Lesson Number 12
PRIEST OVER A COVENANT
"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 sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence 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 sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, 'See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.' But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which 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 had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "The days will come, says 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 lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says 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 every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:1-13, RSV).
We cannot make too much of the New Covenant. It is the basis of our association with God. It is the focus of Christ's present ministry. This was the Divine anticipation in God's promise to Abraham. The Law was "added" to this ancient promise to define sin, "stop" the boasting mouths of sinners, and prepare people for the coming Savior (Rom 3:19-20; Gal 3:24-26). The Law was not the real point. The New Covenant, given as a promise to Abraham, was the Divine objective all along. Throughout Scripture, this covenant is the object of Divine attention and revelation. For this reason, it is imperative for the people of God to have a working knowledge of the matter.
Paul declares this was the essence of God's promise to Abraham (Gal 3:18). Jeremiah stated the Divine intention in most precise language (Jer 31:31-34). This covenant was the means through which the promises would be fulfilled to the people. It would involve the removal of a stony heart, and the impartation of as malleable one (Ezek 11:19; 36:26). This new covenant would bring the fulfillment of the promised blessing. "In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer 23:6; 33:16). Isaiah spoke of it as a time of renewal. "Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay" (Isa 35:6-7). This New Covenant would be the "way" upon which the righteous would make their way to glory and to the Lord Himself (Isa 35:8).
The Lord Jesus spoke of the New Covenant in the establishment of the Lord's table (Matt 26:28). Paul reiterated this to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:25-28). He also declared to them the Apostles were "ministers of the new testament" (covenant, NASB, NIV), 2 Cor 3:6. The great redemptive words of Scripture are fulfilled in the New Covenant. Words like justification, sanctification, redemption, and cleansing (Rom 4:25; 5:16,18; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2; Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7; Eph 5:26; 1 John 1:9). These are all benefits of the New Covenant. The book of Hebrews especially emphasizes this glorious covenant. It is twice called a "better covenant" (Heb 7:22; 8:6), and four times a "new covenant" (Heb 8:8; 8:13; 9:15; 12:24). Those who trample beneath their feet the "blood of the covenant" have "done despite to the Spirit of grace" (Heb 10:29). It is also called an "eternal" or "everlasting covenant" (Heb 13:20). The New Covenant is of critical importance to us! Our salvation is found there. The change of nature takes place there. Good hope and everlasting consolation flow from it. No one in Christ can be content to remain ignorance of this remarkable blessing! These things can and must be known by the child of God. To fail to know them will result in disaster.
"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum" (KJV). "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying" (NKJV). "The point of what we are saying is this" (NIV). What a point is being made! It differs so significantly from the burden of contemporary preaching that it is staggering. Romans 8:34 proclaims, "Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." Jude breaks forth in doxology in Jude 24, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy." Peter, declaring Christ's present activity, affirmed, "God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31, RSV).
Our text summarizes this aspect of our salvation. "We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man" (NIV). Notice these words, and allow them to "sink down into your ears" (Luke 9:44).
This is the condition that now exists: "We DO have such a High priest!" it is not only something we need, it is something we possess! This is an aspect of salvation that is altogether glorious! Job desired such an One, but did not enjoy the benefit (Job 9:23). The Israelites, with an extensive legal and moral system did not have a high priest like those in the New Covenant. Our Lord Jesus is a High Priest forever, and that adequately addresses every condition and circumstance conceivable. He is also appointed and approved by the Living God with Whom we have to do!
Having concluded His work upon earth, He is now reigning at the right hand "of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." His present posture is not one of rest, but one of rule and dominion. He is reigning in the behalf of the saved, ensuring their faith and hope is not vain. He is ruling over all opposing forces and influences in order for those who run the race with patience may arrive safely at the goal. The term "Majesty in the heavens" is an intriguing one. It is the same phrase mentioned in 1:3, with the exception of "on high," which is used there in place of "in the heavens." The idea is that here is where the government of the Almighty is situated. Here is where the entire natural and moral universes are administrated. Everything is being rules with the salvation of the people in mind. Here opposing forces are crushed, and heavenly powers are engaged to bring the sons of God to glory!
From the standpoint of our salvation, our High Priest occupies the "sanctuary," which parallels the "most holy place" of the tabernacle. There is no reason for you not to make it to glory! No reason why you cannot run the race that is set before you! Everything required is supplied in Christ Jesus! You can obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. Your conscience can be purged, and you can enjoy fellowship with the Son. The Father is well pleased with the arrangement, and you can be also yea, you MUST be! You have every reason to be optimistic, with the optimism of faith. You can expect your prayers to be heard and answered according to your faith! You can expect to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit as you are filled with all joy and peace in believing (Rom 15:13). The eyes of your understanding can be opened to comprehend the covenantal blessings that are secured in Christ (Eph 1:18-20; 3:16-21). You can have "everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2 Thess 2:16). All of this is true because we DO have such an High Priest, ministering for us in the very Presence of the Almighty! His presence in heaven assures our labors are not vain in the Lord!
