Hebrews 10:1-25, The Way to God, part 2

In this post, we’ll quote only from Hebrews 10:11, since we covered the first 10 verses in the last post.

[11]And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. [12]But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, [13]from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  [14]For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after that He had said before,
[16]“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws in their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” [17]then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God,  [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

In the previous post, we saw that Hebrews is a book of contrasts between the First, or Old, or Mosaic, Covenant, and the New Covenant.  We saw that the First Covenant was the preparation for the New Covenant.  We noted that verses 1-25 divide into two sections:
1. Preparation for the way to God, vs. 1-18.
2. Participation in the way to God, vs. 19-25.
With reference to this preparation, three things were seen.  By way of review, they are:

Giving of the Law, vs. 1-4.
1. as the “foreshadowing of good things to come,” v. 1.  This was seen in
a. the sacrifices foreshadowing forgiveness by God, and
b. the tabernacle foreshadowing fellowship with God.
Both deal with the ultimate accomplishment of what God began in the Garden of Eden.
2. as the “failure” of human merit or effort to earn or deserve salvation.
The Law cannot take away sin.  It was given to show the sinfulness of sin and the sentence for sin, in order that we might more appreciate salvation from sin.

Generating ofa body,” vs. 5-8.  Since no OT sacrifice of an animal could take away sin, and no human sacrifice would have worked either, since no human could meet the requirements of perfection in a sacrifice, God “prepared” a human body that could meet the qualifications, the body in which the Lord Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin.

Giving of the Sacrifice, vs. 9, 10.  He came “to do” God’s will, perfectly satisfying once and for all both the precepts of the Law, and the penalty of the Law, in both instances serving as the Substitute for His people.  This He did by receiving as His by imputation their sin and guilt and suffering for it, and working for them a righteousness to be imputed to them, by which they could come before God without condemnation.

So much by way of review.  Now to the rest of our Scripture, which continues the discussion about sacrifices.

Finality of the Sacrifice, vs. 11-18.
This is seen in:

1. the contrast between Old and New Covenant sacrifices, vs. 11.
a. multiplicity of the OT sacrifices, v. 11a, “daily…oftentimes.”  The altar was never dry; it was always wet with blood.
b. futility of the OT sacrifices, v. 11b, “can never take away sins,” though they did in a manner of speaking “cover” them.

2. the completeness of the New Covenant sacrifice, vs. 12-14.
a. its extent, v. 12, “one sacrifice for sins, “sat down….”  In contrast to the innumerable sacrifices of the OT.  Further, the OT priest could never “sit down” in the course of his duties; his work was never done.  Our Lord “sat down” because, as He cried out on the Cross, “It is finished!”  This wasn’t the exhausted whimper of defeat, but the triumphant shout of victory!
b. its expectation, v. 13, “waiting till His enemies be made His footstool,” or as the KJV has it, “expecting.”  So, what is He waiting for, or expecting?  It is a complete victory over His enemies.  Further, we believe it deals with the realization of His rightful place as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” a phrase connected only with His Second Coming.  According to His own words in the Gospels (Matt. 8:11; 19:27-29; 20:20-23; Mark 14:24, 25; Luke 22:15-18, 29, 30, among others), He is looking for more than many are willing to grant Him.  These would rob Him of His glory by reducing His “kingdom” to a nominal Headship over a church which, because of its acceptance of infant baptism (in which the great majority of professing Christians believe), has a fair percentage of lost people, who are not, thus, under His headship at all.  We do recognize that many who are indeed the Lord’s own accept the label “Reformed” and disagree with this viewpoint.  Nevertheless, we believe that the Reformed doctrines of the church and the future have, over the centuries, done grave damage to the cause of Christ and the Gospel.
Scripture is clear that the Lord Jesus will “rule [with a rod of iron] in the midst of His enemies,” Psalm 110:2, also Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:26, 27; 19:15.  If this is just “the church,” why is such severity necessary?  No, no, there is coming a time when Washington and London and Moscow and Tehran and every other capitol of this world will acknowledge, perhaps unwillingly, the Lordship and rule of the Lord Jesus.  That One Who hung naked on a Roman cross, and whom the world rejects and ridicules, will one day, and soon, we hope, be revealed as the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 1 Timothy 6:15.
c. its endurance, v. 14, “perfected forever”.  As we’ve said before, God’s purpose doesn’t just include the few minutes of our lives.  It includes everything that will ever happen.  This includes what will happen to us.  In fact, so certain is God’s purpose that Scripture tells us that, in the mind and purpose of God, we’ve already been “glorified,” Romans 8:30.  We only need to look in the mirror to know that that hasn’t yet happened!  But it will happen – as surely as that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning.  The one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus made it certain.

3. Content of the New Covenant, vs. 15-17.
a. its authority, v. 15, “the Holy Spirit” – not the teaching of men, not the “consensus of scholarship.” but the very declaration of God.  There is no other way to God!  The previous reference in Hebrews to this Scripture (8:8-12) refers to the temporary nature of the First Covenant; this reference is to the finality of the New Covenant.  It has nothing to do with the church “supplanting” Israel in the promises of God, as some teach.
b. its activity, vs. 16-17.
1). renewal (regeneration), v. 16, “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” says the Lord.  The First (Mosaic) Covenant has no such promise.  In fact, after rehearsing all that the Lord had done for Israel in bringing her out of Egyptian bondage, Moses said, “Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day,” Deuteronomy 29:4.  This is why Israel so quickly fell into sin and rebellion and why they complained so often.  They had no capacity really to understand what they were seeing and hearing.  One day, they will.
2). remission (forgiveness of sins), v. 17, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  In our reading, my wife and I have just read Numbers 23 and 24.  We both commented on 23:21, He [God] has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.  Israel had nothing but “iniquity” and “wickedness.”  And God certainly knew that.  And He judged them severely for it.  At the same time, as the Psalmist put it, “God is my defense,” Psalm 7:10; 59:9, 17; 94:22.  As Paul put it later, Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?  It is God who justifies [who has declared them righteous], Romans 8:33.  God wouldn’t allow a wicked prophet like Balaam or a wicked king like Balak to talk against His people.
While it isn’t yet true of Israel – it will be – God looks at believers through His Son.  When our firstborn son was just an infant, I was someplace where there was a crying baby – not ours!  Now, I had never particularly cared for crying infants – except ours! – but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son, and it was alright.  So it is, when God looks at us, He sees His Son, cf. Ephesians 1:5-7.  Again, as the Psalmist put it, He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities, Psalm 103:10.  The reason for that is that He dealt with and punished Christ according to them.  He was our Substitute and our Sacrifice, to the point that, as the Psalmist continued, As far as the east is from the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us, v. 12.  We can rejoice in that truth now.  Israel will rejoice in it one day.

