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.”  This verse is a renewed

warning against remissness, based (as is shown by the connecting οὖν  - ounthen;

therefore) on the preceding argument, but introducing also, by means of the clause,

καταλειπομένης kataleutomenaesof  being left - etc., a new thought, the                                   

elucidation of which is the subject of what follows. The new thought is that

the true “rest of God,” typified only by the rest of Canaan, remains still for

the attainment of Christians. That this is the case has not yet been shown;

and hence the clause, “a promise being still left.” etc., does not point to a

conclusion already arrived at, but to what is coming. The new thought is

taken up in v. 2, and what has been thus intimated in v. 1 is asserted as

a conclusion after proof in v. 9. ἄρα ἀπολείπεται ara apoleipetaithere

remaineth; consequently is being left, etc. A different view

of the drift of the warning in this verse, maintained very decidedly by

Ebrard, demands attention. It rests on the interpretation of δοκῇὑστερηκέναι· -

dokae ……husteraekenaiseem….to come short; may be seeming…….to be deficient,

which is taken to mean “should think that he has come too late,” i.e. for the promise

of the rest,  under the idea that its meaning had been exhausted in the rest of Canaan.

It may be said in support of this view that such is the most obvious meaning of the

phrase; that δοκειν dokein  in the New Testament most commonly means “think

or “suppose;” that the primary sense of ὑστερειν husterein – behind; late, come too

late -  is that of being behindhand, either in place or in time; and that the perfect

ὑστερηκέναι· is thus accounted for, whereas, according to the usual interpretation,

the whole phrase is unsuitable: why was not ὑστερήση  - husteraesae - written, if

a mere warning against remissness was intended? Further, it may be said that what

immediately follows is in favor of this view of the purport of the caution in v. 1,

being an evident carrying out of its idea. Thus the verse is supposed to be not at

all a continuation of the previous hortatory section, but rather serving as the

thesis of the coming argumentative section, though put in the form of a

caution because imperfect appreciation of the view to be now established

was at the root of the danger of the Hebrew Christians. Some of them at

least did not fully grasp the true character of the gospel as being the fulfillment

of the old dispensation, the realization of its types and promises.

They were inclined to rest in the Law as a revelation to which the gospel

was only supplementary, and hence to regard the promised land, the offer

of which was before their time, as the only rest intended; and therefore the

writer, after adducing the example of the Israelites under Moses as a

warning against remissness, prefaces his exposition. of the true rest of God

by a warning against misapprehending it. But against this view of the

.meaning of δοκῇὑστερηκέναι· there are the following reasons:


(1) The word s φοβηθῶμεν phobaethomenlet us fear; we may be being                                    

afraid -suggests rather (like βλέπετε blepetetake heed) a warning

against conduct that might lead to forfeiture than a correction of an

inadequate conception; and οὖν connects the warning with what has gone

before, in which the view of what the true rest is has not entered.


(2) Though δοκεν is most frequently used in the New Testament in its

sense of “thinking,” “seeming to one’s self,” yet it has there, as in Greek

generally, the sense also of “appearing,” “seeming to others;” and certainly,

as far as the word itself is concerned, may have this sense here. Also the

verb ὑστερεν, though its primary idea (as of ὑστερος husteroslatter;

coming after; later, afterwards) is that of “coming after,” is nevertheless

invariably used in the New Testament to express “deficiency,” or “falling short”                                       

(especially in this Epistle, ch.12:15): it is never elsewhere (though capable of

the meaning) used to express lateness in time.


(3) The phrase, δοκῇὑστερηκέναι· - in the sense of “seem to have fallen

short” (rather than ὑστερήση is capable of being accounted for. One

explanation of it, adopted by Alford, is indeed hardly tenable. He accounts

for the past tense by supposing reference to the final judgment; taking it to

mean, “lest any one of you should then appear [i.e. be found] to have fallen

short.” But the word δοκεν, which, however used, refers, not to what is

made evident, but to what is thought or seems, refuses to be thus

misinterpreted. It is better to take it as a softening expression. We may

suppose that the writer (with a delicacy that reminds us of Paul) was

unwilling to imply his own expectation of any failure; and so he only bids

his readers beware of so living as even to present the appearance of it or

suggest the thought of it to others. According to this view, the tense of

ὑστερηκέναι· is intelligible, the supposed deficiency spoken of being

previous to its being perceived or suspected. It is not necessary to supply

an understood genitive, such as “the promise,” or “the rest,” after

ὑστερηκέναι·. It may be used (as elsewhere) absolutely, to express

deficiency or failure; i.e. in the conditions required for attainment. One

view of its meaning is that it has reference to the idea of being behind

in a race: but there is nothing in the context to suggest this figure.


(4) It is not necessary that this verse should express only the idea of the

following argument; it does sufficiently express it in the clause,

καταλειπομένης kataleutomenaesof  being left, etc.; and it is in the style

of this Epistle to connect new trains of argument by a continuous chain of

thought with what has gone before (compare the beginning of chapters 2

and 3). Though there is uncertainty as to the sequence of thought in the

several clauses of the following argument (vs. 2-11), its general drift is clear.

Its leading ideas are these: The invitation to enter God’s rest contained in

the psalm shows that the rest of Canaan, which, though forfeited under Moses,

had long been actually attained under Joshua, was not the final rest intended.

What, then, is meant by this remarkable term, “my rest,” i.e. God’s own rest?

Our thoughts go back to the beginning of the Bible, where a rest of God Himself

is spoken of; where He is said to have rested on the seventh day from all His

works. Participation, then, in that heavenly rest — a true sabbath rest with

God — is what the term implies. Though this rest began “from the

foundation of the world,” man’s destined share in if, however long delayed,

was intimated by the typical history of the Israelites under Moses, and by

the warning and renewed invitation of the psalm. This renewed invitation

makes it plain that it is still attainable by God’s people. It has at last been

made attainable by Christ, who, as our great High Priest, has Himself

entered it, and leads us into it if we are but faithful.


2 “For unto us was the gospel (or, a 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.”  The meaning and purpose of the first part of this verse is

plain, as is also the general intention of the second; viz. to account parenthetically

for the gospel to the Israelites under Moses having failed of its purpose, and at

the same time to renew the warning of their example with respect to the gospel

now preached to Christians. But the passage is still one of singular difficulty, on

account both of the various readings of it, and of the peculiarity of the

language used whatever reading be adopted. With respect to the various

readings, the main and indeed only important question is between:


(1) συγκεκερασμένος sugkekerasmenosbeing mixed with; having been

Blended together - agreeing with λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς – logos taes akoaes - word of

the tidings; word preached, and:


(2) συγκεκερασμένους, agreeing with ἐκείνους, - ekeinousthose; them.

The variation between συγκεκεραμ and συγκεκερασμ (being mixed with)

being only different forms of the participle, does not affect the meaning.

Then the readings τῶν ἀκουσἀντων and τοῖς ἀκούσθείσιν for τοῖς ἀκούσασι

rest on such slight authority, and are so likely to have been substitutions

(the latter to make the reading συγκεκερασμένους, intelligible), that they

need not be considered.


(1) The reading of the Textus Receptus, following the Vulgate, is

μὴ συγκεκραμένος τῇ πίστει τοῖς ἀκούσασιν mae sugkekramenos tae

pistei tois akousasinno having been blended together with the faith

to the ones hearing.   But:


(2) the great preponderance of ancient authority (including that of all the

uncial manuscripts except a) supports συγκεκεραμένους,or

συγκεκερασμένους,.  The latter, then, must be accepted as the true

reading, if authority alone is to be our guide. But then comes the difficulty

of making any sense of it. The only way of doing so is to understand τοῖς

ἀκούσασιν (those who heard in the sense of “those who hearkened;” the sense

of the passage being “The word of hearing did not profit them,

because they were not united by faith with those who not only heard, but

hearkened and obeyed.” Most of the Fathers, reading συγκεκερασμένους,,

take τοῖς ἀκούσασιν to refer in this sense to Caleb and Joshua. But, if

what has been said above be true as to these exceptions to the general

unbelief not having been in the writer’s mind, such an allusion is highly

improbable. Some take τοῖς  ἀκούσασιν with no historical reference,

but as denoting hearkeners generally. Alford, however, though

adopting this as the best solution of an acknowledged difficulty, confesses

himself not satisfied with it, as well he may. A very serious objection to

either view, even apart from the strangeness of the whole expression if

such be its meaning, is that, though the verb ἀκούειν (hear) is certainly used

elsewhere in the sense thus assigned to it, the whole context here suggests

different one. Compare supra (ch.3:16), τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν

tines gar akousantes parepikrananfor some when they had heard; and

especially λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς – ho logos taes akoaes – the word preached;

hearing; tidings  immediately preceding. ἀκοῆς,- (denoting hearing only),

seems to have suggested the use of the participle ἀκούσασιν (ones hearing),

to which it would therefore be most unnatural to assign a different meaning.

If, then, all devices for making sense of the best supported text prove

unsatisfactory, and if the Textus Receptus gives an intelligible meaning, we

might surely be justified in adopting the latter, however ill supported. Internal

evidence (though great caution should be used in our estimate of it) need not

yield entirely to external, nor common sense to authority, in the determination

of true readings. But in this case the argument from internal probability has now

been strengthened by the discovery of the reading συγκεκερασμένους in

the Sinaitic Codex (a). This, then, being adopted, though the expression be

peculiar, the meaning is no longer obscure, whether we take τῇ πίστει (with

faith) or τοῖς ἀκούσασιν (the ones hearing) as governed by συγκεκερασμένος.

It may be either that “the word of hearing did not profit them because it was

not mingled with their faith to those that heard;” or “because it was not mingled

by faith with those that heard it.” In the latter case the idea is that of the necessity

of the spoken word entering the heart, and being (so to speak) assimilated by the

hearers through the instrumentality of faith, in order to profit them.



Believers in Israel and in Christ (vs. 1-2)




The Hebrew people had a promise which was given to Abraham as trustee

for his descendants, which was that after many years of suffering in Egypt

they should be released from slavery and oppression, and be led to the rest

and enjoyment of Canaan. It was a promise which signifies the spontaneous

declaration of the kindness and mercy of Jehovah, and flowed from his love

toward Israel. It is a beam from the “Father of lights,” who prevents us

with the blessings of goodness, and meets us with the offers of grace and

loving-kindness. This thought pervades the gospel, which is the free and

unsolicited gift of God to the world; for there was no cry of spiritual

distress and no agony of remorse which prompted men to desire salvation.

The whole of the Christian system is suffused with the light and beauty of

the promises of Him who cannot lie” (ch. 6:18; Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2).

This required on the part of Israel suitable and becoming exertion. They were

to set forth from Egypt, and then listen to His Law at Sinai, and march under

the Divine guidance, that God might bring upon them all that He had spoken.

Similarly believers in our Lord are to “work out their salvation with fear and

trembling (Philippians 2:12), and are to leave the things that are behind and

reach forth to those that are before (Ibid. ch. 3:13).  Israel had one thing to do;

and those who believe in Christ are to seek the end of their faith in their

admittance into the Father’s house, where, instead of perishable tent and

frequent change, there are many mansions of stability and eternal peace.

