The Old Made New

Hebrews 8:6-13 
6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“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,
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.”
 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
     Hebrews 8:6-13 gives a glimpse into the nature of God's interactions with humanity. This passage speaks of a new covenant, different from the one God made with the Israelites in the Old Testament. This passage, drawing from the prophetic words in Jeremiah 31:31-34, highlights a significant shift in God's method of relating to His people. This new covenant is not about abolishing the old but about fulfilling and transforming it, showcasing God's unchanging commitment to His people while adapting His approach to their needs.
     To fully grasp the concept of God's unchanging nature or immutability, it is vital to turn to specific scriptures that highlight this attribute. Malachi 3:6 provides a clear declaration from God: "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." This statement affirms the constancy of God's character and intentions, providing assurance of His steadfastness. Yet, the Bible shows how God's interactions with humanity have changed. The shift from the Mosaic Law to the new covenant through Christ is a prime example. This progression does not imply a change in God's nature but rather His responsiveness to the changing contexts and needs of humanity. In John 1:17, we see the juxtaposition of law and grace, where the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
     Verse 6 of Hebrews 8 highlights the superiority of Jesus' priestly ministry, which is directly linked to the new covenant He mediates. This covenant is described as superior to the old, not just in terms of its newness but because it is "founded on better promises." The role of Jesus as both mediator and guarantor underscores the permanence and effectiveness of this new covenant. Hebrews 8:7 addresses the shortcomings of the first covenant. While it is true that the failure of the people to adhere to the Mosaic Law contributed to its ineffectiveness, the creation of a new covenant by God suggests that the first covenant was never intended to be the final solution. This perspective sees the old covenant as anticipatory, setting the stage for the new covenant, which was always in God's plan.
     While some theologians, like Calvin, viewed the new covenant as a renewal of the Mosaic covenant, this view is challenged by the fundamentally new character of the new covenant. It addresses the sin problem more effectively and comprehensively than the old covenant could. This new covenant is not just a renewal or restoration; it's a complete transformation, introducing a qualitatively different approach to God’s relationship with humanity.
     Verses 9-10 emphasize the internalization and completeness of the new covenant. The laws of God are written on the hearts of His people, symbolizing a more intimate and personal relationship with Him. This contrasts with the external and often rigid adherence required by the Mosaic Law. Verse 11 of Hebrews 8 suggests a transformative aspect of the new covenant: the knowledge of God will be so pervasive and intrinsic that it will change the nature of teaching and understanding God. This aspect has eschatological dimensions, indicating a future state where the knowledge of God is universal and inherent. Verse 12 concludes this section with a powerful promise: under the new covenant, God will forgive wickedness and remember sins no more. This promise of ultimate forgiveness and the forgetting of sins is something the old covenant could never fully achieve.
     Finally, verse 13 starkly declares the old covenant obsolete, surpassed by the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus. This obsolescence is not a rejection of the old but a fulfillment and surpassing of it. The new covenant represents the culmination of God's plan for redemption, a plan that was always meant to evolve from the old to the new.
     The new covenant involves the internalization of the Mosaic Law in the hearts of believers. The transformation of the Law in the new covenant includes both its fulfillment and internalization. Key aspects of the Mosaic Law, particularly those related to priesthood and sacrifice, find their fulfillment in Christ, rendering them non-binding under the new covenant. This perspective underscores the continuity of God's law, even as it undergoes a transformative process in the new covenant.
     The covenant, originating solely from God as indicated in Jeremiah 31:31-34, establishes God's initiative and commitment to its fulfillment. This covenant also signifies the reunification of Israel and Judah and includes Gentiles, as seen in the broader narrative of Scripture and particularly in Hebrews 8.
     A central theme in both Jeremiah and Hebrews is the forgiveness of sins achieved through the new covenant. This forgiveness is rooted in the final sacrifice of Christ, which inaugurated the new covenant. The new covenant's approach to sin is not just about forgiveness but the complete abolition of sin, looking forward to its eschatological fulfillment. The old covenant, with its sacrificial system, was never intended to be permanent. It served a prophetic function, prefiguring the realization of God's plan which finds its fulfillment in the new covenant. The new covenant, therefore, does not merely renew but replaces the old covenant, transforming the way sin is addressed and how God relates to His people.
  1. Hebrews 8:6-13 portrays the new covenant not as a mere renewal of the old but as a transformative step that addresses the shortcomings of the Mosaic Law. This transformation includes the internalization of God's laws in the hearts of believers and a more effective approach to the problem of sin. How does this shift from external adherence to internalization reflect in our modern understanding and practice of faith? Discuss the implications of having God's laws written in our hearts rather than following a set of external rules.
  2. In Hebrews 8, Jesus is highlighted as the mediator and guarantor of the new covenant, which is founded on better promises and surpasses the old covenant. What does the role of Jesus as mediator mean for our personal relationship with God? How does understanding Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and the ultimate sacrifice for sins impact our approach to sin, forgiveness, and grace in the context of the new covenant?
  3. The new covenant, as indicated in Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31, includes not only the reunification of Israel and Judah but also the inclusion of Gentiles. Additionally, it holds an eschatological promise of a future state where the knowledge of God is universal. How does this inclusiveness and future promise affect our perception of God's kingdom and our role in it? 

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