HEBREWS 4 in situ


Sermon Notes


We need to be introduced to the argument of this work (1) – given through the hand of Apollos ? it is possible.  The author does not appear known, except that it is GOD who gave it. He has shown in Ch. 1 that Christ is no one less than God, that the pardon procured is nothing less than total, that the Person who is Saviour is none other than the Creator, who upholding all things by His power, having BY HIMSELF purged our sins, returned in power at the right hand of Majesty, where He belongs, His abode.


The testimony of these things being sure, from eyewitnesses of Christ’s Messianic performance, and confirmed by their own continuation of action in His power (2:4), the idea of drifting away, like unmoored boats (2:1), students at a lecture, only waiting to get out, dabblers not dynamic, dreamers interested but not converting faith into action because it is not yet there: this has but one answer. HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE if we neglect such divine  action,  so attested by so many, in such ways for so long! (2:3)!


To be sure salvation has not yet brought the King in His majesty ruling this earth: but we see Jesus, though eternal as God, made a little lower than the angels, to “taste death for every man” (2:9). The taste was unpalatable, but that is the cost. Not all will benefit from His tasting, like a wine taster protecting his sovereign, for some drink it anyway; but as in I John 2:2, the heart of God is open for all, calling to all, a fact clear also in Colossians 1:19ff., so that any who baulk in practice, and just dream on, are themselves the ground of their own condemnation (John 3:19). The fact that Christ became man so that He might “bring many sons to glory” (2:10), has many a delightful consequence, however, for those who accept His gift of Himself, the death-breaker. Death at the gate of the promised land is not one.


Thus (2) the devil has no more ground to accuse (2:14ff.), for Christ has died for us who believe, even accepting our sins, debits and death sentence on our behalf, and no more scope for terrorising us: for the sentence on Christ was just, since our deserts were most real and He bore them. He had to made in all points like us, except not to be sinful, while remaining Himself who by nature could no more be divorced from deity, than water from the metabolism of man. It is inherent to Him. God is immutable, whatever form He chooses to inhabit at any time. But though HIS part is clear, what of our own ? Remember then, says the Lord in Hebrews 3, Ps. 95! This epitomises the rebelliousness even of those called by the name of the Lord, that is the children of Israel. They REFUSED to enter the promised land: it was right there, miracle after miracle having been faithfully performed, from the humbling of the mightiest nation on earth, at that time, Egypt, to the parting of the Red Sea and the feeding and watering of their vast nation in the desert.


They wept, they cried, but not to the Lord! (Hosea 7:16). THAT was the trouble. If there was any cry, it was not from the heart (Hosea 7:14). Wrongly directed, superficially assigned, it was sound without faith, a creaking of the soul, not a seeking of the heart.


(3) There was the entry, a mere step, an act of faith. It took NOTHING MORE for them to enter. But they lacked faith! Their hearing was not MIXED WITH FAITH (Hebrews 4:2), and Psalm 95 recapitulates what happened: God SWORE in HIS WRATH that they would not enter into their rest. Instead they wandered in various disarrays in the desert for 40 years, until the next generation with Joshua (who as a person HAD been willing to enter), entered with him. THEY DID IT. They did not talk about it, but acted as if their lives depended on it, took battle, made entry, persevered, meant business!


(4) There is, Hebrews declares, a rest for the people of God (4:9). There is such a thing as rest. GOD rested from His own labours on the seventh day. The Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world (God’s plans are eternal – Rev. 13:8), and indeed God would not have created it except for this plan of Christ to come (Isaiah 51:16): there is a divine completion; but what of the human taking of what is on offer! The Psalm in the very midst of the time of the Jewish Sabbaths, is asking for something spiritual in kind, not merely symbolic in intent, for the set Sabbath looked back to the creation (Exodus 20), not on to rest to come in heaven. It was to follow HIM who created and THEN rested, that it was instituted for man. He too should create and then rest, periodically to complete the picture.