(John 14:1-4)  It is a promise of rest. The Hebrews felt that in Egypt

they did not belong to the nation in whose country they dwelt. They had no

thought of permanence, no civil freedom, no security of person, and no

fruit from their exacted labors. It may be believed that the promise and

prospect of Canaan silently influenced their hearts and quickened desires

for emancipation. The prospect of rest began to be very precious as

suffering abounded; and at the appointed time they rose to commence the

journey to the Promised Land. Those who believe in the Captain of

salvation have a Diviner hope, and are taught to look for a Divine and

eternal rest, which shall embrace more blessedness than we can at present

imagine. It stands in happy contrast to the toil of daily life and the sight of

imperfection in ourselves and others. It signifies rest from the stern duties

of the mortification and crucifixion of the flesh. It is freedom from the

changeableness of our present life, in which there is nothing stable in our

emotions, our relationships, and the society of which we form a part. It is a

blessed contrast to the mixed condition of the present state in which there

are evil men and frequent doubts. Believers often look towards this

divinely promised rest to encourage patience amidst the pressure of

sickness and the force and frequency of temptation. It is, therefore, no

wonder that Richard Baxter, who was burdened with frequent sickness,

and tried by the controversies and troubles of his day, should find relief in

writing his ‘Saint’s Rest,’ which was at once the fruit of his painful

experience and his spiritual desire for the rest of heaven.




THEIR REST. The prospect of Canaan was a gospel, or good tidings, to

the Hebrews, since it assured them of a happy change in their condition. It

brought before them the hope of freedom and the possession of a land,

which had a fertile soil and a genial climate. It promised them the blessing

of the Divine protection, ordinances of worship, and life closed in peace

and hope of the future. This was good tidings to them. Good tidings of

great joy are made known to us. They were announced by our Lord, who

came to seek and save that which was lost, and to offer the blessings of

salvation from sin now, and the perfection of our nature in the life and

immortality which he has brought to light. He offers us pardon,

justification, and the indwelling of the Spirit, who becomes the earnest of

the purchased possession. Many of the people who started from Egypt

never reached Canaan; and Moses saw that many year after year died and

were buried in the wilderness, and exclaimed, “We are consumed by thine

anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.”  (Psalm 90:7)  They failed in faith,

and doubted the promises of the God of their fathers. Had they believed

their faith would have been turned into sight, and their hope into happy

fruition. The Word did not profit them (v. 2), for they came short of the rest

and blessedness of Canaan. The warning which was given to Jewish believers,

and is conveyed through them to others of succeeding ages, reminds us of the

vast and FATAL EFFECTS OF UNBELIEF!   The truth which they heard

was not felt and held as a Divine utterance. It teaches us that the gospel should

be so admitted to influence and govern us, that it should be a part of our

nature, as food received and digested becomes a part of our living structure. It

is faith which gives it a presence and power in the vital forces of our souls. It

unites the truth to our spiritual nature with a close and blessed association;

and verifies the word of James, who describes it as “the engrafted Word,

which is able to save our souls.”   (James 1:21)  The importance of faith is to

be seen in our Lord’s constant requirement of its presence for the attainment

of salvation. The apostles follow in His hallowed footsteps, and urge

believers to cherish this Divine grace lest their career should end in

disappointment and failure. To come short of Canaan was a calamity,

because there was a loss of good, and life was closed under the gloomy

sense of transgression; but to lose the glorious inheritance of eternal life is

more affecting as the awful future outweighs the small and fading interests

of the life that now is. The possibility of such a loss is sufficient to awaken




The Gospel Profitless to an Unbelieving Heart (v. 2)


With the Israelites their sin was not so much actual and active unbelief, a

bold denial of Jehovah’s truth, as the lack of an actual and active faith.

There was no active spiritual energy in them to meet the abundant energy

of their liberating and guiding God. The parable of the seed in the four

kinds of ground may well be applied to them. The great bulk of them gave

not the slightest real attention to any Divine word of promise or duty.

Some doubtless did mean to be docile, obedient, and patient; and a few at

least must have been in real accord with Jehovah’s aim. But what availed a

few, if the bulk of the people sat before Jehovah in carnal indifference? If

we would profit by the greater gospel to us:


  • WE MUST BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE. This very thing we think we

do, and yet on inquiry we find we do it not. There is no mistake when a

man feels he is dealing with realities. And the way in which we not seldom

talk of the gospel or behave when it is set before us shows that to us it is

no reality. And yet, just because it is a reality, we shall have to deal with it

some day. True strength, peace, and blessedness lie in RECONCILIATION

WITH GOD!   To believe the gospel as true is to come to know this in time.

But sooner or later we shall have to know that strength, peace, and

blessedness LIE NOWHERE ELSE!



includes purification, trial, discipline, service. The gospel does not always

look like a gospel. For instance, Jesus says, “It is expedient for you that I

go away.”  (John 16:7)  The gospel has allowed its heralds and its recipients

to be put in prison and to go to death. Trust is needed in the reality of love

behind the appearance of indifference; the heart of the believer feeling God

to be near when to the worldly spectators it may seem that nothing is near

 but trouble, pain, loss, confusion. We have to trust God as to His way,

His time, or the gospel will be profitless to us.



BELIEVING THE FALSE. As our eyes look out upon the world with its

opportunities and its varied scenes, its paths for ambition and adventure,

we make gospels for ourselves out of the things we see. Nature seems full

of evangelists, and we believe everything they have to say; and then at last

discover the gospel to be one of our own making. For the time the false is

more attractive than the true, and we mix strong faith with our hearing of

it. But as a true gospel is profitless without faith, so a false gospel is

profitless, however strong the faith may be. God’s truth cannot do without

our faith, nor our faith without God’s truth.


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.” 

For we do enter into the rest, we who have believed (οἱ πιστεύσαντες, -

oi pisteusanteswhich have believed; the ones believing -  the historical aorist,

pointing to the time when Christians became believers; with a reference also

to τῇ πίστει [with faith] in the preceding verse: but the emphasis is on the first

word in the sentence, εἰσερχόμεθα eiserchomethawe are entering -

“For we Christian believers have an entrance into the rest intended”) even

as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, If they shall enter into my

rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the

world. This seems to be a concise enunciation of the proof, unfolded in the

verses that follow, of the true rest being one into which Christians have still

an entrance. The idea is that, though God’s own rest had been from the

beginning, and man had not yet entered it, yet the possibility of his doing so

had not ceased to be intimated: IT HAD CONTINUED OPEN




Rest a Present Possession of the Christian Believer (v. 3)


“For we which have believed do enter into rest.” The use of the present

tense here (“do enter”) has caused some difficulty to some expositors.

In “the idiom of the Bible, the present tense is often used as a universal tense,

embracing time past, present, and future.” It is indisputable that the words of

the text, taken alone, suggest the subject which is stated above. And if further

justification of our application of the text be needed, we may adduce two facts:


1. That our Lord promises rest — and, as we understand Him, present rest

to those who believe in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).


2. That faith in the Lord Jesus Christ admits the soul into rest here and now

is a fact of Christian consciousness. So we proceed to consider the rest

which is the present privilege and possession of those who intelligently and

heartily believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.





Ø      reveals the infinite mercy of God towards the sinner,

Ø      delivers those who trust Him from the condemnation of the holy Law

which they have broken (John 3:14-18; Romans 8:1).

Ø      freely and fully forgave the sinners who penitently approached unto

Him (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48-50).

Ø      imparts freedom from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-36; Romans


And from this forgiveness and freedom from sin there follows rest from the

dread of the punishment of sin. Thus, as regards the guilt and bondage and

punishment of sin, they who believe in the Savior “do enter into rest.”




much of mental disquietude and distress amongst men as to the possibilities

of their physical life and their temporal circumstances. What if their health

should fail! if heavy losses should befall them! if gaunt poverty or dreary

destitution should overtake them! Now, our Lord’s teaching as to the

paternal providence of God, when it is truly believed, delivers the soul

from these distressing apprehensions and corroding cares (see Matthew

6:25-34; 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7, 22-31).




Much of life’s unrest and sorrow springs from the absence of acquiescence

in the will of God; much of positive distress arises from the opposition of

our will to his holy will. Faith in our Lord delivers from this. His revelation

of the Divine fatherhood, when it is heartily accepted, leads to

acquiescence in the Father’s will, and that is rest, as He Himself teaches

(Matthew 11:25-30). We are led into the truth that:


“Our wills are ours, we know not how;

Our wills are ours, to make them thine.”



And then into the higher experience of:


“The heart at rest

When all without tumultuous seems —

That trusts a higher will, and deems

That higher will, not mine, the best.


“O blessed life — heart, mind, and soul,

    From self-born aims and wishes free,

    In all at one with Deity,

And loyal to the Lord’s control.”




FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. One of the deepest needs

of the human heart is to love and to be loved in return. Unreciprocated and

misdirected affections cause some of the bitterest griefs of human life. Our

Lord summons us to set our supreme affections upon God (Mark

12:29-30). As the Object of our highest and holiest love, God

Ø      satisfies,

Ø      inspires, and

Ø      delights the soul;

for He:

Ø      is supremely good and beautiful;

Ø      reciprocates our affections;

Ø      He is unchangeable, and

Ø      He ever liveth.


“Oh for that choicest blessing

    Of living in thy love,

And thus on earth possessing

    The peace of heaven above!

Oh for the bliss that by it

    The soul securely knows,

The holy calm and quiet

    Of faith’s serene repose!”





LORD JESUS CHRIST. Concerning our beloved departed, “Jesus saith,

Thy brother shall rise again.... I am the Resurrection and the Life,” (John

11:23-26)  He has taken the sting from death and the victory from the

grave (I Corinthians 15:54-57). Our Savior Jesus Christ abolished death,

and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel. (II Timothy

1:10).  And now to the genuine Christian:


“There is no death!  What seems so is transition.

    This life of mortal breath

Is but a suburb of the life elysian,

    Whose portal we call death.”



To enter into and enjoy this spiritual rest is a privilege available to us here

and now. “For we which have believed do enter into that rest.”


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.  5 And in this place again,

If they shall enter into my rest.”  For He hath said somewhere (που pou

certain place; somewhere -  compare ch. 2:6) of the seventh day on this wise,

And God rested the seventh day from all His works (Exodus 20:11); and in

this place again,  If they shall enter into my rest.  Here the argument is

carried out. The first  passage quoted shows what must be understood by the

“rest of God;”  the second shows that it still remains open, that “it remaineth

 that some should enter thereinto.” This being the case:


 6 “Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they

to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

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.”  Since therefore it remains that some should enter into it,

and they to whom the good tidings were before preached entered not

in because of disobedience, he again defineth a certain day, saying in

David, after so long a time, To-day; as it hath been before said, Today,

if ye will hear his voice, etc. The continued openness of the rest, and

the failure of the Israelites of old to enter it, are the reasons why a further

day for entering was defined in the psalm. But here the thought is

suggested that the Israelites had not finally failed, for that, though those

under Moses did so, the next generation under Joshua did attain the

promised laud. No, it is replied; the rest of the promised land was but a

type after all; it was not the true rest of God: otherwise the psalmist could

not have still assigned a day for entering it so long after the arrival at



8 “For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward

have spoken of another day.  9  There remaineth therefore a rest to the

people of God.”  For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have

spoken afterward of another day. The conclusion is now drawn: There

remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God; the true

nature of the rest intended being beautifully denoted by the word

σαββατισμὸς sabbatismossabbathism; rest - which refers to the

Divine rest “from the foundation of the world,” while the offer of it

to true believers always, and not to the Israelites only, is intimated by

the phrase, “the people of God.”



Rest a Future Portion of the Christian Believer (v. 9)


“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” We have already

spoken of the rest which is the present privilege of the Christian: “We which

have believed do enter into that rest.” (v. 3) But that does not satisfy all

our desire and aspiration. We crave a deeper, fuller, more perfect rest than

we enjoy here. The higher life at present is one of intense and, at times,

almost painful longing. Without the prospect of something better than our

present best, our life would not be satisfactory. (“If in this life only we

have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”  - I Corinthians

15:19) “There remaineth therefore a rest [a keeping of sabbath] for the

people of God.” This rest which is reserved is richer, fuller, more glorious

than that which is at present realized. The words used to express them

suggest this. The chief meaning of κατάπαυσιν (v. 3) is cessation, as from

work, pain, etc. The rest which it indicates is mainly negative. But

σαββατισμὸς (v. 9) indicates a sabbath festal celebration, a holy keeping

of sabbath; it comprises the rest of v. 3 and considerably more. Let us consider

what this sabbath rest which remains for the people of God consists in.




negative aspect of the rest, or what we shall rest from.


