Hebrews 3:16–4:7, 9–13 comment (0)
September 21, 2006
By Dale Younce
Related Scripture: Hebrews 3:16–4:7, 9–13
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Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Hebrews 3:16–4:7, 9–13
For some people, obedience smacks of restrictions, which, it seems to them, are contrary to freedom. Other professing Christians do not seem to be receptive to the idea of obedience, even when it relates to God. They appear to want to live as they please. They apparently do not realize they have been freed from sin to do as God wishes. Also they do not understand that obeying God gives them more freedom than they can imagine.
Obedience brings blessings and rewards not possible otherwise. God wants us to obey Him, not merely because He is our Master but also because of the benefits He desires to give us.
Obedience or Rebellion (3:16–19)
Israel’s failure in the wilderness (Num. 13–14) is an Old Testament event used by the Psalmist (Ps. 95) and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to illustrate the peril of believers who refuse to believe God’s Word and thus fail to move on to enjoying the blessings of their salvation.
Just as Israel had been delivered from Egypt by the blood of lambs and the power of God, so a sinner who trusts Christ is delivered from the slavery of sin. Just as it was God’s desire for freed Israel to move on to its inheritance in the land of Canaan, so God desires that believers move on to enjoy their spiritual inheritance in Christ. However, this spiritual inheritance is secured only by trusting obedience to God.
Canaan represents the believer’s spiritual inheritance in Christ; the wilderness wanderings represent the experiences of Christians who doubt God’s Word and live in restless unbelief. In both cases, they fail because they do not believe God’s Word.
This failure is not a sin resulting in a loss of eternal life; it is a failure of a believer to place confidence in the promises of God. The question is not, “Will these Hebrew-Christians be saved?” but rather, “Will these Hebrew-Christians depend upon God’s Word and obey Him and as a result, move on to spiritual maturity?”
Christians today can enjoy their spiritual inheritance in Christ by uniting their faith with God’s Word so that God’s Word accomplishes its purposes.
Obedience and Urgency (4:1–7)
The term “rest” is used in three different ways in these verses.
1) It is used to refer to the future rest that all believers will experience with God in heaven (Heb. 4:9).
2) It is also used to designate God’s Sabbath rest, when He ceased from His creative activity (Gen. 2:2; Heb. 4:3–4). Sabbath rest is a picture of the Christian’s rest in Christ through justification (3).
3) A third usage refers to Israel’s rest in the land of Canaan (Heb. 3:11, 18; 4:5, 7–8). Canaan rest is a picture of the Christian’s present rest found in his or her spiritual inheritance in Christ (1).
This rest in the Christian life comes through reliance upon God’s Word. Sabbath rest is the rest found in justification; Canaan rest is the rest found in sanctification, or spiritual growth and maturity.
Today’s believer can enjoy a full and satisfying spiritual life as he relies upon the promises of God.
God’s promises must be united with our attitude of trusting Him. This is true of both justification and sanctification. Rest in the Christian life results from a complete dependence upon God’s Word.
Obedience and Diligence (4:9–13)
We must pay attention to God’s Word. When rescued Israel did not believe God’s Word at Kadesh Barnea, it suffered chastening. God’s Word, like a sword, has power to penetrate and expose our inner thoughts, ambitions and motivations.
The Word of God, which is God’s own voice, scans us inwardly and sits in judgment upon us. It exposes our hearts and if we trust God, enables us to obey God. Each Christian must be diligent to study and apply God’s Word to himself or herself.