When we come to passages like our text – is important to remember: what we have here in book of Hebrews is a sermon transcript.
Heb 13:22And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.
“word of exhortation” – Jewish code for “sermon” (Acts 13:15); “bear with the sermon, since in writing it out I have kept it short”. If this is sermon then, who is intended audience? Primarily Christians, believers, true members of Christ’s church. The primary focus of the church is the church when gathered to hear God’s Word preached. Remember last week,
Eph. 4:11-12 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”
So the audience the author had in mind first and foremost – believers. At same time, every good pastor recognizes not everyone in congregation is converted. Sometimes yes, other times no; means there will regularly be things pastor says in his preaching that apply particularly to each. Same is true in Hebrews. And the warnings – they are there for everyone.
Strong caution in verse 2, reinforced by what has come before in chapter 3 and rest of chapter 4: Don’t be like them!! Don’t discard the promise of God the way they did through unbelief. There’s also strong encouragement – just because they blew it, God’s ancient people the Jews, does not mean situation is hopeless. There is still…today…reassurance from God’s word: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
We are by design creatures who need rest in order to remain healthy. Important enough to human existence that God didn’t merely suggest, he commanded one day in seven, a day-long sabbath from our regular labors. Is a principle that in our culture has fallen by wayside – Chick-Fil-A is unique, stands out, gets noticed because is closed on Sunday! In too many circles the measure of a person seems to be how long their list of involvements, activities, duties. Sad truth is same way of thinking has infected portions of the church – measure of a successful church is how long list of programs and how many days of week something is happening.
Mary had a little lamb, / ‘Twas given her to keep, / But then it joined the Baptist Church, / And died for lack of sleep.
Are four motivational posters here in our text: Let us fear lest we lose Christ; There is a rest for those who believe on Christ; Let us make every effort lest we disappoint Christ; Rest is a sure thing because of the work of Christ. No coincidence that each poster has Christ for its emphasis – true lasting rest apart from Christ is impossible. Not difficult to do, not hard to find, not a challenge to keep – absolutely impossible without Jesus; anyone who says otherwise is a fraud. That goes for the rest we find in Jesus in this life (Matt. 11:28-30) and the rest promised to us in next life.
A. Let us Fear v.1
lest we lose Christ – the key: the word/the Gospel + faith; unbelief (2) and disobedience (6) are “disqualifiers”
unbelief doesn’t have to mean atheism; applies just as much to wrong belief, faith/belief/confidence in wrong thing
primary tool of the devil: deception; “there is no truth in him….he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44)
takes the truth, perverts / distorts / twists just enough to lead away from Christ – still looks/sounds like the truth, but has a poisonous payload
all kinds of places to hear false teaching wrapped up in Bible words, Christian insider language – but with different definitions
right faith accompanied by evidence – obedience, perseverance; right biblical faith always accompanied by biblical evidence
disobedience not the cause, it’s the result – of unbelief, wrong/false belief: false gospel ultimately rebellion against God, leads to rebellious behavior
do you have a biblical attitude toward sin? behave like Jesus? show love to other Christians? try to draw others closer to Jesus?
