NOT AN ABSTRACT THEORY ON BIBLICAL PSYCHOLOGY (Vss. 11-13)
Biblical scholars often have a strong leaning toward theorizing and dogmatizing on the concepts of a given text. When this is brought into the text, the result is not interpretation of the word of God as it is profitable to equip the believer unto every good work, but rather that we then have an abbreviated biblical lexicon. And in the matter at hand in the text the concepts soul, spirit and heart are so worked out that we arrived at theological definition without having Scriptural exhortations through which God works repentance unto life and glory.
The Bible is not dogmatics in the formal sense. It is the word of God, spoken through His Son in these last days. Of old time God spoke this word through the prophets. They said: thus saith the Lord. And when Christ opened his mouth, God was speaking in Christ, in the Son. This speech of God may not be distilled by theological study into mere abstract theory, or even into mere theological concepts, important though such labors may be as guide-posts for correct thinking as to the structural truths taught in the church.
It is true that Hebrews 4:11-13 speaks of the “soul,” “spirit” and “heart” of man as entities created by God. And the thinking of interpreters grapples with these concepts to come to conceptual clarity. But we must do more than try to come to a conception of the terms in the text, and that, too, according to hermeneutical rules. For the text also speaks of the “joints” and “marrow” of man, together with the “thoughts and intents of the heart.”
This all makes for a very vivid and total picture of man; it is a picture of man as he concretely in life moves and lives and has his being. There is merit in the brief resume of Calvin’s commentary on this section where he writes “Whenever the Lord addresses us by his word, he deals seriously with us, in order that he may touch all our inmost thoughts and feelings; and so there is no part of our soul which ought not to be roused (Calvin’s Commentary of Hebrews, page 100).” For the preaching of the word is most serious on the part of God. And this is the word which by the gospel is proclaimed to us. Unless we hear this serious admonition here in the text, we have not heard what God speaks to us in his exhortation and in the great example of his dealings with unbelieving Israel in the desert. Let us therefore rather fear, and give heed!
A STRONGLY MOTIVATED EXHORTATION (Vs. 12)
This exhortation in the text reads as follows “Wherefore let us give all diligence to enter into that rest, lest (in order that not) any fall in the same example of unbelief.” This exhortation is clear and concise. The KJV translates the Greek verb “Spoudasoomen” by the term “let us labor.” The term really means: to give diligence. A certain English divine says of this term “It includes a fervent spirit, a strong desire, a serious attempt with all the powers and faculties of the soul and body to enhance this effort,” Interesting it is to notice that II Peter 1:10 also speaks of “spoudazein,” to give diligence in. this sense. It means to add in faith virtue, and in virtue knowledge, and in knowledge self-control, and in self-control patience, and in patience godliness, and in godliness brotherly love, and in brotherly love the love! This shows that entering into the rest is a battle of faith against all unbelief and against all that which opposes God’s word and promises. Such is the battle of faith. Such was the battle of the Hebrews against all who would deny the reality of Christ’s King-Priesthood and equate the mere types and shadows with the reality. It is the battle against unbelief in whatever form such unbelief raises its foul head.
In this diligence we have a strong positive purpose. It is to enter into that rest, that is, the rest into which Jesus brought us by his death and resurrection and glorious ascension, passing through the very heavens. (vs. 14) Here we have strong eschatological motifs. Christ has sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high, having brought about the purification of our sins. (Heb. 1:3b) And, therefore, the entering into the rest in its final consummation is the entering with body and soul into the heavenly Canaan, a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell. Into that rest Jesus brings us. Ever that rest remains for the children of God from Joshua’s day till now, and from henceforth till Jesus comes with clouds!
That which is the legal ground for not entering into the rest is unbelief. The legal ground for not entering into the rest is not reprobation. Says the writer to the Hebrews “therefore they could not enter because of unbelief!” (Heb. 3:19) Now the great example of unbelief in all of the history of the church is the basic attitude and manifestation of unbelieving Israel in the wilderness. It is Meriba and Massa. There is only onespiritual-psychological way in which not to fall in the example of unbelief. That is to give diligence in faith to enter into the rest. It is a fine point of distinction which we may notice in the text. In the Greek we read “en too autoo…hupodeigmati,” that is “in” the same example. The English translation has “according to the same example of unbelief,” or “after the same example.” Perhaps the emphasis falls on the preposition “en”, indicating that the writer thinks of the danger of walking in the very example, and thus falling under the same judgment of God; let none of you be refractory and unbelieving! For to us is the word of God preached as it was to them. From that viewpoint our status quo is the same as that of Israel of old. God, who spoke of old time through the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us through His Son! In both there is the serious preaching!
