“A New and Better Covenant,” pt.1
The superiority of the new covenant
Complement: points to the superiority of Christ in yet another way.
a. Engage: If there are two things that our contemporary marketing would have taught us they are that nothing is built to last and every product you now have will soon be outdated and replaced by something newer, better, more efficient, faster, smaller, or bigger. New and improved is shouted at us overtly and subliminally. Your car, your computer, your phone, your TV, and your appliances are all designed to wear out and be replaced by a newer and better model. It comes as a surprise when we read that God too has been in the business of planned obsolescence and bringing out a newer and better model. Once, that is.
b. Read Passage; Hebrews 8:6-13
i. We’ve encountered Quotations from the Old Testament before in this epistle. That there is another one should not be a surprise. In fact we will encounter more as we move through the book. 1:5-13; 2:6-7; 2:12-13; 3:7-11; 5:45-6
ii. However, this passage which takes five verses in chp. 8 is the longest quotation of any Old Testament passage anywhere in the New Testament. This should suggest to us that we are dealing with something important in the thinking and teaching of this author—and the Holy Spirit behind him. Let’s dig in and see what he wants us to know.
c. First a bit of Review
i. Superiority of Christ to the Old System—to everything they have known and served.
ii. His Role as a Mediator
1. Defined again: the One who stand between two conflicting parties for the purpose of bringing reconciliation.
2. Requires at least two parties who are in conflict or at odds with one another
iii. Both sides of the conflict between God and man need a reconciling mediator. Man to change how heart of hatred toward God and his rules. God to have his wrath against sin removed. This is what Jesus has come to be and to do.
iv. His qualifications to be a mediator (This sermon preached on July 31, 2016)
3. Accepted and Trusted by both parties
4. Shares in both divine nature and our human nature (hands on both parties)
5. He has the power (ability) to broker and keep the peace.
v. Lastly we asked the question—why refuse this mediator?
d. Preview. This morning we move from Christ’s work as mediator in the broader sense of the man in the middle between the unrighteous, ruined sinner and the righteous creator God to the more narrow and specific aspect of his role as the mediator of the New Covenant. To understand what the author of the Epistle of the Hebrews is trying to teach us we will
i. First explain and understand what is meant by the term, ”The Old Covenant”
ii. Secondly we will need to see why this Old Covenant needed to be replaced. It was not faultless. In other words what were the deficiencies of the Old Covenant.
Points iii. and iv. are covered in Part II, August 21, 2016
iii. Thirdly we will contrast the promises that stand as the foundations for each of the two covenants
iv. Finally I will ask you to make certain that you are now included under the New Covenant that is mediated by The Great High Priest—the Lord Christ.
e. Big Idea: Knowing about the Covenant of God is not the same as being in the Covenant of God. But to be in the covenant of God means that we need to understand it…
2. If there is a New Covenant, then what it the Old Covenant it replaces?
a. Covenant Defined. A covenant is generally thought of as a compact or agreement between two parties where certain results are promised based on the performance of stated conditions. Covenants are often sealed with outward signs or tokens. When a covenant is between men it is generally a bilateral agreement with each party agreeing to do certain things in a particular way with rewards and negative consequences attached to the performance and non-performance of the covenant criteria. When we talk about the covenants of God we are talking primarily about a unilateral grant from God to man.
b. The Covenants of God
i. Redemption—before creation (have you ever thought about this? The reason you exist as a human being is wrapped up in the pre-creation determination of the Trinity to display the glory of the Godhead in the work of the salvation of sinners).
ii. Works in the Garden, Adam and Eve.
iii. Noah (Sign = rainbow)
iv. Abraham (Sign = circumcision)
v. Moses/Sinai (sign = circumcision and Sabbath)
vii. The New (sign = baptism and The Lord’s Supper)
c. The Old Covenant is specifically, (or narrowly) the Mosaic Covenant of Levitical laws given at Sinai. We need to be careful how we talk about this covenant. It is, as are all the covenants of God, a covenant of grace, for without the grace of God causing Him to bend down to us and bridge the gap between his majesty and our smallness. As we read earlier from the London Baptist Confession:
“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.”
