Our Great High Priest: Part 4 (Hebrews 9:15-10:18)

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and is therefore the Mediator of the New Covenant. A Mediator is someone who stands between two parties. Jesus is the One who stands between men and God to reconcile them. As the Mediator, Jesus holds a three-fold office in the New Covenant: Prophet, Priest, and King. As our Prophet, He reveals God’s word to us. As our King, we submit to His rule and reign. As our Priest, He intercedes for us before the Father. In our sermon this morning, we will consider in more detail Jesus’ role as High Priest: His work, His Death, and His Perfection.

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The Mediator’s Work

Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. He “came as High Priest of the good things to come” (Heb 9:11). What have we learned thus far about Jesus being High Priest? Hebrews 2:17 tells us “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 3:1 describes Him as “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” Hebrews 4:14-15 reveals to us that “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

Jesus passed through the heavens “where [He] has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:20). Hebrews 5:5 says, “So also Christ did not exalt Himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by Him who said to Him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” Hebrews 5:10 goes on to say that Jesus was “designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 7:26 says, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” Hebrews 8:1 summarizes this by saying, “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, One who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” 

Jesus’ work as Priest is to be the mediator of the New Covenant which was prophesied in Jeremiah 31. God said He would put His law in their mind and write them on their hearts and forgive their sin. Why did Jesus come to earth? He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus saves the lost through His sinless life, sacrificial death, magnificent resurrection, and glorious ascension. Jesus came to do the Father’s will (John 6:38). 

The Mediator’s Death

In this section, we shall focus on the sacrificial death of Jesus. Jesus’ death was not an accident. A vital part of Jesus’ mission on earth was to die. He predicted it at least three times. The first time Jesus predicted His death is detailed in Matthew 16:21–23, Mark 8:31–32, and Luke 9:21–22. Jesus predicted His death a second time in Matthew 17:22–23, Mark 9:30–32, and Luke 9:43–45. Matthew 20:17–19, Mark 10:32–34, and Luke 18:31–34 describe the third time Jesus predicted His death. Jesus told the religious leaders in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple [the temple of His body], and in three days I will raise it up again.” 

Why did Jesus have to die? His death was for His people. In John 10:11, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant because of His death. A covenant/testament (Heb 9:16) goes into effect after a death because it is enacted through blood as “not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood” (Heb 9:18). Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the law almost all things were purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission  of sin.” It is “not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb 10:4) but Jesus offers his own blood. He “has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26).

The Old Covenant sacrifices brought “a reminder of sin every year” (10:3). The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).The New Covenant is the covenant in which God forgives sins and offers eternal redemption. Sin cannot be forgiven until it is punished. In the New Covenant, we have the Holy Spirit within us and God chooses to not remember our sins anymore. We are specifically told that we have remission (cancellation of sin through forgiveness) of sin. 

The Mediator’s Perfection

As the Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus offers forgiveness of sins, justification before God, and the promise of being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). Jesus does not have to offer sacrifices continually year by year (Heb 10:1) but “offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (Heb 10:12). For “by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (10:14). What does this mean? Pay close attention to that verse. Jesus “has perfected” those who “are being sanctified”. Jesus’ one offering (at one point in the past) has perfected the one who is continually being sanctified. This means that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). The One who sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44) willingly laid down His life (John 10:18) in order to redeem us (Heb 9:12). The lamb that was slain (Rev 5:6) is the lion that conquers (Rev 5:5).

Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16). The Apostle Paul wrote that God the Father sent the Son “to reconcile all things to Himself all things…having made peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). What does this mean for us? Knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord, we should “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col 1:10).

Our Great High Priest: Part 3 (Hebrews 9:1-14)

We are in part 3 of our study of Jesus as our Great High Priest. Last week we learned how the Old Covenant was good, yet weak; therefore, it was made obsolete in order to pave the way for the new and better covenant initiated through Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 9, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of the rituals of the earthly priesthood (9:1-10) and how it foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice and its significance (9:11-28).

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The Earthly Priesthood (9:1-10)

We begin Hebrews 9 with a description of the first covenant regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary (also called tabernacle and/or tent) in which all this was performed. When it speaks of the “earthly sanctuary” (9:1) it refers to belonging to the world. This does not mean it was “worldly” in a bad sense, but that it was located on Earth. This tabernacle is described more fully in Exodus 25-31. In the first tabernacle, there were two sections: Holy Place and Most Holy Place.

The Holy Place. The first section of the tabernacle was called the Holy Place. Only priests could enter this section as they carried out the rituals prescribed in the Law of Moses. In the Holy Place was the table for the Bread of the Presence (Ex 25:23-30), the Golden Lampstand (Ex 25:31-40; 37:17-24) and the Altar of Incense (Ex 30:1-10; 37:25-29). This section was necessary because of the holiness of God and the uncleanness of the people.