THIS rest however was offered in the very midst of Sabbaths, not to typify creation-rest pulsation, but to provide rest for the soul, such as Jesus offered, as seen in Matthew 11. It is a faith-function for the nature of life, a child’s response for the nature of living. Labouring to enter into your rest is thus a need, though it seem contrary; for feeble faith, fainting and not walking, is but a flicker. Robust confidence in the finished work of Christ and the living God, our High Priest resurrected is needful, as real an entry as any into the promised land, and as certain an action. It is not a perpetual reminder of the past, as is the Sabbath, but a continual companion of the present, with a forward look to heaven as its model, not back to creation. This work of faith and this adoption into Christ, this inward reliance is for now and the future.


It is neither an excuse for failing to rest on the Lord’s day (for the very day has been changed, since Christ did the greatest work of all, in coming AS Creator and dying on behalf of the sin of this creation of His, and demonstrating it at last in the resurrection), nor does Sunday rest on His works evict it from reality. But HOW will you rest if you do not act ? How will you act if you do not believe, and how will you ‘ENTER INTO’ this rest, this citizenship in the kingdom of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21), how be sitting ‘in heavenly places’ in Christ (Ephesians 2:6), if you retract your undercarriage and seek to take off without engines, the engines of faith, without fuel, the fuel of the Spirit whom He sends to BELIEVERS: or how will you have rest in your hearts if you have cords of unbelief hanging everywhere, unconnected to the reality of the Lord, who did not come to be ignored, but sought, and being sought, to answer prayer.


(5) The PRIEST to end Priests and Govern LIFE - 4:14-16. The word of God in Hebrews then stresses the riches of the reality of our redemption. Is not Christ like one of us so that as CAPTAIN (not dictator) He might bring us to glory ? (2:10).  Is He not made in all points but sin like us(4:15) ? Does He not understand therefore,  the very subjective meaning of being tempted, and has He not shown in His own Person, how, though vulnerable as you like, to resist and overcome so that sin does not rule in your mortal bodies, your manufactured minds or your God-given spirits ? Does He not then understand WEAKNESS, in order to impart strength ? It is not some foreign object, as if a professor were examining an insect! He KNOWS what it is like: He was THERE, and beat the power of sin, so that He might pay the costs for those who sin, AND give to them, the power to overcome it. The sonic SIN-BOOM is to be forsaken. Indeed, He is SYMPATHETIC and can even empathise to the very point where sin enters, but not past it. THAT is the barrier, the sin barrier, and it is not freely to be passed (I John 1:7-2:2), for our prayer, the prayer of our life, this must be made inter-personally, so that we find two things from Him.


What are these ? The first is mercy. When you create a mess, then mercy is needed so that you are not consigned with your mess, to the land of mess, to the folly of faithlessness. You must ASK for MERCY, as it is HIGHLY RELEVANT. Mess can infect you and others; disorder can oppress your spirit, misteach your mind and dig you into a pit. Next you seek GRACE to help. It is not just general: it is a TIMELY grace, one fitted, like a new piston, to the place requiring it. It is grace to help IN TIME OF NEED. You do not seek food next year if you are starving NOW, and you do not seek power and vision and  clarity of life, and awareness of the very will of God for you in particular, and godliness and virtue SOME TIME, if you need them now. You live as really as in eating, by taking the help and nurture, the pastoral availability of Christ and USING it, now, day by day, in every way. You get the longer term goals sure from Him, as much as you need for vocation, power, grace; you get the daily grace as much as you use, for the quality of life, the power of living, the strength of character, the disposition of heart, the love of your fellows, that you need.


There is a constant flow of pardon, power, response, realisation, as you wait on the Lord, with precise as well as general seeking, with expectation and without altercation, WILLING at all times to CUT error and KEEP the faith, fearless in enterprise, clear in testimony, kept in the will of God. You do not moan at your trials, though you may discuss them indeed, but you meet them as a bull-dozer meets its challenges, whether to break down ruined structures, or to clear the ground for building. Your words are not half-hearted as those of dreamers, not sure whether they wake or sleep, but are as crisp for Christ as are those of a money-lover on his topic and task, delighted in its power.


You do not live at the gates of the land of rest; you enter. You do not live in the wilderness with its witlessness, but in the kingdom of heaven. As you love Him, so you love it, and you attest in countenance, in joy, in the shining of confidence, in the testimony of the Lord’s own deliverances for you, with the convinced and unceremonious simplicity of a child. God’s people ARE HIS children.