View Cart

Hoping in Our Great High Priest

Hebrews 4:14-16 is a Christ-centered passage that faithfully and repeatedly gives hope to our counselees by examining the person and work of Christ.

Aug 3, 2022

In biblical counseling, instilling hope in our counselees is a recurring goal because change will not happen in a person’s life unless they have hope. Biblical hope is the certainty that God will sanctify, strengthen, and sustain them through any circumstance because He is always present and powerful to help (Psalm 33:18-19; Romans 15:4, 13). Sadly, sometimes counselees do not possess this hope or, just as detrimental to progress in counseling, they have false hope by expecting things from God that he never promises. In my experience, Hebrews 4:14-16 is a Christ-centered passage that faithfully and repeatedly gives hope to the hopeless and replaces false hope with the ascended high priest who rules from His throne of grace. 

A Concise Context for Hebrews 4:14-16 

The book of Hebrews progressively reveals that Jesus is a superior priest who serves in a superior priesthood. The author of Hebrews first makes this point by proving that Jesus is superior to angels (chapter 1-2) and Moses (chapter 3). Chapter 4 discusses the true rest God provides for those who believe and obey Him (vv. 1-13). The context of Hebrews 4:1-13 is essential because it sets the stage for the hope-giving verses of 14-16. Here, the author reflects on those Israelites who were not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief which manifested itself in disobedience (Psalm 95; Hebrews 4:3). The author of Hebrews encourages his audience not to be like those unbelieving Jews in the wilderness, saying, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (v. 11).  

Then, in case the audience is unsure if they are unbelieving and disobedient (like the Israelites), the author reminds them that the Word of God discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (v. 12). If that were not sobering enough, the author of Hebrews states one more fact on the matter, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (v. 13). Certainly, abundant hope is necessary for an audience who has just realized that they will give an account before God for their unbelief and disobedience.  

Instilling Hope 

The hope of Hebrews 4:14-16 comes to people who realize the complete exposure of their entire being before a Holy God (v. 13). Inevitably, they have been brought face to face with the reality of their unbelief and disobedience. This predicament is reminiscent of a counseling room. As biblical counselors, we wield the very word that Hebrews 4:12 promises will expose our counselees’ thoughts and intentions. What do we do when this happens and previously unspoken hurt or old, secret sins manifest in a counseling session? What do we do when our counselees realize for the first time that they are more like unbelieving Israel than Jesus? What do we do when they come to know that they are standing exposed before a holy God (Hebrews 4:13)? We follow the author of Hebrews’ example and invite them to find hope in the person and work of Jesus, who shows the Hebrew audience the way of belief and obedience. 

Jesus is Our Great High Priest 

Since then we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. – Hebrews 4:14  

The phrase “naked and exposed” in verse 13 communicates the reality that we cannot hide our unbelief and disobedience from God. Since a person cannot go back and undo their past sins, they are hopeless in themselves to influence the outcome of the day that they stand before God. A counselor’s hope-giving task is not to ignore the counselee’s circumstance, but rather to turn the counselee’s focus from himself and his circumstances (naked and exposed before God) to the presence of the One who intercedes for them. The counselor accomplishes this by helping the counselee meditate on the person and work of Jesus. Some people come to us not knowing that Jesus is holy, innocent, unstained, exalted above the heavens, sinless, appointed by God, and perfect forever (Hebrews 7:26-28). According to the author of Hebrews, these qualities make Jesus a great high priest, one who enables putting off unbelief by being the source and object of belief (Hebrews 10:19-20; Ephesians 4:20-24). Therefore, when counselees confide in us that they possess “great” problems, with attentiveness and compassion, we should remind them that they also have a “great” high priest who intercedes on their behalf and sympathizes with their weaknesses.   

Jesus Sympathizes with Our Weaknesses 

For we do not have a high priest, who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. -Hebrews 4:15 

In verse 15, we begin to see the character of our great high priest, who serves as the perfect example of belief and obedience. Despite His lofty, well-deserved status as a high priest, He is not aloof to suffering or incapable of understanding. His earthly ministry uniquely equips Him to sympathize with our weaknesses as humans. Hebrews 5:7-8 displays this well, stating, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Biblically founded hope teaches that since Christ learned obedience through his suffering, he will help us learn obedience through our suffering. In fact, while the term sympathize in Hebrews 4:15 means compassion, the word also implies the intention to help. Therefore, when we tell a counselee that Jesus sympathizes with their weaknesses, we are presenting hope in the form of the compassion-driven help of a perfect, powerful, and perceptive priest (Matthew 9:36). We are laying before our counselee the person and work of Christ as the One who was, like the Hebrew audience, tempted to sin, yet never did. Since our great high priest resisted temptation, counselees can trust that Christ’s perfect record gives them active hope that He is capable of helping in their time of need. 

Jesus Gives Help in Our Time of Need  

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. -Hebrews 4:16 

The hope in Hebrews 4:16 is certain because of the intercessory work of our great high priest (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). The uniqueness of our priest is not that He gave a sacrifice but that He gave Himself as our sacrifice. Such atoning work has granted us access to God (Hebrews 10:19-20), who gives abundant mercy and grace. It’s vital to acknowledge that without such mercy and grace (v. 16), counselees cannot obey the teaching of Hebrews 4:14-15 to hold fast and resist temptation (Romans 3:10-23; 8:9). The author of Hebrews makes this evident by recalling the inability and disobedience of Israel (Hebrews 4:11). Thankfully, although God’s firstborn Israel stood morally defeated in unbelief and disobedience (Exodus 4:22), the firstborn among all creation (Colossians 1:15) stands triumphant in perfect obedience (Hebrews 5:9-10), providing hope for those seeking to put off unbelief and disobedience and put on belief and obedience. 


For the biblical counselor, hope-in-action is teaching and equipping God’s people to recognize Christ’s presence in their life (Hebrews 4:14), pursue obedience through faithfulness (Hebrews 4:14), endure temptation (Hebrews 4:15), and seek help from the throne of grace in life’s inevitable times of need (Hebrews 4:16).