Ø      Rest from the struggle against sin. The people of God in heaven are

more than conquerors over sin and Satan “through Him that loved”

them (Romans 8:37).  The great tempter, and solicitation to sin, will

be entirely and eternally excluded from that bright and blessed world.

(“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and

brimstone, where the beast  and the false prophet are, and shall be

tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  Revelation 20:10)

 “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth,

(Ibid. ch. 21:27) 


Ø      Rest from suffering, both physical and mental. “They shall hunger no

more, neither thirst any more” (Ibid. ch. 7:16-17). “The inhabitant

shall not say, I am sick.” (Isaiah 33:24)  And God shall wipe away

every tear from their eyes,” etc. (Revelation 21:4).


Ø      Rest from the mystery and burden of life. In our present state there are

seasons of darkness and perplexity when trust and hope in God involve

painful effort to some souls. Such efforts will not be demanded in the

blessed hereafter. Much that to us is now obscure will then be perfectly

clear. The pure light of eternity will chase away the grim shadows of

time; and what is to us unknown in heaven will awaken neither dread

nor doubt.


Ø      Rest from toilsome, anxious, discouraging labor. No more men and

women and children compelled to labor on long after their physical

powers are tired out. No more forcing of the brain to continued

effort when it already aches wearily by reason of its toils. No further

summons to works of social or moral amelioration, which must be

prosecuted despite difficulty, discouragement, opposition, and

seeming failure. The Sabbath rest which remaineth for the people

 of God precludes all these things.




NATURE CRAVES. This is the positive aspect of our rest, or what we

shall rest in.


Ø      In the conformity of our character to that of God. Purity is peace.

Holiness is rest. The perfectly holy is THE INFINITELY AND

EVER-BLESSED GOD!  The saints in heaven “have washed their

robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

(Revelation 7:14)  Nor is their holiness the mere negation of moral evil,

but a positive and active condition of their being. Their thoughts,

sympathies, aspirations, services, are all true and pure and benevolent.

They are spiritually transformed into the image of the Lord. And in

this there is rest and blessedness. “I shall be satisfied when I awake

with thy likeness.”  (Psalm 17:15)


Ø      In the progress of our being towards God. Stagnation is not rest.

Stationariness is not rest; it is stillness, inaction, but not rest. But

harmonious growth is both restful and joyous. One of the

constituents of the future rest of the good is growth — growth

in mind and heart and spirit, in thought, and affection, and

reverence, and holy action. In endless approximation to the

infinitely Holy One will man find the rest and perfection of

his being.


Ø      In the continuous service of God. As this rest is a “keeping of

sabbath,” it cannot mean a complete cessation of activity.

Inactivity is not rest. “Sloth yieldeth not happiness; the bliss

of a spirit is action;’


“An angel’s wing would droop if long at rest,

And God Himself, inactive, were no longer blest”


So we read of the bright future that “His servants shall serve Him,

 and they shall see His face.” (Revelation 22:3)  “They are before

the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple.”

(Ibid. ch. 7:15)  T. Aquinas speaks of this service as videre, amare,

et laudare (continue to love and praise) . But it must not be limited to

these exercises. Enough for us to know that there will be services for

us to render continuous services, blessed services, and ALL OF

THEM IN THE SERVICE OF OUR GOD!   The rest and joy of

this service will appear if we consider:


o       Its inspiration. Love to God is the impulse of every action,

and transforms every duty into a delight.


o       Its nature. Every service will be sacred. The spirit in which

it is done will make all the work religious, worshipful.


o       Its conditions. Freedom from all obstruction, from all

restraint, and from all fatigue.


Ø      In conscious and continuous communion with God. “He will

dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself

shall be with them, their God, And they shall see His face.”

(Revelation 21:3; 22:4)  “We shall see Him even as He is.”

(I John 3:2)  All the redeemed in heaven are through Christ

perfectly one with God in sympathies, purposes, principles, and

 joys.  GOD ALONE CAN SATISFY THEM!   In Him they rest

with deepest, holiest blessedness. They are “forever with the

Lord.”  (I Thessalonians 4:17)  “In thy presence is fullness of joy;

at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”  (Psalm 16:11)

This rest is “reserved for the people of God.”  (I Peter 1:4)

Only the sincere and hearty BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST

 will ever enter upon it.  The character of the rest is conclusive as

to this question. To experience the perfect rest of the glorious

future we must first experience THE SPIRITUAL REST




The True Sabbatic Rest (v. 9)


Note here the word employed — σαββατισμὸς (the keeping of the Sabbath). This

the only occurrence of the word. It is preceded and followed by another word for

restκατάπαυσις (a pausing; a cessation). There must be something in the abrupt

utterance for just once of this word in (see v. 9). The different word must emphasize

difference of meaning. The difference seems to lie here, that there are two kinds of

rest to be thought of — one the rest from toil and exertion, the rest to the

weary; the other rest of cessation from work, because something is

complete. Thus we have two views of the Christian’s future.



The σαββατισμὸς must include the κατάπαυσις: but, then, there may

also be the κατάπαυσις every day and all day long. To rest the body after

toil is very important, but more important is it to be able to rest the heart.

There are only too many who get no proper rest of body on Sunday

because their hearts are full of unrest. It is more than can be expected from

imperfect humanity that we should attain this constant restfulness of spirit;

but let it be understood that the cause lies in our imperfections, and not in

any absolute necessity of the case. Rest is begun in a trustful heart, and the

more trust the more rest. Much of the weariness of life comes from our

own needless, useless struggling. We make toilsome work by our ambitions

and our fears. People prefer the toiling and the care of the life of sight to

the rest of the life of trust. “Return unto thy rest, O my soul.”  (Psalm 116:7)



true σαββατισμὸς. Why is the other kind of rest, the rest from toil,

necessary? Because man is fallen. He works not according to the pure,

original power of his creation, but under constraint; duty and inclination

too often opposed; or, if not in opposition, there is immense friction

between them. But if there had been no fall, the work of each individual

man would have gone on calmly, equably, till it was done. Then the

σαββατισμὸς would come. Look at man on parallel lines from God. God

works out the great scheme and order of creation, and then ceases

creating; but He is not weary when the work is done. God makes men in His

own image; and the universal human race has its work to do, with each

individual working in his proper place. Then, when the work is done,

comes the sabbatism. Let this nobler view of rest be ours. In the heat of

noonday it is permitted that we look to the sunset and think of rest from

toil. But let us also take pride in the work we have to do, thinking that

some day, by the Spirit of God working in us, the workmanship will be

complete. (“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus

unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should

walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10)  God will have His particular

sabbatism in us; and. we, complete in Christ,  (“The Lord shall

perfect that which concerneth me” – Psalm 138:8), shall get our

sabbatism with God


10 “For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his

own works, as God did from His.”  For he that is entered into His rest

(God’s, as before) hath himself also rested from his works, as from his

own God. There are two ways of understanding this verse. Its general

intention is, indeed, clear. It accounts for the use of the word σαββατισμὸς

which precedes, expressing that the true meaning of “God’s rest” is not

satisfied by any earthly rest, but only by one like His. The question is

whether the verse is to be taken as a general proposition or as referring

specifically to Christ. In favor of the latter view is the aorist κατάπαυσιν

katapausinceased; stopping. The literal translation would be “He that

entered… Himself also rested. Ebrard, on this ground, strenuously

defends the reference to Christ; and also on the ground of parallelism with

ch.2:9 in the first division of the general argument. In the first division (ch. 2)

the course of thought was — Dominion over creation has been assigned to man:

man has not attained it:  Jesus has; and in Jesus man fulfils his destiny.

In this second division the corresponding course of thought is — God’s rest

has been offered to man:  man has not attained it: Jesus has; and in Jesus

man may enter it.  And thus (as has been explained above) the conclusion

that Jesus is the High Priest of humanity is led up to by two parallel lines

of argument. But the third of the propositions of the second line of argument

(corresponding to ch.2:9 in the first) is not distinctly expressed unless it be in

the verse before us; and therefore this verse, on this ground as well as that of

the use of the aorist, is taken to refer to Christ. On the other hand, it is

argued that, if a specific reference to Christ had been intended, He would

have been mentioned, so as to make the meaning clear; and secondly, that

the aorist κατάπαυσε (rest) is legitimate, though the proposition be a general

one. Delitzsch explains it thus: “The author might have written κατάπαυσει

or (more classically) κατάπἐπαυται: but he has taken up into the main proposition

the κατἐπαυσιν (rested), which properly belongs (according to Genesis 2:2) to

the clause of comparison: whosoever has entered God’s rest, of him the

κατέπαυσεν ……ἀπὸ ….τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ  - katepausen…..apo….ton ergon

autourested….from….his work -  holds good in the same manner as

of God.  And, further, it is to be observed that the Greek aorist may

sometimes be put for the present, “to express an action completely

determined, every doubt as to its truth and unalterableness being removed”

(Matthiae, ‘Greek  Grammar,’ § 506). In this instance the idea might be — he

that has entered into God’s rest rested, when he so entered, from all his

works, etc. On the whole, it appears that specific reference to Christ is not

apparent from the immediate context, or required by the mere language

used. Still, in consideration of the general argument, we may take the

writer to have meant his readers to understand that it was Christ who had

so entered the rest of God, so as to lead God’s people into it. That this is

so appears from v. 14, Ἔχοντες οὖν ἀρχιερέα μέγαν διεληλυθότα τοὺς

οὐρανούς Echontes oun archierea megan dielaeluthota tous ouranous

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens –

which seems to require that preceding link of thought.  Among man’s deepest

feelings is A LONGING FOR REST!   Haply in the freshness

and ardor of early life not deeply felt, it recurs from time to time, and

grows stronger with advancing years. Nothing in life fully satisfies this

longing. (God made it this way!  “…..He hath set the world in their

heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the

beginning to the end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 – CY – 2014)  Labors, distresses,

disappointments, anxieties, never allow the desired repose. Few there are

whose hearts have not sometimes echoed the psalmist’s words, “Oh that I had

wings like a dove! For then would I flee away, and be at rest!” (Psalm 55:6)

Many since Job have felt something of his longing to be where “the wicked

cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” (Job 3:17)  Is there to

be no satisfaction ever of this deep human craving? Holy Scripture

meets it as it meets all others. It spoke of a rest of God above creation

from the beginning of time; it intimated man’s part and interest in it by the

weekly sabbath which he was to keep with God. But this was, after all, but

a symbol and earnest of something unattained. At length a fuller realization

of the longed-for rest was held out to the chosen people, and the Promised

Land was pictured beforehand in the colors of an earthly Paradise.

Forfeited, when first offered, through the people’s unworthiness

(representing by an historical parable the bar to man’s entrance into the

eternal rest), it was attained at last. BUT THE TRUE REST STILL

CAME NOT!   Canaan, like the sabbath, proved but a symbol of something

unattained. Yet the old longing for rest went on, and inspired men went on

proclaiming it as attainable and still to come. Fulfilled in Christ are:


  • the irrepressible craving,
  • the suggestive symbols,
  • the prophetic anticipations.


He, when He had passed with us through this earthly scene of labor, entered,

with our nature, into that eternal rest of God, to prepare a place for us, having by

HIS ATONEMENT removed the bar to human entrance. Through our faith in

Him we are assured that our deep-seated craving for satisfaction unattained

as yet, which we express by the term rest, is a true inward prophecy, and

that, though we find it not here, we may through Him, if we are faithful,

confidently EXPECT IT THERE, where “beyond these voices there is peace.”


