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Sermon March 17, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1389

March 17, 2019 Hebrews 7.18-8.13

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

Better Things – Part 2”

 

 

 

  • Former Things

 

Thus far in our consideration of Hebrews, we have been directed toward Jesus Christ as higher and superior to any and all the Jews considered important – angels, Moses, Aaron, and any of the priests. No one compares to Jesus Christ. If the book of Hebrews has an underlying theme it is look to Jesus. Look to Jesus. This even means that we no longer look to the Old Testament as the way to salvation. The Jews who would have been reading and hearing this letter to the Hebrews would have still been looking to the Torah as the way to God. That is what the Scriptures still do, lead us to look to God, but now the complete revelation is here in Jesus Christ. Yes, we still look to the Old Testament, but now we see that it points us to Jesus. The problem for the Jews and all in the Old Testament is not in the Word, but in them and in us. The Word did not fail, but humanity failed in sin. So Hebrews says that the former commandment is set aside – but let’s be clear, this does not mean at all that we jettison the Old Testament because human beings were too weak to follow it. What it does mean is that we have God’s Word to help us follow the One to whom the Old Testament points – Jesus Christ. Here is what the New Testament believes about the Old Testament. 2 Tim 3.16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Old is profitable, inspired, authoritative to lead us in the right ways of God in Christ.

God was even revealing His propensity to do new things in the Old Testament itself. Isaiah 43.18-19 says this, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God has always been doing new things in our midst and in the midst of God’s people in the past. But the greatest thing done in for us and our lives is what was done in Jesus that could not be done in the Old Testament.

Paul says it best in Romans 8.3, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” The law was weakened by the flesh, that means that human beings could not fulfill the requirements of the law because of our sinful nature. We still believe that because we still say that we cannot be saved by our works. So what God has done is to send His only Son to fulfill the law and prophets in a way that was not weakened by sin because Jesus is the only one who was without sin.

All of this is to say that Jesus Christ is the better One to whom we now look for salvation. The Old Testament is still God’s Word, still filled with the power to give life, still where we turn to grow in and know Jesus. What Hebrews begins to do here is reveal the better things we have in Christ. Last Sunday we saw in Hebrews 6.9 the beginning of what will be eleven times the word better is used, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.” All of these better things belong to salvation in Jesus Christ. Better hope. Better covenant. What I am calling a better ministry (more excellent), better promises.

 

 

 

  • Better Hope

 

Jesus is the new and better hope. In this meaning of “hope” we are able to draw near to God, something we could not do by the law. Hope here is used here as a certainty and guarantee of being near God. That is, it means that what the law could not do because of our sin, Jesus has done by taking our sin upon Himself on the cross. This is what the Jews miss when they dismiss Jesus as the Messiah. They miss the new things God has done, the new hope God has given, and the new better things we have in Christ. Now this hope is not wishful thinking, not a hope that is something like chance. It is a guarantee and way to salvation. Jesus Christ is our hope in that we have a certainty in Him to come to God, to draw near. This too is part of what it means that Jesus is our High Priest. He is the means by which we approach the throne of grace (Heb 4.16).

Hebrews is making the comparison between the law and Jesus Christ. It is not that the law is not good for us, it was just not good enough to save because we are too weak in sin to fulfill its requirements. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and therefore good to save. Great to save! And there is none better than Jesus. In this sense we could say that all these betters are about the best. Best hope, best covenant, best ministry, best promises – all because they are in and through Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

  • Better Covenant

 

Jesus is the better covenant which gives us the better hope. We see this better covenant in the Lord’s supper when Jesus says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22.20). Once again this is something to which the Old Testament was looking. Hebrews quotes from the prophet Jeremiah about the new covenant. This is what Hebrews 8.8-12 is all about,

 

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

 

The covenant we have in Jesus puts the law into our minds, written on our hearts, and we know God. It is not that we never have to read and study the Word or do the things that enable us to know God, but it is that Jesus abides in us as we abide in Him. It is that the Holy Spirit is working within us to draw us closer to God by His Word and by His power and by His grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • More Excellent (Better) Ministry

 

Jesus is the better ministry. Imagine trying to encourage people to keep the whole of God’s Word in their own ability. Impossible for sinful man. You may have seen the book by A. J. Jacobs called The Year of Living Biblically. It was written about ten years ago. It is about the journey of a Jewish guy who seeks for one year to live out all 613 rules and commandments in the Old Testament. Now, this book is very funny and yet it also holds a certain reverence for the commandments. Jacobs says this about himself, “Well, I grew up in a very secular home (I’m officially Jewish but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant).” If nothing else this book demonstrates how impossible it is to live all the commandments by our own power.

 

But in Jesus we have a better ministry because we are calling on people to believe in the One who was able to keep the whole of God’s Word and to fulfill it completely. Jesus said it in Matthew 5.17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” This too is why we do not jettison the Old Testament as I said earlier, because Jesus did not do so either. Instead we look to the Old Testament to help us understand more fully everything about Jesus and everything pertaining to faith and life. Jesus gives us a gracious and better ministry because we are not calling and inviting people to just live by a set of do’s and don’ts, but to live in a relationship with the One who wrote all the rules and enables us to live them by living in Christ who is the only one to keep all the rules.

 

 

 

  • Better Promises

 

Jesus is the better promise and holds all the better promises. Hebrews 8.6 speaks of better promises. One of the goals of the author of Hebrews was to stop them from trying to fall back into the old covenant and seek to keep all the commandments once again on their own. If they tried to do that they would likely lose out on the better things in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus’ priesthood is better than all the other priests, because Jesus is superior to Moses and all others before Jesus, this makes all things better! What are the better promises? They are not actually new promises because the promises of the Old Testament were promises to eternal life. What is better is that Jesus Christ makes them possible in every aspect of hope and faith and fulfillment. In Jesus we have the full and clear revelation of God to humanity. In Jesus Christ we have every promise fulfilled and guaranteed. In Jesus we have all things complete and whole for our salvation. We are told this at the beginning of Hebrews, remember the verses from 1.1-4,

 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

 

What the Old Testament did not reveal to the people then was the exact imprint of God’s nature. This we have in Christ. God speaks to us directly through Jesus Christ. The promises are the same throughout the Bible, but the promises are better because Jesus brings them all to fulfillment.

 

I sometimes hear advertisements that speak of a product making things better. You can be a better cook with this new gadget. You can feel better in this car. Everything is better with this or that. But it’s all a lie! I’ve tried many of those gadgets, far too many I want to admit. I’ve sold them to others at yard sales too. But one thing is true, Jesus makes everything better. Life, love, hope, relationships, perspective, material things, spiritual things, everything! Everything in life is better with Jesus. Jesus makes all things better because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14.6). Jesus makes all things better because in Him all things hold together. Paul says it best in Colossians 1.17-20,

 

 

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

Hebrews desires that we see Jesus in all His glory, in all His superiority, and in all the ways He makes all things better. Enjoy a better lunch today because of Jesus. Enjoy a better rest today because of Jesus. Enjoy a better life because in Jesus we have a better hope, better covenant, better ministry, and better promises. It’s all good, it’s all better in Jesus.