Let us take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 8. We’re still looking at pulling back the curtain on the old and the new and this morning we are going to look at the better covenant in Hebrews 8:6-13.
Now that is what I want to look at this morning. We sung about it and we got over our technical difficulties and everything that happened. If I was over there we would not have anything on the screen, but those guys those techies know all that stuff. So they do what they have to do.
But this morning I really want to look at something that as I was growing as a Christian in theological thought I really didn’t have a grasp on and it wasn’t for a while that I began to get a grasp on that and it’s the very idea of the great biblical idea of the Covenant the covenant our text here in Hebrews begins to deal with that very important thought.
This morning with some time here let us get right to Hebrews 8:6 and see what it says:
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
Now ordinarily a covenant is an agreement. That’s how we basically understand it. It is agreement entered into by two people. It is usually dependent on conditions and usually the two parties then mutually agree.
People say that they are going to make a covenant, an agreement and if either break the conditions then the covenant would be void. That is how we usually think of covenants.
In fact when you come to the Word of God it is used in that way. However there are several places where it is not used in that way.
For example if you go to the Bible and if you and look for the word, there are three words for covenant. One is in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament. But when the Old Testament translates the word it uses a particular word. The Old Testament word for covenant is berit. It is used for clan alliances. We see that in Genesis. It is used for personal agreements and for legal contracts. It is also used for oil contracts and the one we are most familiar with is when it is used for marriage agreements.
Look quickly over at Malachi, which is the last book in the Old Testament. It gives us a sense there on how the word is used. It says in Malachi 2:14:
Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
With God usually a contract brings witnesses. The witness here see the marriage contract and of course the Bible says God hates divorce. He hates the breaking up of this loyalty to a contract to an arrangement made between two parties in which God is always the witness.
Because marriage is not a Christian ordinance it is a creation ordinance. So God the Creator is witness at every wedding, when two people who come together. Most importantly, this word covenant is used to denote a close relationship which God entered into with his people. First it happened with Noah, then with Abraham, Isaac , and Jacob. You remember Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. So it would be after Jacob’s prosperity, but especially Abraham. Now let us look again at this in Leviticus 26:42-45 in the Old Testament just to get some sense of it:
Then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord.
So in the Old Testament we see that disagreement that God made was an agreement between himself and people and nations. Of course after Jacob, God made a covenant with Moses and the people of Israel. Now that was of course the Mosaic covenant. And by this last covenant that the Israelites have or this old covenant that God had given him. It was a covenant of agreement.
The people were bound to obey God’s will as expressed in the Mosaic Law. They were bound by that. He promises them as God, His protection and blessing on them if they obey him. If they do not obey Him, He threatens the transgressors the severest of punishments and instead of bringing blessing on them He brings cursing.
So it was this agreement that God says what He wants the people to do. And of course when when God brings that before the people then the people would affirm that, agree to it, and then do what God says. That is how it was designed. That is how the Mosaic law was designed.
Now when you get to the New Testament in the book of Hebrews there also is a word for covenant and it is the word diatheke. The regular word used in the New Testament for covenant is sunatheke. We get the word sunagogue, or synagogue. Or synonym, which is a word that is like another word.
So again the Greek use of the word there is the word agreement. So if this word sunatheke means that in that word two parties agreed together. In fact this term always describes an agreement entered in on equal terms, that the parties to the sunatheke are at the same level and each bargain with each other as to what the terms would be.
But here in Hebrews, this is how amazing the Lord is in using language to steer away from any kind of wrong thought that anyone would have when it comes to this better covenant. God uses a another word and that is diatheke and it does not mean agreement. What it means is a will. Like last will and testimony like the wills you and I are supposed to have. We always say we are going to get one but we never do and then it is too late.
