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. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 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: 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. 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: 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. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 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.
Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” They answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Well would we answer the same today.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, eternal and immortal.
1 Timothy 6:16 reads –
“. . . the only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.”
He who has always been God was also always with God, and without Him was nothing made that is made.
We are told in the epistle to the Philippians that although the Son of God has always been God in equality, yet He did in time and history make Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of men.
He who is from eternity, the first and the last, the alpha and the omega, who alone possesses immortality, who is Himself life and does hold the keys of death and the grave, did cloth Himself in the mortal coil of human flesh.
And being found in the form of a servant, He did not think equality with God something to be grasped, but rather humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death upon a cross.
Our ears are challenged by this. After all, if God has clothed Himself in flesh then we can be certain He did it neither by chance or accident.
Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose
Why then did the Son take to Himself the nature of a flesh and blood mortal, and then humble Himself to the point of death?
We know also that He did not cloth Himself in human flesh, because He was bored and wanted something to do; or because He was lonely and was looking for something to love that would love Him back.
Job 35:7 states, “what do you give to Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?”
Acts 17:24-25 tells us –
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
God is perfect and complete in Himself. He needs no one outside Himself to love or be loved by. Father, Son and Spirit exist in perfect, harmonious fellowship. They always have and always will.
Why then did God clothe Himself in human flesh? Why did He empty Himself by taking to Himself the form of a servant?
In Colossians 1 we are told that He, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, and that through Him and for Him were all things made that are made. Not just through Him, but also for Him.
In Revelation 4:11 we hear the worshippers say –
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created
Why do all the multitude of stars in the sky shine? Why are all the drops of water in the ocean wet? Why does the wind blow, the rain fall, and the grass grow and the flowers bloom? Why do you and I live, think, eat, sleep and work? For Him, that’s why. It all exists and lives and grows for Him, for His purposes, for His use, for His glory. We all live and move and have our being in Him. He is the reason why everything that is made was made.
Why did God take the form of a servant? If He is not here by need or by accident, then He is here by choice, and that choice was to glorify His name.
He who is perfect and holy, who is compassionate and merciful, who is just and righteous, almighty and wise, immortal and eternal, is worthy of all glory and honor and worship. So worthy is He that He created an entire universe just to display His worthiness.
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
He is perfect and all His attributes are perfect. False gospels louse this up all the time. Some emphasize His mercy to the exclusion of His justice, while others emphasize His justice to the exclusion of His mercy.
But Scripture tells us God is perfect, and so His attributes are also perfect and in perfect harmony. God’s mercy and grace are a just and righteous mercy and grace. After all, as was said to Moses on the mount –
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show compassion to whom I show compassion.” (Exodus 33:19, 34:6-7)
The Son’s decision to take upon Himself human flesh was no act of unjust mercy, for He will never show mercy to the detriment of His justice. This means He is not an unjust judge who lets the guilty go free, because that is supposedly the “merciful thing to do.”
No, the Son graces no one with mercy to the detriment of His holiness. His mercy cannot take leave of our sin. His grace is not the grace of second chances. He cannot ignore our unrighteousness and pretend as if His law does not demand our deaths for disobedience.
Rather, God’s demand for justice is absolute. It is unchanging. It is the same for everyone everywhere at every point in time. No one is immune or impervious to it. Everyone will be judged by it.
The reason why the Son is worthy to be worshipped for having taken the form of a servant and then humbling Himself to the point of death on a cross is because the very act justifies His mercy. His death did not take leave of His people’s sins. Rather, it paid the full and just penalty for them.
In various places throughout Scripture we are told that God did predestine from eternity, from before the foundation of the earth, the salvation of some people and the condemnation of others.
Take Romans 9, for instance. In Romans 9 we are told that He did predestine to create two kinds of vessels, two kinds of people – those whom He prepared beforehand for honor, and those whom He prepared beforehand for dishonor; one for salvation and the other for destruction.
