Hebrews 4:14, “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.”
Today we return to the book of Hebrews and continue our study in chapter 4. A week ago, we finished a section exhorting Christians to persevere in their faith. We were reminded that our position is not unlike that of the Israelites who left Egypt. Like those Israelites, there are some among us who do not possess saving faith. There are some who will abandon the new covenant and forsake Christ’s rest unless they trust in Him today (3:12–4:7). We were then warned not to harden our hearts against the Lord lest we be counted among the apostates (4:7–11). Hebrews 4:12–13 concluded this warning, reminding us that the true disposition of the heart will be revealed by the power of God’s Word.
Martin Luther said that the power of God’s Word mentioned in 4:12–13 should give us pause. This is because when God’s Word penetrates our hearts, we see that we, in and of ourselves, are unable to persevere in our faith. By ourselves we cannot love Christ enough. By ourselves we cannot trust Christ alone. By ourselves we cannot be faithful to the commands of Christ.
The author is well aware of this fact, and so, in Hebrews 4:14, he comforts us by telling us to hold fast to our confession because of the greatness of Jesus, our High Priest. The power and grace of Christ are hereby exalted in this statement. As such, our confidence in our confession is not to be based on our own ability to keep the faith. Rather, it must be based on the power of Christ who alone can keep us in our faith.
With 4:14, the author of Hebrews begins an extended discussion of the superiority and work of Jesus Christ as our great High Priest. We are told explicitly that Jesus is the “great high priest.” This idea is reinforced by other implicit allusions in the verse. The high priests of the old covenant entered into the holy place by going through the temple curtain. They completed their work of intercession out of the sight of the people. Like them, Jesus passed through the heavens into the heavenly temple of God, through the heavens themselves, and out of sight of the people.
The ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father is what is in view here. It is what makes Jesus greater than any High Priest before Him. Christ, unlike the former high priests, does His work of intercession in the heavenly temple.
The book of Hebrews tells us to hold to our confession of faith not because we are able to do so but because Christ’s power will make us stand firm. We cannot trust in our ability to work up faith in ourselves, but rather we can only receive it as a gracious gift of God. Ask the Lord to grant you greater faith and for a heart to receive it.