“(Heb 4:14-16) Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Most scholars believe The Apostle Paul is the writer of the letter to the Hebrews; and here we see that Paul says grace can be found when needed.
However, our access to this grace is based on the character of the one who sets on the throne; as well as, our comprehension of what kind of High Priest we have in Jesus. How well we comprehend the character of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will dictate the confidence we have towards our approach and access to God in prayer.
One of the things most teachers of the word of God point out when it comes to our confidence in accessing God in a time of need, is Paul’s statement where he uses double negatives to declare the character of Jesus as our High Priest, “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”
Many will compare it to the mathematical rule; which when multiplying two negative the end result is positive and how it works much the same way in literature, (where two negatives cancels out the negative position.)
Therefore they read the statement like this, “For we do have a high priest which can be touched by our infirmities”. This means he understands our situation, because he too was flesh like us, but without sin; or that he is able to feel compassion for us in our situations.
Although this way of looking at this statement is not wrong; it’s not really the point that Paul is trying to make. Rather, Paul wants you to look at what you don’t have, not necessarily what you do have in Jesus as the High Priest before the Heavenly Father.
In a common conversation it is incorrect to use double negatives. In fact, most would think you quite ignorant or uneducated and that you lack the ability (skills) to properly communicate within a normal conversation, if you spoke in public using double negatives.
However, though it is incorrect to speak within a casual conversation or to write in standard-writing using double negatives; it was completely acceptable to use double negatives in older literature; especially in poetry, where double and even triple negatives was often used. Also, some languages use multiple negatives; where double, triple and even quadruple negatives can be found.
The purpose these multiple negatives is to emphasize a negative situation. Therefore, Paul is emphasizing what we “do not have” in Christ. So, instead of trying to correct Paul’s grammar, let’s see what kind of High Priest, we “do not have”!
Israel had many high priests over the years; some good and some not so good. However, even the best could be distracted by his own life’s situations; to the point that he may not fully respond to someone else’s need or situation.
Some priests may only see everyone as just another offering, which in turn will fill their belly, (or be mostly beneficial to them)! So maybe, they might be in a round about way happy that everyone does sin; after all; no sin, no offering and no food to put on their table tonight.
The Priest may only see a person as a tithe; not really caring for the person himself, but only caring for what he the priest can get from that particular person to benefit himself.
There could be many reasons why even the best high priest could not be touched by the person’s infirmities. Maybe this is the person’s one-hundredth sin offering, for the very same reason; whereby the priest is wearied from the continual coming of this person for the very same fault; or maybe he was the four-hundredth person the Priest has seen today and it’s not even lunch time yet and the priest is worn out by all of the laboring that is required by his position. Maybe his best friend just died and he can’t think about anything else; no matter how important your situation is, he just can’t focus on you.
Remember, you would be only one person of a whole nation of people who may be coming to him.
Therefore, even the best High Priest may become callused or indifferent to the people’s infirmities, as he himself may be overwhelmed by his office or his own life’s situations.
Therefore, Paul’s usage of double negatives should help us to see what we do not have in Christ; so we can see what we do have. Once we understand this, then we can boldly approach the throne of grace; knowing that Christ is never distracted or wearied by our continual coming to him and we have his full attention every time; he is always waiting for our prayers and ready to answer our needs, which are offered through faith in him. He will never be overwhelmed by his office, nor will he ever neglect his duties, because of his own ambitions or needs.
In many cases, it’s not our sin itself that stands in the way of our boldly entering in before God, but our lack of confidence before God that is created by our sin or weakness. Therefore, we’re not sure if he will even hear us. Our lack of confidence blinds us to what we have in Christ. Sure God is never happy about our sin; but he is always ready to cleanse us when we repent.
Sometimes it not sin that causes the lack of confidence, but a lack of knowledge, or one’s own low self-esteem; we’re not sure that he loves us or that he wants to meet our needs at various times.
This lack of confidence is proof that we don’t know what we do have in Christ as our High Priest; this lack of confidence is due to the fact that we have a false image of Christ in our mind.
So in a round about way, Paul is saying to us, “Any kind of image that will not let you come boldly to acquire the grace you need is false.” Because what we don’t have, is a High Priest that is ever going to turn us away when we approach him in faith, no matter the reason!
Our confidence of this fact is what allows us to boldly come to the Throne of Grace. As long as we turn to him in truth, then there will always be grace in our time of need.
If Christ was going to reject us due to our infirmities, then he would have done it while he was in the flesh; but instead he went to the cross for us. (He came to the earth for this very purpose!)
God did not become flesh (through the incarnation of Christ), then die on the cross, be raised from the dead through Christ’s resurrection, redeem us and now be seated in heaven; only to reject us now. No! He did all of this to make a way for us; he went to the cross for the purpose of giving us access to himself and Jesus is more than willing to be our High Priest before God the Father.
In Heb.2:14-18, we see that Christ took on the “seed of Abraham”; in other words he became flesh that he could experience the temptations that come to those who fear death, yet he never gave into those temptations; but instead he looked joyfully to the cross knowing its end (Heb.12:2).
Therefore his character has been tested and he passed; so he could be qualified to come to the aid of those of us who were tested and failed. This is the rest that we must labor to enter into; he went into the heavenly Holy of Holies and offered his blood once, (Heb.9:12) and now he is seated at the right hand of the Father; which declares the works are completed for our acceptance before God.
Now, by faith we enter that rest with him, knowing that he is for us, not against us and “the scepter of his grace” is extended in our direction, where he is always ready to show us mercy and grace when needed!
Once we remove all the false images of Christ from our mind that would hinder us (or what we don’t have); now we can see clearly what we do have in Christ as our High Priest and Mediator, where we can appear before God unabashed in prayer; all because of who He is and what we have become through faith in Him.
So when you approach God in prayer, don’t be looking for a “Do Not Enter” sign or for reasons that he’s not going to accept you! But enter in boldly and in confidence, knowing that he has prepared the way for you and is ready to hear your prayer.