your soul for eternity if you love God and others.
All of God's creation is seen by him according to Hebrews 4:13. Therefore, live today with this truth in mind. That is, if you do well God sees it and will be faithful to reward you. However, if you do evil, he sees that as well and will act accordingly since he hates evil. Keep abiding in Christ. Do that which is good. If you will, you will have a continual open door to the kingdom of God to which you were called and to which you shall attain, enter, and abide in forever. Stay faithful to the end.