Agonizomai: Heb 4:11-13 Christ - The Discerner of Hearts

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Heb 4:11-13 Christ - The Discerner of Hearts

Heb 4:11-13 Christ - The Discerner of Hearts

Heb 4:11-13 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

After having established that no one can enter God’s rest apart from being found obedient through faith, the writer immediately exhorts the Hebrews to strive to enter that rest! What can striving and resting have to do with each other? And this is the wonder of the gospel. To the fallen mind it is full of apparent contradiction. To the regenerate person it is full of truth and light. We may not be able, as saints, to reconcile in our minds all of God’s antinomies (a J.I. Packer term) - but we are willing to believe that they can be reconciled and that, on that Day, they shall be.

So the person of faith does not know everything. On the contrary, he knows that he knows nothing - and it is this humility of mind that enables him to receive what he previously would not, and to strive to be found under the authority and guidance of God.

Since God’s true (spiritual) rest - the kingdom - is both now and future it may be entered both now and in the future. It may be entered imperfectly by us now and fully by us at the resurrection. Now we see in part, but then face to face. Now we strive to enter in at the narrow gate and walk in the narrow way; then we shall be made perfect. This is God’s plan and God’s purpose for us. He could glorify us instantly at the moment of regeneration, but He chooses to keep us in the body of death, living by faith, that we might come to know experientially, the wisdom and power of His salvation in a hostile and deadly environment.

But, to an imperfect degree in practice, through a faith that believes in the vicarious perfections of Christ on our behalf, we can and do indeed enter into God’s rest here and now. This entry is something that involves the obedience of our faith, and is, indeed, something that cannot be known apart from that obedience. God will neither believe nor obey for us. It is something we must do. But we must not make the error of thinking that because we do it we are, of ourselves, ensuring our salvation. If that were the case then salvation would be, to some degree, received or maintained by our works, and the idea would make nonsense out of so much of the gospel. Luther summed all this up neatly in verse 2 of his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”...

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

Faith (that comes as the free gift of God) appropriates this. And so we have exhortations and admonishment given as the means by which the hearing children will be steered and kept in the Way. Those that harden themselves into the same sort of disobedience that is typified by Israel in Sinai are displaying fruit of unregenerate hearts. They are tares among the wheat - sometimes indistinguishable from the wheat by external appearances, but ultimately destined for the fire. A regenerate heart is found desiring to obey. It is not always found obedient, but it now hates what it once was and it strives against the residue of the old carnal desires. The saints hate sin, even when they do it - but the tares secretly love sin and make only a show of piety.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (v12)

Taken in its context, this statement, which starts with "for" is related to the many citations of scripture (the word of God) that the writer has been using to make his point(s). By way of review, what have been his points? His points are that the Hebrews should not turn back from the gospel truth personified in Christ, the Word, to the sort of Judaism that sought to justify itself by deeds of the law; that the very books of Moses and the prophets that they looked to, actually promised and foreshadowed something that went way beyond law; that the system of law and ceremony was always incomplete and insufficient in and of itself - and that it was always the obedience of faith, and not external law-keeping that justified God’s people; that, while obedience was crucial - it had to be that obedience which was founded upon faith - that faith which trusted that God had a "rest" into which believers would enter.

In light of these underlying and foregoing arguments, the writer points out that it is the intentions of the heart with which God is concerned, and that these intentions are, and will be, laid bare by the Word of God. Indeed, it is the Word by which we ourselves are to be judged. Yet if this was all there was, we should be of all men most miserable because the hearts of all men are corrupt to the point that no one, unaided or unmoved by God, seeks after Him. But the Word, both written and incarnate, lays bare to us (if we will see) the nature of our hearts, and the motivations by which they are governed, precisely in order that we should be stripped of all hope in works of the law, and of any expectation that we could reconcile ourselves to God.

We must strive to enter God’s rest not by self-justifying deeds, but through the obedience of faith. We do not strive to justify ourselves, but to lay hold of that for which we were laid hold by God, namely the rest from labour that He both enjoys and provides in Christ. The saint’s rest is freedom from all attempts to justify himself and merely to abide in what God has done - to abide in His love, His work, His justification, His salvation. Those who wish to be adjudged worthy on account of their performance are, in the final analysis, not truly Christians at all, because they have missed the sufficiency of Christ.

God is, after all, omniscient, and He knows all that we think and do. We cannot hide our motivations from Him. And He will require of us what it was that moved us to act - whether a reliance upon our own power and wisdom, or a faith in the power and wisdom of God Himself. And the revealed word preached and taught is that means by which the power and wisdom of God are generated in our hearts by the Spirit of God.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad it's not by anything I do or cannot do, that gets me to heaven. What a relief!

10:26 am  

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