A will is is an important document, no doubt about it. The conditions of a will are not made on equal terms. They are made entirely by one person. By legal terms that person is the testator and the other party cannot alter the terms but can only accept or refuse the terms which usually includes inheritance. To get a sense look at Hebrews chapter 9:15, it says this:
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. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
He is making a will here. Someone has to die in order for the will to be effective and to go into effect and that is exactly what happened and that is why Hebrews 9 is all going to be about the death of Christ because the covenant or the will has to be ratified by the blood. Not the blood of bulls and goats but the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of Man, the Son of God, who ascended to heaven, and is seated at the right hand the Father.
It must be done by Him. So this word is a word that says to us why our relationship to God is described as a diatheke or this covenant were for the terms of which only one person is responsible that a relationship is offered to us. Solely on the initiative and grace of God.
In other words, when we as Christians use the Word for this new, this better covenant, we must always remember that it does not mean that man made a bargain with God on equal terms, or any terms, or even made a bargain at all!
It always means that the whole initiative is with God. The terms are his terms and man cannot alter them in the slightest. That is why this covenant is the final and new covenant. That is why it is a better covenant. Nobody can mess with it.
So for someone to say, “Lord if I do enough good works then you have to honor our agreement,” that is false and not even in there. It does not even come into the equation. It is not about you! It is about God’s grace.
You see what He is doing here. He is eliminating any thought in the Jewish mind to add anything to His will. Get out of your mind that it was even an agreement where you had something to do with it because you did not. It i all the initiative of God. So see the point being made by the author of Hebrews is that under the old covenant, God offered the people of Israel a unique relationship to himself. It is all over the Old Testament and in the Old Covenant. But the whole relationship was entirely dependent on keeping the law. Now the problem with that is that people could not keep the law.
In fact let us turn back to Exodus and I want you to see when God gave the terms of the Old Testament agreement and how the people accepted the conditions that God offered them. It is recorded in Exodus 24. This is why it is amazing because it is so clear that the people understood clearly what God was saying. But of course they had no ability to keep it even if they desired to in their hearts. They had no ability inside of themselves to keep it. They could not keep the law the law kept condemning them and condemning them.
And they kept offering sacrifices and they would be made right with God and then they kept sinning and offering sacrifices and it was that cycle going on. Look at Exodus 24:1-7, it says:
Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. “Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.” Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” 8So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Even the Old Testament covenant had to be ratified by blood and this is the only time in Scripture that you see the people being sprinkled on, the book being sprinkled with the blood, and everything being sealed because if there are conditions in the contract and in the covenant and the people break them, they break the covenant. If they break the agreement cursing comes.
Here the argument that the Old Covenant is done away with in Hebrews 8 because Jesus has brought in the New Covenant, which is a better one one that can provide for the people a permanent relationship with God.
Look at Hebrews 8:7:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
If the first covenant did what it was supposed to do, and if people could obey the law and they had the ability to obey the law, you would not need a second covenant. Christ would not have to come into the world to die on the cross. The first covenant would have made people right with God and ushered them into God’s presence. It would have been done.
But that did not happen because the people broke the covenant. And if the people break the covenant then the covenant is broken. The conditions now are put in place and the condition was that of of cursing.
That is why when you see God raising up the Assyrian nation in the Old Testament and coming against Israel. It was because they broke the covenant, slipped into idolatry, and God raised up this nation to discipline them. Then He raises up the nation of Babylon, the Babylonian nation come up against them, the same thing happens, and all the Jews are scattered all over the place for the reason that they broke the covenant. They had no more relationship with God.
This word makes sure that we do not miss that point. Let me just give you some more information about the covenants. Covenants can be distinguished in several different ways in the Word of God. It can be distinguished first by participation. For example there are minor covenants in Scripture between men but there are also major covenants in the Word of God which was a covenant between God and the nations or the peoples. There were five major covenants in the Old Testament.
The first one was the Abrahamic covenant. That covenant was before the law and before Moses and it was a covenant of promise. That is very important and we will look at that again later in Hebrews.
The second major covenant was the Mosaic covenant or the Scianic covenant. This covenant was one of law and works. The Abrahamic covenant was one of promise and faith.
