Hebrews 4:11
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(11) Labour.—Rather, give diligence, strive earnestly. It is the necessity of watchful and constant faithfulness that is enforced. Hence the words that follow: “Lest any one fall into (or, after) the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 3:18).



Hebrews 4:11.

WITH this simple, practical exhortation, the writer closes one of the most profound and intricate portions of this Epistle. He has been dealing with two Old Testament passages, one of them, the statement in Genesis that God rested after His creative work; the other, the oath sworn in wrath that Israel should not enter into God’s rest. Combining these two, he draws from them the inferences that there is a rest of God which He enjoys, and of which He has promised to man a share; that the generation to whom the participation therein was first promised, and as a symbol of that participation, the outward possession of the land, fell by unbelief, and died in the wilderness; that the unclaimed promise continued to subsequent generations and continues to this day. All the glories of it, all the terrors of exclusion, the barriers that shut out, the conditions of entrance, the stringent motives to earnestness, are one in all generations. Surface forms may alter; the fundamentals of the religious life, in the promise of God, and the ways by which men may win or miss it, are unchangeable.

And so the reiterated appeal comes to us with its primeval freshness, saying, after so long a time, ‘Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.’

We have, then, in the words before us, these three things - the rest of God; the barriers against, and the conditions of, entrance; and the labour to secure the entrance.

I. Note then, first, the rest of God.

Now it is quite possible that the Psalmist, in the passage on which our text foots itself, may have meant by ‘My rest’ nothing more than repose in the land, which rest was God’s since He was the giver of it. But it seems more probable that something of the same idea was floating in his mind, which the writer of this Epistle states so expressly and strongly - viz., that far beyond that outward possession there is the repose of the divine nature in which, marvellous as it may seem, it is possible for a man, in some real fashion, to participate.

What, then, is the rest of God? The ‘rest’ which Genesis speaks about was, of course, not repose that recruited exhausted strength, but the cessation of work because the work was complete, the repose of satisfaction in what we should call an accomplished ideal.

And, further, in that august conception of the rest of God is included, not only the completion of all His purpose, and the full correspondence of effect with cause, but likewise the indisturbance and inward harmony of that infinite nature whereof all the parts co-operant to an end move in a motion which is rest.

And, further, the rest of God is compatible with, and, indeed, but another form of, unceasing activity. ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,’ said the Master; though the works were, in one sense, finished from the foundation of the world.

Now can we dare to dream that in any fashion that solemn, divine repose and tranquillity of perfection can be reproduced in us? Yes! The dewdrop is a sphere, as truly as the sun; the rainbow in the smallest drop of rain has all the prismatic colours blended in the same harmony as when the great iris strides across the sky. And if man be made in the image of God, man perfected shall be deiform, even in the matter of his apparently incommunicable repose. For they who are exalted to that final future participation in His life will have to look back, too, upon work which, stained as it has been in the doing, yet, in its being accepted upon the altar on which it was humbly laid, has been sanctified and greatened, and will be an element in their joy in the days that are to come. ‘They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them’ - not for accusation, nor to read to them bitter memories of incompleteness, but rather that they may contribute to the deep repose and rest of the heavens. In a modified form, but yet in reality, the rest of God may be possessed even by the imperfect workers here upon earth.

And, in like manner, that other aspect of the divine repose, in the tranquillity of a perfectly harmonious nature, is altogether, and without restriction, capable of being reproduced, and certain in the future to be reproduced in all them that love and trust Him, when the whole being shall be settled and centred upon Him, and will and desires and duty and conscience shall no more conflict. ‘Unite my heart to fear Thy name,’ is a prayer even for earth. It will be fully answered in heaven, and the souls made one through all their parts shall rest in God, and shall rest like God.

And further, the human participation in that divine repose will have, like its pattern, the blending without disturbance of rest with motion. The highest activity is the intensest repose. Just as a light, whirled with sufficient rapidity, will seem to make a still circle; just as the faster a wheel moves the more moveless it seems to stand; just as the rapidity of the earth’s flight through space, and the universality with which all the parts of it participate in the flight, produce the sensation of absolute immobility. It is not motion, but effort and friction, that break repose; and when there is neither the one nor the other, there will be no contrariety between activity and rest; but we shall enjoy at once the delights of both without the wear and tear and disturbance of the one or the languor of the other.

