|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:11-16 Observe the end proposed: rest spiritual and eternal; the rest of grace here, and glory hereafter; in Christ on earth, with Christ in heaven. After due and diligent labour, sweet and satisfying rest shall follow; and labour now, will make that rest more pleasant when it comes. Let us labour, and quicken each other to be diligent in duty. The Holy Scriptures are the word of God. When God sets it home by his Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It makes a soul that has long been proud, to be humble; and a perverse spirit, to be meek and obedient. Sinful habits, that are become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It will discover to men their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of many, the bad principles they are moved by, the sinful ends they act to. The word will show the sinner all that is in his heart. Let us hold fast the doctrines of Christian faith in our heads, its enlivening principles in our hearts, the open profession of it in our lips, and be subject to it in our lives. Christ executed one part of his priesthood on earth, in dying for us; the other he executes in heaven, pleading the cause, and presenting the offerings of his people. In the sight of Infinite Wisdom, it was needful that the Saviour of men should be one who has the fellow-feeling which no being but a fellow-creature could possibly have; and therefore it was necessary he should actual experience of all the effects of sin that could be separated from its actual guilt. God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, Ro 8:3; but the more holy and pure he was, the more he must have been unwilling in his nature to sin, and must have had deeper impression of its evil; consequently the more must he be concerned to deliver his people from its guilt and power. We should encourage ourselves by the excellence of our High Priest, to come boldly to the throne of grace. Mercy and grace are the things we want; mercy to pardon all our sins, and grace to purify our souls. Besides our daily dependence upon God for present supplies, there are seasons for which we should provide in our prayers; times of temptation, either by adversity or prosperity, and especially our dying time. We are to come with reverence and godly fear, yet not as if dragged to the seat of justice, but as kindly invited to the mercy-seat, where grace reigns. We have boldness to enter into the holiest only by the blood of Jesus; he is our Advocate, and has purchased all our souls want or can desire.
Verse 11. - Let us therefore do our diligence (σπουδάσωμεν, so translated in A.V. 2 Timothy 4:9, 21) to enter into that rest, lest any one fall after the same example of disobedience (ἀπειθείας: not ἀπιστίας, which means "unbelief"). It is a question, though not at all affecting the general sense of the passage, whether ἐν τῷ αὐτῶ ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ should not he translated "fall into the same example." Πίπτειν ἐν has undoubtedly the sense of "to fall into," and is frequently so used in the LXX., and the subordinate position of πέσῃ in the sentence - between ὑποδείγπατι and τῆς ἀπειθείας - is against its being used absolutely as the emphatic word. If so, the meaning will be "fall into the same exemplar of disobedience," i.e. the kind of disobedience of which that of the Israelites was a sample. This interpretation of the phrase, being that of the Vulgate, is supported by Alford, Davison, Lunemann; though most modern commentators (Bengel, Bleek, De Wette, Tholuck, Delitzsch, Wordsworth), with Chrysostom, take πέσῃ absolutely, as in Romans 11:11 (ruat, Bengel), and ἐν τῷ αὐτῶ ὑποδείγματι as meaning, "so as to present the same (i.e. a like) example of disobedience," the ἐν, according to Delitzsch, being the ἐν of state or condition. The warning is next enforced by a vivid representation of the penetrating and resistless power of the "Word of God." The question arises whether "the Word of God" is here to be understood in St. John's sense of the Hypostatic Word, i.e. the Second Person of the holy Trinity, who became incarnate in Christ. It is so understood by the Fathers generally; and the fact of this Epistle being tinged generally with the thought and terminology of Philo (whose use of the word λόγος, derived from the Platonic philosophy in combination with Jewish theology, seems to anticipate in some degree, however vaguely, the doctrine of St. John) gives some countenance to the view. But against it are the following considerations: -
(1) Christ is not elsewhere in this Epistle designated as "the Word" but as "the SON." His eternal relation to the Father, though otherwise plainly intimated, is not expressed by this term, as it was by St. John.
