The following is adapted from Bob Hoestra’s class Living By God’s Sufficiency, available free at the Blue Letter Bible Institute (www.blbi.org).
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Though the full fruit of the new covenant still awaits Israel as a nation, today’s believer must rejoice to know that for him, that better covenant is already inaugurated for the church now.
But now [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
The old covenant had promised that if those under it acted righteously, they would live. The difficulty here is that no one of his own strength could possibly follow the law of that old covenant. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and the glorious standards of God (Romans 3:23). There are better promises in the new covenant. Essentially the new covenant says that now, because the believer lives with new life, he will able to walk righteously if he draws upon the all-sufficient resource of God’s grace.
But now [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
(Hebrews 8:6-9, 13)
The author of the book to the Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah 31 and applying it to New Testament believers—to Christians. He goes on to quote that passage thoroughly, demonstrating how the new covenant of grace causes the old covenant to show its inadequacy (its inadequacy being that it is obsolete and cannot produce what it demands of those under its terms). The new covenant as applied in Hebrews 8 is directed at the church of Jesus Christ.
Though the book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew believers that in no way means that it is not also helpful to Gentile believers. Addressed to Hebrew believers in the early church who were tempted to return to the law and ritual of the old covenant (the cult worship being more acceptable in Jewish society and therefore, incurring less persecution), the book makes claims broad enough to suit all of Christendom. In Christ there is no east or west; nor male or female; no Jew nor Gentile. All are become one in Christ Jesus. Therefore, that which is written to one is written to all. This is written to “the brethren,” meaning all brothers and sisters in the family of God.
But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.
Which He consecrated for us could be translated, “which He inaugurated for us.” It could be rendered, “which He dedicated, initiated, instituted, set in place for us.” And note that this is written in the past tense. This is a deed accomplished already. He inaugurated for us already, this new and living way. It has already happened and is already available. This is the new covenant that we live in today—the new and living way.
That which is promised eventually to Israel is already inaugurated for the church now. Both cases are provided for by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Though as a nation, Israel rejected Jesus, individuals of the nation still followed Him, and they were granted the right to be called children of God (cf. John 1).
And for all who now believe, we follow Jesus, the Messiah, the Mediator of the new and better covenant. This new covenant is instituted for us. The forgiveness of sins is ours in this new covenant. Intimacy of relationship with God is now available to us by this new and living way. And by this new arrangement with His people, God has freed their path that they might boldly approach the holiest place, the very throne of God.
Recall the old and dying way, the old covenant of law. The holy of holies stood next to unapproachable. One person on one day of the year entered in for everyone else. That was no great intimacy with God. All of this—the sacrifices, the temple, the ritual—all work to proclaim that God is holy and man is not. There must be the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins. In his natural state, man is unable to approach God for God is pure, holy, and undefiled while man it impure, corrupt, and iniquitous. The law teaches this without stammering.
Only one man would approach the dwelling of God on a single day each year, and he would approach with fear and awe, knowing his state and the state of all mankind. So perilous was his mission that a rope would be tied around the high priest’s ankle—if he died in the holy place, he would be drawn out by the rope for none other could enter that place. This speaks volumes to the need of man and foreshadows the provision of God. The new covenant has fulfilled this need to perfection. This is a new and living way. Every one of who believes, by day or by night, can boldly approach His holy throne.
The veil of separation between the holy place and every other place has been torn asunder. And it was not torn from bottom to top by man, but from top to bottom by God. There is, therefore, now no separation between the believer and his Lord. When the body of Christ was torn on the cross, the veil was torn in the temple. The door to the heavenlies is now opened by the blood of Jesus Christ. The believer is granted intimacy with God.