A REST TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD (Part 1)
By John C. Carpenter
 
The author of the book of Hebrews wrote to Jewish believers in Christ, Let us therefore fear [God and His judgment], lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest [to cease from effort and work], then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest [repose of Christianity] to the people of God (Heb 4:1-9). What effort or "work" can the believer in Christ cease from, and what does it mean to enter into God's rest?
 
CEASED FROM HIS OWN WORKS
 
The author of the letter to the Hebrews gave us the answer in the very next verse. After explaining that a rest was available to the people of God, to those who believe on Jesus Christ, the author then immediately said, For he that is entered into his [God's] rest [abode, resting state], he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his (Heb 4:10). In verse 10, the word "works" is the Greek word "ergon," which in context means "work, act, deed, effort, or labour." In the Old Covenant, the ancient Hebrews [Israelites, or Jews] had to perform various commandments, judgments, or ordinances in an attempt to keep, or be obedient to, the Jewish Law. Obedience to the Law was the only way for the ancient Hebrew to achieve righteousness and eternal life. The performance of these acts and deeds in an effort to be obedient to the Law was referred to as "works" of the Law. In the New Covenant, any individual who believes that Jesus is the Christ and that He has already come to earth, can enter into what Holy Scriptures refer to as God's "rest." This "rest" is available to the New Covenant believer as a result of the birth, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When a believer in Christ enters into God's rest, which has been provided by Christ, the believer no longer has to keep the Jewish Law in order to have eternal life. The believer no longer has to fulfill deeds or acts of the law in order to bring about his or her righteousness and salvation. Because of faith in Christ, he or she can now "rest" in Jesus Christ.
 
YE SHALL THEREFORE KEEP MY STATUTES
 
Ancient Hebrew writings were divided into three sections: Law, Prophets, and Writings. In this issue, we are concerned only with the first section, the "Law," which consists of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books, referred to earlier as the Torah, teaching or instruction, are periodically referred to in modern times as the Pentateuch, which means "five tools." Generally, the Law reflected God's will regarding human conduct, and included God's precepts and commandments for regulating human moral behavior. Specifically, the "Law," also referred to as the "Law of Moses," was God's first covenant with His chosen people, Israel. This covenant consisted of divinely instituted rules of life mediated by the prophet Moses to govern the nation of Israel. The Mosaic code of laws, consisting of the Ten Commandments (Exo. 20), the Judgments which dictated Israel's social life (Exo 21), and the Ordinances which directed Israel's worship (Exo 18 and 25), and which influenced and dictated Israel's everyday behavior, were a covenant of works that required obedience (Exo 19). Under this first covenant, Israel's works, or obedience to the Law, not only determined God's presence, care for, protection, and blessing of Israel, but literally determined whether one lived or died. God said to Israel, Ye shall therefore keep [be obedient to] my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD"(Lev 18:5). However, there was a problem with this covenant. Israel was [and still is] unable to completely keep this first covenant of Law.
 
WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO
 
The Law required absolute obedience, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10). Rather than trusting in God for their righteousness, the Jews"trusted in themselves [their own ability through works] that they were [could make themselves] righteous" (Luke 18:9), but their trust was misplaced. They were unable to keep the law. Christ said to some Jews, Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? (John 7:19). Paul was aware that the Jews were unable to keep the law. He wrote to some Jews in Rome, who arrogantly rested in the law for their salvation, who mistakenly thought they were guides to the blind and a light to those walking in darkness, who mistakenly thought they were instructors and teachers of knowledge and truth, and who were also committing sin and breaking the law (Rom 2:17-26). Paul told them, circumcision [a seal of the righteousness of the faith; see Rom 4:11] verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision [not being set apart to God] (Rom 2:25). Paul was attempting to explain the idea that being Jewish and set apart to God was useful, or able to make them righteous in God's view, only if they could live in a sinless state and completely keep the Law. Paul knew that because these Jews were sinning and unable to perfectly keep the Law they were therefore unrighteous in God's view. Paul later said to them, Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his [God's] sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20). Paul not only clarified that the Law could not make one righteous, he explained that the Law simply brought one to a realization of sin. As Paul wrote Timothy, the Law was not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners... (1 Tim 1:9). Paul specifically told other "men of Israel" that they could not be justified [rendered righteous] by the law of Moses (Acts 13:39). Being more direct regarding the impotence of the Law to bring righteousness, Paul also wrote to those in Galatia, For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified [made right] by [keeping, being obedient to] the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live [eternally] by [because of their] faith [in Jesus Christ] (Gal 3:10-11). Writing to those in Rome, Paul explained why Israel could not keep the law when he wrote, ...what the law could not do [which was to make Israel righteous], in that it was weak [feeble, impotent] through [because of] the [weakness and sinfulness of Israel's] flesh... (Rom 8:3). Because Israel was weak in the flesh, it was unable to keep the Law, and because Israel was unable to keep the Law, it was therefore unrighteous. In essence, God's first covenant could not make Israel righteous, but God, in His wisdom, had a solution.
 
