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Hebrews 4:11-16

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 8, 2018


We don’t know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we do have a pretty good idea of who it was written to.

Hebrews was written to Jewish believers.

The author expects the readers to be well acquainted with Levitical worship and sacrifice.
He will constantly quote the Old Testament in a way that expects that the reader understands what he’s talking about.

We also know that these believers were encountering very strong persecution.

Times were so bad that some were beginning to wonder if they shouldn’t quit following Jesus.

We will see three elements woven throughout this letter to the Hebrews.

1.  Both Testaments

Even though the Old Testament has become “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13), the entire book of Hebrews is built upon the clear foundation of the Old Testament.
(Hebrews 8:13 NKJV) In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
You aren’t going to understand Hebrews, or even the New Testament correctly unless you learn the Old Testament.

2. Jesus is superior

He’s superior to angels.
He’s superior to Moses and the Torah.
He’s superior to the Levitical priests and their sacrifices.

3. Don’t quit

The ultimate goal of the book is to encourage those who are struggling with difficult times, and help them to endure.
There’s much to find strength from and not quit.

4:11-13 The Living Word

:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest

The Old King James translates this as “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest…”

We can get confused by “laboring to enter into God’s rest”, getting confused over labor and rest. 
This has added to the confusion in this passage – making it sound as if our salvation is based on our “labor” or our “works”

be diligentspoudazo – to hasten, make haste; to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence

The author isn’t talking about “works”.
He’s talking about being diligent to do something while you can, going through a door while it’s open.
The issue of salvation has always been about “faith”.
We are saved because we have put our complete trust in the finished work of Christ – His death and resurrection.

:11 lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience

fallpipto – to descend from a higher place to a lower; to fall (either from or upon); to fail of participating in, miss a share in

examplehupodeigma – a sign suggestive of anything, delineation of a thing, representation, figure, copy; an example: for imitation

disobedienceapeitheia (“not” + “persuaded, believing”)

We saw this word several times last week and talked about it carrying the idea of being “unpersuaded”.
The issue isn’t about “works”, but about “believing”.

The author is finishing up his exposition of Psalm 95, which David wrote in talking about the history of the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness.

David’s exhortation was to watch our hearts lest we become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Our author came to the conclusion that the Israelites who wandered for forty years didn’t make it into the Promised Land (which became a picture of heaven) because of their unbelief.
(Hebrews 3:19 NKJV) So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

It’s important to pay attention here.

The author has given an exposition of Scripture and has used the ancient “example” of the Israelites as a way of teaching a modern principle to his readers.
The principle? Don’t walk away from Jesus.

His point came from Scripture.

:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

:12 the word of God

wordlogos – of speech; a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea; what someone has said; discourse; doctrine, teaching

What is the “word of God”?

It is what God speaks, including:
The Bible
(2 Timothy 3:16–17 NKJV) —16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
New Testament
The New Testament has the same power, even more, than the Old Testament.
We see it in the Gospels, in the actual words of Jesus:

(Matthew 7:28–29 NKJV) —28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

We see it in the writings of Paul.

Peter wrote that he considered the writings of Paul to be on the same level as the rest of Scripture. (2Pet. 3:15-16)

(2 Peter 3:15–16 NKJV) —15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

Prophetic words
Even though we primarily think of the Scriptures as being the “word of God”, God still speaks today through the gift of prophecy.

Prophecy isn’t just about predicting things in the future.  It is primarily speaking for God.  God knows the future, so sometimes the future is mentioned, but it is primarily speaking for God.

Paul wrote about what would happen to a visitor if the entire church learned to “prophesy”:

(1 Corinthians 14:3 NKJV) But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

(1 Corinthians 14:24b–25 NKJV) —24b …he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

The danger of prophetic words comes when we do not do our responsibility, which is to “judge” the words spoken and make sure they are truly from God.

(1 Corinthians 14:29 NKJV) Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.

Just as in the days of the Old Testament, people will claim to speak for God and exercise authority to tell you what you should do, when God in fact hasn’t spoken.

We need to be careful and discern these things.