"For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer" (8:3, KJV). The high priests of old were ordained to "offer gifts and sacrifices" to God in the behalf of the people (Num 18:5-9). No one could approach unto God without an offering. Even under the Law, the solemn injunction was given, "Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread . . . and none shall appear before me empty" (Ex 23:15). "All that openeth the matrix is mine . . . And none shall appear before me empty" (Ex 34:19-20). "Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed" (Deut 16:16). This was but a faint mirror of the requirement for an atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
If the Son is going to stand before God in the behalf of mankind, He must have something to offer. He could resume His place in the heavenlies without having something to offer. He could appear before His God and Father "empty." This aspect of God is not commonly perceived in our time.
Transgression creates indebtedness to God. This condition exists because sin robs God of His glory--His rightful glory. Its is an assertion of the human will against the Lord Whose image we bear. As unreasonable as it sounds to the flesh, an offering must be presented to God to atone for the sin. This requirement was pictured in the Law, but not fulfilled by it. It required the offering of an innocent victim in the behalf of the guilty Lev 4:20; 10:17; Num 29:5).
For some, this is a reprehensible thing--the innocent dying for the guilty. Some, in the foolishness of their ignorance, have affirmed that it is too bloody to be worthy of a loving God. But they have missed the point. Under the Law, animals were sacrificed, not people. They were offered in anticipation of a coming sacrifice that would be effective to remove guilt.
Not only did His nature forbid Him to overlook transgression, it also would not allow Him to abandon sinners.
God demanded an offering because He longed for the return of His offspring. The required sacrifice would allow Him to be "just and the Justifier" of those who received the atonement (Rom 3:24-26). Thereby He could remain righteous and, at the same time, provide a way for fallen men to also be righteous.
Under the Old Covenant, the Lord introduced what He was going to do. Not only was it seen in the sacrificial system, but in the high priest, who actually accomplished the atonement. That high priest was put in office to accomplish these things. As it is written, "For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices . . . " (Heb 8:3a). That was their role--the primary activity they fulfilled. And why so? Because they were introducing a concept to men, and putting God in remembrance, so to speak, of the coming atoning sacrifice.
"This man" refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, particularly in His high priestly office. Notice how emphatic the statement: "so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer" (Heb 8:3b). If Jesus made no offering, the type would have been violated, and God's revealed will in both Word and type would have been nullified. Without Jesus, the sacrificial law was senseless, and without the sacrificial law, Christ's sacrifice could not have been apprehended.
At this point a very important aspect of redemptive truth is established. The place where the atoning sacrifice was offered is of critical importance. The blood of the sacrifice was placed upon the horns of the altar, and sprinkled around its base (Ex 29:12,16; Lev 1:5,11; 4:7,18,25). But that is not where the atonement was made! The atonement was made upon the mercy seat which covered the ark of the covenant, and it was made inside the veil of separation (Lev 16:14-15).
Jesus could not simply step in and perform the sacrifices that were introductory under the Law. First, He was not qualified to do so. Second, there were already priests performing that function. As it is written, "Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things . . . " (Heb 8:4-5, NASB). Not only does Jesus not function upon earth as a high priest, He did not make the atonement in this world. Like the high priest took the blood of the animal within the holy place, so Jesus took His blood within the heavenly sanctuary. It is there that He made the atonement for sin! As it is written, "But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance . . . For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own" (Heb 9:7, 24-25).
The Spirit emphasizes that Jesus did not enter heaven with the blood of another sacrifice, but with His own blood. "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12, NIV). There is something that could not be said of any Levitical sacrifice--that it obtained "eternal redemption." Here is a sacrifice that is effective for all people for all time. God is thoroughly satisfied with the sacrifice. That is why it will never again be offered.
Jesus has presented the blood of His sacrifice to the Father--pure and "innocent blood" (Matt 27:4). What is more, that offering has been received by God, and is effective for everyone that receives it by faith. God is pleased with it, and its power will accrue to anyone who likewise is pleased with it. Salvation is a legitimate gift to be received.
Our text states it this way. "They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain" (8:5, NIV).