A NEW COVENANT
 
Because the first covenant was impotent to make Israel righteous and therefore bring eternal life, God found it necessary to provide a second, or New Covenant. In His infinite wisdom, and from the beginning of time, God had planned a second, or New, covenant. [Matt 24:34; John 17:24-25; Eph 1:4, 2:20; Heb 4:3, 9:26; Rev 13:8]. The author of the letter to the Hebrews explained, For if that first [old] covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second [new]. For finding fault with them [Israel], he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that[old covenant] which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away (Heb 8:7-13).
 
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD WITHOUT THE LAW
 
Through His second, or New Covenant, God the Father established a means whereby Israel [and mankind] could become righteous apart from and without having to keep the law. The apostle Paul explained to those in Rome, But now the righteousness of God without [separately or apart from] the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even [specifically] the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe... (Rom 3:21-22). Prophesying the future appearance and priesthood of Christ, the author of the book of Hebrews wrote, For it is evident that our Lord [Jesus Christ] sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment [of the Law] going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb 7:14-25). Referring to the ministry and work of Christ, the author further explained, But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator (Heb 9:11-16). Finally, referring to the result of Christ's work, the author of Hebrews wrote, ...we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected [consecrated, made righteous] for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more [need to repeatedly make an] offering for sin (Heb 10:10-18). Addressing the five Roman provinces in Asia Minor, the apostle Peter wrote, Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified [made righteous] your souls in [by] obeying [responding with faith to] the truth [that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, who has come to earth] through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (1 Pet 1:18-23). The apostle Paul elsewhere summarized that the [means to achieving the] righteousness of God which [God requires in the New Covenant] is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference [in the requirement of faith in Christ for the Jew or Gentile] (Rom 3:22), and that Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Christ] the free gift [of eternal life] came upon all men unto justification of life (Rom 5:18). Jesus Christ was clearly to be God's righteousness apart from the Law.
 
EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN
 
This New Covenant righteousness apart from the Law required faith in Christ. But how was this faith in Christ brought about? The Lord gave us the answer. Entering into a discussion with a leader of the Jews named Nicodemus, who had been taught and believed that keeping the Jewish law brought righteousness and eternal life, Jesus Christ explained, ...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born [physically] of water and [spiritually] of the [Holy] Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:3-6). Clearly, one cannot enter into the Kingdom of God without being born again by the Holy Spirit. Jesus then went on to explain what this "new birth" involved. Using an Old Testament example to help Nicodemus understand, Christ expounded, ...as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:14-18). To Nicodemus, and to all Jews and Gentiles alike, the Lord provided the only New Covenant means to righteousness and eternal life: a new birth, resulting from the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, and characterized by faith in Jesus Christ.
 
WHOSOEVER THEREFORE SHALL CONFESS ME
 
The new birth that involves faith in Christ must also include confession of Christ. As He was sending His original twelve disciples into the world, Jesus Christ instructed them, Whosoever therefore shall confess [acknowledge, accept] me [as the Son of God, as the Christ who has come to earth] before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny [reject] me [as the Son of God who has come to earth] before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Mat 10:32-33). Confession of Christ must also include recognition and belief that 2000 years ago God sent His sacrificial peace offering, His son, Jesus Christ, to die and become the propitiation for our sins. According to Holy Scriptures, individuals who do not recognize or acknowledge that Jesus Christ has already come in the flesh are described as having a spirit of antichrist. John instructed us,Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every [human] spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: Andevery spirit[individual] that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is [has already] come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us [understands what we are saying]; he that is not of God heareth not us [does not understand what we are saying]. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:1-10). In order to be born again, one must confess that God loved us and has already sent His son to be the atonement for our sins.
 
THEY WHICH TESTIFY OF ME
 
Confessing Christ should not be difficult for the Jew or Gentile who has read and believes all of the Holy Scriptures. The Old Covenant prophecies regarding the birth, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were fulfilled almost two thousand years ago. The prophecies of the birth of Christ were fulfilled two thousand years ago in the city of Bethlehem. Scriptures tell us, And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:1-11). Prophecies regarding the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ have also been fulfilled. Scriptures instruct us, And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots (Mat 27:33-35). After being crucified, Christ cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost (Mat 27:50). Later, an angel of the Lord appeared to women who saw Christ's empty sepulcher and said, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you (Mat 28:5-7). If you have difficulty believing and confessing that Christ has come to earth, try reading the New Covenant, for as Christ said, the Scriptures are they which testify of me (John 5:39).  AMEN.

 
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"Jesus said unto
him, If thou
wilt be perfect,
go and sell
that thou hast,
and give to the
poor, and thou
shalt have
treasure in heaven: and come
and follow me"
(Mat 19:21)


 
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