There now follows (vs. 11-14) a renewal of the warning of ch.3:7-4:1, urged

now with increased force in view of the danger of slighting such


after which (v. 14, etc.) come words of encouragement, based on the view,

now a second time arrived at, of Christ being our great High Priest.   And

thus the exposition of His priesthood, which follows in ch. 5, is led up to.


11 “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after

the same example of unbelief.”  Let us therefore do our diligence (σπουδάσωμεν

spoudasomen -  so translated in Authorized Version. (II Timothy 4:9, 21) to enter

nto that rest, lest any one fall after the same example of disobedience (ἀπειθεὶας

apeitheias disobedience; stubbornness - not ἀπιστίαν apistianwhich means

unbelief – as in ch. 3:19). It is a question, though not at all affecting the general

sense of the passage, whether ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ – en to tis

hupodeigmati pesaefall under the same example - should not be translated

“fall into the same example.”  Πἰπτεν ἐν piptein en - has undoubtedly the

sense of “to fall into,” and is frequently   so used in the Septuagint, and the

subordinate position of πέσῃ in the sentence — between ὑποδείγματι and

τῆς ἀπειθείας is against its being used absolutely as the emphatic word.

If so, the meaning will be “fall into the same exemplar of disobedience,”

 i.e. the kind of disobedience of which that of the Israelites was a sample.

This interpretation of the phrase, is also that of the Vulgate.   Most modern

commentators take πέσῃ absolutely, as in Romans 11:11,  and ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις

ὑποδείγματι as meaning, “so as to present the same (i.e. a like) example of

disobedience,” the ἐν, according to Delitzsch, being the ἐν of state or condition.

The warning is next enforced by a vivid representation of the penetrating and

resistless power of the “Word of God.” The question arises whether “the Word

of God” is here to be understood in John’s sense of the Hypostatic Word,

i.e. the Second Person of the holy Trinity, who became incarnate in Christ.

It is so understood by the Fathers generally; and the fact of this Epistle

being tinged generally with the thought and terminology of Philo (whoso

use of the word λόγος, derived from the Platonic philosophy in

combination with Jewish theology, seems to anticipate in some degree,

however vaguely, the doctrine of John) gives some countenance to the

view. But against it are the following considerations:


(1) Christ is not elsewhere in this Epistle designated as “the Word” but as

“the SON. His eternal relation to the Father, though otherwise plainly

intimated, is not expressed by this term, as it was by John.


(2) The description of the Word, as sharper than any two-edged sword”

(v. 12), is not suitable to the Hypostatic Word Himself, but rather to the

utterance of His power. Thus in Revelation 1:16, the Son of man, and in

Revelation 19:15, He whose name is called the Word of God, has a

sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of his mouth.” The sword is not

Himself, but that which “came forth out of His mouth.” Compare saiah 11:4,

He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of

His lips shall He slay the wicked;” compare also Ephesians 6:17, “The sword

of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Hence, notwithstanding the

prevailing view of the Fathers, it seems best to understand the term here as

meaning generally the Divine utterance, without definite reference to the

Hypostatic Word. It was the Word of God, in this sense, that debarred the

ancient Israelites from their rest, and doomed them in the wilderness; it is

the same Word which still more, as being uttered in the Son, is so

searching and resistless now. True, it is through the Hypostatic Word that

the Godhead has ever operated, of old as well as now, being GOD’S

ETERNAL UTTERANCE O HIMSELF:   the only question is whether

this truth is here intended to be expressed, or, in other words, whether

λόγος has here the personal sense in which John uses the term. It is possible

that the writer passes in thought to a personal sense in the ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ -

enopion autouin His sight - of  v. 13, where αὐτοῦ may refer to λόγος.

preceding, rather than to τοῦ θεοῦ (of God – v. 14).   But certainly at the

beginning of the passage this specific sense does not seem to be suggested

either by the context or the language used.



The Gospel Rest (vs. 1-11)


In this passage the writer explains what is to be understood by the rest to

which God had invited His ancient people, and urges the Hebrews of his

own day to strive to attain it as the most Divine of all blessings.


  • THE REST OF GOD. “His rest” (v. 1); “my rest” (vs. 3, 5). Rest

belongs essentially to God, for He is all-perfect and self-harmonious. Being

infinite in purity and love, in knowledge and power, He is the God of peace,

and dwells in undisturbed repose. The rest of God is mirrored in the

institution of the sabbath (v. 4), which commemorates His satisfaction at

the close of His world-making, when He saw thatH works “answered His

great idea,” and were very good.” God’s own sabbath rest is the

substratum and basis of all peace and rest — the pledge of an ultimate and

satisfactory purpose in creation.


  • THE REST OF GOD PROMISED TO MAN. This “promise” (v. 1)

is the result of God’s fatherly love. For man, although he has fallen from

his rest, is still the child of God, beloved in spite of his sad apostasy, and

pitied on account of his weary moiling in the pursuits of sin. The sabbath

instituted at the creation was not this rest (vs. 3-5), but only a sign and

seal of it. Neither did the possession of the promised land involve the

realization of the promised rest (vs. 6-9); for Israel had never for any

time a restful life in Canaan, and King David, nearly five hundred years

after the Hebrew occupation, speaks of entrance into God’s rest as a

blessing which was still future (Vs. 7-8). However, the settlement of

Israel in the land flowing with milk and honey was an adumbration of the

gospel rest. And thus God Himself said of Zion, “This is my rest for ever.”

            (Psalm 132:14)



Joshua of our confession. He was indeed the Hope of the Jewish Church

also in the time of the first Joshua, whether the people realized Him to be

such or not. If we follow Him as our “Leader and Commander,” our hearts,

even in this weary, changeful world, will enter into true spiritual rest (v.3).

Christ brings us rest from guilt, rest from self-righteous striving, rest

from wants, rest from fears, rest amidst life’s burdens. In His “obedience

unto death” He labored and was heavy laden that He might give us rest. If

we stay our minds on Him, we shall be “kept in perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3),

if we trust in Him, we shall learn to rejoice that “the lines are fallen unto us

 in pleasant places, and that we have a goodly heritage.  (Psalm 16:6)



God has provided for us even in this world perfect rest in Christ, the

limitation of our nature prevents us meanwhile from fully enjoying it; and

our besetting sins may continue until the end to disturb our tranquility. But

in the heavenly world the saints shall be set free forever from sin and

temptation, from anxiety and sorrow. They shall enter there into the perfect

sabbath-rest of God, and shall dwell in it throughout eternity (v. 9). His

love shall abide upon His people, and their perfected love to Him shall

spring up within them unto everlasting life.


  • In conclusion, if we would acquire and possess this inheritance, we must:


Ø      Cherish godly “fear” (v. 1).

Ø      Cultivate faith in Christ (v. 3).

Ø      Be “united by faith with them that hear” (v. 2) — the Calebs and

the Joshuas.

Ø      “Give diligence to enter into” the eternal rest (v. 11) by

“following the Lord fully.”


12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful (or, effectual;  compare

Philemon 1:6; I Corinthians 16:9), 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.”

Observe how the predicates form a climax. The Word of God is, first, living,

instinct with the life of the living God who utters it, itself a living power

(compare λόγια ζῶντα – logia zontalively; living oracles - Acts 7:38); then,

not only so, but also operative, effective of its purpose; then, in this its operation,

more keenly cutting than any sword; cutting so as to perpetrate through and

through — through the whole inner being of man to its inmost depths; then,

in doing so, discerning and opening to judgment all the secrets of his

consciousness. This description of the power of the Word of God is given as

a reason for the warning, σπουδάσωμεν – etc., Let us give diligence, etc.; for,

 if we slight the Word of God, we can have no escape from its irresistible

operation; we shall be thoroughly exposed and inevitably judged. The true

reading of the part of the sentence, “of soul and spirit,” etc., ψυχῆς καὶ

πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν psuchaes kai pneumatos, harmon te

kai muelonof soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow - , the τε (both)

of the Textus Receptus after ψυχῆς (soul) being ill supported. The second τε,

after ἁρμῶν (joints), is therefore most naturally taken, and so as to give the

best sense, in the sense of “both,” not “and;” i.e. the second clause is not to be

taken as denoting a further dividing — of the bodily parts as well as of the

soul and spirit, but as expressing, by recurrence to the figure of a sword, the

thoroughness of the division of soul and spirit. Further, the division spoken

of is surely not of the soul from the spirit, as some have taken it. Delitzsch, e.g.,

explains to this effect — that in fallen man his πνεῦμα (spirit), which proceeded

from God and carries in itself the Divine image, has become, “as it were,

extinguished;” that “through the operation of grace man recalls to mind his own

true nature, though shattered by sin;” “that heavenly nature of man reappears

when Christ is formed in him;” and thus the Word of God “marks out and

separates” the πνεῦμα in him from the ψυχῆ (soul) in which it had been, “as it

were, extinguished.” Then, taking the clause, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν (joints and

marrow), to express a further process of dissection, he explains by saying that

the Word of God “exhibits to man the fact that ungodly powers are working

also in his bodily frame, which has now in every joint and chord and marrow

become the seat of sin and death, and so “goes on to scrutinize” his bodily

as well as his spiritual part,” and “lays bare before the eyes of God and

before his own the whole man thus described.” But the idea of the

separation, in the above sense, of the πνεῦμα from the ψυχῆ, even if

tenable, is certainly far-fetched, and that of the corporeal dissection

supposed is hardly intelligible. Further, the “dividing” of the bodily parts

spoken of in the text (whether an illustration or a further process) does not

suggest the separation of one part from another, since a sword does not

divide the joints or the limbs (whichever be meant by apathy) from the

marrow, though it may penetrate both. We may explain thus: It is well

known that Paul divides man’s complex nature into body, soul, and

spirit — σῶµα, ψυχῆ, πνεῦμα  - soma, psuchae, pneuma (I Thessalonians 5:23).

His bodily organization (σῶµα) is not apparently here under consideration,

except in regard to the figure of the sword; the ψυχῆ is his animal life or soul,

the seat (so to speak) of his sensations, and of his natural affections and

desires; his πνεῦμα is the more Divine part of his nature, in virtue of

which he has a conscience, aspires after holiness, apprehends spiritual

mysteries, holds communion with God, and is influenced by the Divine

Spirit. The idea, then, is that, as a very keen sword not only cuts through

the joints dividing bone from bone, but also through the bones themselves

into the marrow within them, so the Word of God penetrates and discloses

not,, . only. the ψυχῆ but the πνεῦμα too, “piercing through soul and

spirit, yea [with reference to the illustration used] through both joints [or,

‘limbs’] and marrow.” Ebrard, taking ἁρμῶν in the sense of “limbs” (a

sense in which the word is used, though that of “joints” is its proper and

more usual one), regards these and the “marrow” as corresponding

respectively to the ψυχῆ and the πνεῦμα: the ψυχῆ being understood as

“something lying deep in man, the πνεῦμα lying still deeper.” Thus as a

very trenchant sword cuts through, not only the limbs, but also the marrow

within them, so the Word of God penetrates, not only that part of human

consciousness which is expressed by ψυχῆ, but also that deeper and more

inward part which is expressed by πνεῦμα. But the general sense of the

passage is plain enough without our supposing this strict analogy to have

been intended. Expositors, in their analysis of the meaning of passages,

may often detect more than the author thought of. On κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων -

kritikos enthumaeseon - a discerner of; judge of in-feelings, of sentiments),

compare I Corinthians 14:24-25, where the effects of the Word of God,

brought to bear through the gift of prophecy on one without the gift entering

into a congregation of prophesying Christians, are thus described: he is

convinced of all, he is judged; [ἀνακρίνεται anakrinetai - examined, scrutinized,’]

of all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so falling down on his face

he will worship God, and report that God is in you [or, ‘among you’] of a truth.”

