One of the perennial questions for Christian believers: How does the Old Testament law relate to me?
- Covenant theology: the law can be divided into three sections: moral, ceremonial, civil; the moral law is a continuing aspect of the covenant of grace.
- These categories are helpful, but only after the fact. We still need to relate the covenants to one another first before we can decide what is moral, ceremonial, and civil.
- Numerous passages in NT testify of the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant in Christ and the beginning of a new covenantal arrangement (e.g., Luke 22:20). We will focus on Hebrews 7-8.
Background: Genesis 14:17-20; Psalm 110:1-4
I. Melchizedek Is Greater than Aaron, 7:1-10
- The story of Melchizedek, vv. 7:1-3
- The greatness of Melchizedek, vv. 7:4-10: (1) He received tithes from Abraham; (2) He blessed Abraham; (3) He is “one of whom it is testified that he lives”—a literary point from Genesis and a contrast with the mortality of the Levitical priests.
II. Jesus, a High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek, Is Greater than Aaron, 7:11-8:13
- The end of the Levitical priesthood (and, by implication, the Law), vv. 7:11-19
- Christ’s superiority over the Levitical priesthood, 7:20-8:13
(1) He was appointed by an oath, 7:20-22
- Levitical priests were appointed by physical descent, but Jesus by the oath of Psalm 110:4
- “guarantor of a better covenant” = as receptor of the divine oath, Jesus is the “living proof” that God’s new covenant promises will be fulfilled.
(2) His priesthood is forever, 7:23-25
- Levitical priests died and, therefore, were limited in their ministry
- Jesus, having been raised from the dead, intercedes for his people forever.
(3) He is innocent of all sin, 7:26-28
- Levitical priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins first.
- Jesus has no sin and is, therefore, able to remove our sin from us permanently.
(4) He ministers in the heavenly tabernacle, 8:1-6
- The earthly sanctuary is merely a copy of the heavenly tabernacle.
- Jesus’ priestly ministry takes place in God’s immediate presence.
- What are the covenantal implications of this? If you are under the Mosaic Covenant, your representative before God is a mortal, sinful, temporary priest who holds his office because of his physical descent and ministers in a holy place that is a mere shadow of the heavenly reality. But if you are under the new covenant, your representative before God is Christ.
(5) He mediates a better covenant, 8:7-13
- In what sense was the first (Mosaic) Covenant flawed? In its inability to change our hearts and obliterate our sin for all time.
- Quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34: Promise of a new covenant that will be God’s work, not ours.
- 8:13: As mediator of the new covenant, Jesus Christ brings the Mosaic Covenant to fulfillment and thus renders it obsolete.
1. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
- Mosaic Covenant is a bilateral (i.e., law) covenant. It addresses us and says, “Do this!” But we can’t do it.
- New covenant is unilateral (i.e., promise) covenant. It summons us to trust in the effective work of our high priest. It promises divine grace and inward transformation.
- Your only hope before God every single day is that Jesus Christ is now interceding for you.
2. Jesus Christ is an effective Savior.
- Every single person for whom he intercedes will, without fail, be saved from the coming wrath of God. John 17:6-9; Luke 22:31; Romans 8:31-39 (especially vv. 33-34).
3. We are not under the Law.
- Do we have to obey God’s moral commands? Yes, but this is not an obedience that we offer to God within the framework of the Sinai Covenant.
- We are not under the Law, but the Law still bears testimony to Christ for us; it applies to us, not directly, but “filtered” through Christ and the new covenant.