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A Covenant that Promises Forgiveness

Hebrews 8:1-10:23

Jim Davis

Christ's ministry on our behalf is far superior to the Levitical ministry on behalf of Israel. The Levitical priests ministered for the people in an earthly tabernacle, but Christ ministry is in heaven. Christ is seated at the right hand of God. This takes Jesus out of the realm of human existence and places him far above anything this world has to offer.

Hebrews 8:1-6
The point of what we are saying is this: 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. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 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." 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. (NIV)

The superiority of Christ's priesthood necessitated a new covenant between God and man. Jeremiah prophesied about the new covenant God would make with us.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 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, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (NIV)

The new covenant Jeremiah prophesied about is what is under discussion in Hebrews chapters 8:1-10:18. There was a dire need for a new covenant based upon better promises. The Hebrew writer begins with Jeremiah's prophecy as he begins his discussion about a new and better way.

Hebrews 8:7-8
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . ." (NIV)

"God found fault" (8:8) with the people because the first covenant could not remove sin. The apostle Paul gives us insight to his struggle with sin under the Old Testament. He gives us insight to how the old covenant alienated the worshippers from God.

Romans 7:10-13
I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (NIV)

Romans 7:22-25
For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV)

The Old Testament system of worship was designed to show the need of something better than what it offered. The Old Testament held the worshippers as prisoners of sin, for it offered nothing that could remove sin.

Galatians 3:23-25
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (NIV)

An Inferior System of Worship

The system of worship under the Law restricted access to God. The heart of Old Testament system of worship revolved around the tabernacle and the Levitical priesthood. The tabernacle represented God's dwelling place. The tabernacle represented the nearness of God, but it also created a barrier between God and man. The design of the system of worship in the Old Testament was a constant reminder of the sin barrier between God and man. The priest of the Old Testament were the only one's that could bridge the barrier created by sin. The barrier was bridged as the worshippers brought the required sacrifices to the priests to be offered on behalf of those worshipping. However, there was no direct access to God. The priests were required to offer daily sacrifices for the sins of Israel, which were a constant reminder of the barrier.

There were two main areas in the tabernacle Moses built; they were the Holy Place and the Most Holy place.

Hebrews 9:1-7
Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 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. (NIV)

The Most Holy place represented God's dwelling place. The cherubim of Glory above the ark represented God's throne. God's dwelling place could only be entered once each year on the Day of Atonement. The high priest entered with a blood offering for his sins and the sins of Israel. The sacrifices themselves spoke of the barrier sin created between God and man. The sacrifices offered could not remove the sin barrier. They could not clear the clear consciences of the worshippers as they came before God; the sacrifices were continual reminders of their sinfulness.

Hebrews 10:1-4
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming-- not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (NIV)

Hebrews 10:11
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (NIV)

Adherence to the Old Testament form of worship could never bring the needed forgiveness essential to eradicating the barrier between God and man.

Hebrews 9:8-10
The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings-- external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (NIV)

We begin to realize how the Law of Moses imprisoned the worshippers in sin.

Romans 3:19-20
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)

The Old Testament itself imprisoned the worshippers in their sin until Christ came. Adhering to the Law written upon tables of stone could never remove sin simply because it was impossible to live up to the precepts of the law. Actually, God gave a law impossible to live up to so as to create an awareness of the need of something better.

Romans 5:20a
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. (NIV)

Romans 7:8
But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. (NIV)

A Superior Relationship

We are learning that it takes more than making laws in Washington to make us better people. It takes something more than laws written in books to make a better world. External solutions will not solve internal problems. Taking peoples rights away will not create a better world. Neither will legalizing immoral behavior make a world better. Neither will legislating morality solve our problems. The Old Testament is proof of this truth. Only internal restraints written upon the hearts of people will make our world a better place to live. No matter what law you make, there is always somebody ready to make a loophole in it. This was also true of God's law. It was a perfect law, but that law became a means of self-destruction for many seeking their self-righteous way.

Christ came to write God's laws upon our hearts.

Hebrews 10:16-17
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (NIV)

The New Covenant offers internal motivation and power instead of lists of do's and don'ts. We all have had our struggle with the list of do's and don'ts. We know how difficult it is to manage our sinful ways. Paul had a tremendous struggle with the same problem

Romans 7:14-21
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (NIV)

The New Testament was given to create internal restraints.

Hebrews 8:10a
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 3:3
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (NIV)

The New Covenant is built upon a close relationship between the believer and God rather than rigid obedience to a set of rules. We are no longer kept at a distance through the dread and fear our sin seeks to create. Christ has made each Christian a priest and has given each Christian free access to God. God has taken each of us under his wing of protection. Christ blood covers our sin and gives us confidence as we approach God.

Christ has placed his seal of ownership on us.

Heb 8:10b
I will be their God, and they will be my people. (NIV)

1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV)

The motivating power for a relationship with God is made possible by God's forgiveness and mercy through Christ. The Law of Moses only reflected our sinful condition; it could do nothing about our sin. The flesh can do nothing to cleanse our conscience. This is why the gospel is good news.

Hebrews 8:11-12
No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (NIV)

The reason all will be motivated to know the Lord is because of his willingness to forgive and forget their sin. His willingness to forgive creates our desire to know him. God's grace removed a covenant designed solely for the purpose of reminding us of our sin. If he were not a gracious God that covenant would still remain. God's grace moves him to write his laws upon our hearts. Likewise, grace is the only thing that can soften our hearts enough to be written on. Fear and dread make our hearts to tense to be written upon. Fear and dread keep us running from our insecurities, but grace allows us to face our insecurities with confidence. Grace says that God is approachable.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)

It was Christ death that made a New Covenant possible. Upon his death his last will and testament became effective.

Hebrews 9:16-17
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. (NIV)

A Superior Sacrifice

The superior sacrifice of Christ makes it possible for God's law to be written upon our hearts.

Hebrews 9:11-14
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 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. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (NIV)

When you walk out on Arlington National Cemetery and think about those who have given their lives in defense of this country, you began to realize that each soldier believed in something more important than his/her life. Each believed that your freedom was more important than their life. So it is in the spiritual realm, Christ demonstrated that our freedom from sin was more important than his life. It was the sacrifice of his life that declares his friendship with us. Jesus calls us his friends and he proved it by laying down his life.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)

To me the most touching thing about Abraham's relationship with God was that God called him his friend. (Isaiah 41:8) The words of Job remind us of God's friendship.

Job 16:19-21
Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend. (NIV)

It is the friendship of the Son that motivates us to allow him to write his laws upon our hearts. His friendship gives us confidence as we approach him. This is the one thing that gives us the confidence we need to allow God to enter our lives and write his laws upon our hearts.

Hebrews 10:5-10
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am-- it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.'" First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NIV)

Christ's sacrifice brought salvation once and for all time so that we may never doubt that God is approachable. His death made the final statement about the removal of our sins.

Hebrews 9:22-28
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (NIV)

It is reassuring to know that when you approach God's throne the sacrifice for every sin you have committed or will ever commit has already been made. We will never need another sacrifice for sin. Your atonement has been made once and for all. This is the confidence we have as we approach God. I want to hasten to say that you must accept that atonement upon Christ's terms of repentance and obedience. Obedience doesn't earn your salvation; it is merely the means by which to accept the salvation Christ has provided.

Hebrews 10:19-23
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (NIV)

It was for this reason that Christ became a mediator of a better covenant.

Hebrews 9:15
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-- now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (NIV)

Conclusion:

1 Peter 3:18-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (NIV)

 

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