Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : November 25, 1897
How is it Made
We come now to the conclusion of the fourth chapter of Hebrews. The subject of the rest that remains for all who believe has been quite fully considered, although by no means exhausted, and we proceed from the exhortation to give diligence to enter into that rest lest any fall through unbelief, to that which follows, quoting the Revised Version, as being better worded. We must give diligence, or labor, to enter God’s rest, because “The Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
“Having then a great High Priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.” Hebrews 4.12-16, R.V.
Questions on the Text
• For, what are we exhorted to labor?
o “To enter into that rest.”
• How is it that we enter into that rest?
o “We which have believed do enter into rest.” Verse 3.
• What then is the work by which we enter into rest?
o “This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” John 6.29
• And how does faith come?
o “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10.17
• What evidence is there that this resting on the Word of God does not mean indolence?
o “The Word of God is living and active.” Greek, “energy.”
• How keen is it?
o “Sharper than any two edged sword.”
• What does it do, that no two-edged sword can do?
o “Piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow.”
• What is said of the understanding of the Word?
o “Quick to the heart.”
• Who is the embodiment of the Word of God?
o “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” John 1.1, 3, 4, 14
• How much is hidden from the Word?
o “There is no creature that is not manifest in His sight.”
• How do all things stand before Him?
o “All things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
• What is this ever-present, all-seeing Word?
o “A great High Priest.”
• Where is He exercising His office?
o He “hath passed through [or into] the heavens.”
• How does this concern us?
o “We have a great High Priest.” (This is quoted from the common version solely on account of the direct form of speech. Precisely the same thing is stated in the Revised Version, but in words that do not allow so direct an answer to the question.)
• Seeing that we have such a great High Priest, what should we do?
o “Hold fast our confession.”
• What encouragement have we thus to hold fast?
o “For we have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
• How much does He know about them?
o He “hath been in all points tempted like as we are.”
• How did He come forth from the temptations?
o Without sin.”
• What may we therefore do?
o “Draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace.”
• Of what may we be confident?
o That we may receive mercy and may find grace to help us, in time of need.
Rest Not in Inactivity.—The rest that remains for the people of God is obtained by absolute acceptance of God’s Word. “The Word of Christ”, which is Spirit and life (John 6.63) is to be allowed to dwell richly in the soul. Colossians 3.16. “To him that works not, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4.5), and faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Romans 10.17. But this does not imply idleness and inactivity on the part of the believer. Far from it; for the indwelling “Word of God is living and active.” Hebrews 4.12. The Greek word here translated “active” and in the common version “powerful,” is the word which is transferred into English as “energy.” That is to say, the Word of God is force, and, since it is not merely alive, but is life itself, it will be seen that the Word of God is vital force. It is, indeed, all the force there is in the universe. Christ upholds all things “by the Word of His power.” Hebrews 1.3. All things that exist rest on His Word, yet everything in nature is in a state of intense activity. Everything is in motion. Therefore the soul that rests absolutely on the Word of God, and is filled with it, will be as active in the work that God has designed him for, as any part of God’s creation. God Himself will work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure.
“The Sword of the Spirit.”—The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, Christ is the Word of God, and in the Revelation He is represented with a sharp two-edged sword going out of His mouth. Revelation 1.16. But it is sharper than any two-edged sword on earth, for the sharpest earthly sword can pierce only between different portions of the body, but this pierces every fiber of the body, and the spirit as well.
God’s Word Our Life.—In Hebrews 4.12, 13 we have the representation of the indwelling Christ, “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The Word of God piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart - is simply the Word made flesh. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Christ says that He is “the life.” Every pulse beat is but the throbbing of His life. He is our life, for the life is the light of men, and it “lights every man that comes into the world.” John 1.4, 9. Wherever there is life, there Christ is present, because He is “the life.” “In Him all things consist.”
The Reckoning Already Made.—Since the living Word is the life of every being, it most naturally follows that it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Thus God knows, because He feels. Not a thing touches humanity that does not touch Him. “He knows our frame,” not simply because He made it, but because He bears it. Every motion, every thought, comes upon the Word, which “was made flesh,” so that He understands our thoughts even better than we do ourselves, since He is more keenly sensitive. Indeed, our hearts deceive us, but not Him. Jeremiah 17.9. “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.” “For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” Psalm 139.1, 2, 4. How is it that He knows it?—Because He is there; prompting the good, as we yield to His influence, and enduring the evil when we hold down the truth in unrighteousness. Therefore all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The reckoning is all made up every instant. There will be a time of judgment, but not for the purpose of enlightening the Lord. Whatever instant we look into the Word, we can see an accurate estimate of ourselves.
