3 PASTORAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE SUPERIORITY OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST
This is a perfect transitional paragraph that bridges the gap between what we have already learned of the superiority of Christ and our new section that will focus on His high priestly qualifications. What an encouragement to persevere as we focus on Jesus seated at the right hand of God in the heavenlies. What an encouragement in our sufferings and temptations to know that Jesus understands us completely and has compassion for us. What an encouragement to believers to see the practical ways in which Jesus as our great High Priest grants us access to the throne of grace so that we have just the right type of help we need at just the right time.
Mohler: As the great high priest, Jesus redefined the office because, even though he was tempted in every way as we are, he never sinned and he has passed through the heavens into the very throne room of God to be our mediator.
Brooke Foss Westcott: Briefly, he shows, we have a High-priest who has Himself entered the rest of God (v. 14); who can perfectly sympathize with us (v. 15); so that we can ourselves draw near to God, with whom He is (v. 16).
A T Robertson “Let us keep on holding fast.” This keynote runs all through the Epistle, the exhortation to the Jewish Christians to hold on to the confession (Hebrews 3:1) of Christ already made. Before making the five points of Christ’s superior priestly work (better priest than Aaron, Hebrews 5:1-7:25; under a better covenant, Hebrews 8:1-13; in a better sanctuary, Hebrews 9:1-12; offering a better sacrifice, Hebrews 9:13-10:18; based on better promises, Hebrews 10:19-12:3), the author gives a double exhortation (Hebrews 4:14-16) like that in Hebrews 2:1-4 to hold fast to the high priest (Hebrews 4:14-15) and to make use of him (Hebrews 4:16).
I. (:14) OUR SUPERIOR HIGH PRIEST ENCOURAGES US TO PERSEVERE
A. Christ Persevered to Reach His Heavenly Throne in the Presence of God
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,”
Kent: Just as the Aaronic priest passed form the altar through the outer court and then through the holy place to the holy of holies beyond the veil, so Christ also has passed from view. It was not a momentary passing through some earthly chambers, but an ascension through the heavenly regions to the actual throne room of God. Hence His present absence from our view is no disadvantage as compared to Aaronic priests, but is due to the fact that He is actually performing for us what Aaron could accomplish only in the most limited and largely symbolic way.
R. Kent Hughes: going through the first heaven (the atmosphere), the second heavy (outer space), and finally into the third heaven (the most holy of all places, the presence of God. cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). And there he sat down (something no high priest had ever done!) because his atoning work was finished. He remains at God’s right hand, making intercession for us.
B. Christ is our Savior and the Eternal Son of God
“Jesus the Son of God,”
Lenski: his name is added, “Jesus,” which again calls to mind his incarnation, his life, sufferings, and death here on earth, but with the mighty apposition “the Son of God,” which expresses his deity. Our High Priest is infinitely great in his person and his office.
C. Christ is the Focus of Our Confession as We Persevere
“let us hold fast our confession.”
We do everything in union with Christ; we have died with Him, been buried and been raised up to new life so that we can hold fast our confession of faith in Him.
Piper: The confession is simply our unshakable hope (Hebrews 10:23) that God is for us and will work to bring us into his final rest and joy. Hold fast to that because you have a great High Priest. That’s the first conclusion. For weeks we have been seeing the call to hold fast and to be diligent and to take heed. Here we see it again. Only here the writer is spreading out powerful reasons not only for why you should hold fast to your confession, but also why you can! God is for you. You have a great High Priest. He is alive. He is in the presence of God. He is the Son of God. He is sympathetic. So hold fast to your hope.
II. (:15) OUR SUPERIOR HIGH PRIEST EMPATHIZES WITH OUR WEAKNESSES
A. Christ Has Compassion for Us
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,”
He took on humanity so that He can fully identify with mankind. He can be the sufficient mediator to represent us before God the Father.
F. F. Bruce: His transcendence, however, has made no difference to His humanity. . . Christians have in heaven a high priest with an unequalled capacity for sympathizing with them in all the dangers and sorrows and trials which come their way in life, because He Himself, by virtue of His likeness to them, was exposed to all these experiences.
