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Good Friday: An Invitation to Salvation

Hebrews 4:14-16 April 18, 2014 80-415

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We’re so happy to welcome all of you here on this Good Friday, and that includes those who may be visiting with us.  We’re honored to have you here.  This is a little taste of what we enjoy on the Lord’s Day every week of music and fellowship.  And in a moment the opening of the Word of God before we come to the Lord’s Table.  We’re so happy for guests who have come to be with us.  We hope you feel welcomed and at home.  We’re really delighted to have you here.

The best thing about Grace Community Church is the people who are the church, and the church isn’t a building, it’s people, people who love the Lord Jesus Christ and endeavor to honor Him, and obey Him, and spread His gospel.  So we welcome you tonight.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t extend an invitation to all of you for Sunday, 7:00 AM, 8:30, and 10:30, three services.  And we’ll be looking at the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and it’s been a few years since we actually looked at the account of the resurrection in Matthew.  So we’re going to do that on Sunday morning.

But for tonight, as we prepare our hearts for time around the Lord’s Table, I want you to open your Bible, if you will, to Hebrews 4:14-16.  No matter how many times I have preached through the years on the cross and on the sacrifice of Christ and at the Lord’s Table and on Good Fridays and many, many other occasions, I have found the Scripture to be an inexhaustible treasure of truth related to the sacrifice of our Savior.  It is, of course, the theme of all of Scripture, and so it’s found in many ways in many places.

But I want you to look at just three verses at the end of the fourth chapter of Hebrews.  And I want to read them to you, Hebrews 4:14-16.  “Therefore, since 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

For the first part of our service, obviously, we considered the cross.  Our music tonight was an invitation to look at the cross.  There certainly was in that music pathos, and sympathy, and even heartbreak for those of us who understand the agonies of our Savior on the cross.  But Good Friday is more than an invitation to sympathy.  It’s more than an invitation to view the past.  Good Friday should be viewed as an invitation to salvation, an invitation to salvation.

Really, every time we meet together and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, that in itself becomes an invitation to salvation, the forgiveness of sin, escape from divine judgment, eternal punishment, and the gift of everlasting life in the glories of heaven.  The crucial reality in looking at the cross is not simply to see the physical features of the cross, the things that were going on around it, as important and significant as they are.  The important thing to see when you look at the cross is the spiritual significance of it, and that’s exactly what this passage helps us to do.  This passage is not an invitation to just look at the event.  It’s an invitation to look at Christ Himself and what he was accomplishing there.

The invitation is two-fold.  You will notice in verse 14 the end of the verse says, “let us hold fast our confession.”  And then at the beginning of verse 16, “let us draw near with confidence.”  Two clear commandments - really, invitations.  One, “let us hold fast our confession.”  Two, “Let us draw near with confidence.”  Holding fast to your confession assumes a statement of trust in Christ.  You’ve made a confession.

The Scripture says if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, you’ll be saved.  If you’ve made a confession, the invitation here is to cling to that confession, to hold onto that confession.  That’s grabbing the past.

The second invitation is to “draw near with confidence.”  And that indicates moving ahead to the future.  Well, what is this talking about?  This is looking at someone who’s been convinced of the truth of the Gospel and to some degree confessed its integrity, its validity, its accuracy.  But hasn’t come all the way to full faith in Christ.

This is that most dangerous of all places to be: caught in the middle, convinced it’s true.  Perhaps you’ve even affirmed that it’s true, that Jesus is who he said he was and he died the death that Scripture says he died, and rose from the dead.  And you don’t dispute that.  You don’t deny that.  You’ve affirmed that confession.  Don’t let go of it, keep going.  “Draw near with confidence.”

The same language is used in the tenth chapter of Hebrews.  It’s identical, in fact, only it’s in reverse.  Verse 22, “Let us draw near.”  “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”  “Drawing near” means coming all the way to full faith.  And then verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession without wavering.”

This becomes a pattern in the book of Hebrews, this kind of instruction and warning.  Hebrews 10:38, “my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.  But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”  It’s the same thing.

That really is what the book of Hebrews is about.  And in chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, chapter six, all the way through chapter ten.  “Come all the way to Christ, come all the way to Christ, come all the way to Christ.  Don’t stop.”

And in these little verses that I read to you, just this brief passage, there are three reasons why to hold onto your confession and come all the way to Christ, three reasons why.  And they relate, really to one reason.  And that is because of what we read in verse 14.  “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”  That’s the very same reason why we are to “draw near with confidence,” because of Him, called “The One” in verse 15.

