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Hebrews 4:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For unto us was the Gospel preached - Και γαρ εσμεν ευηγγελισμενοι· For we also have received good tidings as well as they. They had a gracious promise of entering into an earthly rest; we have a gracious promise of entering into a heavenly rest. God gave them every requisite advantage; he has done the same to us. Moses and the elders spoke the word of God plainly and forcibly to them: Christ and his apostles have done the same to us. They might have persevered; so may we: they disbelieved, disobeyed, and fell: and so may we.

But the word preached did not profit them - Αλλ ουκ ωφελησεν ὁ λογος της ακοης εκεινους· But the word of hearing did not profit them. The word and promise to which the apostle most probably refers is that in Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 1:21; : Ye are come unto to the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto to us. Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee: fear not. Many exhortations they had to the following effect: Arise, that we may go up against them; for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land; for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth; Judges 18:9, Judges 18:10. But instead of attending to the word of the Lord by Moses, the whole congregation murmured against him and Aaron, and said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt; Numbers 14:2, Numbers 14:4. But they were dastardly through all their generations. They spoke evil of the pleasant land, and did not give credence to his word. Their minds had been debased by their Egyptian bondage, and they scarcely ever arose to a state of mental nobility.

Not being mixed with faith in them that heard - There are several various readings in this verse, and some of them important. The principal are on the word συγκεκραμενος, mixed; which in the common text refers to ὁ λογος, the word mixed; but, in ABCD and several others, it is συγκεκραμενους, referring to, and agreeing with, εκεινους, and may be thus translated: The word of hearing did not profit them, they not being mixed with those who heard it by faith. That is, they were not of the same spirit with Joshua and Caleb. There are other variations, but of less importance; but the common text seems best.

The word συγκεκραμενος, mixed, is peculiarly expressive; it is a metaphor taken from the nutrition of the human body by mixing the aliment taken into the stomach with the saliva and gastric juice, in consequence of which it is concocted, digested, reduced into chyle, which, absorbed by the lacteal vessels, and thrown into the blood, becomes the means of increasing and supporting the body, all the solids and fluids being thus generated; so that on this process, properly performed, depend (under God) strength, health, and life itself. Should the most nutritive aliment be received into the stomach, if not mixed with the above juices, it would be rather the means of death than of life; or, in the words of the apostle, it would not profit, because not thus mixed. Faith in the word preached, in reference to that God who sent it, is the grand means of its becoming the power of God to the salvation of the soul. It is not likely that he who does not credit a threatening, when he comes to hear it, will be deterred by it from repeating the sin against which it is levelled; nor can he derive comfort from a promise who does not believe it as a pledge of God's veracity and goodness. Faith, therefore, must be mixed with all that we hear, in order to make the word of God effectual to our salvation.

This very use of the word, and its explanation, we may find in Maximus Tyrius, in his description of health, Dissert. x., page 101. "Health," says he, it is a certain disposition ὑγρων και ξηρων και ψυχρων και θερμων δυναμεων, η ὑπο τεχνης συγκραθεισων καλως, η ὑπο φυσεως ἁρμοσθεισων τεχνικως, which consists in a proper mixture together of the wet and the dry, the cold and the hot, either by an artificial process, or by the skillful economy of nature."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them - This translation by no means conveys the sense of the original. According to this it would seem that the “gospel,” as we understand it, or the whole plan of salvation, was communicated to “them,” as well as to “us.” But this is by no means the idea. The discussion has reference only to “the promise of rest,” and the assertion of the apostle is that this “good news” of a promise of rest is made to us as really as it was made to “them.” “Rest” was promised to them in the land of Canaan - an emblem of the eternal rest of the people of God. That was unquestioned, and Paul took it for granted. His object now is, to show that a promise of “rest” is as really made to us as it was to them, and that there is the same danger of failing to secure it as there was then. It was important for him to show that there was such a promise made to the people of God in his time, and as he was discoursing of those who were Hebrews, he of course made his appeal to the Old Testament. The literal translation would be, “For we are evangelized - ἐσμεν εὐηγγελισμένοι esmen euēngelismenoi- as well as they.” The word “evangelize” means to communicate good news, or glad tidings; and the idea here is, that the good news, or glad tidings of “rest” is announced to us as really as it was to them. This the apostle proves in the following verses.