This is a very important text. It has occasioned he development of a view of Scripture called "pattern theology." This is a corrupted view, created by man and for man. God is perceived as here stating an approach to Himself is to be regimented, and according to a "pattern." Thus, some conceive of a set number of "elements" in worship. These must be present to validate worship. One sect classifies them as (1 preaching, (2 praying, (3 singing, (4 the Lord's supper, and (5 fellowship. This is NOT the meaning of this text, and represents a serious corruption of it.
The Spirit is speaking of the ministry of the Lord Jesus as a faithful High Priest. Here, in the heavenly places, God has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings" (Eph 1:3; 2:6). These are being administered to us by the exalted Christ.
The Old Covenant introduced the glories of redemption. In the words of our text, the sanctuary was "a copy and shadow of what is in heaven." It was therefore imperative that Moses "make everything according to the pattern" he received on the mountain. A brief review will suffice to acquaint us with this "pattern." It depicts heavenly realities.
The "pattern" of reference was precise. It is reviewed in the ninth chapter. We will only introduce it in this lesson. Here is the "pattern." "A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance" (9:2-7). The following observations will suffice. They are representative of the proper approach to and service of the Living God.
1. The place of activity is a holy place, dedicated exclusively to the Lord. It is not used for any other purpose. 2. The holy place had continual illumination and bread. 3. The place of service was did not allow for direct contact with God. That was another area, called the "holiest of all." It was separated from the holy place by a thick veil. 4. This is where effective representation of the people took place. 5. Because the "golden censer" was located here, the fragrance of incense was strongest in this area of the tabernacle. 6. The ark of the covenant was also in the holiest place. Here was the essence of the covenant. The evidence of Divine sustenance was found in the golden pot of manna. The token of Divine guidance was found in Aaron's rod that budded. And, the "words of the covenant" were found in the tables of the covenant. 7. The basis upon which communication was made is seen in the covering over the ark of the covenant--a mercy seat. 8. Angelic creatures were over the mercy seat, overshadowing it and peering, as it were, into its provisions. 9. Once these things were set in place, the priests entered the holiest place, but never without blood. It was there the real offering was made for himself and the sins of the people. The above details were a precise reflection of the approach to the Living God. They acquainted people with the necessity of someone being in the Presence of the Almighty in our behalf. The approach to God required illumination and sustenance. Once in the presence of God, He had to be well pleased--a circumstance depicted by sweet smelling incense. All of the workings of God are in remembrance there--i.e., how He led and fed us, as well as the covenant upon which His acceptance of us is based. Above all, the interposition of God into human affairs is upon the basis of mercy, and mercy alone. The blood appeals to His mercy.
Other aspects of this foreshadowing that is not here addressed includes: (1. Coming to God in separation from the world (seen in the presence of the outer court). (2. Approaching God upon the basis of vicarious sacrifice (pictured in the brazen altar). (3. Being washed and made clean (depicted in the laver of washing.
Moses was strictly commanded to make all things "according to the pattern" that was revealed to him on Mount Sinai. The reason for this demand was not the enforcement of procedure, but the establishment of the type. A distortion of the tabernacle pattern would result in a distortion of understanding. The nature and requirements of our acceptance would not be perceived clearly.
The seriousness of violating a type of shadow is seen in the occasion when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it. This event is recorded in Numbers 20:8-11. Once before, Moses was used to bring water from the rock by striking it (Ex 17:6). The second time, the Lord precisely told Moses to "Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water" (Num 20:8).
Instead of speaking to the rock, and because the people provoked him with their insolence and unbelief (Psa 106:33), Moses struck the rock. Here is the record. "And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice . . . " (Num 20:11). This action resulted in Moses not being allowed to enter the promised land (Num 20:12). Why was God so stern in this matter?
Moses' action violated a type, or foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus would be "struck" because of the sins of the people, and a fountain for sin and uncleanness would thus be opened (Zech 13:1). But He would be smitten only one time! The Spirit even makes an emphasis of this. "ONCE" is repeatedly used in reference to Christ's vicarious death (Rom 6:9-10; Heb 7:27; 9:12,26,28; 10:10). The presence of types and shadows in the tabernacle required--absolutely required--that it be made "according to the pattern" else the reality would not be understood.
What Jesus is doing now is superior to everything that was before Him. His ministry is a grand and glorious one. With all of its pomp, splendor and liturgical beauty, the Old Covenant was a vastly inferior covenant. The high priests ministry compared to Christ's only as a type and a shadow. Those who glory in appearance do well to learn this. "But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises" (8:6, NIV).
Here the Spirit reasons from a different vantage point. Previously He has declared that a change in the priesthood necessitated a change in the law (the law concerning high priests). Now He looks at the superiority of Christ's present ministry is traced to superiority of the New Covenant. Emphatically, it is "a better covenant, which is established upon better promises" (8:6, KJV). (1 Cor 1:9). There is no acceptable answer for this transgression--a sin which has relegated the Son of God to an inferior position!