(2) The description of the Word, as "sharper than any two-edged sword," is not suitable to the Hypostatic Word himself, but rather to the utterance of his power. Thus in Revelation 1:16, "the Son of man," and in Revelation 19:15, "he whose name is called the Word of God," has a "sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of his mouth." The sword is not himself, but that which "came forth out of his mouth." Cf. Isaiah 11:4, "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked;" cf. also Ephesians 6:17, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Hence, notwithstanding the prevailing view of the Fathers, it seems best to understand the term here as meaning generally the Divine utterance, without definite reference to the Hypo-static Word. It was the Word of God, in this sense, that debarred the ancient Israelites from their rest, and doomed them in the wilderness; it is the same Word which still more, as being uttered in the Son, is so searching and resistless now. True, it is through the Hypostatic Word that the Godhead has ever operated, of old as well as now, being God's eternal utterance of himself: the only question is whether this truth is here intended to be expressed, or, in other words, whether λόγος has here the personal sense in which St. John uses the term. It is possible that the writer passes in thought to a personal sense in the ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ of ver. 13, where αὐτοῦ μαψ refer to ὁ λόγος preceding, rather than to τοῦ Θεοῦ. But certainly at the beginning of the passage this specific sense does not seem to be suggested either by the context or the language used. Ver. 12. - For living is the Word of God, and powerful (or, effectual; cf. Philemon 1:6; 1 Corinthians 16:9), and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Observe how the predicates form a climax. The Word of God is, first, living, instinct with the life of the living God who utters it, itself a living power (cf. λόγια ζῶντα, Acts 7:38); then, not only so, but also operative, effective of its purpose; then, in this its operation, more keenly cutting than any sword; cutting so as to perpetrate through and through - through the whole inner being of man to its inmost depths; then, in doing so, discerning and opening to judgment all the secrets of his consciousness. This description of the power of the Word of God is given as a reason fur the warning, σπουδάσωμενα etc., "Let us give diligence," etc.; for, if we slight the Word of God, we can have no escape from its irresistible operation; we shall be thoroughly exposed and inevitably judged. The view of the Word of God having a sharply cutting operation is found in Philo, from whom Bleek cites a series of passages cognate to this in the Epistle. Cf. especially one in the treatise, 'Quis Rerum Divinorum Haeres.:' Τῷ τομεῖ τῶν συμπάντων αὐτοῦ λόγῳ ὅς εἰς τὴν ὀξοτάτης ἀκονηθεὶς αὐτοῦ λογῳ ὅς οὐδεπους λήγει τὰ αἰσθητὰ πάντα ἐπειδὰν δὲ μέχρι τῶν ἀτόμων καὶ λεγομένων ἀμερῶν διεξέλθῃ, etc. And for the comparison to a sword, cf. (as above referred to) Ephesians 6:17; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 19:15; and Isaiah 11:4. The true reading of the part of the sentence, "of soul and spirit," etc., is ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, the τε of the Textus Receptus after ψυχῆς being ill supported. The second τε, after ἁρμῶν, is therefore most naturally taken, and so as to give the best sense, in the sense of "both," not "and;" i.e. the second clause is not to be taken as denoting a further dividing - of the bodily parts as well as of the soul and spirit, but as expressing, by recurrence to the figure of a sword, the thoroughness of the division of soul and spirit. Further, the division spoken of is surely not of the soul from the spirit, as some have taken it. Delitzsch, e.g., explains to this effect - that in fallen man his πνεῦμα, which proceeded from God and carries in itself the Divine image, has become, "as it were, extinguished;" that "through the operation of grace man recalls to mind his own true nature, though shattered by sin;" "that heavenly nature or' man reappears when Christ is formed in him;" and thus the Word of God "marks out and separates" the πνεῦμα in him from the ψυχὴ in which it had been, "as it were, extinguished." Then, taking the clause, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, to express a further process of dissection, he explains by saying that the Word of God "exhibits to man the fact that ungodly powers are working also in his bodily frame, which has now in every joint and chord and marrow become the seat of sin and death, and so "goes on to scrutinize" his bodily as well as his spiritual part," and "lays bare before the eyes of God and before his own the whole man thus described." But the idea of the separation, in the above sense, of the πνεῦμα φρομ the ψυχὴ, even if tenable, is certainly far-fetched, and that of the corporeal dissection supposed is hardly intelligible. Further, the "dividing" of the bodily parts spoken of in the text (whether an illustration or a further process) does not suggest the separation of one part from another, since a sword does not divide the joints or the limbs (whichever be meant by apathy) from the marrow, though it may penetrate both. We may explain thus: It is well known that St. Paul divides