Kent: The negative way in which this statement is introduced suggests that rebuttal is being made to an objection. Was it being implied that having a high priest in heaven was no substitute for a priest on earth to whom one could go with his problems?
R. Kent Hughes: The revelation of the sympathy of God was an incredible revelation in its ancient setting. The Stoics believed that the primary attribute of God was apatheia, the inability to feel anything at all. They reasoned that if he could feel, he could be controlled by others and therefore would be less than God. The Epicureans believed that God dwelled in intermudia, the spaces between the worlds, in complete detachment. . . The method for the unparalleled sympathy of God was, of course, the incarnation of his Son in human flesh.
B. Christ Has Overcome Every Temptation We Might Face
“but One who has been tempted in all things as we are,”
C. One Caveat in Christ’s Identification with Mankind:
Christ Was Not Tempted by Any Sin From Within
“yet without sin.”
Morris: This may mean that Jesus was tempted just as we are except that we sin and he did not. But it may also mean that he had a knowledge of every kind of temptation except that which comes from actually having sinned. There are supporters for each interpretation. But it may be that the writer was not trying to differentiate between the two. At any rate his words can profitably be taken either way. The main point is that, though Jesus did not sin, we must not infer that life was easy for him.
Kent: the point in the passage does not seem to be whether He sinned or not (of course, He did not), but whether He was truly tempted and thus could really sympathize. It seems better to regard apart from sin as naming the only exception I the way Christ was tempted as compared to ordinary men. None of His temptations arose out of a sinful disposition, such as all fallen men have since Adam. All of Christ’s temptations came to Him from outside Himself (i.e. from Satan). This in no sense violates the truth that Jesus was genuinely tempted, and that He thus understands and sympathizes with men who face such situations.
III. (:16) OUR SUPERIOR HIGH PRIEST EMBOLDENS OUR PETITIONS FOR HELP
A. Approach Christ with Boldness
1. We Should Have Intimate Access to Christ
“Let us therefore draw near”
Kent: Since our great high priest is in the most advantageous place (heaven), and is both Son of God and yet through His human experiences is fully qualified to understand our needs, we have the best of reasons for using the good offices He provides.
Richard Phillips: Because Jesus is our high priest, we are reconciled to God. This means that we can approach him freely. We do not have to hide from him; we do not have to flee like Adam in the garden; the veil barring us from God’s presence is torn because of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. We may now . . . approach boldly into the presence of God that once was barred by our sin.
2. We Should Have Confident Access to Christ
No hesitation or sense of insecurity or insignificance; no fear of rejection; no tentativeness in our approach
3. We Should Have Powerful Access to Christ
“to the throne of grace,”
Sufficient for whatever we need out of the riches of His grace and the power and authority of His dominion
Hewitt: It is called a “throne of grace” in contrast to the “throne of judgment” which displays the awful majesty of God; and the Christian should come to it regularly and with confidence.
B. Approach Christ to Obtain Mercy and Grace
1. To Obtain Mercy
“that we may receive mercy”
2. To Obtain Grace
“and may find grace”
C. Approach Christ for Help in Time of Need
“to help in time of need.”
Kent: it is what believers need when their weaknesses seem overwhelming. Mercy speaks of God’s relieving of man’s miseries. Grace is the favor of God which He bestows without regard for merit to those who put their trust in Him. In times of weakness, temptation, and sin, believers find in their access to God through Christ the timely help that is tailored to their particular need.
MacArthur: How can anyone reject such a High Priest, such a Savior – who not only permits us to come before His throne for grace and help, but pleads with us to come in confidence? His Spirit says, “Come boldly all the way to God’s throne that has been turned into a throne of grace because of Jesus. Come all the way up, receive grace and mercy when you need it – before it is too late and your heart is hard and God’s ‘today’ is over.” The time of need is now. What a High Priest we have. He sympathizes and He saves. What more could He do?