And what is Christ's current ministry? It is surprising how some theology represents salvation as not even requiring a present ministry on the part of Jesus. Some imagine that salvation can be accomplished by a Divine fiat -- a "Let there be .. ", if you please. In the book of Hebrews alone, this is underscored several times.
1-He is "bringing many sons to glory" (2:10). 2-He is declaring the name of God to His brothers (2:12), expounding the Father to them as He said He would (Matt 1:27). 3-Jesus presently has charge of His house, supplying their needs and caring for them (3:5). 4-His presence at the Father's right hand ensures that we will be able to "hold firmly to the faith we profess," appropriating mercy and grace to help "in the time of need" (4:14-16). 5-He is living to "make intercession for us" (7:25), and ministering the benefits of the covenant to us (Heb 8:1-13). How is it that Jesus is able to minister so effectively to us? Why are the results of His ministry vastly superior to that of Aaron, and the entire Levitical order? From one point of view, it is because of the transcendency of His Person. From another, it is because of the effectiveness of His vicarious death in our behalf. Our text declares yet another reason. It is because of the superiority of the New Covenant, which is established upon better promises. This is a covenant based upon a satisfied God, a reconciled people, and change of heart. The words of the covenant are not written upon tablets of stone, but upon the fleshly tablets of the heart--they are inscribed upon our very nature. Sins have been remitted righteously and thoroughly. A way has been made for us to know the Lord, not merely philosophize about Him--to have intimacy with Him, not merely embrace a system of thought. If ever there was a message to shout to this generation, it is this one!
The New Covenant is not simply a change, it is a necessity. But, why so? Because of God's desire for mankind. The Old Covenant did not allow God to fulfill His will for His offspring. It had no power to change them, and thus God could not receive them in the sense He desired. The Spirit is very particular on this point. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second" (8:7, KJV). God never makes changes needlessly. He does not seek novelty--or change for changes sake. In the heavenly Kingdom, things do not grow "old." That is a trait of heaven, not of earth. Change is facilitated only when it is necessary. The words of this verse require further examination. It is stated precisely. "For if the first covenant had been faultless . . . ," or "if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant." That covenant was NOT flawed in expression, but in results. It did not achieve what God wanted achieved. Elsewhere we are informed that its weakness was due to the "flesh," not the words of the covenant themselves (Rom 8:3). That is, it required more of men than he was capable of doing. What it more, it provided no resources for the accomplishment of its requirements. When man could not measure up, the Law condemned him, stopping his mouth and making him guilty before God (Rom 3:19).
It is not that the Law made unreasonable demands they were impossible to the flesh, but not unreasonable. It only required what God Himself demanded. His nature was the reason for the demand. If He was to fellowship His offspring as He desired, they must be righteous--absolutely righteous. There could be no flaw in them from His point of view--and that is the only real point of view. The Law provided a means of convincing sinful man of his condition. Taken seriously, that Law would lead him to Christ, Who is able to bring the individual to God, washed and righteous.
God was not looking for a reason to condemn humanity, but a reason to save it. As our blessed Savior said, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). If, therefore, salvation was going to be accomplished, a New Covenant would have to be enacted--one that was in keeping with His promised objective to bless the world (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Without a New Covenant, there would be no blessing.
Jeremiah heralded the coming covenant--a New Covenant within which the purpose of God would be accomplished. "The days are surely coming, says the Lord . . . " (8:8a, NRSV). God declares the end from the beginning, affirming what He will do without fear of contradiction. On one occasion He said, "Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure'" (Isa 46:9-10, NKJV).
It is as though the Lord challenges the old serpent and his hierarchy of evil to thwart His purpose. "The days are surely coming," the Lord affirms, over 700 years before their arrival. It created anticipation in the hearts of those with faith, and anger in the adversaries. (Lk 4:18-21).
From the standpoint of an outpouring of the Spirit (something the Law did not provide), Peter announced the New Covenant had come on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-22). All of the Epistles are a confirmation of the presence of the New Covenant and the passing of the Old. More than correcting conduct (which they do), the Apostolic writings show the unreasonableness of being dominated by sin under the New Covenant. This is, indeed, a better day!
The message of Hebrews also revolves around the subject of the New Covenant. Believers were drifting away from the blessing, back into the curse. Consequently, they were getting further from Christ, further from a cleansed conscience, and further from the power of God. They were settling for being in the outer court, when Jesus has enabled them to come into the holiest of all!