So searching and judicial is the power of the Word of God:

·         that it reaches and discloses the inmost depths of a man’s consciousness

·         discloses them to himself, and, though he should resist, leaves him:

Ø      without escape,

Ø      exposed and

Ø       judged.



Characteristics of the Sacred Scriptures (v. 12)


“For the Word of God is quick and powerful,” etc. We take the Word of

God” here as meaning the sacred Scriptures, and the text as presenting to

our notice several characteristics of them.


  • THE VITALITY OF GOD’S WORD. “The Word of God is quick,” or,

living.” Sometimes the written Word is spoken of as a “dead letter;” but

with at least equal propriety it may be spoken of as a “living Word.” “The

Word of God, which liveth and abideth. For all flesh is as grass,” etc.

(I Peter 1:23-25). We mention three evidences of the vitality of the Word

of God.


Ø      Its continued and unimpaired existence notwithstanding innumerable,

persistent, and powerful assaults. If these writings had not been instinct

with a Divine life they would have been destroyed long ago..


Ø      Its adaptation to all ages and all peoples. This book is as true and living

for us today as it was for the men of the second century of our era; it is

as applicable to the European as to the Asiatic.


Ø      Its inexhaustible interest. Like God’s book of nature, it is endless in its

significance and undiminishing in its attractiveness. For nearly twenty

centuries men have thought and written upon that one Book, and if for

twenty more centuries men so write, yet will there still remain much

that calls for fresh examination and fuller inquiry; new knowledge to be

won, old truths to be better and more fully understood. The books of

men have their day, and then grow obsolete. God’s Word is like Himself,

the same yesterday, and today, and forever.’  (ch. 13:8)  Time passes

over it, but it ages not. Its power is as fresh as if God spake it

but yesterday.


  • THE ENERGY OF GOD’S WORD. “Quick, and powerful,” or active,

or energizing. This power is seen:


Ø      In the conviction of men of sin. “Is not my Word like a hammer that

breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)  Its exhibition of infinite

mercy has melted many a stubborn soul into genuine penitence.


Ø      In the conversion of sinners. “The Law of the Lord is perfect,

converting the soul.”  (Psalm 19:7)  It is the instrument of spiritual

regeneration. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of

incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for

ever.”  (I Peter 1:23)


Ø      In the correction of faults and errors. “Every Scripture inspired of

God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,” etc.

                  (II Timothy 3:16)


Ø      In the consolation of the mourner. “Whatsoever things were written

aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and

through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.”(Romans 15:4)

 “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and comfort,

and consolation.” (I Corinthians 14:3)  “Comfort one another with

 these words.”  (I Thessalonians 4:18)


Ø      In the sanctification of the believer. Sanctify them in the truth: thy

Word is truth.” (John 17:17) “Ye are clean through the Word which

I have spoken unto you.” (Ibid. ch. 15:3)  “Sanctify and cleanse it

with the washing of water by the Word.”  (Ephesians 5:26) “Ye have

purified your souls in obeying the truth.”  (I Peter 1:22)


  • THE PENETRATION OF GOD’S WORD. “And sharper than any

two-edged sword,” etc. The Word of God is frequently compared to a

sword. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians

6:17)  And to a two-edged sword. “Out of his mouth went a sharp

 two-edged sword.”  (Revelation 1:16)  “As it is from the mouth that

man’s word proceeds; so this sword, not wielded in the hand, but

proceeding from the mouth of the Son of God, is His Word

(compare Isaiah 49:2).” Here are two suggestions concerning the

penetration of God’s Word.


Ø      It searches the whole of man’s nature. The “soul,” i.e. man’s animal

soul; “spirit,” i.e. man’s religious spirit. By the former he is related to the

brute creation; by the latter he is related to angels and to God Himself,

who is the “Father of spirits.” The Word enters the heart and makes an

impression there; it pierces through even to the spirit, and works mightily

there. It divides “both joints and marrow;” it investigates the most

interior and hidden parts of man’s being.


Ø      It searches the whole of man’s nature most rigorously. “Even to the

dividing of soul and spirit;” not dividing the soul from the spirit, but

dividing the soul itself and the spirit itself. This Word is not as an

ordinary sword, but is “sharper than any two-edged sword;” and it

does not as an ordinary sword cut to the bone, but through the bones

and through the innermost marrow. So thoroughly and rigorously

does the Word of God search man’s moral nature.


  • THE DISCRIMINATION OF GOD’S WORD. And is a discerner of

the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It exercises a critical and separating

power upon the:


Ø      thoughts and ideas,

Ø      opinions and principles, of the heart.


And it discovers to men the true moral character of their thoughts and

intents, their opinions and principles. The Word of God frequently reveals

man to himself. The Bible:


Ø      exposes the very innermost recesses of human nature;

Ø      sets a light where no other hand ever placed a candle;

Ø      lights up the pathways of our most secret life and thought;


and we begin to feel that the book we must shut up when we are going

to do evil is God’s Book. This is the great hold, the sovereign mastery,

which the Book of God has over the ages — that it knows us; that it

gives articulation to our dumb reproaches; that it puts into the best words

the things we reap against ourselves and cannot fully explain. Esaias

knows us; Jeremiah has analyzed and dissected and anatomized us.

If any man would know the human heart, he must read the human

heart in God’s Book.”


“The sacred page

With calm attention scan! If on thy soul,

As thou dost read, a ray of purer light

Break in — oh, cheek it not; give it full scope!

Admitted, it will break the clouds which long

Have dimmed thy sight, and lead thee, till at last,

Convictions, like the sun’s meridian beams,

Illuminate thy mind.”

                                                    (Samuel Hayes.)


(I highly recommend Amos 8 – The Blank Bible by Henry Rogers – this

website – CY – 2014)



Characteristics of the Word of God (v. 12)


What is the connection with the context? Is it not this that the Word of

God, living and abiding forever (I Peter 1:23), stands in its constant

living relation to every generation of men? So far as we are essentially in

the position of that generation which came out of Egypt, so far as we have

Divine promises before us the conditions of which we may neglect, so far

are we the objects of the same Word of God. Essentially the same Divine

visitation, judicial visitation, comes on all who fail to show that trust which

is their duty. The same things must happen to all who will not believe what

is true and trust what is trustworthy. And yet what is here said of the Word

of God only takes a threatening aspect if we choose to have it so. The

Word of God has a DOUBLE FUNCTION.


1.      It may penetrate, physician-like, to heal, to purify, to illuminate

the depths and darknesses of our being, or,

2.      it may penetrate to furnish the irresistible evidence for our



It is sufficient, then, that we look at the characteristics of God’s Word in

themselves. What they may become in action it is for us to decide.


  • THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING. Every word concerning truth and

duty, every word of promise, comfort, revelation of the unseen, is like a

living being sent out into the world, going to and fro in the earth, so that

none of us knows when, with all its fullness of life, it may take hold of us.

“Moses,” says Stephen in his great discourse, “received the lively oracles

(λόγια ζῶντα – logia zontaoracles living) to give to us.”  (Acts 7:38) 

It is well that we should bear in mind how the written Scriptures, though

an invaluable help, are not an absolute necessity. Apart from the living

Spirit of God which fills them with life, they would be, perhaps, the least

comprehensible, the most perplexing, of antique writings. Nor must we

be forgetful of that Divine Logos spoken of at the beginning of John’s

Gospel. In that Logos was life — life which was the light of men.

The Word of God finding its highest expression, the expression of

what would otherwise be ineffable in a manifested human life;

human, yet Divine; Divine, yet human.


  • THE WORD OF GOD IS POWERFUL. Powerful, but powerful in a

peculiar way. Energetic, shall we say? Leaven — leavening the whole

lump, undermining cherished principles of worldly wisdom, falsehoods,

prejudices, superstitions, and putting in their place the Christian — the true

and the rational. Note the expression of Paul in II Corinthians 4:12,

where he speaks of life energizing in us.


  • THE WORD OF GOD IS PENETRATING. This would seem to be

the characteristic most to be borne in mind, considering how language is

multiplied and varied to declare it. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of

God. Some plain word of God with the Spirit’s force behind it is a sword,

sharper than any two-edged sword; and yet, unlike the carnal weapon, it is

not for killing, nor for mischief. Here is the penetrating power which

reveals all secrets, opens out all mysteries. It hacks its way in and in till it is

face to face with the real man. Every man has, as it were, a holy of holies

with respect to others. They cannot get behind the veil. But God is never

anywhere else in relation to us. His ways are past finding out by us. But all

our ways in every winding are known to Him. And all this deep, infallible

searching is for our good.



The Power of the Divine Word (vs. 12-13)


The writer urges here that if the Word of God condemned the unbelieving

Jews in the Sinaitic desert, it will judge and condemn us also, should we

prove unfaithful. The original reference is, of course, not to the written

Word; but, in applying the passage to ourselves, we can think only of the

promises and warnings of Holy Scripture.



representation is very vivid and impressive. The Word is, as it were, a

magistrate; it judges actions, sifts motives, pronounces sentences. As

such it is:


Ø      Living. It is “the breath of His lips” — God-breathed; and so it is 

never “a dead letter,” but always quick with spiritual life, and ready

to quicken.  What Luther said of Paul’s writings is true of all Scripture:

its words “are not dead words; they are living creatures, and have

hands and feet.”


Ø      Energetic. The actual power of the Word is as great as the authority

which it claims. It is, indeed, the supreme power among men. In the

moral sphere it dominates the thought of the world. To the individual

soul it is like “a fire “and “a hammer.” It is sharper than any

two-edged sword” — two-edged, because it both punishes as a

sword and heals as a surgeon’s knife.


Ø      Heart-dissecting. The Word pierces into the deepest recesses of man’s

being. It pricks men in their hearts. It parts “soul and spirit,” “joints

and marrow;” i.e. it separates the animal soul from the angel-spirit in

human nature. It gives sensibility and power to the heavenward side

of our being; and enables us to distinguish what in us is carnal and

must be subdued. It marks off to the believer’s consciousness “the

works of the flesh” from “the fruit of the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:19-23)


Ø      All-discerning. The sacred writers evince a profounder knowledge of

human nature than even Shakespeare or Goethe. God’s Word is the

touchstone of character. Rather it is an eye which detects the true

spiritual condition of every one upon whom it gazes. That awful

eye never closes. It reads the most secret thoughts and desires of the

soul, and pronounces judgment upon the impenitent for doom.

Even the manner in which a man treats the promises and threatenings

of the Bible shows what that man is.


“Eye of God’s Word! whene’er we turn,

    Ever upon us! Thy keen gaze

Can all the depths of sin discern,

   Unravel every bosom’s maze.


Who that has felt thy glance of dread

    Thrill through his heart’s remotest cells,

About his path, about his bed,

   Can doubt what spirit in thee dwells?”



  • THE SECRET OF ITS POWER. (v. 13.) Holy Scripture is thus

energetic and efficacious because it is the Word of the Omniscient. It

derives from Him “who knows what is in man”  (John 2:25) its subtle

insight into character, and its deep hold upon the world’s life. The

all-seeing Judge, “with whom we have to do,” has invested His Word

with its marvelous magisterial power. As the teachings of Scripture are

an exact transcript of the nature and will of God, even the bare Word

itself exercises as a Book transcendent moral influence over men. But,

when accompanied with the supernatural energy of the Holy Spirit,

upon which it depends for its efficacy as a means of grace, Holy Scripture

becomes the very omnipotence of THE OMNIPOTENT, to:


Ø      arouse,

Ø      convict, and

Ø      condemn,


 as well as to:


Ø      comfort,

Ø      sanctify, and

Ø      save.




