Part 2 - Six Ways The New Covenant Is Greater Than The Old Covenant - Hebrews 8:7-13
Our text in Hebrews 8:7-13 will show us six ways that the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant. These six blessings will be clearly seen as we read through our text...
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.
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.”
Because the people sinned and broke the covenant that God had made with them He showed no concern for them. (12). Another way to say this is that God did not care for His people because they were unfaithful to the covenant. He gave them over to the consequences of their unfaithfulness.
May I ask, how is your heart responding the fact that we are told that God ‘showed no concern for them’? Sometimes it is hard for us to envision that God is capable of this. It is hard for us sometimes to read that God showed no concern for His people. Is there a part of you that says, “God would not do that?” Is there a part of you that might say, “That does not sound like the God that I believe in?”.
At a Christian conference there were two similar questions that were asked to a group of pastors and theologians. At this particular conference someone asked, “Since God is slow to anger and patient then why when man first sinned was His wrath and punishment so severe and long lasting?”
In response R.C. Sproul famously replied, “Wait a minute. This creature from the dirt defied the everlasting holy God. After God had said, ‘The day that you shall eat of it you shall surly die. And instead of dying that day he lived another day and was clothed in his nakedness by pure grace. And the consequences of the curse applied for quite some time but the worst curse would come upon the one who seduced him whose head would be crushed by the seed of the woman. And the punishment was too severe! What’s wrong with you people?...We don’t know who God is and we don’t know who we are. The question is, why wasn’t God’s wrath and punishment infinitely more severe.”1
One thing that we must see is that even though the people would often break the Mosaic covenant, and in so doing God would judge them for their sin, God’s ultimate purpose for the Old Covenant was to lead His people to Christ and to salvation. Because of this, after the people sinned He would often renew the covenant with them and He promised them that one day He would replace that covenant with a New Covenant that would be far better.
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…”.
These words are not simply referring to the need to memorize scripture (Dt. 6:6-9); rather, this speaks of a regenerated heart and conscience that loves to do God’s will (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). David speaks of such a heart when he says in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers. A veil covers their ability to behold the glory of Christ. The Holy Spirit, however, applies the gospel to the hearts and minds of God’s people and overcomes their inability to understand and respond to the gospel.
Section 12 of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith speaks of these things when it states, “We believe that the law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of His moral government; that it is holy, just and good; and that the inability which the scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts arises entirely from their love of sin; to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.”
Paul writes to the Corinthians and says, “You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (3:3)
How were the Corinthians showing that they had this internal work done by the Spirit?
They had repented and believed the gospel. They were reflecting more and more of the righteousness of Christ from their hearts that had been made righteous by the grace of God through faith. Paul says to them, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
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.”
Under the New Covenant God brings together a new community of believers from every tribe, nation and tongue. Peter writes in this in 1 Peter when he says that there is a community of people ‘who have purified their souls by their obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love’ (22). These are people who ‘have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God’.
In 1 Peter 2 the apostle writes, “...you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (5). He says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (9-10)
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.”
From the very beginning of the book of Isaiah the LORD laments the fact that His people do not know Him. Even though He had revealed Himself to them in such a personal way His own children did not know Him or His ways. The LORD says, “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know (me), my people do not understand.” (1:2b-3)
This is something that would change under the New Covenant. In Isaiah 2 the LORD says, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that...many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come let us go up to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD form Jerusalem.’” (2:2-3)
I am currently reading through the Gospel of Mark and from the beginning of this gospel we see that Jesus taught with great authority. Mark says, “Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.’” The people were astonished at His teaching.
Isaiah described how the coming Messiah would speak in Isaiah 11 when he says, “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.” (11:2-3a)
This is how the people described the teaching of Jesus in Mark 1:22, “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes came in their own name; but Jesus spoke His Father’s words and with His authority (John 5:43).
Hebrews 8:11 is not implying that there will no longer be a need for teachers in the Church (Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1; 1 Corinthians 9). It is saying that we do not preach our own messages and doctrines. We are obligated to prove to be faithful stewards of the faith that was once and for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3). When Jesus’ disciples speak His Word correctly the Holy Spirit makes it powerful and it produces supernatural results in the people whose hearts and minds have been made new.
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.”
Whereas verse 9 told us that God showed no concern for those who sinned under the Mosaic Covenant, we see here that God ill be merciful toward those who have Jesus Christ as their mediator. In fact, He will not remember their sins anymore.
As many of you know, I was not a very easy child for my mother to raise. I was very sinful. I will often call my mom when I remember something that I did and ask her for forgiveness. Most of the time she will not even remember the offense that I speak to her about. Often times my mom has forgotten that it ever happened. How is this possible? How could she have forgotten? Time apparently has helped with this.
God, however, does not forget any sin whether it was committed under the Old Covenant or under the New Covenant. Little sins and big sins will be remembered and judged by the LORD who is holy and just. When Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah he says, “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of His loins.” (11:3-5)
How can we find mercy when Jesus Christ judges the heart? We cannot deceive Him with religious actions and external goodness. We can not deceive him with what we say while hiding our selfish and sinful inclinations. His righteousness must be satisfied. His holy and perfect requirement must be met.
Paul speaks of how we can be shown mercy and how God can remember our sins no more. He says in Ephesians 2:1-10, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
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.”
This verse begins with the words, ‘In speaking of a new covenant...’. It is not Jeremiah who has spoken these things, it is the LORD who has spoken these words (9). He has promised a New Covenant that would be better than the Old Covenant. He has given all of these promises regarding how this New Covenant would be greater than anything that could have been experienced under the Old Covenant.
As we have said many times before, the Old Covenant was a type, a shadow, a picture of things that good things that were yet to come. Like the glory that began to fade from Moses’ face after he had returned from meeting with the LORD the glory of the Old Covenant was destined to fade, to become obsolete and to vanish away. It has been replaced by a New Covenant that is permanent. There is not a competition between the Old and the New. We don’t get to pick and choose. If we are to be saved then we must be saved through Jesus Christ alone by faith and not by works.
Paul writes, “For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-11)