Hebrews 7:19

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

…for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19

The word “for” once again builds on the continuing thought. The previous verse said, “the former commandment” was annulled “because of its weakness and unprofitableness.” That was a clear and precise statement. The law was ineffectual in accomplishing what it was purposed to do, and thus the law was annulled through the coming of Christ who alone could fulfill it. The reason for the ineffectual nature of the law was the inherent defect of sin in man. As the author now states, “for the law made nothing perfect.”

Fallen man (all men born from Adam are fallen) is imperfect. The law was given to restore man to a right relationship with God. However, that never came about. If it did, man would have stopped dying. As it says in Leviticus 18:5 –

“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”

Those under the law were promised that they would live if they did the things of the law. None under the law lived… until the coming of Christ. Why did Christ live? Because He was and is perfect. The law did not perfect Him; He fulfilled the law. This is why the author next says, “on the other hand.” This is in contrast to the words of the previous verse. Lining the two up side by side shows this –

7:18 – “…on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment.”

7:19 – “…on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope.”

That “better hope” is “the change of the law” referred to in verse 7:12 which comes with another priest according to the order of Melchizedek as stated in 7:15, 16. It is through this “better hope” that “we draw near to God.” This better hope is founded on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He died in fulfillment of the law. In His death and burial, He carried away the sins of the people. And in His resurrection, He offers eternal life to all who believe in Him and what He has done.

Stated again, the entire thought is that the law was set aside because it lacked the power necessary to make a man righteous before God. The imperfection of the temple worshipers remained after each and every visit to the temple. But perfection and holiness is what God demands of us –

Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” Leviticus 19:2

Because the law could not produce this in fallen man, by fallen man, he could not draw near to God. Nothing unholy can enter into the presence of the holy God. In this, it is seen that the law could never make man righteous, but instead could only show him how utterly sinful he is in the presence of God. Something more was needed to bring us near to Him… something perfect in and of itself. This is the purpose of the incarnation.

In and by His perfection Jesus prevailed over the law. Now, through faith in Him alone we stand righteous and holy in God’s presence. This isn’t because the righteousness is inherent in ourselves, but because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. Paul explains this transaction in Galatians 3:10-14 –

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.’ 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

Life application: Take time to ponder the wonderful love of God towards us in Christ Jesus! When we were powerless to help ourselves, Christ stepped in and carried our burdens and failings. He became a curse for us so that we could be redeemed from the curse of the law. Now think again on that. If the law brings a curse, why would anyone want to be back under that law? What perverse attitude would say to God, “Thanks for trying, but I will do it on my own?” Only condemnation awaits such a perverse soul.

O God! Surely we have a “better hope” than the ancient worshipers. Their hope looked forward to the Messiah and they only saw darkly what was coming – through shadows and figures. But our hope looks back on His glorious work, accomplished on our behalf and forward to the day we are glorified in Him. How marvelous are your wondrous ways O God! Amen.

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