3. Consequences of the New Covenant, v. 18.  Once sin is forgiven and the debt paid, there is no need for another sacrifice or payment.  Christ died once.  That is all that’s necessary!  To say anything otherwise is blasphemy.

The question remains, how do we participate in the blessings of the New Covenant?  While a complete answer must wait for the next post, let me say here that we participate by faith.  The just shall live by faith, Hebrews 10:38.  This, by the way, is a quote from Habakkuk 2:3, 4.  Though it’s more clearly delineated in the NT, salvation by grace through faith was known in the OT.

Hebrews 10:1-25, The Way to God, part 1

[1]For the law, having a shadow of the good things come and not the very image of the things, could never with those same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  [2]For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  [3]But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  [4]For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.  [5]Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  [6]In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.  [7]Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God’.”  [8]Previously saying, “Sacrifices and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), [9]Then He said, “Behold, I come to do Your will, O God.”  He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  [10]By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  [11]And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  [12]But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, [13]from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  [14]For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, [16]“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws in their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” [17]then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God, [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we noted the absolute contrast between the Old and the New Testaments, which are much more that just the respective collections of books that we know by those names.  As we saw, the Old Testament, or Covenant, was a two-fold revelation from God:  1) what was required if one were to come to God on his own merit, and 2) what was required since no one has such merit.

In other words, the Old Testament showed in the Law the absolute and inviolable perfection required by the nature and character of God.  The sacrificial system showed that no one ever had, or has, such perfection.  It also demonstrated the twin principles of substitution and sacrifice, principles shown from every sacrifice from that given for Adam and Eve down to the last one animal slain before the death of Christ.  His was the final sacrifice, and the only one that ever effectively dealt with sin.  Perhaps too simply put, “substitution” means that an animal died in the sinner’s place, and “sacrifice” means that the sinner lived in the animal’s place.  So with Christ:  He died in our place, and we live through Him.  Paul put it like this, For He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  You see, the issue isn’t simply about “life” and “death,” but about “sin” and “righteousness”.

Though we’ll only look at part of these verses in this post, there are two things in our text:

1.  Preparation of the way to God, vs. 1-18.
2.  Participation in the way to God, vs. 19-25.

1. Preparation for the Way to God, 10:1-18

Giving of the Law, 10:1-4.  As we noted in earlier lessons, the Law was not given in order to provide a way of salvation, but to show that salvation was needed.

1. The Law was “the shadow of good things to come,” v. 1.  The Tabernacle and the sacrifices foreshadowed two things.
a. the sacrifices foreshadowed forgiveness.
b. the Tabernacle foreshadowed fellowship with God.
The purpose of redemption isn’t just so that we can go to Heaven, but that we may enjoy it when we get there.  Think about it.  If a person has no time for church or Scripture or spiritual things, but spends his time submerged in the things of this world, he would have nothing in common with the inhabitants of Heaven.  If he lives only to fulfill the desires and goals of the flesh, what will he do when these things are no longer important, or even possible?  If he knows only to curse God, how will he praise Him?  It isn’t just “streets of gold,” or “mansions” that will occupy us in heaven, but God Himself and the Lord Jesus.

And that’s not just for the future, but for this life, as well.  Death won’t be some magic transformation that changes us from what we are here to what we will be there.  The work is begun in this life, else there is nothing good in the next life.  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is only a “lake of fire” awaiting the lost, Revelation 20:15.  Redemption is the resumption of what was begun – and lost – in the Garden of Eden.  The Fall of man no more messed up God’s original purpose for mankind than the rejection of Jesus by the Jews messed up God’s plan for the Kingdom.

2. The Law was powerless to “take away sins,” vs. 2-4.  Why then was it given?  To drive home the truth about sin.  “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3:20.  “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23.  “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:15, which v. 14 refers to as “the second death.”  Sin isn’t just some momentary foible or weakness; it has enormous, and eternal, repercussions.  After all, it was a “minor” sin, as we judge such things, that plunged the race into the misery it suffers now.  “Hell” may only a swear-word to many folks, but they will find out when it is too late that Hell is an awful and eternal reality.

Generating ofa body,” vs. 5-8.
1. desirability, vs. 5, 6.  “Wherefore” – the sacrifices weren’t just for the sake of sacrifices – God had “no pleasure” in them – but to teach salvation by substitution and sacrifice, the two cardinal truths of the Gospel.  There is no other way that God saves sinners.
2. declaration, vs. 7, 8.  This is a quote from Psalm 40:6-8.  “I come” is the prophecy of the One Who would “do your will, O God.” – Who would keep the Law perfectly and satisfy its penalty completely.  This was typified but never accomplished by the sacrifices.

Giving of the Sacrifice, vs. 9, 10.

These verses clearly tell us that we are neither justified nor sanctified by the Law, but by the sacrifice of Christ, also v. 14.  Verse 9 tells us what Christ meant in Matthew 5:17-20 about “fulfilling” the Law.
1. He came to clear away the traditions of men and to present the Law as it really was.
2. He came to satisfy all its requirements so that it has no claim on Him as a human being, and, therefore, no claim on those for whom He came as Substitute.

The New Covenant removes the necessity of the First Covenant, v. 9.  It accomplishes what the First Covenant required – perfect obedience and righteousness, but could never provide.

Hebrews 9:15-10:9, The New Testament

[9:15]And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may received the promise of the eternal inheritance.
[16]For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  [17]For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.  [18]Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.  [19]For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, [20]saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”  [21]Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry.  [22]And according to the law almost all things are purified by blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
[23]Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  [24]For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;  [25]not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – [26]He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once in the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  [27]And as it is appointed unto men to die once, but after this the judgment, [28]so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
[10:1]For the law, having a shadow of the the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, could never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  [2]For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  [3]But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  [4]For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
[5]Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:  “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared  for Me.  [6]In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.  [7]Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.'”
[8]Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin You did not desire; nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), [9]then He said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.”  He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  (NKJV)

We’re used to thinking of “The New Testament” as those books from Matthew to Revelation, and of “The Old Testament” as being from Genesis to Malachi.  While this is a valid and understandable use of the terms, Hebrews tells us that we can’t limit the phrases to those meanings.

