Word of the Week
November 25, 2023
Parrēsia: Coming Confidently
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NASB
“Dad, I have a little problem. I just rear-ended someone in the school parking lot. Can you help me figure out what to do?”
Nobody enjoys making that call. Who knows what response you’ll get? It’s a conversation that you approach with uncertainty, even timidity.
And that’s how we often feel when we come to God again, asking Him to bail us out of our latest predicament.
What an encouragement to read Hebrews 4:16, where the Lord urges us to approach His throne “with confidence.”
Let’s look more closely at the word “confidence.” The Greek word is parrēsia, which occurs 31 times in the New Testament. It usually describes boldness or confidence in speaking, and that fits the context of Hebrews 4 very well. When we come to God, we have something to say, something to ask. And we don’t have to be hesitant or shy. We can come directly to Him and say exactly what is on our minds.
Sometimes the word can mean “to speak plainly, to be clear rather than ambiguous.” In John 10:24, the Jews came to Jesus and demanded, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Sometimes the word means “to speak without using figures of speech, in plain, literal terms.” At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25).
Sometimes it means “to speak publicly rather than in private.” At one point, Christ’s brothers advised Him to go up to the feast in Jerusalem to promote His kingdom there. “No one,” they explained, “does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly” (John 7:4).
The central idea of parrēsia, however, is “to speak without fear, to speak freely and frankly.”
We need this boldness in speaking to men about God:
- Peter prayed for boldness in speaking the word of God (Acts 4:29).
- The Jewish leaders were astonished at the boldness with which Peter and John spoke about Jesus (Acts 4:13).
- Paul was sharing the truth with boldness, even when he was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:31)
- Paul asked the Ephesians to pray that he would have the words to proclaim the gospel with boldness (Ephesians 6:19).
And we have the privilege of boldness when we are speaking to God:
- We have access to God with confidence through Jesus (Ephesians3:12).
- We can have confidence to enter the holy presence of God (Hebrews 10:19).
- We must abide in Him, so that we may have confidence and not shrink back when He returns (1 John 2:28).
- If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence with God (1 John 3:21).
What then does it mean to approach God with parrēsia?
First, we don’t need to be hesitant about approaching God. He has told us to come, and He will never scold us for bringing our needs to Him.
Second, we don’t need to beat around the bush with God. We can honestly tell Him exactly what is on our minds. You won’t shock or surprise Him; He already knows.
Third, we don’t have to cautiously weigh every word, fearful that we’ll say the wrong thing. He knows our intent, even if we don’t know exactly how to express it.
Fourth, we can come to Him boldly because we have a relationship with Him. Unbelievers will not feel safe approaching a holy God, but if you have accepted Christ, you are coming to your Father.
The door to the Throne Room is open. Don’t hesitate at the threshold, working up the nerve to go in. Stride right in and speak freely to your Father.
There is another New Testament word for confidence: pepoithēsis springs from a Greek verb peithō which often means “to persuade.” It refers to the kind of confidence that comes from being fully convinced or persuaded of something. You can see this word in action by looking at 2 Corinthians 1:15; 3:4; 8:22; 10:2; Ephesians 3:12; and Philippians 3:4. Ephesians 3:12 uses both words simultaneously.
Q – Revelation 7:14 says that the saints who come through the great tribulation “have washed their robes” and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Was this an active process where the saints took their own robes and washed them, or was it something passive done by someone else? And does the word for clothes refer to any kind of clothing or is it an outer garment?
A – The verb “washed” is an active verb, not a passive form. It is used three times in the New Testament. Luke 5:2 says that the fishermen were washing their nets – so it is something that you can do actively. It is used figuratively in Revelation 7:14 and 22:14, washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb. I take it that this is a vivid way to say that they received the righteousness of Christ by coming to Him for cleansing on the basis of the blood that He shed on Calvary.
The word translated “robes” is stolas, which refers specifically to a long outer robe worn by men.
Can you trust your conscience? If your conscience doesn’t bother you, are you assured that you are ethically OK? Next week we will take a look at the Greek word for conscience.
©Ezra Project 2023