The New Covenant is of another order. It is not simply another set of commandments, or the institution of another way of doing things. It is not a system of worship or a moral code. It is not a certain way of living, or a set of tenets that can be embraced without the involvement of the heart. God declared, "It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt . . . " (8:9a, NIV). These words are taken from Jeremiah 31:31-34.
A "NEW Covenant" is a new order or kind of covenant. It is not a revamping of the old one, or an updated version of the Ten Commandments. It is a NEW basis of acceptance with God. It a NEW approach to God. It is a NEW way of appropriating righteousness. This is a covenant results n a changed nature. It is one in which sins cannot be remembered by God Himself. It is truly a "NEW COVENANT."
It is unfortunate that much of the instruction given about this covenant falls far short of the Spirit's proclamation. Too often it is presented as a set of rules and procedures, much like that of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant presumed recalcitrance in the people. The New Covenant presumes reconciliation and the presence of a new nature. The Old Covenant kept the people at a distance. The New Covenant urged them to draw near. With its elaborate sacrificial system, the Old Covenant could never take away sin. In the New Covenant, God remembers transgressions "no more." Under the Old Covenant, at the height of the sacrifice, sin was remembered. In the New Covenant, in the very presence of God, remission is remembered. The Old Covenant made nothing perfect. The New Covenant, because of Christ, finds people "perfected forever" (Heb 10:14). The Old Covenant had high priests that died. The New Covenant has a High Priest that is Alive forevermore. The Old Covenant was "added because of transgressions." The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the original and supreme promise. This is truly a New Covenant!
Although not generally mentioned by many so-called preachers, the New Covenant was promised to Israel. Here is the Word of the Lord. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel . . . " (8:10a, KJV; Jer 31:31). Here is a strain of thought that is woven throughout Scripture--the prominence of the Jews, or Israel. Incidently, I once read a man who objected to the term "Jew," thinking it was not Scriptural. In case you do not know, it is, indeed, a Scriptural word (Esth 2:5; 3:4; 5:13; 6:10; 8:7; 9:29; 10:3; John 4:9; 18:35; Acts 13:6; 18:2,24; 19:34; 21:39; 22:3; Rom 1:16; 2:9,10,17,28,29; 3:1; 10:12; 1 Cor 9:20; Gal 2:14; 3;28; Col 3:11).
This truth is stated succinctly in Romans 11:28. "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (NASB).
The Gospel is God's "power unto salvation, to the Jew first . . . " (Rom 1:16). Punishment for evil will also be to the Jew first. "Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (Rom 2:28). Rewards as well will be distributed to the Jew first. "But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile" (Rom 2:29). Let no one doubt Divine priorities!
But the matter goes further. Rather than the Jews being summarily cut off, "some" of them were removed, and Gentiles were grafted into THEIR tree. Here is how the Spirit puts it. "And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you" (Rom 11:18-19). If, therefore, the Jews have been totally removed, so have the Gentiles, for it is their lineage that bears us!
Paul takes the matter even further, declaring the purpose for his Apostleship to be reaching the Jews. "For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them" (Rom 11:13-14). The Spirit reveals this to be according to Divine intent. It is not a mere reaction. "Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Rom 11:11-12, NIV).
The covenant was made with Israel! Through the wisdom of God, their fall became the occasion of we Gentiles becoming a part of the life-giving root of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Praise the Lord for that reality! This opens a number of promises to us that were given to Israel, but were actually declarations of the New Covenant in which we now participate.
Isaiah foretold this covenant in terms of a moral change. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray" (Isa 35:5-8, NKJV).
Ezekiel spoke of the New Covenant also, describing a newness of heart. "Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them" (Ezek 11:19; 36:26-27). Zechariah spoke of the New Covenant in terms of provision for cleansing, "13:1 "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech 13:1). Malachi viewed it as something remedial. "But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings" (Mal 4:2).
The point is that Israel received all of the promises particular relating to the New Covenant and the benefits that would accrue from it. Paul put it this way. "Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen" (Rom 9:4-5). The phrase "make with the house of Israel" does not exclude the Gentiles. It does provide us a reference point concerning the magnitude of this New Covenant.
The uniqueness of the New Covenant is now detailed. Remember, this was declared by Jeremiah over 650 years before Jesus. It was a word of anticipation then, it is a word of fulfillment now--a "more sure word of prophecy." "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts . . . " (8:10b, KJV).
