In this episode we continue to explore the implication of Jesus as our high priest. It helps to start with the end in mind, to examine what spiritual maturity is and what the ministry of Jesus as high priest does for us. A key part of the process is to wrestle with our guilt and overcome it by boldly approaching the throne of grace. The great gift of Jesus as the high priest is that it gives us access to God. Righteousness comes from the heart, not from rules and laws. And the heart is stirred most effectively through intimacy with God.
We got here. We were talking about Jesus as the ministry of Melchizedek, and we are in Hebrews chapter 7, and we saw that Jesus is the Son, and he’s also the High Priest, theson being this title of royalty or authority, and the high priest being this ministry of intercession. And we saw that he’s a priest by the word of God.
We saw in 7:20-21 the Lord has sworn. And we went through and looked at the word, and how the word is all these different things to us. And one of the things it is is the determinate that Jesus is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. And, of course, we saw that it’s a continuous ministry forever, that he ministers continually for us, and it’s something that is not going to cease.
And we saw that it’s a transcendent thing. In 7:22 it says, “By so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.” So we’ve got a better covenant by this Melchizedek high priest.
We started this section looking at chapter 5. Let’s just review that for a minute, kind of get our heads back into the flow of the thought here. He says in 5:1, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, they may offer both gifts and sacrifices—” So he’s talking about this high priestly service.
And of course the Apostle Paul is talking to his dear friends who are all Jewish believers, so they’re all obviously very familiar with this. It would have been something they continued to do, and we’ve gone over that in detail in Acts. We’ve shown that Paul himself continued to practice Judaism in all of its features all the way through his life as did the Jewish Christians in general.
And then he goes to 5:9, and he says, “And having been perfected—” talking about Jesus, this is this word teleiosi, the telescope word, “—he became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” And, again, we’re talking here in this book, the context is eternal salvation, is this lasting salvation, with the emphasis on restoring all of creation to its proper spot, including us, to our appropriate spot as servant kings. And that part of it only happens if we obey him.
“—called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek,’ of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”
So we’re talking about Jesus and his priestly ministry of service according to the order of Melchizedek. And the introduction to this whole explanation of Jesus with his priestly ministry according to the order of Melchizedek is this is hard to explain only for one reason. What’s the reason it’s hard to explain? You’ve become dull of hearing! You need to get the wax out of your ears so I can explain this.
Now, he’s going to then talk about Melchizedek all through chapter 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. In six, you might recall, he says, “And this we will do, if God permits.” What’s this?
We’re going to move from elementary things to advanced things. We’re going to move from baptisms and washings and repentance from dead works and eternal salvation. That’s elementary. We’re going to move to understanding Jesus as a high priest according to Melchizedek, if God permits.
Now why would God not permit? Because if we know what the right thing to do is and don’t do it, the window of repentance closes as it did for the children of Israel, who tested God ten times in the wilderness and eventually God says that’s it. You can’t have the inheritance. He did not disown them as children. They lost their inheritance.
And this is the basic picture that Paul gives to us as we go through this, 6, 7, 8.
So last week we went in and looked at chapter 7, and we saw Melchizedek, high priest according to the word of God, it was continuous, it was transcendent.
And, all of this, or course, it goes back to the context of chapter 2 which says, “Do not neglect so great a salvation which was spoken by the word of Jesus, the Son and the High Priest.”
So we don’t want to neglect this word because it’s so damaging to us to neglect. He wants to make us a servant-king. He wants to raise us back to this point where we have the glory and honor of reigning over the creation. And that’s one of the great rewards of a faithful life. And it’s something that you can throw away.
So today, what I want to do is just start with the end in mind a little bit. I want you to see what the punch line is, since it takes a while to get there.
Let’s look at 10:19. This is where he has the punch line of talking about Jesus as the High Priest of Melchizedek. This is the hard-to-explain part. This is where we’re headed. I think we’ll get there next week.
So, 10:19. “Therefore, brethren—” and remember these are all brethren with their salvation, in the sense of justification is never in doubt. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus—” Why is it we can enter into the Holiest by the blood of Christ Jesus? He is the High Priest with a better sacrifice. “By a new and living way, which he—” Jesus “—consecrated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh.”
The veil here is a reference to the tabernacle which had a veil between the inner court and the holy of holies. And he talks in chapters 9 and 10 that there’s a real tabernacle in heaven. The one on earth was a copy of the one in Heaven. And the real one in Heaven was just the same thing. And Jesus took that veil away. His veil is his flesh, which was the better sacrifice.
