University Bible Fellowship of
Toronto
           
 
           
 
 
Bible Search 

APPROACH THE THRONE OF GRACE

Hebrews 4:14-5:10
Key Verse: 4:16

In chapter 1 and 2 we learned that Jesus is the Son of God, and he is also the Son of Man. He is the author of our salvation made perfect through suffering to the point of death. He is our merciful and faithful high priest. In chapter 3 the writer of Hebrews urges holy brothers and sisters to fix their thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest, the one whom God sent to be our high priest. He also warns God’s people not to fall into unbelief and disobedience, failing to enter God’s rest both at present and in the future. In today’s passage he reminds us that Jesus is our great high priest and encourages us to hold firmly to the faith we profess. This high priest can sympathize with our weaknesses and can truly help us. So the author enjoins us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, which is an amazing privilege of those who are made holy in Christ Jesus. And Jesus is qualified to be our great high priest through God’s calling and his obedience to him. May we be able to fathom the privilege and blessing in Jesus Christ.

First, Jesus, our great high priest (4:14-16). Look at verse 14. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” In Greek, this sentence begins with the word “Echontes” which is an active, present participle of “have.” So the KJV says, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest…” The emphasis is put on what we have. The author stresses that we now have, acting on our behalf, regardless of situation or circumstance, a great high priest. In chapter 2 we thought about “great salvation” meaning different level of salvation. Here the author used the expression, “a great high priest” meaning far above all the other high priests. This high priest has gone through the heavens. In other translations, “who has passed into the heavens” (NASB, ESV, NKJV). He is not on earth anymore. He ascended into heaven. What does this mean? After finishing salvation work on earth, he transcended time and space and entered into heaven, where he is eternally glorified. Because he transcended time and space, he is not bound by any human barriers. So without limitation and barriers he can serve his people.

We are familiar with the words that Jesus is the Son of God. But the expression, “Jesus the Son of God” is a very unique one, written only here in the Bible. This expression is really an excellent name of the one who lived on earth to die and after resurrection ascended into heaven in his restored position as the Son of God. “Jesus the Son of God” can be the combination of his earthly name and heavenly name. “Jesus the Son of God” is truly a beautiful and wondrous name above all names in heaven and on earth. Our great high priest is Jesus the Son of God. At that time, to profess this faith was indeed a matter of life and death. In our time also it is not easy to truly profess this faith publicly and before anyone. That profession is really great. Apostle Paul said in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So the author of Hebrews says, “…let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” The writer has been using the expression or the similar kind, “hold firmly” recurrently: In 3:6, “We are his house if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which boast”, and in 3:14, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Holding firmly/fast to the faith we profess is a fierce spiritual battle along with fixing our thoughts on Jesus. We remember what Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” And Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:2, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Faith is invisible and it is in our hearts. But we need to hold firmly to the faith we profess as our lifeline in the torrent of unbelief in this world.

Then verse 15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” In the description, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness”, a double negation is used to stress the fact that we do have a high priest who can understand our weaknesses and emphasize us. For he had been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.

The concept of priesthood can be found in just about every religion. They depend on a power hierarchy which exploits the weak for their benefit. They are often hypocritical, corrupt and cruel. For example, in one case the Aztecs and Toltecs of ancient Mexico, to dedicate a temple, offered 20,000 people as sacrifices. The people were stretched out on stone slabs alive, had their hearts cut out, and then were offered to the deaf and dumb god they worshiped. What a contrast Jesus is! Jesus understands us and feels our pain as though it is his own. Not only does he understand us, he is able to help us because he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet he did not sin. The words “in every way” mean that he experienced all of life’s trials as we do: poverty, hunger, oppression, injustice, misunderstanding, rejection, and so on. He was tempted by the devil in the desert for forty days in regards to the bread problem, fame, power, taking the easy way, pride, and more. He was betrayed by a beloved disciple; his top disciple denied knowing him, and he experienced unjust arrest, trial, and condemnation. Finally he suffered and died on the cross. Jesus was familiar with suffering and pain from birth to death. But actually, he took up our pain and bore our suffering (Isa 53:3-4). Jesus was tempted fiercely in all aspects of human life, but never sinned; he won the victory without fail. So he can help us.

