“Perfect Priest, Part 1” – Hebrews 4:14-16

September 16th, 2018

Hebrews 4:14-16

“Perfect Priest” – Pt 1

Aux. Texts:  Luke 18:9-14

Call to Worship:  Psa 100


Service Orientation:  Jesus is the perfect Priest.   His status as priest and Son of God, His willingness to relate to us, and His sinless perfection all make Him the perfect mediator and intercessor so we can stand confident and assured before God.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:16


Background Information:

The latest of the NT writings, those of the apostle John, indicate that under the teaching of the spirit the Church had by the end of the apostolic age come to see with great clarity the nature of Christ’s priestly work.  This theme underlies his Gospel, but appears most clearly in chs. 6; 8; 10; 14-16.  1 Jn 1-2 sets forth the same doctrine more didactically, while Revelation states it in pictorial terms (chs. 5; 12; 14; 19; 21; 22).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, p. 655)

As great as he was, Moses was unable to lead his people into the “rest” of Canaan, whereas Jesus is fully able to lead His people into the “rest” of God.  With that comparison finished, our writer moves to the central theme of his letter.  He can now bring forth the great truth that was on his heart when he began this letter–the priesthood of Christ.  For the next six chapters (5-10) he will be explaining what it means to have Jesus as our high priest.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 99-100)

  • In his series of illustrations establishing the excellence of Jesus, the writer now contrasts Jesus with Aaron, the high priest. In Heb 2:17 and 3:1, the author introduced Jesus as high priest.  With occasional digressions, the author writes extensively about the office and work of the high priest (see Heb 5:5, 10; 6:20; 7:27; 8:1; 9:11; 10:21).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 123)
  • (v. 14) Jesus’ better priesthood is also accompanied by an oath (something the old Levitical priests did not have), making Jesus the surety of a better covenant, 7:20-22. The former priests were many because of death, but His priesthood is uninterrupted because He lives forever (7:23-25).  Furthermore, He is a blameless high priest (7:26-28) who enters a better sanctuary to offer better sacrifices and perform better rites, 8:1-13 (vv. 8-12 cite Jer 31:31-34 as scriptural evidence of the inadequacy of the old system).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 964)
  • (v. 14) The high priest wore a mitre (Heb. Misnepet) or elaborate headdress that showed his special status (Ex 28:36-39; 29:6; 39:30; Lv 8:9). He also wore the robe of the ephod, the EPHOD, and the breastplate (Lv 8:7-9).  The robe of the ephod seems to have been a sleeveless tunic, made of blue material, fringed with alternate bells and pomegranates (Ex 28:31-35; 39:22-26).  The ephod was a variegated dress of the four colors of the sanctuary: blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen interwoven with gold (Ex 28:6-8; 39:2-5).  The breastplate must have contained a pocket of some kind inside, for in it were deposited the URIM AND THUMMIM, which seem to have been tangible objects (Ex 28:15-30; 39:8-21).  The mitre or headdress was of fine linen, the plate of the crown of pure gold, and inscribed upon it were the words “Holy to Yahweh” (Ex 28:36-38; 39:30f.).  When entering the holy of holies the high priest had to dress entirely in linen, but in his ordinary duties he wore the dress of the priests; only when acting as high priest must he wear his special robes.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 961)
  • (v. 14) The Jews sometimes thought of a plurality of heavens, as in Paul’s reference to “the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2) or the Talmud’s reference to seven heavens (Hagigah 12b). The thought is that Jesus has gone right through to the supreme place.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 46)
  • (v. 14) The plural “heavens,” as regularly in the NT and Septuagint, reflects the Hebrew word used in the OT, which is always plural. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 115)
  • (v. 14) The high priest’s death was a national event, for then the manslayer was free to leave the city of refuge (Ex. 35:25, 28). Six cities had been designated as refuge places for those who had committed unpremeditated manslaughter (34:12f.; Dt 19:9).  The individual would be immune from persecution by the blood avenger and he was free to live a normal life under the restricted context of the city limits.  The individual seeking such refuge had to remain there until the death of the officiating high priest.  The later rabbis interpreted the death of the high priest as atonement for the injustice of manslaughter (T.B. Makkoth 11b).  A murderer defiled the earth and caused the presence of God to be withdrawn, while the high priest caused the presence of God to abide with humanity.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 961)
  • (v. 15) There is another ambiguity at the end of the verse where the Greek means “apart from sin.” This may mean that Jesus was tempted just as we are except that we sin and he did not.  But it may also mean that he had a knowledge of every kind of temptation except that which comes from actually having sinned.  There are supporters for each interpretation.  But it may be that the writer was not trying to differentiate between the two.  At any rate his words can profitably be taken either way.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 46)
  • (v. 16) The verb in 4:16 is not in the aorist tense, but the present–let us “come” is the first of seven occurrences of this blessed word in our epistle: the other references are 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 223)
  • (v. 16) That is, the help is always “appropriate to the time.” It is not according to our clock, but to Heaven’s time–the perfect time.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 132)
  • These verses stand at a particularly important crossroad in the book. A number of thematic paths down which the author has already traveled lead to this way-station, such as Jesus as Son, the importance of faith, and the sin factor.  Yet, this passage also serves as a departure point for a consideration of Christ’s high priesthood, a vitally important theological motif that extends with vigor all the way to 10:25.  Although these three verses may seem brief and somewhat unadorned, they serve as a crystallization of Hebrews’ main message, a snapshot of the sermon.  Thus this passage offers an opportunity to rise momentarily above the complex twists and turns of the discourse and view the larger scope of the author’s intention.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 173)