The Most Holy Place. The second section of the tabernacle was called the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place resides behind the veil which separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. In the Most Holy Place was the Ark of the Covenant. Originally it contained the two stone tablets God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Later a golden urn holding manna (Ex 16:32-33) was placed in it along with Aaron’s staff that budded (Num 17:10). This is where God chose to have His Spirit dwell among the people. No one–except those authorized by God–could touch it or look upon it. Only the High Priest went into the second section. He did so only one time a year (Day of Atonement) with blood offering for his sins and the sins of the people (9:7).

The Holy Places were Closed. The Holy Spirit indicates that the way to the Most Holy Place was not open (9:8) while the first Holy Place still stood. The fact that there was a “1st tent” showed that the “2nd tent” was not open. This is used as a word play. Just as the presence of the Holy Place showed that the Most Holy Place is not open; so too, the presence of the earthly tabernacle shows that the heavenly tabernacle is not open. These rituals and sacrifices were good, but they “cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper” (9:9). It was in place until a time of reformation.

Christ’s Priesthood (9:11-14)

The writer of Hebrews has made it clear that the Old Covenant was good, but weak because it could not cleanse one’s conscience. This brings us to the New Covenant that is initiated in Christ’s blood which can cleanse the conscience. 

The Holy One. Let us remember that we are also in the midst of a larger discussion of the superiority of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Law of Moses. He is our Redeemer, Advocate, Savior, and Lord—worthy of all praise and glory and honor. He is greater than the Prophets (He is the final Word), the Angels (He is the Son), and Moses (He is the Builder of the House of God). He is greater than Aaron as He has a more superior priesthood. He has “appeared as a high priest of the good things to come” (9:11). He is the Son who has been appointed heir of all things (1:2). He is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).

The Holiest Place. Jesus is the Holy One of God (John 6:69) who has “entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle” (9:11). Hebrews 4:14 says “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Hebrews 6:19-20 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.” Hebrews 8:1-2 says, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” Hebrews 9:24 says, “Christ did not enter a Holy Place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

The Holy Places are Open. Jesus entered into heaven as our substitutionary sacrifice. Hebrews 9:12 says, “Through His own blood, He entered the Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” It is important to note that we are cleansed by Jesus in order to serve Him.

The time of reformation has come. The New Covenant has been instituted and the Old Covenant has been made obsolete. Jesus is the high priest of the New Covenant enacted on better promises and provides eternal redemption.

Our Great High Priest: Part 2 (Hebrews 8:1-13)

What do the following things have in common: Rotary Phone, VHS, 8 Track, Black and White TVs? They have all become obsolete. They served their purpose at one time but not they have been set aside for something better.

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As we arrive at Hebrews 8, we remember that we are in the midst of a discussion of the superiority of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Law of Moses. He alone is our Redeemer, Advocate, Savior, and Lord—worthy of all praise and glory and honor. He is greater than the Prophets (He is the final Word), the Angels (He is the Son), and Moses (He is the Builder of the House of God).. He is greater than Aaron as He has a more superior priesthood. In this sermon, we will discuss how the Old Covenant was good, yet weak; therefore, it was made obsolete in order to pave the way for the new and better covenant initiated through Jesus Christ.

The Old Covenant was Good; Yet Weak

Good Because it was Holy. 

The Apostle Paul was a staunch proponent of abandoning the Old Covenant with its law-keeping and embracing the New Covenant in faith. However, this does not mean that Paul thought the law was bad or a mistake. On the contrary, in Romans 7:12, he wrote: “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” The Psalmist wrote: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart’ the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8). In fact, Psalm 119 is a meditation on the excellencies of God’s rules, statutes, and ordinances. The Law of Moses was based on God’s covenant with Abraham and revealed the character of God and His holiness.

Weak Because it Exposed Sin, Yet Did Not Remove Sin. 

The Old Covenant and the Law of Moses revealed God’s holiness and exposed sin. Paul wrote in Romans 7:7, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” He also wrote in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The Law of Moses was holy, but it was a “ministry of death” (2 Cor 3:7) and a “ministry of condemnation” (2 Cor 3:9) because it brought awareness of sin. With the awareness of sin brought death (Rom 6:23). One major weakness of the Old Covenant was that—while it exposed sin—it could not remove sin (Heb 10:4). Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” It exposed sin and brought condemnation because of our inability to obey the law. Galatians 3:10 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”

The Old Covenant Became Obsolete; And Replaced

Obsolete Because of Disloyalty. 

