Hebrews 4:12-16

Sunday, January 15th, 2017






Chapter 4 continues the section begun in chapter 3 which teaches that Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses. It is seen here that unbelief prevents one from entering God’s rest; whereas, belief admits one into God’s rest (vv. 1-10). Therefore, believers ought to labor to enter God’s rest (vv. 11-13).


We have already considered verse 11.


Hebrews 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.


In verses 12-13 we note that, in addition to what is said in verse 11, there are –



The first reason is that –



Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.


Verses 12 and 13 are given to instruct professing believers why they should labor to enter God’s rest. Unbelief will never go undetected by the Word of God. The Lord will use His Word to point out this unbelief to the one who seriously studies the Scriptures, whether through genuine Bible preaching and teaching or through personal Bible study. Although God views the spiritual condition of each person perfectly, no one is capable of knowing his own heart perfectly. This is because the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9 ), but God will use His Word to reveal what is really in the heart.


By someone’s submitting his heart and mind to the Word of God, God will not only reveal what is in his heart; He will also bring it into conformity to Christ.


In the context of Hebrews 4 , verse 12 shows the means by which God enables the professing believer to test the reality of his profession of faith in Christ to see whether he is genuinely saved.


For may be explanatory meaning now; or it may be emphatic meaning indeed, certainly, or in fact.


God knows all, and God sees all. God, therefore, knows who is a believer and who is an unbeliever. No one will be able to deceive God regarding his salvation. Therefore, people had better be certain they are saved while they still have opportunity.


God’s Word is able to penetrate the heart and to bring conviction to the hearer or reader about his condition. Although believers have the completed Word of God today, the people living at the time Hebrews was written did not. They may, in fact, have had very little of it. Depending on when Hebrews was written, as much as half of the New Testament may not yet have been written. However, they had individual messages from prophets, perhaps a few epistles, and perhaps the synoptic gospels and Acts. It is not known how much of the New Testament they really had because no one is really sure when Hebrews was written.


It is also not known that the readers had general access to all of the books which had been written at this time. How fortunate believers are today who have the completed Word of God in abundance to enable them to read and study! The recipients of Hebrews were not as fortunate as many are today.


In any event, there is a general truth stated here, which is true of whatever portion they had of the Word of God. It is a statement regarding the penetrating power of the Scriptures. It is because of the accuracy of God’s Word and because of its penetrating capacity that individual believers should make every effort to apply it to their hearts and minds to make certain that they have been genuinely born again lest some find that they were never saved in the first place.


The time of judgment will come when all things will be revealed. One should not wait until the time when it will be everlastingly too late to find out that he is still unsaved. He needs to find that out now while he may still do something about it.


By applying his heart and mind to the Word of God, the individual will be giving the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to convict him of his lack of salvation or to convince him that he is truly a child of God and to bring an end to any doubt regarding his salvation.


When he dies, it will be too late.


The word of God is the message of God.


It may refer to a particular message, or it may refer to the entire Word of God. It makes no difference because what is true of the whole is also true of each part.


It is described as being quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing . . ., and . . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.


Quick means living or alive. The Word of God is alive; it is not something which is dead, dry, and dusty. It has validity and will meet your every need.


Powerful is effective, active, or energizing. It will always accomplish whatever God intends or desires it to accomplish. One is reminded of Isaiah 55:11 .


Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.


The Word of God will always bring the result God intended.


Sharper suggests more cutting.


What the Word of God is sharper or more cutting than is any twoedged sword.


Any is every or each.


A twoedged sword is a double-edged sword or saber. A twoedged sword was a formidable weapon as is the Word of God. By sharper than any twoedged sword, the writer means that the Word of God is sharper than the sharpest sword.


The Word of God is also characterized by piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.


Piercing means penetrating.


The extent of the capacity for the Word of God to penetrate is even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.


Even to is until or as far as.


The dividing asunder is (the) separation or (the) division.


What the Word of God will divide or separate is soul and spirit.


Soul refers to an individual’s man-consciousness or self-consciousness. It is a reference to the seat of his natural sensations, affections, and desires as a human being.


Spirit refers to an individual’s God-consciousness. It is a reference to the seat of his spiritual desire for God, holiness, and fellowship with God.


The Word of God also divides or separates the joints and marrow.


Joints refers to the ends of the bones, where bones are joined to other bones such as the joints of the ankle, knee, hip, elbow, wrist, and knuckles in the hand.


