Category Archives: HEBREWS 8

The ministry of the Lord Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant.

HEBREWS 8

SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER

We come now to the second section of the epistle to the Hebrews. In chapters 1-7 the emphasis is on the way in which the Lord Jesus, the High Priest of His people, has been fitted by His experiences on the earth to lead His people through the wilderness-world in which they currently live. This is why He is referred to as Jesus the Son of God, 4:14. Jesus is His personal name as one who has lived and suffered upon the earth. Son of God is His personal name also, but connects Him with heaven, and assures that all the resources of heaven which we need as we travel the pilgrim pathway down here, are available to us through Him. In chapters 8-10, however, the emphasis is on Him as Christ, which is His official name. In these chapters we are shown that what He did at Calvary, and what He does in heaven, help us as we approach God to worship and praise Him. We could set these things out as follows:

Chapters 1-7 Chapters 8-10
His personal names. His official name.
Jesus the man- His sympathy. Christ, the one anointed and appointed to minister.
Son of God, equal with God- His authority.  
Support for us as we cross the desert sands.  Support for us as we enter the Divine sanctuary.
His priesthood is compared to Melchizedec’s. His priesthood is contrasted with Aaron’s.
 His sufferings in life and death have equipped Him to help His people. His death has dealt with our sins.
   

 STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER:

Section 1 Verses 1-2 The place of His ministry.
Section 2 Verses 3-5 The purpose of His ministry (a) to offer as High Priest.
Section 3 Verse 6 The purpose of His ministry (b) to act as Mediator of the New Covenant.
Section 4 Verses 7-13 The promises secured by His ministry.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 8, VERSES 1 AND 2

8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

8:2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

Section 1    Verses 1-2    The place of His ministry

8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sumin other words, the sum of what has been written in chapters 1 to 7 is found in the words of verses 1 and 2.

Those things may be summarised as follows:

He is Son of God, 1:2; 4:14.

He has been made lower than the angels to suffer death, 2:9.

He is the captain of our salvation leading us to glory, 2:10.

He has destroyed the one with the power of death, 2:14.

He has suffered, being tempted, and is therefore able to succour those who are tempted, 2:18; 4:15.

He is Son over God’s house, 3:6.

He has passed into the heavens, yet is still able to support us when we are tempted, 4:16.

He is not compassed by sinful infirmity, 5:2.

He has been made High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, 5:6, 10.

His priesthood is superior to Aaron’s, 7:9.

He is priest eternally, in the power of a life which is indissoluble, 7:16.

He is consecrated as priest for ever, and as such maintains His people eternally, 7:25,28.

We have such an high priest-it is that sort of high priest that believers have. He is far superior to angels, Adam, Moses as apostle, Aaron as high priest, and even better than Melchizedek, who had to be made like unto the Son of God as far as the record goes in order for him to be an illustration.

Who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens- in chapter 1:3 He sat Himself down, confident that the work of purging sin had been done satisfactorily, for He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty, His sin-purging having been done in full harmony with the Majesty of God. In 1:13 He was invited to sit down by God, telling us that His confidence in setting Himself down was justified. In this verse the two matters that are added are, (a) He is on the right hand of the throne, and (b) the “on high” of 1:3 is now defined as being in the heavens, making clear that it is not an earthly position. He is on the throne, because He is King-Priest. He is at the right hand of God because He officiates as Firstborn, administering all for His Father, and bringing the rest of the family into the presence of the Father. He is in heaven because that is the centre of power, and where the worship of God takes place. As the Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “the hour is cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father”, John 4:21. He is in heaven to mediate that worship, as we shall learn in verse 3. He sat down with His work as Purger just finished; He sat down also, His work as Priest just begun.

8:2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

A minister of the sanctuary-having taken servant-hood when He became man, Philippians 2:7, He retains that servant character for ever. He not only serves through His people on earth, Mark 16:20, but also serves in heaven, thus keeping the balance of work and worship. It is important that we keep this balance too, for some work at the expense of worship, and others do the reverse. Our God seeks our work for Him, but He also seeks our worship of Him.