Hebrews teaches us that the terms “Old Testament” or “Covenant” or “First Covenant,” and “New Testament” or “Covenant” in its usage describe two mutuallyexclusive, mutually contradictory and mutually incompatible ways of approach to God.  The Old Testament speaks of our coming to God on the basis of our works.  Both the sacrificial system and Israel’s subsequent history show that this is impossible.  The New Testament teaches that we come to God on the basis of Christ’s work.

Perhaps the great majority of professing Christians do not understand or believe this.  There are, on the one hand, those who out-and-out teach works-salvation, ie., by keeping the Law or doing our best, with the death of Christ almost considered of negligible effect, perhaps “to make up the difference.”  On the other hand, there are those who claim to believe in “salvation by grace,” but then they teach that, “Well, yes, we’re ‘saved by grace,’ but we have to keep ourselves saved; we can lose our salvation.”

Then there are those who teach “salvation by grace,” but they also believe that this means that God has simply made it possible for men to be saved, but it’s up to them to exercise faith.  The emphasis is on “exercise,” not on “faith.”  They might say, “God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to us.”

Even though they might admit that faith comes from God, they say that being born again, or saved, is a result of faith, whereas both the Scripture, John 3, and, except for Romanism, the historic creeds of professing Christianity have taught faith to be the evidence of the New Birth, not its cause.  Although there have been those down through church history who have denied this truth, it was only with the rise of John Wesley and then later Charles G. Finney and his successors, most notable of which in our time has been Billy Graham, that this truth has come generally to be denied.  In our time it has virtually disappeared, being replaced with appeals to “make your decision,” or “give your heart to Jesus.”

The Bible teaches with regard to our salvation that we have nothing to boast about.  It is God Who “makes us to differ,” 1 Corinthians 4:7.  We believe “according to the working of His mighty power,” Ephesians 1:19.  We believe “through [or, by means of] grace,” Acts 18:22.

So it is in Hebrews – an absolute separation of Old and New Covenants.   In our text, there are six things about this “New Covenant” (keeping in minds its context in the larger teaching about the priesthood of Christ);
1.  Mediation of the New Covenant, 9:15-17.
2.  Dedication of the New Covenant, 9:18-26.
3.  Expectation of the New Covenant, 9:27-28.
4.  Intimation of the New Covenant, 10:1-4.
5.  Preparation for the New Covenant, 10:5-8.
6.  Implementation of the New Covenant, 10:9.

1. Mediation of the New Covenant, 9:15-17.

He is the Mediator” – not the OT priesthood, not the Romish or Anglican priesthood or any other priesthood, nor any other individual, not the Virgin Mary, not the saints, not the preacher, not some “prophet,” not some “personality;”  Jesus Christ is the only way into the presence of God, and He is the only One with authority to intervene on behalf of His people.  That is why we must come in His name into the presence of God; no other name is recognized in heaven, Acts 4:12.

Basis of the Mediation, “by means of death,” also vs. 16, 17.  It was His death that released “the inheritance” for the enjoyment of His people.  It was His death that cancelled sin on their behalf and that satisfied divine justice for them.

Benefit of the Mediation.
1.  “redemption.”  In the OT, God didn’t just “overlook” the sin of His people.  The animal sacrifices could not take away sin, but they foreshadowed the coming of the One Who could.  The sins of the OT saints were as assuredly paid for by the death of Christ as the sins of the NT saints.
2.  “eternal inheritance.”  In the OT, under the Old Covenant, “inheritance” was temporary, based on obedience.  This is why Israel was so often in misery and was finally cast out of the land, even after the restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah.  Even though they’re in the land once again, Scripture teaches that this, too, will come to an end.  It won’t until the Second Coming of the Lord that things will finally be straightened out.  The blessings of the New Covenant are dependent on the obedience of Christ.

Beneficiaries of the Mediation, “those who are called.”  Even in the OT, though Israel as a nation enjoyed covenant blessing, not every Israelite knew the Lord; perhaps most in Israel’s history did not know the Lord.  But the New Covenant is not “national” in that sense, but individual:  “they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” Jeremiah 31:34.  Hence, it is a great mistake to try to pattern the New Covenant church after the Old Covenant nation.

2. Dedication of the New Covenant, 9:18-26.

Foreshadowed in the First Covenant, vs. 18-22.  Although blood was shed, redemption under the First Covenant was neither complete nor comprehensive, v. 22.

Fulfilled by Christ, vs. 23-26.  His sacrifice purified the originals of the things duplicated in the Mosaic tabernacle, though we don’t understand all that is involved or implied in these verses.  And it was a “once” sacrifice; the “Day of Atonement” accomplished by the Lord Jesus will never have to be repeated, either by Himself or by those who would do it ceremonially.  Indeed, such a thought is blasphemy.

3. Expectation of the New Covenant, 9:27-28.

These verses weren’t just inserted to fill up space, but to point out that the expectation and fulfillment of the New Covenant were not to be accomplished at the First Coming, but at the Second.  Considered on the whole, no OT prophecy has been fully realized.  Even those prophecies which do speak of things pertaining to the First Coming have ramifications which impinge on the Second Coming, for example, Micah 5:1-3; Daniel 9:24-27.

In several places, Hebrews mentions “the promise(s)”.  A careful and objective reading indicates that complete fulfillment of these promises is yet future, for example, Hebrews 11:39, 40.  They are dependent on the return of Christ and are not going to be fulfilled before then, as in “the church,” as many believe.  Romans 11 and Ephesians 2 and 3 shed further light on this controversial subject.

4. Intimation of the New Covenant, 10:1-4.

The continual offerings for sin showed that something more was needed.  The OT sacrifices were shadows of the Coming Sacrifice, shadows of “good things to come,” not the things themselves.

5. Preparation for the New Covenant,10:5-8.

“A body”.  From Adam to Mary, God was preparing the physical body of the Lord Jesus, that “body” which was to be offered “once for all,” Hebrews 10:10.  When Adam and Eve heard the pronouncement of their judgment and the promise of a coming Redeemer, Adam already bore in his body the genetic structure of that Redeemer.  The Cross was not a make-shift attempt to patch up an unforeseen disaster, but a carefully-planned, carefully-prepared revelation of the fullness of the divine attributes, wisdom and power.

6. Implementation of the New Covenant, 10:9.

Approach to God by our own efforts, merit or deserving will never be possible.  The OT showed the impossibility of that, and the Lord Jesus has made all such attempts unnecessary.  He came to forever rid men of the idea that salvation is a matter of reward.

By grace, you have been saved.

