Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Verse 16 (Hebrews 4:16)

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace - The allusion to the high priest, and his office on the day of atonement, is here kept up. The approach mentioned here is to the כפרת kapporeth , ἱλαστηριον , the propitiatory or mercy-seat. This was the covering of the ark of the testimony or covenant, at each end of which was a cherub, and between them the shechinah, or symbol of the Divine Majesty, which appeared to, and conversed with, the high priest. Here the apostle shows the great superiority of the privileges of the new testament above those of the old; for there the high priest only, and he with fear and trembling, was permitted to approach; and that not without the blood of the victim; and if in any thing he transgressed, he might expect to be struck with death. The throne of grace in heaven answers to this propitiatory, but to this All may approach who feel their need of salvation; and they may approach μετα παρῥησιας , with freedom, confidence, liberty of speech, in opposition to the fear and trembling of the Jewish high priest. Here, nothing is to be feared, provided the heart be right with God, truly sincere, and trusting alone in the sacrificial blood.

That we may obtain mercy - Ἱνα λαβωμεν ελεον· That we may take mercy - that we may receive the pardon of all our sins; there is mercy for the taking. As Jesus Christ tasted death for every man, so every man may go to that propitiatory, and take the mercy that is suited to his degree of guilt.

And find grace - Mercy refers to the pardon of sin, and being brought into the favor of God. Grace is that by which the soul is supported after it has received this mercy, and by which it is purified from all unrighteousness, and upheld in all trials and difficulties, and enabled to prove faithful unto death.

To help in time of need - Εις ευκαιρον βοηθειαν· For a seasonable support; that is, support when necessary, and as necessary, and in due proportion to the necessity. The word βονθεια is properly rendered assistance, help, or support; but it is an assistance in consequence of the earnest cry of the person in distress, for the word signifies to run at the cry, θειν εις βοην , or επι βοην θειν . So, even at the throne of grace, or great propitiatory, no help can be expected where there is no cry, and where there is no cry there is no felt necessity; for he that feels he is perishing will cry aloud for help, and to such a cry the compassionate High Priest will run; and the time of need is the time in which God will show mercy; nor will he ever delay it when it is necessary. We are not to cry to-day to be helped to-morrow, or at some indefinite time, or at the hour of death. We are to call for mercy and grace when we need them; and we are to expect to receive them when we call. This is a part of our liberty or boldness; we come up to the throne, and we call aloud for mercy, and God hears and dispenses the blessing we need.

That this exhortation of the apostle may not be lost on us, let us consider: -

  1. That there is a throne of grace, i.e. a propitiatory, the place where God and man are to meet.
  • That this propitiatory or mercy-seat is sprinkled with the atoning blood of that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
  • That we must come up, προσερχωμεθα , to this throne; and this implies faith in the efficacy of the sacrifice.
  • That we must call aloud on God for his mercy, if we expect him to run to our assistance.
  • That we must feel our spiritual necessities, in order to our calling with fervency and earnestness.
  • That calling thus we shall infallibly get what we want; for in Christ Jesus, as a sacrificial offering, God is ever well pleased; and he is also well pleased with all who take refuge in the atonement which he has made.
  • That thus coming, feeling, and calling, we may have the utmost confidence; for we have boldness, liberty of access, freedom of speech; may plead with our Maker without fear; and expect all that heaven has to bestow; because Jesus, who died, sitteth upon the throne! Hallelujah! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
  • All these are reasons why we should persevere.
  • - Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible