Hebrews 4:1 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.
2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
God wants us to remember how susceptible we are to deception. The word translated as “fear” means: “to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience”. God wants His children to be mindful of the fact that He is always right and we are easily turned aside from the truth.
The apostle Paul spoke of how he wept for the saints in Ephesus as he taught them for 3 years. He had come to understand just how absolutely important God’s Word was. The New Testament shows us how quickly false teachers were able to turn once godly churches off course. Jesus addressed this problem in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is easier than we think to turn aside from the truth. Carelessness seems to be a very real sin we face. We neglect to see the importance of obedience to God’s Word. We allow the devil to convince us that obedience is tied to works salvation, and so we frown upon teaching obedience. Of course the multitude of nay-sayers are quick to label anyone who teaches the Word of God faithfully as a legalist. They do not even know the definition of a legalist, but it sounds good and so they keep using that term.
A legalist is someone who teaches that works are required for salvation and that strict obedience is required or else you lose your salvation. The Pharisees were legalists. The Judaizers were legalists. Jesus Christ was not a legalist. The writer of the book of Hebrews was not a legalist. In fact, you will not find one of the writers of the Bible to be legalists. However, a careful and Biblical study of God’s Word will show that obedience to God’s Word is required for those who are saved. Obedience does not save anyone. Obedience demonstrates the fruit of salvation. Those who are truly saved do not fight against obedience. They come to understand the blessing that flows from obedience.
The writer of our text was directed by God to warn of the danger of missing out on the rest that God has for His children.
Counterfeiters try to get their knock-off item to look as close as possible to the original. If they can succeed in doing that, they can pass it off as the real thing. For years criminals would work on making counterfeit money look as close as possible to the real thing. Now we read of those who are making counterfeit “passports” for this virus. We do not need the passports to begin with so why bother making a counterfeit.
The devil does not want people to know the truth. He has worked hard to make a counterfeit gospel that will be acceptable to many people. Sadly he has succeeded in doing so. There are far more people following the counterfeit gospel than there are following the true Gospel. Those who are following the false gospel are convinced they have the truth. They can point to preachers on the internet who teach what they believe. They can point to the many who are following the same thing they believe. Surely all those people cannot be wrong??!!
In Genesis 1 God established that His Word was truth and it was important. God taught man the importance of listening to and obeying His Word. In Genesis 3 we see that man did not take God seriously. He listened to a lie that came from the devil and was fed to his wife. Adam knew better and yet he chose to believe the lie. He may have looked at his wife and seen that she did not die immediately after eating the forbidden fruit. Until he ate of that fruit, he was still not ashamed of being naked. He had no sin until he ate of that fruit. After he ate of it he knew he had sinned. It was too late to go back. Now, as a sinner, he would try to devise a plan to live with sin without God knowing about it. He found out very quickly that can never work. The aprons that Adam and Eve made for themselves did not do anything to take away their shame and guilt.
It is interesting and important to note that no body taught Adam to sin. It is also interesting to note how quickly, as a sinner, Adam devised a plan to hide his sin. His plan was an absolute failure, but sin corrupted his mind instantly. That is what God is warning us of in our text. He keeps taking us back to the children of Israel in the wilderness and how corrupted they were because of unbelief. They insisted they were right, even though God showed them over and over again that His way was right. Their stubbornness cost them greatly in this life, and also for all eternity.
Adam began to waste precious time on things that had no real value. He began to develop a lie that he thought would fool God. Rather than investing time in serving God, now he was wasting time in trying to cover for his sin. It is impossible for us as people to cover for our sin. Yet, lost people want to do that. So they find some false teacher who teaches them how to cover sin and they like what they hear and they buy into the lie.
God tells us in Hebrews 4:1, there is a danger of missing out on the rest that God has promised to man. It is not a matter of losing salvation. It is a matter of never having salvation.
It is like the track and field person who is entered into the long jump competition. He jumps to the best of his ability, but he cannot get past the one who jumped further than he did. He could protest all he wants, but the marks in the sand tell the real story. He did not jump as far as the other person did. He cannot have first prize because he did not win. He did not lose first prize, He never had it, but he was competing for it. However, his jump just was not good enough.
False doctrine can never match up to God’s truth. It does not matter how close it seems to be to the truth. False doctrine can never equal God’s truth. God demonstrates His love for us in showing us the truth here. He does not want us to get caught in a lie. He wants us to know the truth and be set free from sin. We must accept the truth in its entirety. We do not need to know the whole Bible or understand it all to be saved. We need to accept the truth regarding Who God is and how needful it is to submit to His truth in order to be saved. We must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone to be saved. If we are trusting in Jesus Christ alone, we are not trusting in anything else. It does not matter who says anything else. What does God’s Word say? It does not matter what our imagination can come up with. What does the Bible says? If we study the Bible consistently and faithfully, we will not be led astray. If we develop our own false doctrine and then force God’s Word to fit our false doctrine we are in trouble. Many false religions have done that. God warns us here that is a complete waste of time. He has already declared the truth and we need to believe the truth in order to be saved.
Again, we should be able to see why a true church is so important. Jesus established the first true church at Jerusalem. It began with His disciples. It grew as we read in the book of Acts. God knows we need to be taught the truth and we need to be reminded of the importance of the truth. He knows that will never happen unless He appoints Godly men to serve under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ as evangelists, pastors and teachers. Godly evangelists, pastors and teachers draw from the apostles and prophets in order to teach God’s Word. They are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and they prove that they are submissive to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
God directed Paul to address the confusion we have today in I Corinthians 14. Arrogance was a problem in the church in Corinth. Arrogance is a big problem among professing Christians today. Everyone has their own doctrine, and they will form their own little splinter group. However, they lack Godly leadership and the thing may grow, but not with God’s blessing.
Verse 2 tells us of the universal nature of the Gospel. It does not teach “universal church” doctrine. It teaches that the one and the same true Gospel was given to us as it was given to Israel. The problem with Israel was not that they did not have the Gospel. The problem with Israel was not that they did not have enough of the Gospel. The problem was that as they heard the Gospel, it was not accompanied by faith.
A person can be exposed to the truth and not be saved. Judas followed the same Jesus that the other eleven disciples followed. Judas heard the same preaching and teaching the others heard. He saw the same miracles done by Jesus that the others saw. However, Judas fell short of the “rest” of God. He did not believe that what He heard and what He saw was divine truth. It was nice and it may even have been spectacular to him. However it was not mixed with faith. He missed out entirely because of that.
We noted yesterday that king Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian. However, he was not a Christian. Almost is not good enough. Being close to the truth is not the truth.
Jesus declared that the truth shall make you free. The Jews He was speaking to in John 8 believed on Him, but they were not saved. They lacked that faith that saves. They did not believe they were in bondage. Jesus told them they were the children of the devil. Strong words, but true words. You can read about that in John 8.
There is a need to believe what God says is absolute truth. There is a need to turn to God in repentance and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. If a person does that, they are saved and then they can continue to grow as a child of God. If they will not accept that truth, they are not saved and they cannot grow. If they are saved they will want to grow. There will be markers along the way that prove they are saved. Those markers will be the same for each and every true child of God.
This is not a matter of opinion. This is a matter of Biblical fact.