Agonizomai: Heb 8:8-9 - Christ - The ONLY Way

Monday, February 01, 2010

Heb 8:8-9 - Christ - The ONLY Way

Heb 8:08-09 - Christ - The ONLY Way

Heb 8:8-9 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.

The writer now takes the Hebrews directly to the Prophet Jeremiah {Jer 31:31-32} to prove once for all from the ancient scriptures that Judaism itself supposedly held to be authoritative, that the system of law was insufficient for changing men - and only good for convicting them. It was prophecy that had been fulfilled in Christ. There was now a new covenant in Christ’s blood.

And this new covenant is specifically said not to be like the old one. The problem with the old covenant was that it was based on works of the law, which no child of Adam could possibly keep. And the proof of this is that they all broke it. David said so and Paul reconfirmed it. {Ps 14:1-2,Ro 3:23} The problem was not, however, with the law itself. The law is good. It is the revealed will of the Most Holy God for his creatures. The problem is and always was with the people to whom the law came. They all had an obligation to keep the law but none had the moral ability to do so. And if there is any argument on this point then a person need only be directed to {Ex 20:2-3} and asked if he has done this one thing perfectly all his life.

As we shall see, sin is a condition before it is an action. The heart of man is deceitful above all and desperately wicked and who can understand it? Who but God? It is therefore inevitable that, absent the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit, a person’s inclination is always and without fail to evil and sin. We would murder God if we had our way. And we have had our way.

But God made our murder of His Son into a willing sacrifice. Nevertheless, even those who did not actually drive in the nails, pronounce the verdict, scoff at the execution, flay the skin, spit in the face, pull out the beard or strike with rod and fist - were represented in those that did. They were doing externally on our behalf what we all wanted internally, in our heart of hearts. And if we now do not, and if there were or shall be any who do not, it is by the grace of God alone that this is so. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord - for God had purposed that in Him all things are held together and to give Him a Name which is above all names. The whole of human history and the entire universe itself depends upon Christ and is inextricably bound up in Him with God’s redemptive purposes, and their accomplishment to the praise of His glory.

Let’s put it another way. Natural men are incapable of keeping a covenant with God. God must keep both sides of the covenant. This is why He became a man - to keep perfectly the law and to fulfill perfectly the old covenant on behalf of the redeemed; to become the party of the first part and the party of the second part. We do not keep covenants. We cannot keep covenants. So the new covenant is something radically different from the old in this very respect. God’s new covenant is founded upon Christ’s perfect work being accredited to us by grace through faith plus absolutely nothing else whatsoever. Add anything to it and you are a heretic. Add anything to it and you will receive the scathing condemnation of the Apostle Paul, even though he will merely scold and upbraid and solemnly warn you for the worst kinds of immorality.

Why? Because though immorality is possible for a Christian, yet there is hope that, by God’s grace it is correctable. There can be repentance for all manner of sins. But deny the gospel of the fullness and completeness of Christ’s finished work by adding even the smallest thing to it and teaching others to do so, and you are outside the pale - a heretic, twice condemned and without hope in the world; you abide under the wrath of God. "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling..." Anything else is another gospel.

Now Israel (the Hebrews of old) had utterly failed as the poster boy for proper relationship with God. They had thoroughly, heartily, extensively and repeatedly broken the old covenant. This speaks of them as a nation. There were undoubtedly some in Israel at all times whom God had kept for himself. There was always a remnant according to the election of grace. But as the nation representing - illustrative, if you like - all men of all nations, as the keepers of the oracles of God, as the chosen people, favoured with the revelation of God’s law and graced with being the tree from which the Christ would come - in this capacity they were the perfect, eternal example of fallen man’s moral inability and culpable unwillingness to honour God.

For this reason, God had cut them off. For 400 years before the voice of one crying in the wilderness "Make straight the way of the Lord" at the coming of Christ, there had been no prophet in Israel. For 40 years after they had rejected their own Messiah God waited, but then acted to cut off Israel from the land altogether. After the quashing of the rebellion of AD70 the nation was broken up and it was forbidden by Rome for Jews to settle there. God was serious and He rightly held Israel accountable for their failures under the old covenant. Any professing Christian who lives under the old covenant by still trying to justify himself through observations, rituals, deeds and ceremonies is putting himself back under law - under the old covenant - and will be judged accordingly.

So, while God condemns all men for lawlessness, He saves some of them through grace. All members of the new covenant are in Christ and live as acceptable to God by His grace alone, through faith alone. The old covenant was good; the new covenant is infinitely better. Under the old, God was just to condemn. Under the new, He is just to show mercy to evildoers like us.


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