Thursday, 13 December 2018
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Hebrews 8:6
The author has consistently treated subjects while demonstrating the superiority of Christ’s Person, work, and ministry over that of other comparable subjects. This has been seen, for example, in verses 1:4, 3:3, and 7:22. Once again, he has built a case for the superiority of the ministry of Christ, and of the covenant in which He operates. Having done so, he states the matter as such by beginning with, “But now.”
The words are in response to verse 8:3, which said, “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer.” However, those words were only given in support of other thoughts presented earlier. For example, he spoke specifically of the introduction of this new priesthood in 7:11-18. He then noted the concept of the “better covenant” in verse 7:22. With these thoughts introduced, he then explained them, pointing out how what Christ did was, in fact, superior. And so this verse now is making a summary statement of those facts. He has shown the fault in the Old, and now he relays the surety of the New. With this in mind, he says, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry.”
What the line of Aaron did was at the direction of the Lord, and for the purpose of ministering for the people of Israel in a priestly fashion. In the accomplishment of this, a state of harmony between the people and the Lord should have been realized. But this never occurred. Even from the earliest days of the law, there was (and continued to be) strife between the people and the Lord.
In the case of the people failing to be obedient, it then became necessary for the high priest to mediate on the people’s behalf, petitioning for mercy. This was done through the sacrificial system, and especially on the Day of Atonement. However, as has been seen, and as will continue to be seen, this mediation was temporary and only as effective as it pointed to the coming Christ. Outside of that, it accomplished nothing permanent. However, concerning Jesus, His ministry is more excellent “inasmuch as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant.”
The better nature of the covenant was explained in verses 7:20-21 (and elsewhere). It was established based on an oath, it is an eternal priesthood, and it is able to save those under it to the uttermost (among other things). Finally, the author finishes the verse with the thought that this covenant was “established on better promises.” The word translated as “established,” was introduced in verse 7:11, and now this is its second and last use in Scripture. It signifies “to ordain by law.” When Moses received the law, the Mosaic Covenant was so established. With the coming of Christ, the New Covenant is likewise so established. These are legally established covenants which convey the will of God, and the means of propitiation between God and man.
The “better promises” of the New Covenant will be specified in the coming verses, especially verses 8:8 through 8:12. With those stated, he will sum up the thought with another explicit statement concerning the replacement of the Old by the New in verse 8:13.
Life application: In the words of Hebrews, the author is clearly and precisely detailing how the New Covenant is superior to, and how it has replaced, the Old. Its High Priest and Mediator is superior in all ways. In fact, Paul says in 1 Timothy that “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The promises on which Jesus’ ministry are based are also superior – they are on oath from God and are eternal in their scope and nature. In understanding these things, we can then understand why the author of Hebrews is writing this epistle. It is to implore the believer in Christ to not return to the Old Covenant. It is as if he is begging his people to think clearly. And so we must. Rest, O Christian, in the work of Jesus!
Lord God, the repetition of the precepts found in the New Covenant is gratefully accepted. Because of conflicting data from so many sources on what is and what is not applicable to Christian life, it is good to hear the same thought stated again and again in Your word in different ways. Thank You for solidifying our faith in Christ alone, apart from works of the law. Amen.