God desires to bring mankind into fellowship with Himself. The Christian Religion is the harmony of God with mankind. The Apostle Paul thinks of God as a Judge before whose bar [judicial court] mankind must somehow be cleared of guilt. However the writer of Hebrews thinks of God as entering into a New Covenant with mankind and providing for the maintenance of this covenant by sacrifice with the Lord Jesus upon the Cross as that prophesied sacrifice [Psalm 22; Isaiah 53…].
A Covenant between a holy, heavenly God and unholy earthly humans, would not be easy to form or maintain. It would involve three things…
- That the righteous will of God be made known to mankind
- That mankind would be separated from sin that keeps them separated from Almighty God
- And that God would cleanse them from sin [sanctify them] and fit them for true and lasting fellowship with God—now and eternally.
If the arrangements for bringing mankind into real and abiding union with God are imperfect, then this colors with imperfection the covenant to which these arrangements belong; but if, on the other hand, such arrangements are made as actually cleansing the conscience and renewing the character then this determines the perfectness of the covenant in which these arrangements are comprised [see Expositor’s].
If the Mosaic Law only provides for a ceremonial purification and a symbolic introduction to God, this stamps that covenant as inferior to one which provides for a spiritual cleansing from sin, and a real union in spiritual fellowship with Almighty God.
If one of the covenants [the Old Testament] is identified with a priesthood which is merely hereditary and therefore fleshly and professional [the Aaronic, Levitical Priesthood], while the other [New Testament Christianity] rests on a natural and spiritual priesthood that offers a real spiritual sacrifice, the sacrifice of self, in contrast with the sacrifice of bulls and goats, there can be little hesitation in determining which of these two is the eternal covenant.
Hebrews is the writer’s aim to exhibit this distinction. If his readers can see the real glory of Christ and His Christian religion, then all their doubts will vanish, and he proceeds to give them an exposition of that glory as a magnificent apologetic for Christianity from the Jewish point of view.
The relation thus established between the Old and New Testament dispensations may tend to result in Christians undervaluing the old. This can lead to the idea that “the Jew was simply the keeper of a casket” which he could not unlock, or “an actor in a symbolical representation” which to him conveyed little or no meaning” [see Expositor’s, vol. 4, pp. 240f].
But that leaves the Jew, and us, asking, “What value are religious symbols like the Temple, or Offerings, or Sacrifices, or for the Christian, a Cross, with altars and candles, and Communion Services, or Baptism…? That will be explained in our next blog.
Stand firm, and don’t neglect reading the Word of God. Especially the wonderful Epistle of Hebrews!