This participation by man in the rest of God, which has its culmination in the future, has its germ in the present. For I suppose that none of the higher blessings which attach to the perfect state of man, as revealed in Scripture, do so belong to that state as that their beginnings are not realised here. All the great promises of Scripture, except those which may point to purely physical conditions, begin to be fulfilled here in the earnest of the inheritance. And so, though toil be our lot, and work against the grain, beyond the strength, and for merely external objects of passing necessity., may be our task here, and the disturbance of rest through sorrows and cares is the experience of all, yet even here, as this Epistle has it, ‘we who have believed do enter into rest.’ The Canaan of the Jew is treated by the writer of this Epistle as having only been a symbol and outward pledge of the deeper repose to which the first receivers of the promise were being trained, if they had been faithful, to look forward and aspire; and the heaven that awaits us, in so far as it is a place and external condition, is in like manner but a symbol and making manifest to sense of the spiritual verity of union with God and satisfaction and rest in Him.

II. So look, secondly, at the barriers against, and the conditions of, entrance into that rest.

My text says, ‘Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.’ Now it is to be observed that in this section, of which this is the concluding hortatory portion, there is a double reason given for the failure of that generation to whom the promise was addressed to appropriate it to themselves; and that double representation has been unfortunately obscured in our Authorised Version by a uniform rendering of two different words. Sometimes, as here in my text, we find that the word translated ‘unbelief’ really means disobedience; and sometimes we find that it is correctly translated by the former term. For instance, in the earlier portions of the section, we find a warning against ‘an evil heart of unbelief.’ The word there is correctly translated, Then we find again, ‘To whom He ‘sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest; but unto them that believed not,’ where the word ought rather to be ‘them that were disobedient.’ And in the subsequent verse we find the ‘unbelief’ again mentioned. So there are not one but two things stated by the writer as the barriers to entrance - unbelief and its consequence and manifestation as well as root, disobedience.

And the converse, of course, follows. If the barrier be a shut door of unbelief, plated with disobedience, like iron upon an oak portal, then the condition of entrance is faith, with its consequence of submission of will, and obedience of life.

Notice the important lessons that are given by this alternation of the two ideas of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is submission, voluntary, within a man’s own power. If it be not exercised the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual ones, lies in the moral aversion of his will and in the pride of independence, which says, ‘Who is Lord over us?’ Why should we have to depend upon Jesus Christ? And as faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, and unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. The two interlock each other, foul mother and fouler child; and with dreadful reciprocity of influence the less a man trusts the more he disobeys, the more he disobeys the less he trusts.

But, then, further, note the respective influence of these two - faith and unbelief; and the other couple, obedience and disobedience, in securing entrance to the rest. Now I desire to bring into connection with this duality of representation, which, as I have said, pervades this section of our letter, our Lord’s blessed words, ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn’ of Me ‘and ye shall find rest.’ There again, we have the double source of rest, and by implication the double source of unrest. For the rest which is given, and the rest which is found, that which ensues from coming to Christ, and that which ensues from taking His yoke upon us and learning of Him, are not the same. But the one is the rest of faith, and the other is the rest of obedience.

So, then, consider the repose that ensues from faith, the unrest that dogs unbelief. When a man comes to Christ, then, because Christ enters into him, he enters into rest. There follow the calming of the conscience and reconciliation with God, there is the beginning of the harmonising of the whole nature in one supreme and satisfying love and devotion. These things still the storm and make the incipient Christian life in a true fashion, though in a small measure, participant of the rest of God.

People say that it is arbitrary to connect salvation with faith, and talk to us about the ‘injustice’ of men being saved and damned because of their creeds. We are not saved for our faith, nor condemned for our unbelief, but we are saved in our faith, and condemned in our unbelief. Suppose a man did not believe that prussic acid was a poison, and took a spoonful of it and died. You might say that his opinion killed him, but that would only be a shorthand way of saying that his opinion led him to take the thing that did kill him. Suppose a man believes that a medicine will cure him, and takes it, and gets well. Is it the drug or his opinion that cures him? If a certain mental state tends to produce certain emotions, you cannot have the emotions if you will not have the state. Suppose you do not rely upon the promised friendship and help of some one, you cannot have the joy of confidence or the gifts that you do not believe in and do not care for. And so faith is no arbitrary appointment, but the necessary condition, the only condition possible, in the nature of things, by which a man can enter into the rest of God. If we will not let Christ heal our wounds, they must keep on bleeding; if we will not let Him soothe our conscience, it must keep on pricking; if we will not have Him to bring us nigh, we must continue far off; if we will not open the door of our hearts to let Him in, He must stop without. Faith is the condition of entrance; unbelief bars the door of heaven against us, because it bars the door of our hearts against Him who is heaven.