In respect to the heart of the work of this covenant, it is unilateral. The covenant is a commitment from God Almighty. That commitment was promised by the prophets, but could not take place before Christ Jesus because of the weakness of the Law. Man's hearing, perception, and will are all involved in the process--but the increase is of God. This describes a change of nature. Once God's law was written on stones--now it is written in the heart of the redeemed, and "put into their mind." That is remarkable language, and is not common in many religious circles. The expressions is actually abrasive to the person approaching God upon the basis of Law. This same truth is stated in a slightly different manner in Hebrews 10:16--a quotation of Jeremiah 31:33. "I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds" (NIV). This latter text reverses the activity. In Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 8:10, the law is PUT into the MIND, and WRITTEN upon the HEART. In this text it is PUT into the heart, and WRITTEN upon the MIND. The meaning is not altered, but the emphasis is placed upon the heart rather than the mind.
This is nothing less than the impartation of the Divine Nature, of which we become partakers (2 Pet 1:4). It is a transaction that results in agreement with God. It involves an inclination to and preference for the laws of God. It also includes a spiritual intuition that sanctifies the intellect. I am careful at this point to avoid any statement that leads to an emotion-based grasp of truth. Both the heart and mind are involved.
This glorious transaction is not a substitute for exposing our minds to the good Word of God. The Scriptures have been written "for our learning" (Rom 15:4), and no acceptable learning can take place without them. In God's Kingdom, however, our nature must be matched with the truth, else it will spill out, becoming inaccessible to our spirit. Remember, "the carnal mind is enmity against (hostile to, NIV) God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom 8:7). Whatever a person may think about the capabilities of the intellect and logical thinking, it cannot compensate for coming "short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). It is possible for God to speak audibly from heaven, in human language, and religious people think it thundered (John 12:29). It is also possible for people to kill Jesus upon the basis of their understanding of Scripture (John 5:19). A fallen nature cannot think in a heavenly manner! Those who themselves are coming short of the glory of God cannot enter into His understanding. A change is imperative!
This aspect of the New Covenant addresses this problem. In the new birth, the Lord places an affinity with His Law within us. His commandments are no longer grievous (1 John 5:3). Now His Law is loved (Psa 119:97), and is served with our mind (Rom 7:25). That is a most marvelous transaction! Praise Him!
Israel were the people of God by covenant, but not by nature. After having been with them for a long time, God said, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Rom 10:21, NIV). They drew near to Him "with their lips," but their heart was "far" from Him (Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8). They were not reconciled to God, were not born again, and did not have the indwelling Spirit. They were not in fellowship with God. Their involvement with God did not change their nature. Often they reverted to idolatry, forgetting Who had delivered, kept, and nurtured them (Judges 10:13; Jer 22:9). This is not the kind of people God sought!
The New Covenant addressed this situation. By changing the nature of the people, they now assumed a new relationship to Him. They do not rely upon Him because they had to, but because they prefer to. Hear the prophecy of Jeremiah, and declaration of reality from Hebrews. "I will be their God, and they will be my people" (8:10c, NASB, NIV). God promised this would happen to Abraham (Gen 17:8). He asserted this would happen for Israel (Ex 29:45). With Israel, they were His people because He remembered "the covenant of their ancestors" (Lev 26:45). With those in Christ, He is their God because He has begotten them and are His sons (James 1:18; 1 John 3:1-3).
The condition is much like that of the patriarchs of old. They "confessed they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth." As a result, God "was not ashamed to be called their God" (Heb 11:13). Such people were an exception in those days, it is the norm in Christ Jesus! It is RIGHT for God to be identified with those in Christ, and it is RIGHT for them to be identified with Him. "I WILL be" means God desires to be, relishing involvement with His people. "They WILL be" reveals the same condition exists in the saved. In the New Covenant a change of status takes place! A spiritual relation with God takes place.
The benefits of the covenant now rise to their highest. The purpose that dictated the writing of the Law upon the heart and its placement in the mind is given. After extensive exposure to the Old Covenant, it was said of Israel, "My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good" (Jer 4:22, NIV). Again, Hosea said of them, "Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they do not know the LORD" (Hos 5:4). Their natures were corrupt, like that of all of Adam's descendants--even after ample exposure to the mind of God as revealed in the Law and the Prophets. The pinnacle of their obtuseness was revealed with the "only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Rather they recognizing Him, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, they "knew Him not" (John 1:10). Those most knowledgeable of Scripture--the doctors of the Law--together with the one in the highest religious office, "crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Coir 2:8). THEY DID NOT KNOW THE LORD!
All of this changes in the New Covenant. God's people will no longer be like this. From the beginning of their spiritual life through their mature years, they all know the Lord. From novice to elder, they all know the Lord. From the least significant to the most significant, they all know the Lord. That is not only the promise, it is the reality. "And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest" (8:11, KJV).