According to Hebrews 8, we are told that there was a need for a new covenant because of the failure of God’s people to keep the old one. Hebrews 8:7 says, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” Also, in Hebrews 8:13, we read: “In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” The Old Covenant had priests who “serve a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things” (8:5). The Old Covenant was conditional (If…then) and continual (repeated sacrifices). The reason the Old Covenant was continually broken was because of the people’s failure to abide by the terms of the covenant. God said, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today” (Deut 27:1). He also said, “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God…these blessings shall come upon you” (Deut 28:1-2). He also said, “But if you will not obey…these curses shall come upon you” (Deut 28:15). The people broke the covenant (see Neh 1:6-8 & Dan 9:5-6).

Replaced with God’s Faithfulness.

The Prophet Jeremiah prophesied about the New Covenant God will establish with His people. It is “not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…” (Jer 31:32). In this covenant, “I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer 31:33). The new covenant is different because God promises to transform them internally. Also, the promised new covenant involves the complete forgiveness of sin: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:34). The Old Covenant was not abolished but fulfilled. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17). Being fulfilled, they are now obsolete and replaced with the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). The New Covenant is not based on our faithfulness, but on God’s. This is not an “If…then” based on how well we perform. This is an eternal covenant based on the perfect work of Jesus.

New, Better, and Forever Covenant

As we learned in Hebrews 7, we have a High Priest who is the guarantor of a better covenant (7:22). He ministers forever (Heb 7:24). He is able to save completely (7:25). He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (7:26). He does not have to first purify himself (Heb 7:27). Jesus is not a man who is weak, but the Son of God who is perfect forever (Heb 7:28). In Hebrews 8, we are reminded that Jesus ministers in the holy places…seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (8:1-2). Christ “has obtained a ministry that is more excellent than the old as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (Heb 8:6). As we continue in Hebrews, let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Great High Priest: Part 1 (Hebrews 7:1-8:13)

As we begin Chapter 7 of Hebrews, let us pause to remember that the main theme of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Law of Moses. He alone is our Redeemer, Advocate, Savior, and Lord—worthy of all praise and glory and honor. Thus far, we have seen that Jesus is greater than the Prophets (He is the final Word), the Angels (He is the Son), and Moses (He is the Builder of the House of God). We are now in the section in which we learn that Jesus is greater than Aaron: the first High Priest of Israel. The writer of Hebrews has been building up to this moment. He knows that the Jewish Christians who are reading this have been tempted by various means (even persecution) to return back to Judaism. The letter of Hebrews is a Divinely-inspired attempt to make it clear that it would be a grave (deadly) mistake to do so. This is because the Covenant in Judaism has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ and is therefore no longer valid. There is a New Covenant, with a new law and a new high priest. Aaron’s priesthood has been set aside and there is no salvation through the Old Covenant. This is why the warnings we have previously discussed are so important. With the original recipients, we must all understand the importance of Christ’s role as High Priest in the New Covenant.

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You Remember Melchizedek, Don’t You?

Chapter 6 ended with a reminder of Psalm 110:4’s declaration that the Messiah is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. In verses 1-3, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of Melchizedek from Genesis 14: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Melchizedek foreshadows the coming of Christ.” 

Melchizedek is Superior to Aaron & Abraham

As great as Abraham was, Melchizedek was greater. Hebrews 7:4-10 says, “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” The writer of Hebrews is making it clear that the priesthood of Melchizedek is better than the priesthood of Aaron by showing Melchizedek is superior to Abraham and Aaron. The greater blesses the lesser and tithes are given to the greater

The Need for a Better Priesthood

After discussing how Melchizedek was greater than Aaron and Abraham, he then discusses how the Old Covenant was necessary for a time, but insufficient to bring perfection. In Hebrews 7:11-12 we read, “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” The requirements of the law are fulfilled by Jesus and He brings salvation 

Change of Law; Change of Priest. With the change in the law—from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant—there is a need for a change of Priest (like Melchizedek) to mediate the Covenant. Hebrews 7:13-17 explains: “For the One of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of Him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 

Better Law; Better Hope; Better Covenant. With the change in the law comes a better hope With the change in the law comes a better hope with a better covenant built on better promises. Hebrews 7:18-25 says, “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this One was made a priest with an oath by the One who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus’ once for all sacrifice saves us. 

Our Great High Priest

This brings us to the end of Hebrews 7 and the declaration that Jesus is the One who brings a better covenant because He is a better priest who is able to completely save His people. Hebrews 7:26-28 says, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for His own sins and then for those of the people, since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” The perfect sacrifice is given for us.