Ø      Let ministers preach the Word. The faithful exhibition of the truth

will lay bare the hearts of those who hear, and sometimes so thoroughly

that individuals will conclude that their experiences must have been

reported beforehand to the preacher. And without SOLID

SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION no Church will receive blessing or



Ø      Let ALL HEARERS of the gospel tremble at the Word.Every human

heart should submit with holy awe to its inspection, and allow its teachings



o       determine belief,

o       mold character, and

o       control conduct.


13 “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things

are naked and opened (laid open) unto the eyes of Him with whom we have

to do.”   The main difficulty in this verse is as to the meaning of the word

τετραχηλισμένα tetrachaelismena (translated “laid open”). The verb

τραχηλιζω trachaelizo (which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament or

Septuagint, but is, with its compound ἐκτραχηλιζω - ektrachaelizo, not

uncommon in Philo and Josephus) has in classical Greek the sense of “seizing

by the throat,” or “bending back the neck,” as in wrestling. And this, with the

further idea of “overthrowing” or “laying prostrate,” is the prevailing sense

in Philo, from whom Wetstein quotes many passages in illustration. Taking, then,

with most modern commentators, the sense of bending back the neck as the

primary one, we have only to consider what secondary meaning is here to

be attached to it. Some take the idea to be that of being thrown on the

ground supine, so as to be thoroughly exposed to view.  See an

allusion to the Roman custom of exposing criminals “reducto capite,”

retortis cervieibus,” so that all might see their faces (see Suetonius,

Vitel.,’ 17; Pliny, ‘Panegyr.,’ 34. 3). There is, however, no other known

instance of the Greek verb being used with this reference, which there

seems to be no necessity for assuming. The idea may be simply the general

one expressed  “that whatever shamefaced creature bows its head, and

would fain withdraw and cloak itself from the eyes of God, has indeed

the throat, as it were, bent back before those eyes, with no possibility

of escape, exposed and naked to their view.” Many of the

ancients (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ecumenius, Theophylact) saw in

τετραχηλισμένα a reference to the treatment of sacrificial victims, as

being smitten on the neck or hung by the neck for the purpose of being

flayed kern the neck downwards, or cut open thence, so as to expose rite

entrails to view. But no instance is known of such use of the word

τραχηλιζω, the idea of which may have been suggested to commentators

by the figure of the sword in the verse preceding; which figure, however,

there is no reason to suppose continued here, the idea of which is

simply COMPLETE EXPOSURE  introduced by οὐκἀφανὴς ouk

……aphanaesneither…..not manifest, not apparent.   The ancients take

the concluding expression, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖνλόγος – pros hon haemin ho logos

as meaning “to whom our account must be given,” i.e. to whom we are

responsible as our judge” — in the sense of λόγον δίδναι – logon didonai

give account. The Authorized Version seems better to give

the general idea of relation by the apt phrase, with whom we have to do.”

Of course, λόγος (account) here has no reference to the Word of God, the

recurrence of the word, in a subordinate sense, being merely accidental.



The Omniscience of God (v. 13)


“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight”



creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and open

opened unto the eyes of Him with who we have to do.”   All created

things, high and low, great and small, visible and invisible, are

comprehended in this word “creature.” “His understanding is infinite.”

(Psalm 147:5)  Nothing is too great for His comprehension; nothing too

small for His notice (Ibid. 1:11); nothing too hidden for His penetration

(Ibid. ch. 139:11-12).



KNOWLEDGE. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes

of Him,”


Ø      He sees all things as they really are. All things are naked unto” His

eyes. He beholds them without any covering or disguise. Things and

persons are cloaked, concealed, and made to appear other than they are

amongst men; but none of these things can impose upon Him.


Ø      He sees all things thoroughly, completely. All things are naked and

opened unto,” -  Revised Version, “laid open before the eyes,” etc. The

word rendered “opened” is a difficult one. Alford adopts the meaning “to

lay prostrate.” He says, “This is the simplest and most frequent sense in

the classical writers. I regard the word as signifying entire prostration and

subjugation under the eye of God; not only naked, stripped of all covering

and concealment, but also laid prostrate in their exposure before His eye.”

He translates, “lying open unto.” Ebrard adopts the interpretation, “to bend

any one’s neck backwards, and thereby to lay bare the throat; hence in

general, to lay bare.” Others interpret it to lay open, as a body, by an

anatomist, or as an animal by a sacrificing priest. But whatever may be the

exact figure, the meaning conveyed by the figure is quite clear, viz. that

God knows all things thoroughly (compare Job 31:4; 34:21; Psalm 56:8;

139:1-5; Proverbs 5:21; 15:11; Jeremiah 17:10).



KNOWLEDGE TO MAN. He is the God “with whom we have to do.”

Not “unto whom we must render our account.” The clause expresses a

more comprehensive relation than that. It expresses “our whole concern

and relation with God.” The Divine omniscience has very important

practical bearings upon us.


Ø      As an effectual rebuke to the pride which springs from knowledge or

from intellectual attainments. Compared with the knowledge of

Him with whom we have to do,” what does the most intelligent man

know? “We are but of yesterday, and know nothing.”  (Job 8:9)


Ø      As a check upon sin, whether in thought and feeling, or in word and

action. (See Job 34:21-22; Psalm 90:8; Ecclesiastes 12:14.)


Ø      As an encouragement to trust in Him. (See II Chronicles 16:9;

Matthew 6:32; 10:29-31.)


Ø      As a great consolation when misinterpreted or slandered.

(See Job 16:19; 23:10; Psalm 37:5-6.)


Ø      As a great comfort and support in affliction and trial. (See Psalm

78:39; 103:13-14.)


Ø      As a guarantee of the triumph of his cause. His plans were formed with

a full knowledge of every possible obstacle or opposition; and they

anticipate and provide for the utilization of such opposition for their own

furtherance and realization.


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.”

To the interposed minatory warning of the three preceding

verses now succeeds encouragement, based on the view, which has been

now a second time led up to, of Christ being our great High Priest, who

can both sympathize and succor. The passage answers closely in thought to

the conclusion of ch. 2, and might naturally have followed there; but

that, before taking up the subject of Christ’s priesthood, the writer had

another line of thought to pursue, leading up (as has been explained) to the

same conclusion. The οὖν ounthen - at the beginning of v. 14 either connects

κρατῶμεν kratomen -  let us hold fast - with the verses immediately preceding

in the sense, “The Word of God being so searching and resistless, let us therefore

hold fast,” etc., — in which case the participial clause Ἔχοντες echontes

seeing; having, etc., is a confirmation of this exhortation; or is connected logically

with the participial clause as a resumption of the whole preceding

argument. Certainly the idea of the participial clause is the prominent one

in the writer’s mind, what follows being an expansion of it. And the

position of οὖν suggests this connection. It is to be observed that, after the

manner of the Epistle, this concluding exhortation serves also as a

transition to the subject of the following chapters, and anticipates in some

degree what is to be set forth, though all the expressions used have some

ground in what has gone before. Having then a great High Priest who

hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold

fast our confession. The rendering of διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς

dielaeluthota tous ouranousOne having passed through the heavens –

in the Authorized Version (“is passed into the heavens”) is evidently wrong.

The idea is that Christ has passed through the intermediate heavens to the

Immediate presence of God — to the sphere of the eternal σαββατισμὸς

sabbatismos (rest).  In his use of the plural, τοὺς οὐρανούς  (the heavens),

the writer may have had in his mind the Jewish view of an ascending series

of created heavens. Clemens Alexandrinus, e.g. speaks of seven heavens.

Compare “the heaven and the heaven of heavens” (Deuteronomy 10:14;

II Chronicles 6:18; Nehemiah 9:6), and “who hast set thy glory above the heavens”

(Psalm 8:1), also “the third heaven,” into which Paul was rapt (II Corinthians 12:2).

Compare  also Ephesians 4:10, ὁ ἀναβὰς ὑπεράνω πάντων τῶν οὐρανῶν,

ἵνα πληρώσῃ τὰ πάνταho anabas huperano panton ton ouranon hina plaerosae

ta pantathe One that ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all

things.   The conception of the phrase is that, whatever spheres of created heavens

intervene between our earth and the eternal uncreated, beyond them to it Christ

 has gone, — into “heaven itself (αὐτὸν τὸν οὐρανόν auton ton ouranon

heaven itself; the same heaven);” “before the face of God” in the presence

of God for us (ch. 9:24).  From this expression, together with Ephesians 4:10

(above quoted), is rightly deduced the doctrine of Christ’s ubiquity even in

His human nature.  For, carrying that nature with Him and still retaining it,

He is spoken of as having passed to the region which admits no idea of

limitation, and so as to “fill all things.” The obvious bearing of this doctrine

on that of the presence in the Eucharist may be noted in passing. (It is to be

observed that “the heavens” in the plural is used (ch. 8:1) of the seat of the

Divine majesty itself to which Christ has gone. It is the word διεληλυθότα

(one having passed through) that determines the meaning here.) The designation,

“Jesus the Son of God,” draws attention first to the man Jesus who was known

by that name in the flesh, and secondly to the “more excellent name,” above

expatiated on (ch. 1:4), in virtue of which He “hath passed through the heavens.”

The conclusion follows that it is the human Jesus, with His humanity, who, being

also the Son of God, has so “passed through.” There may possibly (as some think)

be an intention of contrasting Him with Joshua (Ἰησοῦς – Jesus; Joshua - v. 8),

who won the entrance into the typical rest. But it is not necessary to suppose this;

vs. 8 and 14 are at too great a distance from each other to suggest a

connection of thought between them; and besides Ἰησοῦν (Jesus)  occurred

similarly at the end of ch. 3:1, before any mention of Joshua. The

epithet μέγαν megangreat - after ἀρχιερέα archiereachief priest;

high priest -  distinguishes Christ from all other high   priests (compare

ch.13:20, τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων τὸν μέγαν – ton poimena ton

probaton ton meganthat great shepherd of the sheep). The high priest of

the Law passed through the veil to the earthly symbol of the eternal glory;

the “great High Priest” has passed through the heavens to the eternal glory

itself. As to ὁμολογίας· - homologies – avowal; profession.   Compare

ch.3:1. In consideration of having such a High Priest, who, as is expressed in

what follows, can both sympathize and succor, the readers are exhorted to

“hold fast,” not only their inward faith, but their “confession” of it before

men. A besetting danger of the Hebrew Christians was that of shrinking

from a full and open confession under the influence of gainsaying or




A Summons to Steadfastness (v. 14)


“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, ……Jesus the Son of God,

let us hold fast our profession.”


  • THE DUTY TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. “Let us hold fast

our confession,” i.e. of the Christian faith.


Ø      Danger of renouncing this confession is implied. We have already

pointed out that these Hebrew Christians were in considerable peril in

this respect.  This danger arises:

o       from opposition from without; or

o       from subtle solicitation, which is more to be dreaded than

opposition; or

o       from negligence on our part.


Ø      Effort to retain this confession is enjoined. “Let us hold fast our

confession.” This includes:

o       perseverance in the Christian faith; a resolute cleaving to

Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

o       perseverance in the Christian fellowship; association with

Christian people; frequenting Christian assemblies.

o       perseverance in the Christian practice; the continued embodiment

of Christ’s precepts in the life and conduct. This demands effort;


      • watching,
      • praying,
      • believing,
      • working.



Hebrew Christians were encouraged to hold fast their confession because

they had in Jesus Christ a perfect High Priest. The preeminence of His

priesthood is adduced as a motive to their perseverance, and to ours.


Ø      He is pre-eminent in His office.   A great High Priest” - the

                       one archetypal High PriestONE ABOVE ALL!


