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.

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“The Kindness of God.” Part 3: “But God….”

In our first two posts, we looked at the fact and effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve, both for them and for us, their descendants.  We saw that Man was not just “bruised by the Fall,” as the old gospel song put it, but was killed by it.  Adam, and through him, us, lost spiritual life and we remain in the tomb of spiritual death.  How, then, shall we live?

The answer to that question is also seen in Genesis.  God came to the guilty couple and, paying no attention to their efforts to undo or cover up what they had done, did something about it Himself .  Observe, also, that He didn’t merely “provide” the coats, or tunics, of skin and then leave it up to them whether or not they would put them on.  No, no, He came to them and clothed them.  He didn’t ask for their input, cooperation or permission.  He just did it….

II.  The Kindness of Grace. 

In our first post, we referred to 2 Samuel 9:3 and Ephesians 2:7.  It is from these verses that we get the idea of “kindness.”  We’ll not consider 2 Samuel 9:3 further, but leave you with the idea that this act of David toward Mephibosheth was undeserved, unearned, unexpected and unsought and it was because of another.  These words are a good description of what is one of the most misunderstood and vilified teachings in Scripture:  the doctrine of election.

This post and the next one will briefly cover five general areas:  1). Some misconceptions about the teaching.  2)  What the Bible says about it.  3).  Election and the foreknowledge of God.  4).  Some verses used to oppose this teaching.  5).  Some objections to the teaching.

A. Misconceptions about the Doctrine of Election.

1. Election means the condemnation of some who otherwise would be saved.

The cover of a popular booklet several years ago showed a man with his hands tied behind his back, head bowed, being prodded toward the flames of Hell by a sword held in a hand extending from Heaven.  This is absolutely false!!  The Biblical doctrine is that, because of election, there are many going to Heaven who would otherwise, without exception, have gone to Hell!

Hear what the Scripture says:  Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah, Romans 9:29.

As much as we hate to admit it, except by the grace and purpose of God, we’d all be out there right in the middle of all the world’s corruption.  We want nothing to do with God as He is.  It’s only because of His unbelievable mercy and grace that He wants anything to do with us!

2.  Election is merely God’s choice of those whom He knew would choose Him.

We’ll have more to say about this later.

3.  Election is God choosing between His children.

I had a lady tell me this.  It’s based on the popular and false idea that we’re all already the children of God.  But we’re not just wayward children wandering from the care of a loving Father.  We’re rebels against the God of Heaven and traitors to everything He holds dear.  On the contrary, it is God choosing some of those rebels and traitors to become His children!

4.  Sinners are worse off because of election.

This would be true only if the Scripture teaches the election of sinners to damnation in the same way that it teaches the election of sinners to salvation.  Granted, there are some who believe that.  I do not!  Sinners are condemned because of their sin, not because of some decree of God.  The Biblical view is that, because of election, sinners are much better off.  Without election, there would be no salvation at all.

B. The Biblical Doctrine of Election.

 1.  Election is from eternity past, Ephesians 1:4, Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

See also Ephesians 3:22; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8.

Granted, not all of these verses refer specifically to election, but they do clearly show that salvation isn’t some sort of “Plan B” God had to scramble to improvise in a “hastily-called meeting of the Eternal Council,” as one writer put it about the aftermath of the Fall.

The teaching is common that believers become “elect” when they believe, not before.  This is not true.  The Bible places election before time began, 2 Timothy 1:9.  …before time began, God had thoughts of love toward His people, determining that they would be His people, and including everything that would be involved in bringing them from a state of being “sinners” to a state of being “saints.”

2.  Election is “unto salvation,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13, …God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation….

There are Scriptures which refer to an election to national privilege, such as Deuteronomy 7:7, or to “service,” as John 15:16, but these are not the only such “elections.”  We’ve quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:13 above, but when Paul wrote that God chose us in order that we should be holy and without blame before Him, Ephesians 1:4, what was He talking about, if not salvation?

3.  Election is personal, Revelation 17:8, …whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. 

See also Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 13:8.

Some try to soften the Biblical doctrine of election by making it impersonal.  They say that God only chose the number who would be saved, or that He chose the plan by which they would be saved, or that He chose “in Christ,” but one’s inclusion in “the number” or “the plan” or “in Christ” is an individual matter.  It’s still up to the person to make his decision to go along with God’s choice of the impersonal means of salvation.

Certainly God knows how many elect there are, as well as who they are.  And Christ Himself is referred to as chosen, Luke 23:35, 1 Peter 2:4, but election is so much more than this.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God chose us.  To the Thessalonians, he wrote that God has chosen you.  Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 tell us that the names of the elect were written down before the foundation of the world.

Election is personal.

4.  Election is unconditional, Ephesians 1:5, …having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

See also Romans 9:16; Ephesians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; James 1:18.

By “unconditional,” we mean that there is nothing in the sinner that is the basis for God’s choice of that sinner.  This is pretty much the opposite of what is generally believed about the doctrine, namely, that there is something foreseen in the elect that is the basis for their election.  However, Scripture teaches that it’s according to His will, to His good pleasure, that the elect are chosen, and not according to their will or their good pleasure.  We’ll leave further comments on this until the section on God’s foreknowledge, although the next segment of this post continues the thought that election is “unconditional.”

5.  Election is the sovereign choice of God, Matthew 11:20-26,

Then [Jesus] began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works began to be done, because they did not repent:   “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sodom, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
At that time, Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”  
(emphasis added.)

These verses, and others like them, trouble people who have only been taught a humanistic and unScriptural view of the “love” of God.  But, remember, these words are not the words of some “wicked theologian imposing his views on Scripture.”  They are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, saying that there were some whom God knew would repent if given the opportunity, but they were never given the opportunity!  Instead, the Bible teaches that Sodom was set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 7.

We’ll not look at them, but you might also consider the choice of Israel as God’s chosen nation, passing by every other nation.  Also, God’s instruction to Ezekiel at the beginning of his ministry:  Ezekiel 3:5, 6.

The truth is, the Bible teaches, almost in every chapter, that God is sovereign, even in matters of salvation.  However, it neither apologizes for, nor seeks to make this teaching “reasonable” or “acceptable” to fallen mankind.  It simply says that it is so.

6.  Election comes because of the grace of God, Ephesians 1:4-6, Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…to the praise of the glory of His grace. 

“Wait a minute!” I can hear someone say.  “Doesn’t this contradict what you just said about the ‘sovereign choice of God’?”

Not at all.  After all, what is grace?

Simply defined, grace is “God’s unmerited favor in spite of our merited disfavor.”  In other words, we don’t merit, or deserve, God’s favor.  We do deserve, or merit, His disfavor:  His wrath and judgment.  In fact, Paul wrote that the elect are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3.  That God chose to save even one sinner is more than we could rightfully expect.  That He has chosen to save the innumerable multitudes that He has saved, and will yet save, is beyond comprehension.

Many people who might accept our definition of grace really don’t believe it, or perhaps they just haven’t thought it through.  There’s more to this idea that we don’t deserve God’s grace than meets the eye.  If we’re upset by the idea that God might choose one and not another, simply because He wants to, saying that such an action is “unjust” or “unfair,” then we are really saying, after all, that man does deserve to be saved.  If that is so, salvation is not by grace at all; it is by reward or debt.  God owes it to us.

7.  Election is in connection to Christ, Ephesians 1:4, 6.

As we said earlier, this doesn’t mean that God simply chose us “in Christ,” leaving everything else up to us.

a.  When my firstborn son was just an infant, I was somewhere where there was a crying baby.  He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do!  I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son, and it was alright.

What I’m saying is that our condition before God is so offensive to Him that the only way He will even think about being gracious toward us is through His Son.  The only way you and I will ever stand uncondemned before God is “in Christ.”  The only reason you and I aren’t in hell right now is because God loved His only-begotten Son (NKJV) so much that He decided to have a whole bunch of adopted sons and daughters just like Him!

b.  Not only did God give His Son for us, John 3:16, but it is clear from Scripture that there were people given to the Son and for whom He assumed special responsibility.  Scripture describes these people in various ways:  a gift, John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6;  sheep, John 10:14-16, 26-28.  Other descriptions are found in Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:28; Hebrews 2:10-14, and many others.

We’ll conclude our thoughts on election in the next post.

Questions

1.  Does the doctrine of election harm sinners?

2.  Did God simply choose those whom He knew would choose Him?

3.  When did God make His choice?

4.  What are the different “kinds” of election?

5.  Didn’t God just choose the “means” or “plan” of salvation?

6.  Were there any “conditions” in the sinner which influenced God’s choice?

7.  Define “grace.”

8.  The world defines “grace” as God simply making salvation available.  Is this true?

9.  Do we deserve grace?  Why or why not?

10. Can we earn it?  Why or why not?

11. What do the Scriptures call the elect beside a “gift” and “sheep”?