:12 is living and powerful

livingzao – to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead); to enjoy real life; to live i.e. pass life, in the manner of the living and acting; metaph. to be in full vigour; to be fresh, strong, efficient,; as adj. active, powerful, efficacious

wordlogos – word

powerfulenerges (“in” + “work”) – active


It’s alive

You might relate the “word of God” to your Bible.
And your Bible is just a lifeless batch of words on printed pages, right?
Video:  Young Frankenstein – It’s Alive
The Word of God is “alive”
What's the connection here?
This whole section on diligence, watchfulness, being careful about hard hearts, entering into God's rest, etc, comes from Psalm 95.
Psalm 95 may be an old passage to the readers, but it’s still alive today.
It has the power to transform lives today.
God says,
(Isaiah 55:10–11 NKJV) —10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
If you don’t already have a habit of picking up and reading your Bible every day, shouldn’t you rethink that?
Do you want God to be at work in your life every day?
Get the Word of God into your heart.

:12 sharper than any two-edged sword

sharpertomoteros – sharper. 

A comparative form of temno, “to cut”.  This is “more cutting”, the idea that with a single stroke you can cut more than lots of hacking with a dull blade.

anypas – individually; each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything

It’s not just “sharper than a two-edged sword”, but “sharper than ALL two-edged swords”.

two-edgeddistomos – having a double mouth as a river; used of the edge of the sword and of other weapons, so has the meaning of two-edged


Use it

swordmachaira – a large knife; a small sword
There are several types of swords mentioned in Scripture.
There’s a “big” sword (romphaia)

Video:  Indiana Jones – Sword vs. Gun

The Bible says that Jesus carries a romphaia (Rev. 19:15; 1:16)

(Revelation 19:15 NKJV) Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Then there’s the “small” sword (machaira)

Video:  The Robe – Marcellus Sword Fight

The machaira was designed for close combat.

It was both an offensive weapon as well as a defensive weapon.

It could cut your enemy, but it could also counter your enemy’s blows.

Paul calls God’s Word the sword that each believer needs to have as part of his spiritual armor.

(Ephesians 6:17 NKJV) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

The Bible is a sharp tool.
Sometimes we are facing a spiritual enemy, and we need an effective weapon.

When Stephen was on trial before the Sanhedrin for preaching about Jesus, he used the Scriptures for his defense.  Listen how God’s Word worked:

(Acts 7:54 NKJV) When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.

Sometimes the situation doesn’t call for a sword as much as for a scalpel.  Our heart is not to destroy people, but to see them changed, to see them healed.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and gave a sermon to the crowd.  He quoted one scripture after another.  Look at the response:

(Acts 2:37 NKJV) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Be careful about not sharing God’s word with a skeptic.
“It’s not going to affect me”, they say, “I don’t believe it’s God’s Word.”
Let’s say that I don’t believe in guns.  If you pull a loaded gun on me and pull the trigger, will the gun do anything?  Even if I don’t believe?
Yet God’s word is far more powerful than any gun.  It doesn’t destroy lives, it transforms them.
The ministry of Billy Graham was perhaps the most powerful ministry the world has ever seen.  His secret?  Listen as he documents his source material in a message from 1971…
Video:  Billy Graham – Who is Jesus? 1971

(clips from 14:00, 17:25, 18:50)

Ok, he also quoted his wife from time to time.  :-)

Yet over and over Billy would say, “the Bible says…”, or “the Scriptures say…”

Take the sword out and use it.

:12 …a discerner of the thoughts and intents



piercingdiikneomai (“through” + “sufficient”) – to go through, penetrate, pierce
divisionmerismos – a division, partition; distribution (of various kinds); a separation; so far as to cleave asunder or separate
soulpsuche – breath; the breath of life; the soul; the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.)
spiritpneuma – spirit; the third person of the triune God; the spirit, i.e. the vital principal by which the body is animated
jointsharmos – a joining, a joint
marrowmuelos – marrow
a discernerkritikos – relating to judging, fit for judging, skilled in judging
intentsennoia (“in” + “mind”) – the act of thinking, consideration, meditation; a thought, notion, conception; mind, understanding, will, manner of feeling, and thinking
(1 Peter 4:1 NKJV) Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
There are three pairs of things of things mentioned here and they all have the same thing in common – it’s hard to tell one thing from the other.
The concepts of “soul” and “spirit” are actually quite hard to define.  They constantly overlap each other in definitions and usage in the Scripture.

