In verse 3 of Hebrews chapter 4, the writer says that along with some others he has enjoyed the experience of having entered into God’s rest. He seems to argue that it’s available for all Christians but many do not enjoy it for one reason or another. He writes, “For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, ‘As I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest,’ although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” I like the way one commentator explains this verse. He writes, “At the moment—in principle but not yet in full realization—we are entering that rest. As long as we keep our eyes fixed on ‘Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb. 12:2), we enjoy the rest God has promised, and eventually we shall be with him eternally.”[1]

Much of the material Christians read and listen to today presents a flawed view of the Good News of God’s rest for believers. They say that the Gospel is just the starting point for true believers. It’s the door by which we enter, but once we’re in the room, we now turn back to religious expressions and practices in order to grow in our faith. My contention and that of some others is that the Gospel is not a door that gets you into the room in which you try harder. It’s the entire room itself. We enter into the Christian experience by faith in Jesus and what He’s accomplished for us on the cross. But the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith alone is the place we must abide to enjoy God’s rest. Another commentator says, speaking about this verse, “The author’s application of this principle is that when we—by faith—enter into a life of rest, it is no longer necessary to attain, but only to maintain that rest into which we have entered by faith.”[2]

There is no rest for those who live on the cusp of God’s acceptance based on their own behavior and performance. We’ve already failed on that principle and that’s the very purpose of the law. Paul says it was given to make us aware of our sinfulness. Paul adds in Galatians 2:21, “…for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Once we believe in Jesus we don’t move on to something better because there is nothing better. We don’t receive our salvation by grace through faith and then perfect it through our own works. The many exhortations directed at believers in the Bible are all, in one way or another, to stay or abide in Christ’s finished work on our behalf. You can’t add anything to that! Relax! Or should I say “rest?”

[1] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 107.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost and Ken Durham, Faith That Endures : A Practical Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 84.