not a fear of having to endure hell, rather a fear of losing our eternal rest in Christ
7th day of Creation, Sabbath ordinance, promise of Canaan, Lord’s Day – all pictures of the real thing
you have pictures? – special friends, family members; which truly satisfies – picture or reality? same for our rest
is a good kind of fear: keeps us away from danger (e.g., aluminum ladders and power lines); keeps us doing what is right (good food, fresh air, exercise)
is attitude that says: “my desire for Christ is so strong and important I will give up anything that puts our relationship in danger”
must be certain our faith has right object….all the time – those with true saving faith do enter that rest
B. There is a rest v.3, 9
for those who believe on Christ – just like salvation: we are saved, are being saved, will be saved; God has declared us just, he is making us like his Son the Lord Jesus, he will deliver us fully and finally from sin
there is a rest, there remains a rest: we enter that rest, we will enter that rest; those who come to Christ and take on his yoke receive rest for their soul
like so many other things, what we experience in this life is real but…is not yet the full experience; is still too much of this life and what accompanies it in the way
the better Joshua (8) – first Joshua couldn’t pull it off, second Joshua will
first Joshua by God’s grace and direction led his people into the shadows, the land God promised to Abraham
Abraham got it: he and Isaac and Jacob lived in tents, “looking forward to the city with foundations” (Heb. 11:9-10)
first rest only temporary
rest from labor one day in seven (Ex. 23:12); rest from their enemies (Josh. 21:43-45) only temporary, read Judges and following – was a real rest but only partial in extent and duration
katapausis (11x) – “In Heb. 3-4 (cf. Ps. 95:11), the reference is to the rest (or resting place) that God gives to his people. As the OT promise points beyond Moses to Christ, so the rest of God in Gen. 2:2 points beyond Joshua and David (4:7-8) to the final rest to which believers in Christ will attain if they hold fast to their faith.” TDNT
future rest will be permanent
will be eternal rest from enemies – sin, sinful agents – the things that interfere in our relationships: God, self, others, created order
don’t forget Satan and his tools: false promises to get you to hope in the wrong thing, false accusations to get you discouraged; persecution, hardship, spiritual opposition
when that resurrection trumpet sounds, the Judge of all the earth issues final sentence, no more of this
“pastor answering West African Bible College student’s question: “Reverend, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that Christ will descend from heaven with a loud command. I would like to know what that command will be.” “Enough,” I said. “He will shout, Enough! when he returns.” A look of surprise opened the face of the student. “What do you mean, enough?” “Enough suffering. Enough starvation. Enough terror. Enough death. Enough indignity. Enough lives trapped in hopelessness. Enough sickness and disease. Enough time. ENOUGH!”
not a cessation from activity but from labor – what makes this life hard – God continued being God on 7th day, doing what God needed to do and he “blessed it and sanctified it”
joy and peace will be full, every activity will bring reward, relationships will go beyond anything we have experienced
C. Let us Make Every Effort v.11
lest we disappoint Christ – have the good example of bad example, warning and instruction of written and living Word
purposeful and gracious gift of God to give us both testaments – Rom. 15:4 – for our learning
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
profound demonstration of God’s love to give us his Son, “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” Rev. 19:13 – to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves
Jesus’ work not complete at the cross – work of redemption, yes! but is way more to being a Christian than simple conversion
his ongoing work as Mediator – communicating God’s blessings to us through his Spirit, conforming us to Christ’s image
set a child or co-worker up for success, they blow it, how do you feel?
Jesus has done, is doing, is available to do all we need to please him; if we fall short, is not his fault! will be that we’re not doing our part
should be working at Christian life as if it depended all on us…knowing it all depends on Jesus and his merits
D. Rest is a sure thing v.12-13
because of the work of Christ (spiritual surgery)
use of english word “sword” unfortunate – better choice would be knife or scalpel – more the idea of tool used by skilled individual, not a weapon to cause harm
surrounding context is one of encouragement: let us fear, be diligent, hold fast, come boldly
intended purpose of scalpel is to do good, remove what would do harm – goal of good surgeon is what will promote health
one of greatest blessings to other parts of world: health professionals who perform corrective surgeries – removing / repairing deformities
scalpel of the Word (12) wielded by perfect Surgeon (13)
circumcision a big deal in Joshua’s day; wasn’t something God played games with, was required of all true Jews before Christ
even in “old days” circumcision of the heart more important – God making clear statement that external ceremonial actions not the real thing, only sign of the reality
did author of Hebrews have Joshua 5 in mind? especially v.8? ….and Deut. 30:6?
approaching Jordan, stopped and circumcised children born in the wilderness – then “they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed”
“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
Jesus, perfect cardiac Surgeon uses his scalpel, word of God, to remove diseased tissue, repair faulty circulation, do what is necessary to achieve good heart health
Jesus is the one who must change our hearts – take out our stony heart and replace it with heart of flesh that will be devoted to loving him
intended to encourage us – when our faith is in Jesus, can count on him to do all necessary to prepare us for rest
make sure your faith is in right object; encourage everyone you can to make sure their faith is in right object
depend on Jesus to do his part, do your part with all strength and diligence – for the sake of your heart, cooperate with the Surgeon
rest in Lord Jesus now, “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”, eternal rest in him