Ø      He is pre-eminent in his access. “Who hath passed through the

heavens.” The Jewish high priest passed behind the veil into the

most holy place; but the great High Priest has passed through

the planetary heavens, the heavens of the fixed stars and the angels,

 unto the very presence and throne of God.  He is gone into the

dwelling-place in space of the absolute, finished, absolutely undisturbed

revelation of the Father.”  And He is there as our Representative, and

as our Forerunner. This implies the perfection of His work upon earth

(compare ch. 1:3; 9:12, 24-26).


Ø      He is pre-eminent in His Person. “Jesus the Son of God.” Jesus, the

gracious and sympathetic Savior of men. “The Son of God,” supreme in

dignity, authority, and power. Here, then, is a motive to strengthen us to

hold fast our confession.” Our great High Priest is perfect; He knows

our difficulties and temptations; He sympathizes with us; He succors us;

He is now in the presence of God on our behalf; “he ever liveth to make

intercession for us,Let His sympathy and help inspire us to fidelity and


A Summons to Steadfastness (v. 14)


“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, ……Jesus the Son of God,

let us hold fast our profession.”


  • THE DUTY TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. “Let us hold fast

our confession,” i.e. of the Christian faith.


Ø      Danger of renouncing this confession is implied. We have already

pointed out that these Hebrew Christians were in considerable peril in

this respect.  This danger arises:

o       from opposition from without; or

o       from subtle solicitation, which is more to be dreaded than

opposition; or

o       from negligence on our part.


Ø      Effort to retain this confession is enjoined. “Let us hold fast our

confession.” This includes:

o       perseverance in the Christian faith; a resolute cleaving to

Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

o       perseverance in the Christian fellowship; association with

Christian people; frequenting Christian assemblies.

o       perseverance in the Christian practice; the continued embodiment

of Christ’s precepts in the life and conduct. This demands effort;


      • watching,
      • praying,
      • believing,
      • working.



Hebrew Christians were encouraged to hold fast their confession because

they had in Jesus Christ a perfect High Priest. The preeminence of His

priesthood is adduced as a motive to their perseverance, and to ours.


Ø      He is pre-eminent in His office.   A great High Priest” - the

                       one archetypal High PriestONE ABOVE ALL!


Ø      He is pre-eminent in his access. “Who hath passed through the

heavens.” The Jewish high priest passed behind the veil into the

most holy place; but the great High Priest has passed through

the planetary heavens, the heavens of the fixed stars and the angels,

 unto the very presence and throne of God.  He is gone into the

dwelling-place in space of the absolute, finished, absolutely undisturbed

revelation of the Father.”  And He is there as our Representative, and

as our Forerunner. This implies the perfection of His work upon earth

(compare ch. 1:3; 9:12, 24-26).


Ø      He is pre-eminent in His Person. “Jesus the Son of God.” Jesus, the

gracious and sympathetic Savior of men. “The Son of God,” supreme in

dignity, authority, and power. Here, then, is a motive to strengthen us to

hold fast our confession.” Our great High Priest is perfect; He knows

our difficulties and temptations; He sympathizes with us; He succors us;

He is now in the presence of God on our behalf; “he ever liveth to make

intercession for us,Let His sympathy and help inspire us to fidelity and




Our Great High Priest Passed into the Heavens (v. 14)


  • THE COMPARISON IMPLIED Ch. 9. helps us here. There the writer

speaks of two tabernacles — the first outside the veil, the second within.

Into the second the high priest went alone once a year. There, away from

the sight of the people, before the ark of the covenant containing the tables

of our Law, he transacted solemn business with God on behalf of his

fellow-Israelites. And not only so, this high priest was acknowledged by

the whole people. They believed, or professed to believe, that he was a

necessary medium of communication between God and them. And so he

was for the time, and long continued so. The bulk of the Hebrew people at

the time this Epistle was written had a profound regard, though also a

superstitious and servile one, for the person of the high priest. There might

be in the regard very little of intelligence, and very doubtful advantage; but

still, there it was, a real acknowledgment, quite enough out of which to

make a striking illustration of Him who is the real great High Priest —

Jesus, the Son of God. He also has passed through and gone behind a veil,

the veil that separates the seen from the unseen. What a thought of the

unseen, that it is God’s true Holy of Holies! Doubtless there is a special

reference here to the day of ascension, when Jesus rose from the midst of

His disciples, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.



comparison — the parallel — was easy enough to these Hebrew Christians.

It referred them to traditions and a ritual with which they were familiar

from childhood. They saw high priests continually. But we know nothing

of a priest, an altar, a sacrifice. We do not hear the lowing of oxen and the

bleating of sheep whose lives are to be taken away in the acceptable

worship of God. We could not bring ourselves to think that such things

could be of any use. Not at all doubting that they once served a purpose,

we know that the purpose exists no longer. Believing that they were once

somehow necessary, that is all we can say. Our experience gives us nothing

whereby we may understand the necessity. Thus the question comes —

How are we, who have never had anything to do with such a priest as

Aaron, or any of his posterity, to get good out of this exhortation? What

sort of notion are we to represent to our minds when we are told to hold

fast our profession in a great High Priest passed into the heavens, when, as

a matter of experience, we have never had anything to do with priests at

all? It would be a great mistake to say that we are to trouble ourselves no

more about the priestly idea. Though we cannot make the forms of the old

Jewish priesthood a living thing to us, still we can surely do something to

get at the idea which lies behind all priesthood. We are often misled by

confounding priesthood with priestcraft. The indignation of every honest

heart cannot be too strong against the abomination of priestcraft. But why an

abomination? Just because it is the degradation of a good thing. Priesthood

is simply the office and function of the man who is set apart to act on

behalf of his fellow-men in their relations to God. And looking at what is to

be found in the Old Testament with respect to the priestly office, we find

there was no chance for priestcraft. The true priest had to be an honest,

patient man, faithful in little things, exact in minute observances, full of

self-denial, and constantly attentive to the requests of all the people. The

very Scriptures which exalt priesthood denounce priestcraft. Priesthood is

the means whereby men are governed and blessed spiritually; priestcraft the

means whereby they are spiritually crushed, and their consciences made

slaves to another man’s will. Priestcraft is only to be got rid of by giving

the true priesthood its full force. Allowing ourselves to drift into the idea

that priesthood is obsolete, we shall never get rid of priestcraft; since error

only dies out as truth is planted by its side, drawing away from the roots of

error all that nourished them. The priesthood in ancient Israel, with all its

mere outward rites, with all its defects and lapses, did a great service. It

prepared the way for the great High Priest of our acknowledgment. And,

after all, priesthood is only the name; it is the thing we have to look at.

Jesus is He who answers the questions no one on earth can answer; renders

the services no one on earth can render; we therefore call Him great THE

 GREAT HIGH PRIEST.   Pretenders may come in, and by their doings

make the name of priest hateful; but the work of the true Priest is none the

less real. And the exhortation is that we should avail ourselves of that work

to the very fullest extent. Then all the good things coming to us by nature

will be crowned by this best thing coming through grace. Men have helped us

according to their opportunity — loving, self-denying parents, skillful

instructors, watchful and wise-hearted friends, great men who have

revealed themselves in books, making us feel what a noble thing it is to be

partakers of human nature; and then Jesus of Nazareth comes in at last,

Priest of the most high God, abiding for ever, and undertaking to satisfy

our deepest wants out of the immeasurable fullness of God.


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.”  The power of sympathy (συμπαθῆσαι sumpathaesai

together emotion; to sympathize) of our great High Priest is not adduced to

distinguish Him from other high priests, but to express, in this respect, His

resemblance to them; community of nature and feeling with those for whom

He mediates being essential to the conception of a high priest (see v. 2). The

Sequence of thought is, “Let us hold fast our confession, not moved from it by

the thought of the superhuman greatness of this High Priest of ours, who hath

passed through the heavens; for He can still sympathize with our infirmities

(ἀσθενείαις astheneiais - infirmities), having undergone our trials.”Aσθενεία

astheneiainfirmity -  in the New Testament denotes both bodily infirmity, such

as disease (compare Matthew 8:17; Luke 5:15; John 5:5; 11:4; Acts 28:9;

I Timothy 5:23), and also the general weakness of human nature as opposed

to Divine δὺναµις  - dunamis - power, (compare Romans 8:26; 

II Corinthians 12:5, 9; 13:4). Paul seems to have had regard to ἀσθένεια

in a comprehensive sense — including chronic malady (his “thorn in the

flesh”), liability to calamities, “fear and trembling,” temptation to sin —

when he spoke (II Corinthians 12:5, 9) of glorying in his infirmities that

the power of Christ might rest upon him. With all human ἀσθενείαι, of

whatever kind, Christ can sympathize in virtue of His own human

experience: “Himself took our infirmities (ἀσθενείαις) and bare our

sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17); “Himself ἐσταυρώθη ἐξ ἀσθενείας

estaurothae ex astheneiasHe was crucified out of weakness - though

He now lives ἐκ δυνάµεως θεοῦ - ek dunameos Theou – by the power

of God. (II Corinthians 13:4). The latter part of the verse corresponds in

meaning with ch.2:18, but with further delineation of the temptation undergone

by Christ. The concluding χωρὶς ἁµαρτίας. choris hamartias  - without sin;

apart from sin (best taken in connection with καθ. ὁµοιότητα kath omoidtaeta -  

like as; according to likeness - which it immediately follows, rather than with

κατὰ πάντ kata pantain all; according to all) is not a categorical assertion

of Christ’s sinlessness, though it implies it, but an exclusion of the idea of sin

from-the likeness spoken of. His temptation was after the likeness of ours,

“apart from sin,” or “sin except.” For similar expressions, though not with

definite reference to temptation, compare ch. 9:28; 7:26. But how is the exception

of sin to be understood?  Is it that, though, like us, tempted, He, unlike us, resisted

temptation? Or is it that His sinless nature was incapable of being even solicited

by sin? Now, the verb πειραζω peirazotempt; examine; try - means sometimes

“to tempt to sin,” as Satan or our own lusts tempt us (compare I Corinthians 7:5;

I Thessalonians 3:5; James 1:13, etc.); and also “to prove.... to try,” “to test

aithfulness,” as in ch. 11:37, etc.; I Corinthians 10:13; in which sense, with

reference especially to afflictive trials, the noun πειρασµός peirasmos

adversity; temptation - is commonly used (compare Luke 8:13; 22:18; Acts 20:19;

Galatians 4:14; I Peter 4:12; James 1:12). That Christ was not only subjected to

πειρασµός in this latter sense, but was also directly assailed by the tempter to sin

(πειραζων), appears from the Gospel record. But here comes in a

difficulty. There can, we conceive, be no real temptation where there is no

liability to the sin suggested by temptation, still less where there is no

possibility of sinning. But can we imagine any such liability, or even

possibility, in the case of the Divine and Sinless One? If not, wherein did

the temptation consist? How could it be at all like ours, or one through His

own experience of which He can sympathize with us? It was for

maintaining, on the strength of such considerations, the theoretic

peccability of Christ, that Irving was expelled as heretical from the

Presbyterian communion. The question has undoubtedly its serious

difficulties in common with the whole subjeer of the Divine and human in

Christ. The following thoughts may, however, aid solution. That Christ, in

His human nature, partook of all the original affections of humanity —

hope, fear, desire, joy, grief, indignation, shrinking from suffering, and the

like — is apparent, not only from his life, but also from the fact that His

assumption of our humanity would have otherwise been incomplete. Such

affections are not in themselves sinful; they only are so when, under

temptation, any of them become inordinate, and serve as motives to

transgression of duty. He, in virtue of His Divine personality, could not

through them be seduced into sin; but it does not follow that He could not,

in His human nature, feel their power to seduce, or rather the power of the

tempter to seduce through them, and thus have personal experience of

man’s temptation. John says of one “ born of God” that he “doth not

commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is

born of God” (I John 3:9). He does not mean that the regenerate

Christian is not exposed to and does not feel, the power of temptation;

only that, so far forth as he lives in the new life from God, he is proof

against it; he gives no internal assent to the seduction of the tempter; and

so “that wicked one toucheth him not” (v. 18). What is thus said of one

“born of God” may be said much more, and without any qualification, of

the Son of God, without denying that He too experienced the power of

temptation, though altogether proof against it


4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may

obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.


