Thursday Hebrews: Growing Old and Ready to Vanish Away (v. 8:13-9:1)

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.  (Hebrews 8:13 ESV)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. (Hebrews 9:1 ESV)

This quarter in Sunday School, our teacher has been rolling through the book of Hebrews.  This past week, he pointed out something that helps to clarify what we are reading in this section of Hebrews:

  • Jesus is a better high priest;
  • God has provided a better covenant; and
  • Jesus is a sacrifice.

The writer of Hebrews is covering material that isn’t Christianity 101 (v. 6:1).  He is trying to lead the readers — both then and now — to maturity in their walk with Jesus Christ.  Though the gospel message is simple — we are sinners separated from God, we need a Savior and we have one — the application of the gospel to our daily lives can be very tough.  For example, I tend to think I can be the high priest that I need if I live right and my theology morphs God’s better covenant into something unrecognizable and I think I can be a good enough sacrifice so that I don’t need Jesus.  In my mind I understand and accept the gospel, but on a daily basis, I try to pull God off the throne and take on the world by myself.

This kind of thinking is what makes a proper understanding of the gospel so important.  And thanks be to God that He has provided us clarity through the book of Hebrews!

So with this in mind, let’s pick our study of Hebrews back up and look at the last verse of chapter eight and the first verse of chapter nine:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.  (Hebrews 8:13 ESV)

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. (Hebrews 9:1 ESV)

We’ve previously looked at Wayne Grudem’s definition of a covenant:

“With respect to covenants between God and man in Scripture, we may give the following definition: A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” (p. 515)

Grudem also notes this related to Biblical covenants:

  1. Man can’t negotiate the terms of these divine covenants. God delivers the covenant and man either accepts or rejects the covenant;
  2. The terms are one-sided, that is, they are handed down by God;
  3. The terms handed down by God are unchangeable; and
  4. Though the terms are unchangeable, covenants can “be replaced or superseded” in their entirety.

Chapter 8, and specifically verse 8:13, make it very clear that God is replacing the Old Covenant with something new.  The last verse of the chapter notes that, “what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”  Accordingly, it makes sense that the “regulations for worship” under the “first covenant” would also change.  Specifically, these “regulations” gave instructions for making acceptable sacrifices to God.  In Chapter 9, we’ll see that Jesus Christ is not only a better high priest, but here we’ll also see that He is a much better sacrifice.

Next time, Lord willing, we’ll continue looking into the details and find out why Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

 


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: Amazing Grace Revealed Again (v. 8:7-13)

God’s Word

[7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

[8] 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,
[9] 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.
[10] 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.
[11] 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 of them to the greatest.
[12] For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

[13] In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

(Hebrews 8:7-13 ESV)

Let’s Discuss

Well, this is certainly a mouthful of Scripture that we’ve bitten off to discuss today.

If’ you’ll remember, last week we also bit off a mouthful as we took a look at verses 8:6-7.  In verse six, we were reminded that Jesus “has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old.”  This ministry is “more excellent,” because as verse six reminds us, “the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”  And this thought leads us straight into verse seven:

[7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.  (Hebrews 8:7 ESV)

The “first covenant” referred to here is the Mosaic Covenant that was given from God to Moses as described in Exodus 19:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”  (Exodus 19:5-6 ESV)

But though the Mosaic Covenant is described in Hebrews 8:7 as having some sort of fault, this doesn’t mean that God got it wrong or did something wrong.  No, and if we reminder ourselves of what a Biblical covenant actually is, we understand this even better.  Wayne Grudem, in his book “Systematic Theology,” defines a Biblical covenant for us:

“With respect to covenants between God and man in Scripture, we may give the following definition: A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” (p. 515)

Grudem also makes these points about Biblical covenants as well (p. 515) :

  1. Man can’t negotiate the terms of these divine covenants. God delivers the covenant and man either accepts or rejects the covenant;
  2. The terms are one-sided, that is, they are handed down by God;
  3. The terms handed down by God are unchangeable; and
  4. Though the terms are unchangeable, covenants can “be replaced or superseded” in their entirety.

