II HEBREWS 14
Roy Osborne 2004
THE NEW COVENANT
SPECIAL NOTE: We are now coming to perhaps the most important transition in the entire story of the Bible. The way has been cleared for God to establish His ultimate relationship with man. All preparatory steps have been taken, and the stage is set for God to reveal to man His eternal purpose of having a loving relationship with the creature He placed here in space and time.
Prior to getting into the Hebrew text, I want to look at Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:21b-25.
“…if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”
But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
In this statement, Paul makes clear that our failed relationship with God was because of our mistaken belief that we could find righteousness by obeying the law, and doing all the right things. Humanism still teaches that man does not need God. The human race can use its head, clean up its act, and be good. No need for help from a Creator.
The law was given by God to show man the folly of this idea. It did two important things. First, it pointed out the right behavior for man to follow. Second, it harshly condemned him when he failed (and fail he did, regularly), but offered no cure or atonement for his failures. The obvious conclusion is that man cannot live a good and righteous life without help. Law could not keep him in the path of righteousness and give him life. No law could do this, even one written by God, for it was man who failed, not a mistake or weakness in the law. So the law, which God gave, emphasized for man the absolute need of a Savior, and thus brought us to Christ.
Now the Hebrews writer puts all of this in historical perspective. The whole purpose of the Bible is to return man to a relationship with his Creator, which was lost through sin in the Garden of Eden. The law was given as a picture of how man would have to behave in order to be in that relationship. However, it only condemned his failures, and was “weak and useless”, because man was weak and useless where righteousness was concerned. So, our Hebrews writer says (Heb.7:18-19), “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God”.
Something had to be done to reconcile sinful man to His righteous Creator. But expecting man to cooperate in the process was useless, for he only sank deeper into sin. So God took over and gave a new covenant. (Here I want to pause and get a bit technical to make an important point.) Two key words are found in the text at this point. One is the word for “covenant” and the other is the word for “new”.
It is important that we note the word for “covenant”is not a Greek word which means contract, in the sense of an agreement between two people. It is a will, executed by one person to another, and cannot be altered or revised by the one who receives it. In other words, this covenant was not subject to man’s desire, or his alteration. It was final and unequivocal.
The word “new” here is not a word for new in time, as a later version of the old will. It is a word for new in kind: a different kind of covenant from the old one. The old one depended on man’s ability to keep up his end of the bargain. He could not do it. So a legal set of rules couldn’t get the job done, for man was flawed in his ability to obey it. So God made a new “covenant”, in which He took all the responsibility, and only required man to place his faith in Christ, and let His sacrifice do the rest.
We hasten to point out that this does not mean obedience is no longer important. Making Christ the Lord of your life requires you to strive to follow Him in all things, and this means obeying the Lord, and doing what is right. However, as all of us well know, our failures multiply, and we fall short of His glory constantly. The point is that such failures are not fatal, and our mistakes, religious or moral, are all forgivable by the One in whom we place our faith, and strive to follow.
This is the reason there is so much division in the religious world today. Each group believes it has discovered the right interpretation of God’s will, and refuses to allow any disagreement, judging that those who see things differently cannot belong to Christ, nor be forgiven by His blood. Of course, this takes us back to justification by law, which most of the New Testament is trying to teach us is not valid.