Christ’s Sympathy and Help (vs. 14-16)


This passage is one of the great signposts of the Epistle. In chapters 1 and 2,

the writer has discussed the superiority of Christ as a King to angels; and in

chapters 3 and 4, His superiority as a Prophet to Moses. He now proceeds to

discourse more at length of His superiority as a Priest to Aaron.


  • A TWOFOLD STATEMENT OF DOCTRINE. This double statement

concerns the cardinal truth of the Savior’s priesthood.


Ø      Its outer aspect. (v. 14.) Fallen, sinful man needs a priest to act for him

before God, and the world has sought for one long and earnestly. The

Jewish religion embodied an elaborate priesthood; and its types have at

length been stereotyped under the Christian dispensation. Every believer

is now a priest unto God (Revelation 1:6); and Jesus Christ is the Arch-

Priest of the Church.  The author here encourages the Hebrew converts

to steadfastness, by reminding them of the reality and majesty of Christ’s

priesthood. He is “a great High Priest” — the Archetype and Antitype

of the Jewish pontiff. His majesty appears when we consider:


o       Where He is. He “hath passed through the heavens.” Aaron

went once a year through the blue veil into the sanctum

sanctorum of the tabernacle; but our High Priest, after

offering up Himself as an expiatory sacrifice in the

outer court of this world, has passed through the blue curtain

of the sky into the heaven of heaven. He sits officially at the

right hand of God, wearing both:


§         the priestly miter and

§         the kingly diadem.


o       Who He is. “JESUS, THE SON OF GOD!” His greatness is

personal, as well as official. He is a real man, bearing the human

name, Jesus; but He is at the same time the true God, the



Ø      Its inner aspect. (v. 15.) This verse opens up before us the secret

workings of the Redeemer’s heart. It speaks of His priestly sympathy.

Sympathy is a great power in human life. It bulks so largely that an

eminent Scottish thinker, Adam Smith, makes it the basis of his whole

system of morals. Now, says the apostle, the Savior’s unparalleled

greatness does not by any means render Him incapable of sympathy.

Although He has passed through the heavens, “heaven lies about us,”

and thus He is very near us.  Although He left the world two thousand

years ago, He is yet “with us always.” (Matthew 28:20)  Although He

is the Son of God, He has a human soul — a soul intensely human —

which underwent a complete curriculum of trial, and graduated to its

glory through suffering. Although He was “without sin,” His earthly

life was a life of constant temptation, as well as of constant and

culminating sorrow because of sin. So He is “touched with the feeling

 of our infirmities” — our infirmities of health, of temper, of devotion,

of resolution, of service. He knows experimentally the precise force of

every evil suggestion which may try us. As the Head of the Church,

He is its great Nerve-center; and he that toucheth any one of His people

toucheth the apple of His eye.”  (Zechariah 2:8)


  • A TWOFOLD ENFORCEMENT OF DUTY. The double exhortation

corresponds to the two aspects of the doctrine respectively. The apostle

exhorts to:


Ø      Steadfast confessions. (v. 14.) The early Hebrew Christians found it

very difficult openly to confess Christ; for their unbelieving countrymen

treated all who did so as renegades from Israel, and apostates from

Israel’s God. But fidelity to the truth was necessary then, and it is equally

necessary now. Every believer is bound PUBLICLY PROFESS

CHRIST!   He must do so for Christ’s sake, for his own sake, and for

the sake of his fellow men.


Ø      Constant supplication. (v. 16.) To the universe at large God’s throne

is a throne of majesty; to sinners, it is a throne of judgment; to believers,

the presence of Christ at God’s right hand makes it a “throne of grace.”

And the thought of our High Priest’s tender sympathy should fill us with

holy confidence to go daily and hourly into the Divine presence for the

supplies which we need. What a joy to know that we have a Friend at

court, and that He is our Sovereign’s Son! As often as we look up to His

open, loving face, we may use all “liberty of speech” in asking pardoning

mercy for the past and helping grace for the future.



The Christian’s Approach to the Throne of Grace (v. 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.”  Our text suggests the

following observations:


I. MAN’S GREAT NEED IS MERCY. “That we may receive mercy” is

our great requirement. This will be obvious if we reflect for a moment on

our position in relation to the government of God. Intelligent beings who

have maintained their integrity and their loyalty to God, and are fulfilling

His design concerning them, do not need mercy. Mercy implies demerit or

ill desert on the part of those to whom it is granted. It is the mode of the

Divine goodness to the unworthy and the evil. Because we are sinners we

require MERCY!   We have no claim to God’s favor; we do not merit the

blessings of His goodness; by sin we have forfeited our title to His favor,

and have deserved His wrath. Every sinner stands in need of forbearing

mercy. The sentence of death is upon all; all are under condemnation. Each

sinner stands in need of preventing mercy. Inclined to evil from nature and

habit, unless held back by preventing grace, he is continually falling into

sin. The sinner stands in need of forgiving mercy. If he obtain not this, HE

MUST PERISH! All our salvation may be said to FLOW FROM THE

MERCY OF GOD!  How great, then, is our need of mercy! Without it,

we are lost. Having it, we have salvation.


  • MAN HAS SEASONS OF SPECIAL NEED. “And find grace to help

in time of need.”


o       Grace to help while yet there is time.

o       Grace for timely help.


The meaning is, to find grace for seasonable or opportune help; and thus

suggesting the truth that there are seasons when man specially requires

the help of Divine grace. We are ever dependent upon the mercy of God;

but not infrequently we are pressed by temptations, or beset by danger,

or assailed by dark doubts, or standing in slippery places, and at such

times we specially need  THE MERCY AND GRACE OF GOD!


Ø      There are times of temptation to sin, when our moral weakness is

extreme, and our spiritual foes are persistent, and the tendency to sin

which is within us is roused into activity. In such seasons how pressing

is our need of succoring grace!


Ø      There are trials arising from worldly prosperity. Prosperity in temporal

affairs has occasioned spiritual injury to many. It brings with it

temptations to luxury, and to guilty conformity to the world, and to

spiritual sloth, and false security, and presumptuous self-reliance.

It is a season of special need.


Ø      There are trials arising from temporal adversity. In the hour of failure

and defeat many a good man has felt with Asaph, “Verily I have

cleansed my heart in vain” (Psalm 73:13),  With poverty there come,

sometimes, temptations to reproach God, or to despair of his goodness,

or to resort to unlawful or unworthy means to obtain temporal supplies.

Hence our need of grace.


Ø      There are trials arising from bodily afflictions. Sanctified sufferings are

a blessing; unsanctified, they are only an evil, and A VERY GREAT

EVIL.  If we rebel against the hand that afflicts us, we shall grow:

o       hard in heart,

o       bitter in temper,

o       impatient and distrustful,

and probably some one, like Job’s wife, will suggest to us that we

curse God, and die.”   (Job 2:9)  Here is a season of peculiar need.


Ø      Trials arising from the bereavements of friendship. When death comes

very near to us, it is accompanied with temptations to doubt the reality

of the life beyond, to question the wisdom and love of God, etc.


Ø      Trials of our own dying hour. Great is the mystery which surrounds

death. The moment of dissolution must be very solemn. Who can

overcome then without “grace for timely help”?



WE NEED MAY BE OBTAINED. “The throne of grace” is the throne

Of God; but of God, not as an august and awful Ruler, but as a gracious

Father. It is the throne whence He bestows the blessings of mercy and

grace to those who seek Him. The treasures of His mercy and grace are

inexhaustible, and He delights in communicating them to others. We

have not to overcome any disinclination to bless us on His part. He gives

freely; He gives bountifully; He delights in giving.



THRONE OF GRACE. Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto

the throne of grace.” We have freedom of access to the throne, and we may

have freedom of speech with Him who sits thereon. We may draw near to

God with confidence. This we have, or may have, through our great High

Priest. He has revealed the infinite love of the Father toward us, and His

delight in blessing us; He is the perfect “Mediator between God and man”

(I Timothy 2:5); He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,”

and He is able “to sympathize with our infirmities;” and He now wears our

nature in heaven by His Father’s throne. “Let us therefore draw near with




The Helpful Nearness to Man of the True High Priest (vs. 15-16)



priests are lacking in proper sympathy with human weakness. They are

lacking in a sense of the almost omnipotence of tempting influence. They

themselves, in all important respects, are no better than those for whom

they act. Not that they are to blame for this; other things were not expected

from them. They were only to be part of an instructive and impressive

ceremonial by which might be set forth, by the best means attainable at the

time, something as to what a priest, an offering and an approach to God,

ought to be. The very defects of the priest taken from among men

emphasize the need of something immeasurably better. Sinful men should

be able to sympathize with sinful men; but, as a matter of fact, they very

frequently are unable to do this even in the most qualified way. They can

sympathize in a measure with sickness, with temporal calamity; but too

often for sin, for crime, for vice, they have nothing but denunciation with

respect to men. There is a hint to us how we should recollect that the

greater sinner a man is, the greater is his need for human sympathy.



CHRIST. In Him there is all the true priest needs. He is attracted, not by

the strong side of human nature, but by the weak. Easy is it to be drawn to

men in the hours of their full life, in their prime, when they are strong for

action either of body or of mind; and it is pleasant to look at the results of

all their effort. But it is much better, difficult though it be, to look at man

in his hours of weakness and need; for it is out, of the midst of his

weakness that his highest strength is to be attained. And so Jesus was

drawn to men in their weakness. He came, not to be ministered unto, but to

minister, and to minister to those who really needed ministry. We do not

serve rightly when we serve those who are quite able to do things for

themselves. This is only to increase the indolence of the world. Christ

comes to give the help that but for His, in poverty, in sickness, in feebleness

of body and harassing circumstances. But his sympathy is specially with us

in temptation. He was tempted in all points like as we are, i.e. His

temptation was a real thing; and the temptation He had to suffer was one

suited to the peculiarities of His position and His work. We are to think

here, not so much of His experiences in the wilderness, as of Gethsemane

(ch. 5:7). The temptations of the wilderness He saw through at once;

they must have been very clumsy artifices in His eye. But Gethsemane

tried Him. The pure gold went into the furnace there that its purity might be

made manifest. And thus it was shown that He was without a sin. The more

we are made to feel our own sin, the more our hearts are revealed, the

closer we are drawn to Him who has no sin, and who shows us that sin is

no essential part of human nature.



are to make full use of the Priest thus provided — a Priest not of our

finding or our making. He has not come by some process of selection and

training employed by men, but is of Divine appointment; an Apostle from

the throne of grace, beseeching us to accept Him as the sufficient

Interpreter of human needs and human penitence. Our attitude is to be one

of approach to the throne of grace, thinking of it as such; thinking of the

severities of God and the penal aspects of law as only grace in disguise.

Chastisement, punishment, pain, are but grace not understood. We must

have boldness, freeness, a strong sense of the right given us to approach

the throne of grace. We must have a sense of how God will treat us. He

will not only put us into a better state, but do it in a most compassionate

and tender way. It is conceivable that a physician might perfectly cure a

sick person, yet do it all like a machine, without any manifestation of heart,

without a single kind or cheering word.



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