So, when God in verse eight says, “I will establish a new covenant,” this means He is delivering something even better than the covenant that is being superseded.  And this new covenant He is delivering is described in Hebrews 8:8-12, which is a quote taken from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and 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, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, 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 law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV)

In this New Covenant, we see some really special things spelled out:

“I will put my law within them”

“I will write it on their hearts”

“And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

“For they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.”

“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The Old Testament was really, really special.  We should not forget that.  Almighty God was saying to humans, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples.”  This is incredible when we really think about it.  The Creator of the universe was offering a relationship to weak and wounded and weary people.  This was an incredible opportunity for them.  But like we would have done, they didn’t keep up their end of the covenant.  They bickered and whined and complained and gossiped and wound up worshiping other gods.  And yet God, in His great mercy, made another way for us.  He sent a better way.  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ and He sent our Helper, the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, living on this side of the New Covenant, I take things for granted.  Unbelievably, I take this for granted.  I look at what God has done for me through this New Covenant, through Jesus Christ, and I take it for granted.  In many ways, after time passes, the amazing grace doesn’t come off as quite so amazing anymore.  But then I have days like I’ve had lately, when I am reminded about who I really am in this world, and God’s grace becomes amazing again.  When I see just how horrible and despicable I really am — and when I can get witnesses to this — I am forced to hit my knees again and I’m forced to realize how amazing God really is to even had one thought toward me.

Amen and amen.


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: The Covenant He Mediates is Better (v. 8:6-7)

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 had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.  (Hebrews 8:6-7 ESV)

Introduction

As mentioned last time, I wanted to spend more time taking a look at verses 8:6-7.  The reason for this should be fairly obvious: the writer of Hebrews seems to be implying that something God did had fault.

The idea seems to be that once upon a time, God enacted a covenant, but over time, that covenant was exposed to have problems.

Yikes.  Folks, this is a big deal.  For sure, we need to slow down, get our bearings and try to understand what this means.  There’s a lot of our theology that rides on it!

A Much More Excellent Ministry

[6] “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old…” – If you love Scripture (and I hope you do) and understand Scripture (and I hope you do), this passage will make you do a double-take.  We know that all Scripture — both the Old and New Testaments — tell the story of Jesus Christ and His love for us.  At first glance, if we aren’t careful, we’ll think that something is wrong with the Old Testament and that God somehow messed up.  But that’s not the case.

Look at this passage carefully and note what it really says:  Jesus “has obtained a ministry that is…much more excellent that the old.”  There was a purpose for the old ministry, but the purpose of the new — in Jesus Christ — is “much more excellent than the old.”

[6] “…as the covenant he mediates is better…” – What makes this new ministry of Jesus Christ “much more excellent?”  Well, it’s because the covenant involved is better.

[6] “…since it is enacted on better promises.” – And why is this new and different covenant better?  Well, because “it is enacted on better promises.”  What makes these new promises better?  Let’s try to answer that in the section below.

[7] “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” – Verse seven is where we start to scratch our heads.  This hard to hear.  The Bible is really telling us that the first covenant had some sort of fault?  Let’s be careful here.  This isn’t saying that the Bible has an error in it and it isn’t saying that God isn’t perfect.  This isn’t saying those things at all.  This is saying that a second, or new, covenant was necessary to fulfill the job that God wanted accomplished.

A Word about Covenants

To understand this better, let’s take a look at what a covenant really is.  In his book Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem says this about Biblical covenants:

“With respect to covenants between God and man in Scripture, we may give the following definition: A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.”  (p. 515)

Grudem also notes these things about divine covenants (p. 515):

  1. Man can’t negotiate the terms of these divine covenants.  God delivers the covenant and man either accepts or rejects the covenant;
  2. The terms are one-sided, that is, they are handed down by God;
  3. The terms handed down by God are unchangeable; and
  4. Though the terms are unchangeable, covenants can “be replaced or superseded” in their entirety.