Then there was the Palestinian covenant that was the land covenant which they are still fighting over today with the problem of who is the owner of the land. It is probably not going to end until the Lord comes back again.
Then there’s the Davidic covenant. Then we have the new covenant which is in the Old Testament. Take your bibles and turn to Jeremiah 31: 31-34 because this is the new covenant. Remember this covenant comes from the mouth of a prophet. When Jeremiah spoke this covenant, the people were in bondage. They were scattered. God spoke to the needs of the people through the mouth of the prophet. The people needed to know that God was going to do something great. They knew that they were in bondage for the reason that they did not keep God’s agreement. They broke it and now they are suffering for it because God is a just God. The justice of God has to be poured down on people who break His covenant. Now they are in exile, they are being persecuted and scattered all over the place by other nations.
Then Jeremiah steps up and he gives the people hope and he tells them that God is going to do something great over here and and that they are included in it. They may not live to see it but they are included in it.
And look what it says in Jeremiah 31:31:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”
Remember at this time, Israel and Judah were a divided kingdom, they were actually enemies. Jeremiah 31:32-34 says:
Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Brethren, that is a message of encouragement. But that is not the only places mentioned in the Old Testament. It is not mentioned in that much detail, but other prophets mention the covenant as being an everlasting covenant.
Ezekiel mentions that some day God is going to give you a new heart and a new spirit. Isaiah says that it is going to be “my covenant.” Other than the covenant agreement that He had with the people, it is going to be God’s covenant alone where no human beings are going to be able to mess with it.
It is going to be the will of God and the testament of God that this is a better covenant than any coming in because no one ever messed with it on the human level. So what God brings to pass will come to pass.
In fact this new covenant has parties connected to it. The parties of the Covenant are always Israel and Judah as right here in the passage I just read.
The prophets even mentioned in that covenant that the geography of Israel and the land of the city of Jerusalem would be the recipients of the new covenant.
On the other hand it also mentions the other nations. Isaiah says that this new covenant has a trickle down effect that benefits the Gentiles. Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 56:8.
Yet others will gather them to those already gathered.
Those already gathered are going to be of course under the covenant. The Gentiles and then the Jews will be gathered again and vice versa. In that covenant, God includes both the Jew and the gentile which makes the population of the world are going to be included in that covenant. The provisions of the covenant, all throughout scripture, will include a new heart. God is going to give them a new heart. He is going to take away a heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
He is also going to give them a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel mentions that in Ezekiel 36:27 and He is going to write the law inside their heart. This is what was not in the Old Covenant. This becomes completely important and the fulfillment of the New Covenant.
From an Old Testament perspective it involves two parties, God and Israel and Judah as already mentioned and according to the Old Testament, the fulfillment of the new covenant will take place when Israel is spiritually alive. Ezekiel 37 talks about the coming of the Messiah when Israel’s regathered to the land and the messianic kingdom is established. The other nations will also receive the trickle down blessing from Isaiah.
Now the problem is this that when it comes to the church and what I mean by that is this there is nothing in the New Covenant passage about the church in the Old Testament. The Jew and Gentile together in one body on equal footing is explained in the New Testament. That is what Paul came on the scene for when remember Paul was the apostle to the gentiles and Peter was the apostle to the Jews. Paul preached to the Gentiles and told them a mystery that they did not know about in old times.
The mystery is that God is going to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and give them a new heart, give them the permanent dwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to write the law of God on their hearts. That was the promise.
As a matter of fact, that promise is not connected to the Mosaic covenant, but it is connected to the promise that God gave Abraham before the law and before Moses, where God said to Abraham, “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” That includes us, gentiles, and that is really exciting to know. We can take the gospel to Gentiles all around the world and say that they included in God’s plan.
Let me show you. It is right here in Ephesians 3:1-12. There is not time to read it this morning but you can glance at it yourself and take notes and write it down.