Humans do not like other weak and helpless human beings, for they cannot get any benefit from such people. The weak and helpless are burdensome. When we become and weak and helpless and not beneficial, people make a distance from us. No one can truly help us in our weak and helpless state. But Jesus the Son of God, our great high priest can. He is great not only in his position and name, but also in his role. This great high priest is a merciful and faithful high priest, who is able and willing to help us in our weakness and in all the trials and temptations of life.

Then how can we have practical connection with this great sympathizing high priest. Look at verse 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.” Here we see the description, “the throne of grace.” Have you ever heard of the words, “the throne of grace”? We are familiar with the words, “the throne of power or authority or judgment.” We know that in ancient times ordinary people could hardly approach a king’s throne. In the book of Esther, even Queen Esther could not approach the royal throne of the king Xerxes without his permission. After three days of her fasting prayer and decision, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 5:1-2), she could approach the king. In the history of Israel no king could be a priest and no priest, a king. Two offices were separated. In Zechariah 6:13 is written, “It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and the throne of grace can be the expression of the harmony between the two. Now there is the throne of grace in Christ Jesus. In Revelation 4, John in the Spirit saw a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne (4:2-4). This throne can be a good picture of the throne of grace. For in the Old Testament the high priest of the Israelites wore a breastplate, on which were twelve stones including carnelian (or ruby the first stone on the list) and jasper (last stone). On each stone was engraved like a seal the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, representing God’s chosen people (Ex 28:17-21). And according to Genesis 8, rainbow was the sign of God’s covenant of mercy not to destroy the earth with the flood that people might not fear the rain in the memory of flood judgment. God’s people are somehow related to the throne. Now through Christ Jesus this throne of grace is accessible to all who believe.

We have such a great high priest. Yet, having the high priest is not enough. Each believer should approach the throne of grace through him. Whether approach or not approaching makes all the difference. Isaiah 33:5-6 says, “The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation, and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” The throne of grace is a rich store of salvation and wisdom and grace. All we need is there including the grace of forgiveness of sins. In this time of great technology people easily approach and access “Google” through internet knowing that all the information they need is there. But we should approach the throne of grace. How? With confidence or boldly. In Hebrews 10:21, 22, is written, “since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” Confidence can be a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. Living faith enable us to approach the throne of grace. We can approach this throne of grace at any time, 24/7, and there will be no waiting line at all, however many people approach.

Look at verse 16 again. “Let us then approach with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” And when we receive and find grace, nothing will be a problem. Everything will be great. In the gospel story, when a blind beggar stood before the Messiah Jesus, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied, “I want to see.” He received the mercy of the Messiah and his eyesight was stored. In the same way we need a clear prayer topic as we approach the throne of grace. “Approach”, “receive”, and “find” are all very active verbs. Since the throne of grace is approachable and accessible, God wants us to act positively. May we claim this throne of grace very personally in Christ Jesus, our great high priest.

Second, Jesus, the source of eternal salvation (5:1-10). In this section, the author explains how Jesus is qualified to be our great high priest. He explains the qualifications for high priests in the Old Testament (1-4), how Jesus met those qualifications and what he did (5-8), and the result (9-10). In verse 1, “Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” One of the qualifications for high priest is to be selected from among the people to represent them in matters related to God (5:1a). Angels are not qualified, only humans. Humans understand the weakness of other humans, and the high priests are able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray (2). The ignorant may be those who do not know God’s way and unintentionally commit sin. Those who go astray know God’s way but intentionally go their own way. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they turn from God’s way and follow their own way. Sometimes we think of sin in strictly moral terms. But here we see that sin is not following God’s way, but going one’s own way (Isa 53:6a). High priests in the Old Testament were also sinners who need God’s mercy. So they offered sacrifices for their own sins, as well as for the sins of others (3). So the sacrifice of human high priest cannot be a total complete sacrifice to God. Each human high priest is weak and imperfect.

