We quote quite liberally the passage from Hebrews, “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). Let’s examine the passage: ‘Come’ – means to near worshipping, and the tense indicates our continuous action of approaching God. We are to keep on coming. And quite surprisingly, we are to approach the Throne, the ultimate Potentate boldly, implying frankness, bluntness, an outspoken manner, and yet with assurance.
Notice however, this invitation is for a specific condition. We come for the purpose of finding “help,” so we are the defendant at this Throne, the offended, the oppressed – not the plaintiff, not the one with power, not the advantaged. In fact, it is precisely because we are the beaten down, the oppressed and those lacking in options that we are urged by God to come so freely and present our case in the Divine Court so forcefully. The idea behind the term, help, is that of a rope or chain used to rescue a sinking vessel. Whenever we sense our ship sinking, we are to boldly request grace from God!
There is more. Note carefully the attendant conditions that bolster boldness,
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:19).
Closer examination reveals that this is not blind boldness, but calculated confidence. A ‘true heart’ is necessary. The idea is one of being real, authentic and one with God’s heart. Second, the approach is made with faith that is rich with confidence, ‘full’ with assurance, thus – healthy faith is required. Third, the term ‘sprinkled’ reaches back to the action of sprinkling blood on the Mercy Seat. The implication is that to approach God, we must have upon our hearts the fresh markings of the blood of Christ. Fourth, it is here, on inner hearts, that God is enthroned by the Spirit. Such a redemptive and regenerative encounter with the cross also alters the state of our deadly inner evil conscience. Fifth, the internal transformation is matched externally by bodies, now consecrated, and ‘washed,’ a metaphor for sanctification, for the mortification of the flesh, thus outward purity. And this happens only in the ‘pure water’ of the laver, what Paul called “the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26; Exodus 40:30). And seventh, we are urged to ‘hold’ – or lay hold of, unswervingly (NIV) or tightly, without wavering (NLT) to the hope which we then, eighth, are to simultaneously affirm (NLT) by professing (NIV), homologia, saying the same thing God says, speaking the language of hope and faith, of expectation and anticipation. All of this is in reference to ‘He who promised’ and is believed to be faithful. This is not to be done in a self-interested manner. This approach to the throne is to result in our being an example to others – to provoke love and good works.
This is quite a distance from the thoughtless and flippant, ‘Come boldly’ often quoted without appropriate appreciation for the context. Boldness without a true heart, in the absence of sincere faith, minus the fresh blood stains of redemption, with fleshly life patterns, while wavering in faith, hopeless and despairing, without the language of confidence in God and a concern for others – is not boldness. It is presumption. Boldness, it turns out, demands intentional preparation for a meeting with God. It insists on the protocol of respectfulness. It is prepared. It is positive, but fearful in anticipation of the awful – full of the awe of God – encounter.