That brings me to a fourth thing that I wanted to mention this morning. The first one was that of the explanation of the two words. The second was a description of the new covenant in the Old Testament. A third would be the covenants being distinguished by two things. And the fourth would be the purpose of the covenants. Why do we have a covenant anyway?
This is the reason why God made covenants, it is because God is basically unknown apart from creation. How do I know that God could ever tell the truth or could ever make an agreement with men or that God can make a will that includes me? How would I ever know that unless God told us? God is basically unknown and for this reason, mankind cannot enter into a relationship with Him.
However God has undertaken a program of self-revelation, which is called the Bible. The Bible is a book about God and what God has done and who God is and what He is like and requires. We are not speaking of a God who is way out there and who we do not know or cannot figure out. He is a God who is near to us and who has written a book to us. He tells us that if we want to know who He is in specific detail, we are to read His revelation. He will tell us everything we need to know in that book. The most important thing He could tell us is that we sinful, unholy, ungodly, people who are heading to hell can be accepted into His Kingdom and be accepted as one of His children.
God has undertaken a program of self-revelation, thus the purpose of the covenant is to reveal God so that there may be a relationship. That is the whole reason. The instrument of self-revelation began with Israel where God told Israel that He will take them for His people and that He will be their God and that they will know that He is the Lord and has brought them out from under the burden of the Egyptians. That is what God told the people, that He will have a relationship with them and this is how it will happen. He tells them the conditions of the relationship and what to expect since He is a just God.
Remember, that the Israelites kept breaking the conditions of the covenant and severed their relationship with God. Now a man today still cannot have a relationship with God. The reason why is because of sin. The Mosaic legislation could not achieve the completion of what God intended. The Levitical priesthood was lacking and that is what necessitates a different and greater priesthood. But it did serve the priesthood of the old covenant as a picture that looked forward to the reality. But when the reality to which the shadow was pointing came, and we find out that the reality is Christ, and when Christ’s blood was finally shed, the shadow that faded away and the law that guided it and the sacrifices that were daily offered was set aside because there was a better hope to come because there was a better covenant because of the finished work of Christ. Jesus could do what the old priesthood could never do, give us access to God by faith through His grace. Is that not what it says in Ephesians? It includes those thoughts in Ephesians 2:10:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves so that no one may boast.”
You cannot add to this will, you cannot add your works and there is nothing you can give whatsoever. It is a gift of God, not a result of works so that no one will boast. When we do boast, we only boast of God’s initiative alone to save His people. They could have added nothing to it but to believe by faith. That is God’s gift to them and to us.
We look at our text this morning in Hebrews 8:8. I want to give you exactly what Jeremiah said, that this becomes a foundation of a better covenant. This better covenant is better first of all in quality. It says in Hebrews 8:8:
Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
There are two words used for new. One means new in point of time, but the second word is kanos ]which means new in the point of quality. This new covenant is so different in its quality than the old. The old could no longer stand up to it when alongside of it. The old covenant was imperfect and powerless to provide men with the power to meet the requirements. Look now at Hebrews 8:9:
Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.
It was a better covenant also in its quality, in what it was able to accomplish for those who believed by faith. Secondly, it was better by capacity. Look at what it says in Hebrews 8:8:
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
These two houses were enemies, but in this covenant, God unites old enemies. If Gentiles were included in this covenant, than those who are enemies of Christ are also forgiven of their sin and are made right with God to be brought into a relationship with Him.
A third thing in Hebrews 8:10, it is better in its ability:
For this is the covenant 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.
God is not only going to make it a will but He is going to give yo the ability to obey the instructions of God and have an inward desire to follow Him along with the power to do so. This did not happen in the old covenant. The old covenant says do this and if you did not, then you had it coming for you.
This covenant says to come by faith through the grace of God, free unmerited favor of God because He has done it all for you. Jesus Christ has established a better covenant for you, dies in your place, sheds His blood once and for all, and goes before you into Heaven. You have to stay believing and continue in grace.
