Hebrews 4:14-16


The theme of Hebrews can be summarized in a single statement and that statement is "the high priesthood of Jesus Christ."  This is the only book in the Bible that refers to Jesus directly as our high priest.  John MacArthur points out that throughout this letter the high priesthood of Jesus is stressed...for example--

·         In chapter 1 Jesus is portrayed as fulfilling the priestly function of making "purification of sins"...

·         In chapter 2 Jesus is called "a merciful and faithful high priest"  

·         In chapter 3 He is called "the Apostle and High priest of our confession" 

·         In chapter 4 He is described as "a great high priest" 

·         In chapter 6 as "a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" 

·         In chapters 7, 8, & 9 the focus is almost exclusively on the high priesthood of Jesus


Based on that, it's quite obvious can't really understand the book of Hebrews unless understand something about the role of the priest in Jewish life.  While priests had more than one function, their basic function was to serve as mediators between people and God.

·         It was through priests the people spoke to God‑‑offering sacrifices for their sins. 

·         Also, it was through priests that God spoke to the people‑‑sharing his word with them.

So for a priest to function properly, that person had to be in touch with both God and people.


The thrust of this passage is that Jesus is uniquely qualified to serve as a priest between God and man. Essentially that is true because of His nature—He is fully God and He is fully human.  The title the writer uses in the middle of verse 14, “Jesus the Son of God,” emphasizes both aspects of His nature.

·         Jesus – This is His human name and it was not an unusual name for a Jewish male in the 1st century world, much the same way the name is often assigned to males in the Hispanic culture of today.  The Hebrew form of this name is Joshua.  The word Jesus or Joshua is a combination of two Hebrew nouns: (1) YHWH and (2) salvation. The significance is captured in Matt. 1:21. It is possible that this is a typological play on Jesus as the new Joshua. Their names are exactly the same in Hebrew. The author of Hebrews alludes to the Exodus material extensively. As Joshua brought God’s people into the rest of the Promised Land, so too, will Jesus bring them into heaven.[1] In using this name the writer is reminding us of the humanity of Jesus.  He is uniquely qualified to be our priest because He is one of us!

·         Son of God – This is His divine name. This is a reminder that Jesus was more than merely a man.  He was God incarnate, God in the flesh.  This also makes Him uniquely qualified to serve as our priest.  He has access to God that no-one else could possibly have.

This is why from the earliest days of the church there has been a strong emphasis on both aspects of Jesus’ nature.  We must not minimize either side of His nature—the human side or the divine side.  They are both critical for His role as our high priest.  (see John 1:1, 14 and Mark 1:1)


Notice what Jesus, the God/man, has done for us:

·         On the one hand, He is in touch with God.  The phrase "has passed through the heavens" in verse 14 is packed with meaning.

o   The verb is in the perfect tense which indicates an action completed in the past with continuing consequences.  Literally, “He has passed through the heavens with the present result that He is in heaven.”[2]

o   The plural “heavens” may seem strange to us.  There has been much discussion by the rabbis as to whether there are three or seven heavens (cf. Eph. 4:10; 2 Cor. 12:2). [3] The most common view is that there were three heavens—the atmosphere of the earth, outer space (planets, stars, etc), and the abode of God.  The idea of passing through may be that Jesus went to the furthest heaven, the very presence of God.

o   The main thing to see in this phrase is beautiful picture that the readers of Hebrews would have immediately understood.  Once year on Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the high priest would pass beyond veil separating holiest place in temple from other areas.  There, in the holy of holies, the high priest would offer sacrifices for sins of people.  But Jesus has done much more than that:

§  Instead of merely going behind veil of the Temple, Jesus passed through heavens into very presence of God. 

§  Instead offering sacrifices from the blood of animals, Jesus became the sacrifice, offering His own blood for the sins of the world. 

§  Instead of doing the priestly work and then leaving the holy place, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God...

            Our high priest is the Son of God, God incarnate, God in the flesh.  No-one could be more in touch with God than that!


