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Hebrews 4:14–16

“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. 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” (vv. 15–16).

Among the greatest truths of the Bible is that God is not far off and aloof; rather, He comes near to His people. We see that as far back as the garden of Eden, where God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). Even after the fall into sin, the Lord continued to draw near to His people, dwelling among the Israelites first in the tabernacle and then in the temple (Ex. 40:34–38; 1 Kings 8:1–11). But God has come nearest to us in the person of Jesus Christ. The Son of God took on our humanity such that He is like us in every way, “yet without sin,” as today’s passage explains (Heb. 4:14–16).

We return to the book of Hebrews today, where the author of this letter returns to a theme he introduced in 2:5–18, namely, the incarnation and its benefits for us. As we see, Hebrews 4:14–16 uses our Savior’s similarity to us in order to encourage us to draw near to God when we need mercy and grace. Yes, we should take seriously the warning of judgment in 3:7–4:13 for those who commit apostasy—who abandon Christ. However, we do not take the warning seriously by thinking: “I have fallen too far. God might never take me back. I have to get my life in order before the Lord will have me again.” No, the exhortation in today’s passage is to run to our Creator through Christ’s mediation. In truth, we are not supposed to get ourselves together, to make ourselves righteous, before we come to Jesus. If we were, we would not need a Savior, and we cannot cleanse ourselves sufficiently in any case. Instead, even at our lowest points, we are to run to Jesus. We must believe God will be gracious to us in Christ, as Hebrews 4:16 promises us, and draw near to God confidently, forsaking sin in the process. Faith and repentance go together, but faith has the logical priority. There is no point to forsaking sin unless we first trust that the Father wants to forgive and receive us in Christ. If we disbelieve this, we are repenting in order to earn favor with God, not because we want to honor Him.

John Calvin comments, “We have no reason to dread the majesty of Christ since he is our brother.” Jesus became incarnate in order to atone for sin, but He also took on our nature in order to encourage us to come to God through Him. If we are in Him, we can come to God confident in the fact that the Father will receive us in the Son and provide all that is needed to sustain our faith and increase our holiness (Heb. 4:14–16).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We should always have reverence for our God, but if we are in Christ by faith, we need not be terrified of Him. He welcomes us with open arms in His Son and draws near to us in Christ. We will rightly feel shame when we sin against Him, but we must not let that shame or fear keep us from running to Him for pardon. He wants to forgive His people, and He will do so when we go to Him in faith and repentance.

For Further Study
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14
  • Joel 2:12–14
  • Zechariah 1:1–6
  • Matthew 11:28–30

Wielding the Sword

The Task of the High Priest

Keep Reading The Twentieth Century

From the May 2020 Issue
May 2020 Issue