And then, in like manner, obedience and disobedience are respectively conditions of coming into contact or remaining untouched by the powers which give repose. Submission is tranquillity. What disturbs us in this world is neither work nor worry, but wills unconformed to our work, and unsubmissive to our destiny. When we can say, ‘Thy will be done,’ then some faint beginnings of peace steal over our souls, and birds of calm sit brooding even on the yet heaving deep. The ox that kicks against the pricks only makes its hocks bloody. The ox that bows its thick neck to the yoke, and willingly pulls at the burden, has a quiet life. The bird that dashes itself against the wires of its cage bruises its wings and puts its little self into a flutter. When it is content with its limits, its song comes back. Obedience is repose; disobedience is disturbance, and they who trust and submit have entered into rest.

III. Now, lastly, a word about the discipline to secure the entrance.

That is a singular paradox and bringing together of opposing ideas, is it not, Let us labour to enter into rest? The paradox is not so strong in the Greek as here, but it still is there. For the word translated ‘labour’ carries with it the two ideas of earnestness and of diligence, and this is the condition on which alone we can secure the entrance, either into the full heaven above, or into the incipient heaven here.

But note, if we distinctly understand what sort of toil it is that is required to secure it, that settles the nature of the diligence. The main effort of every Christian life, in view of the possibilities of repose that are open to it here and now, and yonder in their perfection, ought to be directed to this one point of deepening and strengthening faith and its consequent obedience.

You can cultivate your faith, it is within your own power. You can make it strong or weak, operative through your life, or only partially, by fits and starts. And what is required is that Christian people should make a business of their godliness, and give themselves to it as carefully and as consciously and as constantly as they give themselves to their daily pursuits. The men that are diligent in the Christian life, who exercise that commonplace, prosaic, pedestrian, homely virtue of earnest effort, are sure to succeed; and there is no other way to succeed. You cannot go to heaven in silver slippers. But although it be true that heaves is a gift, and that the bread of God is given to us by His Son, the old commandment remains unrepealed, and has as direct and stringent reference to the inward Christian life as to the outward. ‘In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread,’ though it be at the same time bread that is given thee. And how are we to cultivate our faith? By contemplating the great object which kindles it. Do you do that?

By resolving, with fixed and reiterated determinations, that we will exercise it. ‘I will trust and not be afraid.’ Do you do that? By averting our eyes from the distracting competitors for our interest and attention, in so far as these might enfeeble our confidence. Do you do that? Diligence; that is the secret - a diligence which focuses our powers, and binds our vagrant wills into one strong, solid mass, and delivers us from languor and indolence, and stirs us up to seek the increase of faith as well as of hope and charity. Then, too, obedience is to be cultivated. How do you cultivate obedience? By obeying - by contemplating the great motives that should sway and melt, and sweetly subdue the will, which are all shrined in that one saying.

‘Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price,’ and by rigidly confining our desires and wishes within the limits of God’s appointment, and religiously referring all things to His supreme will. If thus we do, we shall enter into rest.

So, dear friends, the path is a plain enough one. We all know it. The goal is a clear enough one. I suppose we all believe it. What is wanted is feet that shall run with perseverance the race that is set before us. The word of my text which is translated ‘labour,’ is found in this Epistle in another connection, where the writer desires that we should show ‘the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.’ It is also caught up by one of the other apostles, who says to us, ‘Giving all diligence, add to your faith’ the manifold virtues of a practical obedience, and so ‘the entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ A more authoritative voice points us to the same strenuous effort, for our Lord has said, ‘Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you,’ and when the listeners asked Him what works He would have them do, He answered, bringing all down to one, which being done would produce all others, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.’

