August 29, 2021 Confident and Bold
Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19-25 Matthew 10:18-31
Greek citizens in the democracy of the ancient Greek city-state, had a right and freedom to participate in the public sphere. They could speak freely, openly, and boldly; they could say anything and everything. For the ancient Greek person, the freedom to participate in the public sphere was a civic right. They could go to a town meeting and speak boldly and with confidence. It was truly a unique right and privilege in the world at the time. It was an essential mark of Greek democracy.
But the right and privilege would not be of much use if the citizens did not use it. There was another side to this: If you did not use the right or privilege, it would be the same as if that right or privilege did not exist.
There is a Greek word that described the right and privilege to stand up and speak in public with confidence and boldness. The Greek word is parrhesia.
Parrhesia, was the right to say everything, to speak boldly and openly. It implied that you had a right but also that the right had to be used.
The same word, parrhesia is used in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew bible, the OT, in Leviticus 26:13: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you (parrhesia), walk erect.”
The word parrhesia here means, the freedom to walk erect, to be free for the yoke is broken. To be completely free! There is no need to be afraid, or to be embarrassed, or uncertain, or worried about the future! The word parrhesia implies that they can lift up their heads, they can smile again and know that God has broken the bars of their yoke of slavery. God made them walk upright. This is what God did for ancient Israel, now it is their right, their privilege, and they can be bold and confident knowing that God smiles over them! However, they too have to use their right, their privilege! They need to become who they already are!
And this is exactly the same Greek word, parrhesia, that the author of Hebrews is using.
This means that we too, by the grace of God, have a right and privilege! We too can be bold and confident. We can be erect before God, our yoke is broken, we can lift our heads, smile, and live with confidence and certainty about our fate. Parrhesia!
Now why is the author so certain that we have the right, the privilege to stand erect before God? Well, he has 2 very good reasons.
- In Hebrews 4:16 we read: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The reason why we can approach the throne of grace with boldness is that we have a High Priest, Jesus, One who intercedes for us. One who understands what it is like to be human, One who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, One who has been tested and One who knows our doubts, our fears and the deepest longings of our heart.
This truth is so important that the author writes about Jesus as our High Priest time and again. The author emphasizes over and over that Jesus has a great understanding of us; our questions, our regrets, our guilt, our deepest fears, our insecurities, and doubts. And He sympathizes, he forgives, he does not resent us.
This of course is the big difference between Jesus and human beings. When someone makes a bad decision, or show any weakness, we shake our heads and label the person as immoral, flawed, or lazy. It is easy for human beings to resent others; we find it hard to forgive our enemies or to have sympathy with the wicked. If someone makes a bad decision we view him as weak, or see a poor decision as revealing her damaged character. Jesus does not act this way. He understands us, He shows mercy, He forgives.
And this is the first reason why we can approach the throne of grace with boldness and confidence! The throne is one of grace and foregiveness- not of judgment.
When we realize that his throne is one of grace and mercy, we can approach it with boldness and confidence. Once you discover that you don’t need to hide anything or you don’t need to pretend to be someone you are not, you can approach God’s throne with gratitude and joy. Once you know you are forgiven, accepted, and embraced with divine love, then you too can walk erect, with confidence. Then you don’t have to feel guilty or inferior, or riddled with shame or guilt because of what you did or what happened to you in your past! God’s throne is one of grace and mercy.
- There is a second reason why we can approach God’s throne with confidence and boldness.
We find this reason in Hebr. 10:19-22: “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
The author once again uses the word parrhesia. The reason he gives why we can enter with boldness is because Jesus has opened the way to God’s heart. The door to God’s heart is open through the blood of Jesus, that is through Christ’s death and resurrection. The path to God’s heart is new and living. It means it never gets old, it is never locked again, it stays open. We can simply enter and we can do so with confidence and boldness. We will never be turned away.
In essence what he is saying is: “Just enter, use this path, it is there for you! Don’t let your guilt, sin, any yoke that burdens you, anything, prevent you from entering. The door to God’s heart is and stays open and you are invited to simply enter!”
When you read the book of Hebrews you will notice that the author is very clear about this: this parrhesia, the right to enter with confidence and to walk erect before God, is a done deal. It is there for us to embrace. We don’t need to earn it, we don’t need to work hard to deserve it. It is there for us already. In my ministry I often hear people say: “I am not sure that I am forgiven, or I don’t know if God loves me, or how can I be sure that God accepts me”. The author is very clear: it is yours already! Just take it! Just step in!
This is why it is called Good News. Christian branches that place all kinds of preconditions for God’s love and embrace of us are dangerous for they want us to earn our forgiveness. They want us to do things that will impress God and make us worthy of God’s love. The Gospel is very clear: Because of Christ’s blood, because of his giving his life for us, forgiveness, acceptance, and God’s love are already ours!! The door is already open!
Of course, the author is also urging us to take the step. And he is serious about this too. He says there is a danger. The danger is not that we won’t receive God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness – because we already have these. The danger is also not that God would close God’s heart for us, or would push us away!
No, the danger is that we may lose these. And how do we stand to lose them? By not using them, by not stepping through the open door, by not entering the throne of grace.
Let me use a couple of metaphors to explain: If you are able to speak a second or third language, but you never use it, what happens? Yes, at some point you lose it. It is not that it is taken away from you but you, by not using it, loses your ability to speak it fluently. And then you lose the confidence, the boldness to speak it. Similarly, if you have a million dollars in your account, in your name, but you don’t use the money to buy food and clothes, that fortune is not going to help you. You will go hungry.
In other words, the fact that we have free access to God’s throne of mercy and grace, but if we don’t enter, if we don’t use it, then we won’t live with the joy, freedom, and gratitude that are available to us. If we don’t enter, then it does not matter that the door is open! If we think the yoke is still on our backs, we will not able to live as people whose yokes are removed.
And this is why the author, every time he uses the word parrhesia, the confidence and boldness that we already have to enter God’s heart and the throne of grace, adds these words: “….let us hold fast…” (4:16), “….let us approach…” (10:19), “…let us hold fast….”(10:22-23), and “….if we hold firm….” (3:6).
It is ours already. We should just use it!
There is one more important point: The boldness and confidence before God should also lead to confidence and boldness before people. This simply means that the fact that we have free access to God’s throne of mercy and grace, the fact that the yoke is broken, and that the door to God’s heart is open, and that we can walk upright, should result in us witnessing about God’s love in Christ. In other words, the fact that God has broken our yoke, opened God’s heart to us, and forgiven us, should mean that we should share the Good News with others. And at the same time we should help carry the burden and yokes of others. We should open our hearts to those who are hard to love. We should forgive others as we are forgiven.
As a matter of fact, the test to see if we truly understand what it means that we can enter God’s throne of mercy with confidence and boldness is if and when we extend God’s love, forgiveness and mercy to others; it is if and when we do what we can to lighten the burden of others. When we do so it will show that we truly know and understand the measure of God’s love and grace that are ours already. Amen.