At one time in the days of the tabernacle we feared to enter into God's presence but today things are very different for what we should fear now, is not entering into God's presence boldly. (Compare first and last verses) God has no pleasure in those who draw back for they are really saying that they don't believe in what Jesus has accomplished as the lamb of God who died to take away the sin of the world. God's word is like a two- edged sword. On one hand it can be good for us on the other hand it can smite us to death. It saves if we believe but condemns if we don't. It is sharp enough to divide the soul from the spirit and so it is sharp enough to discern even the very motives behind our good works. So let the word we have preached do its work. If it has shown you that your works are not works of faith but the dead works of conscience then it is time to repent of such unbelief.
We should come boldly to the throne of Grace. It is not a mercy seat, it is a throne of grace- much better than mercy. Mercy allows you to live, Grace gives life and life more abundantly. The message of Hebrews is Salvation. ‘‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever’’ Salvation past present and future, is only for those who by faith enter into rest. In terms of salvation, the work of faith is rest. The Jews asked Jesus what they must do to do the works of God. Jesus replied “This is the work of God that you believe on the Son of God’’ To believe means to depend upon or to rest. Rest brings peace, and those justified by faith know that peace when they enter into rest. The Jehovah’s Witnesses come to our door, not to bring us salvation, but to attain their own salvation. It is an essential part of their earning salvation to propagate their beliefs and seek to make converts. Their response to our message that salvation comes by faith alone is to quote James who said ‘‘Faith without works is dead.’’ That is true, anyone alive unto God by faith will surely do good works but the essential work that God looks for in those who are trusting in the finished work of Christ for their salvation, is to cease from trying to do anything either to merit salvation or to add to the work of Christ. The work of faith, for salvation is rest. (James is writing to those who are already saved) If it is a gift then it cannot be earned. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “If God gave to us His only begotten Son, it could only be a gift.” Truly we could never deserve it or earn it. Watchman Nee in his short exposition of the book of Ephesians, “Sit Walk Stand,” sets out the true expression of saving faith. First we sit, taking our position in Christ, clothed in His righteousness. Secondly we walk, - walking with God, which we are able to do, having the righteousness of Christ and there being no sin to prevent that communion. Thirdly we stand. This is an act of the will which is a sign of strength and growth, whereby we stand against all the attacks of the enemy who seeks to destroy our faith. But the first essential act is to sit, or rest. The Hebrews are exhorted to cease from good works and from meritorious religion, and enter into rest and thereby enjoy the peace, which Jesus gives only to those who fully trust in HIS Work. The Gospel had been preached to them but unfortunately they had not had faith mixed in with their beliefs. That may sound like a contradiction, but faith means to trust in, and infers the cessation of doing anything. Their religion was one of works and their acceptance of the gospel preached to them had been one of credulity rather than of faith. Faith is in three parts. Knowledge, Belief and Action. The action part is to rest. Those without that final part usually express their knowledge and belief in good works of righteousness. Their belief was based on wrong knowledge and so produced the wrong action; these actions, are called “dead works of conscience.” The first doctrine of Christian teaching is repentance from such works as a means of salvation. The Apostle Paul refers to such works as “works of righteousness”. The only way of salvation is by entering into rest.
Illustration: If superman rescued a young lady from a burning fire she would be thrilled and relieved to look back and see what she had been saved from. Once that sensation was over, her attention would no doubt turn to the stranger who was carrying her away in his arms to ultimate safety. If she discovered that the stranger loved her and had rescued her, so that he might take her away to marry her then her thoughts would be more on the one who had saved her than the life she had been saved from. We have been saved, and we are being saved. This act of being saved is as great as that of having been saved.
Hebrews calls us to consider “Him”, Looking unto Jesus- the author and finisher of our faith. Yesterday- the Author: Tomorrow- the Finisher, but Today we look unto Jesus He ever lives to make intercession for us. We are being saved by his continued life. All we have to do is to remain in his arms, resting. Never should works be thought of as an addition to the means of our salvation. In every church there are folk who have been saved for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty or sixty years. Sometimes we think that nothing is happening because we are not seeing folk saved. But consider all those who are being saved. The weekly round of meetings and gatherings may seem routine and mundane but the work being done is glorious in the extreme. We are all being kept by the power of God. Never has any man done one single act in all the 2000 years of the gospel that has added to or made any more certain the salvation of a hair of one head. All has been done and is being done by Jesus.
"God rested" Paul declares, emphasising that rest is a cessation of works. If there is a promise for men to enter into God’s rest then man must cease from his works. The children of Israel left Egypt in response to the gospel preached to them. They left, but they did not continue in faith. So they did not enter into rest. Even when getting to Canaan those who lived there did not achieve the rest. For David many years later spoke of God’s rest, so it is certain that it must be a future rest that is being referred to. Paul says it is the rest of the gospel, through Christ. It was a rest from works of the law, and from any works of righteousness done for salvation. Lots of good works today are done by those who have not truly entered into rest. The hidden motives of the heart are discernible, but only by something as sharp, as the word of God that can discern the intents of the human heart. Why folk do good works can only be discerned by the word of God. Any works that are not “resurrection” works, are dead works. Any works that are done to appease the conscience are dead works. It is a very human characteristic, to seek to balance up our guilt with good works. Sometimes we do it almost subconsciously. If we are honest and discerning we would admit that such guilt is a very motivating force. In ch. 9 v. 14 we read that the blood of Christ is able to cleanse our conscience from dead works, and in chapter 6 v. 1 we read that a fundamental act of the Christian is repentance from dead works. Faith without works is dead, but works that don’t come in rest are dead also. The only “work” that saves is to rest. That is what we must “Do”. Only, and always depending upon the One who has saved us to keep us till we reach the end of our salvation. The latter verses(14- 16) say, “seeing” that we have a high priest..... let us therefore look to Him now and always.
Chapter One answers the question who is God. - It is Jesus Chapter Two answers the question what is man? now we see Jesus.
To see the real worth of man. Look at Jesus. All that he is to inherit, will be shared with his fellow "holy" brethren". His eternal destiny of glorification, is also ours. When He reigns, we will live reign with Him. This is the message Paul seeks to impress upon the Hebrews. They had stopped going forward, they had not seen the full purposes of God for the believer. Let us live in that truth. We can exercise our faith by coming to God boldly in prayer, knowing that Jesus, our Saviour and Great High Priest is there at God’s right hand interceding for us. Our futures are intrinsically linked together.
********************************* BOARD SUMMARY: Chapter 4. "There remains a rest for the people of God" The Gospel is God’s true planned fulfilment of that promise. That promised Rest comes only by faith in Jesus It is a “rest” from works of the law, in order to be saved. Old Testament message: TODAY, harden not your hearts with unbelief SALVATION is NOT attained by works. Most good works are Dead works of conscience- ch. 6 v 1 ch. 9:14; prompted by conscience to “balance up” our sins. Nothing can do that except the sacrifice and Blood of Jesus Christ “The Word of God”- not only alive and powerful but is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, i.e. the motives for our works. All things are open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account EXHORTATION: Rest by Faith in the work of your Great High Priest, Who is now ascended and passed through into the presence of God. Come to receive mercy, freely, from the Throne of Grace.