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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Promises of the New Covenant
Text:Hebrews 7:26-8:13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2016
Added:2022-11-01
Updated:2022-11-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal:

372 - At the Name of Jesus
389 - Not What My Hands Have Done        
222:1-2, 5-7 - O Give the Lord Whole-Hearted Praise
386 - How Vast the Benefits Divine

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


04/24/2016
“The Promises of the New Covenant”
Hebrews 7:26-8:13
 
If you were charged with a serious crime, who would you want to represent you in a court of law? Would you want to be represented by a man who was known to be sinful, frail, and limited? Or would you want to be represented by a perfect Mediator, one who had never sinned, and one who will never die but is eternal and everlasting?
 
In a sense, that is what the author of Hebrews presents to his first century readers. They were devoted to the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. They strived, at least outwardly to some degree, to follow the law. They adhered to the teaching of the priests who were all, by law, from the tribe of Levi. But since each one of them was a sinner, they needed to offer a sacrifice for their own sins as well as the sins of the people. 
 
But in the previous chapter we read about Jesus being our great high priest who “is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (7:26). And as chapter 8 begins, it describes how we have Christ as our great high priest. The opening verses of this chapter describe how he serves in the glory of heaven, and not in an earthly tabernacle that was only a shadow of what is in heaven (v. 5). Verse 6 assures us that “the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.”
 
To show how the new covenant of which Christ is mediator is far superior to the old covenant under Moses, the Holy Spirit quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34. From that passage we see, first, that this covenant is of God’s initiative; it is a demonstration of his grace.
 
It demonstrates God’s grace in that it replaces the old covenant given to Moses, which was a covenant that the people could not keep. It wasn’t as though the first covenant, made at Mount Sinai with the giving of the law, was defective. There was nothing wrong with God’s law, but as verse 8 points out “God found fault with the people.” None of the people could keep God’s law, just as none of us can keep the law of God with the righteous perfection he requires.
 
Because God found fault with the people, he declares the first of four “I wills” in verse 8,
 
“The time is coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah.”
 
It has been pointed out that since Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians, and never was restored – they are “the lost ten tribes” scattered among the nations – this promise looks forward to the inclusion of the Gentiles with the Jews. All those who by God’s grace have saving faith in Christ, regardless of their ethnicity and nationality, are considered as the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). As Colossians 3:11 puts it: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Or, in the words of Galatians 3:7, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” And verse 29 of the same chapter adds, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
 
The promise of the new covenant, then, is a universal promise; it is given to the Gentiles as well the Jews, and in the glory of heaven there will be believers from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev. 7:9).
 
Verse 9 describes another way that the new covenant, of which Christ is Mediator, differs from the old covenant under Moses:
 
 “‘It will not be like the covenant
      I made with their forefathers
  when I took them by the hand
      to lead them out of Egypt,
  because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
      and I turned away from them,’
  declares the Lord.”
 
God’s kindness and mercy to Israel is portrayed with a tender word picture as the Lord says, “I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.” Holding hands invokes in our mind loving care and devotion. That is true for a couple holding hands, and also for an older child, of say five or six, holding the hand of a younger sibling. But even more touching is the word picture of the Lord holding the hand of his covenant people as he leads them out of Egypt.
 
Although the Lord delivered Israel out of their bondage, drowned their enemies in the sea, led them by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, provided for them in every way with manna, quail, and water from the rock, yet that picture of tender care and provision was shattered. It was shattered by the disobedience of the people who in hardness of heart were ungrateful for God’s provision and unfaithful to his covenant. As the Lord says in the last part of verse 9, “‘They did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them,’ declares the Lord.”
 
And at that point, and at every other point in history, God could have put an end to his covenant. After all, a covenant is a binding promise between two parties. And when one party breaks the covenant, and no longer upholds what has been promised, the covenant can be dissolved. But rather than turning away from his people, verse 10 records how the Lord promised to make a new covenant, a covenant that is superior to the old covenant because it is based on better promises and has Jesus as the mediator (v. 6).
 
One of the “better promises” is that God will write his laws in our minds and hearts (10b) so that we have a true knowledge of him.  In verse 10 the Lord says, “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.’” And verse 11 describes how all God’s people will truly know him because he will engrave his law and the promises of the new covenant in the hearts and minds of his people.
 
The Internal Nature of the New Covenant
 
It is crucial that God's law is not just external, written on tablets of stone as was done in the old covenant, but written upon our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit's regenerating power. If God's law is just external, but not written upon our heart and mind, we will view his law as being restrictive, arbitrary, and unfair. God’s law, if it is just external, is a great burden to try to keep.
 
That is how many of the Israelites in the Old Testament saw God's law. God's law took from them their freedom to do as they wished, whether in observance of the Sabbath Day, or in their morality, how they interacted with others, or in their business – whether they would use deceptive weights and measures or whether they would be honest. And yet because God's law was proclaimed to them, they felt constrained to go through the motions of observing the law, but their heart wasn't in it. It was external observance of God's law; it was not internal in their heart.
 
And we see the same thing in our culture today. During the 1990’s when the Ten Commandments began to be systematically removed from public places in the United States, I was deeply grieved, as I'm sure most Christians were. And I'm still grieved that in our culture every emblem of Christianity is being systematically removed. But by the same token, I can't help but be reminded that the external posting of the Ten Commandments by a courthouse means nothing at all unless the law of God is gracious written on the heart by the Holy Spirit’s power.
 
