Introduction to Chapter 8 (8:1-6)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

3/23/20

Tom Lowe



Section I.E.1. Christ’s Ministry is Superior to the Old Covenant Ministry (8:1–10:18)
Title: Introduction to Chapter 8 (8:1-6)

Scripture: Hebrews 8:1-6(NIV)

1. Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
2. and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
3. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.
4. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.
5. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
6. But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Background

The high watermark of this magnificent epistle is found in chapter 8─actually it began in the previous chapter at verse 25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” This verse is the key to the section. You see, the emphasis is upon the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is living. He is not dead ─He is not on a cross; He is not lying in a grave. He arose from the dead, and the emphasis is upon our living Christ. Then verse 26: “Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, in His relation to God, blameless He never does anything to harm ─He is never moved by anger, pure free from any moral impurity, set apart from sinners [in His life and character, although He is right down here among us and wants us to come to Him, exalted above the heavens He is in the presence of God.” The value of His sacrifice is stated in verse 27: “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” His sacrifice was not of silver or gold or bulls or goats; He offered up Himself! There is nothing more valuable than Him. Verse 28: “For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” You do not place your confidence in a mere man when you place your confidence in the God-man. Because He is a man, He can sympathize with you and is able to meet your need. He is a royal priest. He is a righteous priest. He is a personal priest. He is a peace-promoting priest. He is a personal priest ─He is for you personally. He didn’t inherit the office; that is, He didn’t come in the line of Aaron. He is an eternal priest.

Now here in chapter 8 we are told He ministers in a superior sanctuary by a much better covenant, which is built upon better promises. Chapter 8 falls quite naturally into two parts. The first part is composed of verses 1-6 and compares the old order of priesthood and the old earthly tabernacle with the new priesthood of Christ in the heavenly tabernacle. The second part of the chapter composed of verses 7-13 is concerned with comparing the new covenant with the old covenant and thus proves the inferiority of the old to the new.


Commentary

1. Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,

Let me give you a literal translation of this verse: “In consideration of the things which are spoken, this is the focal (chief) point. We have such a high priest, who set down in the heavens on the right hand of the Majesty.” This enthronement of our Lord Jesus was the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to the Son: “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” (Psalm 110:1).

“Who sat down at the right hand of the throne.” Christ did something which no priest in the Old Testament ever did. There is not a priest in the line of Aaron who ever had a chair in the tabernacle where he sat down. He was on the run all the time. Why? Because he had work to do. All these things are shadows that point to a finished sacrifice. Now that Christ has died, all has been fulfilled, and we do not need to wonder if we are doing enough to merit salvation. All we need to do is turn to Jesus Christ and trust Him as our Savior. He sat down because he had finished our redemption. He only asks

that we accept it.

The fact that Jesus Christ is morally perfect and yet identified with us in our needs and temptations makes Him superior to any other priest. Today our Lord is seated because His work is completed. There were no chairs in the Old Testament tabernacle because the work of the priests was never finished. Each repeated sacrifice was only a reminder that none of the sacrifices ever provided a finished salvation. The blood of the animals did not wash away sin or cleanse the guilty conscience; it only covered sin until the day when Jesus Christ died to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).


2. and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

Bezaleel was the master craftsman who made the beautiful articles of furniture for the tabernacle. The mercy seat and the golden lampstand were of gold and highly ornate. It was all man-made, although the Holy Spirit directed Him. In contrast, the Lord Jesus ministers in a tabernacle that He has made in heaven.


3. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.
4. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.

These verses make it clear that at the time the Epistle to the Hebrews was written the temple in Jerusalem was still in existence and that in it priests were still going about their duties.

There is a question which is usually asked at this point: “How do we know that the Lord Jesus is ministering in a sanctuary?” Has anyone seen Him in His high priestly work? There is a logical answer.

It has already been determined that Jesus Christ is a High Priest. But all high priests serve others; the title is not honorary. Each Old Testament high priest was appointed “to offer gifts and sacrifices” (see Heb. 5:1; 7:27). But these sacrifices must not be offered just anywhere, they must be offered in God’s appointed place (Deut. 12:13-14). That appointed place is the sanctuary. The conclusion is logical: if Jesus Christ is a High Priest who offers gifts and sacrifices, then He must have a sanctuary in which He ministers. Since He is in heaven, that sanctuary is in heaven.

On the cross, He offered Himself as the one sacrifice for sin forever (Heb. 9:24-28). In other words, our Lord is a “living sacrifice” in heaven. He is not offering Himself over and over because that is not necessary.


5. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Here the writer appears to call upon the philosophy of Plato to help him establish the inferiority of the old tabernacle. He uses two familiar platonic words when he calls the old tabernacle a copy and a shadow of the one in heaven. In Exodus 25-40 Moses is commanded by God to build the tabernacle precisely according to the pattern revealed to him on the mountain

It is my belief that when God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, God gave him a pattern of the original in heaven, the true tabernacle (v. 2), meaning genuine. Of course, there will be no temple in the eternal state, because the entire city of God will be a temple (Rev. 21:22)

Since Jesus Christ is ministering in the original sanctuary, and not the copy, He is ministering in a better place.


6. But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Moses was the mediator (go between) of the Old Covenant in the giving of the Law (Gal.3:19-20). The Mediator of the New Covenant is Jesus Christ and He is the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). Christ’s ministry as mediator is more excellent than that of the Old Testament priests because it is based on a better covenant and His covenant is founded on better promises. However, we must not conclude that the existence of the New Covenant means that the Old Covenant was wrong or that the Law has no ministry today. Both covenants were given by God. Both covenants were given for people’s good. Both covenants had blessings attached to them. If Israel would have obeyed the terms of the Old Covenant, God would have blessed them, and they would have been ready for the coming of their Messiah. Paul pointed out that the Old Covenant had its share of glory (2 Cor. 3:7-11). We must not criticize the Old Covenant or minimize it.

Although the New Covenant of Grace brings with it freedom from the Law of Moses (Gal. 5:1), it does not bring freedom to disobey God and sin. God still desires that “the righteousness of the Law” should be fulfilled in us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-4). There is a lawful use of the Law (1 Tim. 1:8-110).




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