VII. The New Covenant and Its Superior High Priest (Hebrews 8:1-13)


VII. The New Covenant and Its Superior High Priest (8:1-13)

8:1 Due to the structure, content, style, and pastoral concerns of the Letter to the Hebrews, it’s often compared to a sermon. And indeed the author sounds like a preacher as he talks about his main point. He wants readers to know that a better high priest necessarily brings a better ministry. Our high priest, Jesus, is seated at God’s right hand—the place of power and authority. When he died on the cross and made a perfect offering for sin, his work was finished (John 19:30). Therefore, he’s now in a “finished” position from which to intercede for you.

8:2-6 The author draws a contrast between the work of the former priests in the earthly tabernacle and the work of Jesus in the heavenly tabernacle (8:2-4). The Old Testament tabernacle, priests, and sacrifices were intended to point to the true tabernacle, priest, and sacrifice to come. The system that Moses established was good and done in obedience to God, but it was all preparatory. It was a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (8:5). It pointed forward to Jesus who obtained a superior ministry, mediating a better covenant, which is established on better promises (8:6).

The first readers of Hebrews were being tempted to quit moving forward and to stop maturing. But they couldn’t go back because everything behind them was inferior to Jesus. Their only option was pursuing Christ.

8:7 The author emphasizes the superiority of the new covenant that Christ established. A covenant is a special agreement that God makes with his people. It is a divinely created, relational bond through which God reveals himself and administers his kingdom program. Through his covenants, God exercises his kingdom rule on earth and blesses his people. The old covenant made with the people of Israel was good, but it was also temporary and weak because God had something better in store. If the first cov-enant had been faultless, we wouldn’t have needed a second one.

8:8-13 Here the author quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34 to support his argument. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God had explained that the law wasn’t able to change a heart (see commentary on 7:18-22). Under the new covenant, however, he promised to put [his] laws into their minds and write them on their hearts (8:10).

When you became a Christian, you received a new heart and mind. You were born again. But like an infant’s, your new heart and mind are underdeveloped; there’s a lot of growth needed. Nevertheless, you received a new spiritual radar—a new ability to perceive spiritual things. You now have the capacity to experience God and obey him. But while every Christian has this ability, not every Christian has developed it (see 5:11-14; 1 Cor 3:1-3).

Through Jesus Christ, God has established this new covenant. Therefore, the old covenant is obsolete (8:13). The readers of Hebrews no longer needed to jump through the hoops of the old system and regulations because at the heart of the new covenant is this promise: I will never again remember their sins (8:12).

It’s an unspeakable joy to know that the sins you’ve committed are forgiven. But God’s promise doesn’t stop there. Through Christ, tomorrow’s sins are wiped away too. Everything you have done—past, present, and future—is covered by the cross. And if you really understand the greatness of that grace, you will be motivated to live to please the one who saved you. You will transfer from a “have to” life to a “thank you” life, leaving you free to experience and enjoy the power and privilege of your relationship with God.