Hebrews 8:7-13 Part One - Six Ways The New Covenant Is Greater Than The Old Covenant
Our text this week is found in Hebrews 8:7-13,
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. 11 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.
Last week we saw in Hebrews 8:1-6 that Jesus’ ministry in heaven is far superior to the ministry of the Levitical Priesthood that functioned out of the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.
The believers that the author of Hebrews wrote too were tempted to take their eyes off of Christ. They had begun to look towards the temporal forms of worship for their justification before God. They began to look at the worship in the Temple and the Levitical Priesthood and they were tempted to return to these things and to have them mediate for them before God. This would have been a profound mistake because under that covenant God will always find fault with the people.
The people to whom the author of Hebrews wrote had become discouraged so they may have been asking, “What Happened To Jesus? Is He still alive? Where is He and what is He Doing?” Because of this the author of Hebrews reminded them that Jesus’ ministry is far better even though so much of it goes on unseen in heaven. He gives five reasons to consider concerning these things. He tells them that...
Jesus Ministry Is Superior Because Christ Is The Perfect High Priest (v.1)
Jesus’ Ministry Is Superior Because Christ Now Sits At The Right Hand Of The Father (v.1)
Jesus’ Ministry Is Superior Because Christ Ministers In The Holy Places (v.2)
Jesus' Ministry Is Superior Because Christ Offers Better Gifts In Heaven (v.3-4)
Jesus' Ministry Is Superior Because Christ Has A Ministry Enacted On Better Promises (v.5-6)
After considering these things in last week sermon you may have begun to think that all of the greatness of this New Covenant is going on up in heaven where we cannot see it or experience it? You may be asking, ‘Is there nothing for us to experience and enjoy right now?’
Hebrews 8:6-13will show us some of the profound spiritual realities that we will experience under the new covenant. Our text will show us that the New Covenant is far greater than the Old Covenant in very personal, practical and profound ways.
As I have considered these two great themes in Hebrews 8I have wondered if so much of the craziness that we see in Christendom today can be traced back to our failure to appreciate both of the main points that the author of Hebrews makes in this chapter. On one hand, we may fail to appreciate how Jesus is exalted in heaven and ministering on our behalf. When this happens we tend to only see the temporal things going on around us (1-6). On the other hand, we may consider all of the things that Jesus is doing for us in heaven but then fail to appreciate the profound blessings that we can experience under the New Covenant in a very personal way right now (7-13). The craziness of Christendom can be seen around us when we worship in our own way as we attempt to make up for some perceived lack in one of these two areas.
In our text today we will see that there are six ways in which the new covenant is greater than the old covenant of Moses. As we begin this morning let me quickly give you the six ways in which the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant which we will expound upon next week.
First: The New Covenant Of Grace Would Guarantee God’s Care
Hebrews 8:9 says, “...they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the LORD.”
Second: The New Covenant Would Offer His People A New Mental And Moral Constitution
Hebrews 8:10 says, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts…”.
Third: Trough The New Covenant God Would Establish A Permanent Community
In Hebrews 8:10 we read, “...and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Fourth: Through The New Covenant God Would Give His People A New Comprehension
In Hebrews 8:11 we read, “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.”
Fifth: Through The New Covenant God Would Show Compassion And Be Charitable To Sinners
We read in Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Sixth: The Old Covenant Ceases When The New Covenant Comes
Hebrews 8:13 says, “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.”
It is easy to see that the main theme of our text has to do with ‘covenants’. In Hebrews 8:6-13 the word ‘covenant’ is mentioned or referred to 9 times.
What is a covenant? William Mounce defines a covenant simply as ‘God entering into a relationship with His people’.1Brown and Keele, define a covenant as ‘a solemn agreement with oaths and/or promises, which imply certain sanctions or legality.’.2Thomas Schreiner defines a covenant as ‘a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other’.3
A covenant has some similarities with a contract, a will, or a treaty but it is distinct from these things in several ways that we should consider. First, one of the things that sets a covenant apart from a contract is relational. Contracts contain promises and obligations like a covenant but they are impersonal. This is why marriages are based upon a covenant and they are not merely a contract between two people (Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14). In a marriage covenant a husband and wife choose to enter into a covenant relationship together. In that covenant they make binding promises and pledges to each other.4
This relational aspect concerning covenants is a reason why I am beginning to speak to people about the opportunity we have to enter into church covenant with each other; instead of asking people to become church members. We have a tendency to look at church membership as nothing more than joining the gym, a club, or some other membership organization. When we covenant together we are placing a high value and commitment level on loving each other in a profound and biblical manner.
Second, a covenant is a chosen or elected relationship. Marriage again serves as a good example of this. A husband and wife choose to enter into a covenant relationship with each other. In a covenant the parties enter into it by choice and there are certain responsibilities that each person agrees too willingly.
Third, a covenant relationship includes binding promises and obligations. In marriage the husband and wife make a promise and a pledge to each other. They live out specific conditions and responsibilities in that covenant relationship. The marriage covenant is based upon mutual stipulations and requirements.