That He officiates in a sanctuary reminds us of the holiness of His person. Aaron needed to wash before he entered the earthly sanctuary, but our High Priest is undefiled by His pathway down here, 7:26, and entered heaven in personal purity. We, however, need to have “our bodies washed with pure water” before we enter God’s presence, 10:22.

And of the true tabernacle-this does not mean that the tabernacle in the wilderness was in some way false, but rather that the heavenly tabernacle is the reality upon which the earthly tabernacle was modelled. Israel, and the nations around, had the great privilege of having a sample of heaven in their very midst. They had no excuse for not knowing God. This was one of the ways in which all the nations of the earth were blessed through Abraham, Genesis 12:3.

So the sanctuary emphasises His holiness, the tabernacle emphasises the reality of the place of ministry.

Which the Lord pitched, and not man-this tabernacle is described as being “not of this building” in 9:11, meaning not of the created order of things at all, being “not made with hands”, as the earthly tabernacle was. In what sense, then, was it pitched? Was there a time when it was not, then it came into being? That cannot be, for there was no time before the creation of the world. This pitching of the true tabernacle must have to do with the eternal counsels of God, when it was in His mind that His Son should mediate the worship of God. It is said in Titus 1:2 that God promised eternal life “before the world began”. The latter phrase can be rendered literally as “before eternal times”, so possibly we should distinguish between eternity, and eternal times, the latter signifying when God surveyed the purpose that He ever had. Just as the tabernacle was made, and then moved from place to place and pitched in a new position, so the purpose of God has taken up a new position, so to speak, having taken on new meaning now that Christ has ascended to heaven and begun to minister there.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 8, VERSES 3 TO 5

8:3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.

8:4 For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.

Section 2   Verses 3-5    The purpose of His ministry (a) to offer as High Priest

8:3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.

For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices-the whole point of having a high priest is that he offers gifts and sacrifices on behalf of others. It is necessary that this be true of Christ also. The gifts Israelites offered were things like the corn, oil, and wine of the tithes. The sacrifices were those animals offered on the altar. So today, the Lord’s people are required to give to God, and also offer the sacrifice of praise, although under grace the gifts are sacrifices, as Hebrews 13:16 makes clear.

Wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer- since the whole point of being a high priest, as we have seen, is to act for others, it is essential, since Christ is a High Priest, that He has something to offer to God. This is not a reference to His sacrifice on Calvary, since 7:28 makes clear that He was not consecrated high priest till after the law-age was brought to an end, which thing happened at Calvary. As we shall see in connection with 9:14, “to offer” simply means to present to God in some way. It does not demand that the offering be on an altar, as the wise men show when they “presented”, (the same word as “offer” here), the infant Jesus their gifts, Matthew 2:11. What our high priest offers is the sacrifices and worship of His people. “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name”, Hebrews 13:15. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ“, 1 Peter 2:5. It is interesting to notice that the details for the making of the altar of incense are not given until the details about the garments of the high priest are told us, in Exodus 28, and the priests have been consecrated in chapter 29. So it is that the beauties and glories of Christ are told us both positively and negatively in Hebrews 7:26,27, (the counterpart of the garments of glory and beauty Aaron wore), before we are told that He is consecrated for evermore, verse 28, and has somewhat to offer. Notice it is not specified how much He has to offer, but is left vague, so to speak, in the word “somewhat”. This is a challenge to the believing heart, for the amount He offers to God is only the amount we offer through Him.

8:4 For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

For if He were on earth-this shows why He needs to be in the heavenly sanctuary, for there is no vacancy on earth. The “if He were” states the situation that would prevail if He ministered on earth now. He would not be a priest if that situation prevailed. The writer is not looking back to when He was on earth, and proving that He was not a priest then, although it is, in fact, the case that He was not then a priest. He showed priestly features, but was not consecrated until after Calvary. Even Aaron was not consecrated until sacrifices had been offered, Exodus 29.

