Tuesday, September 14, 2010

“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Five

Tuesday morning, September 14, 2010


(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)


Thabiti Anyabwile: Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.


Centered on the New Covenant


Begin with a confession. I am a dinosaur, stuck in the tar pits of technology. Don’t even own a cell phone, never sent a text message. Choose not to be on that treadmill. Now people are challenging books, now have these evil things called readers. You know what’s underneath this? Planned obsolescence. But it also teaches us about the covenants in the scriptures; the scriptures tell us the old covenant planned some obsolescence, promising a new one with better features.


Will look at Hebrews 8.

Three points to consider.

I. We have a mediator

II. He mediates a better covenant

III. His covenant is built on better promises

Hebrews 8: The 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, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. 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. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.  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." But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.


I. We have a mediator

Author summarizing here an argument he began in Chapter 4.

In Chapter 4 we meet a high priest who has been tempted in every way just as we are.

5:7-10 Jesus offers up petitions with loud cries and tears; became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

6:19-20 we have a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul.

7:24-25 those who draw near, he is able to save completely

7:26-28 such a high priest meets our need, one who is holy, blameless, and pure

The writer of Hebrews, in 8:1 we have such a high priest, a minister in the holy places

Who is this plural possessive pronoun? Who is this “we”? A reference to all who have trusted in Jesus. The “we” here is Christians.

The priest has been elevated to the majesty, to the presence of the Glorious One and Jesus participates in that honor. Like Daniel in Chapter 7 sees the Ancient of Days.

As in John 17:5, the great high priestly prayer.

As in Philippians 2 where Christ takes on the form of a servant, then gets a name above every other name.

For this is the high priest that has been unfolded and unveiled and set before us. He ministers before the throne of God and continues to intercede. He steps in for us, a go between, a perpetual ministry in the holy place itself.

Consider what it says in Hebrews 9:11, he goes through the more perfect tabernacle having made an appropriate sacrifice, offering himself unblemished to God.

The Lord Jesus’ most effective work didn’t occur on earth but in heaven before the father. It was done before the one who rules in heaven.

In 8:1 this is what is offered for us, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven..”

Where does the author put the emphasis? Is the emphasis on “have” or on “such”?

Is it on our possession or the quality of the priest? How about both?

What value is Jesus as a priest if he’s not our high priest?

What value is he to have if not “such” a high priest?

Consider Chapter 4:14, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”

6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”

7:26, “Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”

He is who he is for our possession and benefit; our possession is our benefit because of who he is.

We do have such a high priest. The wrtiter tells us that’s his main point.

Here’s a question, do you have him? Do you hold as your own the one who has earned honor and glory and majesty? Can you use the possesssive pronoun, “we”? The good news is, he offers himself to you this morning. To make you Gods own possession, by turning to him and trusting in him alone. Do you have him? Call upon him. We have such a high priest.

II. He mediates a better covenant

O. Palmer Robertson defines a covenant as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God.”

Pictured for us in the OT in the sacrificial system. You don’t just willy-nilly decide to enact a covenant on your own. This covenant is sovreignly administered.

Thabiti remembers the very first time he saw his wife, said he know he wanted to marry her. This woman stood him up six times. But soon she said yes. The covenant is not two people saying yes, but is sovreignly administered. For Christ to be our high priest, we must be party to the covenant that God administered.

In addition, we need to pay attention to types and shadows. The OT priests 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.”

Striking that Jesus could not minister in the earthly tabernacle in the OT system. The old covenant priests did not recognize Jesus, because they were worshipping in a copy, a shadow.

Imagine going to the airport to pick up an old fried, you only have a picture. You wait there holding a photo and he comes out and greets you. Then you leave your friend there and go home with the picture. In Israel they loved the picture more than the person.

Consider 9:23, “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”

Here then is a mediator establishing a far better covenant.

vs. 6, “…the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.”

If Jesus ministry is better than the old, why settle for anything less? Why settle for the old covenant? Many false saviors today. Many that our hearts manufacture. Smash the idols, embrace the real.

