Subdivision 2. Chap. 8
The Mediator of the New Covenant
Section A. Hebrews 8:1-6
The Ascended Priest
We now have a summing up of the instruction we have already received concerning the Priesthood of our Blessed Lord. We see in Him a High Priest who through His own inherent right has taken a place which no Levitical priest could ever take. Instead of merely being permitted to enter once a year into the Holy of Holies, and that only for a few moments, not daring to sit down in the presence of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the ascended Man, has entered into the heavenly sanctuary and is there seated on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. There He ministers in the Holiest in that glorious tabernacle of which the earthly tent was but a type.
How important it is for us to realize that we are represented before God by a Man in the glory, for though we no longer know Christ after the flesh, yet He has gone up to Heaven as the representative Man to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
The earthly high priest of old was appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. By gifts we understand those offerings which were the expression of the grateful, adoring hearts of the people of Israel. The sacrifices, on the other hand, had to do directly with making expiation for sin. Our Lord did this latter when He offered Himself up on the cross. But now that He is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, it is of course necessary that He have something to offer. He presents before God our prayers and praises. Our heartfelt worship ascends to the Father by Him.
“Our great High Priest is sitting
At God’s right hand above;
For us His hands uplifted
In sympathy and love.
“To all our prayers and praises,
Christ adds His sweet perfume,
And love the censer raises,
These odors to consume.”
We may often be discouraged as we realize something of the imperfections even of our highest and best efforts to glorify God. Like Cowper, we may exclaim:
“Sin twines itself about my thoughts,
And slides into my prayers.”
But it is blessed to know that nothing reaches God that is not perfect. Our Great High Priest takes out of our prayers and praises everything that is unholy or of the flesh, everything that is contrary to the nature of the God we adore. Then to what is left, He adds his own infinite perfections and thus presents all to the Father on our behalf.
His Priesthood is altogether heavenly in character, for, “If He were on earth He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” This is not to say that He never acted in a priestly capacity while in this scene. He certainly did. As a Priest, He prayed for His disciples. In the seventeenth of John we have a wonderful sample of His High Priestly intercession. As Priest too, He offered Himself upon the cross as the supreme sacrifice for sin, as in the case of Aaron offering the bullock and the goat on the great day of atonement. But the point is, His entire Priesthood was heavenly in character. It was not inherited after the Aaronic order. Looked at from that standpoint, He would not be a Priest at all, as He did not belong to the tribe of Levi or the household of Aaron. He is the Second Man, the Lord from Heaven, and as such He is our Great High Priest, fulfilling the types and shadows of heavenly things, as set forth, for instance, in the book of Leviticus. In fact everything in connection with the tabernacle and its service was typical of Christ, picturing His glorious Person and His wondrous work. This was why God was so particular in regard to all its details. “Moses was admonished of God,” we are told, “when he was about to make the tabernacle: See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” There was no room for human ingenuity or for Moses’ own thoughts. All must be as ordered of God, for He alone knew the Son and the work He was to accomplish.
And now that the typical dispensation has been replaced by the present economy of grace, Christ has entered upon His better ministry, owing to the fact that He is the Mediator of a better covenant which was established upon better promises. The covenant of old depended upon man’s ability to carry out its requirements. God in effect said, “If you will do thus and so, I will do certain things.” Thus the promise of blessing rested upon man’s ability to claim that blessing on the ground of his obedience to the law. No man ever could obtain the promises on that basis. And so our Lord Jesus took upon Himself the curse of a broken law, was made a curse for us, became the great sin offering, and now has become the Mediator of a better covenant, in which all the promise is on God’s part and man receives every blessing as pure grace.
Section B. Hebrews 8:7-13
The Better Covenant Supersedes the Old
Had that first covenant been perfect, it would never have been set to one side and a new covenant brought in. But because of its imperfection on account of the weakness and frailty of the flesh, God had declared long before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world that a new covenant was to be consummated with Israel and Judah. The apostle quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34 : “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when 1 will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” This new covenant is clearly a reaffirmation of the unconditional covenant made with Abraham, which the law, coming in centuries later, could not annul. During all the present years of wandering Israel and Judah are under the curse of that broken law. But in the regeneration, when they shall be gathered back to their own land and restored to the favor of the Lord, this covenant of grace will be made with them.
It is most important to realize that nowhere are we told of a covenant made with the Church. In Romans 9:4 we learn that “the covenants” pertained to Israel. They were the chosen people with whom the Sinaitic covenant was made. According to the terms of that covenant they have forfeited all claim upon God’s favor. But He cannot deny Himself. He can never go back upon the covenant made with Abraham, by the terms of which He promised blessing unconditionally to Abraham’s seed. These promises He reiterates in the new covenant. The blood of that covenant has been shed upon the cross. Our Lord said, as He gave the communion cup to His disciples, “This is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you.” On the basis of that precious blood all who now believe in Him who shed it, enter into the spiritual blessings of the new covenant, even though Gentiles after the flesh, and therefore by nature, “strangers to the covenants of promise.” But in the fulness of times, when the day of Israel’s blessing shall arrive, the new covenant will be confirmed to them and they will be born of God-“a nation shall be born in a day”-and He will own them as His covenant people. His laws will then be instilled in their minds and written upon their hearts, and they will render to Him glad, happy service, not in order to make themselves worthy of covenant blessing, but because of the gladness of their souls when they know Him as their God and realize that they are indeed His ransomed people. The day of their blindness will have gone forever. The veil will be taken away from their hearts. No longer in need of human instruction, they shall all know the Lord from the least to the greatest in that wondrous day when He will be merciful to their unrighteousness and will remember their sins and iniquities no more.
While this does not reach the full height of Christian blessing, yet it will be wonderful grace indeed shown to the people who failed so terribly when they crucified the Lord of glory. The new covenant says nothing of entrance into the Holiest, as we now know it; nothing of being raised up together and seated together in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies; nothing of union with Him as members of His Body by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is blessing for the earth and on the earth in the coming day. But the fact that all these heavenly privileges are secured for the Church now by the shedding of the same blood of the covenant that is to procure future blessing for Israel, leads the apostle in the chapters that follow to stress our present title to enter into the Holiest, while Israel and Judah are still dispersed among the Gentiles, waiting for the day when the new covenant will be confirmed to them.
The very expression “a new covenant,” in itself makes the former testament null and void. It served its purpose up to the cross. Now that “which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” It is pathetic how little many Christians enter into this and understand how the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed us from all obligation to that temporary dispensation. It is to be feared that many who sometimes sing of such liberty fail really to understand its import.
“Free from the law! Oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.”
Not yet do the earthly people understand this, and many who in a vague way have trusted in Christ and are undoubtedly regenerated, are still far from enjoying the liberty that is ours in Christ. Our present relationship to God is one of pure grace during this parenthetical period, in which God, having set aside Israel after the flesh, is taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. After this work is completed, He will build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen down and will make a new covenant with those in Israel and Judah who will turn to the Lord in that day.
The important thing to see is that the new covenant, as such, does not go beyond blessing on the earth. It has to do with the earthly side of the kingdom of God, to enter into which new birth is a prerequisite, as our Lord told Nicodemus. This is what is meant by the writing of the divine law upon the hearts in the day that Israel and Judah will turn to the One who was once rejected.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
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