Hebrews 9:1-14, The Figure and the Finality

[9:1]Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.  [2]For a tabernacle was prepared:  the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; [3]and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, [4]which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna. Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; [5]and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.  Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
[6]Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.  [7]But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; [8]the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.  [9]It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience– [10]concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
[11]But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  [12]Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  [13]For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, [14]how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Chapter 9 continues the thought begun in ch. 3 about the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over the OT priesthood.  In 8:3, the writer pointed out that since He was a priest, He must have an offering.  But it was a far different offering than any offered by Aaron or his descendants, with a far different result.  The discussion begun in 3:1 goes through 10:18 and climaxes with the discussion of these two differences.

There are two parts to these verses:
1.  The figurative character of the First covenant, 9:1-10.
2.  The finality of the New Covenant, 9:11-14.

The writer begins his teaching describing-

1. The Figurative Character of the First Covenant, 9:1-10.

Description of the First Covenant’s “service” and “sanctuary,” vs. 1-7.  In vs. 1-5, the writer quickly describes the Mosaic tabernacle, passing over any detailed description of it, v. 5.  In vs. 6, 7, the writer briefly describes the “daily” service in contrast to the yearly occurrence of the Day of Atonement.  Every day, the priests were in and out of the first compartment of the Tabernacle, doing those things which accompanied the “divine service” of v. 1.  However, only one day a year the High Priest, never the other priests, was permitted, even required, to enter the second compartment – the Holy of Holies.  It is this one day the writer will compare with the one day the Lord Jesus offered Himself.
The writer develops the significance of the contrast between what the priests could do and what only the High Priest could do:

Design of the First Covenant “service” and “sanctuary,” vs. 7-10.  There’s still a lot of confusion over this, even among Christians, many of whom still try to “keep the Law’ as a means of gaining approval or of becoming righteous before God.  For such a purpose, we might say that the First Covenant was “defective.”

When we say “defective,” we’re not somehow implying that God made a mistake in giving the First Covenant, or that there was some “malfunction” in it.  The First Covenant worked perfectly in that for which it was designed.  Just because we cannot drive a car from here to London (assuming that for you, the reader, “here” isn’t somewhere on that same island!) – neither ourselves or the car being designed for underwater travel! – doesn’t mean that the car will not function perfectly if driven on the highway.

In the same way, the Law worked perfectly in what it was designed to do.

So then, what was it designed to do?

In a nutshell, the Law was never designed to be a way to God.  While it is true that a perfectly sinless and sinlessly perfect person could come that way, the fact is that we are neither sinless or perfect, but are sinful and depraved.  Because of that, the Law blocks our way to God, forever making it impossible to be accepted by God on the basis of our own works.  It therefore shows us that we need to be saved, as typified in the elaborate sacrificial system, which could never take away sin or cleanse the sinner.

In vs. 9, 10, the writer again alludes to the temporary nature of the First Covenant.  In v. 9, it was a “figure (type) for the time then present,” and in v. 10, we read that it was “imposed until the time of reformation.”

2. The Finality of the New Covenant, 9:11-14.

Really, the writer isn’t considering the covenants themselves so much as the sacrifices they prescribed.  It was the sacrifice which was important.  Even under the First Covenant, it was impossible to approach God even typically or symbolically without a blood sacrifice, which had many restrictions and requirements, and it was (and is) impossible to live so as not to need sacrifices.

There are two things said of the sacrifice which ratified the New Covenant, and which therefore characterize the Covenant itself:

1.  It is eternal, vs. 11-12.  Note especially the phrase, “eternal redemption.”  This could never be said of the OT sacrifices.  The New Covenant is eternal because nothing else remains to be done for redemption:  it has been accomplished.

No Aaronic priest would ever  have dared to offer his own blood; such would have been an abomination, for no human, except the Lord Jesus, ever met or can meet the requirements God set forth for such an offering in such verses as Leviticus 1:3.  Because of this imperfection, the death of the priest would have been wasted because sinful, thus adding to the problem and not solving it.  This is why human sacrifice, practiced in some religions, is an abomination; the offering itself is polluted.  In connection with this, note Malachi 1:8.  If “blind,” “lame,” and “sick” sacrifices offend God, how much more an offering which is in itself “evil,” as a human sacrifice would be?

What volumes this says about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ!  What this says about His nature and character!  Cf. 10:4.  Only the sinless, perfect, incarnate Son of God was able to offer “His own blood,” to offer the ultimate and only possible sacrifice for sin.

In addition, what a rebuke this is to our perverted self-righteousness!  If the ultimate human sacrifice does not prevail to take away sin, how worthless is that little piddling effort we call “sacrifice” to avail before God!  By this, I am NOT downplaying the suffering and sacrifice of many of God’s people even at this very moment, even to death at the hands of their persecutors.  There is much suffering, that we in the comfort of our padded pews and air-conditioned church buildings can’t even begin to imagine, in other parts of this world.  Stephen in the Book of Acts might have been the first to suffer death for his faith in Christ, but he wasn’t the last.  And that was at the hands of religion, as is much of the persecution of this time.  And it’s likely to get worse.  No, no, I’m just saying that there is no sacrifice we can make that will pay for sin.

But, you see, we don’t really understand how little we “deserve” at the hand of God except judgment and wrath.  Oswald Chambers had an excellent comment along this line:  “If we have ever had a glimpse of what we are like in the sight of God, we shall never say, ‘Oh, I am so unworthy,’ because we shall know we are, beyond the possibility of stating it.”

The New Covenant is final, because:

 2. It is efficacious, vs. 13, 14.  Here the writer contrasts the effect, if you will, of the two covenental sacrifices.  True, the OT sacrifice was able to give a certain sense of “rightness” before God.  Zechariah and Elizabeth, for example, are called “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,” Luke 1:6.  Nevertheless, there could never be a sense of more than sins “covered.”  There always had to be the next sacrifice, and the work was never finished, even though the flesh might have been (ceremonially) “purified,” v. 13.

The sacrifice of Christ, however, effects an internal cleansing, “purging” the conscience.  Under the First Covenant, one could never be sure that all sin had been covered.  Indeed, there were some sins for which there was no sacrifice, hence, no “covering.”  Under the New Covenant, however, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7.

The “dead works” of v. 14 are works done to obtain salvation.  This is why the First Covenant couldn’t give an enduring “rest,” as we noted in another post; salvation can never be achieved through our own efforts, and the “covering” that was afforded by the death of an animal was only “good” for that sin and would not cover the next sin, probably committed on the way home from the first sacrifice.