Marrow denotes the innermost part of the bone.


The idea expressed in this verse is that the Word of God is able to sort out all things, even the things which, from a human viewpoint, appear to be inseparable, whether it is the soul or whether it is the spirit, whether it is the joints or whether it is the marrow.


It must be noted that the text does not say that it divides or separates the soul from the spirit or that it divides the joints from the marrow.


It indicates rather that it penetrates deep within the individual and that it divides the soul, thus exposing the soul for what it really is, and (that it divides) the spirit, thus exposing the spirit for what it really is, and (that it divides) the joints, and (that it divides) the marrow exposing them.


Similarly, a sharp sword may cut right through the marrow in a bone or through a joint.


Furthermore, the Word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.


A discerner is something able to judge or able to discern.


What the Word of God is able to judge or to discern is the thoughts and intents of the heart.


Thoughts are ideas or reflections.


Intents is another term meaning thoughts, knowledge, or insights.


Of the heart suggests that God knows what is going on deep within the innermost part of man.


He knows whether one has trusted Christ as his Savior or whether he is just going along with the crowd. No one will fool Him.


Furthermore, no one who submits his heart and mind to the Scriptures will fool himself about his own salvation either because, as he applies the Word of God to his soul on a daily basis, God will make the truth abundantly clear to him.


Similarly, Peter wrote in II Peter 1:10 , Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.


The second reason professing believers should labor to enter God’s rest is that –



Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.


Neither is there means and there is no.


Any creature is simply creature and means a creation or a created one or a created thing.


That is not manifest means that is invisible or that is hidden.


In his sight means before Him or in His presence. This phrase makes it clear that there is no part of the creation that is invisible to God; instead, every created being is clearly visible to God.


But introduces a mild contrast.


All things are naked, i.e. uncovered or bare; and opened, i.e. laid bare. Opened suggests an action which occurred in the past with its result continuing on.


They have been opened and remain open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do, which implies to God’s eyes. It is He with whom we have to do, which means with Whom we have to reckon or with Whom we have to give account.


We have to do indicates that believers are going to have to give an account of their lives to God, and He already knows all about them. When that account is given, there will be nothing hidden. Everything will be crystal-clear to Him, including whether or not the individual has been genuinely saved.


As we move on to verse 14, we enter a new major section in Hebrews. It extends from 4:14 - 7:28.


So far in Hebrews 1:4-2:18 , we have seen that Christ is superior to angels.


In addition, we have seen in Hebrews 3:1-4:13 that Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses.


Now we see in Hebrews 4:14-7:28 that Christ’s ministry is more excellent than the Levitical priests’ ministry.


Since Christ has a more excellent ministry than the Levitical priests had, believers should hold fast their confession (4:14-16). Also, the office of high priest is described (5:1-4), and Christ is stated to be a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:5-10). There follows an appeal and warning to indicate that professing believers cannot go back to an unsaved condition if they have been truly born again (5:11 - 6:12). Christ is seen to be the believer’s forerunner within the veil (6:13-20); and Melchizedek, as a type of Christ, is shown to have had a greater priesthood than the Levitical priests had (7:1-28). Likewise, Christ has a greater priesthood than the Levitical priests.

As we move on, we note that –



Believers should do this –



Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.


Seeing that we have is understood in the sense of since we have, because we have, or inasmuch as we have. The tense of have indicates an ongoing action occurring at the same time as the action of let us hold fast.


Then indicates that an inference is being drawn from what has preceded and is used in the sense of therefore, accordingly, consequently, or so.


What believers have is a great high priest that is passed into the heavens.


A high priest is one who represented people before God. He offers sacrifices and prayers for them.


Not only do they have a high priest, they have a great one, greater than any other who has ever lived.


That is passed into the heavens means that has gone through the heavens and modifies high priest. Its tense indicates an existing state of being as a result of an action completed in the past. The believers’ high priest has ascended into heaven.


Whereas the high priest in the Old Testament had his place of ministry in the tabernacle and eventually in the temple, Christ’s place of ministry is in heaven itself.


Lest there be any doubt regarding Who this great high priest is, He is named. He is Jesus, the Son of God.


To the Jewish mind the Son of God is a clear reference to Jesus as the Messiah and to the fact that He is God.


John wrote similarly in John 20:31 .