The Anchor of the Soul (Hebrews 6:13-20)

According to a 2020 Gallup Poll, “89% of Americans rated nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as ‘high’ or ‘very high’.” Other trustworthy professions include: doctors, teachers, pharmacists and police. The most untrustworthy professions were:  journalists, lawyers, and car salesmen. What ended up being the most untrustworthy profession (8%) according to this study? You guessed it: Members of Congress!

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In Hebrews, the writer has called us to examine ourselves. Specifically, we are called to examine our hearing. God is speaking to us through his Son. Are we listening? Can we hear Him? Have we become dull of hearing? Have the words of Christ become less impactful in our lives? Have we grown numb and inattentive to the teaching of Christ resulting in a lack of interest or excitement about these things? Can we read our Bibles and walk away unaffected? Can we sing songs of praise without actually praising? Can we attend to the proclamation of God’s Word and walk away unconcerned? If so, we are in spiritual danger. God is sounding the alarm that either: 1) you have grown lukewarm and need to repent or 2) you are not truly converted and need to repent. 

Two Unchangeable Things: Promise and Oath

Christ followers need to trust God and mature in their faith. The writer of Hebrews gave this admonition: “we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12). As any good writer would do, the writer of Hebrews uses an example to illustrate his point. He reminds us of the faith and patience of Abraham and the promise God made to him: “Surely I will bless you and multiply you” (Heb 6:14). Remember that God promised Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great” (Gen 12:2). Later when Abraham complained that he had no heir, God promised Abraham that he would have a son (Gen 15:4) and the son would come from Sarah (Gen 17:16). What does the Scripture say about him? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Rom 4:3, Gen 15:6).

The Lord then confirmed his promise with an oath saying, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord…I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven as the sand that is on the seashore…and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:15-18). The writer of Hebrews quotes Genesis 22 to make the point that people “swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.” So even though God did not need to confirm His promise with an oath, He did so in order to “show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable characters of His purpose.” Because there is no one greater than God, He swore by Himself. God made an oath concerning His promise, not because He needed to do it, but to help us in our weakness and to make His promise very easy to understand. 

God Said What?

Let’s back up a moment. Abraham is used as an example of faith and patience and the specific situation used by the writer of Hebrews is from Genesis 22. Do you remember what happened in Genesis 22? Genesis 22 records for us God’s command for Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed the Lord and just as he was about to sacrifice Isaac, the angel of the Lord said “Abraham, Abraham!…Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen 22:11-12). Then the angel of the Lord said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring.” (Gen 22:15-17). What was all that about? Why would God tell Abraham to do this? God used this situation to test Abraham in order to grow Abraham’s faith and trust. Abraham was placed in a difficult situation, he did not understand God’s reason for the command, but obeyed nonetheless. Abraham might not have understood God’s command but He did understand God’s faithfulness. 

Hold Fast to our Hope

This is the point of our section of Scripture: “When you don’t understand, when you cannot see, when you feel like there is no escape; trust God–who does understand, sees all things, and with whom all things are possible.” You might not understand what God has allowed to cross your path and you may not see how it is going to work out, but don’t doubt the goodness and faithfulness of the One who calls you His own. God made a promise to Abraham and confirmed it with an oath. Combined with the fact that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb 6:18) we can “have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18). We have hope that is set before us to be grasped. This hope is promised and confirmed to “the heirs of the promise” (Heb 6:17) and is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19). In other words, the hope that we have through Jesus Christ is the anchor that will keep us secure during the trials and difficulties we encounter. Just as an anchor will keep a ship from drifting away during a violent storm, Jesus keeps us from drifting away during trials. He holds onto us and therefore we are able to cling to Him in faith. We are to fight against becoming dull of hearing. We are to hold fast to the hope that is set before us. 

Do you trust God? Christians know they should say “Yes” to this question, but do you have examples in your life where you have? Do you have any “Red Sea” moments? God is always calling His children to a next step of faith and obedience. God calls us to move forward in faith. Are you growing dull of hearing or are you taking steps of faith outside of your comfort zone? Take time this week to examine your life and ask God in prayer to reveal anything you are withholding from Him. Turn it over in faith and see His faithfulness at work!

The Horror of Dull Hearing (Hebrews 6:1-12)

Entering hell is horrific enough, but how much more horrifying would it be to do so after sitting many years on a cushioned Baptist pew? Here is the warning from our next section of Hebrews: those who are not truly converted and do not have the Spirit of God within them will eventually fall away. They may attend Sunday School, Church Worship Services, tithe, serve, pray, and read their Bible; but, Jesus will say to them one day: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt 7:23).

