Agonizomai: Heb 4:1-3 Christ - The Peace and Rest of God

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heb 4:1-3 Christ - The Peace and Rest of God

Heb 4:1-3 Christ - The Peace and Rest of God

Heb 4:1-3 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,”’ although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.

The promise of God to those who are faithful - that is, to those who believe in the God of the promise - is that they shall enter into his rest. That was the promise to Israel under the old covenant. But that was a covenant of works designed to show the sinfulness of the unregenerate human heart. Alongside the old covenant ran the covenant of the promise, to which all who trusted in God alone belonged. And the spiritual antitype of the promise regarding the Promised Land is the promise regarding the kingdom of God.

In this framework we are reminded here of the general call of the gospel. In Israel the message of the covenant went out to all, but it fell upon a number of different soils. Some had been prepared by God so the seed would bear fruit, and some had been left in their natural state and the seed of the word was fruitless. What made the difference in practical terms was the presence of faith. Some had it and some didn’t. So also, the gospel preached is preached to all men without distinction so that those in whom God has prepared the soil, and to whom he has given the regeneration that believes God, would come to him and abide in him. Many are called, but few are chosen.

What this means for modern believers in the sovereign grace of God is what it always meant to all true believers. The good news is good news towards all mankind. {Luke 2:10,14} We sow the seed and herald the work of God in Christ without respect of persons, for we are not God and we do not know whose hearts He has prepared. Again, we are servants in God’s house and we do as He has bid, but all things rest upon His power and authority. We tell people "This is what God has done and, if you believe in the sufficiency of it all - if you accept it as an utterly free gift - then you will be saved (from that moment in time)."

We say this because the gospel is a gospel of the utter insufficiency of man and the complete and perfect sufficiency of God. God alone saves and God saves alone. We do not add, cooperate, assist, help, aid, advance or otherwise do anything effectual in the matter of our justification. "It is finished" is the cry of completed recreative work of God the Son, and of God’s rest being announced. When we enter into Christ by faith, we enter into God’s rest and into the kingdom at one and the same time. The kingdom is where the King is enthroned - and he is enthroned in the hearts of those he came to save, when they come to believe.

Apart from faith, then, salvation was, is and shall be impossible. Also, faith to which anything is added renders salvation equally impossible. We either rest in God or we have no rest at all. We either enter His rest and share in His cessation of labors regarding the salvation of His people, or we continue to work in that regard, despising God’s ordained means (faith in Him alone).

In what sense God’s labors were finished from the foundation of the world it is at one and the same time both easy and difficult to say. God certainly finished his creation and declared it both good and very good when he capped it all off by creating man. Not only was the creation finished at that time but, due to the very nature of God, all subsequent events including the fall, the incarnation, and the redemption were decreed from eternity in the act of creation. An omniscient God who created time and space and energy and subordinate beings necessarily does so knowing all the events that will ensue. They are, in a sense, determined by the originating act.

So there is a sense in which the redemptive work of Christ was "finished" from the foundation of the world because it was something decreed by God before anything was made. It was not finished in time, but it was finished in the eternal mind of God. What God purposes to do necessarily must come about. He is a not a man that he should change his mind.

There is also the idea of peace involved here. This "rest" may well refer to rest experienced between men and the Spirit of God, and between men and men - and even between men and their own being. This is the reconciliation that occurs in Christ with God - and the healing that attends and springs from it in all relationships as a result. It is not, in this sense, rest from striving, but rest from striving against God - from kicking against the pricks. Peace. Freedom from the fear that the wrath of God engenders in the sons of disobedience. Those chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world are destined to experience this peace and this rest. It is God’s peace and God’s rest because He alone is the reconciler.

The Hebrew believers of old may not have known this, but the Hebrew believers of the new covenant ought to have understood it pretty readily. This is what all Christians affirm when they receive Christ and testify to His salvation of them. God saved me. God spoke peace to my heart. The enmity is gone, and was removed while I was yet a sinner. But, once more, this can only be a reality if it proves to be real through perseverance. The Hebrews who are faltering (or are in danger of it) need to be reminded, as do we all, of what they have believed and of the fact that the ultimate proof of their salvation is found in their preservation through perseverance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Entering and remaining ing His rest... why is it so hard to do? I know- unbelief is always right there. Lord, I belief, help my unbelief.

10:38 am  

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