In Hebrews 4:14-16 the writer links all that he has said in chapters 3 and 4, and all the way back in chapter 2, where he has identified Jesus Christ as a ‘merciful and faithful high priest‘ who, by his real and perfect humanity, is qualified to ‘make atonement for the sins of the people‘. Here he argues;
(1) ‘we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens‘. This statement anticipates a great truth that he expands on later which is; that Jesus has not gone into the symbolic presence of God – in the tabernacle or temple – as the earthly high priests did, but he has gone into the real spiritual and physical presence of God, not just through the curtain, but through the heavens themselves.
(2) ‘Jesus, the Son of God‘. This great high priest is, as we have seen, a real human being and he is ‘Jesus‘ – the human son of and from a human mother, who walked the earth, cried our tears, and bled our blood. Although He is also more than this for He is the ‘Son of God‘ as the writer has shown in 1:1-14 and 3:1-6.
(3) ‘let us hold fast our confession‘. Therefore, the writer exhorts, that since we have such a high priest; that is fully and perfectly qualified to represent us as ‘man‘ in the presence of God, and is at the same time the exalted divine Son of God who came down to earth specifically be the sacrifice, intercession, and propitiation for our sins, ‘let us hold firmly to the faith we profess‘. The sheer excellence of our great high priest and his qualifications should stir and motivate us to hold fast faith in Him, which is what we profess. Why? Because there is no one who could be more committed to our good, better qualified, more equipped to represent us in the presence of God, and absolutely no one more capable of obtaining eternal salvation for us than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Son of God. To scorn and reject Him, the high priest, is to reject or turn aside the provision of God, which would become the final and absolute rejection of God and eternal living with Him.
(4) ‘we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin‘. This expands on the qualifications of our great high priest; he ‘can sympathize with our weaknesses‘. Why? How come he understands our weaknesses so intimately that he sympathizes? Is he not perfect and without sin? How can a perfect sinless person feel what imperfect people feel? Well, because this perfect person was not perfect because of a unrealistic monastic removal from the world and its temptations – this perfect person was not secluded, confined, head in the sand, ascetic who was severed from the honky-dory way of human existence. Rather, this perfect person, this flesh-and-blood Jesus, lived among us (John 1:14) – as John recorded in 1 John 1:1 ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life… ‘ – this perfect person experienced our rejection, our treachery, and our hatred. He heard our scorn and accusations, He felt our whips, our mocking thorns, and our nails. All of this without sin, he was a sinless man, undeserving of the beatings that were meant for us…. you and me. Imagine YOU taking on all the sin and punishment of that sin for the people on the street you live on? How about you taking on the sin and punishment for your neighborhood? For your city? Your county? The whole country? How about the sin and punishment of the whole World? I wouldn’t do it, no, not me… because our great high perist took on the physical punishment but He also took on the spiritual punishment, His soul went to Hell and back for us, over and over and over and over and over and over, AND OVER again. Not only this, but this high priest, this perfect man, was pushed to the very limit of temptation’s power by the great deceiver, until the tempter gave in. From the beginning and the end of His ministry Jesus’ commitment to his Father’s will was tested by the devil, continually. The pressure to give up their faith, which the readers (Hebrews) of this letter were experiencing and facing, was nothing compared to the pressure the devil put on Jesus to deviate Him from the way of the cross, and the Mission, appointed to Him by His Father in Heaven. He knows the strength and the power of temptation and testing – because he endured them in their most ultimate intensity.
(5) ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need…‘ With such a high priest only one response is appropriate, absolute confidence. Rather than being shaken by the pressure being laid on by the Jews for the Hebrews to give up their faith and go back to the ritualistic traditions of the Old Testament. The writer encourages the readers to put on the confidence of their salvation, rather than to be tormented by the possibility of defection under the persecution conducted by the Romans. These Hebrew believers are encouraged to a bold confidence in their secure relationship with God based on the absolute integrity and supremacy of their great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, and the absolute effectiveness of Him being the consistent propitiation and intercessor on their behalf. Let us note the significance of the writer’s choice of words:
(a) He describes God’s throne as ‘the throne of grace‘ – for those who believe in Jesus Christ it is no longer a throne of judgement, where a strict tit-for-tat justice will be meted out and sin receive the just and legal punishment it deserves. Because of the sin-bearing, interceding death, of Christ – God’s throne is, for those who have acknowledged Christ, ‘a throne of grace‘. As Paul has pointed out in Romans 5:21 ‘…so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord‘. Grace is the operating principle in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, of which every believer is a member.
(b) Not content with describing God’s throne as ‘the throne of grace‘ which in itself should be enough to instil confidence? The writer goes on to assure us that, rather than receiving judgement and condemnation, we will ‘receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need‘. Mercy refers to God’s acknowledgement of our weakness, our inability, and our need. He is doing whatever is necessary for our good and our survival, despite anything in us that might disqualify us from his favor. Grace refers to the act of God in which he chooses not to pay us out our justly due punishment, according to what we deserve, but to grant us absolute freedom from the deserved penalty, and then BLESSING us continually, and giving us eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. This is the unexpected and almost incredible confidence that all who trust in Jesus Christ can and should have, with no doubt or question. For it’;s and absolute truth. The ‘hold firmly‘ (found in verse 4:14) and ‘approach … with confidence‘ (found in verse 4:16) are expressions of the faith and rest to which the writer is calling us toward. Such faith and rest, such confidence, are the opposite of the sin and disobedience of unbelief against which we are being warned. The challenge confronts us – do we really trust Jesus Christ? Do we really believe God’s word about Christ? Do we really believe in the totality all that Christ did on the cross? For your own meditation re-read the previous paragraph and ask yourself the questions listed there. Identify whether or not you are experiencing the confidence and the rest that Jesus promised to give to those who come to him. If you do not have that confidence, if your soul does not have peace in the presence of God, then you need to re-learn the message of the gospel – in respect to both who Jesus is and what Jesus did. I suggest you start with the Gospel of John Here. Also Pray that God will open your mind and your heart to understand and embrace the massive, liberating, and convicting truths contained in this letter to the Hebrews, and indeed throughout the entire Scriptures and Gospel messages.
Thank you for joining today’s study and we will be seeing you so, finishing the second part of this section.