So if we labour to increase our faith, and its fruits of obedience, with a diligence inspired by our earnestness which is kindled by the thought of the sublimity of the reward, and the perils that seek to rob us of our crown, then, even in the wilderness, we shall enter into the Promised Land, and though the busy week of care and toil, of changefulness and sorrow, may disturb the surface of our souls, we shall have an inner sanctuary, where we can shut our doors about us and enjoy a foretaste of the Sabbath-keeping of the heavens, and be wrapped in the stillness of the rest of God.

Hebrews 4:11. Let us labour therefore, &c. — That is, since the Israelites were so severely punished for their unbelief, let us labour — Greek, σπουδασωμεν, let us be in earnest, use diligence, and make haste, (all which particulars are included in the word,) to enter into that rest — By sincerely believing and steadfastly obeying the gospel, aspiring after and striving to attain every branch of holiness, internal and external; lest any man fall — Into sin and eternal perdition; after the same example of unbelief — By reason of such unbelief as the Israelites gave an example of. The unbelief against which we are here cautioned, as being the cause of men’s falling under the wrath of God, is chiefly that kind of it which respects the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the reality and greatness of the joys of heaven, and the miseries of hell; the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, men’s sinfulness and guilt, depravity and weakness, and their need of the salvation of the gospel in all its branches, the ability and willingness of Christ to save them from their sins here, and conduct them to the heavenly country hereafter, together with his authority to judge the world, and power to dispense rewards to the righteous, and inflict punishments on the wicked. The unbelief of these great truths, revealed to us in the gospel, being the source of that wickedness which prevails among those called Christians, as well as among Mohammedans and heathen, we ought carefully to cherish a firm and steady belief of these things, lest by the want of a lively sense of them, we be led to live after the manner of the ungodly, and God he provoked to destroy us by the severity of his judgments.

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.Let us therefore labour - Let us earnestly strive. Since there is a rest whose attainment is worth all our efforts; since so many have failed of reaching it by their unbelief, and since there is so much danger that we may fail of it also, let us give all diligence that we may enter into it. Heaven is never obtained but by diligence; and no one enters there who does not earnestly desire it, and who does not make a sincere effort to reach it.

Of unbelief - Margin, "disobedience." The word "unbelief" best expresses the sense, as the apostle was showing that this was the principal thing that prevented people from entering into heaven; see the notes at Hebrews 3:12.

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."

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest: this is the use of the former doctrine, that since many through unbelief fall short of God’s rest, therefore let us labour: spoudaswmen imports study of mind, earnestness of affection, diligence of endeavour, with all the powers of soul and body to intend this work: so is it used, 2 Peter 1:10. This is the most necessary, excellent, and important one to us in this world, our single great business in it; and therefore, as students, our minds must be bent on it, and our wills fixed and resolved about it, and the operations of all the executive powers of our persons put forth to the utmost degree, so as all the duties necessary thereunto, as attendance on all ordinances, and the constant exercise of faith and obedience, must be fitting us for, and bringing us into, the full possession of the eternally blessed and glorious rest of God, 2 Peter 1:5-11.

Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief; that not any particular person may fall into sin and the consequences of it. The particle en may be read, into, and then it implies, lest any of you prove rebels and apostates. Or it is read, by, or after, and then it is a fall to destruction and hell, with all the miseries that those feel who are shut out of God’s rest, as their unbelieving forefathers were. God spared neither apostate men nor angels, and will not spare others if they sin as those did. Our judgments may be rather sorer, being warned by their example, 1 Corinthians 10:11; compare Hebrews 10:26,27,29. They were contumacious and disobeyed the gospel of God’s rest, therefore he destroyed them in the wilderness, and thrust them down to hell for ever: avoid you their sin, as you would labour to avoid their punishment.

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.

{3} Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest {d} any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

(3) He returns to an exhortation.

(d) Lest any man become a similar example of infidelity.

Hebrews 4:11-13. Conclusion by way of warning admonition.

σπουδάσωμεν] not: festinemus (Vulg.), but: let our earnest effort be directed to this end.

οὖν] deduces the inference from all that has been hitherto said, from Hebrews 3:7 onwards.

ἐκείνην τὴν κατάπαυσιν] that very κατάπαυσις, of which the discourse has heretofore been, which was described as a κατάπαυσις of God, as one already promised to the fathers, and then again to us, as a possession which they, on account of their disobedience and unbelief, failed to obtain, but which is still open to us as an ideal Sabbatic rest and everlasting blessedness, if we manifest faith and confidence.

ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ τῆς ἀπειθείας] lest any one fall into the same example of unbelief, i.e. lest any one fall into the same obstinate perversity as the fathers, and like them become a warning example for others. Thus the Vulgate, Luther, Beza, Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Abresch, Alford, Kurtz, Hofmann, Woerner, and others. πίπτειν ἐν is also quite usual in classical authors; see Passow and Pape ad vocem. From πίπτειν εἰς it is distinguished only by a greater degree of significance in that it does not merely like this express the falling into something, but also the subsequent lying in the same. Others, as Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Vatablus, Calvin, Schlichting, Jac. Cappellus, Wolf, Bengel, Carpzov, Schulz, Heinrichs, Bleek, de Wette, Stengel, Tholuck, Bisping, Grimm (Theol. Literaturbl. to the Darmstadt A. K.-Z. 1857, No. 29, p. 664; the last-named because the expression “to fall into an example,” instead of “to afford an example,” is supposed to be a forced one,—the expression, however, is only a concise one (see above),—and because πίπτειν is probably chosen with a retrospective glance to Hebrews 3:17, the passage to which reference is here made, with the difference that the word there denoted the physical destruction. But such intention in connection with the choice of the word is not at all to be assumed), Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 774), Maier, Kluge, Moll, Ewald, take πέσῃ absolutely: “fall, i.e. to be brought to ruin, perish.” In that case ἐν is explained either by per (Wolf, Stengel, Ewald, al.), or “conformably to [gemäss]” (Tholuck), or propter (Carpzov), or, what with this construction would alone be correct, of the condition, the state in which one is (Bleek, de Wette, Bisping, Delitzsch, Riehm, Maier, Moll): “in giving the same example.” But this whole construction is artificial. Opposed to it is likewise the position of πέσῃ. For had this word such emphasis as it must have so soon as it is taken in the absolute sense, it would not have been inserted in such subordinate, unaccentuated fashion between the other words, but have been introduced at the very beginning of the proposition: ἵνα μή τις πέσῃ κ.τ.λ.

Hebrews 4:11. The exhortation follows naturally, “Let us then earnestly strive to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall in the same example of disobedience”. The example of disobedience was that given by the wilderness generation and they are warned not to fall in the same way. πέσῃ ἐν is commonly construed “fall into,” but it seems preferable to render “fall by” or “in”; πέσῃ being used absolutely as in Romans 14:4, στήκει ἢ πίπτει. Vaughan has “lest anyone fall [by placing his foot] in the mark left by the Exodus generation”. ὑπόδειγμα is condemned by Phrynichus who says: οὐδὲ τοῦτο ὀρθῶς λέγεται· παράδειγμα λέγε. “In Attic ὑποδείκνυμι was never used except in its natural sense of show by implication; but in Herodotus and Xenophon it signifies to mark out, set a pattern.” Rutherford’s Phryn., p. 62. Cf. Hebrews 8:5 of this Epistle with John 13:15 for both meanings. It is used in Jam 5:10 with genitive of the thing to be imitated.

