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Our Great High Priest - Hebrews 4:14-16

Hebrews Sermons  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:15
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Would you turn in your Bible to Hebrews 4:14-16, and let’s ask the Lord’s blessing upon our time.
Let’s review a little bit.
Hebrews 1:1-3:6 give us a clear statement of Jesus’ surpassing glory and ministry.
Hebrews 3:7-4:13 contains a serious caution not to reject Christ, or to simply come part-way, but to continue in faith.
Let’s be honest, no one likes challenges or rebukes, and the book of Hebrews has quite a few of them. We’ve already come across phrases like
· “how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (2:3)
· “do not harden your hearts” (3:8, 13, 15; 4:7)
· and “let us fear if any one of you seems to fall short” (4:1)
· and “there is no creature hidden from the Word’s sight, but all things are open and laid bare before Him” (4:13)
Those challenges and rebukes are so strong because the salvation given by Jesus Christ is so great:
· “by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone” (2:9)
· and “through His death He rendered the devil powerless (2:14)
· and “He is a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2:17)
· and “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18)
· and “We have become partakers of Christ if we continue in faith” (3:14)
In chapter 5 we will return to the subject of Christ’s high priestly work, the greatness of salvation in Christ, and yes, there are more warnings to come as well.
A Disclosure Statement
It’s important to understand that the Savior is not standing above us with a bat, ready to clobber us if we get out of line, but wants us to take salvation seriously. Eternity is on the line.
There are those who are clearly unbelievers, happily pagan and uninterested in Christ; they really aren’t mentioned in this letter.
And there are those whose devotion to Jesus is clear, their faith is consistent, and their lives reflect their conversion; they are encouraged to continue in faith.
And, there are those who, as Hebrews 4:1 put it, seem, or appear, to fall short. Their faith wavers, and their lives don’t reflect conversion very well. Some of them are genuine believers who are immature or struggling; some of them are unbelievers who are deceived about their own spiritual state. They are the main concern of the letter. The Lord wants those who are saved but drifting to anchor well into Him, and those who are deceived about their own salvation to understand the Gospel, repent of their sins, and believe in Christ.
So, we’ve see a lot of challenge and rebuke, and a lot of encouraging statements. Before moving on, the Lord gives us a wonderfully intimate application of what we’ve seen so far, full of encouragement, comfort, and practicality.
Hebrews 4:14–16 (NASB95):
14 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. 15 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. 16 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.

Hold Fast To Faith in Christ

This is where the Israelites in the wilderness failed. They didn’t hold on to Yahweh in faith. Their faithlessness revealed itself in their disobedience, and the fact that they feared other people more than their God.
We are to hold fast to our confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Why?
Because of Jesus’ superiority to any human priest or minister.

He is unlike the other high priests because of His title.

Only Jesus is called a “great high priest.” The term “high priest” is already magnified over other priestly offices. Jesus’ high priesthood is magnified even more.
Only Jesus Christ is ever called a GREAT high priest.

He is unlike the other high priests because of His sanctuary.

Where did the other high priests offer their gifts? First in the Tabernacle, and then in the Temple in Jerusalem. They offered their sacrifices in man-made structures, on man-make altars and a man-made mercy seat.
But Hebrews 9:11 tells us that Jesus entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation. And Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Jesus did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, so that He now appears in the presence of God for us.

He is unlike the other high priests because of His sympathy.

He is not a high priest who cannot sympathize, but one who knows our weaknesses intimately.
Now, someone might be tempted to say, “Wait a second, since I’m a sinner, only another sinner can really understand me.”
Do you know the story of Hannah in First Samuel 1?
Hannah was a barren woman who lived during the time of the judges. Her husband, Elkanah, had another wife, Peninnah, and she had children, so the problem wasn’t with Elkanah. Infertility can be frustrating for a man, but it’s often devastating to a woman, and Hannah grieved deeply. She went to the tabernacle to pray, and poured her heart out to the Lord, weeping bitterly. The high priest, Eli, saw her there praying. Her lips were moving, she wasn’t making any sound, and she was weeping profusely.
What did he do? He wrongly assumed she was drunk, and heartlessly rebuked her.
So while it might seem that another sinner can understand you better than Jesus, it’s not true. Our sin natures often make us cruel, judgmental, and critical.
But Jesus can sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Certainly He can do this because He knows us intimately and perfectly, down to the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
So, when He rebukes you, you can be sure that a rebuke was deserved.
But when He comforts you, you can be sure that He knows what you are facing.
He is able to do this because He was tempted in every way, as we are. This doesn’t mean that He was tempted to create every possible sin, but that He was tempted in every area. He wasn’t tempted to lie to His wife, because He wasn’t married, but He was tempted to lie.
And don’t forget that temptation grows stronger the longer we resist it. We can’t understand the kind of terrible pressure He faced when He was tempted, because we’ve never resisted temptation every single time, as He did.
That doesn’t make Him proud and arrogant, but tender and sympathetic.
Jesus knows what it is like for you to face temptation, because He has faced it Himself, and knows how strong and demanding it can be. He also knows that our sin nature is prone to giving in to temptation rather than resisting. Jesus knows, and Jesus cares.

