Hebrews 4:16, “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.”
The author of Hebrews makes an airtight case for the superiority of Christ as our great High Priest. Jesus’ ascension into the heavenlies (4:14) and His sympathy with what we experience (4:15) are the grounds for this superiority. Lest we conclude that Christ’s superiority should make us too afraid to come near His throne, 4:16 exhorts us to draw near to the throne of grace so that we might find mercy and grace to help us when we need it.
This verse was great news for the original audience of this epistle. Remember that in chapters 3 and 4, the author warned them that, just like the original Israelites, they too could forsake the covenant and be cut off from the promise. The original audience was steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures and knew that when God promised punishment, He really meant it (Num. 12:1–16). Knowing that they were in the same position as the generation that never entered the Promised Land certainly caused much fear among them. They would have wondered whether there was anything they could possibly do in order to prevent God from turning His back on them.
In this situation, fear would have made it tempting to avoid Christ. But straying from the covenant King would have led to apostasy. We are not so different from the original audience of this epistle. Though we may not be tempted to return to the old covenant, the heinousness of our sin might cause us to shrink back from Christ. But if we stray from Christ, we will apostasize and thus prove that we never really knew Him.
But our sin and covenant unfaithfulness must not make us stay away from Christ. Instead we must draw near to His throne. Christ has opened up the Holy of Holies to us through His death on the cross. We do not send Aaron into the holy place in our stead anymore. We can go in ourselves if we have been covered by the blood of Christ.
Not only must we draw near to Christ, we must draw near to Him in confidence. This does not mean that we come arrogantly demanding forgiveness as a right. We draw near in confidence not because of our own “rights” but because of the person and work of Christ. We are confident because God, who was not obligated to redeem us, nonetheless promises to forgive us if we submit to Christ. Drawing near in confidence means that we firmly believe God’s promise of grace in Christ.
God’s holiness should indeed cause those who do not know Christ to run far away from Him. Those who know Christ, however, must remember Calvin’s assertion that “when Christ receives us under His protection and patronage, He covers with His goodness the majesty of God … so that nothing appears there but grace and paternal favor.”