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Last week we discussed the danger of dull hearing. The writer of Hebrews is addressing those who profess faith in Jesus and lamenting over their current spiritual condition that they have obtained over time. At first they received the word of God cheerfully and with humility but now they have become dull of hearing. Over a period of time, they have become numb and inattentive to the teaching of Christ and they now have a lack of interest or excitement about these things. Because of this, the writer of Hebrews sounds an alarm: those who refuse to seek repentance for their dull hearing are in danger of falling away (apostasy). Apostasy can either be a renunciation of the essential doctrines of the faith and embracing false teachings that claim to be true or it can be a renunciation of the Christian faith in its entirety which results in a full abandonment of Jesus Christ. 

I Can’t Fall Away…I’m Baptist!

But wait, we are Baptists! Baptists do not believe a person can lose their salvation, so why are we talking about falling away from the faith? While true faith cannot be lost, too many people who profess faith do not actually possess faith. They are not actually born again and they are in danger of falling away and being unable to be renewed (Heb 6:6). And they fill our churches. But first, let’s establish the clear teaching of Scripture that genuine faith cannot be lost. We believe those who are truly born again will be preserved by God. Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us we are sealed by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. Philippians 1:6 says God will bring His good work in us to completion. Jude 1:24 explicitly says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.” Not to mention Paul’s great exposition of God’s great eternal love for His elect in Romans 8:26-39. Having established this truth, however, does not diminish the threat of apostasy. 

Can I Fall Away?

Apostasy involves a person who believes they are saved but are not truly born again renouncing their previously held belief. Sadly, many Baptists have become apostates. The book of Hebrews has five warnings scattered throughout (see 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). These warnings are a means by which true believers are preserved. Genuine believers hear the warning and take heed. False believers hear the warning and ignore it or explain it away. So, here is the moment of testing: what are you doing with these warnings? Do you hear them and examine yourself or excuse yourself? Do you hear them and ask God to expose areas of your life that need growth or do you seek to ignore the message and distract yourself with other things? If you are the former, be encouraged that God is preserving you. If you are the latter, be warned that God’s stripping you of your false profession in order to bring you to repentance. If you fail to heed His warnings, you will find yourself handed over to judgment and falling away. Apostasy is the unforgivable sin (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:8-12) and the sin leading to death (1 John 5:16)) in which “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” It is not a one-time act, but a process of continually dulling your hearing. Eventually the line is crossed in which you are handed over by God to judgment.

How Do I Not Fall Away?

How do you not fall away? First, recognize that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works (Eph 2:8-9). It’s not a matter of doing more or trying harder. Our salvation comes down to a personal relationship with Jesus. How do you develop relationships? You love the person, trust the person, and seek what is best for them. This is true of Jesus. We are to love Him and trust Him. We want our relationship to grow and deepen. To do this we need to grow in maturity. We need to leave the elementary teaching about Christ. This does not mean you abandon it as unnecessary, but to grasp it and use it to move forward towards greater knowledge. For example, if an elementary school teacher tells her class, “We shall leave the learning of the letters in order to focus on words”, this does not mean the letters are abandoned, but are now used to help the students press on to a greater understanding of the English language. How do you not fall away? Keep on towards maturity in the faith. Keep on seeking Jesus. We need solid food, not milk. We need our senses trained by practice to discern between good and evil. Press on to maturity.

Better Things!

In the discussion of the danger of falling away, the writer of Hebrews offers this encouragement to those who heed God’s gracious warnings: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation” (Heb 6:9). The encouragement is that God does not “overlook your work and the love that you showed for His sake in serving the saints” (Heb 6:10). So, for those who love God, “have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promise” (Heb 6:11-12).

It’s Time to Grow Up (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Kids are cute. They talk cute, eat cute, and play cute. In fact, almost everything they do is adorable. Kids also get bigger. As they grow, some of the things they did and said as a 2 year old are not quite so adorable. This is why we must be careful with how we react to our 2-3 year olds. If we are not careful, we will overlook the rebellion and foolishness of our 2-3 year olds for too long and they will quickly become 8-9 year olds who act like 2 and 3 year olds. If we are not careful, those same 8-9 year olds will become 14-15 year olds who will become 30 year olds who still act like 2-3 year olds. 

Audio may be found here.

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Everyone grows, but not everyone grows up. In other words, some people stop being a child while continuing to be childish. The Apostle Paul wrote: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor 13:11). In our next section of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews wants his readers to give up childish ways. He wants to speak to them of deep truths concerning Jesus Christ and His priesthood, but is unsure if his audience can process it because they have become dull of hearing. Let us all hear these words from Scripture and commit to growing spiritually. 

