Thursday, August 09, 2018

Reading Through Hebrews #3 (Chapters 8-10)

cornerstone tim to hebI am continuing my devotional read through of the New Testament. I am reading  the anonymous, but certainly Paul influenced, letter to “the Hebrews accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The Hebrews commentary is written by J. Ramsay Michaels. This section closes the on Jesus as the better high priest with a focus on the better new covenant inaugurated by Jesus and the better sacrifice of his death on the cross. Both Jesus’ identity and actions show that he has the superior qualifications to be the high priest that brings people into the presence of God. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

He then moves on to explaining the new covenant in chapter 8. The point is that Jesus is the Superior priest of a superior New Covenant, making the Old Covenant obsolete. The New covenant provides full access to God, which the Old Covenant never was able to do. First, Jesus serves as a superior priest in heaven while the Levites only served in the earthly copy. Secondly, the very fact that their was a need for a new covenant shows that the Old Covenant is obsolete.

Jesus’ exaltation to heaven means that his eternal ministry as High Priest does not take place on earth, or at least not only on earth in his death on the cross, but beyond the cross, in “the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship” (8:2). Hebrews 8.1-6, 390

The “new covenant” of which the prophet spoke is a positive and not a negative thing, promising nothing less than the forgiveness of sins...Most importantly, the exposition will by that time have developed the point that forgiveness in the “new covenant” (as in the old) is possible only through the shedding of blood. Hebrews 8.7-13, 395

He continues his argument, in 9.1-10.19, with a focus on the "once for all" sacrifice Jesus made to provide a better cleansing and better access to the presence of God. The ministry of the Old Covenant was inadequate because it dealt only with externals and could not provide people with permanent access to God (1-10). Jesus' New Covenant ministry is superior because as a better mediator he provides internal cleansing of the heart and conscience and thus, better access to God (11-15). The New Covenant is superior because it was put into effect with the better sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus (16-28). It was inaugurated with Christ’s blood instead of the blood of animals. Finally, The New Covenant is superior because the sufficient sacrifice of Christ perfects believers once for all. (10.1-18) While the sacrifices of the old covenant were unable to remove guilt and provide access to God, the one willing sacrifice of Jesus provides victory over sin and death, makes holy all worshippers and provides complete forgiveness.

Hebrews shares with most early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings a stark contrast which can be expressed either temporally, as a contrast between this world and the world to come, or spatially, between this world and the world above. Either way, the contrast is between the sorrow and imperfection of the world as we know it and the glory and joy of an unseen world that God has prepared for his people. Hebrews 9.1-10, 401

Biblical forgiveness, whether in the first covenant or the second, is costly, made possible only by death and bloodshed, whether the blood of animals (9:12–13, 19), or “the blood of Christ” by which he “offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (9:14). Hebrews 9.11-22, 407

The point is not that he is functioning as our High Priest continually even now, offering his blood as a sacrifice again and again, but that because his priestly work is accomplished (on the cross and in the heavenly sanctuary), his people have continual access to its benefits, now and to the end of the age. Hebrews 9.23-10.18, 416

Chapter 10 closes the section and transitions to the next major section by calling for a response to this superior new covenant and a warning not to reject it. The proper response is to make use of the superior access we have to God by exercising Faith, Hope and Love in community with God and people. The warning is that if we reject this superior covenant and our lifestyle does not match our position we will be judged. But if we persevere in faith we can be sure of great reward.

Whether or not the author of Hebrews knew of this tradition (or that of John 2:19, where Jesus’ body is itself the temple) is unclear, but in each instance the death of Jesus pierces or tears the curtain separating God from God’s people and invites the reader into God’s “Most Holy Place.” Hebrews 10.19-25, 420

Because of the “once-for-all” character of Christ’s sacrifice, there is no further provision for forgiveness beyond what he has already provided. There is, in short, “no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins”... Since God provided an offering and that offering is disdained or repudiated, there is nothing more that God can, or will, do. The very finality which guarantees assurance to those who trust in Christ’s sacrifice seals forever the fate of those who reject it. Hebrews 10.26-39, 422

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