Grace For The Journey
Our church is committed to develop generations of God-glorifying disciples who make disciples in our community and around the world. An integral to the disciple-making process is the teaching of the Word of God. In our last study we talked about the importance of using the Word in our walk, our witness, and our warfare. I pray you are seeing greater growth greater blessing from the Lord’s Word in your life. It is this same Word you use as a disciple-maker to disciple others, showing others specifically how to use the Word in their walk, in their witness, and in their warfare, helping others see how the Word of God bears upon their daily lives. Using a “Growth Guide” will be helpful to you this evening as you meet with someone to do some disciple-making. These are available in the church office and at the Connection Center.
Our Sunday small group Bible Study Ministry is but one aspect of discipleship. Making disciples is more than teaching a Sunday school lesson. You should resist the temptation to do all the teaching or being the professional Bible-answer man or woman. Make sure your class members are in the Word themselves throughout the week and develop folks in your group to teach or take on greater roles each week. Show them how they can “feed themselves” from the Word of God. Meet with them individually. Encourage them. Pray with them. Model disciple-making and teach them how to disciple others.
As we turn to the Word of God in Hebrews, we see again that one of the major themes in this letter is the theme of our Lord’s being our High Priest. If that is a new term for you, what it means will become clearer as we study. For now, I just want you to see that as early as the opening verses of Hebrews the writer has hinted at the High Priest theme. We noted this when we read in Chapter 1 verse 3 where, referencing Jesus the writer says that, “when He had by Himself purged our sins [He], sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). There is a priestly imagery there. The writer expounds this theme of High Priest in Chapter 2, verse 17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” and, continuing into Chapter 3 and verse 1, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). After the interlude we have been studying the past two days, most of chapters 3 and 4, are about the importance of hearing and heeding the Word of God, the writer returns to this theme of our Lord’s being a High Priest.
I really like the imagery in verse 13 where we read last time, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked one open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” We talked about how that word “open” is something of a wrestling term. It means “to bend back the neck.” We talked about how God’s Word examines us and exposes us. God’s Word has seized us, flipped us over, and bent back our necks as we look up into the all-seeing eyes of God. We are on the mat, needing someone to rescue us, someone to show us the way to safety. Someone who can mediate for us. Beginning in verse 14, the writer presents Jesus as our great High Priest.
We have noted previously that the central motif or thread that runs through Hebrews is the notion of “better.” The words “better,” “more,” or “greater” occur 25 times in this letter. In verse 14 the writer uses the word “great,” “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest …” Jesus is the great High Priest. Jesus is the great High Priest because Jesus is the final High Priest. In the Old Testament, and under the Old Covenantal system of worship, God’s people were led by a number of priests. The Levites served as servants of the tabernacle and it was the family line of Aaron from which the priests came. The priest served as the go-between, the intercessor, or the mediator between the people and their God. The priests prayed for the people and offered daily sacrifices for the people as required by the law.
From those priests of the line of Aaron, one priest in particular was the High Priest. The High Priest was the one who entered into the most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, each year on the Day of Atonement. Only the High Priest could enter into that most Holy Place bringing the blood of the sacrifice as the means by which to have his sins and the peoples’ sins forgiven. It was there in the presence of God at the Ark of the Covenant that sins of God’s people would find forgiveness until a greater High Priest would come bearing a greater sacrifice.
The writer of Hebrews is teaching that the greater High Priest has come. And unlike the earthly High Priests of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is still living. The earthly high priests were simply men, sinners; they lived, offered sacrifices, and died. Each earthly high priest was replaced by another. But after Jesus sacrificed Himself, as the writer says in Hebrews 7:25, “He ever lives – or always lives – to make intercession for us.” That is why the entire Old Testament system of the priesthood is over. It is no longer necessary for the people of God because we have a great High Priest who is still at it! Still living! Still interceding on our behalf!!
This is largely the point of the writer in the first verse of our study this morning. In these three verses there are three truths about our Lord Jesus. Because Jesus is our great High Priest . . .
