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Covenant

It would be impossible to deal with the sacrifice of Christ as it is portrayed in Hebrews without noticing that it is the sacrifice which inaugurates the new covenant. When a covenant, a solemn agreement, was initiated in antiquity, it is always done with the offering of a sacrifice. Special rituals underline the solemnity and importance of the action. A good example is given in [Exodus24], where we have a description of the inauguration of the covenant between the Lord and the people of the Lord. By it they became the Lords people, they came to stand in a special relationship to God. The covenant is that on which all the rest stands. The whole system of worship, for example was that for the people in covenant relationship to God. The laws were the laws for the maintenance of the covenant.
It is not to much to say that the thought of the covenant dominated the thinking of the people in the Old Testament. For them it was of supreme importance that they stood in such a relationship to the Lord as did no other people. But for the writer to the Hebrews that covenant no longer stood. It has now been replaced by a new covenant because it was completely impotent. It provided sacrifice, but could never take away sin. The most they could do was to make "a remembrance" of sins from year to year. "But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year" [Hebrew10:3].
But they could not deal with those sins. The coming of Christ and the work He did had among other things the effect of highlighting all this. When God speaks of the "New" Covenant, our writer reasons, He makes the former covenant "Old." And he adds,
In that He says "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. [Hebrews8:13]
But Christ's work was to establish a new way of approach to God "by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh" [Hebrews10:20]
Jesus may be spoken of as "the mediator of a new covenant [Hebrew9:15; 12:24] or "mediator of a better covenant [Hebrews8:6]. These expressions appear to mean that He is the means of establishing the new covenant. He brought it about. He is also called the "surety of a better covenant" [Hebrews7:22], where by "surety" points to the idea of guarantee. The new covenant is guaranteed by what Jesus is and does. The superiority of the new covenant to the old is seen that it "hath been enacted upon better promises" [Hebrew8:6]. The old covenant included promises, but it also included a binding obligation on the people to obey the
law of God. [Exodus24:3, 7].
The characteristic thing about the new covenant is rather it's promise of forgiveness. Repeatedly the people under the old covenant had failed to live up to that was demanded of them, and the prophets are full of denunctions accordingly. But Jeremiah looks for a time when things will be better, He envisages a new covenant in which God will forgive people their sins and in which He will write His law on their hearts, and when all of them will Know Him [Jeremiah31:3]. This clearly represents the negation of legalism and the giving of an inward strength such as the old covenant had never been able to accomplish. The writer to the Hebrews see's Jeremiah's prophecy fulfilled in the work of Jesus. He is particularly interested in the forgiveness aspect. He has a long quotation from Jeremiah about the new covenant [Hebrews8:8-12],
and finishes it only when he comes to the words about forgiveness. He gives an abbreviated citation of the same prophecy in a later place, and it is significant that, though he passes over most of the middle section of the prophecy, he makes sure of including the section about forgiveness "This is the covenant that I will make them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," [Hebrews10:16].
Above all things, the new system that Jesus had established meant the forgiveness of people's sins. They are not left to accomplish their own salvation. His blood avails to put them in right relationship with God. The new covenant is thus one that people may enter with assurance. Nor need they fear it will one day be superseded as the former covenant had been. One of
the great themes of Hebrews is the finality of the revelation made in Christ. And specifically we read of the covenant that Jesus has established that it is [the eternal covenant]. "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, the great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant" [Hebrews13:20] ¥¥¥¥¥¥¥¥¥¥¥¥¥


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