There are plenty of people who do not like this. In fact, they think it unjust. They think it unrighteous. After all, should they not receive a little honor, a little glory for having chosen the Chooser?
The truth is God is being neither unrighteous nor unjust by having chosen according to His own good pleasure those whom He would save and those whom He would condemn, for after all, does the Creator not have the right to fashion His creation in whatever way He sees fit?
If God had desired to create all humans after the appearance of half peeled bananas, would He not be perfectly within His right to have done this? If the artist is within his right to paint in whatever medium he sees fit, then how is the Artist of the universe not within His right to paint in whatever medium He too sees fit? Will we say to the Creator, You have no right to make me like this? After all, He has not lied about having predestined some to salvation and some to condemnation. No, He has told us right here in His word. Unjust men are the ones who have lied to us about this and have told us God did not do it this way, because this would make Him most unfair if He had. These same men are very foolish and in many instances they constitute some are the very vessels who have been prepared for destruction.
In Romans 9 we are told that before either had been born and had opportunity to do anything either good or bad it was said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
We cannot get around this. Before either were born. Before either had done anything either good or bad. And this is not in reference to nations either, because the text tells us plainly that “not all who are Israel are Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring. It is not the children of flesh who are the children of God.” (Romans 9:6-8)
In other words, it will not help anyone to be born of one nation or the other, because the promise is not by physical descent. Some who are in the nation are vessels of mercy, while others in the nation are not. This choice God made is not between nations, but rather between individuals.
God chose from eternity to create some people for salvation and the rest for destruction. He made His choice about each individual from eternity, and His choice of each individual was based solely according to His own good pleasure and will for the purpose of glorifying both His mercy and grace, as well as His power and righteousness. This means He did not base His choice on anything the individual would do at some point in their future.
Having thus elected some for salvation, God had also chosen to save those He elected by sending His Son to die for their sins. But if He is going to send His Son to save them by dying for their sins, then they are going to have to have some sins to start with. After all, no sense in sending His Son to die for someone who has no sins.
And so, having elected to save those whom He had chosen for salvation by sending His Son to die for their sins, He chose also that they would first fall into sin before He would send His Son to die for them.
Romans 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope
In point of fact, God chose that both races of people, both seeds, both vessels would fall into sin; both those whom He had chosen for salvation and also those whom He had chosen for destruction. And He accomplished this by treating the very first of His created individuals, Adam, as the covenant head of the entire human race.
I say covenant. I did not say a covenant of works. I hope by this time we see that covenant theology is something we should make every effort to avoid. A covenant of works says Adam could have merited immortality and eternal life had he obeyed. This is hogwash. The commandment to not eat of the tree came with no expiration date.
No, the covenant we find in Genesis 1 and 2 is what we might call a covenant of creation. It was a covenant which God made with the entire human race; God treating Adam as the entire human race. Adam was the covenant representative, the federal head of the entire human race.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
Nevertheless, says the Scriptures. Nevertheless. Even though sin is not counted to a person where there is no law, nevertheless, the punishment for Adam’s disobedience (death) reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not like Adam’s.
This means that when Adam disobeyed the command, God counted the entire human race as having disobeyed the command. Nevertheless means there was, in fact, a law present, and that law was the commandment given to Adam. God imputed; that is, He credited or charged Adam’s disobedience of that commandment to the accounts of every single human being who would ever be conceived. The entire race, both vessels, one of honor and one of dishonor, fell into sin in Adam. They were both plunged into the commandment’s demand for their death.
After this cataclysmic fall into sin, God then cut another covenant. Speaking to the serpent, He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.”
Here, just three chapters into the Bible and already we see two seeds; the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. Two seeds, two offspring, two vessels, two kinds of people; those who are in the serpent, and those who are in the Son.
Starting from this point onward earth’s history began to anticipate the fulfillment of this promise. We talked about it a few weeks ago. History became pregnant with the anticipation of the arrival of the promised seed.
And while the saints of old pinned their hope on this promise, God was at the same time directing and steering history towards the arrival of the promise. He did this by imposing covenants upon the people. These covenants acted to steer redemptive history towards the fullness of time.
We must endeavor to keep this in mind when we consider these old covenants. None of them were meant to last forever. They were meant to last only for a brief time in history for the purpose of directing history.
God promises Abraham to raise his descendants up to be a mighty nation, for instance, from whom the promised Seed would come. That nation is no longer needed though, once the promised Seed arrives and establishes for Himself a throne without end. The nation no longer serves a redemptive purpose.
This is what Israel did not and continues to not understand today. They thought their very existence was the purpose. They thought their city was the promise. This is why the disciples at first thought Jesus had come to restore the nation to its former glory. This is why they were ready to pick up swords and to go to battle. They had missed the whole point of these covenants.
But this doesn’t mean these old covenants did not come without promises. No, they came with promises. But they were not faultless promises, or as our text here in Hebrews tells us, they were not the better promises of the new covenant.
The problem with the promises of these old covenants was that they were all conditioned upon the people’s obedience. I promise the land to your descendents, Abraham, as long as they obey the commandments and remain faithful to circumcise their sons on the eighth day. The nation was not even out of Egypt before that commandment was broken. Remember Moses? Circumcised at eighty years old. His wife saying to him, “You have made me a bridegroom of blood.”
Someone might say, well yes, but that would have been an impossible commandment for Moses to have kept given the circumstances. Exactly! Which is why the covenant’s promise was inferior, because the commandment was indeed impossible to keep. The law doesn’t care why you don’t obey it. It only cares that you do.
The same goes for the covenant God later imposed upon the nation. They had not even entered the land yet before they were worshipping a golden calf and grumbling about the turnips being better in Egypt. In Deuteronomy 27, I think it is, we find the blessings and curses of the covenant. Blessings if you keep it, curses if you don’t. And boy did Israel ever don’t.
These covenants all had promises, but their promises were conditioned upon the people’s obedience. This made their promises inferior, because no one can obey. No one ever could.
But there is another reason why these promises were inferior. None of the promises could deal with the problem of sin. Your descendants get some land? Great. Now what about their sins and the day of judgment coming against them because of their sins? That land isn’t going to do you much good while you’re lying six feet under it.
Here in Hebrews the author tells us that, “Christ, hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”
What makes the promises of this new covenant better than the promises of the old one? Let’s take a quick look at this new covenant to find out.
Let’s read verses 8 and 9 again.
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: 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.
Right away we see the first reason why the promises of this new covenant are better than the promises of the old. Its promises are not conditioned upon the peoples’ obedience like the promises of the old were.
Instead, the promises of the new covenant are conditioned entirely upon God’s own faithfulness. I will, says God. I will write My law, I will be their God, they will all know Me, because I will forgive their sins and remember their iniquities no more.
Reading this I ask, where is what I must do? What is the condition I must fulfill? I can’t find it. It’s not there.
The old covenant gave me a list of conditions I had to perform and a very long list of laws I had to obey in order to receive the promises. However, this new covenant conditions the fulfillment of all the promises upon God’s faithfulness alone – “for their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.”
But what about God’s justice? How can He who is holy and just and righteous forgive a people who have disobeyed Him and whose hearts remain set against Him? Even if He has chosen them for salvation, how can He remain righteous and yet forgive them?
By sending His Son to die for their sins, that’s how.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Word tells us that “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
And no, “we” does not mean the entire world, but rather we means we believers from Corinth to whom this epistle was first written.
That aside, what does it mean that He was made sin who knew no sin? It means that in the same way He imputed Adam’s disobedience to His people, so He has imputed His people’s disobedience to Christ. Scott has some great sermons on this in which he goes into great detail. Enough to say for now that at the cross, He who knew no sin was charged guilty for all the sins of all His sheep, and being found guilty He died and was then buried.