I. He Shows The True Way – Verse 14.
How does man get to where God is? God is Holy. Man is sinful. How can man get to God? In a word: Jesus. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Recall the hymn lyric: “Through death into life everlasting He passed and we followed Him there.” Jesus shows the way because Jesus is Himself the way. Verse 14 says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” See what the writer is doing here in defining Jesus as not just a High Priest but the greater High Priest? He does not simply go to God in the way the earthly High Priests went to God in the earthly tabernacle. He goes a better way. He shows the true way.
Remember that the earthly tabernacle – and years later the Temple – was merely a shadow or model of the true tabernacle in heaven. The earthly priests of the Aaronic order of priesthood could only pass through the earthly veil, the veiled curtain that led to the holy of Holies, the presence of the Lord. But this earthly veil and presence there above the ark of the covenant was merely a shadow of the actual real heavenly presence of the Lord in the heavens. It is these heavens the writer says our great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God “has passed through.”
Our great High Priest,
Jesus the Son of God,
Is not limited to an earthly tabernacle,
Restricted by an earthly veil.
He pierces through into
The very presence of God!
Nothing limits Him,
Suppresses Him, or
Otherwise obstructs His path.
The writer provides a similar teaching in Chapter 10 which we could think of as something of a “bookend” to the High Priest theme. Think of our passage this morning here in Chapter 4 as a prologue and Chapter 10 as the epilogue. Hear these similar words in Chapter 10:19-23, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” There is that phrase again in verse 23, same as in Hebrews 4:14, “Let us hold fast our confession.” The word suggests “clinging to,” especially in light of who Jesus Christ is as our great High Priest. Verse 20 declares that Jesus is, the “new and living way, having passed through the heavens” (Hebrews 4:14), having entered not just an earthly veil, but the heavenly veil that obscures man’s way to God. Jesus Christ is Himself the way.
You will recall Jesus’ using similar language in talking with His disciples in John 14:3, “I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” And Thomas replied in verse 5, “… Lord, we do not know here You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus replies in verse6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Because He is the great High Priest,
Jesus is the way, the only way to the Father.
He shows the true way. Secondly, because Jesus is our great High Priest . . .
II. He Sympathizes In True Love – Verse 15.
He is our sympathetic High Priest. Verse 15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is without sin. He never sinned, not once. It is unthinkable that He would sin since He is the Son of God incarnate, God wrapped in human flesh. His deity as Holy God means He does not sin. That does not mean He was not tempted to sin, nor that He did not feel and experience the angst of genuine temptation.
The word “tempted” can mean either “temptations” or “trials.” More than likely, both definitions are in view. He suffered temptation. He was afflicted through trials. He was “in all points tempted as we are.” And so, he can “sympathize” with our temptations and trials. The word “sympathize” literally means “to suffer along with.” Jesus suffered for us. It is important to the writer of Hebrews to stress this truth about Jesus. Perhaps he is concerned that someone reasons that since Jesus is the Son of God, He is too remote to be of any practical help. He is “up there” having passed through the heavens. He cannot really know what I am going through, can He? Does He understand? Does He “get” me? Have you ever wondered whether anyone “gets” you?
Sometimes well-meaning people say, “I know exactly how you feel,” but do they really? The guy whose always been slim as a rail because of a high metabolism is not really capable of understanding the person who has fought hard to lose weight, counting every calorie, and slowly over time maybe shedding a pound in a week. When the skinny guy with the high metabolism says, “I know how you feel,” the words seem kind of hollow don’t they? If an expectant mother tells me she is not looking forward to the pain and trial of childbirth, it would seem rather inappropriate for me to say, “I feel your pain!” I do not know that pain, thank the Lord. But Jesus never gave birth either, right? In what sense can He really know that pain? Let’s think about it.
There are a couple things that are important for us to remember. First, the idea of Jesus’ bearing up perfectly under every trial and temptation is crucial to understanding verse 15. Remember that temptation is not itself sin. Jesus was tempted but He did not sin. You can be tempted without sinning. If I am tempted to lie because I know I may succeed in covering up something that would embarrass me I am not sinning as I consider the benefit of lying. That temptation is not itself sin. As God graces me with Holy Spirit conviction, I am relieved from the temptation when I walk in the Spirit. Remember Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Temptation in and of itself is not sin. God’s grace can prevent me from sinning as I recall the importance of walking in truth.