However, even though all covenants between God and man are based
on the condescending grace of God, it is not outside the concept and/or the definition of Grace to say that this grace comes by way of conditions. In the case of the people of Israel they were shown great grace by God when 1) he remembered his covenant after 400+ years, 2) when he took them out of the land of bondage, and 3) when he gave them his laws and commandments (Psalm 147:20)
d. The New Covenant was promised and predicted. We see this specifically in Jer. 31 and Ezk. 36:22-26
e. The Old Covenant has now been replaced, it was at the time of the writing of this letter obsolete and ready to vanish…
3. Since the Old Covenant is being replaced because it was “not faultless” We need to ask,
a. What were its faults that meant a new covenant was needed?
i. It was dependent on the work and moral strength of mortals, fallen, sinful human beings—man could break it. Its deficiency was the fact that it was dependent on sinful unfaithful people for its continuance. So then we read in Heb. 8:9 “they did not continue in my covenant.” Here is the primary lesson of the sad history of the Old Testament. Here is a story of a long and continuous journey of spiritual adultery and physical idolatry. I’m just finishing the book of the Judges. Here several years before the first King is a story of several generations of Israelites from many tribes living without reference to God and his laws. So much so that we read in 17:6 and in 21:25, the last verse of the book, “in those days there was no king and every one did what was right in his own eyes.” They were a people exactly like the people in our own generation. They thought that they could love without reference or obedience to God and
his rules. They did and we do so because we think that the rejection of God opens the door to freedom, fun, and fulfillment. Freedom to do whatever we wish. People want to be free from the fetters of rules and will twist their logic into a contortionist’s pretzel in order to get what they want. But they do not get what they want. They get a more restricted life and a more debilitating bondage. Mark this well. We are never free of the consequences of our sin. Os Guinness outlines the attempts that some freethinkers in the 18th and 19th centuries sought to develop philosophies and ethical codes apart from the constructs of a Biblical worldview. One of the ways this was done was to deny all meaning in life—life is meaningless, rules are unnecessary, God is either absent or non-existent. ne of the most well-known of these thinkers in the early 20th C. was the author of a book that many of us read in high school or college, “Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. In spite of all his attempts Huxley cold not come to the place where he could live as though there was no meaning—but he continued to try. He wrote of his attempts saying, “We objected to morality (God’s rules) because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” (Quoted in Os Guinness, Fools’ Talk)This was Israel’s conflict with the covenant of God: it interfered with their desires for moral and spiritual freedom. It is little wonder that the term idolatry and adultery are used interchangeably in the Old Testament to talk about the people’s sin.
ii. It was an external code without power to change the inner person. The Old Covenant was written on tablets of stone and rolls of parchment. It was a law that was outside of the person. This is the importance of the phrase in verse 10 “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts.” Having laws written on the walls of a courthouse doesn’t translate into law-abiding citizens. Absolutely laws written on court house walls tells everyone what those laws are and what they are responsible for doing and not doing, but knowing the law is a very weak impediment against crime. Action follows an inward inclination and love. This is why God says that the New Covenant will be a matter of mind and heart. It takes an inward progression from external knowledge to inward motivation.
iii. It could not offer full forgiveness for sin nor a lasting reconciliation with God.
b. Notice that the Old Covenant does merely need to be patched or repaired. The promises of Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are of a thoroughly new covenant to replace the old. One thing this shows us is that we cannot take the features of the New Covenant and try and make them fit into the mold of the Old. For example The OC was made and given to Jews. We are not expected to become Jews so we can enjoy the
benefits of the New. we do not need to think that the Land of Palestine or present day political Israel is part of our Christian heritage. These are blessing of the old. The blessings of the new are different. It also means that we do not try to squeeze the Old Covenant sign of infant circumcision into our understanding of baptism, which is a sing for believers. In any event we are meant to understand that the arrival of the NC points to the fact that the OC was in some way or ways deficient, or incapable of providing what is needed by sinful and condemned man. Look at verse 13. The OC is not only deficient, it is obsolete and was ready to vanish away.
4. Conclusion: All are invited
a. Now the challenge before us today is to take this information and ask ourselves the question very carefully, “Am I a member of this new covenant?
b. I cannot live under the OC for a am a proven lawbreaker. Count how recently and how often I have broken each one of the Ten Commandments.
c. I need the One who has kept all of these perfectly. I need Him to wrote the Law upon my heart that I will keep them each and every one by his power and strength, knowing that it will not be by my keeping that I am brought into the NC. My inclusion in the NC is based on Christ’s work.