Wednesday, October 17, 2018

08 Hebrews 8 – Old and Obsolete vs. New and Improved

What if we were to ask the writer of Hebrews, “What’s the big deal here?” “What’s the headline?” The answer appears in Heb 8:1-2. “Now the point (main idea, lit. in Greek kephale, the “head”) in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.”
As we have studied Heb 1-7 we have seen how this great book establishes this central theme. Jesus is the true high priest, exalted to the Majesty’s right hand, and serving in the real tabernacle.
These are lesson notes, not written in a polished or finished manuscript form.  
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In fact, Heb 5-7 showed us the “WHO” of the greater priesthood, comparing and contrasting Christ with Melchizedek. Heb 8 now explains the “WHY” of the greater priesthood, indicating that the old external system is broken and therefore obsolete. Heb 9-10 will next detail the “WHAT” of the greater priesthood, revealing Jesus’ role in making atonement and appearing in heaven on our behalf.
Heb 8, “Old and Obsolete vs. New and Improved,” will describe Jesus’ high priesthood as superior in three ways. Note them in Heb 8:6. “But as it is, Christ has obtained a [1] ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the [2] covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better [3] promises.”
Let’s outline and study Heb 8 using these three “headlines” for the “head” idea that Jesus is the greater high priest.
8:1-6                    A Better Ministry
8:7-10        A Better Covenant
8:11-13      A Better Promise

8:1-6                    A Better Ministry
Note again the big, summary, thematic idea (Heb 8:1, lit. the “head”).
Where does our high priest sit (1:3, 13; 10:12; 12:2)?
Is He a minister?  In what tent or tabernacle (9:24)?
An offering is necessary.  What?  (7:27; 9:14)
Could He serve here on earth?  (This passage implies that the Jewish temple is still standing. In that case, Hebrews must have been written before AD 70.)
“Copy:” example (John 13:15; Heb 4:11); imitation, facsimile, or replica (9:23)
“Shadow:” shade (Mark 4:32); similar shape and form, but without solid substance; “foreshadowing” (10:1; Col 2:17)
“Pattern:” Gk. typos; archetype, prototype; figure, mold, design, blueprint (Ex 25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8; Num 8:4; Ac 7:44)
Which tabernacle was real, and which a copy?
The original one was and is in heaven! What God instructed Moses to build was an earthly model of the heavenly reality.
Heb 8:5 They (the OT Levitical priests) serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
This point will appear again in Heb 10:1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
“Follow the pattern …”
God’s pattern is important! Moses dared not deviate from it. Nor do we dare to add to, take from, or change the pattern God has given us in the NT.
2 Ti 1:13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Co 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
1 Co 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.
Eph 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
8:7-10        A Better Covenant
What is a covenant?
The word “covenant” appears some 270 times in OT.
Give examples of OT covenants.
The Heb. phrase “to cut a covenant” suggests …
Are covenants with God negotiable or unilateral (one-sided)?
Two Gk. terms were used for covenants: syntheke, diatheke.
The first referred to compromise agreements, in which both parties could add stipulations.
The second described one-sided agreements, in which only one party could specify the conditions. The second party could then accept the covenant or reject it and receive the consequences, good or bad.
It is this second word that is consistently used of God’s covenant with us. He states the terms. We may choose to comply or not comply, but we may not choose to negotiate the terms.
Did the first (Mosaic) covenant have any flaws?
Would God promise a new one, if the old one worked?
“Finding fault with them.”  Not the covenant itself.
They failed to comply, and in that way they produced the fault.
God’s covenant promises were conditional.  In other words, Israel had to continue in that covenant in order to keep receiving its benefits. When they failed to do so, God still kept his promise by giving them the consequences of their disobedience.
Calvinists, representing Reformed Theology, often assert “Unconditional Election.” They insist that God’s choices alone determine all that happens. Once he initiates a covenant and promises salvation, that salvation will stand no matter what. One who is saved cannot be lost, they say.
Yet God saved Israel, and those once saved became lost. The book of Hebrews is written to tell Christians, “Don’t let that happen to you!”
The promise: Jer 31:31-34.  Apostasy >> exile.
Superficial religion.  Reliance on Temple, circumcision, etc.
“Behold, days are coming … new covenant.”
“They did not continue …”
“So I disregarded them …” Does God not care? Of course he does. It was the people’s decision and responsibility that removed them from God’s care.
What makes the new covenant better than the old?
Laws of God internal: on hearts, not stone.
         2 Cor 3:1-3; contrast Matt 5-7; Matt 23.
Relationship to God personal: “their God, My people.”
8:11-13      A Better Promise
Knowledge of God universal: “all, least, greatest.”
         We still need teaching!  (Heb 5:11-12)
         But that knowledge is not limited to the few.
Mercy of God liberal: “remember sins no more.”
God forgave sins in anticipation of Christ’s death (the new covenant), not without it.  Rom 3:25; Heb 9:15
The old covenant by itself did not provide forgiveness. 
         Heb 9:9; 10:1-2; 10:11
How can it be said that God does “not remember” our sins? He has “forgotten” our sins only in the sense that he has put them out of his mind in his dealings with us.
By implication, to offer something new is to make the first obsolete.
Someone may say, “I have to get a new phone.” That statement likely indicates that the old phone is broken, lost, or does not function as a new, updated phone would.
By implication, obsolete and aging = ready to vanish away.
Note: The Temple’s destruction, coming in AD 70, would reflect that reality.
Of course, the OT Scriptures are still of immense value to Christians. The book of Hebrews itself is filled with quotations and explanations of OT texts, because the NT is based on that foundation. Knowing the old helps us understand and appreciate the new.
We also read the following about the OT’s importance for Christians:
Ro 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
1 Co 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Ro 4:23 Now not for [Abraham’s] sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
2 Ti 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Friday, October 12, 2018