John 20:31 But these [i.e. these miraculous signs or these miracles] are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ [i.e. the Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


Also, Son of in Hebrew thinking suggests that whatever He is a son of is a chief characteristic of Him. Thus, as the Son of God, Jesus is not only viewed as the Messiah, but He is actually thereby said to be God. The fact that He is Jesus as well as the Son of God is indicative of His humanity. He was not only God; He was also man. He is the God-man Who came to save sinners from their sins.


Let us hold fast is an exhortation suggesting that professing believers should continue to hold fast.


What they are to continue to hold fast is our profession, i.e. our confession or our acknowledgment. It is the confession, the profession, or the acknowledgment that believers have made that Christ is their Savior.


The same term was used in Hebrews 3:1 , . . . Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.


It will be seen again in Hebrews 10:23 , Let us old fast the profession of our faith without wavering.


Some of these people were apparently considering abandoning Christianity because they did not understand that what was happening to them was all in God’s providence.


The great persecution they were enduring was to have been expected.


Furthermore, they did not understand the logical impossibility of their returning to Judaism.


Therefore, they needed to forge ahead rather than to consider going back.


Believers should also hold fast their profession of faith in Christ –



Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.


Verse 15 is given in explanation of verse 14 to explain why believers should hold fast their profession as is indicated by for, which is used in the sense of now.


For might instead indicate the reason they should hold fast their confession in the sense of because.


We have indicates a present possession.


Believers have a high priest, but He is not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.


In other words, they do have a high priest Who can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities. This high priest is Jesus as was made clear in verse 14.


To be touched is to sympathize with, to have sympathy with, or to show sympathy with.


Jesus is able to sympathize with our infirmities or with our weaknesses. In particular, these are spiritual weaknesses. He is capable of being sympathetic with believers’ weaknesses.


But introduces a contrast.


Was . . . tempted is has been tempted, has been tried, or has been put to the test.


Its tense indicates that its action took place in the past with its result continuing on.


In all points is in every respect, in all respects, in all ways, or in all things.


Like as we are is in quite the same way.


Yet is supplied by the translators to remind the readers that there is a difference between the result of Christ’s temptations and theirs.


Whereas the writer and the readers have been guilty of sin, without sin clearly indicates that Christ never committed any sin. Christ had no sin nature, and He did not sin. By contrast, all others have a sin nature; and all those who have reached the age of accountability have committed sin.


Sin is the term for missing the mark.


Finally, believers should hold fast their profession of faith in Christ –



Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.


Let us . . . come . . . unto is let us approach, and it is given as an exhortation implying that professing believers should come to God or that they should approach God. Its present tense indicates that this should be done continuously or repeatedly, perhaps over and over again.


Therefore is used to show that an inference is being drawn from verse 15. Inasmuch as believers have a great high priest who is capable of being sympathetic with their weaknesses, they should take full advantage of this and approach the throne of grace. Therefore means then, accordingly, consequently, or so.


Boldly is with boldness, with courage, with confidence, or with fearlessness and is used to indicate the manner of approaching someone of higher rank.


What they are to approach is the throne of grace, i.e. the throne where grace or favor may be obtained.


Throne is likely a representation of God and, therefore, means that people should come boldly to God Himself Who gives grace.


That we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need is used to show purpose or intended result.


If showing purpose, that is to be understood in the sense of in order that or for the purpose that. If showing intended result, that is understood in the sense of so that or with the result that.


We may obtain is we may receive.


What may be obtained or received is mercy, i.e. pity or compassion. His mercy has made provision for sin.


And find grace is and find undeserved favor. His grace enables believers to live for Him and to have victory over sin. Even though no one deserves it, it is at the throne of grace where an individual will find grace.


To help in time of need is a prepositional phrase in the Greek text which modifies find. It literally means for timely help, for well-timed help, or for suitable help. Thus, people are urged to come boldly or openly, i.e. with courage or confidence, to God with the result that they might receive His mercy and that they might find His grace for timely help to meet their need.


The verse is thus used to indicate that believers should all come to God in order that their needs, whatever they are, may be met.


Some professing believers may need to make sure that they are saved by going to God and obtaining that salvation which is freely offered.


Others, as genuine believers, may come to God with their prayer requests that they may obtain grace as needed for Christian living.


Some believers may be going through tremendous persecutions or trials; whereas, others need some simple guidance in what may seem to be a relatively insignificant matter.


God is available to all believers at all times in order to meet all of their needs. There are no waiting lines at the throne of grace. Everyone is first in line!


How foolish it would be not to take full advantage of this wonderful privilege.



Be certain that you have been genuinely saved.