July 30, 2012 by Will Ray
Yesterday I had the opportunity to fill-in for our Pastor, Lynton Turkington at Celebration Church as he is on sabbatical. I have some follow-up thoughts to my message, which came from the book of Hebrews.
For the first time in my life, I think I have a good grasp on exactly how we can live under this “new covenant” that we have with God, and how the old covenant was fulfilled and set aside.
The cancellation of the old covenant is a big deal. Bigger than many of us realize, because we’ve never had to live under it. Under the old covenant (before Jesus), people never had direct access to God, they had a priest go before God on their behalf, and really only once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur is still celebrated in the Jewish faith).
And it wasn’t the devil that set up that system representing separation, and it wasn’t “the man” trying to keep us down. It was God who established it, because of our failings and shortcomings. He established that system, and it was in place for literally hundreds of years. Even though the system was insufficient as we see in Hebrews 10:1-4, that doesn’t mean that you can just do away with it, as it seems Christendom does so quickly and easily.
But we also see from the text in Hebrews 9 and 10 that the old system was a picture, a shadow of the things to come. It revealed the separation between God and man, and it showed what was needed to fix it: a perfect High priest – a mediator for the people to go before God on their behalf and a perfect sacrifice – a sacrifice significant enough to provide perfect redemption and cleansing.
Only a God, an undying being, could act as the perfect high priest – ministering before God the Father on our behalf now and forevermore. Only a man could provide the sacrifice needed for the redemption of mankind. Jesus fulfilled both of these.
Jesus’ death perfectly fulfilled the old covenant. Whereas imperfect human priests used to offer insufficient sacrifices, Jesus, acting as our perfect high priest, offered Jesus, the perfect, all-sufficient, once-for-all-time sacrifice and “secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:12). The picture that was in place through the old system for centuries was perfectly fulfilled, and a new covenant, a far better one based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6) could be established:
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the LORD:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
nor will they need to teach their relatives,
saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
will know me already.
And I will forgive their wickedness,
and I will never again remember their sins.
The book of Hebrews is a biblical treasure, possibly second only to Romans in its exposition of the Christian faith. I’d encourage you to dig into it – take 2 weeks and study 1 chapter a day. It will be worth it.
Question: What’s your favorite verse from the book of Hebrews?