There is growth in this area, but no one in Christ is without the good knowledge of God. That is the means employed in our escape from the pollutions of the world (2 Pet 2:20). Knowing the Lord involves our intellect, but it is not primarily intellectual. This is not knowing ABOUT the Lord. Israel had that kind of knowledge. Caiaphas the high priest had that kind of knowledge, as well as the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, lawyers, and chief priests.
Knowing God is an intensely personal matter. It is a familiarity that enables the individual to recognize God, and respond accordingly. There is a precious word said on this matter concerning young Samuel. When he was being raised by Eli in the house of the Lord, God called out to him. The lad assumed Eli had called him, and presented himself to the old priest. After the third time, Eli knew the Lord was calling Samuel, and instructed the boy concerning a proper response. The failure of Samuel to recognize the Lord is explained in these words. "Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him" (1 Sam 3:7). What was exceeding rare, even on a limited basis, in former times, is the standard for all within the New Covenant. This is a most remarkable benefit!
The term "know" is a large one. It comes from the Greek word eivdhsousi, and means "having come to a perception or realization of . . . know, understand, comprehend . . . having come to knowledge through experience . . . recognize." When the Lord is known, some measure of recognition is experienced. Phrases denoting this recognition include, "IT IS THE LORD!" (1 Sam 3:18; John 21:7), "THIS IS THAT!" (Acts 2:16).
This is also a term of intimacy and personal involvement. In the beginning, "Adam knew Eve" (Gen 4:1). Joseph "knew not" Mary until Jesus was born (Matt 1:25). This is a process whereby we become "one spirit" with the Lord, in the same sense man and woman become "one flesh" (1 Cor 6:1).
There is no such thing as a born again person that does not know God. If God is not known, the person is not born again, and is not in the New Covenant. The statement is clear: "They shall ALL know me."
The knowledge of God is not a mere novelty. It is essential to our escape from the world, survival of the warfare, and appropriation of the blessing of God. This is the means, or spiritual conduit, through which the life of God is ministered to us. How appropriately this is stated in Scripture. "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Pet 1:2). " . . . His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him" (2 Pet 1:3). " . . . they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . . " (2 Pet 2:20).
By saying, therefore, "They shall all know Me," God is saying the multiplication of grace and peace, and the reception of everything pertaining to life and godliness, belongs to ALL those in the New Covenant. They ALL have been called into the fellowship of His Son (1 Cor 1:9). That fellowship results in knowing God, for Jesus acquaints us with Him. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him" (Matt 11:27). This is the heritage of all that are in the New Covenant. Praise the Lord! All that are in Christ are heirs of the promise in all of his blessedness. That is the meaning of the Spirit's affirmation in Galatians 3:29. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (NIV). What a singular privilege to be so blessed!
How is it that such remarkable benefits can be conferred upon the sons of men? It is certainly not owing to any moral progress on the part of humanity. The cause is clearly stated, and is refreshing to the soul. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (8:12, KJV). "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (NIV).
This is the reason God can write His laws upon our heart and put them into our minds. This is why He can be our God, and we can be His people. This is why we know Him. If sin had not been removed, none of these things could have occurred! Sin was an insurmountable wall between God and man. I could not be scaled by any of our race. No amount of discipline or knowledge could remove it. God gave the world four millennia to correct the problem. 2,500 years without a code of law, and 1,500 year with one. From eating forbidden fruit to adultery and idolatry, not a single infraction of God's will and law was removed. All sin remained, in the most minuscule detail, until Jesus came. He, and He alone, finished "the transgression," made "an end of sins," and made "reconciliation for iniquity," bringing "in everlasting righteousness" (Dan 9:24).
This is a covenantal benefit, and you do well to take hold of it. "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more" (NRSV). It is not that God MAY not remember them "no more,: He WILL not! That is to say, this is His will on the matter--what He desires and is determined to do. He can fully facilitate this will because of the atoning death of His Son. He has accepted that death as full payment, and is fully satisfied. When men are also satisfied with it, God will be satisfied with them. It is just that simple.
David stated the case, and Paul affirmed its reality in Christ Jesus. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Rom 4:6-8).
All of the blessings of the New Covenant are passed to men because of this condition. Those whose iniquities are not remembered by God will be blessed by Him. His Law will be written upon their hearts and put into their minds. They will be His people, and He will be their God. They will know Him, regardless of the spiritual plateau they occupy!
This puts the blessing within our reach! No person who truly seeks will fail to find. Let your soul delight in the glory of this truth! Christ Jesus has provided the basis for this forgiveness, and is presently at the right have of God to ensure the remembrance of His gloriously effective sacrifice. Praise be unto God for this reality.