The kingdom is like a merchant who found a great pearl and purchased it selling everything he had. When you see this new covenant, accept it, this Jesus, this high priest.

In Philippians 3 we have the great passage where Paul gives up everything, I counting it all rubbish for the surpassing value of knowing Chirst. Like a balance sheet where he adds it up, realizes one column is garbage, nothing.

This is a joy that we can have, We have such a high priest.


III. The new covenant built on better promises.

The scripture here, vs. 6, appeals to our basic sense of self interest, calling on us to choose the better. He makes the case by quoting from Jeremiah 31.

The people of the first covenant broke his laws. He points out the peoples’ inability to keep the covenant.

Here are four promises that make this better than all that came before.

1) The law is written “on” us.

End of vs. 10. In the O.T. the law was written on stone and placed in the ark. Now the heart replaces the stone, the body becomes the ark. He writes it on us. To break the law now is to break our own hearts, in a very real sense to do violence to ourselves. More than ever we are to live before God. To turn away is to break oursleves. Our hearts to be his heart, our minds to be his mind. We live to obey him in faith, our sins should grieve us, we should love our God. In the God centered life we empathize with God’s desires more than our own.

This is like the story of Phinehas, who follows sinners into the tent and pierces them with his spear. In our natural mind, we sympathize with the couple. We naturally empathize with the sinner in his sin. But to Phinehas, God says “he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.”

We are transformed, but Israel never did this.

2) At the end of vs. 10 he says, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

This is the promise of a loving relationship.

I will be their God and they will be my people. Read those like marriage vows. God says “I do take these people to be my bride”.

We have this union with Christ. The Christian is a unique creature. We belong to God and God belongs to us. Finally and forever we are together. We need to keep hearing him say you are mine and you are my beloved. We respond, we love you because you first loved us.

Not like the old story of the man who when asked by his wife if he loves her, tells her, “If I changed my mind I would let you know.” Don’t be like that. God always speaks to his son and to us,  saying “I love you, you are mine and I am yours.”

Now he is not a shadow, but a real body.

Don’t you know that where God says “I do”, there is no force that can separate.

3) vs. 11 promises immediate fellowship with God.

In the new covenant, koinonia, mediation without a human teacher. We shall all know him from the least to the greatest. The least shall know him for themselves. No mediator saying, “Know God.”

Not setting aside pastors and teachers,  but these are gifts, emphasising that God is speaking for himself.

This is far better than the old covenant.

4) vs. 12 tells us he will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more

How could we enjoy fellowship if our sins were still there? His wrath would still be on us.

His promise is to remember our sin no more. We deserve condemnation, but his grace does more abound.

He forgives, and doesn’t remember. Who could stand before God if he kept a record? We can’t stand in front of the mirror ourselves just with our record keeping. When he looks upon us, he sees Jesus the great high priest and we stand before him unashamed.

What mercy, what grace. He forgives our sin at the cost of the son’s life.

He is merciful to us because he was merciless to his son.

Like the hymn, Our sins have been nailed to the cross we bear them no more—praise the Lord.


Two more things to take away.

First, these promises may be summed up another way. In Galatians 3:8, and in Chapter 4, you have received the promise, you have received the Holy Spirit. God himself is the gift of the gospel. His presence is applied by the spirit. Our souls cry, “Abba, Father”. He does this regenerating, sanctifying work. God is our inheritance, never forsaking, never leaving, having this promise eternally worked in us by the Holy Spirit


Last thing, we should notice what is most important. We tend to think the removal of sin the ultimate. It is not. It is the penultimate thing. There is something greater. Ultimately, our sins are removed for us to enjoy God himself. Our duty is to enjoy him forever.

The exhortation is, enjoy God. The god centered life is a life tasting daily that God is good. Delight in him, come to him, draw near to him, give yourself to him fully.

Enjoy God and you will find that living the God centered life isn’t as difficult as it seems at first. We have a better covenant and we are going to see Jesus.

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