The question to be answered is . . . What does the writer of Hebrews want us to know about Jesus?


Answer:  That Jesus is superior to everything; especially Aaron and the priesthood.  Therefore, we can have great assurance and confidence in the priestly, mediatorial, and intercessory work of Jesus as our High Priest.


Here we are coming to closer grips with the great characteristic conception of Hebrews–that of Jesus as the perfect high priest.  His task is to bring the voice of God to man and to usher men into the presence of God.  The high priest at one and the same time must perfectly know man and God.  That is what this epistle claims for Jesus.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 41)


All that Israel had under the law we still retain; only we have the substance, of which they had only the shadow.  “We have an altar from which those who serve in the tabernacle do not have the right to eat” (Heb 13:10).  We have a sacrifice, which, being once offered, forever avails; we have one “greater than the temple” (Mt 12:6), and he is to us the mercy seat and the High Priest.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 107)


Aaron and his descendants were appointed to the priesthood.  There is a tremendous contrast between the priesthood of Aaron in the OT and the priesthood of Christ in the NT.  Aaron and his descendants were the only ones who could carry out the duties of the priests and approach God’s dwelling place.  Now that Christ is our High Priest–our intermediary with God–anyone who follows him is also called a priest (1 Pt 2:5, 9).  Now all Christians may come into God’s presence without fear because God’s own Son encourages his followers to do so.  We can put guilt behind us when we have a special relationship with God based on what Christ has done for us.  (Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale House, Wheaton, IL, 1991, 218)


A priest is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God (Heb 5:1).  His ultimate purpose is to bring men to God (cf. 7:25) and thereby bring them to perfection, or completion (10:14; cf. 2:10; 9:9; 10:1; 11:40; 12:23).  The priest does not take this prerogative upon himself; he must have divine appointment (5:4).  The way he brings men to God is by offering sacrifices for sins (5:1; 8:3; 9:7, 13).  The priest, too, is a man and a sinner; therefore he must offer up sacrifices for himself as well (5:2, 3; 7:27; 9:7).  This turns out to be the basic limitation of the OT system.  An imperfect priest can only offer imperfect sacrifices (9:11-14; 10:1-4).  Therefore, both the covenant on which his priesthood is based (8:6ff.) And the Holy Place in which it is performed (9:11) are imperfect.  Finally, the net result is imperfect.  The old system “can never…make perfect those who draw near” (10:1).

Thus priests, because of their sinfulness, are subject to death; they come and go (7:23).  Their sacrifices are repeated daily and annually; but man is not perfected (9:9, 10).  Therefore, the old is only a type (a shadow) of the real who was to come (9:23, 24; 10:1).  In this frame of reference the author views the genuine, but sinless, humanity of Christ in light of His exaltation, and in an argument at once deeply perceptive and richly varied sees Him as both the ultimate priest and the end of the priestly system.

