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Hebrews 4:14-16 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:58 mins 12 secs

Hebrews Lesson 38    December 22, 2005

NKJ Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Hebrews 4

We are wrapping up this section of Hebrews which began in 2:5 down through the end of chapter 4, 4:16. The last part from 3:7 to 4:16 is a warning passage. Hebrews is constructed around these warning passages that drive home the application from the didactic sections. Each one of these 5 warning passages that you get in Hebrews is built around a didactic section that teaches something, brings out some points from the Old Testament text and the life of Christ. Then you get this point driven home in terms of a serious warning to the believer, a challenge that we need to do something. It is not just a matter of learning interesting data about the priesthood of Christ or the ascension or something like that. This has moment-by-moment relevance to every believer's life. 


Furthermore what we see in the development of the Hebrews (so you can read it with a little more intelligence) is that as you go through a section certain ideas and themes are brought out usually in the didactic section, usually with a warning. Then that theme is pulled out and expanded in the next section. So there is a development of the basic themes of the epistle down through the chapters.  So as we see in this section in Hebrews 2:5, we started talking about the fact that God the Father did not put the world to come (that is the future Millennial Kingdom of which we speak) in subjection to angels. 


Then there was a quote from Psalm 8:4-6 talking about the fact that it is Jesus Christ as the Son of Man and the fact that He is true humanity that is the one to whom the future kingdom will be given. His qualification to rule and to reign is related to His suffering and coming to the earth and the mission during the First Advent to go to the cross and die as a substitute for us on the cross. Part of that was to bring many sons to glory. That doesn't just end in the concept we have of justification and ending up in heaven. It is the idea that He is preparing us for our future destiny to rule and reign with Him as priests and kings. In order to fulfill that we are told that He went through a process in His humanity where He suffers, He goes through adversity and He was tested so that He can demonstrate how a human being is to handle problems, adversities, and difficulties in life. In contrast to Adam who failed, Jesus Christ as the Second Adam succeeds. Therefore we were told in 2:17. 


NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.


He had to be made like us in order to be a faithful high priest. This then leads to the challenge that begins in 3:7. 


NKJ Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice,


We are to use the faith rest drill so that we will be prepared to enter that future rest as those who rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ unlike the Exodus generation that failed. That's the analogy that was at the core of the entire section from 3:7 through 4:10.  Starting in 4:11 we see a series of applications indicated by the phrase "therefore". 


NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.


That's what we studied last time that in light of all that has proceeded we must be diligent and work hard. We must be alert and vigilant in order to make sure that we enter the rest – entering the rest is not equivalent to entering heaven. Entering the rest, God's rest, is entering the Millennial Kingdom as one who is honored and rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ and is prepared to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ.


Then we see in that context verse 12 that it's the Word of God that is living and powerful. The Word of God is used by the Holy Spirit to expose the arrogant agenda in our souls and our arrogant human viewpoint so that we can replace the human viewpoint with divine viewpoint. Only by doing that does it build the character and integrity and capacity so that we can rule and reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. Then we come to the conclusion to the section in verse 14. That is where we start this evening. 


As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we have to recognize that we are not guaranteed that because we are Christians it is going to be a life ease and a life of happiness without sorrow, difficulty, pain and adversity. In fact if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ trying to grow anywhere in the Christian life, then what is going to happen is you will find yourself in the vortex of the angelic conflict. You are going to find yourself at a place where it seems like all hell is trying to break lose around you. No matter what you try to do it always seems to be very difficult. People look at you and wonder what in the world is going on. I have always noticed that when it comes to computers and travel. No matter what can go wrong it will go wrong and it will go wrong in spades. 


We just went through this process of closing on our house and getting ready to move. My realtor made the comment that he had never had such a difficult closing. It's too bad he didn't understand the angelic conflict because I could make it clear to him. That is what happens sometimes. The Lord allows us to be tested and examined. We go through adversity in order to be examined and to demonstrate what we have learned in the Christian life. 


So we have to rely upon the resources that God has given us. He has given us tremendous resources. The whole idea is for us to learn to rely on those resources. This leads to the doctrine of sufficiency in Scripture. Sufficiency means that what God has supplied is enough. You don't need anything else. You don't need to take the Bible and add something to it. 