In connection with this turning from “dead works,” note 1 Thessalonians 1:9, in which Paul describes how the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  Scripture knows nothing of a redemption that doesn’t result in a radical, Godward shift in living.  Though none of us is perfect in this life, there is no such thing as a “carnal Christian” or a “Sunday-only Christian.”  These might be accepted among men, but they are not accepted before God.

In v. 13, notice the phrase, “the ashes of a heifer.”  Numbers 19 tells us of this sacrifice.  In a carefully prescribed ceremony, in the only rite in which a female was specifically called for, a red heifer was sacrificed and her ashes were carefully collected and preserved for use in the “water of separation,” which was a “purification for sin,” Number 19:9.  This was the “holy water” later used in various ceremonies.  You might read that chapter to see what it says about this sacrifice.  It was nothing to be slighted.  Please note that it was not the water itself which purified, but the sacrifice of the heifer, as signified by the presence of her ashes.

This is a lesson for us today.  There are many, for example, who insist that baptism is essential for salvation.  I’ve dealt at length with this in other posts, posts about the thief on the cross and about Cornelius.  There’s also a whole series on “infant baptism.”  It’s enough here to say that the “water” was of no effect, no value, without the sacrifice.  Baptism has its place, as do many other things which men say have to be “added,” as it were, to faith in order to be saved.  But these only have value because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  If any of these are “added” to that sacrifice in order for one to be saved, then faith has been corrupted and there is no salvation.

There is only one thing which can take away sin, which can “purify the flesh,” and that is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ:  “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
drawn from Immanuel’s veins.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day.
And there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.

Hebrews 8:1-13, A Tale of Two Covenants

[1]Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: we have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, [2]a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
[3]For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. [4]For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law, [5]who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle.  For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  [6]But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
[7]For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.  [8]Because finding fault with them, He says, “Behold the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – [9]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 did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.  [10]For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  [11]None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  [12]For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.
[13]In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.  Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

In our last post, we talked about the two priests in Hebrews 7.  Briefly mentioned were the covenants which underlay their ministries.  Chapter 8 continues the writer’s thought that the Levitical priesthood was temporary because it was unable to complete redemption.  As the writer develops later on, animal sacrifices could not take away sin.  The Levitical priesthood was “introductory” in that it was a primer, a basic revelation of the holiness, righteousness and justice of God, and the exacting and inflexible nature of what is required to stand in His presence uncondemned, cf. 2:2.

Chapter 8 deals with the fundamental difference between the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Christ.  This difference is not simply found in the fact that the Lord Jesus is God.  If, as some claim, Jesus was only a creature, exalted though He may have been, He would have been able only to bring Himself to heaven.  If only a creature, Jesus would have been under the same obligation as all other creatures to serve and obey God and His life would have had merit only for Himself.  But since He is God, His life and death have infinite merit and value – enough to have saved multiple worlds had God so chosen.

The fundamental difference between the priesthoods of Aaron and Christ lies in the covenants underlying their respective ministries, cf. 8:6.  The First, or Mosaic Covenant, could not take away sin or do anything about the condition of the sinner.  The New Covenant, underlying Christ’s priesthood, can and does both.

It’s essential to understand that there are two covenants involved in this matter.  And, though we won’t go further into the subject, Scripture lists several other covenants.

A large percentage of professing Christendom, in what is called “Covenant Theology,” disagrees with this idea of “several other” covenants.  This may not seem to be important, but it is.  This system of thought, that there is only one covenant, not several, has several distinct features:

1.  In the words of Dwight Hervey Small, a well-known Reformed writer:  “There is one basic, underlying covenant of grace; this is the covenant relationship between a gracious God and a sinful race.  This gives continuity to all God’s redemptive dealings with man.  But the form of the covenant relation undergoes sufficient change in administration as to warrant distinction in Scripture.  We can speak of the Edenic form of the covenant, or of the Abrahamic form, or of the Mosaic form, or of the New Testament form.”

“The covenant established with Moses was essentially the same as the covenant that was established with Abraham.”  (Dwight Hervey Small, The Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism, pp. 37, 33.)

2.  There is no distinction between the nation of Israel and the church.  The church began with Abraham (Small, ibid., p. 161), or with Adam (Kuiper, R.B., The Glorious Body of Christ, p. 22), and is not specifically of the New Testament.  Israel and the church are merely different forms of the same thing.

3.  There is no future fulfillment of Old Testament verses with reference to the nation of Israel, which has been supplanted by the church (cf. note on bottom of p. 7, Weston, Charles Gilbert, The Weston Study Bible).  Nor is there to be a “grossly carnal” future Millennium, in which the Lord Jesus sits on an actual throne in Jerusalem (Clement, George H., The ABC’s of the Prophetical Scriptures, p. 40).  Covenant theologians are, therefore, amillennial, although not all who are amillennial hold to covenant theology.

Several teachings depend entirely or in part for their existence on Reformed covenant theology.  Among them are:

1.  Infant baptism.  According to this view, infant baptism replaces circumcision as the “sign” of the covenant.  Elaborate arguments are brought forth to justify this view.  I found it interesting that Dabney, a noted Reformed scholar, in discussing believers’ and infant baptism, refers to eight verses teaching believer’s baptism.  In the next paragraph, when he turns to infant baptism, he says this, “We add that baptism is also to be administered to ‘the infants of one or both believing parents’.” (Conf. 28, par. 4).  (Sorry, I have no further reference for this quote.)  Why doesn’t he simply mention those Scriptures which teach infant baptism, or clearly show that the apostles baptized infants?  He can’t.  There aren’t any.  That’s why there’s a need for “elaborate arguments.”  The whole doctrine of infant baptism rests on the effort to equate Israel with the church.  Indeed, covenant theology was introduced during the early years of the Reformation to defend the practice in argument against the Anabaptists, who rightly rejected it – and paid for it with their lives.

Just let me say that even if baptism does replace circumcision, even in the OT infants weren’t circumcised either to be born or to become members of the nation of Israel.  They were circumcised because they already had been born and were members of that nation.  So, baptism is for those who have already been born-again and, by virtue of that second birth, are members of the body of Christ.  Besides, circumcision wasn’t replaced by another symbol, but by the reality it symbolized – namely, regeneration (the new birth, salvation).  Believer’s baptism looks back to that, not to an Old Testament ritual.

2.  An established state-religion, based on the OT theocracy, in which every member of a nation is a member of “the church” by virtue of their baptism as infants.  In such a system, there is no liberty of conscience, no liberty of dissent.  In fact, the original Westminster Confession had a very strong section on the duty of the church to suppress all “blasphemies and heresies,” with the church defining what those were.  It was only after the War for American Independence that the Reformers, dealing with reality, substituted that section with one allowing religious liberty.

