29th October 2022
Read (Hebrews 8v8-13)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
What was the purpose of the old covenant? As the ten commandments were delivered to the people at Mount Sinai they served a threefold purpose. Firstly, the commandments of God showed the Israelites their sin and misery and pointed them to their need of Christ. Secondly, the commandments educated the Israelites as to what everyday life was to be like in Israel - they were to love God and their neighbour. Finally, the commandments served as a summary of God's moral law which was in force then as it is now - the law shows us what God is like and what pleases Him.
The old covenant was not another path to salvation. Instead anyone saved in the days of Moses was saved under the terms of the covenant of grace - by grace alone, faith alone in Christ alone. Therefore we can say that the old covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace. It was put it place for the nation of Israel but it was always temporary and would be revoked at the coming of Christ.
Grace was still required during the days of the old covenant because no one was able to please God with their perfect obedience (v8). The Lord finds fault in anyone who strives to save themselves by law observance. Instead we all need a new and better covenant than the one that God enacted at Mount Sinai.
As chapter eight closes the Apostle reminds us that the better covenant is the new covenant. Remember that the new covenant isn't brand new. It doesn't start in the New Testament. Instead we correctly say that the new covenant is the covenant of grace fulfilled by Christ. There is continuity in the Scriptures - there is one Gospel, one Saviour and one Covenant of grace which is administered from Genesis to Revelation. This is the covenant that we read about in Jeremiah 31v31-34 which is quoted in today's passage.
The new covenant is the covenant of grace fulfilled in Christ and under the terms of that covenant the Lord promises that the law will be written on hearts and not tablets of stone (v10). God states in wonderfully covenantal language that He will be our God and we will be His people (v10b). We will know God personally as He turns our hearts to Him (v11). He will no longer find fault but He will show us mercy and remember our sins no more (v12). These promises are greater than those of the old covenant and with the arrival of the new covenant the old is made obsolete (v13).
Those wishing to go back to the days of Moses had failed to see the gloriousness of Christ. During the days of Moses and the old covenant, Jesus could be seen in type and in shadow. But when He came in the flesh the fulfilment and the substance arrived. Wanting to swap the substance for the shadow was and is madness.
Brothers and sisters, rejoice today in the covenant of grace. It was proclaimed in Genesis, promised to Abraham and made new in Christ. By this wonderful covenant even the vilest sinner can be saved. It doesn't call us to work our way into heaven, instead it declares "Jesus saves!" and praise God for He really, really does.
Q91 How do the Sacraments become effectual means of salvation? The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.