Often I am reminded of the conflict that frequently occurs in churches between those who believe in the sufficiency of Scripture and those who believe in psychology. What in the world would Christians do to handle problems in their lives – marital problems, family problems, economic problems and whatever they were - before Freud came along? All of a sudden in the late 1800's and into the 1900's Christians got enamored with psychology that the Bible is nice "but now we understand the dynamics of personality and interaction and behavior so now we can really solve our problems." Too bad that all those Christians for 1800 years didn't know that before so that they could have happiness in their lives. So they had to wait for Freud or any other of the psychological theorists to come along before they could have real happiness. The Bible says that the Word of God is sufficient. We have the sufficiency of the Word of God. We don't need to know anything else. So God's Word has given us everything we need to know so that we can handle the problems and issues of life. 


The problem for most Christians is they don't think deeply enough about the Word of God to be able to addresses the problems in their life. Actually they don't think deeply about two things. They don't think deeply about the problems in their lives and how they originate from the old sin nature and secondly they don't think deeply about the Word of God to see how it applies to their issue, their problems, and their difficulties. I hate that word issues. It is such a postmodern way to avoid the question of problems. 


The other day I was watching a news report and they were running a ticker tape across the bottom. There was an airplane that came in and had to make an emergency landing out of JFK. I am reading about it on the ticker tape as it went across the bottom of the screen. It said that this airplane had landing gear issues. I thought, "Oh my!"


We have problems in this world. We can't escape them. We live in a fallen world. We have the sufficiency of God's Word. It gives us all the information we need to know to handle the problems. Not all of the information we would like to have sometimes and not all the information we like to speculate on, but it gives us everything we need to know to handle whatever faces us. 


We have the sufficiency of grace. God in His kindness has given to us everything we need to know. It is not based on who we are or what we have done. It is based on His character, on His goodness, and on His kindness. 


Third, we have the sufficiency of the cross. The sufficiency of the cross is that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for every single sin in human history. That negates the whole problem of guilt, which is what motivates so many people. They are just trying to deal with the guilt over something they did wrong or something that happened to them that they feel guilty about. So we have the sufficiency of the cross. 


Fourth we have the sufficiency of the God the Holy Spirit.  If we are walking by means of the Holy Spirit, then God the Holy Spirit plus the Word of God is going to produce in us spiritual growth and we will experience that abundant life that Jesus promised. The foundation is in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and His example or precedent that He set during the First Advent.  That is the backdrop in understanding these last 3 verses in Hebrews 4. 


NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that 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 command. That is the main idea there. There is a foundation to it that is given in the first clause; but the mandate, the punch, in verse 14 is that we are to hold fast our confession. Holding fast to our confession is predicated upon something. That is what is given with the participle at beginning in verse 14. It is a conclusion. It should be translated a little stronger than the word "then" of the New King James. It should be translated like the New American Standard has it, "therefore". 


NAS 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.


It begins to capture the sense of this participle that begins the phrase in the Greek. It is an adverbial participle of cause. So we are to understand it to say, "Therefore because of something". The "therefore" really comes with a command. 


But, there is something that comes between the "therefore" and the command. It's because of something. - because of a reality.  Because we have a High Priest in the heavenlies who is standing there interceding for us who represents us to God the Father. He has made a complete, finished sacrifice for our sins. Because of all of that we have an incumbent responsibility that is to hold fast to our confession. 


So we look at the foundation for the command. That is the high priestly work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a lot said in Hebrews about the high priestly work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We've barely had an introduction to it. It really gets developed in the next chapter. In some ways what we are getting ready to go through is an introduction to the first part of the next chapter. As I said earlier when you look at these sections they will bring in a few themes. Then the next section unpacks those themes. 


That leads to the next development. What we have learned already is that Jesus Christ had to be made exactly like His brethren. He had to be made in true humanity. I want you to notice Hebrews 2:17.


NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.


In order for Him to be a merciful and faithful high priest, He had to be made like His brethren. What is the presupposition of that verse? The presupposition of that verse is that Jesus was fully God. He is the Son of God. He is already the eternal Second Person of the trinity, but He had to become like us. It is not assuming that He was human and became divine. It is assuming that He was already eternal God and He had to become human. It assumes the reality of the deity of Christ. The deity of Christ is not some doctrine that the early church fathers cobbled together in the 3rd and 4th centuries in order to make the Bible mean something in order to juxtapose Jesus to Caesar or anything like that. It was already there. The very assumption from the beginning was that Jesus was who He claimed to be - the eternal Second Person of the trinity who became flesh. He is called Emmanuel. 