Lastly, we need to see that covenants are exactly the same. For example, in Scripture God who has all authority enters into covenants with mankind who has less authority and status. In this case the Superior enters into a covenant with the inferior, the LORD enters into a covenant with His servants, Deity enters into a covenant with humans.
Not all covenants in the Scriptures are exactly the same. Therefore, it may be appropriate for us to spend a moment to acknowledge that there are many covenants that are recorded in scripture. For example, there is the...
Covenant of Redemption where the Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) determined before creation that they would work redemption for sinful mankind.
There is the covenant of Works where God placed Adam in the garden as the head of all humanity and gave him one command to obey. If Adam kept the covenant mankind would be blessed but if he failed they would surely die.
There is the covenant of Grace where after Adam disobeyed the LORD God showed them mercy and promised to send a redeemer (Genesis 3:15).
There was the covenant that God made with Noah. This covenant set up the fact that God would display His common grace towards all of mankind and never destroy the world again by a flood because of their wicked sinfulness.
Then there is the covenant with Abraham in which God made promises to Abraham which He would fulfill solely by His faithfulness and grace.
Then there is the covenant that was made with Moses and the people of Israel. Like the covenant that God made with Adam this too was a covenant of works. If Israel kept the Law they would be blessed but if they sinned and rebelled against God and His Word they would receive the curses of the covenant.
Then there was the covenant that God made with David. In this covenant God chose David to be King of His people and He promised that one day a Son would come from him who would rule and reign forever in righteousness and justice.
Finally, there is the New Covenant in which God promises to bring forth for Himself a new people through the finished work of Jesus Christ, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
Since there are so many covenants that are spoken about in Scripture we must ask ourselves, ‘Which covenants are being referred to here in our text?Which covenant had been used to find fault with the people (7-8)? Which covenant is obsolete, growing old, and passing away (13)?’
The author of Hebrews makes it very clear about which covenant he is referring too in Hebrews 8:8-9 when he quotes Jeremiah saying, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 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.” (1 Kings 8:21; Leviticus 26:45; Jer. 11:4)
The covenant that is obsolete, growing old, and passing away is the Mosaic covenant. The covenant that found fault with the people was the Covenant of Works that God entered into with the people of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. The covenant that the people did not continue in and so the LORD showed no concern for them was the Mosaic Covenant that had been established on Mt. Sinai.
Each of these covenants in Scripture served a unique purpose in redemption history. What I am about to say may seem obvious but it is worth saying for clarification. The covenant that God made with Abraham is not the same covenant that was later repeated with Moses. For example, we see this in verses like Deuteronomy 5:2-3 which says, “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb (Sinai). Not with our fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.”
The covenant that was made with Moses is similar to the covenant that God had made with Adam. These were covenants in which God (who is superior ) entered into a covenant with the people (who are inferior). Both of these covenants are covenants based upon the peoples obedience and disobedience. Before the fall Adam could obey God’s command but after the fall mankind was unable to obey God and fulfill the requirements that God gave.
The New Covenant, however, is similar to the covenant that the LORD had made with Abraham. In these covenants God makes promises to the people and He obligates Himself to accomplish all that is required so that the people can receive those promises and benefits. And although the people are weak sinners all of these promises are fulfilled in a way that is just and righteous.
It is interesting that when God’s people failed to live up to the Covenant of Moses they would seek mercy from the LORD not on the basis of the Covenant of Works but based upon the covenant of Grace that was established with Abraham. According to the Law of Moses their disobedience brought them the curses listed in Deuteronomy 28. According to the Law of Moses their sins God would show no concern for them.
We have an example of the people pleading for God’s mercy on the basis of the covenant given to Abraham in passages like Deuteronomy 4:25-31which says,
“When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything (Exodus 20:4 - 2nd commandment), and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them(Abraham, Isaac, Jacob).”
Under the Old Covenant the people were often called upon by God to renew their covenant with the LORD. When this would happen the covenant would be read and the people would re-commit themselves to obey the terms of the covenant. When they would sin and break the covenant the process would begin all over again. The covenant would be read, the people would commit to it and once again accept the terms.
As these things were being done the people were to realize that there was a need for a new and better covenant. God would prophesy about the day when this New Covenant would be established. This New Covenant would bring so many blessings to an undeserving people by grace. Next week we will see…
The New Covenant Of Grace Would Guarantee God’s Care
The New Covenant Would Offer His People A New Mental And Moral Constitution
Trough The New Covenant God Would Establish A Permanent Community
Through The New Covenant God Would Give His People A New Comprehension
Through The New Covenant God Would Show Compassion And Be Charitable To Sinners
The Old Covenant Ceases When The New Covenant Comes
1William Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words, p. 143
2Michael Brown and Zach Keele, Sacred Bond, p. 18
3Thomas Schreiner, Covenant And God’s Purpose For The World, p.13-14
4Thomas Schreiner, Covenant And God’s Purpose For The World, all four points in the sermon are from this book.