In Hebrews 4:12-13 another reason is added for dealing sincerely and strenuously with God’s promises and especially with this offer of rest. ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, “for the word of God is living,” that word of revelation which from the first verse of the Epistle has been in the writer’s mind and which he has in chaps, 3, 4 exhibited as a word of promise of entrance into God’s rest. Evidently, therefore, ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ is not, as Origen and other interpreters have supposed, the Personal Word incarnate in Christ, but God’s offers and promises. Not only is the γάρ, linking this clause to the promise of rest, decisive for this interpretation; but the mention of ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς in Hebrews 4:2 and the prominence given in the context to God’s promise make it impossible to think of anything else. To enforce the admonition to believe and obey the word of God, five epithets are added, which, says Westcott, “mark with increasing clearness its power to deal with the individual soul. There is a passage step by step from that which is most general to that which is most personal.” It is, first, ζῶν, “living” or, as A.V. has it, “quick”. Cf. 1 Peter 1:23, ἀναγεγεννημένοιδιὰ λόγου ζῶντος Θεοῦ καὶ μένοντος, and 1 Peter 1:24 τὸ ῥῆμα Κυρίου μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. The meaning is that the word remains efficacious, valid and operative, as it was when it came from the will of God. “It is living as being instinct with the life of its source” (Delitzsch). It is also ἐνεργὴς, active, effective, still doing the work it was intended to do, cf. Isaiah 55:11. τομώτερος ὐπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον, “sharper than any two-edged sword”. τομ. ὑπὲρ is a more forcible comparative than the genitive; cf. Luke 16:8; 2 Corinthians 12:13. The positive τομός is found in Plato Tim. 61 E. and elsewhere. δίστομος double-mouthed, i.e., double-edged, the sword being considered as a devouring beast, see 2 Samuel 11:25, καταφάγεται ἡ μάχαιρα. A double-edged sword is not only a more formidable weapon than a single-edged, offering less resistance and therefore cutting deeper (see Jdg 3:16 where Ehud made for himself μάχαιραν δίστομον a span long, and cf. Eurip., Helena, 983), but it was a common simile for sharpness as in Proverbs 5:4, ἠκονημένον μάλλον μαχαίρας διστόμου, whetted more than a two-edged sword; and Revelation 1:16, ῥομφαία δίστομος ὀξεῖα. The same comparison is used by Isaiah (Isaiah 49:2) and by St. Paul (Ephesians 6:17); but especially in Wis 18:15, “Thine Almighty Word leaped down from heaven … and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword. This sharpness is illustrated by its action, διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, ἁρμῶντε καὶ μυελῶν, an expression which does not mean that the word divides the soul from the spirit, the joints from the marrow, but that it pierces through all that is in man to that which lies deepest in his nature. “It is obvious that the writer does not mean anything very specific by each term of the enumeration, which produces its effect by the rhetorical fullness of the expressions” (Farrar). For the expression cf. Eurip., Hippol., 255 πρὸς ἄκρον μυελὸν ψυχῆς. But it is in the succeeding clause that the significance of his description appears; the word is Κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας “judging the conceptions and ideas of the heart”. The word of God coming to men in the offer of good of the highest kind tests their real desires and inmost intentions. When fellowship with God is made possible through His gracious offer, the inmost heart of man is sifted; and it is infallibly discovered and determined whether he truly loves the good and seeks it, or shrinks from accepting it as his eternal heritage. The terms in which this is conveyed find a striking analogy in Philo (Quis. Rer. Div. Haer., p. 491) where he speaks of God by His Word “cutting asunder the constituent parts of all bodies and objects that seem to be coherent and united. Which [the word] being whetted to the keenest possible edge, never ceases to pierce all sensible objects, and when it has passed through them to the things that are called atoms and indivisible, then again this cutting instrument begins to divide those things which are contemplated by reason into untold and indescribable portions.” Cf. p. 506. In addition to this (καὶ), the inward operation of the word finds its counterpart in the searching, inevitable inquisition of God Himself with whom we have to do. “No created thing is hidden before Him (God) but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” τετραχηλισμένα has created difficulty. τραχηλίζω is a word of the games, meaning “to bend back the neck” and so “to overcome”. In this sense of overmastering it was in very common use. In Philo, e.g., men are spoken of as f1τετραχηλισμένοι ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις. This meaning, however, gives a poor sense in our passage where it is followed by τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς. Chrysostom says the word is derived from the skinning of animals, and Theophylact, enlarging upon this interpretation, explains that when the victims had their throats cut, the skin was dragged off from the neck downwards exposing the carcase. No confirmation of this use of the word is given. Perizonius in a note on Ælian, Var., Hist., xii. 58, refers to Suetonius, Vitell., 17, where Vitellius is described as being dragged into the forum, half-naked, with his hands tied behind his back, a rope round his neck and his dress torn; and we are further told that they dragged back his head by his hair, and even pricked him under the chin with the point of a sword as they are wont to do to criminals, that he might let his face be seen and not hang his head. [So, too, Elsner, who refers to Perizonius and agrees that the word means resupïnata, manifesta, eorum quasi cervice ac facie reflexa, atque adeo intuentium oculis exposita, genere loquendi ab iis petito, quorum capita reclinantur, ne intuentium oculos fugiant et lateant; quod hominibus qui ad supplicium ducebantur, usu olim accidebat.” Cf. “Sic fatus galeam laeva tenet, atque reflexa Cervice orantis capulo tenus applicat ensem.” Virgil, Æn. x. 535.] Certainly this bending back of the head to expose the face gives an excellent and relevant sense here. The reason for thus emphasising the penetrating and inscrutable gaze of God is given in the description appended in the relative clause; it is He πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος, which, so far as the mere words go, might mean “of whom we speak” (cf. Hebrews 1:7 and Hebrews 5:11), but which obviously must here be rendered, as in A.V., “with whom we have to do,” or “with whom is our reckoning,” cf. Hebrews 13:17.