He is the ultimate priest because by His death He ratified a new covenant (9:15-22), toward which the OT itself had looked (8:8-13).  Moreover, God had promised that the Messianic king would also be “a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4).  Such a promise indicates the imperfection of the old Aaronic order (Heb 7:11-14).  It is Jesus who perfectly “fulfills” this promise.  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol. Four, p. 851)


The Word for the Day is . . . Assured


Why is Jesus a superior and perfect High Priest?:

I-  Jesus is the superior and perfect priest because of His status as the sinless, Son of God.  (Heb 4:14; see also: Isa 53; Mt 14:33; 16:15-17; 17:5; 27:3-4; Mk 1:1; 5:7; 14:61-62; 15:39; Lk 1:32-35; 9:35; 23:41; Jn 1:1-14; 8:16-54; 10:15-38; 14:6-31; 20:31; Acts 13:28; Rom 1:3-9; Gal 4:4; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 1:1-5; 6:6; 10:29; 1 Pt 1:18-19; 1 Pt 2:22; 1 Jn 3:5, 8; Rv 2:18)


The Jewish high priest entered the inner sanctuary of the temple once a year and stood momentarily in the very presence of God.  Jesus, by contrast, has entered the heavens and is always in the presence of God (Heb 9:24).  He has been raised from the dead, has ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father.  He has gone through and is “exalted above the heavens” (Heb 7:26).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 124)


Never was it said of any OT high priest that he was “great,” not even of Aaron the first one.  But of God’s high priest it is said.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 42)


Jewish children were taught that God came down to speak to their ancestors at Mt. Sinai, but that He was so holy, no one was allowed to come near the mountain (Ex 19:12).  They grew up believing He was utterly removed from them, that no man could see Him and live (Jdg 13:22).  To them, God was untouchable, living in a realm totally beyond all human experience.  He was so different from man, they thought that there was no way for Him to enter into their experience or for them to enter His.  Therefore the Christian teaching that God became a man, entering fully into human experience, was a staggering idea.  It was brand new, revolutionary.  Then to learn that the God/Man ascended into heaven, and is even now seated in the place of supreme power–AS A MAN–is one of the most startling things a Jew could hear.  But the truth our writer wants us to grasp is that even though Jesus is so highly exalted, He is in no way removed from us.  His divine glory and priesthood are not a barrier to fellowship.  To the contrary, they are meant to DRAW us to Him.  When Jesus ascended, He did not shed His humanity.  He took every bit of His human experience with Him.  That means we’ve got a Friend in the most holy place.  And because He understands what we’re going through and how we feel, He is ready to use His power and position to help us.  He wants us to come to Him and take advantage of all that He can do for us as our high priest.  We can because He is one of us.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 103-4)


Building on the OT concept, the author of Hebrews makes much of the uniqueness and superiority of the Son’s high priestly role.  Rather than one who stands between God and humanity, Jesus takes us to God, ripping away the moral and ritualistic obstacles that prevented our free entrance to his presence.  He not only has passed through the heavens, but he also has paved the way for us to join him in that adventure (e.g., 2:10; 6:20; 10:19-20).  Thus, when we communicate the high-priest concept, we must emphasize its signification of a “means of free access to God.”  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 178)


For 1400 years Israel acted out on the stage of the world the truth “the wages of sin is death.”  But Israel’s priesthood and sacrificial system, in which millions of animals were slain, were merely shadows of the true sacrifice for sin–the death of the Lord Jesus.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 101)


II-  Jesus is the superior and perfect priest because of His willingness to identify with us yet without sin.  (Heb 4:15; see also: Isa 53; Mt 20:28; 26:28; Lk 22:19-20; Acts 26:23; Rom 5:6-11; 1 Cor 5:7; 15:3; 2 Cor 5:14-21; 8:9; Gal 1:4; 3:13; 4:4-5; Eph 2:13-18; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:14, 20; 1 Tim 2:6; Heb 2:9-18; 5:7; 9:12-28; 10:10-20; 1 Pt 1:18-21; 2:21-24; 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2)


There is no question of any incapacity on his part to sympathize with our weaknesses, for it was precisely our weaknesses that he embraced and made his own when he took our nature upon himself.  The purpose of his coming was, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the messianic servant, to make our weaknesses his own (Mt 8:17; Isa 53:4).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 171)


Jesus’ compassionate disposition invites us to intimacy with God and makes that intimacy possible.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 176)


Think of this in terms of pain.  There is a degree of pain which the human frame can stand–and when that degree is passed a person loses consciousness so that there are agonies of pain he cannot know.  It is so with temptation.  We collapse in face of temptation; but Jesus went to our limit of temptation and far beyond it and still did not collapse.  It is true to say that he was tempted in all things as we are; but it is also true to say that no one was tempted as he was.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 42)