Why?  Why come all the way?  Why hold fast to that confession and draw fully near?  Because of Jesus the Son of God.  He’s the reason to hold fast.  He’s the reason to draw near.  He has no parallel.  He has no equal.  He has no competition.  There is no match for him.  The whole book of Hebrews is designed to illustrate the absolute superiority of Jesus the Son of God.

All through this book, we are told he is better than the prophets.  He is better than the patriarchs.  He is better than the most noble of all Old Testament leaders.  He is better than the priests.  He is better than the angels.  He is better than everyone.  He has no parallel.  He has no equal.  And no one can provide and offer what he offers.  He offers to us a better sacrifice, a better covenant, with better promises.  That’s the book of Hebrews.  He offers to us a relationship with God that is everlasting and joyful.

Christianity is about Jesus Christ.  It’s about Jesus Christ.  Christianity is not ethics.  It is not morals.  It is not virtues.  It is Christ.  We would never say to someone, “Become a Christian for its ethical value.  Become a Christian for its moral value.  Become a Christian for its virtues.  Become a Christian because you can hang around some nice people.  Become a Christian because we’re charitable and you’ll be a part of something bigger than yourself to make a difference in the world.”

There’s only one reason to become a Christian and that is to embrace Jesus Christ.  Many religions can offer ethical improvement, moral improvement, virtue, charity.  But only Jesus Christ offers salvation.  There’s no one else who does.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he said, “No one comes to the Father but by me.”

So the writer of Hebrews is saying to us, “Draw near.  Come all the way.  Don’t shrink back.  Don’t let go of the confession you’ve made.  Come all the way to Christ because he alone offers salvation.  There is no salvation in any other.  Sinners require a savior.  Sinners require a mediator.  Sinners require a priest who can actually bring them to God, a reconciler who can join sinful man and holy God and bring them together.  There’s only one mediator between God and man, and that’s Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is the only mediator.  He is the unequaled mediator.  He is the only reconciler because – and I’ll give you three points – he is the perfect priest.  He is the perfect priest.  In verse 14, “we have a great high priest,” a great high priest.  What do you mean, “a great high priest”?  Unmatched, unparalleled, superior, perfect, flawless, transcending all other priests.  And there were tens of thousands of priests in Judaism in the Old Testament.  There were many, many high priests.  But there’s only one “great high priest.”

What sets him apart?  Please notice verse 14, “a great high priest who has passed through the heavens.”  That is absolutely one of the most important statements made in the book of Hebrews.  Every priest in the economy of Israel passed through something.  They passed through a sequence of areas, every priest.

All earthly priests passed through certain barriers, through certain curtains, whether it was in the tabernacle or the temple, or whatever temple was built at whatever time in Israel’s history.  They passed through certain areas to finally arrive in the presence of God, the symbolic presence of God in the holy of holies.

So all the earthly high priests who went into the holy of holies entered only once a year and had to sprinkle the blood and leave immediately on the penalty of death.  So they passed into a tabernacle made by men on earth.  They passed into the holy of holies in that tabernacle or in a temple constructed by men, which was symbolic of the presence of God.  But the earthly high priests never got beyond the earthly temple.

They went through three areas.  They started in the court where sacrifices were made.  Then they went into the holy place.  And then they went into the holy of holies.  So there were three barriers, three areas.  The high priest couldn’t go into the holy of holies until he had offered a sacrifice for his own sins, which speaks of the reason why he had to get out of the presence of God as fast as he got in there.  After sprinkling the blood, he left out immediately.  There was no chair.  There was no bench.  There was nowhere to sit.

But the great high priest, he didn’t pass through a curtain in a tent.  He didn’t pass through a curtain in a building.  He passed through the heavens, plural.  The first heaven, the atmospheric heaven.  The second heaven, the stellar heaven.  The third heaven, the eternal abode of God.  And our Lord Jesus Christ, the great high priest, went through the atmospheric heavens, through the stellar heavens, into the eternal abode of God, presented his own blood shed on the cross to sprinkle on the heavenly mercy seat - according to Hebrews 12:24 - and he then did what no priest ever has done.  He sat down.  And he’s still there.  He’s still there in the presence of God.  He offered a sacrifice before he went in, but not for himself, but for us.  He did what no priest had ever done.  He stayed not in the symbolic presence of God, but in the real presence of God in the glory of heaven.

The book of Hebrews makes much of this.  Hebrews 1:3, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  7:25, “He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens.”

Hebrews 8:1, “The main point in what has been said is this: we have a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high.”  9:12, “Not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

And then 9:24, “He did not appear in a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”  It wasn’t that “He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own.” Verse 28, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sin of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

Hebrews makes much of him finishing his work sitting down.  Hebrews 10:12, “He, offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of god.”  He sat down.  “Fix - ” says 12:2 “ - your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Back to chapter four.