Jesus bore the full weight and measure of temptation every single time yet did not sin. He never once crossed the line from temptation and over to sin. He always resisted fully and completely. Think of that! If Jesus never once “gave-in” to temptation, even when He suffered every ounce of Satan’s tempting work. He resisted fully and completely. By comparison, when we are tempted “give-in” to temptation at some point or other. Two people facing the same temptation may respond differently. Just to illustrate, imagine Person A gives in to the temptation after 5 minutes of tempting whereas Person B – facing the same temptation – does not give in until 50 minutes of tempting. In fact, we may argue that Person B suffered more than Person A in that he resisted the temptation for a longer period of time. The point I am trying to make is that Jesus did not give in at 5 minutes or 50 minutes. He bore the full extent of every second and every ounce of every temptation however long He was tempted. You might say – you must say – He suffered more. He suffered more than anyone.
There’s an understanding, a sympathetic understanding, that comes with Jesus’ bearing up under every trial and temptation . . .
Because He did that,
He knows what it is like
To go through every kind
Of pain imaginable
In human experience.
Including – remarkably – every seemingly unanswered prayer. Remember how He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane? Facing the temptation and trial of the cross He prayed, “Father, if it be possible, remove this.” If it be possible and it wasn’t. The answer was, “No.” The Father had a perfect will that meant Jesus would continue to suffer. Jesus was prepared for that suffering as He had even prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” He prayed and got a “No” answer so He knows what that is like when it happens to you.
We have a High Priest who can, verse 15, “sympathize with our weaknesses.” “Weaknesses” a word that covers any and every need we may feel. Recall from Chapter 2 and verse 18, “For in that He Himself is suffered, being tempted (or tested), He is able to aid those who are tempted.” You might say Jesus “gets” you. He really gets you. He does not grow weary of your constant weaknesses. He sympathizes with your weaknesses. Hear what that means! There is love in that word! He truly knows what it is like to battle with Satan. He knows how you feel. We are quick to jump over the blessing we are meant to derive from verse 15. What I mean is we conclude hastily, “Well, that’s all fine and good that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. I suppose He knows what it is like to be tempted – but HE did not sin,” we argue. In other words, “It does not really matter, does it?!” But don’t you see? Of course He didn’t sin. He is the Son of God. The writer is not writing verse 15 to chasten us as if to argue snidely, “What’s the matter with you?! Can’t you see how easy it really is to battle temptation and never sin?! Just do what Jesus did! He battled victoriously! He was ‘in all points tempted as we are’ yet – YET! – He did not sin, and YOU don’t need to sin, either!” You know, “Don’t be so weak!!”
The writer knows Christians are weak. That is why he is writing this letter. He knows they are tempted to abandon Christ and go back to Judaism. That is why he says: “Don’t neglect your great salvation” and, “Hold fast to your confession.” The writer wants his readers to keep believing Christ!
In verse 16 he will write, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He knows we need grace and mercy. He knows we are sinners. When he writes in verse 15 that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin,” he is writing to encourage us. He is writing to say, “Jesus really knows what you are going through when you are tempted.” No matter how frequently you are tempted, He knows what you are going through. The greater point of verse 15 is that Jesus sympathizes in true love.
Because Jesus has a lot of experience in going through trial and temptation, He knows precisely what you are feeling. In His love for you, He willingly suffered. This is a High Priest unlike any human priest who cannot really sympathize with you. The human priest may be a caring and compassionate man, but he will never understand like Jesus understands. Every human priest is a sinner. He does not know exactly how you feel. Jesus is God. He knows. He suffers for you out of love. He did not have to suffer, but He did. He wanted to because He loves you.
Here is a marvelous truth: Jesus “gets’ you. Like no one else can get you, He gets you. He will always get you. He will always understand you. And the most amazing thing is – in spite of you, that is, in spite of your sin – He still loves you. When you sin again before the hour is over, He will love you no less.
Because Jesus is our great High Priest . . . He shows the true way . . . He sympathizes in true love . . . and . . .