It is a term you often hear in Christmas carols and Christmas hymns. Few people today understand that the term Emmanuel means "God is with us." This is one of the titles for Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh. So He didn't tack on deity. His deity tacked on or added humanity. So He had to be made like us in order to fulfill the purpose and all of the objectives in the First Advent. The primary objective was to provide propitiation, atonement for sin. One of the secondary objectives was to establish the basis for the Christian life in the Church Age. This is what is seen in verse 18.


NKJ Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.


The idea is the Jesus Christ went through every category of adversity as we will see in our passage. These two verses Hebrews 2:17-18 become the backdrop for understanding the last three verses of chapter 4. They both come at the conclusion of the two internal sections of this division of 2:5 through the end of 4. So He has suffered. He has gone through adversity. In that adversity He was tested. Of course we know of the three testings in the wilderness. But beyond that, there were other situations and circumstances in His life where He was tested whether He would trust the Lord or not. We will see that as we get into our passage. 


First of all, He had to be made exactly like His brethren. He had to become true genuine humanity. He didn't just look like a human.  He wasn't just some phantasm that floated through space. He didn't just take on the façade of humanity. He had to become true genuine humanity. As true humanity we learn from these verses that Jesus Christ went through every category of adversity. It wasn't just some wraith. 


That is what the Gnostics said. They were also called docetics. That may be a new word for some of you. It is based on Greek word dokeo. It means it seemed to be there. He wasn't actually a human he just seemed to be a human. He was just a phantasm. They didn't really nail a body to the cross. It was a divine deception. That is what the Gnostics said because God couldn't die. God couldn't become associated with anything material because that would destroy His deity. So they rejected the true humanity of Jesus Christ. But what the Bible teaches is that Jesus had to go through every category of adversity in human experience in order to demonstrate certain things. When He went through those circumstances He experienced in His humanity all the mental and emotional things that go along with that. He experienced the thoughts and emotions that we experience. That made Him true humanity. But He didn't sin in the process. So we learn the Jesus Christ in His humanity set the standard, the precedent for the Christian life of the Church Age. 


The Church Age spiritual life is not based on the Old Testament Mosaic Law. It is based on what Jesus Christ did in the power of the Holy Spirit. So He lives the spiritual life through the filling of God the Holy Spirit and walking by means of the Holy Spirit. His mind is completely oriented to the Word of God. Remember when He was 13 years old He went to Jerusalem with His parents. They leave and are headed back home and they discover that He is not in the caravan. They go back and find Him sitting and having a theological discussion and disputation with the rabbis in the temple. 


They ask him, "What are you doing?"


He tells them, "Don't you know that I need to be about My Father's business?" His mind is so oriented to His mission and to what the Word of God says that He is not being distracted by what would normally distract children. So He sets the precedent for the spiritual life in His humanity through the filling of the Spirit and walking by the Spirit. He is completely oriented to the Word of God and He is going to handle the problems that He faces in life not on the basis of His deity (that is the foundation here).  He doesn't face these tests by relying on His deity. He doesn't rely upon His omniscience, His omnipotence, or any of His other characteristics in order to solve the problems. He deals with these problems totally as a human being. He does so by relying upon the Holy Spirit and applying the principles of Scripture. 


This is where we get into the idea of priesthood. A priest is someone who is qualified according to a standard (God sets the standard) to serve God in the sanctuary, whether it was the tabernacle or the temple. He is a priest who is qualified according to a standard to serve God in the sanctuary, to offer sacrifices at the altar and to act as a mediator or a go-between between man the creature, and God the Creator. So we see that Jesus Christ served man in relation to God by offering a sacrifice for sin. This is seen in Hebrews 5:1 where we will be next week.


NKJ Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.


That one verse incorporates the function of a priest. He is appointed for men in things related to God. A priest represents man to God. In this function he offers gifts and sacrifices for sins. That is what the Lord Jesus Christ did. He offered Himself as a sacrifice.  He died as a substitute for us. The sins of mankind were imputed or poured out to Him on the cross so that the penalty was completely paid for. Jesus Christ as a priest was appointed the only true mediator between God and men. A mediator is a go-between who is able to represent both sides of a conflict to the other side. He could do this because He had become true humanity. 


NKJ 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,


It emphasizes His humanity in that verse because as a true human being He could represent us to God. So the emphasis is again on His humanity.