So you see many times through the book of Hebrews, the emphasis is made on the completion of his work.  It was done.  Nobody needed to do it again.  And he was a fully acceptable priest who entered into the heavens.  He passed through the heavens.  That’s what verse 14 is saying.  He was the perfect priest who passed though the heavens and took His own blood, as it were, into the very holy of holies in heaven itself and brought satisfaction to God, and stayed there to ever live and intercede for his own.

Why hold onto your confession?  Why draw near in full faith?  Because there’s only one Christ, only one perfect priest.

Secondly, he was a perfect priest because He was a perfect person.  He was a perfect priest because He was the perfect person.  Look again at verse 15.  “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”  That constitutes the perfect high priest.  As man, he fully sympathizes with our weakness.  As God, he is free from sin.  Both of those realities are tied into the very name: Jesus, his human name; Son of God, his divine identity.

So the countless gallons of blood that ran all over the temple altars for centuries, the sprinkled blood that stained the mercy seat year after year could not take away sin because it was animal blood.  The great high priest as man shed his own blood for man, and as God triumphed in the midst of the wrath of God came gloriously out of the grave.  Redemption accomplished, took his seat.

As man, he can sympathize with our weakness.  He’s able to understand us.  In fact, he has sympathy for us.  That’s “sympathy,” a very, very Anglicized word.  Sumpatheō, from which we get “pathetic,” “pathos.”  Sum meaning “together with.”  “To feel pathos with.”

He came into this world as a man and he suffered all the things that humans suffer except sin, sin.  Could you be tempted without sinning?  Yes.  We are.  You’re supposed to be tempted without sinning, right?  And he was.  He had to be a man to die in our place, to have full sympathy.  And he had to be God in the midst of all of that suffering to never sin.  So the sinless, spotless, without blemish sacrifice is also the perfect priest.

“Hold onto your confidence, draw near,” because he’s the perfect priest, because he’s the perfect person.  And then finally the perfect priest who is the perfect person made the perfect provision in verse 16.  “Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  If you want to do an interesting study of Scripture, go into the Old Testament.  You can go all the way back in the Old Testament.

Places like Psalm 89 say, where it says, “Righteousness and justice - ” speaking to God “ - are the foundation of Your throne.”  “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.”  You can go back to Ezekiel chapter 1, and you will see fury and judgment and fiery wrath being stirred up at the throne of God about to be unleashed on men.

Go to the book of Revelation.  Go to Revelation chapter 4 and see a vision of the throne of God in Revelation 4 very much like Ezekiel 1.  Go to the great white throne at the end of the book of Revelation.  You’ll find a throne of judgment, a throne of justice, a throne of wrath.

The blood of animals could not pacify the wrath of God, could not satisfy his justice.  The blood of animals could not change a judgment throne.  But because of what the perfect priest who is the perfect person did, you notice in verse 16 that we draw near not to a throne of justice, not to a throne of judgment, but to a throne of what?  Of grace.  He transformed the throne of God.  And where we go, and what we receive when we go there is “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”

“Draw near with parrēsia.”  That means that word, “confidence, absence of fear, absence of fear.”  That we don’t have to worry about what we say.  Say anything.  It’s also a word that means “openness of speech, freedom of speech, freedom to speak.”  We can now go into the holy of holies.  We can go into the presence of God anytime we want and say whatever is on our hearts without any fear.  We who are in Christ.

All we will ever find at the throne of God is grace.  All we will ever find is mercy because Jesus paid in full for our sins, our iniquities, and our transgressions.  Hold onto your confession.  Come all the way to Christ, the perfect priest because he’s the perfect person who made the perfect provision.

Our Father, we ask that as we come tonight to think again about the cross and about what You have provided in the sacrifice of Your Son, we might first of all examine ourselves to see whether we’re in the faith, whether we are in that halfway ground or whether we’ve come all the way, all the way to fully embrace Christ as Lord and Savior.  I pray for those who may be being tempted to fall back to destruction.  Bring them all the way to your Son, Jesus the Son of God.

We thank you for His mighty work on the cross.  We thank you that he passed through the heavens into your eternal abode, having offered His blood as a fitting sacrifice.  He was accepted.  He was exalted.  He was enthroned.  And He sat down at your right hand, the majesty on high forever glorified, forever exalted and honored, the final sacrifice ever to be made.

Lord, I just pray for all who are here not to walk away from this singular provision of reconciliation with you through the one mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.  For those of us who are believers, may our hearts be refreshed tonight in looking again at these most beloved of all truths that fill our hearts with joy and hope.