Why is the Old Covenant an OLD covenant? Is it because it is the oldest one? Certainly not. First of all, it is NOT the oldest covenant. The New Covenant is the oldest one. It was given by promise to Abraham before the Law was given (Gal 3:16-18). The Law was "added" to that covenantal promise, because of transgressions, "until the Seed should come" (Gal 3:19). Time, therefore, is not what rendered the Old Covenant "old."
Our text informs us that the inauguration of the New Covenant is what made the former one "old." "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away" (8:13, KJV). "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" (NIV). "In that he saith, A new (covenant) he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away" (ASV).
The former covenant is "old" in that men cannot approach God through it any longer. It has been supplanted by a "better covenant, which is established upon better promises." It is no longer the means through which righteousness is sought. It has been rendered obsolete by the coming of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was in place as long as sin was not dealt with. As long as the people were not reconciled to God, the Old Covenant stood. Until the devil was "destroyed" (Heb 2:14), the Old Covenant could not be displaced. But once those things took place, there was no place for the Old Covenant as an approach to God. A better away, attended by strength and hope have not been established.
The Old Covenant began "aging" as soon as the New was set in motion. When Jesus entered into the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood, and was seated at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens, the Old Covenant began growing obsolete. It is true, men did not let go of it immediately, but it began growing old. In the beginning, noble souls still walked according to the Old Covenant and in harmony with its customs. Shortly after his conversion, James reminded Paul of "how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law." These had difficulty believing circumcision and the customs of the law were not still in force (Acts 21:20-21). They were believers, but were not fully aware that the covenant with which they were most familiar was waxing old and fading away. That, os course, had no bearing on the reality of the matter.
You sense as you read the book of Acts there was sort of transition to the new order. The New Covenant was placed into effect instantly, but it was not so experienced by everyone. Even the baptism of John, bridging the gap between the two covenants, was apparently valid for some time. It was not formally invalidated until Acts the nineteenth chapter.
Of course, all of this was in the first century. There is no acceptable reason for seeking to come to God through an Old Covenant procedure in these days. If that covenant was "ready to vanish away" in the first century, it is surely not still with us! When the sun rises, men do greatly err seeking to do things by the light of the moon! The inadequacy of the Law to save appears "evident" in the light of Christ. As it is written, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" (Gal 3:11).
God has repudiated the former covenant because of the New and better one. He has made no provision to pour new life in Christ into the old wineskins of the Law. Nor, indeed, can the new cloth of knowing God be sewn on the fabric of justification by the deeds of the Law (Matt 9:17; Luke 5:37-38). It is God that has made "the first Old!" Let is accept that, and go on our way rejoicing. Full provision is found in Christ, and therefore we can be part of the New Covenant. Full satisfaction has been brought to God through His Son, and therefore He can receive us. The whole transaction is righteous because of what Jesus has done. It is right for God to receive you. It is right for Him to put His law within you, and bring you to know Him. Now, what possible reason can you give for not embracing this New Covenant with all of your heart and soul. Full provision has been for all of your needs and God's as well. Take hold of it! Take hold of it! Let your soul delight itself in fatness!
The point of this text is that Jesus is now administrating the New Covenant. It is He that has charge of placing God's laws in your mind and writing them upon your heart. He is the One that makes God your God and you His son. The Lord Jesus is responsible for you coming to know the Lord. It is because of Him that your sins have been forgiven. He is the reason you now enjoy the benefits of the covenant.
When you find yourself in agreement with God, you have experienced the work of Jesus. When you can call God "Father" out of your heart, you have evidence of Christ's effective and contemporary work. When you come into personal acquaintance with the Father, you have effectively tutored by the Son of God. Growth in these areas occurs because of Him. Your efforts to walk in the light and keep the faith are effective because of Him. Your resistance of the devil and determination to finish the race set before you are because of Him! Those are all covenantal benefits, and they are owing to Christ's present ministry. Be glad, and rejoice. You have been highly favored!
What more can we say? We have stood in the holy of holies, and seen the remarkable effectiveness of Christ's death, resurrection, and intercession. God has been freed, so to speak, to bless the people as He intended--to fulfill the promises that He gave through the holy prophets.
Your work is to maintain this view. The work of preachers and teachers is to keep this matter before the people. Let those who represent Christ get out of the novelty shop, and into the antique shop! The "old paths" are the paths of blessing--the paths revealed in the Gospel of Christ (Jer 6:16). May you experience the freshness of the New Covenant, the glory of it, and the effectiveness of it. May your greatest knowledge be of God, and your closest fellowship with Him through Christ Jesus the Lord. Everything required for your full acceptance is in place right now.