A Better Covenant (Hebrews 8:4-13)

“The priests who offer the gifts according to the Law serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; ‘See,’ He says, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.’  But now Christ has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second” (Heb 8:4-7).  The recurring theme of Hebrews continues.  Moses and the Old Testament priests and the Law were a foreshadow of what was to come.  Jesus is better, and the covenant He initiated, the new covenant, is superior to the old.

The author continues in chapter 8 by quoting the promise of Jeremiah chapter 31.  “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which 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…for this is the covenant I will make…I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Heb 8:8-12).

John the Baptist prophesied that when the Messiah came, He would not baptize with water but with the Holy Spirit.  When you received the new covenant offer of Jesus – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (Jn 3:36) – your sins were forgiven and you were baptized (indwelt) by the Holy Spirit.  You now have, by the indwelling Spirit, God’s law written on your heart and mind.  The promise of Jeremiah chapter 31, the promise of a new covenant, has come true in us; God is our God, we are His people, and His law is written upon our hearts and minds.

The author concludes chapter 8 with, “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).  This hearkens back to II Corinthians chapter 5.  On the basis of “Christ died for all, therefore all died” (II Cor 5:14), we know that “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (II Cor 5:17).  May all the “new” of the new covenant be much more than just an observation, may it be our experience as well.

A Better Priest (Hebrews 7:21-8:2)

“But He with an oath through the One who said to Him, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever.’  So much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb 7:21-22).  As a priest forever, Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant than the one associated with the former priesthood.

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.  Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:23-25).  Salvation through Jesus is complete because He is a priest forever.

“It is fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  For the Law appoints high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever” (Heb 7:26-28).

Letting the Bible speak for itself, we see that Jesus is a better priest and guarantees a better covenant.  The Law, represented by the Levitical priesthood, was powerless and temporary.  The new covenant is eternal and saves completely because its guarantor is Christ, the forever priest, who died once for all as a sacrifice for our sins and now intercedes for us before the Father.  Calling Christ “holy, innocent, undefiled, and separated from sinners” highlights His sinlessness and no need for a sacrifice for Himself.  His death was on our behalf and saves us completely and forever.

Continuing into chapter 8, “Now the main point in what we have said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (Heb 8:1-2).

A Better Hope (Hebrews 6:19 – 7:19)

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:19-20).  Jesus, as the bearer of the new covenant, appeared on the scene as a priest after the order of Melchizedek rather than the order of Levi – priests of the old covenant.

“Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God…is without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually” (Heb 7:1,3).  Melchizedek, who first appeared on the scene in Genesis chapter 14, is a type of Christ, an eternal priest.  By contrast, the priesthood of Levi – representatives of the old covenant – was temporary.

“Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?  For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also” (Heb 7:11-12).

The author asks a rhetorical question and follows it with its logical conclusion.  “If a complete salvation were available through the Levitical priesthood and the Law it represented, what need would there be for a better priesthood?”  Because the Law fell short, there was a need for a better priesthood.  Christ’s priesthood did not depend on “a physical requirement [since He did not descend from Levi, the tribe of priests] but rather was based on His indestructible life [His eternal life as the Begotten Son of God]” (Heb 7:16).  In this regard, He fulfilled the prophesy of Psalm 110:4, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 7:17).

And with a better priesthood came a setting aside of the old Law and a better hope.  “For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God” (Heb 7:18-19).  We draw near to God through a better hope; a hope we will continue to explore next time.