Our Confession.—“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, let us hold fast our profession,” or “confession,” as the Revision more accurately renders it. What is this “Confession of faith,” to which we are exhorted to hold fast? It is that which is referred to in the two preceding verses. A confession is simply an acknowledgment of the truth. The great truth—the Gospel of great joy—for all people, is that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” 1 John 4.2. Whoever makes that confession is of God, because of the truth, we have been studying about the living and active Word piercing every fiber; now read Romans 10.8, 9, where of Christ the Word, we read: “The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the Word of faith which we preach: that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
“The Word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” For what purpose is it so near?—“That you may do it.” Deuteronomy 30.14 The living Word is therefore in the mouth and heart of the sinner, in order that he may do it. So near has God brought His saving grace to all mankind. “He is not far from every one of us.” No; He is very near, even in our very hearts and mouths, “a very present help in trouble.” Lest any should think that this cannot be true of sinners, we will call attention to the following facts in connection with the Scriptures: No one first makes a thing true by confessing it; it does not become a fact because he confesses it, but he confesses it because it is already a fact. Therefore the confession of Christ is but the acknowledgment of the already existing fact, that He “is come in the flesh.” The Word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart—in thy flesh; confess this fact, and “thou shalt be saved.” This teaches the presence of Christ in every soul, waiting for recognition, in order that He may save.
“Then you would make no difference between a sinner and a Christian?”—Oh, yes, indeed; all the difference in the world, or, rather, all the difference between the world and heaven. Christ has come in the flesh,—that is in all mankind, for man is flesh (Genesis 6.3),—but while He dwells in the sinner without recognition, and is held down in unrighteousness (Romans 1.18), in the Christian He dwells “by faith.” Ephesians 3.17. The difference between the impenitent sinner and the Christian is the difference between a man who uses the gift of God without any recognition of the Giver, arrogating to himself God’s power, and a man who acknowledges that the Lord is his strength, and who yields all to His control.
Take any sinner; let him acknowledge the truth that is evident to every one, that he does not live by his own power, but that Christ is the only vital force, and let him live in constant recognition of that fact, and he will at once and for ever be a Christian, for he will necessarily allow Christ to have His own way, living His own life in full. Thus easy has God made the way of salvation: simply a constant giving up of self to the control of the Power that keeps us alive. What a glorious Gospel this is to every poor sinner! And what a glorious thing to be permitted to proclaim it! Think of the joy of being able to assure the most debased soul that the fact that he still lives is evidence that there is salvation for him, if he desires salvation, and will yield to the power that keeps him alive. He, who is our High Priest on the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, is also by the Spirit present in the flesh, with all power in heaven and on earth over all flesh. John 17.2. Confess this truth, and you have the victory over the world. 1 John 5.4, 5
This is the only confession of faith. Men may recite creeds until they are gray, and be no better for it, for you cannot put Christ on paper. The confession of faith is not a dogma or a formula of belief that can be recited in concert by a class of boys. The true confession of faith—the confession of Christ—is the recognition and acknowledgment of the living truth that Christ dwells personally by the Spirit in the one making the confession. Each one must make it for himself, as the result of personal conviction, in words coming from the fullness of his heart, and not dictated to him by another; and not only in words but in action, for the indwelling Word is living and active. The true confession of faith is therefore not a thing for a single hour, but of a lifetime, for it is the Christian life. When this confession is made in truth, the Scriptures will be carefully studied in order that the one confessing may consciously yield to their power, and thus live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Encouragement.—“Let us hold fast our confession.” What confession?—That Jesus is come in the flesh - in our flesh. Why?—“For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Clear that statement of the negatives, and we have the equivalent: “We have a High Priest which can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” The original word is “sympathize,” which means “to suffer with,” and thus it is rendered in many versions. We have a High Priest, which suffers with us in all our infirmities. “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” and He still dwells in the flesh, suffering all its infirmities, bearing all its weakness and sin, by the same power by which He bore them eighteen hundred years ago without sin. Here is encouragement, yes, joy and rest for the weary sinner.
Not Ashamed.—We have read that He is not ashamed to call us His brethren; therefore He does not despise us. There are Pharisees in the church today, as well as in the days when Jesus lived in Judea, who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others; who look with scorn and contempt on a poor outcast, and say, “Come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” But “this Man receives sinners.” Although no trace of sin ever marred His character, He is all gentleness and tender compassion to the vilest sinner, for He knows the weight of sin. He encourages each one to pour into His ear all his troubles and temptation, saying, “My brother, I know all about it; I have suffered the same things, and I sympathize with you; trust Me, and I will work in you the same power by which I was kept from sin.” Who cannot love so tender and loving a Companion and Friend? When we know Jesus as He is, we shall find Him the most companionable of beings. We may tell Him everything, and He will never betray us. The sin that is committed to Him will be kept secret for ever; none other will ever be allowed to know of it. Satan, the adversary of souls, will seek for it, in order to urge it against us in the Judgment, to our ruin, but it cannot he found; and even the Lord Himself will forget it.
Boldness.—“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace, to help in time of need.” “Boldly,” literally, “free spoken; license of tongue. Speak out; do not be afraid to talk to Him, for He Himself has put the words in your mouth. He has said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, I will do.” John 14.13, You cannot make too large an order, for He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3.20. And you may be sure that what He is able to do He will do, for He has given His life as the pledge, and all things are yours in Him.
I will not—I will not desert to its foes,
That soul—though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never,—no never,—no never forsake.”