How can He who is holy and just forgive a people who have disobeyed Him and whose hearts remain set against Him? By sending His Son to die for their sins, that’s how.
But consider this answer, and take a moment to imagine a scenario in which the Son has died for His peoples’ sins, and yet God continues to remember the peoples’ sins anyway. What could we say about God under that scenario? We would have to say He is actually unjust and unrighteous, for He has not honored the Son’s sacrifice.
And yet how many times do unjust men tell us Christ died for everyone and yet not everyone is going to be saved? They don’t even really think about it either when they say it. I used to say it all the time. Christ died for everyone and yet not everyone is going to be saved. What does this mean? I will tell you what it means. It means either Christ failed or God is an unjust and unrighteous God. Either way I cannot worship a god like that. That god is as weak as he is stupid. It’s no wonder the churches who trade in this garbage resemble corporate seminars and self help lectures more than they do a church.
I saw a video on YouTube recently; one of these self help gurus masquerading as a pastor. Standing at the front of his multiplex theater of a church, telling an audience, “with every head bowed and every eye closed, just raise a hand if you would like to get to know this Jesus more. There’s one, I see your hand. Thank you, Lord. Yes, I see another.”
This man’s god is such a shameful embarrassment of a failure that even his own worshippers have to keep their eyes shut and their identities a secret just to keep from laughing at each other.
Folks, there are only two consistent, logical possibilities. Either Christ died for everyone and therefore everyone will be saved, or Christ died only for His sheep and therefore only they will be saved. God’s word rejects the former and teaches the latter. John 10:26, “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd came to lay His life down for the sheep. You do not believe, because you are not My sheep.”
My God actually obtained the promises of the New Covenant. He obtained them on behalf of those whom He had chosen from eternity for salvation. He is not ashamed to tell them this, and they are not ashamed to believe Him. He has obtained their salvation by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for their sins. He is no failure. He has succeeded. Which means baby, if you are none of His, then it is because He did not want you to be.
I know plenty of people who don’t like this, but this is only because they want to steal God’s glory for themselves. They do not want a God who does not honor them for having done something to make the cross count for them. They instead want a god who is submitted to the supposed power of their free will, which is not free at all, but rather enslaved to their sinful nature.
Christ’s success was the promise which the Old Testament saints pinned their hopes on. They were not hoping they had done enough to make His future work count for them. Nor were they believing they could do enough. Instead, their faith was in the Christ whom they believed would one day obtain the promise of redemption and resurrection on their behalf. If we don’t understand this, then we can get a very wrong idea about these old covenants.
In the law of Moses, the blood of the sacrifice was to be sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat which rested atop the ark of the covenant. In Exodus 24, just as God is about to enter into covenant with the nation of Israel, Moses takes some of the blood of the sacrifice and he sprinkles half of it upon the altar and the other half he sprinkles on the people. When he did this, he said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.”
Behold, the blood of the covenant.
In the old Testament, the blood of the sacrifice sprinkled upon the altar was the blood of the covenant. That blood also needed to be sprinkled upon the people in order to sanctify them in the covenant. But under the old covenant that blood had to continue to be sprinkled upon the altar again and again, year after year, because it could never atone for the peoples’ sins.
In Luke 22:20, at what we sometimes call the last supper, Jesus changes all of this. He takes the cup and He says to the disciples, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
The new covenant in My blood. The blood of the covenant. Not in the blood of animals, nor in the blood of sinners, but rather in the blood of the Son of God.
(and you have come to) Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
The blood had to be sprinkled upon the altar and upon the people.
1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood
let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Christ has accomplished this on behalf of all for whom He died. Has accomplished, past tense. There is nothing His people can add to what He did in order to make it count for them. Rather, it has been accomplished for them alone, and He will charge it to their accounts alone. They alone, among all the peoples of the earth, will each and every one of them be brought to believe this. Not one of them will be lost. Such is the gospel. Believe it.