Sermon: Better Promises of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:1-13)

The Better Promises of the New Covenant

Hebrews 8:1-13 (ESV)

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,  [2] a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.  [3] For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.  [4] Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.  [5] They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”  [6] But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

[8] For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,

when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah,

[9] not like the covenant that I made with their fathers

on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

For they did not continue in my covenant,

and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.

[10] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds,

and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor

and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

[12] For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.”

[13] In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The writer of Hebrews has been emphasizing the superior High Priest which is Jesus Christ.  He is superior to all the other priests because His priesthood predates the priesthood set up in the Old Testament. In other words, the OT priesthood was a temporary priesthood.  Jesus’ priesthood actually dates as far back as Abraham.  He continues with his many points to show us the superiority of Jesus Christ as Priest verses the Old Testament priesthood.

The next stop is that of comparing the covenants that the priests mediate.

Divine Covenant is an agreement or it’s almost like a treaty God makes with man.  God says, you obey Me and I’ll bless you.  Basically, the 10 Commandments were given as the standard for godly conduct.  So, in the Divine Covenant, God decides the terms.  As with everything, He makes the rules. The priest’s responsibility was to be the go between before God and man.  God always has kept His part of the covenant but because man hasn’t a priest is needed to offer sacrifices to atone for man’s failure to keep his part.

What’s amazing about a covenant between God and man is that He did not have to enter into a covenant at all.  God was not obligated to make a covenant with man.  The Lord places Himself under obligation to fulfill His end of the agreement, which He does perfectly all the time.

Where does that leave us?  Our greatest need is the ability to meet God’s covenant requirements.

Example of the covenant…

Abraham-

Genesis 17:1-10 (ESV)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, [2] that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” [3] Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, [4] “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. [5] No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. [6] I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. [8] And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

[9] And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. [10] This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

The covenant continued throughout the generations of God’s people.  It is the covenant that binds God to His people.  When God said I will fulfill certain covenant obligations He binds Himself to do them.  If God were to fail to uphold His part then He would be a liar and He could not be trusted.  However, throughout the ages God has always kept His end of the agreement.  Man is the one who has never kept his part.

As these promises progress through the centuries God recommits Himself to the generations of Abraham.  The Bible traces this line of descendants, generation upon generation and traces the reoccurring covenant vows God makes with these people.

What I want to say is that the New Covenant Jesus makes with His people the night of Passover on the eve of His crucifixion is the final stage of the covenant.  It is the pinnacle of God’s promises.

One shortcoming of the Old Covenant was that it had no mechanism which would guarantee that both sides would adhere to their particular responsibilities.  God always kept His and man rarely ever kept his.

As we think about the covenant a few things to remember are, first God initiated all or each step of the covenant.  Man never could access God.  God has always shown His love for mankind in lowering Himself to address man.  God shows His love in a magnificent way by giving man what he really needed in a superior High Priest.

1- The Greater Mediator

The final stage of God’s covenant rests entirely upon the shoulders of Jesus.  He alone would bring the final stage into view when He died on the cross.  We have covered this in previous sermons.  Jesus’ greatness is found in His divine person and His perfect priestly work.  He alone was the sinless Priest and He alone made the only perfect sacrifice for sin.  The final point that shows the greatness of Jesus is found in verse one,

A. Jesus is superior because of His greater work

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,

His work is superior to any other priest because Jesus’ work is finished.  Jesus is seated showing the finished work.  He’s not just seated showing a finished task but He is seated in Heaven.  This shows His work is finished.  He is also enthroned showing His sovereign rule over the universe.

John 17:1-5 (ESV)

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,  [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  [3] And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  [4] I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  [5] And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

B. Jesus is superior because of His greater tabernacle

[2] a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.  [3] For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.  [4] Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.

His great sacrificial work is finished.  Currently, His priestly work is being done in the heavenly tabernacle not the earthly one.  He is serving His people as a Mediator between God and man sitting at the right hand of God.  His sacrificial work is finished but His priestly work continues.  Christ is still ministering to His people as He calls the elect and as He preserves them through His present tense priestly functions.

C. Jesus is superior because of His greater covenant

[6] But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

This is the section I want us to zero in on and unpack the New Covenant’s wealth for believers today.  The OT priest mediated the Old Covenant.  Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant.  He first established the New Covenant.  As with the OC, the new is also initiated by God for His people.

Luke 22:19-20 (ESV)

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  [20] And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

God had always taken the initiative to make a covenant with man.  Here, in the new covenant it is the same.  What would God do to make this covenant better than the old one?  He would not only keep His end of the bargain but He would also pay the penalty for our failure to keep our end of the bargain.  He fulfilled His part then lived a perfect life and kept our part for us.  Then, He died to pay the penalty for our sin and covenant failings and gave us His righteousness.

since it is enacted on better promises.

The better promises are found in the passage in Jeremiah which is sited for us in Hebrews 8.

[10] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds,

and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor

and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

[12] For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.”

The first promise is that the new covenant is an internal covenant.

The covenant is not written on tablets of stone but written on our minds and hearts.  This internalized covenant is made a part of who we are as Christians.  The Holy Spirit who has taken up residence within us leads us into truth producing right love and right behavior.  We are changed from the inside out not from the outside in.  When Christ calls us and we experience salvation He gives us a new heart.  This new heart is what has to be there for us to start to change.  This spiritual heart is sensitive to God’s desire for us.  Over time we begin to walk as He would have us to walk because it is an inward desire to do so.

The New Covenant not only shows us God’s will but gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to effect change.  The former Law could only show us where we sinned; it never gave us the power to obey.  The New Covenant frees us from bondage of sin and gives us the ability to resist sin and live godly lives.

Verse 10 tells us that in the New Covenant we will have knowledge of God’s will…

I will put my laws into their minds, and we will have the desire to seek after it…

write them on their hearts,

The New Covenant brings God’s people an internalized law.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Law of God becomes a part of us and the Spirit works to cause us to fulfill the Law of God.

We should think through this on a practical level and be reminded that when a person is saved their minds begin thinking different thoughts.  No longer are we set on things of earth but our minds are set on the things of heaven.

Romans 8:5-9 (ESV)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  [6] To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

[9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

At conversion we are given the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.  He gives us a new heart and a new mind to think and desire spiritual things.  It’s at this point we must go after the spiritual things.  We must acquire knowledge of God and His will.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t give us that.

How do we know what God’s will is?  He reveals it to us through the Word of truth.

John 17:17 (ESV)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

As you are fully aware there is an inner conflict.  I wish we had our eyes always fixed on the spiritual things but we are also living in a sinful world that tugs at us and plays toward our sinful nature.  As a Christian the internal New Covenant has become a part of us but there still remains our old sinful self.  So there is now a battle waging within our members.

Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

As believers throughout our life we battle against sin.  We have the desire to do God’s will because it’s now a part of us and we, at times have a desire to sin, coming from our old nature.

What do we do?

We feed our new nature by reading a studying God’s Word and we resist the temptation to sin.  In time, our new nature begins to dominate the old.  As time goes on will be living more like the believer God wants us to be.

Ultimately, the New Covenant provides forgiveness of sins making communion with God a reality while we are in the process of becoming like He wants us to be.  Ultimately we will be perfect like Jesus when all sin is done away with and we have different bodies.

[12] For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.”

Every step of the way as the Divine Covenant was remade with another generation God would say…I will be to them a God and they will be to Me a people.

The New Covenant is founded on greater promises.  God promises to cause us to be forgiven and accepted as His children.  He also promises to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.

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