Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hebrews 7-9 The Covenant of Grace

"A BETTER Covenant for the Believer in Christ"
Hebrews 7:23 – 9:12

This section of Hebrews is really the meat of the epistle. The author even says in chapter eight, verse one "Now THIS is the MAIN POINT of the things we are saying" (NKJV).

These Jewish Christians needed to be convinced that Jesus was a better Priest, that believers in Jesus have a better position, and that we look forward to a better place than the earthly temple. To make this persuasive argument, the author contrasts Christ's priesthood with the earthly priesthood, and then sites and explains Jer. 31:31-34 (the longest Old Testament quote in the New Testament) to convince these converted Jews that Jesus initiated a BETTER COVENANT through His death on the cross.

Hebrews 7:
20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
      " The LORD has sworn      And will not relent,      ' You
a priest
      According to the order of Melchizedek'"),
by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

Imagine how wonderful it would be to have a priest or intermediary who would never die! That is exactly what we have in Christ!

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For such a High Priest was fitting for us,
who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

    1. A Continuing Priest (vv.23-24)

"Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood" (NKJV).

2. A Capable Priest (v.25)

Have you ever entrusted your affairs to an incompetent person? What a frustrating thing to take that which is extremely important to you and have to entrust it to a person who doesn't really care and doesn't really know what to do. It would be even more frustrating if that were the only person you could turn to. Imagine having only one inefficient, unknowledgeable doctor to see for care. Imagine having to trust all the concerns of a large corporation to an untrained and lazy attorney. Imagine having to trust the affairs of a nation to a short-sighted, self-centered politician. Imagine having to trust your soul's welfare to the careless attention of an incompetent, disqualified priest!

Christ is more than capable! He is, "able to save TO THE UTTERMOST those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (7:25 NKJV).

3. A Consecrated Priest (v.26)

He proved this in His life, "For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is HOLY, HARMLESS, UNDEFILED, SEPARATE FROM SINNERS, and has become higher than the heavens" (7:26 NKJV).

No other priest has ever had a testimony like that! Toward God, He was holy, fully satisfying all the righteous claims of a holy God. Toward man, He was without blame, free from all accusation and guilt. Toward Himself, He was undefiled, without any taint of sin! Christ's whole life was consecrated to the ministry for which He had come into the world and for which He has now ascended "higher than the heavens".

He also proved this in His death, "who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (7:27 NKJV).

The Lord's death on the cross at Calvary is of such eternal significance that, although He intercedes daily, He never has to renew the sacrifice – it was ONCE FOR ALL. The priests of the Old Testament had to continually offer sacrifices over and over again, but not Christ. That is why we have a better Priest in Jesus. Not only was Christ consecrated in His life and death, but He is also consecrated for all eternity, "For the law appoints as high priests men who have weaknesses, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected FOREVER" (7:28 NKJV).

The endless ages of eternity will come and go and our Priest, Christ Jesus, will STILL be there! We have a better Priest because, unlike the earthly priests, He is continuing, capable, and consecrated! This is why He is able to minister to us.

Hebrews 8: 1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."


This was a man who, once a year, was able to go into the "holy of holies" – the place where God was! He served in the beautifully ornate temple daily! How could this carpenter from Galilee compare in majesty and glory? The author of Hebrews was saying that these lesser Old Testament priests pale in comparison in light of the greater Priest of Christ; just as a candle would lose its light in the noon day sun.

For these converted Jews to realize this they must understand where Jesus ministers for us, "We have such a High Priest, WHO IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF THE MAJESTY IN THE HEAVENS" (8:1 NKJV)!

For all of Aaron's glory, he was merely a man. With great attention to detail and preparation, once a year, he could briefly enter into God's presence under a cloud of burning incense. Jesus, however, was more than just a man; He was God in the flesh! No bulls were slain to cover His sin; no incense was burnt to convey His prayers. He offered Himself once as the sacrifice for all and then SAT DOWN in the throne room of the majesty in heaven! He serves forever in the place of majesty!

It is also a place of ministry. Christ is now, "a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected and not man" (8:2 NKJV).

In the Old Covenant, the high priest went into the presence of God once a year on behalf of the people of Israel to offer atonement (through blood) for their sins. In a sense, the high priest was mediating for the people of Israel; he was their representative before God. In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ offered a once and for all atonement for the sins of the world through His shed blood on the cross. He was buried, raised the third day (praise His Name), and ascended into heaven. He is now seated at the right hand of God. But that's not all! The Scriptures tell us that He now, "always lives to make intercession for them [the saved]" (Heb. 7:25 NKJV). Jesus is a better Priest because He forever ministers in a majestic place for us. Continuing in Hebrews 8…

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

The Israelite people were indeed blessed, under the Old Covenant, to have the tabernacle in the wilderness as a means for worship. No other nation served the true and living God. The law was imprinted on tablets of stone and was enforced by external compulsion. God provided for his people, protected them, and punished them when they strayed into sin (all for their good and His glory).

