The other night, my She Reads Truth Bible reading plan had me in Hebrews, specifically the following verses from chapter 4:
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 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. Hebrews 4:14-16
It’s a relatively common verse among Christian circles, highlighting the humanity of the Savior and the encouragement to draw near to what is described as the Throne of Grace. Yet, as I approached this passage, acutely aware of my shortcomings that day, something struck a different chord in my heart.
This passage mentions that Jesus was tempted in every way but never sinned. It goes on to give us a prescription for our lives based on this truth. We can’t miss the significance of this pretense, which is perhaps more easily done by looking at what this passage does not say. This passage could offer condemnation. It wouldn’t just be fitting but completely justified; Jesus was temped and yet remained sinless, so we too should strive for the same.
Therefore, run from sin. Pursue righteousness like Christ. Strive towards holiness. Be better, try harder. If He can do it, so can you, right? After all, His very Spirit indwells us. At the very least, the Author would be justified in telling us to try – 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. Let us then . . . strive towards the same perfection that was demonstrated in Christ.
Maybe that would be the American version, and perhaps more terrifying, the version we often preach to ourselves. Yet this verse offers nothing of the sort. After describing the sinlessness of Christ, we don’t get condemnation or conviction; we see grace. We aren’t told that we need to approach the Throne to receive assistance in our obedience; we, with confidence, approach the throne of God Almighty to to receive grace and mercy.
What is this, that our holy, perfect, omnipotent, Creator and Sustainer God
who became incarnate and lived among us
tempted and tried in every way
gives us, not only permission,
but a confidence to approach Him
for unmerited, unearned, pervasive, infinite grace?
Christ’s sinlessness leads us to grace, not a litmus test by which we must face scrutiny and failure in measuring up to. Yes, grace is active and we must holistically engage with our ongoing sanctification. Yet, how often do I reject the Throne of Grace, in favor of approaching some self-sufficient standard of goodness that I’ll never ultimately measure up to?
The question I ask myself in this is: am I clinging to grace with the same authority that this passage describes it as having? Or do I find myself more concerned with judging myself by some impossible standard of holiness and obedience (often one that I’ve created myself or perceive others as having created for me) that I’m striving to measure up to? What would change if I approached the Throne of Grace, instead of my throne of self-righteousness?