07 Hebrews 7 – Jesus’ Greater Priesthood – So Draw Near!

Hebrews 6 closed by noting that Jesus has become “a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:19-20). That last phrase returned the discussion to what had been noted in Heb 5:6, 10-11. A parenthesis followed, challenging the readers to sharpen their listening skills and press on to maturity. They – and we – must not remain as babes or fall away into sin.
Now, with that in mind, we come back to the mysterious Melchizedek. He is noteworthy both because of what is said about him and what is not.
These are lesson notes, not written in a polished or finished manuscript form.  
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7:1-10        The Shadow of Jesus’ Greater Priesthood
Please read Heb 7:1-10 carefully before proceeding. Sharpen your listening and thinking skills (Heb 5:11-14). Write down significant words and statements.
That Christ would be both king and priest, was indicated centuries earlier in Psalm 110, a messianic text. Ps 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” … 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
The writer of Hebrews is inspired to develop this idea of Melchizedek as a type (shadow or likeness) of Jesus as the antitype (reality or actuality). He introduces Melchizedek and then compares and contrasts him with Christ.
What precious little we actually know about Melchizedek is recorded here:
Ge 14:17 Then after [Abraham’s] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.
As we see in Hebrews, this man was both king and priest. So is Jesus.
His name means “king (mechi) of righteousness (zedek).” He was also king of Salem, which is the same word as shalom, “peace.” Again, all this fits Jesus.
He was a contemporary, not a descendant, of Abraham. So of course he preceded Levi and Aaron. In fact his genealogy was not even listed. As far as the record went, he had no birth certificate naming his father or mother or date of birth. He had no death certificate officially dating the time of his death. Yet he was a king and a priest. How? Why? Simply because God named him as such. Likewise,  Jesus is our king (Ps 110:1) and priest (Ps 110:4) by divine decree.
Ironically, Gen 14 clearly implies that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, the ancestor of all the OT Levitical priests. Though Abraham was the number one patriarch, and father of all the Israelites, Melchizedek was superior. This is clear because of two facts. For one, Abraham (as the implied lesser) gave a tithe (ten percent) of the spoils of battle to Melchizedek (as the implied greater). For another, Melchizedek (as the greater) gave a blessing to Abraham (as the lesser).
Therefore, the argument goes, since Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, the “priest like Melchizedek” (Jesus) is superior to Levi, Aaron, and all the priests who descended from Abraham. Since Levi was “in the loins of Abraham” (as his future descendant) when Abraham gave the tithe to Melchizedek, one could say that, in Abraham, Levi also gave that tithe. Implication? Melchizedek and his priestly order are superior to Levi and his priestly order.
That’s the message of Heb 7:1-10. But before we go on …
Was (is) Melchizedek an angel? Or Christ himself before his birth to Mary?
Some well-meaning students of Scripture have concluded, mistakenly I believe, that Melchizedek was actually an angel or even the pre-incarnate Christ in human form. No Scripture calls Melchizedek an angel or the second person of the Godhead, yet some can be quite dogmatic about their conviction! On what do they base their thinking?
They take Heb 7:3 to require that Melchizedek was never born and never died. They believe that he literally had no father or mother or other human ancestors. He is a priest “perpetually,” and they take this to mean that he is still a priest serving eternally somewhere, perhaps on earth since they claim he never died. The Bible never mentions him going into heaven. Where does he now serve?
Let’s address these teachings.
Heb 7:4 calls Melchizedek a “man.” Though some insist that he was an angel who appeared as a man (as in Gen 18-19), the Bible never says this. We are undeniably safe to say he was a man.
As Martel Pace notes in the Truth for Today commentary on Hebrews (pp. 258ff):
Melchizedek was “without father or mother” in the priesthood. The Romans spoke of one as being “without father” if there was no record of his parentage. The Jews referred to those whose parents were unknown or who were not found in genealogies as being without mother or father (Philo On Drunkenness 14). A rabbi would say that a converted Gentile had no father (Robert Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, New Testament Commentaries (Cincinnati: Chase and Hall, 1876; reprint, Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1975, p. 249). Josephus told his readers that he himself was born into a priestly family and that he could prove it by the public records (Josephus Life 1).
