World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
4. A Sabbath Rest for God's People
1Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. 2For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they: but the word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard. 3For we who have believed do enter into that rest; even as he hath said,
As I sware in my wrath,
They shall not enter into my rest:
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works; 5and in this place again,
They shall not enter into my rest.
6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto, and they to whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience, 7he again defineth a certain day, To-day, saying in David so long a time afterward (even as hath been said before),
To-day if ye shall hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts.
8For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. 9There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. 11Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.
1. Let us therefore fear, etc. He concludes that there was reason to fear lest the Jews to whom he was writing should be deprived of the blessing offered to them; and then he says, lest anyone, intimating that it was his anxious desire to lead them, one and all, to God; for it is the duty of a good shepherd, in watching over the whole flock so to care for every sheep that no one may be lost; nay, we ought also so to feel for one another that every one should fear for his neighbors as well as for himself
But the fear which is here recommended is not that which shakes the confidence of faith but such as fills us with such concern that we grow not torpid with indifference. Let us then fear, not that we ought to tremble or to entertain distrust as though uncertain as to the issue, but lest we be unfaithful to God’s grace.
By saying Lest we be disappointed of the promise left us, he intimates that no one comes short of it except he who by rejecting grace has first renounced the promise; for God is so far from repenting to do us good that he ceases not to bestow his gifts except when we despise his calling. The illative therefore, or then means that by the fall of others we are taught humility and watchfulness according to what Paul also says,
“These through unbelief have fallen; be not thou then high minded, but fear.”
Calvin renders the last verb “be disappointed,” (frustratus,) though the verb means properly to be behind in time, to be too late; yet it is commonly used in the sense of falling short of a thing, of being destitute; of being without. See Romans 3:23;
1 Corinthians 1:7; chapter 12:15. To “come short” of our version fitly expresses its meaning here, as adopted by Doddridge and Stuart; or “to fall short,” as rendered by Macknight.
“Seem” is considered by some to be pleonastic. The verb δοκέω is so no doubt sometimes, but not always; but here appears to have a special meaning, as the Apostle would have no one to present even the appearance of neglecting to secure the rest promised. — Ed.
2. For to us, etc. He reminds us that the doctrine by which God invites us to himself at this day is the same with that which he formerly delivered to the fathers; and why did he say this? That we may know that the calling of God will in no degree be more profitable to us than it was to them, except we make it sure by faith. This, then, he concedes, that the Gospel is indeed preached to us; 6868 See Appendix O but lest we should vainly glory, he immediately adds that the unbelieving whom God had formerly favored with the participation of so great blessings, yet received from them no fruit, and that therefore we also shall be destitute of his blessing unless we receive it by faith. He repeats the word hear for this end, that we may know that hearing is useless except the word addressed to us be by faith received.
But we must here observe the connection between the word and faith. It is such that faith is not to be separated from the word, and that the word separated from faith can confer no good; not indeed that the efficacy or power of the word depends on us; for were the whole world false, he who cannot lie would still never cease to be true, but the word never puts forth its power in us except when faith gives it an entrance. It is indeed the power of God unto salvation, but only to those who believe. (Romans 1:16.) There is in it revealed the righteousness of God, but it is from faith to faith. Thus it is that the word of God is always efficacious and saving to men, when viewed in itself or in its own nature; but no fruit will be found except by those who believe.
As to a former statement, when I said that there is no faith where the word is wanting, and that those who make such a divorce wholly extinguish faith and reduce it to nothing, the subject is worthy of special notice. For it hence appears evident that faith cannot exist in any but in the children of God, to whom alone the promise of adoption is offered. For what sort of faith have devils, to whom no salvation is promised? And what sort of faith have all the ungodly who are ignorant of the word? The hearing must ever precede faith, and that indeed that we may know that God speaks and not men.
He now begins to embellish the passage which he had quoted from David. He has hitherto taken it, as they say, according to the letter, that is, in its literal sense; but he now amplifies and decorates it; and thus he rather alludes to than explains the words of David. This sort of decoration Paul employed in Romans 10:6, in referring to these words of Moses, “Say not, who shall ascend into heaven!” etc. Nor is it indeed anything unsuitable, in accommodating Scripture to a subject in hand, to illustrate by figurative terms what is more simply delivered. However, the sum of the whole is this, that what God threatens in the Psalm as to the loss of his rest, applies also to us, inasmuch as he invites us also at this day to a rest.
The chief difficulty of this passage arises from this, that it is perverted by many. The Apostle had no other thing in view by declaring that there is a rest for us, than to rouse us to desire it, and also to make us to fear, lest we should be shut out of it through unbelief He however teaches us at the same time, that the rest into which an entrance is now open to us, is far more valuable than that in the land of Canaan. But let us now come to particulars.
3. For we which have believed do enter into rest, or, for we enter into the rest after we have believed, etc. It is an argument from what is contrary. Unbelief alone shuts us out; then faith alone opens an entrance. We must indeed bear in mind what he has already stated, that God being angry with the unbelieving, had sworn that they should not partake of that blessing. Then they enter in where unbelief does not hinder, provided only that God invites them. But by speaking in the first person he allures them with greater sweetness, separating them from aliens.
Although the works, etc. To define what our rest is, he reminds us of what Moses relates, that God having finished the creation of the world, immediately rested from his works and he finally concludes, that the true rest of the faithful, which is to continue forever, will be when they shall rest as God did.
The general drift of the passage is evident, yet the construction has been found difficult. Without repeating the various solutions which have been offered, I shall give what appears to me the easiest construction, —
3. We indeed are entering into the rest who believe: as he hath said, “So that I sware in my wrath, They shall by no means enter into my rest,” when yet the works were finished since the foundation of
4. the world; (for he hath said thus in a certain place of the seventh day, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works,”
5. and again in this place, “They shall by no means enter into my
6. rest;”) it then remains therefore that some do enter in because of unbelief.
The particle ἐπεῖ has created the difficulty, which I render in the sense of ἔπειτα, then consequently the argument is simply this: Inasmuch as God had sworn that the unbelieving should not enter into his rest long after the rest of the sabbath was appointed; it follows as a necessary consequence that some do enter into it, though the unbelieving did not enter. The argument turns on the word “rest;” It was to show that it was not the rest of the Sabbath. The argument in the next verses turns on the word “today,” in order to show that it was not the rest of Canaan.
The fourth and fifth verses are only explanatory of the concluding sentence of the preceding, and therefore ought to be regarded as parenthetic. — Ed. And doubtless as the highest happiness of man is to be united to his God, so ought to be his ultimate end to which he ought to refer all his thoughts and actions. This he proves, because God who is said to have rested, declared a long time after that he would not give his rest to the unbelieving; he would have so declared to no purpose, had he not intended that the faithful should rest after his own example. Hence he says, It remaineth that some must enter in: for if not to enter in is the punishment of unbelief, then an entrance, as it has been said, is open to believers.