Have Become Dull of Hearing

In Hebrews 5:11, we read: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” What is the teaching that the writer of Hebrews wants to say? He wants to expound to them about Christ’s priesthood. In the previous verses, he wrote about Jesus: “having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” This truth is not hard to explain because it is too difficult to grasp or because his readers are too dumb to process it; no, it is hard to explain because they have become dull of hearing. 

What does it mean that they “have become dull of hearing”? This is a spiritual condition that they have obtained over time. At first they received the word of God cheerfully and with humility but now they have become dull of hearing. This dullness can also be described as slowness, slothfulness, and/or numbness. Over a period of time, they have become numb and inattentive to the teaching of Christ and they now have a lack of interest or excitement about these things. Philip Hughes commented: “They had become slack, and their slackness has affected their attentiveness and their capacity to receive and retain solid instruction” (Hughes). The writer of Hebrews has much to say about Jesus but is fearful that his audience will not be able to receive it properly because of their spiritual lethargy and lack of zeal.

Milk Does a Body Good?

The writer laments that his audience needs milk, not solid food. Milk is good in the beginning of life but as one matures they must move on to a more nourishing diet. Milk is the only diet suitable for infants, but inadequate to sustain a grown man. Applying this spiritually, immature believers can only handle “milk”; that is, they need to be nourished by “the basic principles of the oracles of God” (Heb 5:12). They need this milk in order to gain strength and maturity and they should reach a point to where they move on toward solid food. The writer of Hebrews laments that by this time they ought to be teachers, but they are in need of someone to teach them again “the basic principles.” It is normal for recent converts to Christianity to need milk, but Christians who remain immature in their faith are unskilled in the word of righteousness. Christians who fail to grow spiritually–over time–either avoid the local church or fill it with jealousy and strife (1 Cor 3:3). Churches that are filled with immature Christians provide a witness to the people around them, but it is a witness of bitterness, envy, strife, argumentation, and hypocrisy. 

What the World Needs Now

Spiritually mature believers crave solid food. This does not mean they move on past the Gospel, but the more they continue to grow in their knowledge and appreciation of the Gospel they crave to know more and live out all of God’s commands found in His Word. Mature Christians are described as those “who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14). Contrast this with the description of the immature who “are unskilled in the word of righteousness.” Rather than become dull of hearing, they hear the Word and take great delight in it. They want to hear it with their ears and process it in their head. They want this message to impact their heart and to motivate their hands for God’s glory and the good of others.

Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The world out there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity; it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.” This is true because our world will not benefit from a redefinition of Christianity, but from people who know God’s Word and will unapologetically live it out. Mature Christians are those who know the difference between good and evil and are trained by constant practice of discernment. Mature Christians do not redefine biblical truths or adjust their beliefs based on the prevailing opinions of the culture. Mature Christians know what the essential doctrines of the faith are and have drawn a line in the sand that they dare not cross. Mature Christians are those who base their belief on “chapter and verse” rather than societal pressure.

It has been well-established that kids say the darndest things. At the same time, kids do not necessarily say the wisest things. Kids need to grow up and mature physically and mentally. Also, Christians need to grow up spiritually. The world does not need weak and ineffective churches. Weak churches are filled with childish Christians and have no impact on the society around them. On the contrary, weak churches are barely distinguishable from the world around them. We need to be mature. We need to faithfully proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord and to live our lives as a demonstration that He is our Lord.

Resurrection as Evidence (Acts 17:22-31)

Spring is such a wonderful time. The days are longer and warmer. The grass and trees are greener. During Spring we get a special day for Christians called Easter when we remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, healed the sick, raised the dead, died a sacrificial death, was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven where He waits until His return back to earth. On this special day, we will discuss the resurrection of Jesus from Acts 17 and how it functions to prove the certainty of Judgment Day.

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Our Special Day of Creation

First, Paul began his sermon by declaring that everyone has been created by God. God “gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” In contrast to idols, God is not made but is the Maker. Whereas idols consist of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man” (Acts 17:29), God is neither created nor made but exists eternally. Stephen, in his speech before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, quoted Isaiah 66:1-2: “The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and Earth is the footstool of My feet. What kind of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My rest? Was it not My hand which made all these things?’” (Acts 7:48-50). God has made you and placed you where you are. This truth should help you when you are feeling anxious and troubled. God himself has determined the time and the location for you. Why are you living where you are living? Why are you in this year in this area? Because God willed it to be so and it was. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases Him.” It pleases God for you to be where you are at. God has placed you where you are for a reason.