Jesus Christ as a priest was appointed by God Himself. This was in contrast to what was happening in Jewish history at the time.  There was a period of years, of decades where the high priestly family who was dominated by Annas who was a high priest during the time Christ was on the earth. He was replaced by his nephew Caiaphas. Then there were a number of other grandsons and other cousins who were all brought into the high priesthood. They were all appointed by political powers, the Roman governors. It was in complete violation to the Word of God to the scriptural mandates under the Mosaic Law. But that was the priesthood. In contrast to that Jesus Christ is appointed a priest by God Himself. This is seen again in the next chapter. 


NKJ Hebrews 5:4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.


NKJ Hebrews 5:5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You."


Aaron was the high priest in the Levitical system under the Mosaic Law. As a high priest He was appointed high priest by God Himself. 


It was not something Aaron sought after. Christ did not seek after it Himself.


Have we heard that verse before? This takes us right back to Hebrews 1:5. 


NKJ Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"?


This is a reference to the declaration of Christ's sonship at the ascension. This is a quote from Psalm 2:7. We will dig that out when we get there. 


Verse 6 has another Old Testament quote. It was quoted in Hebrews 1.


NKJ Hebrews 5:6 As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek";

This is a quote from Psalm 110:4.

So Jesus Christ is appointed a priest by God Himself. It is a priesthood that is distinct. It is like the Aaronic priesthood in some ways, but it is not the Aaronic priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood was dependent on genetic factors in birth. You had to be in the tribe of Levi. Jesus Christ was from the tribe of Judah. His priesthood is not of the Aaronic priesthood. It is a priesthood of Melchizedekean order. As a mediator it was Christ who offered true sacrifices to God and made intercession for us. 


This brings us to the next point. There were 3 types of priesthood in the Old Testament.

  1. There was a patriarchal priesthood. We saw that on Tuesday night in our study of Genesis. We saw that Isaac after he had been married to Rebekah for twenty years could not have any children. She was barren. So we studied that Hebrew word that was translated "Isaac pleaded with God on behalf of Rebekah". I pointed out that that word in its Arabic cognates as well as the way it is used in Zephaniah 3:10 indicates a prayer that is accompanied by ritual sacrifices. This indicates it is a more intense form of prayer. Now Isaac would be coming to offer that prayer and to make sacrifices on the basis of his patriarchal priesthood. He was the head of the family. It is not related to the later Levitical or Aaronic priesthoods because Aaron and Levi had not yet been born. Isaac was the grandfather of Levi. So there is a patriarchal priesthood that began with Adam and extended all the way down through the Old Testament. It was still in action even along side the Aaronic priesthood. 
  2. Then you have the Melchizedekean priesthood. The Melchizedekean priesthood was a royal priesthood that was based on regeneration – not position in the family or genetic relationship to Levi. It was based on regeneration and royalty. The Melchizedekean priesthood becomes the category and the precedent for the Lord Jesus Christ's priesthood.
  3.  Then you have the third type of priesthood it the Old Testament, the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. Aaron, Moses' brother, was the high priest. Levi was the tribe that Moses and Aaron came from. The high priest had to be a direct descendent of Aaron, but any member of the Levitical tribe could serve in the temple. 


Note the priesthood of Christ as we look as this passage. What do you notice about that verse? He is a priest forever. 


I remember not long ago somebody came up and asked me, "Well, a thought really hit me tonight when you was talking about the hypostatic union that Jesus Christ was true humanity united with undiminished deity in one person forever. A million years from now a physical human body with scars and everything will be in heaven with us in His humanity". In His deity He will be omnipresent but in His humanity He will be localized. There will always be a human body that is part of the incarnation and never ends. This is related to it in Psalm 110:4. 


NKJ Psalm 110:4 The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."


He never will stop being a priest. So the priesthood of Jesus Christ is eternal. This is brought our in Hebrews 5:5-6 and verse 9 as well as Psalm 110: 4. 


So Christ's priesthood though it is eternal does not function in that priesthood at all times. Even in the incarnation He did not function as a priest. The activation of that priesthood really occurs at the ascension. There were times that He functioned in similar ways early on. For example we have the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ in John 17 and other places where He prayed on behalf of His disciples. That was part of His priesthood. But it doesn't come into its full blown activity until the ascension takes place. That is why you have this reference here in Hebrews 4:14 to His ascension. Our Lord assumes His full priestly function at the ascension.  He passes through the heavens. 


