"In fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises." - Hebrews 8:6
The book of Hebrews was written to urge Jewish Christians not to abandon their faith in Jesus as God's promised king. The book demonstrates how the new covenant in Jesus does greater things than God's covenant with Israel could do.
God's covenant was the expression of God's actions, promises, and expectations for His people. God's covenant with Israel began with Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21) and was affirmed for the entire nation at Sinai (Exodus 24:1-8). The people broke the covenant time and time again. A new covenant was needed. Jesus instituted the new covenant with His "once and for all" sacrifice.
The new covenant
A covenant is an agreement. God agreed to give certain blessings to man. A testament is a will, a promise to be fulfilled after death. It is also a covenant. In the gospels and epistles these two words are used interchangeably. The two "testaments" are God's covenants which could only be fulfilled with the events of Calvary.
The Abrahamic covenant was made with the purpose of blessing a people so they would be a blessing to others. As a result, all mankind would have the opportunity to know the one true God. The people constantly broke this covenant. The people's inability to keep the covenant highlighted their sinfulness and their inability to redeem themselves. Redemption was needed through a perfect sacrifice.
New covenant perfected
The prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) quoted in verses 8-12 reference three types of perfection. 1) Perfect Forgiveness - Forgiveness is first. In the Jewish economy the forgiveness of sin was imperfect and temporary. The sacrifices provided a kind of legal pardon by which the nation was kept in special relation to God, but they could not put away moral guilt. The new covenant made provision for all that was needed. It provided forgiveness that is merciful, comprehensive, and irreversible. This forgiveness means our sins are "wiped clean" once and for all. 2) Direct Communion - Verse 10 says that God will be with them (us). Through the new covenant we all have access to the Father by one Spirit. 3) Willing Service - The new covenant provided a freedom to serve God without the burden of legalism.
New covenant believed
What is the practical lesson for us today? We are living under the new covenant; see to it you possess its blessings. 1) Remember the high character of these blessings covenanted to us. Doubtful shadowy, partial forgiveness is gone. Are not many Christians still living under the old legalistic system rather than under the new? 2) Remember the universal possibility of these blessings. The old covenant was restrictive, national, hereditary, and belonged to Abraham's seed only. The new covenant is inclusive. God is in covenant with the entire human race. 3) Remember the certain permanence of these blessings secured by the mediation of Christ. As the mediator of the new covenant, Christ secured and bestowed its blessings. We can only receive forgiveness and blessings by accepting Him. Jesus, who has the Father's ear, is at the Father's right hand, and there for us. We have nothing to fear.
POINTS TO PONDER: How will your understanding of the benefits of God's covenant promises help you overcome temptations to abandon the Christian faith?
PRAYER: Lord God, we are filled with thanksgiving to be called your people! By your Spirit, empower us to live and serve as those who have been forgiven by the blood of our Lord Jesus. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: God's fulfilled promises call us to lives filled with Christlikeness.
Grace and Peace,