The author of Hebrews now points to "better promises" under the New Covenant that were prophesied by Jeremiah (31:31-34)

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 In that He says, "A new covenant, " He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. The Mosaic Covenant was ineffective in solving the sin problem. Sacrifices had to be made continually for sin (even for the Priest). The New Covenant is better in that it has brought about a permanent solution to the sin problem. Jesus paid the price for sin ONCE and for ALL.

God initiated the Old Covenant knowing full well it would be ineffective in dealing with the sin problem. The Mosaic Covenant was "anticipatory" in the sense that God had always planned for the New Covenant. In this regard God planned for the old covenant to become obsolete through Christ.

A. The believer in Christ

Under the Old Covenant, one's standing before God was impersonal and conditional. It was impersonal in the sense that they experienced connection with God through a priest. It was conditional based on the sacrifice of an animal for their sin. If they sinned after the ceremony they were unclean and in need of another animal sacrifice.

Under the New Covenant, the believer in Christ has a better position. Our standing before God is now personal and unconditional because we are "in Christ"! We ourselves can come boldly into the presence of God on our own behalf; not in our own righteousness, but dressed in the righteousness of our perfect High Priest Jesus Christ! We can say along with the apostle Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN CHRIST…IN HIM we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:3 &7 NKJV)!

Under the New Covenant the believer stands IN CHRIST! In a practical sense, this means that when God looks at you He doesn't see your faults, failures, and flub-ups, He sees Jesus!

Not only do we have a better position because we are IN CHRST, but we also enjoy a better position because Christ is IN US!

B. Christ in the believer

Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 1:13-14, 13 IN HIM you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; IN WHOM also, having believed, YOU WERE SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory" (NKJV).

Not only are we IN CHRIST, but Christ is IN US through the wonderful Person of the Holy Spirit! God spoke through Jeremiah regarding the New Covenant, "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they will be my people" (Heb. 8:10; Jer.31:33 NKJV).

Under the Old Covenant the law was imprinted on tablets of stone and was enforced by external compulsion, but under the New Covenant the law is imprinted on our hearts and is encouraged by internal inspiration!

It is important to understand that this New Covenant was made by God to the Jewish people (the "house of Israel and the house of Judah"). Under the New Covenant, God promises to one day unify a divided nation in Christ. But we know from Isaiah 55:3-5 that this New Covenant also includes the Gentiles (that's us); even though we are not specifically mentioned in Jeremiah 31. Here is the heart of the issue: the author of Hebrews applied Jeremiah's New Covenant to the Church and yet the Old Testament connects the New Covenant with the house of Israel and Judah in future fulfillment. So, there is an "already", "not yet" fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy. All who place their faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross experience "already" the blessings of the New Covenant, while Israel awaits the future fulfillment.

What a blessed privilege we have (as Gentiles) to be "grafted in" by God's gracious design (see Romans 11)! We were once "aliens" who were far away from God, but He has brought us close through the blood of Jesus Christ! Paul writes in Col. 1:21, "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight" (NKJV)!

Our better position under the New Covenant is as secure as Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in the Trinity. For God to reject us when we are IN CHRIST would be for God to reject Himself. For God to reject us when the HOLY SPIRIT dwells in us would be for God to reject Himself! Paul says, "38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD (Rom. 8:38-39 NKJV)!

We Have a Better Place (9:1-12)

Here the author goes into a brief description of the Old Testament Tabernacle's design and the duties of the attending priests. We have enjoyed having a replica of the tabernacle these past few weeks in the sanctuary. We've learned about the brazen altar, where animal sacrifices for sin were offered daily, about the bronze laver where the priests washed before entering the holy place, the table of showbread and the lamp stand, the altar of incense which symbolizes the prayers of the saints, the veil which separates sinful man from the holy presence of God, the ark of the Old Covenant which contained the ten commandments, a bowl of manna, and Aaron's rod that had budded. All of this was "symbolic" of what was to come under the New Covenant. The word the author uses in verse 9 for "symbolic" is the Greek word "parabole" from which the English word "parable" is derived. The Old Testament Tabernacle was simply a parable or picture of what is in heaven. It was a beautiful place indeed, but we now have a better place!

A. Where Christ is ministering for us

After describing the earthly Tabernacle in verses 1-10 of chapter 9 the author shifts our attention to a heavenly sanctuary, "a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation" (9:11).

Jesus, our High Priest, has entered into the very presence of God in heaven on our behalf. His shed blood covers our sin! "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place ONCE for ALL, having obtained ETERNAL redemption" (9:12)!

As mentioned earlier, Jesus does not serve as our High Priest in some ornate, ancient, earthly cathedral, or in some modern, high-tech auditorium, He ministers for us in the very presence of Almighty God!

B. What Christ is making for us

Jesus is our Mediator, Who makes intercession for us, but He is also a Master builder who has been in construction for us! Jesus told His disciples in John 14:1-3 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU.3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (NKJV).

We can only imagine the place that is being prepared for all those who believe! We rejoice along with Peter who wrote, "3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, RESERVED IN HEAVEN FOR YOU, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJV).

More important than the place of heaven is the Person of Heaven. We will finally see our Savior face to face! The One Who lived, died, and rose again to save us, sustain us, and share His glory with us for all eternity! This is indeed a better Covenant for the Believer in Christ!


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