·         On the other hand, Jesus is in touch with us.  Look at v.15..."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."  Jesus became flesh, took on human form, and came to our world, walked our shoes, and experienced life as we experience it. 

o   "sympathize" (be touched with feeling) - The word in the Greek is sunpatheo (συνπαθεο). The word patheo (παθεο) comes from pascho (πασχο) which means “to suffer.” The prefixed preposition means “with.” The compound word means “to suffer with” another person, thus to sympathize with him to the extent of entering into his experience and feeling his heartache yourself. The use of the word here means more than a knowledge of human infirmity. It points to a knowledge that has in it a feeling for the other person by reason of a common experience with that person. Our Lord’s appreciation of our infirmities is an experiential one, based upon the fact that He was tempted like we are.[4] 

o   “weaknesses” – Simply means the human condition.  Refers to our spiritual and physical frailties that make us vulnerable to temptation.

o   “tempted” – There are two Greek words used to convey the idea of testing someone for a purpose.  Dokimazo carries idea of testing for genuineness as in the testing of a metal for purity.  In the NT this term is used in a positive sense of being tested to prove and/or strengthen our faith (see James 1:3).  The other word, pierazo, carries the idea of testing to destroy or bring down someone.  It is used of the temptation of Jesus and of Satan’s tempting believers to disobey God.  That is the word used here.  Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted by Satan.

o   “without sin” choris hamartia – Though He was tempted as we are, He was completely free of sin.  There was not a taint of sin in Him!

Jesus is one with God and one with us.  Therefore, there is no‑one is better qualified to be our high priest, to accomplish our salvation than Jesus.  He is the God/man, uniquely qualified to bring God and people together again...


As a result of all that, we are to do two things:


·         "hold fast our confession"

o   “hold fast” – This exact phrase is used four times in Hebrews. The phrase carries the idea of clinging tenaciously to something.  Refusing to let go.  The verb is in present tense, denoting continuous action.

o   “confession” – We saw this word in Hebrews 3:1.  It is homologia which is a compound word made up of “the same” and “to say.”  The same thing that believers say about Jesus is that He is Lord.  Our confession is our confession of faith in Jesus as Lord.

The idea is that commitment to Jesus Christ as the great high priest who accomplishes our salvation is not just one time act.  It is a continuing process. We are to keep on holding fast, to keep on clinging tenaciously to Jesus as our high priest.  We must balance our initial decision (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9–13) with ongoing discipleship (cf. Matt. 28:19–20; Eph. 2:10). Both are crucial! [5]

·         draw near with confidence to the throne of grace..."

o   "throne of grace" is synonymous with presence of God.  What remarkable difference expressed here between Christianity and Judaism.  In Judaism only high priest would enter presence of God and then only once year.  In Christianity, because of the high priesthood of Jesus, every believer encouraged to draw near God with confidence and boldness. 

o   And want you notice in v.16 purpose of drawing near  is twofold:

§  First, that "we may receive mercy" That is, that we may receive forgiveness for our sinfulness.  The greatest single need any of us have is the need for forgiveness of sin and right relationship with God. 

§  Second, that "we may find grace to help in time of need" The second greatest need any of us have is the need for strength, direction, God's presence to make it through life day after day.

And as we draw near to God through Jesus Christ, both of these needs are met.


1.   The letter of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians undergoing severe persecution because of their faith in Christ.  In the face of such persecution, some of them were being tempted renounce faith in Christ and seek salvation in Judaism.  In this passage sthe writer reminds them that there is no need to return to religious system emphasizing earthly priest when have in Christ completely sufficient high priest.

2.   The Bible says in Colossians that "In Jesus is all of God in a human form and you have everything you need when you have Christ." Basically that is what Hebrews 4:14-16 is saying.  We have no need which is not met in our great high priest.

[1] Utley, R. J. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (48). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[2] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Heb 4:14). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[3] Utley, R. J. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (48). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[4] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Heb 4:15). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[5] Utley, R. J. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (48). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.