Hebrews; Chapter 4, Part 1

Hebrews; Chapter 4


Part I

<Preliminary to Chapter 4>

{Chapter 3; verses 10-19}


Hebrews 3:10-11) [GNB] And so I was angry with those people and said, ‘They are always disloyal and refuse to obey my commands.’

11) [GNB] I was angry and made a solemn promise: ‘They will never enter the land where I would have given them rest!’”

NOTE: These verses speak of how the Jews believed the evil report of the ten spies over the good report of Joshua and Caleb.  They, as a nation, doubted that God could, or would, enable them to defeat the giants in the Promised Land; and therefore, they were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  None of the adult Jews who were delivered from Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb, entered into the Promised Land.

ANOTHER NOTE: God had provided a place of rest for the weary Israelites, but as a result of their collective unbelief they (the adults who were delivered from Egypt) never entered into that rest.

Hebrews 3:12-14) [GNB] My friends, be careful that none of you have a heart so evil and unbelieving that you will turn away from the living God.

13) [GNB] Instead, in order that none of you be deceived by sin and become stubborn, you must help one another every day, as long as the word “Today” in the scripture applies to us.

14) [GNB] For we are all partners with Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at the beginning.

NOTE: 12) We can only come to God through a heart of faith, and we can only depart from Him through a heart of unbelief.  Works have nothing to do with either.  However, a heart of faith will cause us to live a certain way, and make certain choices regarding conduct; and a heart of unbelief will cause us to live a different way, and make different choices regarding conduct.

QUESTION: 13) What could possibly turn a heart that believes into an “evil heart” that doesn’t? 

ANSWER: Paul teaches that it happens when we are “deceived by sin and become stubborn.” How do we prevent sin from hardening our hearts?  We prevent it by encouraging one another, and this is done through the ministry of believers to one another, which implies faithfulness in Church attendance.

NOTE: 14) Again, our understanding of how God works with men will determine our understanding of this verse.  Suffice it to say, the faith that saves us is the faith that keeps us.  We, as individuals, must believe that God will finish what He started in us.

Philippians 1:6) [GNB] And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2) [GNB] Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

Concerning “if we hold firmly,”

“perseverance in believing on Christ is an evidence of union to him” [Gill].

“The idea is, that it is only perseverance in the ways of religion that constitutes certain evidence of piety” [Barnes].

“Verses like this are often misused to teach that a person can be saved and then lost again. However, such an interpretation is impossible because the overwhelming testimony of the Bible is that salvation is freely bestowed by God’s grace, purchased by Christ’s blood, received by man’s faith, and evidenced by his good works. True faith always has the quality of permanence. We don’t hold fast in order to retain our salvation, but as proof that we have been genuinely saved. Faith is the root of salvation; endurance is the fruit” [BBC].

“Failure to persevere reveals that a person is actually not a child of God, whereas perseverance is the hallmark of his children” [NIVBC].

Some other translations of this verse:

We were sure about Christ when we first became his people. So let’s hold tightly to our faith until the end [CEV].

After all, we will remain Christ’s partners only if we continue to hold on to our original confidence until the end [GW].

If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul [MSG].

SOME QUESTIONS: If the Divine Election crowd is correct, and verse 14 is stating that true believers will “hold firmly to the end” their “confidence” they “had at the beginning,” and irresistible grace will see to that very fact, then isn’t the instruction of verse 13 unnecessary? 

After all, wouldn’t true believers be safe from the fear of having their hearts hardened through sin? 

Also, why is the writer saying these things in the context of talking about the Israelites departing from God?

ANSWER: The author of the Hebrew letter isn’t talking them about losing out in regards to Heaven; but rather, he’s talking to them about losing out regarding the spiritual rest they can have in this life.   


Hebrews 3:15-18) [GNB] This is what the scripture says: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God.”

16) [GNB] Who were the people who heard God’s voice and rebelled against him? All those who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

17) [GNB] With whom was God angry for forty years? With the people who sinned, who fell down dead in the desert.

18) [GNB] When God made his solemn promise, “They will never enter the land where I would have given them rest”—of whom was he speaking? Of those who rebelled.

QUESTION: Who provoked God? 

ANSWER: The author is referring to those who died in the wilderness over the next forty years. 

QUESTION: Why did they die? 

ANSWER: They died in the wilderness because they failed to believe the promises of God that would have provided for them all the Promised Land, a place of rest.

QUESTIONS: When the Israelites walked in unbelief, and were consequently denied the Promised Land, did that mean that they were never truly the delivered people of God? 

Doesn’t the context of this passage imply that what happened to some Israelites could happen to some believers in the Church if they followed their example of unbelief?

ANSWER: Again, the author of the Hebrew letter isn’t talking them about losing out in regards to Heaven; but rather, he’s talking to them about losing out regarding the spiritual rest they can have in this life.   


Hebrews 3:19) [GNB] We see, then, that they were not able to enter the land, because they did not believe.

NOTE: This closing verse of Chapter 3 sets us up for our discussion of Chapter 4.

A CLOSING THOUGHT: The challenge to you and me is that we need to stay in church for our own benefit, and for the benefit of those we can encourage.  SIN IS DECEITFUL!!

Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church