Hebrews 4:14-16 - Come Boldly To The Throne Of Grace
Our text this week is Hebrews 4:14-16 but we will read Hebrews 4:11-16 as we begin. It says,
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted (perfect tense – what He experienced still benefits us) 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.
Last week we compared Hebrews 4:11-13with Proverbs 23:1-3. In those texts we saw that there were two invitations given. First, there is an invitation to be with the ruler. Secondly, there is an invitation to receive the rulers gifts and hospitality. Last weeks sermon focused more upon the first invitation – the invitation to enter into His Rest. This weeks text focuses on the second invitation – the invitation to receive great blessings from Him.
In Proverbs 23:1-3 we read, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.”
In this text there is an invitation to come to a feast with the ruler. No one can just show up without an invitation at a rulers house and expect to sit and eat at their table. We saw this when we went through the book of Esther last year. In Esther 1 we saw that King Ahasuerus gave a feast for all of the officials from throughout his kingdom. For six months they were invited to feast daily with the king (1:1-4). Immediately after that feast there was another party that was thrown for everyone in the capital city of Susa. This feast lasted for seven days.
Secondly, we saw in Proverbs 23:1-3 that there was another invitation. This invitation is given at the feast itself. The food is a delicacy. It is the best that can be bought and served. The person who accepts the invitation to this feast will quickly find themselves surrounded by countless temptations.
King Ahasuerus commanded his servants to provide whatever was requested by his guests during that time. The king gave an edict saying, “There is no compulsion”. That meant that every person could drink and eat as much as they desired. (1:5-9) Can you imagine the temptation and danger that there would be for those who attended this feast when an order is given by the king that all things are to be given free of compulsion. If they were not careful they would easily be overcome by these pleasures and find themselves enslaved to them.
Listen to the trappings of the atmosphere that welcomed those who attended the King’s feast as it is described in Esther 1: 5-9,
And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king's palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired.
King Ahasuerus was very generous during these two feasts but both of these invitations eventually came to an end and the people had to leave. You can imagine what the king would have done to the man who had become so addicted to the palace, the food, the wine, and the party atmosphere that he would not leave? At best he would be thrown out; at worst he would provoke the king’s anger and be in real danger. In the book of Esther Haman is an example of what happens to the person who becomes addicted to these temptations and trappings. The result was that he and his family lost everything including their own lives.
Now, just as the world offers us two invitations we see in Hebrews 4:11-16 we find that the LORD also gives us two invitations. We are invited to be with Him, to commune with Him, and to enter into His rest. The invitation remains open at this time but there will be some who will fail to enter into this blessing. Therefore, it is to be a priority for us to seek after God and to enter into His rest. If we will make this our top priority then all of the other blessings we would ever need will be provided to us by Him (3 John 2 – “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”)
David describes the way these two things work together in Psalm 23. He says,
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Ralph Venning makes a helpful observation that we ought to keep in mind. He says, “Take notice not only of the mercies of God, but of God in the mercies. Mercies are never so appreciated as when we savor the Savior.”1
As we come to the LORD we are invited to partake in all of the blessings that come from Him. We have been invited to come before the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace. We receive these blessings only through Jesus Christ who is our great High Priest. It is because of Him that we can come boldly and confidently before the LORD and receive these blessings.
Oh, how great are these blessings of God’s mercy and grace!
When the Good News, the Gospel, is preached to us we discover that the Word of God penetrates to the depths of our heart and it exposes our sin. We are exposed before a holy God before whom we must give account (4:13). The Word of God searches us and discerns our thoughts and intentions. The word of God is like a two-edged sword that is able to penetrate deeply and expose our sin. But the word of God also brings us Good News! It can deliver us from our sinful condition which would lead to our destruction (11) if left misdiagnosed and untreated (4:11).