We might say that a “soul” is our invisible human “self” containing emotions and personality, and our “spirit” is that invisible part of us that connects with God … but it’s really hard at times to tell one from the other.

When we worship and you begin to sense God’s presence – what is at work?  Is it your “spirit”?  Is it your “soul”?  It’s actually a bit of both.

The concept of “joints” and “marrow” are the same in the ancient mind.  It’s hard to tell them apart.
The concept of “thoughts” and “intents” are likewise hard to tell apart.

The word for “thoughts” is a bit unusual:

thoughtsenthumesis (“in” + “passion, anger”) – consideration; reflection; can imply what is foolish or wicked

It is translated “thoughts” most of the time, but in the context of each passage it’s used in, it’s got a negative connotation (Mat. 9:4; 12:25; Acts 17:29)

(Matthew 9:4 NKJV) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

(Matthew 12:25 NKJV) But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

(Acts 17:29 NKJV) Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

The “Word” is like a surgeon who skillfully opens you up, then is able to tell where the tumor is and able to skillfully remove all the cancer and leave the organs intact.
Ever have trouble understanding an idea in your own heart?

We often question the “motives” of others, but we don’t often stop and question our own motivation.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to tell whether the “thought” has a bit of wickedness hidden in it, or whether it’s a godly “intent”.

Get into the Word of God.  Open yourself up to it!

:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

creaturektisis – the act of founding, establishing, building etc; the act of creating, creation; creation i.e. thing created; of individual things, beings, a creature, a creation

hiddenaphanes (“not” + “shining”) – not manifest, hidden

nakedgumnos – properly; unclad, without clothing, the naked body; clad in undergarments only (the outer garments or cloak being laid aside); metaph. naked, i.e. open, lay bare

opentrachelizo (“neck”) – to seize and twist the neck or throat; of combatants who handle thus their antagonist; to bend back the neck of a victim to be slain, to lay bare or expose by bending back; to lay bare, uncover, expose; laid bare, laid open, made manifest to one

accountlogos – of speech, a word; its use as respect to the MIND alone; reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating; account, i.e. answer or explanation in reference to judgment

:13 there is no creature hidden from His sight

The writer is speaking to people who are thinking that it’s not all that important to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus just causes trouble, right?

None of our silly excuses can stand up before God’s presence.

If you choose to not follow Jesus, you will one day stand before God and He will ask you, “Why didn’t you follow Jesus?”
And you will have no excuse.

4:14-16 Our High Priest

:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

high priestarchiereus – chief priest, high priest

greatmegas – great; of persons, eminent for ability, virtue, authority, power; splendid, prepared on a grand scale, stately

Jesus is great because He’s better than angels (chapter 1) and He’s better than Moses (chapter 2).

passed through dierchomai – to go through, pass through

hold fastkrateo – to have power, be powerful; to get possession of; to take hold of; to hold

confessionhomologia – profession

:14 we have a great High Priest

Jesus is our great High Priest.  We’ll see more about what that means in the following weeks.

:14 who has passed through the heavens

The Tabernacle and the Temple both had similar layouts with two rooms:  The Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.

Regular priests would take turns every day coming into the first room, “holy place” and performing certain rituals.

The “holy place” was a picture of heaven.

The high priest was the only one who once a year would “pass through” the “Holy Place” (the heavens) and into the “Holy of Holies”.

The Holy of Holies was a picture of God’s very throne room.
That’s where Jesus is right now.

:14 let us hold fast our confession

Remember that the readers were thinking of abandoning Jesus.

He tells them to hold tight instead.

Jesus is better than any high priest because He didn’t pass into the earthly picture of God’s throne room (the holy of holies), He made it into the real throne room of God.

So don’t abandon your walk with Jesus.

:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

which cannotdunamai – to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favorable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom; to be able to do something; to be capable, strong and powerful

sympathizesumpatheo (“with” + “suffer or feel”) – (our word “sympathetic”) to be affected with the same feeling as another, to sympathize with; to feel for, have compassion on

weaknessesastheneia – want of strength, weakness, infirmity

temptedpeirao – to make a trial of, to attempt; to test, to make trial of one, put him to proof; in particular, to attempt to induce one to commit some (esp. carnal) crime; tempted to sin.  The verb is a perfect tense, meaning that the effects of the tempting kept carrying on into the present.

as we arehomoiotes – likeness

sinhamartia – to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong; to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin

:15 was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin


He understands

I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to someone for help, and after you’ve poured out your heart to them, their response clearly shows that they don’t care, and they don’t have a clue what you’re going through.
At times like that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time talking to that person.
There may also be times when you’re listening to a preacher talk about a subject, and you get that same feeling that they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Jesus understands what you’re going through.
You may wonder why Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded that Jesus was “tempted by Satan” in the wilderness.  It’s to remind us that He too has experienced temptation.
(Mark 1:13 NKJV) And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

The word “tempted” (same word as in our text) can both refer being tempted to sin, as well as being “tested” by difficult situations.

Jesus has been through it all.

Jesus may not have been tempted with the specific things you face, like too many chocolate fudge brownies, but the temptations He experienced were of such a broad spectrum, that they cover the equivalent of all we could experience.
And He never gave in to sin.
He not only knows what it is to be tempted, but He also knows how to help you say “no”.
You may say, “But Jesus wasn’t married to somebody like I’m married to”.
Oh really?  Jesus is married to you.  The Old Testament even talks about God being “divorced” from His people.

Jesus understands more than you know.

He knows how to help.

We need compassion on others

We need to be careful when we have not gone through what they’re going through.

We learn compassion in the things we suffer

2Cor. 1

:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

:16 Let us therefore come boldly

“Boldly” might give you the wrong idea.

We might better translate this, “Let us therefore come and speak freely at the throne of grace”

comeproserchomai – to come to, approach; draw near to; to assent to

boldlyparrhesia – freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech

We use the phrase, “speak freely”.  That’s the idea here.  God wants you to “speak freely” to Him.

:16 the throne of grace

thronethronos – a throne seat

gracecharis – grace; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech; good will, loving-kindness, favor

I believe the writer is referring to the “Mercy Seat” of the Old Testament.

The Mercy Seat was the solid gold lid to the Ark of the Covenant.
Video:  Indiana Jones – The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark was supposed to be kept in the center of the Holy of Holies.
It was here that the High Priest made atonement for the nation once a year.
It was meant to be a picture of the very throne of God in heaven.

For the believer, God’s throne is not a throne of judgment or condemnation.

It is a place where we find mercy and grace.

obtainlambano – to take; to receive (what is given)

mercyeleos – mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them

gracecharis – grace; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech; good will, loving-kindness, favor

findheurisko – to come upon, hit upon, to meet with; to find by enquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, to find out by practice and experience; to find out for one’s self, to acquire, get, obtain, procure

time of needeukairos (“good” + “time”) – seasonable, timely, opportune

helpboetheia (“cry” + “run”) – help


The Privilege of Prayer

Jesus has made a way possible for you to come into God’s very presence, without guilt or condemnation, and to “speak freely”.
This is what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross, spilling His blood to pay for our sins.
When you come to God, realize that He totally understands all that you’re going through.
He has compassion for you as one who can say, “I know exactly what you’re going through.”
And He isn’t just a listening ear, He’s the one with the true help that you need.
He has mercy and grace to give you in every situation.
Sometimes He will respond to your prayers in a powerful way, even parting the Red Sea before you.
Other times He will give you the grace to endure your difficulty like He did when Paul prayed for his thorn in the flesh to go away:
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
You may be thinking today, “I don’t see what good it will be for me to pray”.
I’d say you’re missing out on all that God wants to pour into your life.

We need to come daily for God’s help:


“A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come.  We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it.”
-- D. L. Moody

God has enough for what you need.


John Newton had received from the Lord some almost unbelievable answers to his petitions, and so he often engaged in “large asking.” In support of this practice he would frequently tell the story of a man who asked Alexander the Great to give him a huge sum of money in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The ruler consented and told him to request of his treasurer whatever he wanted.  So he went and asked for an enormous amount.  The keeper to the funds was startled and said he couldn’t give him that much without a direct order.  Going to Alexander, the treasurer argued that even a small fraction of the money requested would more than serve the purpose. “No,” replied Alexander, “let him have it all.  I like that fellow. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous.” Newton concluded the story by saying, “In the same way, we should go to the throne of God’s grace and present petitions that express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of our King!”