By Blake E. Jones
HEBREWS CHAPTER IV
If ever the call to rest, as found in this chapter, was appropriate and timely, it is today. Our generation is in a mad frenzy to find the rest of fulfilment and satisfaction and yet the quest seems never to reach its goal. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). Outside of this Gospel Rest from the guilt and burden of sin, mankind will never experience what it craves for in the deep recesses of its soul.
However, a rest of a different dimension is being referred to in this fourth chapter of Hebrews. This is a rest that is available to the "people of God". John Wesley felt that the writer was pointing to heaven's rest and the glorious cessation of spiritual warfare. On the other hand, it is very common for adherents to the doctrine of entire sanctification to understand this as the rest of a cleansed heart. An interesting note is made in The Wesley Bible in relation to these two teaching. "These two views, eternal rest and entire sanctification, are complementary, and there is some justification for both of them in the text of Hebrews."1 It is on the "second rest" of Holiness that our study will major.
As a believer walks in the light and grows in the grace of God, he will begin to sense a conviction of need. Note, this is not a conviction of guilt but rather an awareness of an inner lack. Doubts arise that are not holy. There is inner turmoil between a rebellious nature and a will that is choosing God. The heart cries out, "There must be something more than this," and there is! It is not the Gospel Rest of peace from guilt that is needed, for that is a current reality. It is the "second rest" or the rest of entire sanctification for which the heart hungers. For the Christian, this is a rest in a new dimension.
As we examine this chapter, we will dissect it along its vivid lines of formation that begin with the words "let us". The writer yearns to carry these Hebrews along with him to a place and experience in the relationship of rest. They desperately need this to shore up their sagging resolve.
I. Let us Fear (4:1-10)
Here is the call of alarm. Too many are willing to ignore the "evil heart of unbelief" and thus disregard and scorn the promise of rest from the malady of this spiritual condition. Adam Clarke calls out this alarm when he declares that "every believer in Christ is in danger of apostasy, while any remains of the evil heart of unbelief are found in him. It is therefore the highest wisdom of genuine Christians to look to God for the complete purification of their souls; this they cannot have too soon, and for this they cannot be too much in earnest."2 The wilderness wandering Israelites missed their land of rest. Let us, with reverence for God's promises and His provisions, fear lest we curtail His purpose in our spiritual development.
How sad that most accept the fact of God's ability to cleanse the heart from sin, yet they feel that this is not accomplished until the moment of death. In regard to this, an old minister once said, "Sin is the child of the devil, and death is the child of sin. This makes death the devil's grandchild. Now who would ever expect the devil's grandchild to sanctify any Christian."3 And to this may we add another question? What faith does this doctrine require? Death would accomplish the task, faith or no faith. Yet verse two clearly states that faith must be mixed with God's promised provision. The Israelites failed to appropriate faith to God's promise of Canaan and they forfeited their inheritance. Entire sanctification cannot be attained outside of faith in the blood and finished work of Christ.
Verse eight speaks of Joshua's leadership in bringing Israel into their land of promised rest. However, this was only a type, an object lesson, that demonstrated a rest yet to come. Thus, in later years, David called for the obedience of faith even though they were already living in the land of Canaan. It is, therefore, to be concluded that there was a spiritual rest, a rest of faith, being held out to the people of God.
Verse ten sets forth a beautiful parallel based upon the completed work of Christ on the cross. Just as Christ could call, "It is finished" knowing that God's justice had been satisfied, so the Christian can enter into a cessation of his own works. This is not a call to monastic living nor a plea for any sort of isolationism. It is a death to one's will, self and plans, and a life lived in harmony with God's will. It is a rest accomplished within the heart of the totally consecrated soul. "In this sanctified life the Holy Spirit takes the place of the sin principle,"4 says Dr. Dale Yocum. Now, to do the will of the Father is the Christian's highest pleasure. It is God living through us. "No greater mistake can be made in regard to holy living," says Isaac M. See, "than that we do the living."5 Oh what a glorious privilege of divine rest. The old conflict and warfare is over. The rebellious nature that fought for its own way and either stormed, seethed, or pouted when denied, has been removed and the sanctified soul rests in God.
Can we wonder that we are called upon to stand in fear, lest we miss such a relationship with the Eternal? Why should we retain a spirit or nature that forever wants to go back to the Egypt of a sinful life? What kind of sense is there in failing to deal with so dangerous a rebel in the heart? "Let us therefore fear."
II. Let us Labour (4:11-13)
The "rest of holiness" must be pursued with great earnestness and personal fervour. A. W. Tozer writes, "The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain."6 R. A. Torrey declared that "no man ever got this blessing who felt he could get along without it."7 How singularly God has been pleased to bless those longing, hungry hearts who would not let Him go unless He bless them.
With this plea for the Hebrew Christians to diligently labour to know heart holiness and ultimately heaven's rest still warm in his mind, the writer clinches his call with two regal verses on the power of God's searching Word. It is like radar that can track your thoughts. It is like x-ray that can expose your soul. It has laser qualities that can pinpoint your intentions and motives. As we labour to find the "second rest", God, through His Word and the agency of the Holy Spirit, will uncover the need of our hearts. Before God we stand naked and open to His searching eye. Your sinful nature may be hidden to others but it has not been missed by God. Well He knows the pride, the bitterness, the envy, the self-will and malice of your heart. He has felt the grit and rancour of your soul. He know that you were born with a nature that is rotten to the core and thoroughly tainted by the bent of sin. His living, powerful word is well able to target your need, and at the same time point to the only remedy for the sin disease.