Our Appointed Day of Judgment

Being our Creator, God is also our Judge. This is a major point of the gospels and must never be forgotten. God “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” Romans 14:10 says, “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” There is a day of judgment for everyone and everyone will stand before God to give an account of himself. The righteous will face a judgment with their Lord to give an account of themselves as Christians with rewards given for faithfulness. The unrighteous will appear before God’s great white throne and “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). What does this day of judgment have to do with Easter? Paul told the gathered crowd: “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Consider this very closely: Jesus’ resurrection is proof that judgment is coming.

There is a day of judgment for everyone and everyone will stand before God to give an account of himself.

A Call to Seek God

Thankfully, our sermon does not end there. You see, God has placed us where and when we are so that we “would seek God…might feel their way towards Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” In Romans 10:5-13, Paul says:

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?(that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

Romans 10:5-13

A Command to Repent

We are to seek God but what do we do when we find Him? Paul said, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” Repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of action. Paul later said in Acts 26:20 that he declared “that they should repent and turn to God, practicing deeds appropriate to repentance.” John the Baptist told those who came to him for baptism to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8). When we repent, we acknowledge that we are wrong and God is right and we obey God and seek to honor Him. 

Repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of action.

When some heard about resurrection they began to mock, rejecting this as nonsense. Others, however, believed and were saved. What about you? What will you do with this Easter message? Will you hear it and reject it? Will you hear it and think it is true but not true enough to justify repentance? Will you hear it and believe it? Better do something with it soon, judgment is coming. Will you be ready?

Jesus: Our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16)

We are now entering into a new major section of the book of Hebrews. Thus far we have seen that Jesus is greater than the Prophets (He is the Final Word), the Angels (He is the Son), and Moses (He is the Builder of the House of God). In this section (4:14-10:18), we will learn that Jesus is greater than Aaron: the first High Priest of Israel because He has greater access to the Father and is sinless. But first, let us consider what the Bible says about the High Priest so that we can better understand how Jesus is the Great High Priest.

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What is a High Priest?

We learned in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” We are told in Hebrews 4:14 that Jesus is our Great High Priest. What is a high priest? In the Old Covenant, the high priest was the supreme religious figure in Israel. He oversaw the functions of all the priests and was chosen by God. The first high priest was Aaron and the role passed through his lineage. Of all the responsibilities of the High Priest, the greatest was to offer a sacrifice in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The High Priest was the only person who could enter the holy of holies and he could only do so on a specific day, in a specific way, with specific sacrifices (see Leviticus 16:1-34). The role of High Priest was very significant as he was the mediator for the Jews before God so that God would accept their sacrifices and offerings.

He has Greater Access to the Father

Our next section begins with the statement: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God…” (Heb 4:14). Let’s stop here for a moment to take in what we are being told; namely, that Jesus is greater than Aaron because Jesus has greater access to the Father than Aaron did. Just as the High Priest on the Day of Atonement would pass into the holy place and through the veil into the holy of holies, Jesus has passed through the heavens and is now sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Heb 1:3). The High Priest in the Old Covenant would cautiously enter the holy of holies and have access only once a year to the mercy seat of God. Jesus, however, has gained complete access to the mercy seat and remains there. Therefore, He is greater than Aaron.

Let Us Hold Fast our Confession

Because He is greater than Aaron with a greater priesthood, we are told: “let us hold fast our confession” (Heb 4:14). What is our confession? 2 Corinthians 9:13 reminds us of our “confession of the gospel.” Romans 10:9 says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 1 Timothy 3:16 speaks more of our confession: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Also, in 1 John 4:15 we read that “whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” We hold fast to our confession by believing it and defending it.

Because Our High Priest Sympathizes with Us

We continue on with this glorious truth: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things like we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). He is able to sympathize with us because He understands what we endure on this earth each day. Jesus was tempted (temptation itself is not sin) and was able to repel each temptation and not give in to sin. James wrote: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Jesus was lured by temptation but was able to resist temptation and not let it give birth to sin. We are told of the sinlessness of Jesus in Hebrews 4:15: He “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Being tempted like we have been, He is able to sympathize with us. Aaron was tempted, but Aaron was a sinner. Aaron had to purify himself before he offered sacrifices. Jesus is the pure sacrifice who offers Himself.

Let Us Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace

Being able to sympathize with us, our great high priest calls us to come boldly to the throne of grace. Some translations say, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.” He is compassionate and calls us to boldly come before Him “that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). Jesus has offered the greatest sacrifice so that we may be fully forgiven of our sin. His sacrifice is the greatest because it was a perfect, sinless sacrifice. One important result of Jesus’ high priesthood is that He is approachable. Christians are God’s children who have access to their Father.