(Robby shows a picture of the ascension.)


Then we have one of my favorite pictures of the ascension because it captures the great humor in the moment. Remember that those disciples had never seen anybody fly. We have seen people fly. We take it for granted. We were all sitting around (most of us) when the first manned space craft went up and then promptly came down. It wasn't up there that long. He popped up and came down.  That was Alan Shepherd. I think we got to stay home from school to watch that. Most of you remember that. We are so used to watching people blast off, take off, or fly somewhere that we lose the wonder and the awe that those disciples must have experienced when they were standing there and all of a sudden Jesus just took off through the heavens. They stood there with their mouths open until watching Him until He was a little speck and disappeared through the clouds. They had no idea where He went.  They stood there with their mouths open until an angel finally came along and asked them what they were doing. The way Jesus left is the way He will return so we know something about how He will return at the Second Advent. 


He passes through the heavens. This is the Greek verb dierchomai which means to come through, to pass through or to travel through a place or location. It tells us that He is leaving planet earth and is going to a specific location at the right hand of God the Father. 


When it says "passing through the heavens", the Bible views the universe in terms of three heavens. The first is the atmosphere around the earth. The second heaven is the stars and the universe. The third heaven is the throne of God. According to evolutionary theory the universe is infinite. It just keeps going and going. There is no end to it. But biblically speaking we have to recognize that the universe is finite. There is an end to it. Beyond there is where the throne of God is located. Jesus is going to a location. He did not dematerialize to another dimension. He is going from point a to point b. The language is very graphic in this regard. 


NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.


That is the ascension of Christ when He went into his full-blown high priesthood ministry.


"Jesus the Son of God" emphasizes His deity. Earlier there has been the emphasis on His humanity. Now the emphasis is on His deity. The Son of God is one who is fully divine.


The word for hold fast is the verb krateo which means to hold on to something for dear life, to not let go. 


That is a word that we are used to hearing, homologeo. It means a confession or an admission of what you believe. It came to be the body of doctrine that somebody held to. The idea here is not to give up what you believe. That was the problem with the Jewish readers of this epistle was that they were being pressured through persecution through their friends and family who had not trusted in Jesus as their messiah were trying to get them to come back into the fold of Judaism. Because of this external pressure and persecution and rejection they were on the verge of giving up and going back to Judaism. That is why in 2:1 they are warned.


NKJ Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.


Notice the urgency that this author has. He is stressing the emphasis in the applications. 


NKJ Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice,


NKJ Hebrews 3:15 while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."


NKJ Hebrews 4:7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts."


 There is a sense of immediacy and urgency.


NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.


NKJ Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.


Don't give up on your confession. Don't give up that body of doctrine that you have been taught and that you believe. Don't fade out and give up when things start getting rough. 


NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.


We have an explanation. What is the explanation? It is explaining why we shouldn't give up or grow weary in the midst of battle. 


That's a double negative in the English. He is saying it in the negative in order to make a point. What he is saying is that we do have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He is telling them that they don't have a high priest like the other religions that have no real value or no real meaning – they are just human beings. But we have a high priest who is the Son of God (as he said in verse 14).  Yet because of His true humanity He can sympathize with us in our weaknesses. 


This is an interesting word to deal with. We think of sympathy as feeling sorry for somebody. That is not the idea in the Greek. It is a combination of the Greek preposition sum meaning with and patheo which has to do with emotion or feelings. So we have a common bond in the feelings that somebody else is going through in certain circumstances. So the verb sumpatheo means to show a disposition to help (Jesus is the one who encourages us, comes to our aid) because of shared or common circumstances. He is willing to help us and aid us because He has gone through the same circumstances that we have gone through. We don't have a Savior who is untouched by the traumas of human life. This is what you have in the other world religions. In Christianity you have a God who became flesh, a God who sweated, a God who had to eat, a God who had to sleep, and a God who grew weary. He would look upon the suffering of a crowd who had lost a friend Lazarus. As He saw the misery in their life because of the grief of death, He wept. This is a God who is touched by the commonalities of our human experience. The definition of sumpatheo would go on to say that it is someone who is affected like another by the same sufferings or emotions. So He is affected by His circumstances the same way we are. When we have certain emotions, we react to those emotions or we react on the basis of those emotions and it leads us into sin. But Jesus doesn't (if there were certain emotions generated as a result of certain experiences) use them as a justification to then sin. It is someone who suffers or has the same experiences as someone else. That is what sumpatheo means in the Greek. 