He should not be a priest-it is true that Melchizedec was a priest on earth, but this is a foreshadowing of a coming day when the Lord Jesus is a priest upon His throne in Israel, Zechariah 6:13. The “should” continues the idea of a theoretical situation.

Seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the lawthe word “there” does not refer to earth, but is a word signifying what the situation is, so the emphasis is on “are” not “there”. It could be said, when the epistle was written, that currently there are Levitical priests. The fact that they offer according to the law shows that Christ cannot join their ranks, for He came to administer the grace of God.

8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly thingsthe tabernacle in the wilderness was not the real sanctuary, but was an expression of it. It was also a shadow of the reality that cast the shadow. This will come out more clearly in chapter 9. It cannot be that Christ, who is the Truth, in whom there is reality, should have to do with mere shadows.

As the Levitical priests functioned in the earthly tabernacle, they were doing so in relation to a situation that would prevail in the future when Christ would minister in the heavenly sanctuary. They gave a preview, so to speak, of the better things that were in prospect in Christ. So Levi paid tithes in Abraham to acknowledge the superiority of Christ’s priesthood, 7:9,10, and the priests bore testimony to the superiority of the sanctuary He would function in.

As Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount-this is quoted to show that the tabernacle was modelled on an already existing sanctuary. The pattern-tabernacle was viewed by Moses when he went up to God in Sinai, and a faithful copy was made of it to be pitched on the earth. So the quotation justifies the expression “example and shadow of heavenly things”.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 8, VERSE 6

8:6 But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

Section 3    Verse 6    The purpose of His ministry (b) to act as Mediator of the New Covenant

8:6 But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry-the offices of mediator and high priest were separate in Israel, for no one person was able to discharge both suitably. In Christ, however, there is total competence, and they can be combined in Him. Just as Moses and Aaron kissed on the mount of God, Exodus 4:27, so two offices find their happy association in Christ.

His ministry is more excellent because it is:

1. Based upon a finished work, whereas Aaron’s ministry demanded continual sacrifice.

2. Does not depend on glorious robes to make it beautiful, but the beauty and glory of Christ enhance the office of priest.

3. Does not have to do with the sins of the people, for that matter is dealt with at Calvary once for all.

4. Has been shown to be superior in chapter 7 by the reaction of Abraham, (and Levi in him), to Melchizedec.

5. Is ministry by one who has no sin or infirmity to hamper Him.

6. Is ministry by one who is on the very throne of God.

7. Is ministry by one who has been perfectly qualified by His experiences on the earth.

By how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant-the new covenant is better because of the features that contrast it with the first covenant, which will become evident when we consider verses 9-14. The excellence of His ministry can be gauged by the superiority of the new covenant He guarantees.

Which was established upon better promises-the promises are better because:

1. They are spiritual rather than material as with Israel under the law.

2. They are eternal, whereas it was always God’s intention to replace the law as a covenant, which is why the details of the new covenant are found in the Old Testament.

3. They are secured in Christ as Surety, 7:22, and not conditional upon the obedience of the people, nor on the faithfulness of Aaron.

4. They are promises on the basis of sins forgiven, not sins remembered.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 8, VERSE 6, VERSES 7 TO 13

8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

8:8 For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

8:9 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 continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people:

8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest.

8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Section 4    Verses 7-13    The promises secured by His ministry

8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

For if that first covenant had been faultless-it might seem startling to the Hebrews to learn that the covenant of the law was not without its faults. It is not, of course, nor can it be, either that the wording or the righteous requirements were wrong. It was the human party to the covenant that by its sinfulness associated faults with it, and caused it to need to be replaced. This has already been suggested, in the words of 7:18,19, where the first covenant is said to be weak and unprofitable, and not making anything perfect. And the last verse of this chapter speaks of that which decays and waxes old, and is ready to vanish away. To use the language of the apostle Paul in a slightly different connection, the law was “weak through the flesh”, Romans 8:3. Those who were party to the first covenant, whether priests or people, were unable to meet its demands; and that covenant had no provision for strengthening them to do so; it could only condemn them when they did not.                                                             Then should no place have been sought for the second-the logic is unassailable, for if perfection is present, then there is no need to look for a replacement for it. This prepares the way for the introduction of the terms of the new covenant as quoted in verses 8-12.