Hebrews 10:21 “—and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith, having—” number one, “—our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and—” number two, “—our bodies washed with pure water. And—” number three, “—Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Number 4, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner with some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”
So this is where we’re headed. This is what maturity is. This is what the ministry of Jesus as high priest does for us. It gives us a clean heart. It cleanses our conscience.
Does anybody hear ever have any trouble with guilt? Does anybody here look back on something that you’ve done with great regret? Well, we all have, I think. This is a place to have that cleansed. And not by doing anything here on earth, necessarily, although the scripture tells us “confess your sins to one another.” And, there are things we should do. Tell people we’re sorry, and so forth.
But real cleansing happens when we boldly approach the throne of grace. The holiest. By the blood of Jesus.
And our bodies washed with pure water. See our bodies actually get cleansed from the inside out. When our conscience is clear, then our bodies become cleansed.
We hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. What is that hope? The hope is that all of our greatest desires and longings, everything we want to be, all of the hopes and dreams we have will actually be fulfilled.
And Jesus has said if you’ll follow my way, what you really want will happen.
These appetites that we have that fool us into thinking that’s what we really want, they’re actually a huge distraction. What that leads to, then, is stirring up. And together we do love and good works. And it all happens from the inside out.
So that’s where we’re headed here with this whole discussion of Jesus as Melchizedek.
So let’s go back to chapter 8. And what we’re going to see here—we’re going to see three things as we go through and look at this new covenant that we saw in 7:22. “By so much more Jesus has become a surety—” or the guarantee “—of a better covenant.” And that’s what we’re going to start talking about here: a new covenant.
And the new covenant has three components. We’re going to see these over and over again. It has a better sacrifice, a better priestly service, and a new heart. We’re going to see this, really, over and over.
8:1. “Now this is the main point of the things we’re saying—” He’s about to summarize verses 6 and 7 here. This is the main point: “—We have such a High Priest.”
Now if you’re a Jew and you think of a high priest, what does high priest do for you on a daily basis? What’s the benefit?
Cleansing. It’s an access-to-God-sort-of thing, right?
So, if you think, well, we have this kind of a high priest, and it gives you access to God, what’s the point?
Would you not want to take advantage of it, right? Why would you want to neglect this deliverance, going back to 2:3, “Do not neglect this salvation”?
Again, salvation is a word that requires context. You can save money. You can save meatloaf after it’s left over. You know, it means delivered from something. In this chapter, we’re being delivered from death into life in its full completion, not just the new birth.
“We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” So if you have the King of the Universe, and that’s what Jews think of God is King of the Universe, and if seated by the right hand of the King of the Universe is someone who will intercede for you, it’s obvious what needs to happen: We need to take advantage of it.
8:2 “A minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, not man.” You know the Jews had the tabernacle in the wilderness; and at this point in time, they still had the temple in Jerusalem functioning. It’s going to be a few years before it’s torn down by Titus of the Romans, and it hasn’t been built since; although, today, there’s a whole reconstruction-of-the-temple effort happening. It will be one of the more controversial things happening toward the end of time here.
So, the true tabernacle is in Heaven, and we’ll see that next week. There’s actually a copy. The thing they did in the wilderness is a copy of that in Heaven. The Lord erected that.
Verse 3. “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices.”
So what do priests do? They offer gifts and sacrifices.
Idolatry is generally offering a priest money so he will sacrifice and offer gifts to a false god so you can get what you want. And, again, if we’re going to be approaching this high priest, and we’re going to do so in a way to get something that’s not in our best interest, it’s not really going to go well. This high priest wants what’s in our best interest.
“Therefore it is necessary that this One—” this high priest, “—also have something to offer. For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For he said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain.’”
In other words, the blueprint of the tabernacle was given to Moses by God. And, Jesus is not an earthly minister. If he was, he’d still be on earth. He’s not.
So there’s a true tabernacle in Heaven, and a true priest in Heaven, and the levitical priests and the tabernacle of the Old Testament are both copies of the real.
Verse 6, “But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as he also Mediator of a better covenant—” This new covenant. So you’ve got a better priest and a better covenant. “—which was established on better promises.”
Verse 7, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.”
Now by faultless here I think he means it works. It achieved the desired result.
Verse 8. “—because finding fault with them, he says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in my covenant.” In other words, it didn’t work. I had one covenant, and it didn’t accomplish the results so I’m going to do a better one. “—and I disregarded them.”