The idea of sympathy in the English means to have an affinity, an association or a relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects another. That is Merriam Webster's definition. 


Jesus Christ is not some distant God who is way out there somewhere and does not understand what we are going through. There is that level of commonality. He understands. He is there to help and aid and strengthen us in times to testing.


So let's go on. What is testing? 


NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.


Weakness is astheneo meaning to lack strength. We are not strong enough spiritually.


Tempted is the Greek verb of peirazo. Whenever we think of temptation we think of being enticed to sin because frankly you and I can't think of temptation in any other way than subjective terms. We are fallen creatures and can't think of temptation in any other way than being drawn and attracted to the bait in the sin trap. That is the imagery that James uses in James 1. Sin is like the bait in the trap. Temptation is that attraction that we have to the bait. We always want to go for the bait. We always get suckered by it.  But Jesus Christ didn't. 


There are two aspects to testing or temptation that we need to talk about to properly understand this. There is an objective aspect to it and there is a subjective aspect to it. I have never found any other way to try to communicate this other than talking about a diet. If you have never been on a diet then you don't have a lot to sympathize with in this definition. If you ever have been on a diet you know that at times you get pretty hungry. If you eat and your appetite is satiated and somebody offers you a piece of chocolate cake or baked potato loaded with lots of butter and sour cream and all of the other stuff we aren't supposed to have, then there is not much inner draw or attraction to that. It is nevertheless a temptation because somebody is offering you something that is desirable.  You aren't drawn to it because your appetite is satiated. On the other hand if it is 3 o'clock in the afternoon and all you have had a rice cake for breakfast and somebody puts a loaded baked potato in front of you, you know that you are lost. You are so hungry that you are going to gobble it up before you even think about it. There is a tremendous draw and attraction to that baked potato. That is the inner subjective dimension of attraction to sin. Jesus never experienced that. What He went through was the external objective circumstances that in essence baited the trap for Him. He didn't have a sin nature. He wasn't born with a sin nature so He is not internally drawn to the bait in the trap. The bait in the trap is nevertheless real and there is a test in front of Him. 


Now the word peirosmos has the idea of entangling a person to sin or to discover what good or evil is, what weakness or strength is in a person. It offers the possibility of entangling a person to sin, but its ultimate purpose is to reveal or to demonstrate or to prove or to test what a person is made of. In that sense it means to assay, to evaluate or to prove or to test or examine or demonstrate a person's character. What are they made of? So the tests that were put in front of the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated that He was sinless. He never operated independent of the Father. He never violated the Father's righteous standard. He never broke with the Father's plan. So He never committed sin. He was born without a sin nature. Because of the virgin conception, He didn't receive the imputation of Adam's original sin. Then throughout His life He met with these various adversities and tests, but He never committed sin in those circumstances. 


This is known as the Doctrine of the Impeccability of Christ. The impeccability of Christ refers to the fact that He is sinless. Now let's break this down a little bit. A lot of people get confused about this because they say, "How in the world could Jesus be genuinely tempted if He never sinned? Then, if He is God how could there be any real opportunity to sin?" If He is God, He can't change. 


It is sort of like welding a copper wire to a steal beam. The humanity of Christ is like that copper wire. The steel beam is like His deity. No matter how much potential there is for that copper wire to be twisted, turned and tied up in knots, as long as it is welded to the steel I-beam; it can't. So how can these be real temptations or tests if He can't sin because of His deity? Let me give you some ideas.


Doctrine of the Impeccability of Christ


  1. First of all we have to realize the basic terminology here that impeccability comes from the Latin verb peccare which means to sin.  When you add the "im" in front of it, it means not to sin. So the impeccability of Christ means Jesus Christ was without sin.
  2. The view that Christ could sin would be termed peccability. There are some liberal theologians who don't take the Bible literally and believe that Christ could sin and probably did. That is what underlies a lot of this nonsense with the Da Vinci Code and the idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had kids. If they would have had kids would they have had a sin nature? There is something to keep you awake at night.
  3. Impeccability means that in hypostatic union Jesus Christ could not sin. So that is the dilemma. If in hypostatic union He could not sin, how could these be real temptations? But in His humanity He could sin. What do we have to do to understand this? 
  4. In His humanity He could sin.
  5. In His deity He could not sin. How do we put that together? To do that we have to bring in another doctrine out of Philippians 2, which we don't have time to develop. It is based on the word kenosis. This became a controversial doctrine because of liberal theology, which said that Jesus Christ got rid of His deity. He gave it up. But that is not what it says. By virtue of kenosis Christ chose not to use His deity to solve human problems. Let's turn to Philippians 2 and I will point out a couple of things in the passage. The point really is on Jesus Christ as an example of humility. Humility means obedience.  That is the command. That is the instruction in verse 5. 