Ahhh, now things are beginning to make sense.  The “first covenant” referred to by the writer of Hebrews is pointing to the “Mosaic Covenant.”  As John Piper notes, the general terms of this covenant are outlined in Exodus 19:5-6:

[5] Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; [6] and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 

This sounds pretty good, so where was the fault in this covenant as noted in verse 8:7?  As Grudem again notes,

“The Mosaic covenant was an administration of detailed written laws given for a time to restrain the sins of the people and to be a custodian to point people to Christ.” (p. 521)

The new covenant, as described in Jeremiah 31:33 is much different:

[33] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is the covenant mediated by Jesus Christ.  These are the better promises.  Gone is the system of laws and duties that pointed people to their sins and their need for a Savior to come.  Now, God has put His law within us.  He has written it on our hearts.


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: Prepping for Verses 8:6-7

The most recent installment in our Hebrew series covered verses 8:1-7, and was called, “A Ministry that is Much More Excellent.”  At the end of that post, I made this remark,

So what do we take away from this? Well, first off, Lord willing, we are going to discuss old covenant – new covenant stuff once more next week. This is important and complicated stuff, so I plan to re-address verses six and seven again next time.

Well, last week I didn’t address this because of posting lags caused by a summer time schedule, but I’ve been back at it this week…and still the next installment isn’t ready.  The main reason for this is that these verses are just so rich and important that there is no need to rush things.  After all, this is only a blog.

Verses six and seven from chapter eight are a couple of doozies:

[6] 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. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Let’s just take our time and work through these verses the right way.


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: So Where Is It?

Normally Thursdays bring an installment of our walk through the book of Hebrews.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case today.  There’s no need for excuses, I supposed, but if I were to give a few, they would include a busy schedule, the start of summer, and being out of town a few days over the Memorial Day weekend.

Lord willing, we’ll pick that up next week as, hopefully, the summer schedule will settle into place.


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: A Ministry That is Much More Excellent (v. 8:1-7)

God’s Word

[1] 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, [2] a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. [3] For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. [4] 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. [5] 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.” [6] 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. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. (Hebrews 8:1-7 ESV)

Review

[v. 1] “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest…”With the beginning of chapter eight, the writer of Hebrews pauses, let’s everyone catch their breath and then starts to pull the last few chapters together.  He has gone on and on about priests, but now he is underlining the main point.  We have one of these priests.  And yes, this priest is Jesus Christ.

But here’s the next thing to consider.  The wording of verse 8:1 — “such a high priest” — tells us that we have a specifically different type of high priest.  And what we need to understand here is the type of priest we have.  Well, what we have is a “priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (v. 5:6).

[v. 1] “…one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” – Jesus is a different type of priest.  He’s not a priest of the order of Aaron, from the tribe of Levi.  Genealogically, He doesn’t meet the qualifications.  He also isn’t a priest limited to serve only a certain amount of time.  No, He is a priest that serves forever.  He’s outside the Levitical priesthood serving in a better way.  This passage underscores this point.  He continues His service now, as He will forever seated at the right hand of God.

[v. 2] “a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” – The Levitical priests had rules and instructions to follow to ensure that the sacrifices being made would be pleasing to God.  These practices weren’t wrong — after all, God commanded and ordained them — but these practices were temporary, and as we will read below, a “shadow” of the real thing.  They were a replication or picture of what Jesus Christ is doing for us now in heaven.  Right now, Jesus Christ is a “minister in the holy places, in the true tent.”

[v. 3] “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.” – As Hebrews 5:1 tells us,

“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

This was the role of the Levitical priest, “to act on behalf of men in relation to God.”  Jesus, in His role as High Priest does this as well, but remember, He’s a different kind of priest.

[4] “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.” – Jesus Christ didn’t come to earth to just “do what the Levitical priests were doing.”  As the writer of Hebrews reminds us here in verse 4, “if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all,” with the point being “there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.”