In the first part, we could see how Jesus met this qualification. He was fully human, yet without sin and is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. Another qualification for high priest is to be called by God (4). The priesthood is not an office that can be taken by human means. It is a privilege and glory which is bestowed by God. In our society, usually, when there is some kind of opportunity, people apply for it based on their achievements and qualifications. If they are selected, it is based on their merit. But God’s calling is quite different. It is on the basis of his divine wisdom and sovereign grace. Jesus did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest, but God called him (5a). To explain how Jesus met thus qualification, the author quoted two Psalms. In Psalm 2, God spoke directly to Jesus, saying, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (5b; Ps 2:7). This Psalm was originally composed for the Davidic kings in light of the Lord’s covenant with David. This Davidic king is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is the Son of God whom he appointed a Messianic king. At another time, God said to Jesus in Psalm 110:4, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (6). God established Jesus as the everlasting priest in his identity with people. So Jesus was acclaimed as both God’s Son—the Messianic king—and an everlasting high priest in the order of Melchizedek. As we thought of “the throne of grace”, Jesus is both king and priest in one person, appointed by God directly, and fully and perfectly qualified.

Then in verses 7-10 we see how Jesus was made perfect and became the source of eternal salvation and was finally designated by God to be eternal high priest. It is not because of his qualification to be selected by men and called by God, but because of what he did, his obedience. Verse 7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Jesus, in his full humanity, prayed to God. From the beginning to the end of his ministry, Jesus depended on God in prayer. When Jesus was baptized, tempted, needed wisdom to appoint disciples, raised Lazarus from the dead, and at many other times, he prayed. After the Upper Room discourse, he offered high priestly prayer to God. Jesus’ prayer was fervent, with cries and tears. The climax of his prayer life came at Gethsemane before the cross. Jesus did not pray in order to be saved from dying; he prayed in order to be saved out of death through the resurrection. Jesus’ prayer to be saved from death was a prayer to be raised from the grave. The One who was able to save Jesus from death answered his prayer when he delivered him from death in the resurrection. God was very pleased with his reverent submission, submission to God’s will even through death on the cross.

Then verse 8 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” After such a tearful prayer struggle Jesus could obey God to die on the cross. His death on the cross according to the will of God was the culmination of his obedience. This final obedience was possible not because he was the Son of God but because he had learned obedience from what he suffered, and then he was made perfect. We remember Hebrews 2:10, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Suffering is God’s wisdom. Even the very Son of God learned obedience through suffering. Then how much more should we? But many try to avoid suffering, big or small and thus miss the opportunity of learning obedience. At the very moment they can learn obedience from suffering and hardships in life, they rationalize or blame others and situations. Then they have nothing to repent and cannot learn obedience. Many do not confront the realities of suffering and adversities in life, but pass them on the other side. Some skillfully or nicely disobey. If we do not learn obedience at the right time, it gets harder and harder to learn obedience, as one becomes older. Youth is the very time to learn obedience. Those who do not learn obedience cannot teach obedience to their children or to their Bible students. Without learning obedience, many become weak and abnormal Christians. Obedience is not natural to anyone. Obedience is to be learned. We learn from Jesus who offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears. Sometimes we need to approach to the throne of grace with such an attitude to obey God based on the word of God. God wants us to be formed in obedience character so that we may be strong and true believers and live a life that is pleasing to God and a blessing to others.

Verses 9-10 tell us the result of Jesus’ obedience: “and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” When Jesus obeyed God fully, he became the source of eternal salvation and God made him our great high priest. Now he is able to save completely and eternally those who obey him. There are many believers who say, “I believe in Jesus, so I am saved regardless of how I live.” They are greatly mistaken. We can miss salvation. We need to notice this, “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” It is the same as the warning in 4:11, “Make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” It is apprehensible that he saves those who obey him. How can he save those who disobey him? Jesus said in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life.” In chapter 3 we thought that when the Israelites piled up their unbelief, finally they could not enter the promise land because of their unbelief. In the same way when our disobedience is accumulated, we cannot obey at the crucial moment in life. But those who have learned obedience especially at each time of suffering grow in obedience and it will bear remarkable fruit, truly being a blessing to others as well as obtaining eternal salvation.

Thank and praise God that we have the great high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who can sympathize us and truly help us in all the trials and temptations in life. May we bear this amazing privilege and blessing by approaching the throne of grace with confidence and learning obedience at each life situation as his people.

UBF headquarters | Chicago UBF | UBF TV | Northwestern UBF | Washington UBF | New York UBF | Europe UBF  | Email Us | Site Admin
Home