A Superior Priest Mediating a Better Covenant
Sermon Prepared for WellSpring Church
Matthew L. Burt
Big Idea: The superiority of our great high priest Jesus Christ is seen in his more excellent ministry as the mediator. Because Christ stands as mediator nothing stand between God and us-his people.
a. Engage: One of the first discount airline ticket consolidators on the Internet was Priceline. Com. Priceline allowed customers to bid on ticket prices in order to get incredible deals. One of the faces of Priceline over the years has been the former captain of the Starship Enterprise, William Shatner who promised to go to bat for customers. He went by the name, “the negotiator”. He promised to be a go between for customers and the airlines, hotels, and car rental companies. We are very familiar with a role of a go-between in our culture. We have business negotiators, sport salary arbitrators, lawyers who work to help couples come to an amiable agreement in their divorce, we have counselors who try to work compromises between seemingly irreconcilable parties and ambassadors who pursue peace between warring nations. All of these are people who stand between two disagreeing parties and seek to bring some level of agreement and satisfaction. These are important people. Mediator is a title given to our Lord Christ, and it is, I believe one of His most important titles. As Paul writes to Timothy in I Tim. 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” Our goal today is to gain a better understanding of this aspect of Christ’s work as our superior high priest.
b. Review: The whole of our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews so far has been a study of the excellence and superiority of Christ over all things. Last week we saw that his priesthood is superior based on the place, or location of his work. It is in the heavenly temple, not an earthly tent made with human hands. He stands in the authentic temple, not one that is a shadow and copy as the Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were.
c. Preview. Today as we press on in Chapter 8 we will see our author continuing to show the superiority of Christ over the Old Testament Jewish system—and as we do we need also to see that at the same time that Christ is superior to every possible religious or philosophical system. The goal of Hebrews is that its readers will see a rationale for persevering in their faith in the way God has revealed and not abandon it to any other possibility. We will proceed today in three steps:
i. The More excellent ministry of Christ
ii. A brief introduction the Covenants of God (We will return to this in greater detail nest time). We have to do this since we are told, thirdly
iii. Our most excellent Mediator is the mediator of a better covenant.
d. Big Idea: The superiority of our great high priest Jesus Christ is seen in his more excellent ministry as the mediator. Because Christ stands as mediator nothing stand between God and us-his people.
2. “But now he has obtained a more excellent Ministry” (His superiority is shown by the ministry he now has which is superior because it is carried out in a superior setting, i.e. heavenly vs. earthly tent).
a. The “now” is contrasted to the “then” of the old manner of sacrifices under the Levitical system.
b. When we think of ministry we generally think in terms of something we do for people in the name of Christ. For example, “I work in the children’s ministry, I teach Sunday School, or I care for children in the nursery.” This is a vague term made even more ambiguous when we call our pastor a minster. Not that this is a necessarily wrong title but the role and work of a pastor can be so broad and ill defined that all sorts of duties are listed under it. A minister, then, is someone who is hired by the church to do religious things, be some sort of leader, teach and preach, and administrate the business of the church. The term minister becomes even more vague when we attach things to it like music ministry, hospitality ministry, or decoration ministry. When we do this it doesn’t help us in understanding how Jesus has a better or more excellent ministry.
c. When our author uses the word ministry in Hebrews 8:6 he uses a very specific word that refers to the duties of the priests in the tabernacle relating to the sacrifices that the people brought before God. By this they engaged in an intercessory work. But in addition to that it refers to the priests’ responsibility to instruct the people in the law of God and to live as examples before them.
i. Read this description of the work of the priest in Mal. 2:5-7
ii. Contrast this to Ezekiel 34:1-10
iii. This was the judgment against Eli in I Sam. 2:13-17, 22.
iv. See Ezra 7:1, 10
In other words if we are going to use the word minister or ministry on a true Biblical sense we need to use it specifically in relation to the priestly work of Christ and how we make it known to people through our verbal instruction and the testimony of our lives.
When Christ ascended to heaven and took up his priestly role at the right hand of the majesty on high his work became one of a continuous presentation of his own sacrifice on the altar of the heavenly holy of holies. He seeks the good of his people be making
requests for supplies of grace in their life, divine help in every time of need. His life serves as an example to his people of the kind of life we are to live based how he lived out the commands of God and his own practical applications of them in his own teaching ministry. Further as our great high priest he instructs his people. He does this through the written word, the Scriptures. Matthew 11:27 “No one knows the Father…this has always been the case.
d. Notice that the ministry of Christ is two-directional.
i. His service at the altar is on behalf of the saints,
1. He has made the sacrifice of his own life on behalf of his people in order to bring cover their sin and its guilt
2. He has transferred his sinless perfection to his people in order that they might be justified by God.
3. In addition he has taken the sin and guilt of his people onto himself.
4. All of this work he presents to the Eternal judge of all people.
ii. But it is also a work that shows his willing subordination to the Father. If it is possible for us to think this way, the work of priestly Christ now, in heaven, gives us greater reason to worship and adore him that we ever could have by being exposed to the Godhead, even as Trinity.
