Part 4 – What are we to do?
CHAPTER 5 – Living The Christian Life continued…
Our Conduct Or Behavior As Believers
The Christian life is
A WALK, A RACE, A WARFARE, FRUITFUL,
A LIFE OF PEACE, A REST, A LIFE OF PRAYER.
The Walk is One of Obedience (continued)
The Christian Life is a Life of Rest.
Israel experienced deliverance from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Forty years later Israel experienced deliverance into Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. The significance of this deliverance of Israel as it relates to the child of God is presented in two passages in the New Testament.
In I Corinthians 10:1-4 are listed God’s provisions for Israel for leaving Egypt and for their journey in the wilderness. But in verse 5 we read,
But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
The application is made to Christians in verse 6, which says,
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Following a description in verses 7-10 concerning the various ways the children of Israel were disobedient in the wilderness, verse 11 explains,
Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.
In a similar way, the Epistle to the Hebrews contrasts Israel’s wilderness experiences to a problem faced by Christians throughout the New Testament period, the problem of failing to live by faith after salvation has been received by faith.
Israel was a redeemed nation because each family had to kill a lamb, apply the blood to the doorposts and lintel, and pass through the Red Sea. All of this was a picture of a person’s coming to Christ initially for salvation because of what Christ did on the cross for our redemption.
Israel was delivered out of Egypt. The Christian is delivered out of sin and death and out of the world (Rom. 6:7-10; Gal. 6:14). Israel’s problem was that in their hearts (they) turned back into Egypt(Acts 7:39) while they were in the wilderness. Likewise, Christians have difficulty as long as the world is still in their hearts (I Jn. 2:15‑17). God promised deliverance to Israel from slavery and promised their return to Canaan (Exodus 6:1‑8). But because of Israel’s persistent unbelief, they were doomed to perish in the wilderness throughout the forty years of wandering (Num. 14:20‑38; Psa. 95:10,11; Heb. 3:10,11).
In view of God’s judgment on Israel, believers are warned about unbelief in their Christian walk (Heb. 3:12; 4:1) and are encouraged to enter into the rest which is still being offered by God (Heb. 4:11).
In order to understand the meaning of rest in Hebrews 3 and 4, it is important to first look at the meaning of the words in the Greek which are translated rest, and then to see the various ways the word,rest, is used.
In Hebrews 3:11,18, the Greek word translated rest has the meaning of “a permanent cessation of activity… It refers to the permanent and tranquil abode promised Israel in Canaan. It would be in contrast to the abject slavery of Israel in Egypt. This permanent and tranquil rest will be Israel’s in the Millennium under its covenanted King, the Lord Jesus.”
In Hebrews 4:1, it says
Let us, therefore, fear lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
The his rest in the verse refers to the spiritual rest in Messiah offered to first century Hebrews rather than their relying upon Jewish traditions.
In Hebrews 4:3 it says, For we who have believed do enter into rest… This rest is the rest of knowing salvation is a reality for one who has believed the gospel. Any strife within the believer’s heart or mind as to his relationship to Christ is contradictory because rest is promised to him. (See Matthew 11:28,29.) It is God’s purpose that the believer should be able to rest in what God has promised.
In verse four there is a quotation from Genesis 2:2 that God did rest the seventh day from all His works. The character of the rest the believer is afforded is likened to the rest God experienced on the seventh day of creation, the rest of completed work. Likewise, the believer needs to understand that the reason he can rest is that the message in the gospel declares the work of salvation has been completed by Christ, and the believer gets the benefit of rest. This thought is emphasized again in Hebrews 4:9,10,
There remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God. For he (the believer) that is entered into His (God’s) rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.
The Greek word for rest in verse nine is different from the one used in all of the other places in chapter four of Hebrews. In verse nine, it has the meaning of “keeping of a sabbath” (Scofield Bible margin). This implies that the seventh day rest in the Old Covenant now is surpassed with a rest that is constant and daily, the rest based on the completed work of redemption through Christ. Therefore, instead of living a life of struggling and striving, the believer has been provided with rest.
Hebrews 4:11 follows,
Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
The rest for the believer to enjoy is possible because of the truth of the believer’s being in Christ, and Christ’s being in the believer, the principle of identification. (See Fact 50, United with Christ.) This kind of rest affords the believer quietness and assurance in the inner man even though there may be storms and upheaval outwardly. Rather than reacting to outward circumstances that would produce inward turmoil, the one who rests in Christ will weather the storm in quietness.
In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength… Isaiah 30:15c,d.
God offered Israel His ultimate deliverance in this promise from Isaiah, but the verse ends with four words which completely turn the verse around. The words are, and ye would not. But the remaining Isaiah verses following this one give God’s ultimate blessing which He will accomplish when the Messiah comes. We need to understand that God’s desire to bless Israel when they receive their Messiah is also made available to believers today who have placed their faith in Christ. God intends for rest to be an essential part of salvation, but the believer must enter into that rest, as mentioned in Hebrews 4:11.
As the believer appropriates the rest offered by God, he will also be able to experience contentment. Hebrews 13:5,6 says,
Let your manner of life be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
I Timothy 6:6-8 says,
But godliness with contentment is great gain; For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Contentment is resting in the sufficiency of God to supply our needs whether by means of employment, ministry, or miracles. It is godly protection against coveteousness, worry and fear. Contentment is only possible as we walk by faith, which is also walking after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1,4,5). True enduring contentment is possible only as we walk in the Spirit.
A word of caution is in order regarding rest and contentment. There is danger in thinking that being passive or casual in one’s approach to life is the same as rest or being content. Hebrews 4:11 says,Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest… The word, labor, has the meaning of “be diligent”, which would be the exact opposite of passivity. Also, to walk in the spirit, one must be actively engaged in walking, which is impossible if a person is casual or passive.
The rest and contentment available to the child of God who is walking in the Spirit enables a person to experience the rest and contentment on a continuous basis regardless of outward circumstances. It will not be continuous if the person reacts to situations according to fleshly responses. Fleshly reactions need to be confessed as sin (I Jn. 1:9), and forgiveness is immediate so the person can resume living in the Spirit.
In summary, we note that as believers walking in the Spirit, we will experience the rest of a completed salvation of God’s perfect provisions, or “the rest of conscience and soul”, Hebrews 4:1,3. It is the sabbath rest every day of the believer’s life, not only the Lord’s day. It is the rest that frees the believer from anxious care and provides true contentment.
Next Week: Part Five continued: The Christian Life is a Life of Prayer
Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein
Used with permission.
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.