If you live in the Houston area, you have no doubt heard the radio call letters KSBJ and their catch phrase “Something Better, Jesus”. In those three words, our radio friends have captured the essence of the New Testament book of Hebrews. This book introduces us to the contrasts and comparisons between the Old and New Testaments, the Old and New Covenants, the Old and New Arrangement between God and man.
The book was written to Jewish believers and would-be believers who were teetering on the edge of Christianity. On the one hand, they had heard and were prepared to embrace the “new life in Christ” message of the gospel. On the other hand, they still felt the tug of their former life; the comfortable routine of Judaism. The author, in point-by-point fashion, argues that the covenant ushered in by Jesus is not only completely new, but significantly better than the old covenant. That Jesus and the new covenant are better is a consistent theme throughout the book of Hebrews.
The letter opens with Jesus proclaimed as the culmination of God’s revelation to man. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:1-3).
Jesus is not only God’s final and most complete revelation, but He is God’s best revelation as well. This theme begins in the very next verse in chapter 1 and continues throughout the book. “[Jesus] having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb 1:4).
Not only is Jesus better than the angels, but by chapter 3 we learn that He is better than Moses. “Jesus was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house…Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant…but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house” (Heb 3:2-3, 5-6). That Jesus is better than Moses is a personification of the theme of this book; i.e. the new covenant is superior to the old covenant.
Why is this “better than” line of reasoning so important to the author and his hearers? Because of the temptation to shrink back to their former faith, the author needed to demonstrate clearly the superiority of Jesus and the new covenant. What about us? I doubt many believers today are tempted to go back to Judaism, so how does the “Jesus is better” idea apply to us?
Five times in the book of Hebrews the author interrupts his line of reasoning to give out a warning against going back after one has tasted the Lord’s salvation. These warnings are just as relevant to us today because of the danger of tasting the Lord’s deliverance – His promise to free us from sin’s power – and yet shrinking back to a guilt-based, law-based, consequence-based way of living the Christian life. These warnings have nothing to do with “losing our salvation”, but have everything to do with going back to old covenant living. In the next several posts, starting in Hebrews chapter 6, we will explore the superiority of the new covenant and how we are to live into it by going nearly verse by verse through several chapters of this fascinating book.