8:8 For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

For finding fault with them-the Authorised Version departs from the sense of the Textus Receptus here. The latter reads, “For finding fault, to them He saith”. This is the substance of what has been said in verse 7, where the fault lays in the covenant because it was not able to prevent failure, only deal with it after it had manifested itself. The sense is therefore, “For finding fault (with the law), to them He saith (as those who failed to keep the law)”.

He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord-so this is a quotation of the actual words of Jehovah in Old Testament times through Jeremiah the prophet, stating what He intended to do in the future. The ideas set out in these verses are not, then, in this connection, anything new. The nation should have been constantly alert to the change that God was planning to bring in. The contrasts between the ministry of John the Baptist and Christ should have prepared them for this, Luke 7:31-35, as well as the teaching about wineskins and patches on garments in Luke 5:36-39. The Lord had said “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John”, Matthew 11:13, and this should have made them aware that a change was coming.

When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-so these words are relevant to the Hebrews, from whichever part of the nation they came. The kingdom had been divided on the death of Solomon into the House of Judah, with Benjamin associated with him, and the other ten tribes, known as Israel, or Ephraim. They had gone their separate ways into captivity, but under the Messiah they are to be reunited in the land of Israel.

There is no suggestion here that that reuniting is about to take place. In fact, the nation had nearly 40 years of opportunities to turn as a nation to Christ as their Messiah, and they had not done so. The fig tree (Israel) has been given extra time to bear fruit, (respond to the gospel preached by the apostles), but has failed to do so, and is about to be cut down, (the nation dispersed in AD 70), Luke 13:6-9. When he quotes these words again in chapter 10:16,17, the writer omits the reference to Judah and Israel. In between, he has introduced the Gentile idea of testament into his reasoning, 9:16,17, (the only concession to Gentile thinking in the epistle), thus leaving the way open for others besides Israel, and at a time other than Messiah’s return to earth, to come into the good of the new covenant.

8:9 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 continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

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 Egyptthe covenant is distinguished very markedly from the covenant of law which God made with Israel just three months after leaving Egypt. That covenant was conditional on their obedience, whereas the new covenant is conditioned only by the suretyship of the Mediator, 7:22. In a real sense they were led out of Egypt when God chose them as a peculiar nation for Himself, Exodus 19:4-6.

Because they continued not in My covenant-this is the reason, (hence the “because”), that there is need for a new covenant, and also why there is no point in God entering into another conditional covenant with them.

And I regarded them not, saith the Lord- as a result of their centuries-long transgressing of the first covenant God turned His back on them and sent them into captivity.

 

8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord-the wording anticipates that the division of the nation into Israel and Judah will be remedied, (as indeed it will, see Hosea 1:11; Ezekiel 37:15-23), so that “House of Israel” covers them both. “After those days” signifies after the days of being under the covenant of law.

I will put My laws into their mind-the Lord declared that He had not come to destroy the Law, and went on to show that what mattered was the heart-attitude behind the keeping of the law, Matthew 5:17,21,22. So here, the law of God is to be kept in its spirit and letter, and this will only be possible when the laws are in their minds, as opposed to being on a phylactery on their foreheads externally.

And write them in their hearts-instead of being on stony tables, as was the case of the covenant at Sinai, they will be written on the fleshy tables of the heart, as is the case with believers now, 2 Corinthians 3:3-6.