man's complex nature into body, soul, and spirit - σῶμα ψυχὴ πνεῦμα (1 Thessalonians 5:23). His bodily organization (σῶμα) is not apparently here under consideration, except in regard to the figure of the sword; the ψυχὴ is his animal life or soul, the seat (so to speak) of his sensations, and of his natural affections and desires; his πνεῦμα is the more Divine part of his nature, in virtue of which he has a conscience, aspires after holiness, apprehends spiritual mysteries, holds communion with God, and is influenced by the Divine Spirit. The idea, then, is that, as a very keen sword not only cuts through the joints dividing bone from bone, but also through the bones themselves into the marrow within them, so the Word of God penetrates and discloses not,, . only. the ψοχὴ but the πνεῦμα too, "piercing through soul and spirit, yea [with reference to the illustration used] through both joints [or, 'limbs'] and marrow." Ebrard, taking ἁρμῶν in the sense of "limbs" (a sense in which the word is used, though that of "joints" is its proper and more usual one), regards these and the "marrow" as corresponding respectively to the ψυχὴ and the νεπῦμα: the ψυχὴ being understood as "something lying deep in man, the πνεῦμα lying still deeper." Thus as a very trenchant sword cuts through, not only the limbs, but also the marrow within them, so the Word of God penetrates, not only that part of human consciousness which is expressed by ψυχὴ, but also that deeper and more inward part which is expressed by πνεῦμα. But the general sense of the passage is plain enough without our supposing this strict analogy to have been intended. Expositors, in their analysis of the meaning of passages, may often detect more than the author thought cf. On κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων (translated "a discerner of"), cf. 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25, where the effects of the Word of God, brought to bear through the gift of prophecy on one without the gift entering into a congregation of prophesying Christians, are thus described: "he is convinced of all, he is judged [rather, 'examined,' 'scrutinized,' ἀνακρίνεται] of all; the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you [or, 'among you'] of a truth." So searching and judicial is the power of the Word of God, that it reaches and discloses the inmost depths of a man's consciousness - discloses them to himself, and, though he should resist, leaves him without escape, exposed and judged.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest,.... Not eternal rest; this is not to be entered into now; nor is an entrance into it to be obtained by labour; salvation is not by works; eternal life is a free gift; good works do not go before to prepare heaven for the saints, but follow after: nor is the saints' entrance into it a precarious thing; God has promised it, and provided it for his people; Christ is in the possession of it, and is preparing it for them; and the Spirit of God is working them up for the self same thing, and Christ will give them an abundant entrance into it: but the Gospel rest is here meant, that rest which believers now enter into, and is at this present time for them, Hebrews 4:3 and though true believers are entered into it, yet their rest, peace, and joy in Christ, is not full; they enter by degrees into it, and by believing enjoy more of it: and this is to be laboured for by prayer, hearing the word, and attendance on ordinances; and this requires strength, diligence, and industry; and supposes difficulties and discouragements, through the corruptions of the heart, and the temptations of Satan; and this is designed to quicken and awaken a godly jealousy in God's people, over themselves:
lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief; into the sin of unbelief, and into punishment through it, as the Israelites did; who sinning, their carcasses fell in the wilderness, and they entered not into God's rest, as he swore they should not: true believers may fall into sin, and from a degree of the exercise of grace, and of the steadfastness of the Gospel; but they cannot finally and totally fall away, because they are kept by the power of God; yet they may so fall, as to come short, or at least seem to come short of enjoying the rest and peace of the Gospel state: external professors may fall from the Gospel, and the religion they have professed, and come short of the glory they expected; and fall into just and deserved punishment, in like manner as the unbelieving Israelites did.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. Let us … therefore—Seeing such a promise is before us, which we may, like them, fall short of through unbelief.
labour—Greek, "strive diligently."
that rest—which is still future and so glorious. Or, in Alford's translation of Heb 4:10, "That rest into which Christ has entered before" (Heb 4:14; Heb 6:20).
fall—with the soul, not merely the body, as the rebel Israelites fell (Heb 3:17).
after the same example—Alford translates, "fall into the same example." The less prominent place of the "fall" in the Greek favors this. The sense is, "lest any fall into such disobedience (so the Greek for 'unbelief' means) as they gave a sample of" [Grotius]. The Jews say, "The parents are a sign (warning) to their sons."
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