1. Here is the message Phil. 2—Though Equal, condescended and reduced himself.
a. He made this choice of condescension gladly and willingly. (This we see in Heb. 10:5-7; Isa. 42:1 and John 5:20-22)
2. We must never for a moment think that there was anything other than absolute willing agreement on the part of each member of the Godhead in striking what we call the Eternal Covenant of Redemption before the creation of anything. The father was not unwilling to be appeased, the Son was not compelled by force against his desires to become the sacrifice, The Holy Spirit was anxious to bring glory to the Son in salvation.
iii. Pause for a moment here and realize that the Covenant of Redemption which included the future decision of Adam and Eve to rebel against God in overt willful disobedience is meant to bring us into far greater appreciation of God than Adam and Eve could ever have had even knowing the sweetness of regular intimacy with God before there was ever sin.
e. The ministry of the priests in the old system was a necessary and vital work in the lives of the people but it was temporary, passing, weak, and insufficient. They ministered in a tent or a building that was susceptible to degeneration or destruction—Indeed in just a few short
years after the writing of this letter the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and it will never need to built again. Why? Because the work performed in the earthly temple was nothing but a shadow of the true work being done in the true temple by the true and perfect priest. He has obtained a better ministry.
f. This is happening Now. But now he has a more excellent ministry
3. His present role and the superior excellence of his work is also seen in his work as a mediator of a better covenant. With this phrase our author is making a transition from his subject of the superiority of the new priesthood over the old to the subject of a better covenant. As he makes this transition we are introduced to a new role or function that Christ fills. The mediator of a covenant.
a. Covenant defined
b. The Covenants before this new and better Covenant included
i. The eternal Covenant, or the Covenant of Redemption. This we have referred to—
ii. A Covenant of Works between God and Adam. Basically obey and live, disobey and die.
iii. The Covenant of Grace promised in Gen. 3:15
iv. And then what is referred to here as the Old Covenant, which includes the Covenants, made with Noah, Abraham, the people at Sinai, and David. However most specifically the New testament writers refer to the Laws and Sacrificial system of the Sinaitic or Mosaic Covenant. Through all of these God was revealing more of his character and bringing the people to a greater readiness of the establishment of the New Covenant prophesied and promised in Jer. 31: and related here in Hebrews 8.
1. Although all of this revelation was grace—think for example
a. Noah—never destroy all mankind again
b. the Unconditional choice of Abraham
c. The ram in the thicket
d. The free release of the people from the bondage of Egypt
e. The Constant keeping of a remnant of the chosen people through uninterrupted generations of disobedience.
2. The fullness of the Covenant of Grace was yet to be revealed in Christ. This we shall see later.
4. That is the role of a mediator. Another way of seeing this is that the work of ministry that Christ is presently filling is the work of a mediator.
a. Mediator defined
i. Go-between or literally a middle man
ii. OT use = 0
1. Umpire or Daysman Job. 9:33 One who stand between and puts hands on both.
iii. Further defined
1. “the mediator is the go between whose task is to keep two parties of a covenant in fellowship with one another.”
i. A very great mediator shows the greatness of our need
ii. The greatness of our need shows the greatness a and value of Christ’s blood and suffering
iii. The greatness of the blood and suffering of Christ shows the Greatness of the heart of Love shared by the Godhead.
iv. The one who refuses this mediator is one who has failed to see
1. The greatness of need
2. The greatness of Love
3. The greatness of the danger
c. Using Isaiah 40: 1-5 to show the work of our mediator (removing obstacles, filling in the lacks)
>”But one day as I was passing into the field, with some dashes on my conscience, fearing yet that all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, “Your righteousness is in heaven.” I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. There was my righteousness. Wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me that I lacked His righteousness, for that was ever before Him. Moreover, I saw that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, “the same yesterday, today, and for ever“.
“Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons, my temptations also fled away. From that time those dreadful Scriptures of God quit troubling me; now I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.” ~John Bunyan
d. The OC priest/mediator could only affect a cease-fire, our NC mediator makes a last and secure peace.