NKJ Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,


NKJ Philippians 2:6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,


This isn't just some abstract theological exercise to try to deal with a complicated subject. It is very practical.

  1. By virtue of kenosis, Christ chose not to rely on His deity. What happens in the incarnation is practical because it demonstrates to us what real humility is all about. What could be more practical than that? That word form is the Greek word morphe which has the idea of being in the essence of God. He had full deity. Some translations read "who didn't think it was something to be grasped after." Who grasped after deity? Satan did. He wanted to be like the most High. Who else grasped after deity? Adam and Eve. Satan told them that if they ate of the tree they would be like God. So they grasped after deity. Christ was not motivated by arrogance.


NKJ Philippians 2:7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

That is their attempt to translate the idea of kenosis. The verb kenao means not that He gave up something, but it is defined by the next phrase. 


What happens in the kenosis? The way you have probably heard this defined in the past is that Jesus Christ did not act willingly, voluntarily or independently of the Father's plan. God the Son did not act independently of the Father's plan.  When did He act independently of the Father's plan? He never did. It didn't have anything to do with His humanity. I think that the traditional definition of kenosis falls apart because Jesus Christ never acted independently of the Father's will. I think the point in the kenosis is that Jesus as the Son of God is never going to rely on His deity to handle the problems of His humanity. Think about that. When it says that He voluntarily restricted the use of His deity, the idea is that He restricted His deity so that He didn't rely on His omnipotence to turn the stones into bread. He is not going to rely on His omnipotence to jump off the pinnacle of the temple and land and not be killed in the process. He never solves the problems of the pressures of adversity or temptation in His humanity by relying upon His deity. So He sets up this distinction between His deity and His humanity such that He builds a wall of separation between the two so that He is not going to depend on His divine attributes to deal with the problems in His humanity. Thus He is going to demonstrate in true humanity how to handle all of the pressures of life and all of the adversities of life. Whatever the circumstances are going to be, Jesus Christ in hypostatic union relied on His humanity, the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Sprit, and the Word of God to solve the problem. He never leaped over and borrowed a little omnipotence or borrowed a little omniscience in order to solve a problem in His humanity. There were times when He clearly demonstrated He was God in His omnipotence by turning the water into wine.  But did He solve a spiritual problem in His spiritual life that way? No, He was demonstrating that He was the Creator. There were other times that He fed the 5,000. He was demonstrating His deity, but He is not solving problems, temptations, or adversity in His life by leaning over or relying upon His deity. He is solving all of His problems by relying exclusively on His humanity. Thus He set the precedent for us to handle the problems of testing in our lives.

  1. Christ was not dependent of His deity to not sin. He didn't rely on His deity to avoid sin. He engaged the challenge, the test, and the enticement from His humanity by relying on nothing more that Scripture and the Holy Spirit to pass the test. So Jesus Christ has gone through all the same categories of testing that we go through. It is not the same in the details, but it is the same in the category. He is tested in every category and He demonstrated the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit, the sufficiency of God's grace and the sufficiency of God's Word in every category of test.


So we come to the conclusion in Hebrews 4.


NKJ Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


There are two commands. They are present active subjunctives. They are first person exhortations - we should or we ought to. That is the idea of the first person plural.


We can have confidence in going before the throne of grace because we have a High Priest who was tested in every area just as we are. That High Priest commiserates with us in our struggle. There is a relationship between us and Him so that He sympathetic with us in our testing. 


Mercy is grace in action.


When we face adversity, whatever the problems are and whatever the struggle is, we have a High Priest who ascended to the right hand of God the Father who knows exactly what is needed to solve the problem. He is the source of grace to help us, to strengthen us in that time of need whatever it may be. This is part of His function in His high priestly ministry. 


So there are two closing mandates. Let us hold fast to our confession and let us come boldly before the throne of grace. 


That sets us up for the next section. This sets us up for 5:1 and following where there is a development of the whole doctrine of the high priesthood of Christ.