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Let Us Approach God | Hebrews Part 1

When I think of summertime, I think of my favorite activities: cooking on the grill, enjoying fresh fruit, mowing the lawn, landscaping and weekend trips to soccer tournaments. It was during the summer of 2004 when I learned of another favorite. During my Ph.D. program at Baptist Bible Seminary, I took a course on the book of Hebrews with Dr. Bill Arp. It was at this time that I truly learned to appreciate what it meant to exegetically walk through a book of the Bible verse-by-verse to discover its authorial meaning and significance for me as the modern reader. Hebrews is now one of my favorite books of the Scriptures. Thank you, Dr. Arp.

For the next three months I’d like to consider three of my favorite passages from the book of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews provides several “Let us . . .” commands to encourage his readers to follow Jesus. These commands are based upon the faithfulness of the great high priest, Jesus Christ.

The Letter to the Hebrews

The author constructs his letter by using sections of exposition followed by exhortation. The sections of exposition primarily utilize truths from the interpretation of Scripture to communicate the author’s point (e.g., Ps. 110:1, an allusion to Christ’s heavenly exaltation at God’s right hand, cf. 1:13, 8:1). Exhortation sections are designed to motivate the reader to action based upon the truth already presented (e.g., “Let us” commands). Admonition by the author is not an uncommon occurrence in Hebrews, for the author desires to encourage and strengthen the weak believers of a small Jewish community (13:22), so they might stand fast in their faith during times of affliction. The author writes to a congregation in crisis (10:32-33) pointing them to the superior and great high priesthood of Jesus Christ.

To begin ,the unknown author of Hebrews introduces Jesus as the superior mode of revelation (1:2) and the superior means of redemption (1:3). Due to our personal relationship with Jesus, he calls us brethren (2:11), makes reconciliation possible between us and God (2:15-18), extends grace and mercy at the appropriate time (4:14-16), continually intercedes on our behalf (7:25-28), offered a one-time sacrifice that qualifies us to worship Him (10:10-14), and He is the author and finisher of our faith (12:2).

Hebrews 4:14-16 – “Let Us Cling to Our Faith & Approach God”

The author grounds the following “Let us” commands upon the fact that Jesus is the great high priest (“since we have a great high priest”). He is described as such for two reasons. He is permanently in the presence of God in the heavenlies; His completed work puts Him there (cf. 1:3); and He is the son of God (cf. 1:2-3; 2:14-18; Jesus’ incarnation & exaltation).

The encouragement of Jesus’ high priestly ministry makes the first exhortation possible, “let us cling to” our confession. In a sense the author is commanding his original readers to remain firmly committed to the belief that they professed. This is referring to the time they accepted Christ by faith and openly acknowledge it before others (cf. 3:14). Think about it, the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to hold onto to Jesus and make it public.

Not only does Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and His permanent dwelling in the presence of God (4:14a) serve to motivate the readers “to cling to their commitment in their belief in Jesus,” but the author also provides two more explanations as to why they should do so in verse 15. First, Christ identifies himself with His followers who feel defenseless in their situation; yet His high priestly office is a ministry of intercession on the readers’ behalf (“sympathizes with our weaknesses”). Christ’s appointment to his priestly office is made possible because of His full participation in humanity (2:17-18). Second, although He shared in our experience of temptation, He did not sin. David Allen states, “The point here is that Jesus’ likeness to us via the incarnation means he was tempted in the same way that all humanity is tempted, but with this difference: he never sinned” (New American Commentary, 304).

Consequently, the author encourages us “to approach the throne of grace” (4:16). Why? Because we can! The present-tense form of the verb “approach, draw near, come close to,” has an ongoing aspect; that is, we may continually approach God—whenever we want. The author not only states what we can do, but how we can do it—we can approach God with ‘confidence, boldness, or with trusting confidence in God.’ This place we boldly approach is God’s “throne of grace.” William Lane defines this as:

This is the place of God’s presence, from which grace emanates to the people of God.

The only one who was permitted to ‘draw near’ under the provisions of the Mosaic

covenant was the high priest . . . the priestly ministry Christ has achieved for them

what Israel never enjoyed, namely, immediate access to God and the freedom to

draw near to him continually (Word Biblical Commentary, 115).

The purpose for approaching God is to receive timely help in our distress; that is, mercy and grace—the essential aspects of God’s love. Lane defines this love as, “outgoing and it is protective help that does not arrive too late, but at the appropriate time because the moment of its arrival is left to the judgment of God” (WBC, 116).

Having continual access to God; what a privilege we have as believers. Some challenging questions for all of us from Hebrews would be:

  • Am I clinging to my confession of Jesus as savior? In our secular and polarized society, it may be easier to be a quiet Christian (such an “animal” does not exist for the author of Hebrews)
  • How am I “clinging to” God’s word? How does my life publicly demonstrate this?

by Wayne Slusser, Ph.D., Dean of Baptist Bible Seminary

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