As a believer when I fall into sin, I confess my sin because of God’s grace. He promised me that if I confess my sin, He will forgive me and cleanse me. But if I die with sin, that sin is taken care of because of the extent of the death of Christ on my behalf. It is not about me, I cannot save myself or keep myself saved. It could never happen, so that brings me to the next thing.
It is also better in its universality. Look at Hebrews 8:11:
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.
This means that all color, race, and other distinguishing factors are gone. God saves people based on one thing, His grace alone. Not who you know, what you have done, or your race. It is completely universal, and God knows even the most obscure person on the planet. He has a covenant even with that person if he is in Christ.
It is also better in its generosity. In reality, a covenant with God will also affect forgiveness! Look at Hebrews 8:12:
For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
The God who created the Heavens and the earth sent Christ, our Lord and Savior and God Himself, so that He will not remember your sins! He will not check through it in His book of sins. He cancels it out by the blood of Christ and nails your sins to the cross while giving you the righteousness of Jesus Christ!
It is a better covenant because of His incredible generosity towards us. Do we deserve it? No, we never have. But that is not the point. The point is that this new covenant is unrestricted in its power, it is eternal in its duration and complete in its effects.
The old covenant was limited, temporary, and partial. And if you disobeyed, you were condemned under it. Even if you bring a sacrifice, it does not end. So this is good news for us.
How could you ever believe or say that there are many other ways to God? Christ is the only way. All the other religious systems are based on works. You have to do something to get something. You are saved by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone.
In Luke 22:20 it says:
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
I hope this takes on a better meaning for you before the Lord’s Table. The inauguration of this new covenant is with the death of Christ, forgiveness of sins, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. All of that was included there.
The main feature of the new covenant is the promise of the Holy Spirit. It says it all over the book of Acts. We see even here with the writer of Hebrews convincing the Jews that through the new covenant, they had a better Mediator than Moses, namely Christ Jesus!
He also plainly explains that the new covenant has replaced the old covenant. That is why it says in Hebrews 8:13:
When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
This could be most likely because it was written in 66-67 A.D., prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. He is saying here that something is ready to disappear, and it will be their whole sacrificial system and priesthood. That happened when Jesus died on the cross. The curtain ripped in two in the Holy of Holies. The thing that blocked the priests from going into the presence of God once a year on behalf of the people now was ripped open by God when Christ died on the cross, because that was the ratification of the covenant. No longer did a man have to go through a priest and bring sacrifices. Now he can go directly to Jesus Christ, who plows right into the presence of God.
Well it says in Scripture that the Mosaic law came to an end. And if anybody tries to resurrect it again, they do not understand what is going on here. The New Testament is actually a manual on how to live a Christian life under the new covenant, which includes the law of Christ.
Christians have a better covenant solely based on God’s grace. We did not make an arrangement with God in which we bargained with God on equal terms. The new covenant always means that the whole initiative is with God. The terms are His and we cannot alter them in the slightest. Jesus brought in a new covenant and a final one. There are no other covenants that are coming. He provided a new and permanent relationship with us and God. He ratified it with His own death and the shedding of His blood. Now we have complete forgiveness of sins and access to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. All I can say is Amen, and thank You, Jesus.
Let us pray. Lord, You are awesome. There is no one like You. The Word of God itself is awesome. Who could have thought of this or written these things down? What man could have such a plan? Only You, Lord, because You transcend time and eternity. You are greater than all things. You removed the old as the old pointed to the new in the Person of Christ. Now we know because of God’s grace to us, offering salvation to us as a free gift, received by faith alone which does not at all include works. It is in itself an amazing message. It is truly good news. I pray that if we know You as Lord and Savior, that we would rejoice because of it and worship You because of it. If there are those that do not know this, I pray that You would grant them faith and repentance so that they can come to You and see what You have allowed many others to see, that they can have a relationship with God because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished in this better covenant. Lord, we will praise You and give You all the honor that is due Your Name. I pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.