Dr. Raymond Brown describes the consequences of such misdiagnosed and untreated sin by saying, “...those temptations which, if left unconquered, lead on to doubt, despair, disobedience towards God, lovelessness towards others and a selfish preoccupation with our own desires.”2
Hebrews 4:11-16 teaches us what God has provided so that we can overcome the sins that would lead to doubt, despair, disobedience, lovelessness, and a preoccupation with our own desires in this world that is full of so many invitations to sin. We are to strive to enter into God’s rest...
by allowing the Word of God to expose our hearts and our sin before a holy God
by holding fast to our confession concerning our Great High Priest Jesus Christ
by drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace to receive grace and mercy
When we first hear the Good News we find ourselves in the worst possible condition. We are trapped and in bondage to our sins. We discover that we are rebels against God. The Gospel is Good News because it saves us from the worst possible condition, from the lowest possible position, from the most unfavorable status between us and God. We are His enemies who carry out the passions of the flesh and the desires of the body and mind just like everyone else around us.
Paul describes our condition in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
This is a desperate situation! Is there any hope for us? Yes, Paul continues by saying, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (2:4-10)
The gospel invites sinners to come to Jesus through repentance and faith to find mercy and grace. When we respond to this invitation through repentance and faith we receive the free gift of salvation and we are justified before God. The invitation to be justified is received one time but we are to continually respond to this invitation over and over again as we are being sanctified. Every time that we come to God we will receive mercy for the sins that we have committed and find grace to empower us against temptation and grace to strive to enter into the rest that has been promised.
Oftentimes when you share the gospel with people they will say something like: “I did that once…”, or “I responded like that a long time ago”. In Hebrews 4:14-16 we are exhorted to ‘hold fast our confession’. This is a present active verb which means that this is a continuous and repeated action. It is an action that we are to be currently engaged in every day.
It is also in the subjunctive mood which means that there is an assertion being made of which there is some doubt. In other words, the author of Hebrews is not sure that they are holding fast to their confession. He is not sure that they are drawing near to the throne of grace to receive the help that they need from their great High Priest.
Stuart Olyottin his commentary on Hebrews says, “In Christ there is pardon, welcome, sympathy, and help. By all means contemplate Him, but do not forget to come to Him.” Olyott is not simply saying that we come one time to Christ and then there is no more need to come again. No, he is going to tell us to come to Christ again and again for the mercy and grace to help in our time of need.
Olyott says, “In Christ there is pardon, welcome, sympathy, and help. By all means contemplate Him, but do not forget to come to Him. Do it again and again. Do not hide your weakness from Him; He is willing to help. He knows all the mistakes you have made and continue to make. He knows how often you will need to come back. He knows that you cannot pray as you ought. He knows that even your holiest moment is polluted by sin. He knows that even the strongest faith is mixed with unbelief – and yet the invitation remains open. We are invited to come boldly.”3
Yesterday we had a parent orientation at Veritas Christi Classical Academy. One of the parents said that their child is really scared to come to school because they are always afraid of the principle. At Veritas Christi the Head Master [the principle] is Rainy and she loves kids. She will welcome them, be sympathetic to them and hep them as they work their way through each grade. On the first day of school this child may be scared to come but it will not take long for that child’s to realize that they do not need to fear coming to school. This child will love their Head Master and look forward to coming and being welcomed, sympathized with, and helped.
That is how it should be with Christians as they come to Christ over and over again. When we come to Christ he does not get frustrated and angry, but He gives mercy and grace. Jesus understands us and our condition more than we understand ourselves. He invites us to come to Him for the help that we need.
I love the sentence that Olyott makes when he says, “He (Jesus Christ) knows how often you will need to come back”. We need to continually ‘draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’. We are given mercy and grace but we will have to return again to receive more.
Again, we have been remodeling the building where the kids are going to attend school. Almost everything is done and ready for the kids. But the Head Master’s office still has no door on it. The kids can come into her office anytime. Nothing can stop them from seeking her help. Similarly we can come to the throne of grace because our Great High Priest has removed the door, the wall, the curtain that prevented our entry. We can come boldly to the throne of grace.
What inclines your heart to draw near to God? What inspires you to read the word of God? What propels you to pray? What motivates you to come to church? What persuades you to return again and again to Jesus Christ? Is it your great need to receive mercy and grace?
