Hebrews 4:11

Monday, 1 October 2018

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11

The author has shown that the promised rest of God is yet future for the Hebrew people. In verse 4:9, he has stated that there is a Sabbath-rest which is yet available for the people of God. It has been shown that the context of “people of God” is referring to Israel collectively. Individuals of both Jew and Gentile enter into “that rest” by belief (verse 4:3), but there is a time of rest for Israel as a people which is yet ahead. With this understanding, he says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.”

The word “diligent” is from a Greek word signifying eagerness or zeal. HELPS Word Studies says it is “acting fervently (speedy commitment) to accomplish all that God assigns through faith (‘His inbirthed persuasion’).” Many commentaries grab onto this and explain that this means that we must be diligent as individuals to work in order to attain rest (meaning heaven). Albert Barnes, bizarrely says, “Heaven is never obtained but by diligence; and no one enters there who does not earnestly desire it, and who does not make a sincere effort to reach it.” That statement is so far from Ephesians 2:8, 9 that it is incredible to even contemplate.

The author has clearly stated that we enter our rest through belief. Nothing he says after that will contradict that one statement, and so this cannot be speaking of us “working” in order to be saved. Rather, we believe, and we enter into God’s rest. Period. On this verse, John Gill rightly says of salvation –

“…salvation is not by works; eternal life is a free gift; good works do not go before to prepare heaven for the saints, but follow after: nor is the saints’ entrance into it a precarious thing; God has promised it, and provided it for his people; Christ is in the possession of it, and is preparing it for them; and the Spirit of God is working them up for the self same thing, and Christ will give them an abundant entrance into it.”

John Gill then says that this verse is not speaking of God’s rest, but the “Gospel rest … which believers now enter into, and is at this present time for them.” Though he was right about salvation, he is incorrect about this. The author has been speaking of the rest promised by God. There is nothing to suggest that he has departed from that. And so what is the author of Hebrews saying now? The answer is that he first speaks of the whole, saying “us.” He then moves to the singular in the second clause with the words, “lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”

The author is asking his audience to watch out for one another. It is exactly what he said to them already in verses 3:12, 13. The people are to be diligent in laboring to enter the rest. They are the people of God, and they have not yet entered that rest. It is incumbent on them to warn one another against failing to believe. It took a bad report by ten of the twelve spies to poison the minds of the entire congregation against entering Canaan. The author is warning against such an attitude again.

As this was written to the first century Jews, it is evident that they once again failed to attain what they had hoped for. However, due to its placement in the Bible after Paul’s epistles and, more importantly, because of God’s unfailing promises, it is evident that the promised rest for Israel is still open to them even now. It will come, and Israel will attain what it has thus far been unable to apprehend.

Life application: It cannot be that a verse in the Bible will contradict another verse. If we are told that someone is saved by grace through faith, it cannot be that another verse will mean that we must labor in order to be saved. Therefore, there must be another meaning to the words than what is at first presumed to be said. For this verse, John Gill understood and gave a second option. However, his option removed itself from the immediate context of what was being presented. And so a third option must exist which accepts both a non-contradictory stand concerning salvation, and which retains the proper context. This is how we are to evaluate Scripture. We are to always maintain context, and we are to ensure that truths which are presented elsewhere are not to be violated in our analysis of what we are studying.

Heavenly Father, Your word says that we are saved by grace through faith and that works are not a part of the process. May we never deviate from this clear, concise, and obvious truth. Our justification is by faith alone. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we stand approved before You. What could we add to what He has done? Nothing. So let us not go there! Amen.

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