In the present case the object of the sympathy is our weaknesses.  This idea of weakness (astheneia), implying a consciousness of need, occurs elsewhere in the epistle in reference to the weakness of Aaron’s order of priesthood (5:2; 7:28), and stands in marked contrast to the absence of such weakness on the part of our great high priest.  It is, in fact, because in this sense he stands above such need that he, being strong, is in a position to sympathize.  The word weakness is sufficiently comprehensive to include any form of felt need.  There is sympathy for the needy, but not for the self-sufficient.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 122)


A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it:  and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 124-5)


Naturally when this letter says that Jesus was tempted in every respect as we are our writer is not thereby implying that within his lifetime Christ encountered every possible different temptation.  He could hardly have experienced personally the specific temptations peculiar, for example, to women, to married people, to the elderly, to those made redundant in a time of economic recession or to those who live in a modern technological society.  Yet at the root of the different temptations encountered by men and women throughout the wide range of human experience there are a number of basic trials or tests, and Jesus certainly knew what it was to meet these and emerge victoriously from the struggle.  He knew those temptations which, if unconquered, lead on to doubt, despair, disobedience towards God, lovelessness towards others and a selfish preoccupation with our own desires.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 95-6)


Jesus knew that he had to pray and did so, gladly, necessarily and effectively.  To be prayerless is to be guilty of the worst form of practical atheism.  We are saying that we believe in God but we can do without him.  It makes us careless about our former sins and heedless of our immediate needs.  This letter urges us to come into the presence of a God who welcomes us and a Christ who understands us.  To neglect the place of prayer is to rob ourselves of immense and timely resources.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 96-7)


III-  Jesus is the superior and perfect priest because of His comprehensive work as priest, mediator, and intercessory which instills confidence and assurance.  (Heb chapters 4-10; see also: Lk 18:9; Acts 2:36; 2 Cor 3:1-12; 5:1-8; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:3-4; Col 4:12;  Heb 4:16; 10:19-22; 1 Jn 3:21; 4:17; 5:14)


It is the expression of the highest form of confidence, in the unhesitating assurance that there is nothing that can hinder, and in a conduct that corresponds to this conviction.  It suggests the thought of our drawing nigh to God’s throne without fear, without doubt, with no other feeling but that of the childlike liberty which a child feels in speaking to its father.

This boldness is what the blood of Christ, in its infinite worth, has secured for us, that what His heavenly priesthood works and maintains in us.  This boldness is the natural and necessary result of the adoring and believing gaze fixed on our great High Priest upon the throne.  This boldness is what the Holy Spirit works in us as the inward participation in Christ’s entrance into the Father’s presence.  This boldness is of the essence of a healthy Christian life.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 173)


The Christian’s approach to God is to be characterized by confidence or boldness (parrēsia), by a freedom of expression and deliverance from fear.  This is one of the most striking features about the Christian way to God, that it is unencumbered even by a man’s sense of awe in God’s presence.  It is perfectly reflected in the Lord’s prayer, where the use of an address like “Our Father” reveals a marvelous boldness.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 124)


The writer explains to the Jewish audience that they should not go back to an inferior system because they can have all that the system promised and longed after–access to and acceptability by God.  “Jesus fulfilled those desires,” says the writer, “hold on to that faith!”  Allow Jesus to be your High Priest; only he can protect you from inevitable judgment (described in 4:12-13).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 60)


The fact that he has passed through the heavens and “sat down at the right hand of God” means that his saving work is finished.  It happened “once for all” (9:26), a favorite phrase in this letter.  The ascension of Christ was not just a dramatic end to the earthly ministry of Jesus.  It was God’s visible act of vindication, exaltation and glorification.  The fight is over.  The victory has been won.  The work is complete.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 94)


In the Levitical system that had prevailed up till the time of Christ’s advent only the high priest was permitted to approach into the sanctuary of God’s presence, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when he passed from sight into the holy of holies.  The people, however, were excluded from the divine presence because of their sinfulness and prohibited from drawing near.  But the atonement effected by Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross opened the way that had hitherto been closed.  This was dramatically symbolized by the rending of the temple curtain from top to bottom at the time of the crucifixion, indicating that through an act of divine grace access into the holiest place was now available to all the people of God (Mk 15:38; Mt 27:51; Heb 10:20).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 173)