There are many who try to motivate people to come to church by making it exciting. Some are motivated to come to God because they believe He may notice their good works. Some may be motivated to read the Word of God because they may learn some principle to have a better life. Many may be motivated to pray so they can be seen by men. But our motivation is that today, and tomorrow, and every day, we have a great need. We desperately need God’s mercy and grace and He has invited us to come and receive these things from Him (Matthew 11:28-30).
Our natural reaction is to think that we will have to beg Jesus for this mercy and grace but we are reminded in our text that Jesus already has sympathy for us. We read in Hebrews 4:15, “For 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.” We do not need to persuade Him to have compassion towards us. No, He is already willing to give us these things because He knows the weaknesses we have. He shares in our humanity and knows the temptations we face. Yet He has never sinned. Every temptation to sin He resisted and conquered.
We may often neglect to come to God daily for mercy and grace but we need to do this often. We receive these things each time we come but we never receive them all of it at once(Proverbs 1:20-33; 8; 9:1-6). Why is this?
Samuel Lee said, “Few can bear great and sudden mercies without pride and wantonness, till they are hampered and humbled to carry it modestly.”4It is by God’s wisdom that we are to receive new mercies every day. It is wise that God does not give us so much grace all at once that our pride is provoked. We receive what we need for that occasion and soon we are to return to Him again.
As Thomas Brooks contemplated 2 Chronicles 32 he noticed that that Hezekiah began to sin when pride resulted from the mercy that he had received from the LORD. Brooks says, “He was a righteous and holy man, yet he swells big under mercy. No sooner does God lift his house higher than others, but he lifts up his heart in pride higher than others. When God made him high in honors, riches, victories, and in spiritual experiences, then his heart flies high, and he forgets God, and forgets himself, and forgets all his mercies were from free mercy, that all his mercies were borrowed mercies. Surely it is better to lack any mercy than a humble heart, it is better to have no mercy than lack a humble heart.”5Let the first evidence that we have received mercy and grace be that we have a humble heart.
Because of the temptation that we have to become prideful God will allow things to happen to us which will make us once again see our neediness. God will allow things to happen that make our hearts remain humble (2 Cor. 12:1-10 – Paul’s thorn). The London Baptist Confession reminds us of this when it says, “The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good.”6
Mercy and grace go together. God’s common grace is extended to all people but only those who have tasted God’s mercy can enjoy His grace. God in His common grace cares for all of His creation but in a most special manner He cares for His church and provides for them many graces to enjoy (London Baptist Confession 5.4).
God’s mercy and grace go together. We see this in passages like 1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power (grace) are being guarded through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Just a few verses later in 1 Peter 1:10-12 Peter speaks again of grace saying, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
The prophets searched the scriptures and looked intently for the grace that was to be ours through Jesus Christ. We are told that even the angels long to look into these things. If this is the case, how much more should we who have received this grace come boldly and confidently through Jesus to the throne of grace! How much more should we who have received this mercy now enjoy, treasure and receive this grace that is being offered to us.
There are some who need to come to the throne of grace for saving mercy and grace(Romans 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Acts 18:27).
Most of us in here today have been reminded of our need to come again and again for His…
perfecting grace(Philippians 1:6).
powerful strengthening grace(2 Cor. 12:9).
purifying and sin dominating grace(Rom. 6:14).
maturing grace (2 Peter 1:2; 3:18)
grace to reign in life (Rom. 5:17)
grace to abound more and more (5:20)
grace to produce gifts in us to serve (Rom. 12:6)
varied grace and His manifold and varied grace (1 Peter 4:10)
Do you recognize your need for God’s mercy and grace? Does the reality of this need motivate you to come to Christ ‘Today’ for mercy and grace?
As a response to our text today which has encouraged us to come boldly to His throne of grace I would like to read Psalm 86together.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. 3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. 4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. 5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. 6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. 7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. 9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. 10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. 11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. 12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. 17 Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
1The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, Thomas, p.211
2The Message Of Hebrews, Dr. Raymond Brown, p. 96
3I Wish Someone Would Explain Hebrews To Me, Stuart Olyott, p. 48
4The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, Thomas, p.210
5Ibid, p. 209
6London Baptist Confession, Chapter 5 Article 5