He is unlike the other high priests because of His holiness.

Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. He never sinned. He was holy and righteous every moment of every day of His life.
Now, as the Jews interpreted the Law, they saw that the high priest must not be defiled when he enters the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement. So, for several days prior to the Day of Atonement, the high priest was confined to the Temple, and kept under close watch, to ensure that he did not either deliberately or accidentally become unclean.
The Lord Jesus Christ lived sinlessly His entire life, but during the three years of His ministry He was under very close scrutiny. His twelve disciples were rarely away from Him. There were almost always other disciples around as well. And of course, His enemies were often nearby, watching His life and conduct.
Mark gives us an example of that close scrutinty:
Mark 3:1–2 NASB95
He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.
No one’s life was ever more publicly lived or publicly investigated than that of Jesus Christ. What was the ultimate result of all this investigation? When the time came for Jesus’ trial, they had to manufacture evidence against Him. Why did they make up testimony, after spending so many months watching Him carefully?
Because He was without sin.
Jesus Christ is unlike any other high priest because of:
· His title
· His sanctuary
· His sympathy
· His holiness
Because of Jesus’ title, sanctuary, sympathy, and holiness …
Hebrews 4:16 (NASB95):
16 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.

Bringing it Home

I love it when the Scripture gives us the application so clearly that it can’t be mistaken. I don’t know about you, but I need the Word of God to make things simple for me.
The natural thing for a sinner to do is run and hide from the throne of judgment. That’s why there are so many “failure to appear” warrants issued by judges. People run from their own guilt.
But please notice this – we don’t come before a throne of judgment, but a throne of grace.
What does it mean to draw near? It obviously isn’t physical nearness. We are not in heaven, and God is Spirit. But because God is Spirit, the throne of grace is already near to you, and Jesus Christ has opened the door for you to come at any time. We draw near when we pray, when we immerse ourselves in His Word to hear His voice written there, and when we surrender our lives to Him.
We are to draw near in confidence. The basis of our confidence is not ourselves, in our goodness, or our achievements, or our gifts to God. No, the basis of our confidence is Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who sympathizes with us and knows our weaknesses. He both sits on the throne of grace, at the right hand of God the Father, in the place of privilege, and He stands at the throne of grace interceding for us.
(If you’re curious how Jesus can He sit and stand at the same time, remember that these are not photographs of Him in heaven, but descriptions of His authority and ministry; they are metaphors for His person and work).
So we draw near with confidence because we are guaranteed mercy and grace, not because we deserve them, but because they are promised to us when we draw near.

The Throne

It is a throne, and so we ought to be reverent, humble, and submitted.
We are invited to the throne of God, and so we should be joyful; we who should be driven away from God are instead given permission come straight to Him.
We should approach the throne with great expectations, because we know the King on that throne CAN do anything He pleases.
We should come with confidence, because the King has called us to come; to hesitate is an act of suspicion, as though God, who invited us to come, is really going to play a trick on us.
We ought to come with deep sincerity and honesty. We can fool others, but not Him; as we have already seen in Hebrews 4:13, He knows every last detail about us, right down to the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

The Throne of Grace

Because it is a throne of grace, our faults and sins will be forgiven; even the faults and sins of our prayer will be forgiven and overlooked. We often pray with dryness, or through duty, laboring to get the words out, grasping for the right things to say. The throne is not a throne of justice, where every idea and syllable must be just right, but a throne of grace, where the faults of our prayers are corrected by the Holy Spirit and made suitable for the King to hear.
Because it is a throne of grace, our sins will not keep God from answering. Our great high priest has satisfied the wrath of God toward our sin. He has dressed us in His own righteousness. We come as His brother or sister, and so as children of the Father.
Because it is a throne of grace, our needs will be rightly interpreted. Our Father knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). He still knows our needs when we ask. We don’t go to a doctor and say, “I need a left radical retroperitoneal lymph node dissection,” but “I hurt here,” and he decides the best way to proceed. Likewise, we come to the Lord with our concern, and He answers in the way that best glorifies Him, which means it best meets our need.
Because it is a throne of grace, we are received with compassion, or as Charles Spurgeon said 147 years ago, “the petitioners miseries are compassionated.” We are lifted from our shame; we are comforted in our distress; we are embraced when we feel forsaken; we are freed from the threat and penalty of sin.
Let’s be honest. We always come with defective knowledge, with insufficient faith, usually lacking fervency, often with a measure of pride. We always come having prayed too little in the past, and with unclear desires.
But we come to a throne of grace, not of judgment.
Again, Charles Spurgeon says about these verses,
“It is a throne set up on purpose for the dispensation of grace; a throne from which every utterance is an utterance of grace; the sceptre that is stretched out from it is the silver sceptre of grace; the decrees proclaimed from it are purposes of grace; the gifts that are scattered down its golden steps are gifts of grace; and He that sits upon the throne is grace itself.” (link)
Brothers and sisters, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, so let us hold fast our confess. 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. So let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, because it is there that we receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
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