Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.…
I. In vindication of the principle, that NO UNBELIEVER CAN BE PROFITED BY THE PRIVILEGE AND BLESSINGS OF THE GOSPEL, IT WILL NOT REQUIRE MUCH PAINS TO SHOW THAT SUCH AN APPOINTMENT IS PERFECTLY CONSISTENT WITH GOD'S FAITHFULNESS AND TRUTH. God, no doubt, promised that He would confer upon His ancient people the heritage of Canaan; but surely He is Himself the best interpreter of His own will; and if we find that many, to whom the promise was given, entered not in because of unbelief, it is only reasonable to conclude that the giving of the promise at first was not irrespective of, but dependent on, the character and conduct of those to whom it was given. Jehovah was sincere, but for that very reason He required sincerity. He was willing to fulfil the promise, but His rebellious people were unwilling to receive it. God's promises are all sovereign. If they be laid hold of, they will and must be enjoyed. If, however, they be not laid hold of, if they be disbelieved, then they are void; for this reason, that they are revealed in such a shape that they become our property only when we believe them. The gospel will not enrich us unless we receive it with faith. The two truths, therefore, are quite compatible and harmonious, that salvation is absolutely gratuitous, while we can get it only by vigorously acting in faith upon Jesus Christ. To illustrate the matter by a comparison: When we walk, it is not the material and tangible substance of which our limbs are composed, it is not the bones and sinews which are the cause of motion. They are mere instruments or secondary agents which move only as they are impelled. Taken by themselves, or viewed in their component parts, they are mere masses of organic matter, devoid of all power or energy, and subject only to changes or motions that may be impressed on them. The real cause of motion in the limbs is the vital principle, which, unseen and incomprehensible, controls every function, effects every movement, operates every change. It is not the limbs, then, that cause the motion; they only perform the motion: the cause of the motion is the element of life, the spiritual and nervous energy which pervades the limbs and qualifies them for the task they have to perform. Now, in like manner, it is not the sinner that effects his own redemption, but the grace of God that has appeared unto us and to all men, bringing salvation. This is the sole and the omnipotent agent. No other agent could perform the work. But this agent does not work without means, and these means are just the faculties and powers of the human mind. God's grace operates through the instrumentality of our faculties, and if we chain up these faculties in indolent inaction, we virtually resist the Spirit of God, and say we will not have the Lord to reign over us.
II. EXPLAIN AND ILLUSTRATE THE GROUNDS OF THE DOCTRINE, THAT WANT OF FAITH VITIATES AND NEUTRALISES THE EFFECT OF SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES. Faith is, if we may so speak, the power of spiritual digestion. And as it does not discredit the excellence of wine or any other nourishing substance, that it is incapable of strengthening the sick and exhausted invalid whose constitution, is irreparably injured; so the promises of Divine grace are no way dishonoured when persons who want faith are found to derive from these promises no spiritual or solid advantage. The Word preached cannot profit when it is not mingled with faith in the hearer, for there can be no nutrition where there is no appropriation of food. There can be no vital circulation in the severed twig unless that twig be engrafted. The Word may be read, heard, studied, loved; but it is only the engrafted Word that is able to save our souls. It is only when believed that the gospel message is profitable. Faith, then, is necessary —
1. Because, according to God's own appointment, it is the preliminary step of our being received into His favour. It is the constituted deed of entitlement.
2. Faith alone can secure us victory over our spiritual enemies. Here, again, the value of faith depends on its being on God's will and promise linked in connection with spiritual conquest. Our foes, Satan, sin, the world, and the flesh, are all mightier than our wills. But God has said this is the victory that overcometh them all, even our faith. Nothing else has such a promise.
3. Faith alone can impart peace to the soul. Such is its nature. For it is in fact just the belief that God is reconciled, attached to us, our Friend, our Father, even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless we be persuaded of this we cannot love Him.
4. Lastly, faith alone can make us holy. If we believe Christ died for our sins, we shall feel the constraining influence of a motive that more than any other will excite us to obey the Divine will. And then the spirit of sanctification accompanies the exercise of faith, and purifies the soul in obeying the truth. Faith, therefore, is universally profitable. It is the harbinger of every other grace.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.