Daily Devotion | Day 356
“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. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NKJV).
Today’s opening Scripture is a crucial passage in the current discussion. It tells us that we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. The “weaknesses” in this passage is not referring to sins. Rather, it refers to the limitations of the human flesh by which we all are subject to temptations and trials. The Bible is saying that Jesus can sympathize with these limitations (weaknesses). He knows how it feels to live in this world and deal with all manner of temptations: temptations at home, at the work place, at school, in your own mind, and so forth. That is why the Bible says Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are.” He can sympathize with us because He lived like us and faced the same struggles we face.
Next, the Bible adds an important phrase. It says, Jesus was tempted like us, yet without sin. Jesus faced the same struggles and lived within the same limitations of our earthly life, but He did not succumb to temptation; He overcame every temptation and did not sin. At this juncture, we must ask: Did Jesus do what He did just prove that He alone can overcome all temptation and be without sin? Or, Jesus did what He did to show us that following His footsteps, we too can overcome all temptation and be without sin just as He was? Which of these two lessons is the Letter to the Hebrews trying to convey to us? Most Christians were brought up to believe the lesson in the passage is that Jesus alone did (and can) overcome all temptation and be without sin, but not us. For Roman Catholics, the only exception is Mary; no one else can live without sin.
But as will soon become clear, the reason the Letter to the Hebrews brought up Jesus’ victory over temptation was to inspire us that we too can be tempted and yet not give in to sin. We can be as victorious over temptation as Jesus was. That this victory is possible is supported by the following statement by Paul, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The way of escape exists for every temptation. This means victory over every temptation is possible, which further shows that it is possible to live without sin.
This grace (the grace to prevail over every temptation and be without sin) is available to all of us, not just Jesus or Mary. Jesus showed us how it is done. It is up to us to follow His footsteps through obedience, taking advantage of the spiritual weapons of grace at our disposal. This is what the Bible means when it says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Many interpret this as follows: “Jesus knows we will fall into sin from time to time. Therefore, if you sin, just go to Him boldly to find mercy and grace.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
The passage is stating the opposite, which is: Jesus was like us; He faced every possible temptation, yet did not sin. We can, and must, be like Him. Therefore, in a time of need (when we are tempted), we must not succumb. Instead, we must come boldly to the throne of grace. There we will find grace and mercy to prevail over the temptation, just as Jesus prevailed.
The author of Hebrews is telling us what we need to do to stand firm and not fall into sin. He is not talking about what we need to do after we have sinned. He has but a single goal: to teach Christians how to persevere in righteousness without giving in to temptation. His goal is not to teach us how to recover each time we fall into sin. He wants Christians to learn how to be like their sinless Lord. This would show to the world that in the Cross of Jesus there is victory over every temptation and over every sin. If Christians continue to sin, the world will find Christianity unattractive and unconvincing.
To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, know that the grace for decisive victory over all sin is available to you. Let no one tell you otherwise. Amen.
For further study: Hebrews 10:1-39