Rev. DeVries is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15, 16
What a High Priest we have! Our risen and exalted Savior, Jesus Christ, is our great High Priest. In the old dispensation the high priest would pass once a year, from the altar that was outside the tabernacle, through the Holy Place, into the Holy of Holies, behind the veil, to appear briefly in the presence of the Thrice Holy God. But our great High Priest, in an infinitely more exalted manner, has proceeded through the heavens into the very presence of the God of our salvation! There He is exalted at the right hand of God in highest glory. All power and authority in heaven and upon earth have been given unto Him.
Having this great High Priest, we are exhorted to hold fast our profession. We are to cling tenaciously to the truth, the gospel of Christ, our great High Priest. But that is much easier said than done. We face many temptations in holding fast our profession. We are tempted on every side to deny our profession, to cast it away, to hold fast unto the lie rather than the Truth.
Who among us can stand in his own strength in the face of such temptations? Do we not face a virtual barrage of temptations from that great tempter, Satan? As we stand alone, the broad way of sin is very attractive and appealing. We need grace and mercy to stand, to hold fast our profession! Hence the exhortation, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace….”
Come to the throne!
As a figure of speech in Scripture, the word “throne” refers to one who holds dominion and exercises authority. A throne is the symbol of royal sovereignty and majesty and of the supreme power of judgment. Thus, the throne here signifies God in His absolute sovereignty and power, God in His perfect righteousness and holiness, and God in His glorious beauty and majesty.
But, notice, it is a gracious throne. Grace is the power of God to save and deliver us from the bondage of sin. It is the power of God which sustains us in the midst of temptations. It is the power of God which enables us to hold fast our profession. Thus, grace to deliver us from temptation, to give us the victory over temptations, is to be found only at the throne! The throne of grace refers to God as our Sovereign Friend who by His grace delivers us and preserves us as His covenant children.
“Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace”! This bespeaks our approach to God in prayer and worship. As we read in Hebrews 10:22, “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.” Coming to the throne of grace, we enter into the fellowship of our God. We draw near to worship and adore Him, to taste and see that He is good. This implies that we are conscious of our need for God’s grace and mercy.
Let us come with “boldness,” with confidence, and with freedom in speaking! No, this is not a lack of awe and reverence such as is so often seen in our day in prayer and worship. Neither is this boldness a proud and haughty confidence. We are not to come before God with the attitude of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, who thanked God that he was not as other, sinful men or even as the publican (Luke 18:11). But the idea is that we come with a boldness or confidence that is rooted in faith. We are to approach the throne of grace with an attitude of confidence that our God will hear us and grant our petitions. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). We must come unto the throne with a boldness that is rooted in the faith which unites us with our great High Priest.
Seeking mercy and grace!
We approach the throne of grace with the purpose of obtaining mercy. God’s mercy is His desire to have His people share in His own divine blessedness, His desire to deliver us from misery and fill us with life and joy. We come to the throne with the purpose of finding grace, God’s saving power which upholds us in the midst of the strife. We are saved by grace alone. We are also preserved by the grace of our God. More specifically, we seek mercy and grace “to help in time of need.” The phrase “in time of need” is really one word which refers to the proper time.
But when is this time of need? Of course, we need mercy and grace constantly! Not for a moment can we stand apart from God’s mercy and grace. “To help in time of need” does not promote a “fox-hole theology,” the notion that we need come to God only when we find ourselves in danger or trouble. We must constantly be coming to the throne! That must be our life; we ought to live in the consciousness of our dependence upon God’s mercy and grace. Oh, it is certainly true that sometimes we feel the need of approaching the throne of grace much more strongly than other times, but the need is always there!
But this Word of God emphasizes that the need is especially there in time of temptation. Temptations always have the character of presenting the way of sin and disobedience as being preferable to the way of faithfulness. The temptation is always to leave the straight and narrow way, to cease holding fast our profession, and to walk down that broad way which leadeth to destruction.
As God’s people in the midst of this world, we face many temptations in striving to hold fast our profession. That is true for us as young people: we are tempted to rebel, to conform to the world of sin, and to compromise our convictions. That is true for our children: they are tempted to disobey, to lie, to cheat, and to be cruel. And that is true for us, as men and women, for daily we are tempted. Satan would point out that if we hold fast our profession we will face hardships, mockeries, sufferings, and maybe even death. We cannot possibly stand and gain the victory over temptation in our own strength. In time of temptation we must “come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace”!
Encouraged by our High Priest!
We see the urgency of coming to the throne of grace, do we not? But there may be many doubts and fears that assail us. How can we approach unto this throne? Are we not grievous sinners? Approach with boldness? Dare we appear before the sovereign God? Can we possibly stand before His face? Do you dare?
Oh, you may say, “But we can come to the throne through our great High Priest who has passed into the heavens.” But can we? Would such a great High Priest have an interest in us? Is He not so far above us that it is impossible for Him to conceive of our needs? Could such a great High Priest possibly understand the temptations we face in holding fast our profession? Is He not the very Son of God? Is He not highly exalted at the right hand of the Majesty on High? Dare we go unto Him? Do you dare?
This glorious gospel gives us encouragement to come unto the throne: “for we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Clearly the great glory of the exalted Christ does not create a barrier between Him and His people! There is no need for us to imagine that our great High Priest will have no feeling for us, poor sinners. In fact, the negative form of this statement indicates that the inspired writer has anticipated the objections we might raise concerning the possibility of coming to the throne of grace.
We have not a high priest who is not able to sympathize with our infirmities. The phrase “to be touched with the feeling of” does not simply express the idea of the compassion of one who regards suffering from afar. On the contrary, it emphasizes the feeling of one who enters into the suffering and makes it his own.
Our High Priest is touched with the feeling of, is able to sympathize with, our infirmities. Our “infirmities” are all of our weaknesses, those of both body and soul. They include our physical sufferings and afflictions, all our sorrows, all our anxieties, all our doubts, all our fears, and the weakness of our faith as we strive to hold fast our profession. We need not fear or despair! Our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, endured all our sufferings! He sympathizes with us; He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities!
But still more, He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He is a tempted High Priest; He has been tempted according to the likeness of our temptations. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:17, 18). Our High Priest “suffered being tempted”! We recall, of course, Christ being tempted in the wilderness by the devil. And throughout His ministry the temptation was there to forsake the way that led to the cross! These temptations were very real!
But even though Christ was in all points tempted like as we are, there was one fundamental difference: “yet without sin.” Christ did not stumble and fall into sin. As the only begotten Son of God in our flesh, He could not sin! But our High Priest always walked the way of perfect obedience before His Father, yea, all the way to the cross! Do we realize what this means? Our High Priest knows all our temptations; He knows all our infirmities; He knows all our burdens; He knows all our sufferings; for He experienced it all, but never once sinned!
That is the High Priest we have! What an encouragement! He sympathizes with our infirmities as no earthly high priest ever could. The earthly high priests of Aaron’s line had the highest privilege of passing once a year through the inner veil into the Holy of Holies to appear for a few minutes before God on behalf of the people. Christ Jesus is our Advocate and Intercessor before the face of the Father constantly! He knows the great temptations we face as we strive to hold fast our profession. He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He knows exactly how we feel! We are never without someone who understands!
Seeing we have such a High Priest, “let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace”! Be diligent to seek the means of grace! Live a prayerful life! For we shall find there in the sanctuary our High Priest, our sympathetic High Priest, our High Priest who has suffered being tempted. There we shall certainly obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need!