Boldness or Reverence?
by Jacob Hudgins
How do we approach God? Repeatedly we are encouraged to come with boldness. Because we have a sympathetic high priest, “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace”(Heb 4:16). And again, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”(Heb 10:19, 22). Paul adds that in Christ “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him”(Eph 3:12). Christians are confident that God will hear our prayers and receive our worship because of our connection to Jesus.
But many passages also teach us to approach God with reverence. This is a major thread of Old Testament worship. In the aftermath of the death of Nadab and Abihu, God declares, “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified”(Lev 10:3). When Isaiah sees God on his throne, he is overcome with his own sinfulness (Isa 6:5). Yet Christians too are taught to fear God (Rom 11:20, 1 Pet 1:17) and to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire”(Heb 12:28-29). God is so holy and good that he is to be feared, especially as he is approached by mere men who have disobeyed him.
So which is it? Boldness or reverence? It is clear that these two approaches to God rub against one another. How can we come boldly while fearing? How can we be reverent if we are so confident? Reverence stems from an awareness of God’s greatness and my sinfulness. Boldness, though, comes not from me but from my connection to Jesus. I am bold because I have him as high priest, because I enter through his blood, because my faith in him gives me access with confidence. This is the great fact that has changed from Old Testament times—the name of God’s Son opens doors for me in heavenly places.
So as I focus on God’s greatness and my smallness, I feel reverence and fear. But when I remember the sacrifice of Jesus, I grow bold. I know God hears me because of him. I know God welcomes me as a son because of him. I know my requests will be heard on high—even audacious requests—because he is my advocate, mediator, and high priest.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.”