Journal – December 12, 2021
1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
THE PROMISE OF REST (PART 1)
HEBREWS 4: 1
Vs. 1, Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. We have just seen in the previous chapter an instance and example of God’s severity against unbelievers set forth and proposed for our consideration, let us fear. In this example of God’s dealing with those He brought out of Egypt, the Apostle declares that there is included a threat of dealing with all others in the same manner, who shall fall into the same sin of unbelief with them. In this word fear two things are intended:
- An apprehension of the holiness and greatness of God, with His severity against sin.
- A careful diligence in the use of means to avoid this evil threatened to unbelief and disobedience.
Gospel threatening’s respect professed unbelievers: they are called gospel since they are proper to the gospel and distinct from the threatening’s of the law. The law knows no more of gospel threatening’s than of gospel promises. The threatening’s of the law are against sinners for sins committed; while the threatening’s of the gospel are against sinners for refusing the remedy provided and tendered to them. Gospel threatening’s have respect to all those who are unsound and temporary believers. And this duty is always incumbent on those called to preach the gospel to declare these threatening’s against all that may be found in this condition. For not only may they justly suppose that such they are, and always will be in all Churches, but also many do continually declare and evidence themselves to be in no better state. Gospel threatening’s have respect to believers themselves; their design is to work them from their unbelief and to confirm them in their faith. This fear includes a serious consideration of the debt of sin, and the necessary vindication of God’s glory; also, a consideration of the greatness, terror, and majesty of God. We need a conviction and acknowledgement that in the justice and righteousness of God the puishments threatened might come upon us; along with an abhorrence of all sin, both with respect to its nature and its end. In addition, a punctilious watching against all sin, with a distinct use of the means appointed to this, and a constant watchfulness against all carnal confidence and security.
Since a promise remains of entering His rest, there is in the gospel a promise left to believers of entering His rest, the rest of God. The resthere spoken of cannot be the rest of heaven and glory as some have affirmed, wholly misunderstanding the argument of the Apostle, which is the superiority of Christ over Moses, that is the dispensation which is committed unto Christ, and that dispensation which was committed unto Moses. The design of the Apostle is to set out the excellency of the gospel with the worship of it, and the Church state whereinto we are now called by Christ Jesus, above all the privileges and advantages which the people of old were made partakers of under Moses. If this be not duly considered, no part of the epistle can be rightly understood. The rest here intended is that rest which believers have an entrance into by Jesus Christ in this world. This rest consisted of five things:
- In peace with God in the free and full justification of the person of believers from all their sins by the blood of Christ. This is fully expressed in Acts 13: 32-33; 38-39. The whole of what we contend for is contained in these words.
- In our freedom from a servile bondage-frame of spirit in the worship of God.
- In our deliverance from the yoke and bondage of Mosaical institutions.
- In that gospel worship whereunto, we are called; this is the rest of liberty and freedom of spirit which believers have in obedience to the gospel; also, of strength and assistance granted unto the worshipers for the performance of their worship in an acceptable manner; and then the worship itself is not grievous but easy and suited to the principles of the new nature of the worshipers.
- In its being God’s rest, and by entering into it believers enter the rest of God. It is called God’s rest, because He rests ultimately and absolutely; as to all the ends of His glory in Christ, as exhibited in the gospel; that is in Him in whom His soul delights and in whom He is well pleased. Through Him He rests in His love to believers, as of old, in the sacrifices, He smelled a savor of rest; so now in Christ, He is expressly said to rest in His love towards Zion.
It is also called His rest because gospel worship, or worship according to the gospel, is that which He requires unchangeably in this world; He will not make any additions in that which is already appointed and instituted by Christ, neither is it liable to any alteration nor change unto the consummation of all things. It is a matter of great and tremendous consequence to have the promise of God left and proposed to us they have left us in the sense of being made known to us in the dispensation of the word; and in a day, time or season of patience being left unto us where we may enter in. The whole love, goodness, and grace of God toward mankind, the infinite wisdom of the counsel of His will about their salvation are contained in the promise. Severe will be the issue of so much love and kindness despised, as is set before men in the gospel. The failing of men through their unbelief does in no way cause the promise of God to fail or cease. Not as though the word of God (that is the word of the promise) as taken no effect. Whosoever and how so ever many reject the promise, yet they do it to their own ruin; the promise shall have its effect in others, even in those whom God has graciously ordained to a participation in it. Men by their unbelief may disappoint themselves of their expectation but cannot rob God of His faithfulness.