But the word preached - Margin, “Of hearing.” The word “preach” we also use now in a technical sense as denoting a formal proclamation of the gospel by the ministers of religion. But this is not the idea here. It means, simply, the word which “they heard;” and refers particularly to the promise of “rest” which was made to them. That message was communicated to them by Moses.

Did not profit them - They derived no advantage from it. They rejected and despised it, and were, therefore, excluded from the promised land. It exerted no influence over their hearts and lives, and they lived and died as though no such promise had been made. Thus, many persons live and die now. The offer of salvation is made to them. They are invited to come and be saved. They are assured that God is willing to save them, and that the Redeemer stands with open arms to welcome them to heaven. They are trained up under the gospel; are led early in life to the sanctuary; are in the habit of attending on the preaching of the gospel all their days, but still what they hear exerts no saving influence on their hearts. At the close of life all that could be truly said of them is, that they have not been “profited;” it has been no real advantage to them in regard to their final destiny that they have enjoyed so many privileges.

Not being mixed with faith in them that heard it - Margin, “Or, because they were not united by faith to.” There are some various readings on this text, and one of these has given occasion to the version in the margin. Many mss. instead of the common reading - συγκεκερασμένος sugkekerasmenos- by which the word “mixed” would be united to ὁ λόγος ho logos- “the word,” have another reading - sugkekrame&noujsungkekramenous- according to which the word “mixed” would refer to “them,” and would mean that they who heard the Word and rejected it were not “mixed,” or united with those who believed it. The former reading makes the best sense, and is the best sustained; and the idea is, that the message which was preached was not received into the heart by faith. They were destitute of faith, and the message did not profit them. The word “mixed” is supposed by many of the best critics to refer to the process by which “food” is made nutritive, by being properly “mixed” with the saliva and the gastric juice, and thus converted into chyme, and chyle, and then changed into blood.

If suitably “mixed” in this manner, it contributes to the life and health of the physical frame; if not, it is the means of disease and death. So it is supposed the apostle meant to say of the message which God sends to man. If properly received; if mixed or united with faith, it becomes the means of spiritual support and life. If not, it furnishes no aliment to the soul, and will be of no advantage. As food when properly digested incorporates itself with the body, and gives it support, so those critics suppose it to be of the Word of God, that it incorporates itself with the internal and spiritual man, and gives it support and life. It may be doubted, however, whether the apostle had any such allusion as this, and whether it is not rather a refinement of the critics than of Paul. The word used here properly denotes a mixing or mingling together, like water and wine, 1 Corinthians 12:24; and it may refer here merely to a proper “union” of faith with the word, in order that it might be profitable. The idea is, that merely to “hear” the message of life with the outward ear will be of no advantage. It must be “believed,” or it will be of no benefit. The message is sent to mankind at large. God declares his readiness to save all. But this message is of no advantage to multitudes - for such reasons as these.

(1) Many do not attend to it at all. They do not even “listen” respectfully to it. Multitudes go not near the place where the gospel is proclaimed; and many, when there, and when they “seem” to attend, have their minds and hearts on other things.

(2) many do not “believe” it. They have doubts about the whole subject of religion, or about the particular doctrines of the gospel - and while they do not believe it, how can they be benefitted by it? How can a man be profited by the records of “history” if he does not believe them? How can one be benefited by the truths of “science” if he does not believe them? And if a man was assured that by going to a certain place he might close a bargain that would be a great advantage to him, of what use would this information be to him if he did not believe a word of it? So of the knowledge of salvation; the facts of the history recorded in the Bible; the offer of eternal life.