“Forever” (7:17, 21) and “perpetually” (7:3) mean, as they often do in the Old Testament, throughout the period to which the term is applied. The Romans applied the title “dictator Perpetuus” as a more honorable office than that of an ordinary dictator (Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (London: William Tegg & Co., 1856), p. 391). They realized that a dictator, or a Caesar, could not live forever; but since no statute limited the tenure of a Roman emperor, his rule was said to be “forever.”
Here are some questions for those who hold these other views. If Melchizedek was an angel, why doesn’t the Bible say so? If Melchizedek is an “eternal” priest, where and how does he now serve? And, if he is still God’s appointed king and priest, why would Christ need to serve in that role? Has Christ not superseded all priests who have gone before? Are there now two eternal priests, Melchizedek and Christ? If so, doesn’t that contradict the whole theme of Hebrews, that Christ is the final fulfillment of all that went before, making them obsolete?
Conclusion: Nothing actually stated in Scripture requires that Melchizedek was either an angel or the pre-incarnate Christ. He is specifically said to be a man declared by God to be king and priest, even without genealogical records. In this way he was a type (shadow or facsimile) of Christ, the antitype (reality or substance).
7:11-19      The Succession of Jesus’ New Priesthood
The need for a new priest, such as the priest promised in Ps 110:4, implied that the OT system was broken and had to be replaced. After all, if the Levitical priesthood had worked perfectly and permanently, no change would have been necessary. This is the argument in Heb 7:11.
Well, if there had to be a new priest, there would also have to be a new law as well. The OT law and the OT priesthood were interdependent. Neither could stand without the other. And that fact plays right into what follows.
The previous OT law had established the Aaronic priesthood. It had specified that all the priests had to be from the tribe of Levi and all the high priests from the lineage of Aaron. But since both the priesthood and the law were to be changed, those requirements would no longer apply.
Under those former stipulations, Jesus would not have been qualified to serve as high priest. He was from the tribe of Judah, not Levi. And because the OT was silent about any priests being allowed from Judah, that silence was prohibitive.
However, God had promised that the future priest, Jesus Christ, would be after the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron. This promise implied the removal of the old Aaronic priesthood and the old law with their restrictions. Therefore, there could be no objection to the new high priest having come from a tribe other than Levi.
So, as Heb 7:16 declares, Jesus “has become such [the new high priest] not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.”
So, see what follows in Heb 7:18-19.
18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
7:20-28      The Superiority of Jesus’ New Priesthood
Remember that Ps 110:4 began by saying, “The LORD has sworn …” Yahweh’s oath in making Christ the new priest is very significant to the writer of Hebrews. God did not swear or take an oath when the former OT priests were appointed. This difference (the unique declaration of God’s oath) makes Jesus the guarantee of a better covenant.
There are other factors that make Jesus’ new priesthood superior.
The former priests were many in number, because their service ended when they died. They had to be replaced continually. They could only provide a partial, limited, temporary kind of salvation.
Jesus, on the other hand, continues forever and therefore holds His priesthood permanently. As a result he is able to save eternally, “to the nth degree,” “to the max.” He always lives to make intercession as the one irreplaceable mediator for God’s people (7:24-25).
Also, unlike the former OT priests, Jesus is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (7:26).
They offered sacrifices daily, first for their own sins, because they were weak and sinful themselves. He, the sinless eternal Son, needed no sacrifice for himself. Nor did he need to offer repeated sacrifices. Rather, he accomplished through one sacrifice for all time – the sacrifice of himself – that which an infinite number of OT priests and offerings could not achieve, our eternal salvation. And his ministry for us continues forever, as he intercedes perpetually for us in the true “tabernacle,” the true “Most Holy Place” in heaven.
Therefore, let us draw near!