AS THE MEDIATOR OF THE NEW COVENANT, CHRIST’S SACRIFICE IS CLEARLY SUPERIOR
By this point the subject matter becomes repetitive as the author hammers home his indisputable arguments regarding the superiority of the New Covenant. His focus is on the sacrificial death of Christ and the shedding of His blood to provide final atonement for our sins and to secure our salvation on a once-for-all basis. There is also an emphasis on future blessing as we look forward to the full realization of our eternal inheritance and anticipate Jesus returning to bring us our consummated salvation. Why would anyone want to revert back to the Old Testament sacrificial system where the sin problem is temporarily covered but not finally resolved? Don’t be put off by the necessary death of the mediator of the covenant.
MacArthur: Hebrews does, in fact, teach us about the superiority of Jesus Christ. The writer of the book of Hebrews is, in writing to this Jewish community, endeavoring to show them that they can leave Judaism, that they can abandon all the sacrifices, the priesthood, and all of those rituals that went along with the covenant and they can come to Christ – order for them to do that, he must prove to them that Christ is superior to Judaism, that Christ’s covenant is better than the old covenant, that Christ’s priesthood is superior to the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood, which constituted the Judaistic priesthood, and he must prove to them that Christ’s sacrifice was superior to all of the others.
T. C. Edwards: The Apostle has proved that a new covenant was promised through the prophet and prefigured in the tabernacle. Christ is come to earth and entered into the holiest place of God, as High-priest. The inference is that His high-priesthood has abolished the old covenant and ratified the new. The priesthood has been changed, and change of the priesthood implies change of the covenant. . . The blood of Christ may be shown to have ratified a covenant from the use of blood by Moses to inaugurate the former covenant. . . The two notions of ratifying the covenant and atoning for sin cannot be separated.
I. (:15-22) COVENANT MUST BE RATIFIED BY SACRIFICIAL DEATH –
COMPARISON OF NEW COVENANT AND OLD COVENANT
A. (:15-17) New Covenant Inaugurated with Death of Christ
1. (:15) Value of Christ’s Death
a. Christ Death Makes Him the Mediator of a New Covenant
“And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant,”
Kent: that is, on account of the fact that Christ by His blood accomplished what the former covenant issued at Sinai could not, a new covenant was in order. This has been discussed already in 8:6-13.
Mohler: Christ, as mediator, doesn’t find a compromise between the two because God’s holiness cannot be compromised. Far from suggesting a compromise between two opposing positions, Christ agrees with the Father that we deserve the infinite outpouring of his wrath. He agrees with the Father about the ugliness of ours. He agrees with the Father about the necessity of a sacrifice. And as our mediator, he agrees to be that sacrifice even as the Father sends him for that task. In this mediatory work, Christ procures an eternal inheritance for his church (i.e., the “called”), an inheritance simply synonymous with all of the present and future benefits of Christ’s salvific work.
b. Christ’s Death Accomplished Redemption
“in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant,”
Kent: Transgressions committed at the time of the first covenant were “covered” (i.e., “atoned”) by animal sacrifices, but this provided not true expiation. Old Testament atonement by animal blood depended for its value upon the death of Christ to come.
c. Christ’s Death Secured the Eternal Inheritance
“those who have been called may receive the promise of the
Kent: The mention of the provisions of the new covenant as an inheritance stresses the testamentary aspect of the covenant and paves the way for the statement which follows.
MacArthur: Summary of vs. 15 — He promised them eternal inheritance. The obstacle in the way was sin. The obstacle must be removed. The old covenant couldn’t remove it. There must be a new covenant to remove the obstacle. Christ comes, provides a new covenant, removes the obstacle. The promise is fulfilled to those who believe. . .
And now he goes further yet to bring you three great reasons why His death was required. Why did it have to be death that got the eternal inheritance? Why not something else? Why did He have to die? Three reasons.
– Number one, a testament demands death.
– Number two, forgiveness demands blood.