[v. 5] “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.’” -The rituals the Levitical priests performed were ordained by God and they were performed where specified by God, but these rituals were only “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.”  The tent and everything that was made and everything that was done were “according to the pattern…shown you on the mountain.”  These things are pointing us to something else: “the heavenly things.”

[v. 6-7] “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 had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” – So what is being copied and shadowed as referred to in verse 5?  The answer is Jesus Christ.  Jesus, as our High Priest, has a “ministry that is as much more excellent than the old.”  Why is it better?  Because “the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”

Summary

Folks, this isn’t easy-peasy Christianity 101.  I want to jokingly refer back to Hebrews 5:11 where the writer says,

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

The writer was trying to cover this stuff all the way back in chapter 5, but it’s fairly deep, so he walked the audience back through a check of their faith and then walked them (and us) step-by-step through a comparison of how Jesus is a much better high priest than a Levitical one.  And here we are being told that the covenant He mediates is a much better one the the old version.  Again, this is fairly deep stuff.

So what do we take away from this?  Well, first off, Lord willing, we are going to discuss old covenant – new covenant stuff once more next week.  This is important and complicated stuff, so I plan to re-address verses six and seven again next time.

The second thing I take away is this:  Jesus is not only a better priest than the Levites, He’s also a better priest than whatever we could do.  Often times, because we are aware that we can talk to God, we use this access to somehow replace Jesus, in His role as high priest, with ourselves.  We think that what we do earns our keep.  We think that somehow we play a key role in this saving work that God does.  But we are wrong about this.

If the Levites, who were wholly dedicated to the priesthood, could not perfect how the job was done, then how can we expect to perform this role perfectly?  Well, we shouldn’t think that because we can’t fulfill the role.  Yes, we are able to have access to God, but this access is granted after we are called by the Spirit and after the saving work of the Son has been done.

Amen and amen.


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.

Thursday Hebrews: Something to Offer (v. 8:3)

God’s Word

[3] For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.  (Hebrews 8:3 ESV)

A Closer Look

As we’ve gone through the book of Hebrews, we’ve talked about priests quite a bit.  Specifically, we’ve talked about the type of priest Jesus was — after the order of Melchizedek — and we’ve compared this to the “former priests” (v. 7:23), who were after the order of Aaron.

But as we’ve gone through our study and gone through details, I have to admit, I’ve had to pull myself back from the details and periodically ask myself questions like, “now what’s the real significance of priests again?”  This verse helps us to take a pause and answer that question.

[3] “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices…” – If you look up the definition of priest, you may find an answer like “leads religious services.”  That may be true in some sense, but if that’s the only way a priest is viewed, a big piece of the picture is missing.  The role of a priest includes approaching God on behalf of the people because he has been “appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices.”  He must understand the gravity of his role, he must live with the understanding that he is approaching Almighty God, and he represents the people, the congregation, as he offers the “gifts and sacrifices.”

[3] “…thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.” – The priest has to not only understand the gravity of his role, he must also bring forth to God something that is worthy of a sacrifice.  He must bring something with him that is pleasing to God.  The Old Testament Scriptures spelled out the kinds of gifts and sacrifices that were pleasing.  Our high priest, Jesus Christ, brought Himself.

Summary

Jewish or not and Gentile or not, we all need a priest.  We all have a need for someone to approach God on our behalf.  We all have the need for someone to approach God on our behalf and to offer an acceptable sacrifice on our behalf.

Today, especially in the United States, we may acknowledge Jesus, but somehow we lose track of the idea that we need a priest.  We think we are the ones to approach God and that we are the ones to offer our own sacrifice.  This is foolish and stupid and ungrateful thinking.

The only way we are able to boldly approach the throne of grace is because Jesus has gone there first on our behalf.  Hebrews 9:14 sums this up well:

[14] how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14 ESV)

We have a High Priest.  His name is Jesus.  He has gone before us to approach God on our behalf and to offer Himself as our perfect sacrifice.  And because He lives, this work can save us to the uttermost forevermore.


“Thursday Hebrews” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Hebrews.  All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.  You can catch up on chapters 1 -7 by clicking here.