Monday, October 10, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews Lesson 57

Closing Comments

Here are the closing words in the book of Hebrews:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.

Grace be with you all. (Hebrews 13:15-25)

These are useful bites of wisdom for our daily lives. Perhaps, I could spend a few moments trying to add wisdom to each of these points, but they are well made and do not need much.

But given that this is the end of the book, I thought it would be good to once more compare the old covenant with the new. Perhaps one of the things that drives me in this direction is a concept popular among some Messianic Jews that Jesus brought in the "renewed covenant." Now, I understand completely the sentiment that they wish to convey by this. They wish for much of the old to remain. Jews have an affection for the Torah while many Gentiles hold it at arms length. In this the Gentiles are wrong and the Jews are correct.

  • Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19) One can look at the remainder of the Sermon of the Mount as an example of what Jesus means by "to fulfill" the Law. He completed the Law by making its observation a matter of the heart and inward motivations.
  • Paul, who championed justification by faith understood the importance of the Torah. Not only did he quote from it to make his points, but he provided a context for its proper use, "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted." (1 Timothy 1:8-11)
  • There are aspects of the Law, such as circumcision, that apply to the Jews only.
  • The New Covenant includes the Torah, but a Torah that is written on the heart by the Holy Spirit

But to say that Jesus inaugurated a "renewed covenant" trivializes what He did. This is the importance of the Book of Hebrews to Messianic Jews. Its single-minded purpose is to demonstrate the greater glory of the New Covenant over the Old. Here is a table that demonstrates this:





Torah Incomplete Complete By authoritative words, Jesus made observance of the Law a matter of the internal workings of the mind and heart. This served to bring mankind under greater disobedience and in greater need of the new. Only when Jesus brought the new was this dynamic of Torah manifested.
Communication By angels and prophets By the Son of God The Son of God is the "exact representation of God's nature
Mediator Moses Jesus the Messiah Jesus has a glory by just so much as the builder of the house has over the hose
Priesthood Through Aaron Only Jesus Jesus is an eternal high-priest in the order of Melchizedek. The descendants of Aaron serve for a short time. Jesus serves eternally.
Offering Lambs, goats, and bulls Jesus as a kinsman redeemer The blood of animals only covered sin. Jesus' blood provides an eternal cleansing of our consciences. By His blood we are able to stand before God.
The Holy Place Priests bring the blood into a copy Jesus brought His blood into the heavenly reality Jesus serves in a reality much greater than do the priests of the Old Covenant. They provide a useful image of heavenly things. Jesus operates in the reality and substance of those things.
Access to God Through the priests in the Temple which is a copy. We have direct to the Holy Place at our times of need. In short, the newest newly born child of God has access to the Father that the likes of Moses and Aaron never had.

To call what Jesus accomplished as only a "renewed covenant" is to completely disguise the glory of the new. It suggests that the Old Covenant only needed repair. And yet you can see from the above table that at nearly every point the New is both different and superior.

At the close of Hebrews, I would hope that you see how impoverished the New Testament would be without this book. Only here do we find the Old and the New brought together and compared point by point.

If you could only take one thing from this study, I would ask that it be this: Know how accessible the Father is in your time of need. Know the privilege that you have to be able to approach Him by the blood that His Son spilled. The very dearness of that offering is what gives you access. The mandate is that you come to Him at the throne of grace in a "time of need." That means at the point of temptation--or even at the point of sin. Of course, you can come afterwards in confession, but do not think for a moment that you can only come to Him when you are clean and out of trouble. He is there for you right now.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.


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