Approaching the Unapproachable God
He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see (1 Tim. 6:15-16).
Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22).
Is it inconsistent for the Bible to teach that God dwells in “unapproachable light” while at the same time exhort us to approach Him? If God dwells in the white-hot light of His holiness, how can sinners like you and I ever hope to take even one baby step toward Him? If God is so pure, so completely undefiled, so sharply separate from sin, how can we approach Him? Indeed, He is unapproachable.
Yet, the author of Hebrews strongly encourages us to not only approach God, but to do so with confidence. How can this be? Is this not contradictory? It would be if it were not for two words, “since” and “since.”
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20).
The first reason why it is possible to approach the unapproachable God is because Jesus paved the way to God with His blood. He tiled a “newly slain way” into God’s presence. How did He do this? Through “the veil, that is, His flesh.” Through suffering and death, Jesus opened the door to God. By enduring the wrath of God for three long hours of darkness (Luke 23:44-45), He met the righteous demands of the holy God. By offering the veil of His flesh to be torn, He ripped the veil of the temple in two. By paying the death penalty for sin He threw open the door to God’s presence.
…and since we have a great priest over the house of God (Heb 10:21).
The second reason (which is really not a second, but is directly tied to the first) is because Jesus is superior to all human priests. The author calls Him a “great” priest because He did not bring a foreign sacrifice to God, but instead offered Himself. “Once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Only absolute purity would do. Only sinless flesh could satisfy God’s justice and mediate for sinners. As High Priest, Christ entered the holy place not made with hands to offer one sacrifice, one time, for all people. As a result, God’s holiness, righteousness, and wrath were satisfied. Now, all who come to Christ by faith approach God with confidence because they do so through His merit alone. Three days later, God sealed and advertised this new access by raising Him from the dead (Rom. 4:25). Therefore, we have “a great high priest who has passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4:14) and “always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25).
Therefore, it is not inconsistent for the Bible to compel us to draw near to God provided it is “in full assurance of faith.” Faith in what? Faith in whom? Faith must have an object or it has no value. The only faith that gives full assurance is faith in Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Why did He sit down? Because His atoning work was complete. The road was paved. The door is open. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
[Originally published in Delight in the WORD: Spiritual Food for Hungry Hearts.]