Now we’re going to go into great detail on what this means, “I disregarded them.” We’ll come back to that.
8:10 “—For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts.”
So what was wrong with the first covenant? Was it that the law was inadequate. No, the law wasn’t inadequate. The law was good. What was the problem? The people did not continue in it. The people didn’t change.
And the new covenant is to take that law that was perfect and put it in the heart.
You know, Romans 8, Paul says, “If we walk in the Spirit, we fulfill the law.”
So this outside-in sort of thing that we always try to do—and I talked last week about the income tax where the total receipts are the same no matter how they change the laws and the rates and everything? You know, people have a desire in their heart, and they just figure out a way around the laws to get what they want is generally how it works.
And he’s saying that doesn’t generally get us where we want to go. I want to put their laws in their heart so they become who I want them to be. That’s the better covenant.
8:10. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none of his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
In that he says a new covenant, he’s made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
All right. So we’ve got a lot here to chew on. A new covenant that has the law in the hearts.
Now, obviously, we have not gotten to the point where there is no need for teaching anymore. Everybody agree with that? We have not gotten to the point where everyone knows the Lord at this point in time.
So this new covenant, ultimate fulfillment, is yet in the future.
But he is not wanting us to wait until in the future to take advantage of this new covenant. And as the Scripture takes place in general, we have ultimate promises that will be tangibly fulfilled in the new earth or the millennial kingdom, and God wants us to have those promises in large part through faith now.
The walk of faith now gives us the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of those promises now, and prepares us to have maximum benefit of those promises when they become tangible in the future. And we’re going to have the same thing here.
But what I want to do is go back—verse 10 here is a quote from the Old Testament. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put the laws in their mind and write them on their hearts—”
And if you look over to chapter 10, we’re going to have that same verse quoted again, 10:15, “But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after he said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and their minds I will write them.’ Then he adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’”
So this is a big point he’s making. He actually quotes this part of the Old Testament twice. So what I want to do for the rest of our time today is go back into the Old Testament so we get the full context of this Jeremiah quote here. “I will write my laws in their hearts” and also the background of the old covenant not working, and God saying, “I disregarded them.”
Remember here, we’re writing this to Jewish believers; and these Jewish believers understand this context. And Paul is writing here into this context where they’re understanding. So to get the impact the way these guys would have gotten it, we really have to see through their eyes to some extent and go to this Old Testament passages.
“I disregarded them.” Hebrews 8:9.
So let’s go to Deuteronomy 30. We will start looking at the part that says I disregarded them when they didn’t follow me. Then we’re going to end up with Jeremiah. We’re going to go through about a thousand years of history here in just a few minutes.
So Deuteronomy, remember, we are coming out of the wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, and Moses is giving the charge to the nation before he hands over the mantle of leadership to Joshua, and they go across the Jordan river and into the Promised Land and possess their possession, possess the inheritance.
So that’s Deuteronomy here. So we are back at 1500 B.C., something like that right now.
Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy: “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among you all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey his voice, according to all I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity.”
We’re kind of starting in something midstream here, but can you see what’s happening? God says I’ve given you blessings and cursings.
Now what did God give as blessings and cursings to the nation of Israel. How did that generally work?
Yeah, it’s consequences, right? If you do what I say, you’re going to get tremendous benefits, and if you don’t do what I say, you’re going to get really adverse consequences to that. And then he says, “And I know you’re going to choose the adverse consequences, and when you do, you’re going to really be sorry. And then you’re going to repent and come back to me, and when you do, I’m going to restore you.”
That’s kind of the context of this whole passage here.
Let’s look at 30:11. “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you—” This is actually the main argument of Romans we’re about to get into. Romans 10 actually quotes this passage that we’re about to talk about here. “This commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It’s not in Heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may bring it and do it?’” In other words, you don’t need an angel to come explain this to you. “—nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’” In other words, you don’t need a missionary or a consultant or an expert to come explain this to you. Why? Because the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.
In Romans 10, this is Paul’s argument of what the crux of walking righteously is. You know, the righteous shall walk by faith; the just shall live by faith.
Well, walking by faith, living by faith starts in the heart.
He’s actually making the same argument in Hebrews. He’s just doing it to a Jewish audience.
It starts in the heart. It doesn’t matter how many Bible studies we do, or how much devotional time we spend, or how early in the morning we get up. How many people are worse than us. How many mission trips we go on. All of which are good things. What matters is the heart.
From the heart comes righteousness, not from rules and laws. That’s kind of the big point of all of this.