Law/Gospel in Hebrews 4

[I’m hoping to write a short review of B.B. Warfield’s book on the early “faith-healing” movement in America and the U.K., entitled Counterfeit Miracles, but with visiting family a big reading list and barely any time to get my own personal studies done, it’s been hard to find the time to sit down and give a meaningful review of the book. So here’s a journal entry that ministered to me last night. Enjoy ;)]

Law/Gospel [vv.11-13]/[vv.14-16] (Judgment/Salvation)

{Law/Gospel is defined by Martin Luther, here.}

[Read: Hebrews 4]

These two sections of Hebrews 4 are beautiful illustrations of Law/Gospel distinction (for more resources, some more technical than others, see Resources on the Law/Gospel Distinction at the Heidelblog) . Verses 11-13 show us the absolutely piercing, penetrating, and, quite honestly, terrifying nature of the Law which peers past all appearances into the very constitution of our intentions, and exposes us for what we are: Liars, thieves, adulterers, faithless, rebels, and God-hating blasphemers. We are filled with dread to know that God’s Word, and in fact Christ, sees the fibers of which even our intentions are made, and we tremble! We know that we, like Israel, have gone astray in our hearts, have disobeyed God, and have sought carnal satisfaction and not the satisfaction that comes from obeying the Lord who made us in His image.

In contrast to this, however, verses 14-16 show us that although Christ is the Word who stands as Judge of the quick and the dead, He is also our High Priest, who is not unfamiliar with the frailties of being human. And for all who hear His voice, we can draw near to the throne of grace in our time of need, and we can do so with full confidence that we will find that mercy. These two sections of Scripture stand in contrast to one another insofar as they show us God’s Word as Condemning Judge (vv.11-13) and God’s Word as our Savior/High Priest (vv.14-16).


Gospel/Law [v.14a/v.14b] (Indicative/Imperative)

There is, however, another instance of Law/Gospel distinction here, found in verse 14. Whereas the first Law/Gospel distinction is a declaration of Law (Judgment) followed by Gospel (Salvation), this second instance is Gospel (Indicatives) followed by Law (Imperatives). It is only because of the finished work of Christ that we can approach God with boldness and confidence as children who are weak, destitute in themselves, and in need of mercy and grace daily. Because the Holy Spirit humbled us with His Law, and then granted us faith to believe His Gospel, we who now believe the Gospel can be given commands which we want to obey because of our gratitude for what He has done for us in Christ. This is a powerful and beautiful truth that can be seen when we break the verse down in this way:

Gospel Law
We have a High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God Therefore, let us hold fast our confession

2 thoughts on “Law/Gospel in Hebrews 4

  1. Hiram says:

    Well, Christ eliminated the ceremonial/sacrificial Laws because He was the fulfillment of them, so that’s one aspect of the Law that no longer applies to us.

    Those Laws that pertained to Israel as a nation don’t apply to us, since we are not under the covenant that God made with Israel, but we are under the New Covenant.

    So that leaves us with the moral Law that God has given to us, which He says He has written on the hearts of all believers, and which is summarized in the Lord’s statement:

    You shall love the Lord your God with your whole being


    You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

    The Ten commandments, as a summation of the Law, show us what to abstain from and what to perform, and these are repeated in the New Testament.

    Paul tells the Ephesian children, for instance, “Honor your father and mother” (Eph. 6:2-3), after stating it somewhat differently in v.1, in the command to children to “Obey your parents in the Lord.”

    There are many examples of the Ten Commandments still being applicable to believers under the New Covenant.


involve yourself

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