And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people- just as He promised David, (and the words are applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:5), that He would be a father to him, and he would be a son, so here, the position of the nation is to be adjusted after the long centuries of their scattering. It is not simply that this relationship is established again, after the centuries of being “not the people of God”, Hosea 1:9,10, for that would only entail them being the people. The relationship is to be deeper than this, for He will be to them a God, and they will be to Hima people. In other words, the relationship will not only be established, but also worked out in practice. God will be faithful to His promises, and the people will be true to their obligations.

8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest.

And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brotherin Israel of old it was the Levites who were the custodians of the knowledge of God, and they had exclusive rights to make it known. Now it is to be different, with everyone in Israel having a personal knowledge of God, based on their personal relationship with God as stated in the previous verse.

Saying, Know the LordThe Lord Jesus said “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent, John 17:3. So the knowledge of God that all in Israel will share means that they will all possess eternal life. As those who are born again, they will have entered into the kingdom of God, John 3:5.

For all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest-apostle John wrote to the different levels of maturity in the family of God. When he wrote to the little children, (corresponding to “the least” of this verse), he was able to say, “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life…ye need not that any man teach you”, 1 John 2:25,27. Note how John links the possession of eternal life with the knowledge of God. As for the fathers, (corresponding to the “greatest”), he could say “ye have known Him that is from the beginning”, meaning the Son of God, 1 John 2:13. From the beginning of His public ministry He had made the knowledge of God available, and given the gift of eternal life to those who believed, so that they might advance in that knowledge. And what is true of believers from that day to this, will also be true in the time of the kingdom.

8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness-the word “for” indicates that all the foregoing blessings of the new covenant will be founded on the blood shed at Calvary. For the word for mercy here is not simply pity for those in need, but is based on the word for propitiation. In other words, the Lord undertakes to be propitious on the basis of blood shed. The blood in question being that of His own Son. This is similar to the words spoken by the publican in Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner”, for the word he used for merciful means “merciful on the basis of propitiation”. Their state of unrighteousness will be met fully by the blood of Calvary, and will enable God to show mercy to them instead of wrath.

And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more-God has not forgotten the sins of the nation; especially the sin of bringing about the death of His Son. But once a person, or in this case a nation, turns in genuine repentance to him, then He is able to righteously undertake to not remember those sins any more. It is not that He forgets them, for then they might be remembered again; rather, He deliberately remembers no more. The negative here used is a very strong one, meaning “in no wise”, or “not for any reason”, “nor at any time”. This is the strong guarantee God gives to His own people for their comfort and encouragement. The reason He is able to do this is because He remembered those sins against Christ at Calvary. That is the firm basis upon which the promise can be made.

8:13 In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old-by describing the covenant of the future as a new covenant, and that it is not like the covenant at Sinai, God has by implication rendered the first covenant obsolete. This the Hebrews were very reluctant to believe. The fact that it can be pointed out that God Himself labels the first covenant old, ought to convince them. The Lord Jesus indicated this when He spoke of old wineskins not being able to contain new wine, Matthew 9:17. The new wine of the new covenant cannot be put into old, unchanged persons; they must know God’s grace and be made anew in Christ first. But as Luke’s account goes on to say, “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith the old is better”, Luke 5:39. The nation of Israel had drunk the old wine of the Sinai covenant for thirteen hundred years, and had hesitated about drinking the new wine for forty years by the time this epistle was written. It was time for them to make up their minds.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away- the expression “which decayeth” is the same as “make old” of the beginning of the verse, for the old covenant is worn out by time and use. Not only so, the old covenant waxes old. The verb used, gerasko, gives us the English words “geriatric”, and “grey”. So not only is the first covenant worn out, but it is elderly too, having been around a long time, and has effected nothing lasting for God. The covenant of which Christ is mediator is eternal however, and will never lose its power.

The Hebrews had been prepared for this in the first chapter of the epistle. There they were reminded that even the heavens and the earth that Christ made will wax old, and will need to be replaced, 1:10,11. If that is so, they should not be surprised if this is true of the covenant God established also.