As we turn to our text, we see two things in the chapter:

1.  The “shadow” of the “first” covenant, 8:1-5, cf. 10:1.
2.  The “substance” of the “final” covenant, 8:6-13.

In the midst of all this talk about “covenants,” the writer is still setting forth the superiority of Christ:
1.  He is “seated,” v. 1.  The OT priests never sat while on duty because their work was never done.
2.  He is in heaven, v. 1.  Aaronic priests functioned on the earth.
3.  He is a “minister…of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man.”  There may or may not be an actual “building” in heaven, I don’t know for sure, but what Moses and the others built, while certainly “real,” nevertheless it only foreshadowed the redemption that was coming.  They could not provide “the real thing.”

2. The Substance of the “Final” Covenant, 8:6-13.

The First Covenant was not able to accomplish redemption because that system was designed only to show the need for redemption, the penalty for a broken law and the nature of the payment for that broken law.  It couldn’t actually provide the pardon necessary to escape sin – the breaking of the Law.  It’s in this very thing that the priesthood of Christ is “better”.  And the reason it’s “better” is found in the covenant underlying it, which the writer explains in vs. 8-13.  Notice the various aspects of this “new covenant.”

1.  The time of the New Covenant, v. 8, “the days come;” v. 10, “after those days.”  This is a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34, but note the rest of that chapter! (to v. 40), also Jeremiah 32:36-44.  Both of these references show that something more than the Law is required if even Israel is to come to God.

2.  The beneficiaries of the New Covenant, vs. 8, 10:  “house of Israel,” “house of Judah.”  While I have no desire to get into the interpretive jungles which entwine themselves around these verses, it seems obvious to me to whom and of whom these verses speak.  And if they don’t refer to the actual nation of Israel, or Judah, and God didn’t mean what He said, then why didn’t He say what He meant?
The point is that Israel will never be reconciled to God through their adherence to the Mosaic Law.  Neither will anyone else.

3.  The substitution of the New Covenant, v. 9, also v. 11.  “Teaching” was an essential part of the Mosaic Law, Deuteronomy 6:7.  The historical reference of v. 9 establishes that “Israel” cannot be “the church,” as many teach.  It is a gravely dangerous thing to play semantic games with the word of God, to teach that we have to “look below the surface” to find out what it’s really saying.  While I don’t think we’ll ever get to the bottom of its teaching in this life, and maybe not in the next one, either, what it teaches about God and sin and salvation is plain enough that there is no excuse for mistaking its meaning.

4.  The substance of the New Covenant, vs. 10-12.  These verses may be summarized in one word:  redemption.  The restoration of Israel does not come apart from redemption.  The crucifixion of Christ did not invalidate the promises of God, like this one, to Israel, so that her place in God’s redemptive purpose has been taken over by someone else and she is shut out.  Nay, it is through that very rejection and crucifixion that Israel will one day be redeemed as a nation.
Four things form the substance of the New Covenant:
a.  internal righteousness, v. 10a.  Contrast Deuteronomy 29:1-4.  What God did not do at Sinai, He will do because of Calvary.  The Mosaic Law is an external code, powerless to do anything to change the internal character of a person.  The New Covenant deals with that very thing, Jeremiah 31:33.
b.  immediate relationship, vs 10b-11a.  This is as opposed to “mediate.”  The OT Jew could never go into the Holy of Holies.  He could only do this through the annual observance of the Day of Atonement, in which the High Priest, and he alone and only on that day, could enter that place, where God dwelt.  But now, through Christ, the saved Jew, or Gentile, can come directly into the presence of God.  He or she needs no other priest; they don’t need Mary or “the saints,” don’t need “the church” or some religious organization.  Indeed, to say that one does need any of them is terrible blasphemy.
c.  individual reassurance, v. 11b, “they all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest (emphasis added).  Never in the history of Israel can this be said to have happened.  Even in days of the greatest spiritual revival, and though the nation itself had a “relationship” with God, there were only some who knew the Lord individually.  But there is coming a time, in the words of Romans 11:26, when “all Israel shall be saved.”
Since the whole section of Romans 9-11 deals with “Israel after the flesh” (Romans 9:3), Romans 11:26 can’t be said to refer to some sort of “spiritual Israel” which really has nothing to do with Israel.  Rather it refers to a time when Israel herself will be made “spiritual,” that is, she will be redeemed.  This doesn’t mean that every Jew who ever lived will be saved, but rather that every Jew alive at that time will be saved.
Even though the church enjoys the blessings of the new covenant by the grace of God, we can’t say that it’s really been fulfilled.  After all, “teaching” is a major part of the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, 20, and of the “gifts” to the church in Ephesians 4:11-16.  The time is coming when it and they will no longer be necessary.
d.  incomprehensible redemption, v. 12.
Sin will be forgiven, but more than that, it will be banished.  God’s people will have nothing to repent of, to be sorrowful over, to wish had never happened.  We have such superficial views of sin and salvation that I don’t think we really have any idea what that will be like.

5.  The succession of the New Covenant, v. 13.  By this, we mean that the New Covenant will supercede and take the place of the Old, Mosaic, Covenant.  It is, after all, a “new” covenant.

A better one.

Hebrews 6:19-7:28, A Tale of Two Priests.

[6:19]This hope we have as an anchor of the souls, both sure and steadfast, and which enter the Presence beyond the veil, [20]where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
[7:1]For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, [2]to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” [3]without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
[4]Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.  [5]And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; [6]but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.  [7]Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.  [8]Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.  [9]Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, [10]for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
[11]Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?  [12]For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.  [13]For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
[14]For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.  [15]And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest [16]who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.  [17]For He testifies:  “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
[18]For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, [19]for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.  [20]And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath [21](for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:  “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'”), [22]by so much better Jesus has become surety of a better covenant.
[23]Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  [24]But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  [25]Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
[26]For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;  [27]who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  [28]For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (NKJV)

Just to remind ourselves of the purpose of Hebrews, the writer sought to explain, exhort and encourage.  His believing Jewish audience had indeed professed Christ, but for whatever reason were being tempted to return to the beloved and familiar OT ritual and sacrifices.  He writes to them not to do that, not to risk their eternal souls with such a grievous mistake and sin, 10:32-39.  He explained to them that the person and work of the Lord Jesus were the fulfillment of all those sacrifices and ceremonies, which were only a shadow of what was coming, 10:1.  He encouraged them that, though they were suffering persecution and would suffer more, 10:32, 33; 11:12-14, they weren’t following some pipe dream, mere doctrines of men, or “cunningly-devised fables,” as Peter put it, 2 Peter 1:16.  They were following the One who was the Creator of the universe, the One who will ultimately complete and consummate that for which the universe was created.

