According to the writer of Hebrews, those who are trusting in Christ as the ultimate and final “word” of God rather than the prophets, or the priests, or Moses, or the Law, can be confident to personally approach God. We don’t need the prophets to speak for God. Jesus has brought God’s ultimate message to us. Actually, the message of the prophets is the message of Jesus. We don’t need priests to intercede with God for us to calm his anger at our sin, Jesus has managed that for us. We don’t need Moses or his laws by which to measure our standing before God because Jesus fulfilled it at every point at which we’ve failed. Hebrews 4:16 says, “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.”

Grace and mercy are two things that only sinners need. If you can stand before God on the basis of your own performance you don’t need either. This is the case with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. In comparing themselves with others, they could always find something to help them feel superior. We can too. But the standard isn’t just being better than someone else, it’s being perfect! You only need grace and mercy when you realize you’re living under a cloud of guilt and failure. We all deserve to reap the consequences of our actions. We have all fallen short and the only place to find grace and mercy with God is in Christ. He is the only one to have been tempted in all human ways and to have faced that force without sin. Being better than Hitler will not give us confidence to enter into God’s presence.  It is impossible for anyone to climb the ladder of righteousness high enough to attain the standard necessary to impress God and be confident and comfortable in His presence. If it were possible, Jesus died for nothing as Paul says in Galatians 2:21.

In whatever way we’ve fallen short, Jesus fills that gap. He gives us whatever help we need to find confidence in the presence of God. However short our account is, Jesus makes the deposit required to satisfy any and all of God’s requirements for us. This is a free gift to all who will believe because God loves us all. That’s why He sent His son. God demonstrates His love for us on Calvary even in the presence of our sinfulness. God opened the heavens and declared “this is my beloved Son.” It’s in Christ we can truly experience God’s love. In commenting on this verse, the Handbook for Translators observes, “In some languages, grace is a word little used outside church circles. If so, the translator may need to replace it by some such word as ‘love’ (See the German Common Language Bible).” The handbook even suggests incorporating that idea in the translation; “In fact, find grace is merely an equivalent of “experience kindness” or “experience love.” Accordingly, we will receive mercy and find grace may be restructured to read “God will be kind to us and show us his love.”[1]

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 90–91.