– Number three, salvation demands a victim. And that can be stated several ways. Judgment demands a substitute might be better.
2. (:16-17) Validity of the New Covenant (Testament)
“For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one
who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is
never in force while the one who made it lives.”
Kent: This is a general proposition that is true to this day. No provisions of will are effective prior to the death of the one whose testament it is. A person may periodically change his will as his circumstances alter, and this is entirely legitimate because the will is not in force as long as the testator is still alive.
B. (:18-22) Old Covenant Inaugurated with Death of Animals
1. (:18) Integral Role of Sacrificial Blood under the Old Covenant
“Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.”
Kent: To any who may have been finding fault with the idea of Christ’s death as a necessary feature of the new covenant, the reminder is given that not even the Mosaic covenant was inaugurated without blood. If some of these were actually contemplating a return to Judaism, let them remember that the use of sacrificial blood was involved in that covenant as well. . . The blood inaugurated the Mosaic covenant and put its various provisions in force, both in precept and in ceremony.
2. (:19-21) Illustrations of the Application of the Sacrificial Blood under the Old Covenant
a. (:19-20) Sprinkling the Book and the People
“For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.’”
b. (:21) Sprinkling the Tabernacles and its Vessels
“And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle
and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.”
3. (:22) Integral Connection Between Sacrificial Blood and Cleansing and Forgiveness
“And according to the Law, one may almost say,
all things are cleansed with blood,
and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
Kent: the author is therefore making the point that the principle of sacrificial death was clearly established even in Old Testament practice, and it would be folly to turn from Christ on account of His dying.
II. (:23-28) SUPERIORITY OF THE NEW COVENANT WITH ITS BETTER SACRIFICE – CONFIRMED IN 4 KEY AREAS
A. (:23) Superiority of New Covenant Sacrifice and Cleansing
1. Old Covenant
“Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these,”
Kent: The heavenly things themselves surely must be interpreted as the spiritual realities in heaven to which the tabernacle and its ritual gave visible representation. . . In what sense did the heavenly things need cleansing? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that heaven was the scene of Satan’s rebellion, and thus needed cleansing form the defiling effects of that sin. . . What animal sacrifices accomplished ceremonially and typically, Christ’s sacrifice achieved actually. Christ’s blood fully satisfied God’s wrath against sin, and thus His presence in heaven provided an incalculable advance over the ministrations of any earthly priest.
2. New Covenant
“but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”
B. (:24) Superiority of New Covenant Sanctuaries
1. Old Covenant
“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands,
a mere copy of the true one,”
2. New Covenant
“but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;”
C. (:25-26) Superiority of New Covenant Atonement
1. (:25-26a) Old Covenant
“nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world;”
Kent: To conclude that repeated offerings were still necessary denies the abiding efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. . . The reason why Christ’s sacrifice does not need frequent repetition as was true of animals in Old Testament times is because Christ’s sacrifice consisted of Himself (v. 25). It was a human sacrifice, and men die but once and then must face the results of their lives. Inasmuch as this particular human was the God-Man, the analogy is all the more forceful.
2. (:26b) New Covenant
“but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
D. (:27-28) Superiority of New Covenant Efficacy
1. Universal Connection between Death and Eternal Judgment
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once
and after this comes judgment,”
2. Particular Connection between Death of Christ and Future Salvation of the Elect
“so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many,
shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin,
to those who eagerly await Him.”
MacArthur: We’ve got a problem, verse 27, we’re going to die and get judged. But He made three appearings take care of it.
– Appearing number one is in verse 26. Look at it. “But now once in the end of the ages hath He appeared to put away sin.” That’s the first appearing on the cross.
– The second appearing’s in verse 24, the end of the verse, “now to appear in the presence of God for us.” He’s interceding for us.
– The third appearing’s in verse 28. One of these days, “unto them that look for him shall He appear.”
Three appearings of Christ give us the account of His work on the cross, ministering for us now, and in His return. And so He’s a perfect sacrifice.