Again, a key word is “better.”  The immediate context, from 3:1, deals with the priesthood of Christ.  It is “better” than the Levitical priesthood of Moses and Aaron for several reasons the writer lists through 10:18.

The priesthood of Christ was briefly introduced in 2:17, Christ and Moses were compared and contrasted, and then in the section ending in 6:20, the writer applied the preeminence of Christ to the lives of his readers, before again returning to the priesthood of Christ.

Beginning in 7:1, he continues his teaching:

1.  The type of the priesthood of Melchizedek,7:1-10.
2.  The temporary nature of the Aaronic priesthood, 7:11-28.

1. Type of the priesthood of Melchizedek, 7:1-10.

The Historical Incident, vs. 1-3.  Genesis 14:18-20 is the only place Melchizedek actually appears, and nothing is known of him except what is mentioned there and in Hebrews 7:13.  There are those who believe, from Hebrews 7:3, that Melchizedek was, or is, actually Christ (remains a priest continually).  However, there are some difficulties with that view and for the following reasons, we believe that Melchizedek was an ordinary man, highly blessed though he may have been.

1.  Both Genesis and Hebrews call him “king of Salem.”  While it is true that “Salem” is a form of “shalom,” (“peace”), and Jesus is “the Prince of Peace,” we believe this is simply a reference to Jerusalem.

2.  Note vs. 3, which says that Melchizedek was made like the Son of God (emphasis added).  It doesn’t say that he was the Son of God.  In Christ, there arises another priest, after the likeness of Melchizedek, v. 15 (emphasis added).  Melchizedek was merely a type, a foreshadowing, of the coming Son of God.

3.  What about v. 3, which describes Melchizedek as being without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end or life?  Doesn’t this prove Melchizedek to have been Christ?  I don’t think it does.  After all, as a man, Christ had a father (though virgin-born, Joseph was His “legal” father), and mother, a genealogy (two of them, in fact: both Joseph’s and Mary’s), birth and death.  He had all those things which Melchizedek is said not to have had.

4.  Note again in v. 3, “made like”.  For the purpose of Scripture in treating Melchizedek as a type of Christ, none of these things is mentioned.  7:6 implies that he did, in fact, have a genealogy, distinct from that of Aaron.

The Practical Application, vs. 4-10.  So, we might say, what is the purpose of these references to Melchizedek?  Simply this, as a “priest of the Most High God” (was Aaron ever called this?), Melchizedek was not dependent on Aaron or his priesthood for his own priesthood.  Neither was he dependent on the Mosaic Law.  He lived more than 400 years before Moses and Aaron.

Remember what the author taught in the last part of ch. 6.  He spoke of our two-fold “hope” of inheriting God’s promise:  the oath of God Himself with regard to that promise, and the priestly ministry of Christ, which rises out of that promise.  As Melchizedek was independent of the Mosaic Covenant and the Aaronic priesthood, likewise the promise of God and the priesthood of Christ are independent of them.

The writer develops that thought in vs. 4-10.  Usually used in connection with trying to enforce tithing on Christians, this portion actually has nothing to do with either the practice or the applicability of tithing.  It simply points out that the Levitical priesthood (so named after “Levi,” a son of Aaron) descended from Abraham, and so could be said to be “in him” in Genesis 14.  Under the Law, the Levitical priesthood received tithes; this was their means of livelihood as well as the upkeep of the Tabernacle.  “In Abraham” they paid tithes, hence, the writer argues, Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood.  Typically shown, therefore, Christ is superior to Aaron.

2.  The Temporary Nature of the Aaronic Priesthood, 7:11-28.

As seen by it’s “imperfection,” vs. 11-15.

1.  as regards it’s “effectiveness,” vs. 11, 18-19.  The very fact that the Law was unable to produce “perfection” demonstrates the need for something that could produce it, cf. Romans 8:3, 4.  The word translated “perfection” doesn’t refer to “sinlessness,” but “completion”.  The Law and the priesthood could not “complete” redemption, therefore the Law only served until the introduction of its replacement, cf. Galatians 3:19.

2.  as regards its “exclusiveness,” vs. 12-15.  There were strict instructions regarding who could be a priest, even in the Aaronic line.  A priest had to be a Levite, but our Lord was of the tribe of Judah, v. 14.  The change from Aaron to Christ also intimates a change of the Law, vs. 12-14.  In this way the temporary nature both of the Mosaic Law and of the Aaronic priesthood was shown.

As seen by its inferiority, vs. 16-28.

1.  in contrast to the commencement of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 16-22.  In all the Law, there is no promise to any particular priest of a lasting priesthood.  Indeed, in the very beginning, God made provision for the passing of the priesthood from father to son, Exodus 29:29.  No oath was ever given to any priest.

2.  in contrast to the continuity of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 23-25.  This goes along with the previous thought.  Only the Lord Jesus has a guarantee of personal perpetuity.

3.  in contrast to the completeness of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 26-27.  Christ was able to do what no Levitical priest could ever do, v. 25.  Though this thought will be developed by the writer further on, here he just points out the unique nature of Christ’s one sacrifice in contrast to the monotonous frequency of OT sacrifices.

4.  in contrast to the character of Christ’s priesthood, v. 28.  Cf. 5:2, 3.  There is no such thing as “infirmity” in the Lord Jesus.  Cf. 7:26.

Hebrews 6:9-20, “Things Which Accompany Salvation”

[9]But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.  [10]For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister  [11]And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, [12]that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
[13]For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He  could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, [14]saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”  [15]And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.  [16]For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. [17]Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, [18]that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
[19]This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, [20]where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (NKJV)

In this portion, our writer changes focus.  He has been dealing with his readers’ lack of growth and maturity, and warning them of the dangers of remaining stagnant.  Having said all that, though, he goes on in this portion to assure them that he does have confidence that they truly belong to the Lord, though he spoke “in this manner.”

So, how does he know they’re “saved,” to use our phrase?  Does he look to their “profession of faith,” or their baptism, or their church membership, or any of a number of other things we tend to look at?

Not at all.

These might have their place, but of these Hebrew believers our writer mentions their “work and labor of love,” v. 10.

