An oxymoron is a combination of contradictory words, such as cruel kindness. In the book of Hebrews, we exhorted with what might at first appear to be an oxymoron of sorts:
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God…Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, ….” Hebrews 4:9, 11a
A labor of rest…restful labor…resting in work?
A quick review of Strong’s definitions of these two words makes clear their differences:
labour: “to use speed, that is, to make effort, be prompt or earnest”
rest: “reposing down, that is, (by Hebraism) abode”
It is “impossible” to “make effort” and “lay down” or rest at the same time, isn’t it? But that is exactly what some sincere people, both real Christian and professing Christians, are trying to do. They are trying to find the rest of God, i.e., the peace of God, by working as diligently as they can to please Him. What they don’t realize is that the peace of God does not come from our working, but by our resting. Truly “good works,” i.e., those works of the Spirit in our life that please God, are produced only when we learn to stop working in our own strength, our own way, and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Only then is the Spirit free to work on the Lord’s behalf and ours to bring us peace, and to produce in us His fruit to the glory of God.
When Jesus said on the cross “It is finished,” He meant it. He had accomplished all that God required to secure the salvation of all the Father had or would ever give Him. There was nothing else that needed to be done. The price for sin had been fully paid. The Father was completely satisfied. Therefore, for the true Believer, there is no more “work” to do.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
“And ye are complete in him” Colossians 2:10
Now let’s allow the “full” passage from Hebrews to put these things into the proper eternal perspective:
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. “ Hebrews 4:9-11
You see, it isn’t good, human, religious works that save man. It is faith in the perfect work of God in Christ Jesus that saves man. All other works done as an effort to secure His saving grace are an offence to God. They are, in fact, a rejection of the crosswork of His only begotten Son, a rebellion against His perfect Way, a challenge of His infinite wisdom, a denial that His Way is sufficient to save “all who come unto Him,” a false claim of a better man-centered way. He rejects all such works.
Those who are trusting in their own works or the works of their church to save them from “the wrath to come” are going to be eternally disappointed.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23
You see, it is not the labor of religious works that the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the reader to diligently pursue, but the labor of faith. The labor of faith the Bible teaches is not religious works. The labor of faith the Bible teaches is actively and knowingly rejecting Self, Self-confidence, all human wisdom and strength, and all of man’s religion and traditions and trusting (“resting”) wholly on God’s grace as provided through the “once for all” offering of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary (Hebrews 10:10).
The Bible clearly teaches that men are saved by the grace (“unmerited favor”) of God alone through faith alone in the finished and all-sufficient work of Jesus Christ alone. Any additions to or deletions from this holy formula will earn for the unbeliever not God’s favor but God’s wrath. All human, religious works done to secure God’s favor will be absolutely rejected on the Day of Judgment: “depart from me, ye that that work iniquity.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
On the other hand, for the one who truly believes, who truly places his trust and confidence in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE, there is the promise of rest, of help, of comfort, both now and eternally.
“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.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15, 16
The only “labor” that will secure for you God’s blessing and full assurance of eternal life is the “labor” of turning from, i.e., of discontinuing, your own religious works and humbly coming to the Lord and trusting in His. Only then will you find both temporal and eternal rest for your soul. Only then will you enjoy the peace of God that passes all understanding.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,
and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1
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