Prayer is our approach to God, and we are to come “boldly.”  Some Christians approach God meekly with heads hung low, afraid to ask him to meet their needs.  Others pray flippantly, giving little thought to what they say.  Come with reverence because he is your King.  But also come with bold assurance because he is your Father, Friend, and Counselor.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 62)


This glorious God-man Mediator continually presents before His Father His one great sacrifice for sin.  There will never be a repetition of it, and it will never need to be offered again, “for by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy” (Heb 10:14), that is, those who are set apart unto Himself.  This one sacrifice He perpetually pleads before the throne, and our prayers therefore ascend to God with the merit of Christ’s atoning blood giving them acceptance with His Father.  So they must have power with God, for they come before Him signed, as it were, with the name of His well-beloved Son.  He lays His hand upon each petition, and so leaves the print of the nails upon it, and therefore it must prevail with God.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 109)


For him our high priest is “great” for a number of reasons that are explained in chapters 5-10.  Because he has been tempted he can sympathize with us (4:15), but, unlike the earthly priests, he is entirely without sin (5:1-3; 7:26-28).  He has been appointed by an oath from God (5:4-10; 6:17-20; 7:15-22), which assures his priesthood is eternal (7:16-25).  Jesus’ atonement offering has been made in the context of a new (and thus superior) covenant (8:7-13).  Moreover, it was presented in the heavenly tabernacle rather than the earthly (8:2; 9:1-28), used superior blood (9:1-28), and, unlike the old covenant offering, only had to be made once for all time (10:1-18).  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 174)


Worship Point: Worship the God Who has provided everything necessary for man to be able to enjoy a confident and assured  relationship with Him.


The Jews had their different God; the Stoics, their feelingless gods; the Epicureans, their completely detached gods.  Into that world of thought came the Christian religion with its incredible conception of a God who had deliberately undergone every human experience.  Plutarch, one of the most religious of the Greeks, declared that it was blasphemous to involve God in the affairs of this world.  Christianity depicted God not so much involved as identified with the suffering of this world.  It is almost impossible for us to realize the revolution that Christianity brought about in men’s relationship to God.  For century after century they had been confronted with the idea of the untouchable God; and now they discovered one who had gone through all that man must go through.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 43)


John Foster in one of his books tells how he came into his home in this country one day in the thirties to find his daughter in tears before the radio set.  He asked her why and found that the news bulletin had contained the sentence–“Japanese tanks entered Canton today.”  Most people would hear that with at the most a faint feeling of regret.  Statesmen may have heard it with grim foreboding; but to most people it did not make so very much difference.  Why then was John Foster’s daughter in tears?  Because she had been born in Canton.  To her Canton meant a home, a nurse, a school, friends.

The difference was that she had been there.  When you have been there it makes all the difference.  And there is no part of human experience of which God cannot say:  “I have been there.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 43-4)


Gospel Application: It is only through the priestly, meditorial and intercessory work of Jesus that man can enjoy this kind of confidence and assurance.


Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God.

The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 120-1)


Get your conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ from all guilt, and that will set your heart above all fear.  It is guilt upon the conscience that softens and makes cowards of our spirits:  ‘the righteous are bold as a lion.’  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)


God had a reason for rescuing the Israelites from slavery.  Now he was ready to tell them what it was:  Israel was to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation where anyone could approach God freely.  It didn’t take long, however, for the people to corrupt God’s plan.  God then established Aaron’s descendants from the tribe of Levi as priests, representing what the entire nation should have been (Lv 8, 9).  But with the coming of Jesus Christ, God has once again extended his plan to all believers.  We are to become holy, a “royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:9).  The death and resurrection of Christ has allowed each of us to approach God freely.  (Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale House, Wheaton, IL, 1991, 134-5)


We are called to the throne of grace, not to the throne of law.  It is a throne set up on purpose for the dispensation of grace; a throne from which every utterance is an utterance of grace; the scepter that is stretched out from it is the silver scepter of grace; the decrees proclaimed from it are purposes of grace; the gifts that are scattered down its golden steps are gifts of grace; and He that sits upon the throne is grace itself.  It is the throne of grace to which we approach when we pray.

