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The Rest of Faith

If a minister wanted to thin out his Sunday morning crowd, he would only need to announce that, "Beginning next Sunday, I'll be starting a long series on the book of Hebrews," for Hebrews is, for most church-goers, a mysterious book with ominous warnings that they will get to someday, but not today. But the warnings it contains are not meant to drive us away, but to draw us near, for in understanding the truths in Hebrews our lives can be transformed in an instant, and to delay such a benefit, even for a day, would be a tragedy. One of those truths is "the rest of faith." In Hebrews 4:11, the author directed his readers to "labor to enter into rest," and he wrote that they couldn't please God if they didn't. Given its importance, it would seem that knowing what the rest of faith is would be well understood, but for almost 2,000 years, what the rest of faith is and how to enter it has proved elusive to scholars.

Kevin Anderson, in
Hebrews: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, wrote, "The theme of divine rest has captured the imaginations of theologians throughout the centuries." But while it may have captured their imaginations, their curiosity has not been satisfied, for George H. Guthrie, the author of The NIV Application Commentary, wrote, "Scholars have spilled much ink over this question, with mixed results." Uncertainty lies in every theological corner. The Calvinist author, Arthur Pink, in An Exposition of Hebrews wrote: "The apostle's argument (about the rest of faith) seems to be unusually involved, the teaching of it appears to conflict with other portions of Scripture and the 'rest' which is its central subject is difficult to define with any degree of certainty." In the absence of clarity and certainty, the most widely held view in academia was succinctly articulated by James Moffett who wrote in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews: "'Rest' throughout all this passage - and the writer never refers to it again - is the blissful existence of God's faithful in the next world."

There is truth in the view that Heaven will be a place of rest from our journey here on earth. Our physical struggles will be over; the world, the flesh, and the Devil will be behind us. But if Heaven is the only or even the primary definition of the rest of faith, we are hard pressed to understand the author's disgruntlement with his people for their failure to enter into it, for the only way they could have entered the rest would have been to die or, like Enoch and Elijah, be caught up into Heaven. In light of that, the view that the "rest" referred to in Hebrews 3 and 4 is primarily Heaven does not satisfy our thoughtful curiosity.

The pulpit and the pew, on the other hand, seem more certain, with most defining "the rest of faith" as trusting God in our day-to-day lives, particularly during the storms of life, and to troubled souls, counselors often recall and repeat the advice of the ol' southern preacher who chanted, "Everything's gonna' be all right." There is truth in the idea that the freedom from worry which results from trusting God is a "rest," but if the writer of Hebrews meant "Trust God and don't worry," you would think scholars would have been quick to pick up on that idea.

But then what is "the rest of faith?"

Sandy Gregory spent seven months in the book of Hebrews and he wrote a paper on the rest of faith which has proven to be helpful to those for whom understanding of the rest of faith is a pressing concern. The paper is nine pages, plus a cover page, and it is now available as a PDF that may be downloaded without cost or obligation through Gumroad, a secure and highly reliable digital delivery service which we use. Here's the link to take you there.


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