Study 5 OUR GREAT AND GLORIOUS HIGH PRIEST
HIGHLIGHTS IN HEBREWS
by Francis Dixon
(Key verses: Hebrews 4:14-16)
In these verses we have a summary of the whole Letter: how infinitely superior Christianity is to every other religion. These verses contain two exhortations, the one leading to the other - “Let us hold firmly” (verse 14) and “Let us then approach…with confidence” (verse 16).
1. LET US HOLD FIRMLY TO THE FAITH WE PROFESS (verses 14-15)
The word ‘profess’ should be translated ‘confess’, for we may profess what is not true. The confession is of what we know and believe about the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, as follows:
- 1. “We have a great high priest” (verse 14). Notice the word ‘since’, referring back to Hebrews 2:17; 3:1. We have a great high priest now; He is ours. First, we have a “priest” - one who stands between ourselves and God, representing God to man and man to God. We cannot go directly to God because He is holy and we are sinful, and God cannot come directly to us for the same reasons. Our Priest stands between - and Jesus is our Priest! But second, our Priest is ”great”, a word referring to the dignity of His Person and the perfection of His character (Luke 1:32). And third, He is a “high” priest - compare Hebrews 7:26 and Isaiah 6:1. How glorious He is!
- 2. This great high priest is Jesus - the central word in verse 14, referring to His perfect sinless human nature (Matthew 1:21). The reference is to His manhood, His humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). Because He is man He is fully able to represent us before God and to understand our needs and sympathise with us - meditate on verse 15 and compare Hebrews 2:18.
- 3. This Jesus is “the Son of God” (verse 14). He is man, but He is God first; He is the God-man, and because He is God He can perfectly represent God and express the mind of God to us.
- 4. Our great high priest has fully, finally and once-and-for-all dealt with our sin. This characteristic of our great high priest is not mentioned here, but it is of course the first important work of any priest to deal with the sins of the people - see how Jesus is qualified to deal with our sin, indeed, has dealt with it - look up Hebrews 1:3; 2:9; 2:17; 5:1-3; 7:24-27; 9:11-14; 10:11-12.
- 5. Jesus, our great high priest, the Son of God, “has gone through the heavens” (verse 14). It means that He has finished His work and has gone up to the throne of God where He now sits in dignity and honour as our living, loving representative – look up Hebrews 1:3 again.
“Now”, says the writer, “because the Lord Jesus, our great high priest, is there in heaven (verses 14-15), let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence” (verse 16). Because He is there, having accomplished our salvation by going down into death, and having been raised again and having ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, let us draw near…
2. LET US APPROACH THE THRONE OF GRACE WITH CONFIDENCE
Verse 16 is wonderful. It indicates our response to all that Jesus has done and made possible for us. See the force of the word ’therefore’. It means, because of verses 14-15, “therefore” - verse 16! The important word for us to underline in that verse, however, is the word “approach”, or “come” as we have it in the King James Version, and there are several questions which we can ask here in connection with the word ‘come’:-
- 1. “Let us approach” (“come”) – WHO? We are invited to come, all believers, unworthy as we are. The way into the holiest place is open for all - Hebrews 10:22 - so you may come!
- 2. ”Let us come” – HOW? Are we to come with uncertainty as to whether we’ll be accepted? No, we’re to come “with confidence”. A paraphrase of this verse reads, “Let us fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near.” How is this possible? Because the Lord Jesus is our great high priest. This doesn’t mean that we can come carelessly or flippantly, but it does mean that we can come with absolute assurance that for Jesus’ sake God will accept us and help us.
- 3. “Let us come” – WHERE? The answer is ”to the throne of grace.” Yes, we come to a throne, for Jesus is not only prophet and priest, but He is King. We do not come to a throne of judgment because for the believer judgment is past (John 5:24); compare Romans 8:1. In fact we come to the mercy seat (1 John 2:2), to the place where He is gracious, and this is why we can come boldly.
- 4. “Let us come” – WHEN? The answer is ”in our time of need” (verse 16). Whenever we feel the need of pardon and purity, of assurance, comfort or strength, then we may come at once directly to the throne of grace and receive from the Lord Himself all that we need.
- 5. “Let us come” – WHY? The answer is ”so that we may receive mercy”. When we come to the throne of grace we obtain two wonderful benefits:-
- 1. MERCY. We are always in need of this, for the reference here is to our constant need of pardon and cleansing, and thank God, this is always available! (1 John 1:9; 2:1).
- 2. GRACE TO HELP. According to 2 Corinthians 9:8 and 12:9, the grace is always available and sufficient, but we must come in order to find and receive.
Dr Alexander Maclaren says that this reference to receiving mercy and finding grace to help suggests a significant metaphor. The one expresses the heart of God (receiving mercy) and the other expresses the hand of God (finding grace to help). Because we have such a great and glorious high priest, let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, that we may find out more and more of His loving heart and the help of His powerful and mighty hand!