III. He Supplies Our True Need – Verse 16.
What is our true need, our greatest need? Grace. Verse 16 declares, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Our great High Priest gives us help in time of need. We do not deserve God’s help. We are all sinners. We do not deserve God’s help. Who does? But this is so wonderful!
God in His love
Has made a way
For us to
“Obtain mercy and
Find grace to help
In time of need.”
When we are tempted, when we undergo trials, we can be helped in our time of need. We can “come boldly to the throne of grace” to receive help, the help of God’s mercy and grace.
Not just anyone may draw near in such boldness. The writer says, “Let us,” implying those who are “in Christ,” those who are “holding fast their confession,” those for whom Christ is their great High Priest.
He is the basis
For our being able
To receive things
We do not deserve.
It is because of Christ that God gives us grace (God’s unmerited favor to those who deserve only His wrath getting what we do not deserve) and mercy (not getting what we do deserve. We do not deserve these things apart from Christ. Yet, because we know Him we can approach God.
I read about a young man who was sitting on a park bench crying. A little boy saw him crying and asked what was wrong. And the man shared that his brother was in prison on death row. He was scheduled to be executed in the next few days. The young man so wanted to see the president – at that time Abraham Lincoln – to get help for his brother, to pardon him. But not just anyone can walk into the president’s office. So, the man felt hopeless. The little boy asked the man to follow him and the little boy took him by the hand and led him into the president’s office. He walked right by men at the doors, right by the secretary, and right into the office. As the boy entered into the room, President Lincoln stood up and said to the boy, “How can I help you, son?” The reason that man could get into the president’s office is because he had met the son of Abraham Lincoln. As the son passed through every obstacle, so the man passed through every obstacle as well.
The only way we can get
Into the presence of a Holy God
Is to be personally escorted
By the Son of God.
God in His love made a way for us to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
What is your need?
- Forgiveness for sin? He can help you.
- Removing your shame and guilt? He can help.
- Are you worried for a family member? He can help.
- Beaten down and feeling defeated because of a string of utter defeats and discouragements? He can help.
- Not sure how you are going to get by if the money does not come through? He can help.
Christian, you need not shrink back in fear when approaching God’s throne. You can approach with confidence and boldness because you have been made right for God’s presence, fit for heaven, faultless to stand before the throne, and are dressed in Christ’s righteousness alone.
Worldly people talk sometimes about heaven as if they know what it is! Unbelievers assume they will go to heaven if they are not as bad as another person. As though heaven were some kind of worldly amusement, a place for anyone and everyone to do whatever they please. Heaven is for lovers of Christ Jesus! Make no mistake: You will not love heaven if you do not love heaven’s King! Why on earth would anyone think that heaven would be some wonderful place if they have no love for the Creator of it? It is HIS place. It is where HE abides. It is the location of HIS throne and HIS home. The only people who are fit for heaven are those who have been adopted into the family of heaven’s creator. It is a family business. It is a family refuge. Someone has said, “There may well be a sign on the door that says, ‘Home of Christians.’”
It was to His followers, to His disciples, that Jesus said: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if a go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself that where I am you may be also.” Heaven is a place that is heaven because of a person, Jesus Christ. He is what makes heaven heavenly.
For those who are outside the family the throne of God is a terrible place, a horrible place. But the ineffable beauty and loveliness of Jesus and the matchless power of the Gospel is that if you are not a Christian, and you are “standing outside” as it were, you too may boldly approach the throne of grace if you come in repentance and faith. You too may “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” if you come trusting Jesus.
Every one of us can come boldly to the throne of grace this morning if we will come by Christ, the One who shows us the way because He is the way, the only way.
Have you sinned and wonder whether God “gets you?” He does. And He has made a way for you to be forgiven. He lived a perfect life for you and died a death for your sin, dying in your place, and He arose from the dead. He lives even now as the one who intercedes for you.
Before the throne of God above, you have a strong, a great High Priest Who ever lives and pleads for you.
If you have sinned, you can repent by letting go of your sin and believing in Christ. Follow Jesus. Believe in Him as Lord and Savior.
I invite you to respond to God’s Word . . . respond by turning to Christ. You can respond right where you are in repentance and faith, and by asking Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “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.”