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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.