Monday, February 16, 2009
Christ's Covenant with His Church
“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’ But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:1-13). The eight chapters of Hebrews speak directly to the issue of the new covenant-the new arrangement-which is better than the old in every way. It all ties in beautifully with the things that have been said about Christ’s priesthood. In fact, since Jesus is now our bridge to the Father, He has become our guarantee of a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22). This assures us that whatever the agreement includes, our Savior is the One who makes it possible and the one who gives it validity. In this study, we want to understand more of what the new covenant is all about. One thing is certain: It’s so superior to the old that there is scarcely a comparison. First, Christ’s Priesthood: Better than the former. One of the reasons is the book of Hebrews addresses a question that continues to attract our attention, it frequently addresses and presents the answer to man kinds’ most basic problem” his sin. In ancient days, priests represented sinners to God by building a bridge, spiritually speaking, from man on earth to God in heaven. The problem with this method? The effect was never final. No matter how sincere or good the priest might have been, he could only carry blood to the altar to wash away the sins of the moment. In contrast, the great message of Hebrews is that in Christ we have as firm, permanent, and timeless solution to our most basic need (Hebrews 10:11-12). Second, Christ’s Covenant: Better than the old (Hebrews 8:1-13). Chapter 8:1-2 forms a transition between the explanations of Christ’s priesthood and His covenant. The beginning of chapter 8 reads “Now the main point in what has been said is this.” The writer then makes three summarizing comments: First, we have a high Priest: Second, He has sat down (with His sacrifice accomplished, He “has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty): third, He represents us in the throne room of God. The writer describes this place of Christ’s ministry as the true tabernacle. Let’s look together at the reasons it is better and the ways in which it was new. Note the reasons the arrangement is better (vv. 3-9). It is reality, not a representation (vv. 3-5). For years under Moses, the priests operated within a shadowy outline of types, concepts, and representations (Hebrews 10:1); but when Christ entered the heavens on our behalf, He stepped into reality. It is faultless, not faulty (vv. 6-9). The old covenant was not sinful, but less than the best. Jesus brought in a brand-new arrangement that was sinless and offered the promise of righteousness. Here are some ways the arrangement is better (vv. 10-12). Four are offered, and they respond to man’s most anguished feelings regarding God. 1. It offers internal motivation and power instead of external lists (v. 10a). This answers the feeling, “I can’t measure up.” 2. It is based on as close relationship instead of one that is fearful or distant (v. 10b). This answers the feeling. “I am afraid; God scares me, and He keeps me at a distance from Himself.” 3. It provides confidence and assurance instead of insecurity and uncertainty (v.11). This answers the feeling, “I never know for certain just where I stand with the Lord.” 4. It emphasizes forgiveness and mercy instead of failure and wrong (v. 12). This answers the feeling, “I am guilty as charged and can’t solve the sin problem.” In verse 13, our attention is drawn to three points which characterized the old arrangement at the time this letter was written: it was obsolete, growing old, and ready to disappear. In the first century, the readers understood the writer to be saying that the old covenant was about to vanish and they had to accept that reality. Third, Christ’s life: Better than the flesh. Two contrasting applications can be drawn from this study. My old flesh stains my soul with permanent dark shadows of sin and death; Law condemns. Christ’s new life takes my darkness and makes it the basis of my being able to grasp grace; grace rescues. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and church meetings.