When God’s law is written on our heart, by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we see our total inability to save ourselves. As Romans 3:20 points out, “No one will be justified by the law.” The law reveals our sin to us. It drives us to that point that Romans 7 describes, the point where the Apostle Paul realized that he was so sinful that even hearing the law stirred up sinful thoughts in his heart. In Romans 7:7-8, he writes, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire…”
 
As the apostle saw the enormity of his sinfulness through the piercing light of God’s law he was driven to Christ. In Romans 7:24 he exclaimed, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” But in the next verse he looks to Christ and finds the joy of salvation as he exclaims, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
 
And the same is true for you and for me. The law given at Mount Sinaia can never save us. It will only convict us. But as it does so, by God’s grace, it drives us to Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant and the only one who can save us. As Galatians 3:24 explains, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
 
It is when we are convicted by the law and justified by saving faith in Christ, that we realize the greatness of God’s covenant promise spoken in verse 10, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”
 
We see this promise throughout Scripture. Consider God’s promise to Abraham given in Genesis 17:7, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
 
We read the same promise in Exodus 6:7 where the Lord declares, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…” And Leviticus 26:12, among other passages, repeats that covenantal promise as it records these words from the Lord: “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” 
 
That promise of the new covenant, that God will be our God and we will be his people, is the over-arching promise of Scripture. We read of it repeatedly in the Old Testament and the New. And at the end of history that promise will be fulfilled. It will be fulfilled because of Christ, because of his high priestly work in sacrificing himself for sinners, and his high priestly work in representing us before his Father’s throne.
 
It was foretold in the first book of the Bible; and in the last book of the Bible, in Revelation 21:3 and 4, we read of its ultimate fulfillment: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”
 
What a blessing to be in the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16), to have the eternal Creator of the universe, the Almighty Ruler of the cosmos as our God, and to be his people, through the work of our Mediator, our great high priest, Jesus Christ, who is the surety of the new covenant!
 
No Condemnation
 
A fourth great and wonderful promise is there in verse 12 where the Lord declares, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  
 
We have a tendency when we forgive, to not forget. You have perhaps heard people say, “I can forgive that person for what they did, but I can never forget what they did.” Yet God, who has the only perfect memory in the universe, promises to forget our sins. His forgiveness includes forgetting in the sense that he will never bring up our sins against us for condemnation, for as Romans 8:1 declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
 
­Instead of condemnation the Lord promises to forgive our sins by using many word pictures. For instance, Micah 7:19 gives the imagery of our sin and iniquity being cast into the depth of the sea, where our transgressions sink beneath the surface, never to rise again for judgment.
 
Likewise, in Psalm 103, after telling us in verse 10 that “He (God) does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities”, David describes in verse 12 how “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
 
It would be a wonderful blessing if the Lord separated our sins as far as the north is from the south. That is a great distance – 12,430 miles from pole to pole. But when God separates our sins from us, he separates them far further than 12,430 miles. There is no east pole and there is no west pole. Consequently, what Scripture is assuring us of is this: God separates our sin from us an incalculable distance, a distance that cannot be fathomed because “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” (Psa. 103:12).
 
Yet another word picture is in Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” The Lord uses these, and many other “word pictures”, to reinforce upon us the truth that he will forgive our wickedness and will remember our sins for judgment no more. Our sins will be, and indeed already are, completely forgiven.
 
Responding to the New Covenant
 
Seeing the greatness of the new covenant, how are we to respond?
 
In order to know the greatness of God’s new covenant promises, we must confess our sin, acknowledging that the law cannot save us, just as it could not save people in the Old Testament era.
 
What God says in verse 8 about the people in the Old Testament era, he says about all people. The Scripture says, “But God found fault with the people.” And we must recognize that God, who knows us through and through, knows our faults, knows our sins, our iniquities and transgressions. With the Psalmist we must confess, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psa. 130:3), for “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).
 
We must recognize our sins and confess them in humble repentance, turning from them and seeking to replace sinful actions with the good deeds God has before ordained for us to do (Eph 2:10). Repentance always accompanies saving faith. They go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. A basic yet crucial theological equation is that faith + repentance = conversion. It is only when we see the enormity of our sin that we begin to grasp how immeasurable God’s grace truly is.
 
And then, recognizing our sin and confessing it, we are to trust in Christ alone as our Mediator, our great High Priest, our Savior from sin and the Lord of our lives. No matter what sin is in our past, no matter what sin we are presently struggling with, we can know that the blood of Christ covers our sin. We have the blessed assurance of salvation, not because of anything we have done, but because of God’s grace through his gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Our sins will be, and indeed already are, completely forgiven.
 
Some of you have perhaps heard about the tombstone that has just one word on it. The tombstone simply says: “Forgiven.” No greater word can be written on our lives – and on our tombstones – than the precious word that we are forgiven of all our sins. That forgiveness only comes through saving faith in Jesus Christ. He is the Mediator of the new covenant who shed his blood as the propitiation – the covering that appeases divine, righteous wrath – for all who by his grace have saving faith in him alone.
 
May that describe you and may that describe me, this day, and always! Amen.
 
 
Sermon outline:
 
“This is the covenant I will make
with the house of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.”  (Hebrews 8:10)
 
“The Promises of the New Covenant”
Hebrews 7:26-8:13
 
I. The author Hebrews quotes God’s promises from Jeremiah 31:31-34, which include:
      1) The establishment of a new covenant, of which Christ is the Mediator and Surety (1, 2; 
           8b, 9)
 
 
 
      2) God’s law will be written on our hearts and minds (10b), so that we truly know the Lord
           11)
 
 
 
       3) God will be our God; we will be His people (10c)
 
 
 
       4) Our sins will be (and already are) completely forgiven (12)
 
 
 
   
II. Our response:
      1) We must acknowledge that the law cannot save us (8a; Galatians 3:24)
 
 
 
 
 
      2) By grace, through saving faith, we are to trust in Christ alone to be our Mediator, our 
           great High Priest, our Savior from sin and the Lord of our lives (7:26-8:2)
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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