Reprinted from the January 2014 issue of “Gospel Advocate” Magazine.
A university student responded to the Lord’s invitation with this confession and request: “I have been struggling to stay on the strait [sic] and narrow way. I have let worldly views get to me, and I need prayers to be the Christian I know I should be. I finally realized I cannot do this by myself, and I need help.” The student eloquently expressed our greatest need: the grace of God. Specifically, we need His forgiveness for our past, His strength for our present, and His guidance for our future. These are the promises of the marvelous text we now consider: Hebrews 4:14-16.
We Have a Savior
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14 NASB). Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Because of His sinless life, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection and thrilling ascension through the heavens, our exalted Savior has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 1:3; 12:2), where He serves as our perfect High Priest.
God appointed Old Testament priests to serve as His mediators with Israel. Only the high priest could stand between God and His people and offer a blood sacrifice for their sins once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). He would bring the blood of a goat through the outer court, through the Holy Place, and into the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle/temple, sprinkling the atoning blood on the mercy seat before the glory of God (Leviticus 16).
Contrary to this imperfect system of atonement, Jesus is our great High Priest because He is the unique Son of God – who became one of us; who gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins once forever; who arose from the dead never to die again; and who ascended through the heavens into the very presence of God, having accomplished the magnificent work He was given to do (John 17:4).
In becoming our Savior through whom we have access to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), the Lord Jesus is ever faithful as our High Priest, interceding on our behalf. The combination of these two roles could not be better stated than in these inspired words: “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
No wonder the writer concluded Hebrews 4:14 with this stirring reminder: “let us hold fast our confession.” Indeed! With Jesus as our Savior and High Priest, how can we forget our bold confession of faith that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)? This is the good confession the Lord Himself made before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13), that Timothy made in the presence of many witnesses (v. 12), and that we make with both lips and life.
There is a dual meaning here. We are people of faith, not fear. We are anchored in our faith (Hebrews 6:19), and we are ready to give an answer to those who ask a reason for our hope
(1 Peter 3:15). We do not keep our confession to ourselves; we boldly proclaim our faith to all who will listen. How can we possibly be silent, indifferent or thoughtless when the world’s need is so great and we have so much to give – the Savior of the world?
We Have a Savior Who Sympathizes
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus came not only to save us but also to identify with us. Isaiah saw Him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) while the Hebrews writer affirmed that all the Lord suffered while on earth has made Him able to help us in our own suffering (2:18). What blessed assurance!
Often, well-intentioned people say to those experiencing sorrow, “I know just how you feel.” We must be very careful with such expressions because the circumstances of another may be similar yet different from our experiences. To sympathize with someone is to feel sorrow for them, but to empathize is to feel with them because you have experienced firsthand their actual sorrow.
That is what Jesus does for us. In becoming flesh and confronting Satan face to face (Matthew 4:1-11), He understands the strength of our temptations. He knows the joy and the disappointment of friends, the complete injustice of enemies, the anguish of Gethsemane, and the absolute agony of Golgotha (Hebrews 5:7-9). Yet He did so without sin and with unwavering devotion to His Father’s will (Matthew 26:42).
Thomas was told by his fellow apostles, “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25). He boldly responded, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” When given the opportunity to do just that, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Thomas would never again doubt the power of the Lord’s resurrection from the tomb, nor would he question the reality of the Lord taking those wounds directly to the presence of God. Neither should we, regardless of what life or death may bring. Jesus knows, and Jesus cares (1 Peter 5:7).
We Can Have Confidence
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The closing verse of this passage is based on the absolute certainty of verses 14-15. Because Jesus is the Son of God – our sinless Savior and High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses – we may with boldness draw near to the very throne of God. As His children, we may pray at any time, under any circumstance, knowing that He is there; He is listening; and He is responding in love, wisdom and power to our greatest need.
The privilege of prayer is a grand result of all that Jesus has accomplished and made available to those who trust and obey Him. It is only through Him that we have access to the Father of mercies (John 14:6). It is only through Him that we may approach God – not in suspense, but with the security of knowing that He will keep His promises (Matthew 6:8). It is only through Him that we make our approach in absolute awe and reverence of God’s eternal holiness (Hebrews 12:28). It is only because of Him that we pray in anticipation of finding help in every hour of need (4:16).
The inspired author of this priceless epistle described the throne of God as the throne of grace. Although we deserve justice, He offers us the riches of His grace (favor) and the treasure of His mercy (forgiveness). Therefore, we must draw nearer to Him. In light of this, let us stop relying on ourselves or on others for what only He can provide. Let us lay aside our every weakness, our arrogance and our stubborn independence. Let us determine never to give in, give up or give out, refusing to allow Satan to win when our victory is in Jesus! o
Billy R. Smith is the dean of the College of Biblical Studies of Freed-Hardeman University and a minister of the Henderson Church of Christ, Henderson, Tenn. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.