Do not attempt to sidestep the proddings of the Holy Spirit and the keen Word of God. Yield to them and earnestly, diligently seek the rest of a clean heart.
III. Let us Hold Fast (4:14-15)
About this time, in the intensity of the writer's exhortation, the devil would delight to suggest to these believers that they might as well just 'throw in the towel'. "Its no use," he might say, "you already know the evil doubts and murmurings of your heart." Just when victory is around the corner, the enemy seems to be so adept at flooding the soul with despair.
God is not unaware of Satan's tricks and his blasts. Thus, the Holy Spirit inspires these words, "Let us hold fast our profession". Don't give up, but go on. Do not let go of what God has done for you. Cling to it. More precisely, cling to Jesus and your profession of His saving power. Refuse to give up one inch of territory you have gained through grace. Christ will not fail you now! "Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recommence of reward" (Heb. 10:35).
IV. Let us Come Boldly (4:16)
When a person has truly felt the deep need of his soul, there certainly can be no brash approach to the throne. The word "boldly" carries none of this sentiment. What it does suggest is an open, confident and assured access into the presence of God. You see, what God offers does not necessitate an arm twisting session to receive. Our slowness to receive the blessing is not indicative of God's reluctance, but rather of our imperfect search and surrender. The One on the throne is our Father, so may we not come with child-like confidence?
An interesting illustration is shared by Dr. Wesley Duewel. Queen Elizabeth was to attend a church service in India. Of course, Dr. Duewel was briefed beforehand as to proper manners in the presence of royalty. He was told, "You must never speak first; wait until you are spoken to. You never ask royalty anything; you answer royalty. In your first reply, you must add the words, 'Your Majesty'."8 What a glorious privilege has been afforded us by the great Majesty on high when He says, "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7:7). What an honour to be able to confidently enter His presence and pour out our soul's anguish.
Dr. H. C. Morrison writes of his conversion as if it were a court scenario. I believe his beautiful imagery and able description of Christ's intercession and the Father's love, will help us to grasp better the import of the verse at hand.
"In the midst of his wonderful address my attorney, instead of addressing the judge as "Your Honour," said, "My Father." This shot through me. I saw that if the judge had appointed his own son to plead for me it was more than likely that he would heed his pleadings and show me mercy. Men were weeping all over the courthouse. I had both hands full of the skirts of the coat of my lawyer; the policeman had laid aside his cap, had gotten out his handkerchief, and had buried his face in a flood of tears. It was a powerful moment in my trial; my attorney had reached his climax. He exclaimed, "My father, this child for whom I plead is none other than my brother." I saw at once that if the judge was the father of my attorney, and the attorney was my brother, then the judge was my father also. I could restrain myself no longer. I gave a great cry of joy, leaped out of the dock, rushed up into the judge's stand and flung myself upon his bosom. He embraced me with a long, tender pressure that seemed to make me through and through a new creature. Folding me in his arms he stood up and said, "Rejoice with me, for my son who was dead is alive, who was lost is found." The entire crowd in the courthouse broke into tears and laughter. The people embraced each other; they all seemed to want to shake hands with me. They congratulated my attorney, and we laughed, and wept, and shouted together."9
Granted, Dr. Morrison is not writing about the experience of entering the "second rest"; but, well he expresses the kind of assurance our hearts may feel in our Father's throne room. Farther in the epistle, the writer will disclose the basis for such a confident entrance when we are searching for this new dimension of rest.
In concluding these admonitions to enter into rest, let us note Orten Wiley's comments.
"It is a present, personal, spiritual, and practical experience of rest in God and is marked by the following characteristics. (1) It is a rest for the People of God. It is not for sinners, but the rich heritage of every true child of God... (2) It is a rest of faith. By this we mean a full reliance upon God through the redemptive work of Christ. It is perfect rest in a finished atonement... (3) It is a rest from sin. This therefore is a removal of the conflict between the flesh or carnal mind and the Spirit... (4) It is a continuous rest in God through the atoning work of Christ...With such high privileges afforded us, is it any wonder that the writer urges us to give all diligence to enter into this rest?"10
1. Albert Harper, Gen. Ed., The Wesley Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers,1990) p. 1848.
2. Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, (Nashville, New York: Abingdon Press) Vol. VI, p. 708.
3. Charles Carter, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972) Vol. VI, p. 65.
4. Dale Yocum, Fruit unto Holiness, (Salem, Ohio: Schmul Publishing Co. Inc., 1989) p.110.
5. H. Orten Wiley, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1959) p. 152.
6. A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., n.d.) p. 17.
7. Quoted in Dale Yocum, The Holy Way, (Salem, Ohio: Schmul Publishers, 1976) p.85.
8. Wesley Duewel, Touch the World Through Prayer, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986) p. 21.
9. H. C. Morrison, Remarkable Conversion, Interesting Incidents, and Striking Illustrations, (Louisville, Kentucky: Herald Press, 1925) pp. 113-114.
10. H. Orten Wiley, The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1959) pp. 147-148.