Our Advocate

Because Jesus is our Great High Priest, it is important what we believe and do. Herman Ridderbos once said: “Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible.” Bryan Chappell helpfully added: “What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ.” Because Jesus is our Great High Priest with continual access to the Father, let us hold fast to our confession. Because Jesus is our Great High Priest, let us come boldly before His throne of grace. He is our advocate and our redeemer. He is our victorious Lord whom we serve wholeheartedly. Philip Hughes said about Jesus as Great High Priest: “What we, and they, needed was not a fellow loser but a winner; not one who shares our defeat but one who is able to lead us to victory; not a sinner but a savior.” Let us worship Him!

The Second Warning: Don’t Harden Your Heart! (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)

God is speaking to us through His Son Jesus and hopefully we are all paying attention. Our next section of Hebrews is the second of five warnings found in the book (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). The first warning was to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away” (Heb 2:1). The second warning is to “not have an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Let’s consider this closer:

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A Warning Against Unbelief

The warning begins with a quotation from Psalm 95. This Psalm recounts a few incidents which happened after the Israelites were brought out of Egypt. The Lord was not pleased with the unfaithful Jews who provoked the Lord with their hardened hearts. The writer of Hebrews uses this to warn those who profess faith in Jesus not to repeat their folly.

The Reason for Unbelief

Psalm 95:7-11 contains God’s warning not to harden your heart when you hear His voice. The reason their heart is hard is because they have “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb 3:12). Going back to the Israelites in the wilderness, we see their hardened hearts on display in their grumbling and complaining against God. They grumbled and complained because their trials exposed their lack of faith. It is helpful to remember that God allows trials to come in order to test our faith (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:7-9). We must guard our heart (Prov 4:23). Following your heart is not the solution, it is the problem. When we are inattentive to God’s voice, we become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We provoke the Lord with our unbelief.

The Result of Unbelief

The Israelites who tested the Lord in the rebellion (Ex 15:22-17:7) died because of their unbelief. They were not able to enter the Promised Land (God’s rest). The warning is clear that no unbelieving person–no matter what they profess, what they have or have not done–will enter into God’s rest. As we have said earlier, we provoke the Lord with our unbelief. We may attend worship services regularly, we may give consistently, we may be a member of a local church and attend Wednesday night prayer meetings, but if we are not truly born again and possess genuine faith we will be damned. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven will enter.

An Exhortation of Hope

Our God is “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29) and He is also “compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth” (Ex 34:6). Therefore, in this warning against unbelief we also have an exhortation of hope. 

The Reason for our Hope

The reason for our hope is very simple. If you are not paying close attention you may miss it. It is found in verse 12 where God is described as “the living God.” The so-called gods of the pagans are deaf, dumb, and blind idols. In contrast, our God is alive. He speaks to us, hears us, and sees us. He is there, He is aware, and He cares. The living God also has a “living and active” word that is “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

The Work of Hope

All throughout this section in Hebrews we get imperatives that call us to work; but, let us not mistake this call. It is not a call to work harder in order to find God’s rest. This is not a “do better…work harder” call but a call to have faith. In Hebrews 3:19, we are specifically told that the Hebrews who did not enter “were not able to enter because of unbelief.” We must not just hear the word. We must profit from God’s word as it is “united with faith” (Heb 4:2). We must be diligent to enter God’s rest–not by works–but by genuine faith that works itself out in love (Gal 5:6). 

The work of hope is a call to worry less about ourselves and to help those around us. It’s not a call to be a busybody trying to get into everyone else’s business, but a call to not turn a blind eye to someone around you who is in need. We must exhort (Heb 3:12) one another. Exhortation means to ask, beg, plead. It means to comfort, encourage, urge. It also means to call, invite. We are to exhort one another to remain faithful to God. Our exhortation is to “not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). Sin is deceitful and will lead you astray. We all have blind spots in our life and we need one another to warn each other when we are walking in a way that is not pleasing to God. We exhort one another to cast off sin and cling to righteousness. We encourage one another to strive to enter God’s rest.

An Enduring Rest

Many times in this section we are told about God’s promised rest. What is meant by rest? In the Old Covenant, the Sabbath meant rest from your labors on the seventh day of the week. In the New Covenant, the Sabbath means eternal rest in Christ. In Hebrews 4, we are reminded of God’s rest on the seventh day (Heb 4:4 & Gen 2:2) and “the promise of entering that rest” (Heb 4:1 & Ps 95:11), and the encouragement for us to “strive to enter that rest” (Heb 4:11). This eternal rest with God can only be entered by faith in Christ (Heb 4:2) and it is available to you today (Heb 4:7). The promise is that you can cease your vain attempts to earn God’s favor and instead accept God’s gift of salvation and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).