Therefore, when the gospel is preached in any nation, city, or assembly, the glory and success of it does not depend upon the wills of them to whom it is preached, neither is it frustrated by their unbelief. God has blessed ends in granting the outward dispensation of the promises, even to them by whom it is rejected. Hence the Apostle says that those who preach the gospel are a sweet savor of Christ unto God, as well in them that perish as in them that are saved. Christ is glorified, and God in and by Him, in the dispensation of the gospel, whether men receive it or not.
Let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. Any one of you, the Apostle regarded them all so in general, as he had a regard to each one of them in particular. To come short means let there be no semblance or appearance of any such thing among you. The inference in the expression to come short is to the people in the wilderness; most of them were demanding through unbelief, falling behind in their progress, and were left behind in the wilderness, when they perished, and came short of entering the promised land. Observe:
- The many to whom the promise of the gospel was preached and proposed did or may, through their own sins, come short of the enjoyment of the things promised. That sentence of our Savior contains the condition of men under the dispensation of the gospel: Many are called, but few are chosen. It is true, faith cometh by hearing, but just hearing by itself will denominate no man a true believer. Men would probably esteem the gospel, if it would save them merely at the cost of others preaching it. But God has otherwise disposed of things, their own faith and obedience are indispensably required.
- Not only backsliding through unbelief, but all appearances of hesitation in profession in times of trial and difficulty ought to be carefully avoided. Not only a profession, but the beauty and glory of it, is required of us. These consist in personal holiness, righteousness, and upright universal obedience, also in the obedience of all the commands, ordnances, and institutions of Christ in the gospel. The danger is great in any neglect of these things; our corrupt nature is apt to compensate in the conscience the neglect of one duty by diligence in another; so you will see many diligent in the use of outward means who attend not to personal holiness. This is the ruin of most hypocrites and false professors.
Let us be especially diligent to secure in our own persons, families, and whole conversations in the world, a diligent attendance on all manner of holiness, in all faith, love, humility, patience, purity, self-denial, weanedness from the world, readiness to do good; and let these things be bright in us and shine in our lives, if we would seem to come short. God has no regard to the observance of ordnances, where duties of holiness, righteousness, and love are neglected. They who do not mix the promises of the gospel with faith shall come short of entering the rest of God. And this the Apostle proceeds to demonstrate. (To be continued)
FEARFUL OF COMING SHORT
Faith must be judged by its power upon the character. The man who truly believes in the Lord Christ becomes a man of prayer. Never has a man of faith despised the mercy seat. “Behold he is praying, ”(Acts 9:11) Jesus speaks of Paul’s conversion, akin to behold he believed. How about your private prayers? Are they neglected? Are they performed in a manner not worthy of devotion? Do you have the spirit of prayer; does your heart go up to God in silent cries and secret groans as you go through your work-days without moving your lips? The great point which we are to be concerned about is lest we come sort of the heavenly rest by failing in the faith which will give us the rest. To this we must give earnest heed; we must see to it that our faith is mixed with our hearing of the Word. The way to heaven is by faith—we are to fear lest we have a false faith, a faltering faith, a temporary faith and so come sort of that heavenly rest. The Jews in the wilderness saw the sacrifices, but they failed to look to the blood of the Grand Sacrifice which would in the fullness of time be poured out for the remission of sins. They looked at the washings and the divers’ cleansings, but they did not see that their spirits needed to be renewed and their nature changed. They were content with the outward ritual and missed the inner meaning; they missed the fact that faith in the living God was necessary. I fear that a great many religionists in our day do the same thing and are missing God. The bended knee is nothing, it is the bended heart that matters, listen to the Lord Christ: “You must be born again” not having the new birth equals no heavenly rest.