Tuesday, February 24, 2009
A New Look at God's Covenant
“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying. This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you. And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:15-28). What a remarkable, essential book is Hebrews! More than any other in Scripture, it repeatedly affirms and underscores the superiority of Christ. It continually brings us back to the solid meat of Christianity, refusing to let us stay in the shadows looking for fulfillment in externals. Not even the Law represents God’s major message to humanity, as helpful and important is it may have once been. The Law brings to us the awareness of our need, but it does nothing to solve our deepest and most dreaded disease: sin. That takes blood…a certain kind of blood. And, as we will see in this passage, along with that blood comes an entirely new arrangement between God and humanity. This new arrangement is far superior to the rituals, regulations, and commandments of the Law. It is a “grace connection,” signed, sealed, and delivered in blood. First, look back. As we proceed, let’s keep in mind three things about the book of Hebrews. These will help us maintain a proper perspective. A. Its theme is the superiority of Jesus Christ. B. Its concern is that we rely on Christ’s finished work. C. Its emphasis is that we operate under a new arrangement. Second, a look at the blood (9:15:28). Offensive as it may sound to some; this is a blood-related subject. Note vv. 13-14. The blood relates to three things: the covenant, forgiveness, and salvation. We will consider each. A. As it relates to the Covenant (vv. 15-21). The term covenant is used no less than six times in this passage. In some instances it conveys the idea of “arrangement’; in other instances it conveys the idea of “will,” as in “last will and testament,” Under the terms of God’s plan, this will or new arrangement was signed, sealed, and delivered in blood. Leviticus 17:11. The old arrangement was preempted by something similar, but permanent: Christ’s blood and covenant. B. As it relates to forgiveness (v.22). This verse says two things. First, sin is a terrible offense. It is so offensive that it has blocked man from God; no other aspect of life leads to such separation. Second, forgiveness is a costly commodity. The proof of the awfulness of sin is God’s requirement that blood be shed for its cleansing. No blood, no forgiveness! B. As it relates to salvation (vv. 23-28). The first word in this passage is the beautiful connection therefore. Up until now, the writer has had us in a history lesson of blood, as well as giving us interesting contrasts between the old and new covenants. He presents two strong contrasts between the old days and the new days. First, Christ didn’t enter a holy place made with hands, but rather entered heaven itself (v. 24). Second, Christ did not offer Himself often, but rather, offered Himself once) (v. 25). In verses 27 and 28, in light of all he has presented, the writer offers a word of warning and a word of encouragement. The Greeks of the ancient world said, “Eat, drink, and be merry: for tomorrow you die.” Marcus Aurelius, a Roman, taught, “When one dies, his spark goes back and all that is left is dirt, ashes, bones and stench.” The writer of Hebrews says, “…It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment…” His word of warning is severe. God doesn’t care how religious or energetic we may be, how kind or good we are in attitude or action: He’s concerned that our hearts are washed in the blood of His Son. The reality of judgment awaits the person without Christ. In contrast, a word of encouragement is offered to the one who has become personally related to Christ. His judgment is behind him and his “salvation” (v.28) awaits him. He can therefore live and walk without fear. Third, a look at two abiding truths. A. Today’s sin is forgivable. B. Tomorrow’s judgment is escapable. Dr. Ken Copey is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.