Hebrews 4:9-10 There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
The problem with working your way to heaven is that you never know when you have done enough. How many good deeds are enough? How many prayers are enough? How much repentance is enough? If eternal life depends on our good works, we should all be exhausted, and die from stress. But that is not what the Bible teaches.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28), said Jesus. In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15), said God. We do not serve the Lord in order to be saved, but out of gratitude for being saved (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Just before he died, Jesus cried out, It is finished (John 19:30). Since Jesus finished the work of redemption, we can never earn it, or add anything to it. Trying to earn our way to heaven shows that we do not fully trust in Christ, and reject the rest he offers us. God is glorified when we put our trust in Christ, and enter into his rest.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
A preacher was testing the acoustics in a new auditorium and quoted God’s word: Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). The preacher did not know there was a worker in the rafters who was troubled by his sin. When he heard the word of God, he looked to Christ and was saved.
This same preacher said, The word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself (Charles Spurgeon). We do not need to defend God’s word so much as we need to proclaim it. For the word of God is alive and active.
Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
The priesthood is common to many religions because of the shared idea that God is too holy for ordinary people. We need a religious professional to help us relate to God. A good priest is close to God, but also close to sinners, so that he can help sinners be close to God. No one is closer to God than Jesus, and no one is closer to sinners than Jesus. That is why he is qualified to be our high priest.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Approaching a king on his throne could be a terrifying experience, since kings had the power of life and death. But the king of heaven sits on a throne of grace, from which he gives mercy to all who ask.
A soldier abandoned his post in a time of war and was brought before the king to be executed. He begged the king for mercy, but since he was a repeat offender, the king said he did not deserve it. But if I deserved mercy, it would not be mercy, he said. The king could not deny his logic, so he agreed to have mercy.
We too are repeat offenders who do not deserve mercy. But we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 5:8 [Jesus] learned obedience from what he suffered.
Jesus never disobeyed, but learned obedience at increasingly difficult levels. It is one thing to pick up your toys, another to be sexually pure, and another to bear the sins of the world. Jesus learned obedience like learning to lift weights: the more he obeyed, the stronger he became. His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) prepared him for his ministry, and the trials of his ministry prepared him for the cross.
Obedience is not tested by getting whatever we want. It is tested by not getting what we want, or by getting what we do not want. Jesus did not want to be crucified (Luke 22:42), but he did so willingly, and learned obedience from what he suffered.
Reflection and Review
Does Christianity require work?
Does the Bible need to be defended?
Why is Jesus the best priest?