From Hebrews 4:14 to Hebrews 10:15 the writer treats of the Priesthood of the Son. The first paragraph extends from Hebrews 4:14 to Hebrews 5:10, and in this it is shown that Jesus has the qualifications of a priest, a call from God, and the sympathy which makes intercession hearty and real. The writer’s purpose is to encourage his readers to use the intercession of Christ with confidence, notwithstanding their sense of sinfulness. And he does so by reminding them that all High priests are appointed for the very purpose of offering sacrifice for sin, and that this office has not been assumed by them at their own instance but at the call of God. It is because God desires that sinful men be brought near to Him that priests hold office. And those are called to office, who by virtue of their own experience are prepared to enter into cordial sympathy with the sinner and heartily seek to intercede for him. All this holds true of Christ. He is Priest in obedience to God’s call. The office, as He had to fill it, involved much that was repugnant. With strong crying and tears He shrank from the death that was necessary to the fulfilment of His function. But His godly caution prompted as His ultimate prayer, that the will of the Father and not His own might be done. Thus by the things He suffered He learned obedience, and being thus perfected became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey Him, greeted and proclaimed High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

11. Let us labour] Lit., “let us be zealous,” or “give diligence” (2 Peter 1:10-11; Php 3:14).

lest any man] See note on Hebrews 4:1.

of unbelief] Rather, “of disobedience.”

Hebrews 4:11. Ἐκείνην, that) future, great.—ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ) in or after the same, as those men of former times.—ὑποδείγματι, example) The same word is found at Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 9:23. He who falls through unbelief, is an example to others, who then say, Behold, ὁ δεῖνα, that man, has in like manner fallen.—πέσῃ) fall, with the soul, not merely with the body: ch. Hebrews 3:17. Moses speaks without reference to the ruin of souls, when he recounts the destruction of the people in the wilderness.

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. Hebrews 4:11This promise of rest carries with it a special responsibility for the people of God.

Let us labor therefore (σπουδάσωμεν οὖν)

For the verb, see on Ephesians 4:3. Give diligence, not hasten, which is the primary meaning.

That rest (ἐκείνην τὴν κατάπαυσιν)

The Sabbath-rest of God, instituted at creation, promised to the fathers, forfeited by their unbelief, remaining to us on the condition of faith.

Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief (ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ τῆς ἀπειθείας)

Πέσῃ fall is to be taken absolutely; not, fall into the same example. Υ̓πόδειγμα example, mostly in Hebrews. Rejected as unclassical by the Attic rhetoricians. Originally a sign which suggests something: a partial suggestion as distinct from a complete expression. See Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23. Thus Christ's washing of the disciples' feet (John 13:15) was a typical suggestion of the whole field and duty of ministry. See on 1 Peter 2:6. It is not easy to give the exact force of ἐν in. Strictly speaking, the "example of disobedience" is conceived as that in which the falling takes place. The fall is viewed in the sphere of example. Comp. 2 Macc. 4:30; 1 Corinthians 2:7. Rend. that no man fall in the same example of disobedience: the same as that in which they fell.

Hebrews 4:11 Interlinear
Hebrews 4:11 Parallel Texts

Hebrews 4:11 NIV
Hebrews 4:11 NLT
Hebrews 4:11 ESV
Hebrews 4:11 NASB
Hebrews 4:11 KJV

Hebrews 4:11 Bible Apps
Hebrews 4:11 Parallel
Hebrews 4:11 Biblia Paralela
Hebrews 4:11 Chinese Bible
Hebrews 4:11 French Bible
Hebrews 4:11 German Bible

Bible Hub

Hebrews 4:10
Top of Page
Top of Page