Updated: Nov 18
This sermon is based on Hebrews 4:14-5:10. Follow along in the Bible as you read through this content.
Introduction: By way of review, and for the sake of understanding this passage in its context, remember that as the book of Hebrews begins, the writer cautions and probes about our spiritual condition.
Hebrews 1 opens with an emphasis on our stewardship of God‘s revelation. Are you listening as God speaks? (1:1-4)
Then, in chapter 2 the writer explains that “we are to give more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” So, are you slipping? (2:1-4; 1:5-14)
Thirdly, we considered the question, “Are you praising?” (2:5-18) In light of Jesus, the incarnate God, becoming “a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,” (vs 9) believers gather to praise Him. “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” (vs 12)
Chapter 3 instructs the reader to consider Christ. We are to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” (vs 1)
He wants us to consider Christ “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (vs 13) In total, chapter 3 is a warning against unbelief and an urgent exhortation to believe in Christ today. So, are you believing? (3:1-19)
Finally, we asked the question, “Are you resting?” (4:1-13) Chapter 4 instructs us to cease from our own work and to rest in the salvific work of Jesus Christ. (vs 10)
If you can say, “Yes, I’m listening to God’s revelation. No, I’m not slipping. Yes, I am praising, believing and resting, then now it’s time to consider the “Throne of Grace.” (Hebrews 4:16) It’s time to understand access to God and enjoy sweet fellowship with God, through Christ.
From Hebrews 4:14-5:10, we will consider “every high priest,” (5:1-4) then the “Great High Priest” (5:5-10) and then we will consider “us” and our access to the “throne of grace.” (4:14;16)
1. Every High Priest (5:1-4)
Reading the book of Leviticus will help Christians understand the specific job requirements and function of an Old Testament High Priest but here in Hebrews we have a summary.
A high priest was “taken from among men,” (vs 1) which is to say that he is human. Occasionally people thought that a high priest was someone higher than a human and should be worshipped. Certainly a spiritual leader should be respected but never worshipped. (Consider John 3:30) The writer of Hebrews emphasizes the humanity of the high priest.
Additionally, a high priest “is ordained for men in things pertaining to God.” He was just a man, but he was a man designated by God for a specific calling. (See also 5:4)
His responsibilities included, “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (vs 1).
A high priest had to have “compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way.” (vs 2). His compassion and gentleness on others stemmed from the realization “that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” (vs 2)
He was human and had a propensity toward physical and spiritual weakness, like anyone else. A high priest was a sinner (5:3) and maintained compassion on the wayward because he understood his own propensity towards waywardness.
A high priest was to never seek “honour unto himself,” but humbly recognized “but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (vs 4)
2. The Great High Priest (4:14-15; 5:5-10)
Hebrews 4:14 refers to Jesus as the “Great High Priest.”
In Hebrews 5:5 the writer begins to explain similarities and differences between “every high priest,” and the “Great High Priest.”
Like every high priest, “Christ glorified not himself.“ But, the writer quotes Psalm 2 referencing Jesus’ Sonship, as if to say Jesus deserves to be glorified, but He didn’t pursue it.
In Hebrews 5:6, the writer quotes Psalm 110:4 to compare Jesus to Melchizedek, which is explained in more detail in Hebrews 7.
During Jesus’ life on the earth, He “offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death.” (Hebrews 5:7)
This description of Christ’s emotion emphasizes his humanity. Have you had a prayer time that included “strong crying and tears”? Most humans have. Jesus did as well.
Very likely the writer is referring to Jesus’ prayer, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)
Luke records that during this time of prayer, Jesus was in “agony” and “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Even though Jesus is the Son of God, and IS God, (Hebrews 1:2-3) in His humanity, He experienced everything humans experience including extreme suffering. (vs 8-9a)
Yet, He, our Great High Priest, endured it all and “he became the author of eternal salvation.” (vs 9b)
3. Us (4:14; 16)
For the application of the explanation given in Hebrews 5:1-10, we go back to Hebrews 4:14-16.
With the similarities and differences between “every high priest” and the “Great High Priest” in mind, what does that have to do with us?
Hebrews 4:14 answers that question. “Seeing then that we have a Great High Priest… let us…” do two things.
1. “Let us hold fast our profession.” (4:14).
2. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace…” (4:16).
“Let us hold fast our profession” is similar to the caution not to “neglect so great salvation.” (Hebrews 2:3) Because of the price paid by the Great High Priest, don’t neglect such “great salvation” but instead, “hold fast” to your profession of it.
Additionally, verse 14 reminds us again that Jesus is the Son of God, and reminds us of His resurrection and ascension when it uses the phrase “that is passed into the heavens.” (vs 14) With all that in mind, we then “hold fast our profession.”
In verse 15 we are comforted that Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
Verse 15 gives us the basis of our profession. A major difference between an earthly high priest and the Great High Priest is that Jesus was “without sin.” Human? Yes! Sinless? Yes!
This fact is what qualifies Jesus to be the sinless substitute for sinners such as us. Jesus’ sinless sacrifice on the cross is what propitiated the wrath of God against sinners and therefore provides access for sinners into God’s “throne of grace.”
Our Great High Priest has compassion on the “ignorant” and the wayward (Hebrews 5:2) because He knows our weaknesses and temptations, yet in Him is victory, because He was “without sin.”
With that understanding, “let us hold fast our profession,” but also, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace…”
Because of Christ, redeemed sinners have access to God. But also, as we face adversity in this life, we call out to Him for help because He has been through it all. Who better to provide help than someone who has experienced what you're going through?
Because of the compassionate Christ, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (vs 16)
Luke 17:11-19 perfectly illustrates the difference between an earthly priest, and the Great High Priest. If you take time to read that passage, you will notice that 10 lepers cried out to Jesus for mercy.
Jesus instructs them to, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” Part of the job of the priest was to identify the presence of leprosy or declare its absence. The responsibility of the priest is to say, “Yes! There has been a transformation here” or not.
The priest himself could not bring cleansing or restoration, only identify it. But, Christ, the Great High Priest, is the One that can both heal the body, and redeem the soul. One of the 10 lepers “fell down on his face… giving (Jesus) thanks.” (Luke 17:16)
As a result of this Samaritan leper’s faith, he was cleaned physically and made whole spiritually by the Great High Priest. (Luke 17:19)
This leper appealed to the compassionate Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus. He appealed to the One who has been “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” (Hebrews 4:14)
This leper came “boldly unto the throne of grace” and he “obtained mercy, and found grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
One prayer request that God always answers in the affirmative is a penitent petition for mercy. When a person prays for mercy on their everlasting soul, God will always graciously say “Yes,” because of the sacrificial and substitutionary work of the Great High Priest.
Jesus is the reason sinners have access to the throne of grace. Christian REJOICE!
The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the Pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Tuesday, we publish fresh content. Check back next Tuesday to read the next SFL article.