“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
1) The Better Covenant (Tom Edwards)
The Better Covenant
Last week, we considered some things about the Law of Moses and concluded with the better covenant Jesus has made possible by His atoning death at Calvary.
One of the things we noted was that the Old Covenant was not without fault (Heb. 8:7); and that fault was that the Law of Moses could not blot out sin, which is also the reason in the same verse for why a second covenant was necessary — “for the Law made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19).
To see the contrast, notice how James refers to that second covenant (the gospel): “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (Jms. 1:25, emphasis mine).
So we have a covenant with God today that is perfect!
Consider also Roman 8:3-4: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Another reason why we have a better covenant today is because it also contains “better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
The writer then goes on to speak of that in verses 10-12: “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”
It was by the death of Christ that the atonement for sin was made and the New Covenant was inaugurated. And that atonement was not just for those from that time onward, but also for those through the prior ages as well.
For after showing that God sent Jesus into this world at the right appointed time, Paul then goes on to tell of one of the purposes for that: “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5). Here the focus is on those who were under the Old Covenant, as the Hebrew writer also makes mention of: “For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15, emphasis mine).
It is said of those who were forgiven during Old Testament times that their sins were “rolled forward” each year on that day of atonement. “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near” (Heb. 10:1). “But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (vv. 3-4).
So it appears those sins were “rolled forward,” in a manner of speaking, to the cross of Christ by which they truly could be blotted out. For are we to think that those living prior to His death could be forgiven without the need of the Lord’s atonement? We know that people could be forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God by their faith during Old Testament Times, but was that not because of what God knew His Son would accomplish at Calvary? Even the great people of faith — like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, and any other — still had need of the atonement Jesus made for every sinner throughout all time.
In Hebrews 8:6, we also saw that the “better covenant…has been enacted on better promises.” In this, we see a close connection between a covenant and a promise. For a covenant is “an agreement…between two or more persons to do or not do something specified” (Webster). So would not that also be a promise? Webster also gives for the 3rd definition of covenant: “the conditional promises made to humanity by God, as revealed in the Scripture” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary).
Many of God’s promises during the Mosaical Age pertained to blessings of a physical nature. Deuteronomy 28, for example, begins with specific blessings in the first 14 verses for those who are faithful to Him. In being that way, they would have their offspring multiplied, have an increase in flocks, have plenty of food from abundant crops, have protection from the enemy, and have no lack of rain. The next 54 verses then specify various curses that God would bring on them if they would not obey.
In the New Testament, though God promises to meet the physical needs of His children, yet the focus is on the spiritual — and even above the physical necessities of life. For instance, Jesus says, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:31-33).
Though Jesus came into this world and lived and died under the Old Covenant, we very much think of Him in connection with the New Covenant because it was by His death that He did away with that Old Covenant and established the New, which has now been in existence for about 1,985 years. And He is spoken of as “having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4). Surely, we think of angels as being holy and without even the slightest trace of sin — but Christ is esteemed far above any of them: “For to which of the angels did He ever say, ’YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’? And again, ‘I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME’? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM’” (vv. 4-6). Angels were created — but Jesus is the Creator!
As we have seen, the Lord being “made for a little while lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9) does not mean He became inferior in rank. For Christ was still Deity and supreme to them. But this verse is speaking of that inferior body (compared to that of the angels) that Jesus took upon Himself. And the same verse also tells why: “that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
Hebrews 7:19 also goes on to bring out another “better” something that we have in the New Covenant — and it is a “better hope”: “(for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
What if we lived in 515 B.C. and were still awaiting the coming of the Messiah? Do you think our faith would be a little more challenged? In 2 Peter 3:4, Peter speaks of even those in these last days who would mockingly say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” But for us today, we can look back and see that He came the first time as promised — and, therefore, also know with full assurance that He will come again, for us to meet in the air! (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Hebrews 6:18-20 also shows why we have a better hope: “in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
This hope helps us to set our eyes on heaven with eager expectation, to stabilize us in our relationship with God, and to take us through the veil (figuratively speaking) and into the presence of God.
Today we need not go through a human intermediary as many of God’s people did in Old Testament times. Now we who are Christians, as spiritual priests, can go directly to God through Jesus Christ.
What a great hope we have! As children of God, we can glory in the song that tells us, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…” And what a great title for it — “The Solid Rock.”
When Moses and Elijah were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father said of His Son, “listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5). It is implied in this verse that Jesus, who made the New Covenant possible, is superior to these two men and to the Law and the Prophets. And just as God the Father had told Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus, we must each also do that today! For there is salvation in no other! (cf. Acts 4:10-12; Jn. 14:6.)
Thanks be to the Lord for this better covenant that He has made for us!
(All Scripture from the NASB.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)