That word “grace” is one of the choicest in the whole description of our great resort for prayer.  We might well have trembled if we had been bidden to come to a throne of justice; we might have been afraid to come to a throne of power alone; but we need not hesitate to come to the throne of grace, where God sits on purpose to dispense grace.  It would be terrible if we had to pray to a just God if He was not also a Savior; if we could only see the awful glare of Sinai without the blessed attractions of the atonement made on Calvary.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 111)


Who dares question the imperial word?  With our God before us in all His glory, sitting on the throne of grace, will our hearts dare to say we mistrust Him?  Shall we imagine either that He cannot, or will not, keep His promise?  Banished be such blasphemous thoughts, and if they must come, let them come upon us when we are somewhere in the outskirts of His dominions, if such a place there be, but not in prayer, when we are in His immediate presence, and behold Him in all the glory of His throne of grace.  There, surely, is the place for the child to trust its Father, for the loyal subject to trust his monarch; and, therefore, far from it be all wavering or suspicion.  Unstaggering faith should be predominant before the mercy seat.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 113)


Spiritual Challenge:  Your ability to enjoy assurance and confidence before God will be in direct inverse proportion to how much you have assurance and confidence in your own ability and/or merit before God.


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


In resisting sin totally, He endured the full force of temptation.  Besides, if Jesus were immune to sin, how could He be our example? (1 Pt 2:21).  How could we follow Him?  He definitely knew what it was to be tempted to do His own will, versus His Father’s (Mt 26:39).  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 105)


Only Christianity can give sinful creatures the boldness to present themselves before God.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 174)


“After terrifying us, the Apostle now comforts us,” comments Luther; “after pouring wine into our wound, he now pours in oil.”  The Christian, conscious though he rightly is of his utter inability to stand uncondemned before the judgment throne of God, should nonetheless be filled with confidence, not in himself but in Christ; for he has a great high priest to stand in his place and answer for him.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 169)


They themselves may enter the very presence of God on a continual basis, and can do so with “confidence”–a word that can also be translated as “bold frankness,” which in both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christian usage is related especially to the believer’s approach to God in prayer.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 176)


Yet one must also remember that Christ’s priestly work did not end with His resurrection.  He has once and for all time met the requirements of the law of God, paying the penalty for the sins of His people (Rom 8:1; Gal 3:27ff.; Col 1:20f.; 2:14f.; He 9:24ff.).  Therefore, by His very presence before God the Father He always intercedes on His people’s behalf (He 7:25).  As one reads His great high-priestly prayer in Jn 17, one can perhaps understand a little more clearly what this means.  Since Christians have an advocate before the throne of grace, they have no further need of human priests, intercessors, or sacrifices, for Christ continuously performs the work of a priest on their behalf (1 Jn 2:1ff.).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. One, 655)


The Israelites were confined to the outer court; none at all save the high priest was permitted to draw near to God within the veil.  But all Christians, the youngest, weakest, most ignorant, have been “made nigh” (Eph 2:13); and in consequence, freedom of access to the very throng of Deity is now their rightful and blessed portion.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 221)


How different the picture when we consider Martin Luther’s stand at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521!  Luther, that great leader of the Protestant Reformation, was summoned by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, in an effort to reconcile Luther and the official church.  When asked to recant his teaching the Reformer responded, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.  Amen.”  Luther held fast to the faith he professed.  He was able to do so because of a deep conviction concerning the lordship and high priesthood of the Son of God, who alone had paid for all his sins, removing the need for an earthly priest as go-between.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 181)


So What?:  Assurance and confidence are foundational to the abundant life.  But attempting to obtain assurance and confidence before God on the basis of your own abilities and merits will ultimately lead to insecurity and fear.  Faith in God promotes true boldness.


We are challenged to be as bold as faith can be.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 108)


We should all be concerned about our assurance of salvation, because if we lack assurance we lack joy, and if we lack joy our life is probably of a poor quality.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10).  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17, 16)


Two great enemies obtained dominion over man when Adam sinned–the world and self.  Of the world Christ says, “The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (Jn 14:17).  Worldliness is the great hindrance that keeps believers from living a spiritual life.  Of self Christ said, “Let him deny himself” (Mk 8:34).  Self, in all its forms–self-will, self-pleasing, self-confidence–renders life in the power of the Spirit impossible.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 27)


“Modern man, with confidence in all of his modern understanding and knowledge, now has both feet firmly planted in midair”.  (Paraphrase of Francis Shaffer; Session 5.1 Wide Angle)







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