That example of Israel’s unbelief was not a mere weakness of believers; it was something quite radically different from the “daily to strive against the weakness of our faith, and that we do not have perfect faith, for which sins we are as believers sorry from the heart. Nay, this is the sin of unbelief, that is, the stubborn, persistent and increasingly progressive refusal to bow before the word of God. To truly flee from this the only recourse is to give diligence to enter into the rest.
Navigators at sea have buoys to guide them to keep them from the shallow channel through which the boat may pass; they have lighthouses, built on the shore, from which the beacon light shines to guide them lest they fall upon the rocks and suffer shipwreck. God has set as a constant warning to all men, and particularly to the church of all ages, the example of Sodom and Gomorrah in their destruction for sin. It is a bit of eschatological display in the beginning of the postdiluvian period of the world. That is the meaning of the word of God when he says “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord, to justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” (Gen. 18:17-19) This means that, in the generations of Abraham, what God does to Sodom, will be perpetuated as the example which we must flee. First it was told by Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and the patriarchs, and it is written in Moses and the prophets. In II Peter 2:6 we read of this perpetual example up to the present moment in all the Scriptures. Says Peter “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemning them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly.” The term in the Greek for “making them” is “tetheikoos,” a perfect participle, indicating completed action and state up to the present moment. This example is established in all of Scripture. See Deut. 29:23; Deut. 32:32; Is. 1:9, 10; Is. 13:19; Jer. 23:14; Jer. 49:18; Jer. 50:40; Amos 4:11; Zephaniah 2:9; Matt. 10:15; Mark 6:11; Rom. 9:29; II Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7. It is the classic example of the destruction of the world. We do not need many of such. Only One is sufficient. Thus also there is one classic example of unbelief! It is that of Israel in the desert and of their perishing, due to their unbelief. It is the example. And it was written for us upon whom the end of the ages has come, that we should not walk in the same example of unbelief!
In this destruction of unbelieving Israel—unbelieving over against the preaching of the Word of God—we see the great and powerful and living Word of God at work. We see it also in those who believe. For the word of God is living . . . . . . . . .!
THE PREDICATION OF THE WORD OF GOD (Vss. 12, 13)
Yes, the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.
It is a remarkable thing that the emphasis falls not on what the word does first of all, but on what the word of God is. Really, the text in the original Greek says: Living, the word of God. . . . ! (zoon ho logos tou theou). The emphasis falls on the predication: living. The adjectival notion of the participle. stands on the foreground. That the word is living indicates that it is not dead, lifeless, weak, fruitless. It is living and operative. It is living as God is living. (Matt. 22:32) Jesus lives through the living Father. (John 6:57) Christ is the living one, and therefore we shall live, for even as the Father hath life in Himself thus hath he given the Son to have life in himself. (John 5:26) And as the living God he is the very opposite of idols which do not exist. As the living God he is the eternal God. (Rev. 4:10; Rev. 10:6) All this too must be attributed to the word of God as spoken of here in the text. Were the word of God not “living” then it could not be powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, etc. Only because the Word of God is living does and can it do what it does in the deepest recesses of the being, and heart, and existence of man!
The question has been one of exegetical difference whether the “word of God” (ho logos tou Theou) must be interpreted as the personal, the hypostatical Word, which became flesh and dwelt among us, or whether this refers to the inspired word, which is preached in the word. It was none less than Augustine, Ambrose, Dr. Owen and Doddridge who held the position that the word here refers to the hypostatical word, the Christ Himself. Others, such as Calvin, Beza, Macknight and Scott held that the “Word of God” refers to the preached word, the infallible Scriptures. The question is really of importance to understand, less we fail to hear and heed the exhortation and admonition of the Lord.