(3) men do not allow the message of life to influence their conduct, and of course it is of no advantage to them. Of what use can it be if they steadily resist all the influence which it would have, and ought to have, on their lives? They live as though it were ascertained that there is no truth in the Bible; no reason for being influenced by the offered hope of eternal life, or alarmed by the threatened danger of eternal death. Resolved to pursue a course of life that is at variance with the commands of God, they cannot be profited by the message of salvation. Having no faith which influences and controls the heart, they are not in the least benefited by the offer of heaven. When they die, their condition is in no wise made better by the fact that they were trained up in a pious family; that they were instructed in the Sunday School; that they had the Bible in their dwellings, and that they sat regularly under a preached gospel. For any “advantage” to be derived from all this in the future world, they might as well have never heard the message of life. Nay it would have been better for them. The only effect of these privileges is to harden them in guilt, and to sink them deeper in hell; see the notes, 2 Corinthians 2:16.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The privileges we have under the gospel, are greater than any had under the law of Moses, though the same gospel for substance was preached under both Testaments. There have been in all ages many unprofitable hearers; and unbelief is at the root of all unfruitfulness under the word. Faith in the hearer is the life of the word. But it is a painful consequence of partial neglect, and of a loose and wavering profession, that they often cause men to seem to come short. Let us then give diligence, that we may have a clear entrance into the kingdom of God. As God finished his work, and then rested from it, so he will cause those who believe, to finish their work, and then to enjoy their rest. It is evident, that there is a more spiritual and excellent sabbath remaining for the people of God, than that of the seventh day, or that into which Joshua led the Jews. This rest is, a rest of grace, and comfort, and holiness, in the gospel state. And a rest in glory, where the people of God shall enjoy the end of their faith, and the object of all their desires. The rest, or sabbatism, which is the subject of the apostle's reasoning, and as to which he concludes that it remains to be enjoyed, is undoubtedly the heavenly rest, which remains to the people of God, and is opposed to a state of labour and trouble in this world. It is the rest they shall obtain when the Lord Jesus shall appear from heaven. But those who do not believe, shall never enter into this spiritual rest, either of grace here or glory hereafter. God has always declared man's rest to be in him, and his love to be the only real happiness of the soul; and faith in his promises, through his Son, to be the only way of entering that rest.
Ellen G. White
The Upward Look, 75.1

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. Hebrews 4:2. UL 75.1

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 251

The unbelief and murmurings of the children of Israel illustrate the people of God now upon the earth. Many look back to them, and marvel at their unbelief and continual murmurings, after the Lord had done so much for them, in giving them repeated evidences of his love and care for them. They think that they should not have proved thus ungrateful. But some who thus think, murmur and repine at things of less consequence. They do not know themselves. God frequently proves them, and tries their faith in small things, and they do not endure the trial any better than did ancient Israel. 3SG 251.1

Many have their present wants supplied, yet they will not trust the Lord for the future. They manifest unbelief, and sink into despondency and gloom at anticipated want. Some are in continual trouble lest they shall come to want, and their children suffer. When difficulties arise, or when they are brought into strait places—when their faith and love to God is tested, they shrink from the trial, and murmur at the process by which God has chosen to purify them. Their love does not prove pure and perfect, to bear all things. The faith of the people of the God of Heaven should be strong, active, and enduring—the substance of things hoped for. Then the language of such will be, Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name; for he hath dealt bountifully with me. Self-denial is considered by some to be real suffering. Depraved appetites are indulged. And a restraint upon the unhealthy appetite would lead even many professed Christians to now start back, as though actual starvation would be the consequence of a plain diet. And, like the children of Israel, they would prefer slavery, diseased bodies, and even death, rather than to be deprived of the flesh-pots. Bread and water is all that is promised to the remnant in the time of trouble. 3SG 251.2

“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoarfrost, on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna; for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, this is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. 3SG 252.1

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