By this, was he suggesting that these Jewish believers were saved by works?  Of course not.

We’ve dealt with this in other posts, but need to bring it in here as well.  There is quite a discussion in evangelical circles about the place of “faith” and “works.”  Some insist that we’re saved by “faith alone,” and works have no place at all in our being saved.  As long as we “believe,” that’s all that’s necessary.  Others insist that we must have works along with faith in order to be saved.  We must be baptized or keep the Sabbath or any number of others things besides or along with faith in order to be saved.

In his writings, Paul put it like this:  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love, Galatians 5:6.

“Faith” isn’t just some passive intellectual agreement with certain facts or teachings.  It’s not about memorizing the Catechism.  Nor is it some kind of experience by which we’re elevated to some mystical “higher plane of existence.”   As we’ll see from Hebrews 11, faith is an active, obedient response to the Word of God.  So it was with these believers in Hebrews 6.

While it’s true that they “ministered to the saints,” it was really toward God that they were showing love.  This is the “motivation” of love, if you will.  Not to gain divine favor, but because we’ve already received it.  We’ve received it in such abundance that we can’t even begin to understand it.

Though the whole post won’t be finished for a few days, as I write this paragraph, yesterday was Christmas.  Leaving out the celebrations of the world with Santa, red-nosed reindeer, decorations, parties, family get-togethers and what not, how much time do we really spend thinking about “Christmas”?  We might have a “nativity set” on the mantel or out in the front yard.  But it’s likely to share space with Santa or fancy lights or decorations, maybe a snow man or two.  Things which Christmas is really about in our time.

There used to be a TV show in which those who entered a certain place were promised a “world of endless wonder.”  That’s what Christmas is supposed to have – endless wonder that that little Babe was in reality the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  That Mary and Joseph were as dependent on Him as He was on them.  That this little ignored, unknown Infant was in reality the Savior of the human race.  That without Him, there is no hope and no future worth thinking about.  Without Him, there’s not even a “present” worth bothering about.  Not “present” as in “gift,” which is mostly what Christmas is about any more, but as in “the present” – “now,” “today.”  And that He one day will return to this planet in glory and honor.  All that, and infinitely more, is involved in what happened on that day so long ago.  This is what Christmas is really about.

There are those who want to “keep Christ in Christmas.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, but if we really understood that scene in the manger, we would say, “Nothing but Christ in Christmas.”

But, the writer continues, he doesn’t didn’t want his readers to “rest on their laurels,” as it were.  He didn’t want them to become “sluggish,” but to “show the same diligence” toward the things of God they had started with.  He wanted them to advance “to the full assurance of hope.”

Now, this “hope” doesn’t mean “hope so,” as in, say, buying a lottery ticket and “hoping” to win the jackpot.  It’s a confident certainty about something.  The writer will have more to say about this a little later.

He also wanted them to remember those in faith who had gone before, “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” v. 12.  The purpose and promise of God concern so much more than the few minutes we walk on this earth.

Saying that, the writer focuses his attention on Abraham, the first one to receive the promises upon which Israel rested, vs. 13-18, promises themselves which “accompany salvation”.  After he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise, v. 15.  He “patiently endured.”  Was he “perfect”?  By no means!  Did he do things which, in hindsight, would have been better left not done?  Absolutely.  We’ll have a lot more to say about Abraham, Lord willing, when we get to chapter 11.  And we had a bit to say about him in our studies on Genesis, (for example https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/abraham-believed-god-genesis-15-romans-4/).  Abraham waited years for the conception and birth of Isaac.  For all his shortcomings, though, he never turned his back on or denied the God Who promised that son.

The thing I find almost unbelievable is in vs. 17 and 18:  Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God, to lie, we might have strong consolation….

We live in a time where “God” has been brought down to our level, or even below it.  We’re taught that we can mess up His will, or that “He’s done all He can do,” and now it’s up to us, or that He has to wait for us to “do our part” before He can do His part.  In short, He’s been reduced to little more than a humble supplicant at the throne of the human will; He can’t do anything to or with us unless we are “willing.”  I have a hard time even writing that of the God of the universe, but that’s an all-too-common view of Him.

However, Scripture says that God humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth!  May I say that He humbles Himself even further in the things He’s willing to do to convince our stubborn, rebellious selves that He can be trusted.

There used to be a saying that I haven’t seen for a while:  “God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”  The only trouble is that it’s not true.  The emphasis is all wrong.  God said it and that settles it, whether anyone believes it or not!  A pagan king in the Old Testament had a higher concept of God than many “Bible-believing” Christians have today.  In Daniel 4:34, 35, Nebuchadnezzar said, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.  All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  None can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'”  Because of this, there are those who say that Nebuchadnezzar was saved, but there’s never any evidence that he called the God of the Bible “his” God.  Indeed, in recounting all the experiences which led to the declaration of vs. 34, 35, he referred to Daniel as “Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god,” even though, in the same sentence, he admitted that “the Spirit of the Holy God” was in Daniel, Daniel 4:8 (emphasis added).

The writer says that “we” have hope.  But this hope doesn’t include a promised land.  Israel entered that land under Joshua, thus beginning a series of gains and losses until she lost it under the Romans until 1948, when she was again granted title to the land – not without continuing controversy and battle.  If I read Zechariah 14 correctly, she’ll lose it again – this time seemingly for good.  Until the Lord sets foot on the Mount of Olives.

No, no.  The writer says that our hope lies in heaven, a strong consolation, v. 18, a hope both steadfast and sure, v. 19.  And that hope is in a Person, even Jesus, who has become High Priest forever…, v. 20.  It’s interesting that the writer has referred to the Lord as Prophet and now as Priest, but he never refers to Him as King.  That’s because He still has work to do as Priest.  Not only did the OT priest make the sacrifice of an animal, but, once a year, the High Priest had to bring the blood of a sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it on the mercy seat.

Now we don’t have an earthly tabernacle and mercy seat.  And our High Priest doesn’t function with the pomp and ceremony of an earthly liturgy.  Nor do we need an intermediary to approach the throne for us other than the Lord Jesus.  Not only has the blood of the sacrifice been sprinkled on the mercy seat, but the very One whose blood it was sits there as well – interceding for those for whom that blood was shed.  He is our hope, not us.

I don’t really know how to bring all this to a close.  Shouldn’t the fact that “God said it” be enough for us?  Without His having to take oath about it?  I  understand that unbelievers and skeptics won’t believe it.  They’re just doing what comes naturally.  But believers – that should be a different story.

God said it – that settles it.