A covenant is an irrevocable pledge, vow, or promise between two or more parties to carry out the terms agreed upon. It is stronger than an agreement in that a covenant can only be broken by death. There are several covenants in the Bible, but the current one in force is the covenant of grace. This unconditional covenant anchors our soul and lets us know that God is committed to what He has promised. It is based not on what we do, but on our faith in what Jesus did because of God’s love for us. The old covenant of the law was perfect, but it required constant self-effort to be blessed; the new covenant is better because it simply requires our belief in Christ to be blessed. Our trust in the Holy Spirit to minister this new covenant to us changes our entire lives.
Man was unable to keep the old covenant, so God replaced it with the new covenant.
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith 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 continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord (Hebrews 8:6-9).
There is no reason to cling to the old covenant of the law when God has something better for us.
The law’s major fault was that it was too perfect for an imperfect people to keep.
The Mosaic covenant was only between God and the Jewish people; anyone not Jewish did not need to try to live by it. By comparison, the new covenant is for everyone.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:10-13).
Living under the covenant of grace does not mean it is okay to sin. The answer to sin is grace, not the law. Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit working in us will change us so that we will not want to sin any more.
Mercy is when we do not receive the bad we deserve. For the promise to work for us, we must believe that God will be merciful.
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22, 23).
In Hebrews 8:13, “old” does not mean elderly, but in the wrong age. The law had an expiration date, and was to be in effect only until Jesus came. We are now in the age of grace.
It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day when I grasped them by the hand to help and relieve them and to lead them out from the land of Egypt, for they did not abide in My agreement with them, and so I withdrew My favor and disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will imprint My laws upon their minds, even upon their innermost thoughts and understanding, and engrave them upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people… When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether(Hebrews 8:9, 10, 13, AMPC).
God refused to make another covenant like the first one in which people were required to perform, first, before He could act.
The covenant of the law was conditional and based on man’s self-efforts, but man could not be faithful.
By contrast, the covenant of grace was between God and one man, Jesus Christ, who could be faithful. We are beneficiaries of this new covenant.
Verse 10 refers not to the Law of Moses, but the royal law of love and the perfect law of liberty.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34, 35).
The Law of Moses is still valid for unsaved people, but not for born-again believers.
The old covenant was a shadow of the new covenant, and it pointed to Jesus.
Now even the first covenant had its own rules and regulations for divine worship, and it had a sanctuary [but one] of this world. For a tabernacle (tent) was erected, in the outer division or compartment of which were the lampstand and the table with [its loaves of] the showbread set forth. [This portion] is called the Holy Place. But [inside] beyond the second curtain or veil, [there stood another] tabernacle [division] known as the Holy of Holies. It had the golden altar of incense and the ark (chest) of the covenant, covered over with wrought gold. This [ark] contained a golden jar which held the manna and the rod of Aaron that sprouted and the [two stone] slabs of the covenant [bearing the Ten Commandments].Above [the ark] and overshadowing the mercy seat were the representations of the cherubim [winged creatures which were the symbols] of glory.We cannot now go into detail about these things. These arrangements having thus been made, the priests enter [habitually] into the outer division of the tabernacle in performance of their ritual acts of worship. But into the second [division of the tabernacle] none but the high priest goes, and he only once a year, and never without taking a sacrifice of blood with him, which he offers for himself and for the errors and sins of ignorance and thoughtlessness which the people have committed. By this the Holy Spirit points out that the way into the [true Holy of] Holies is not yet thrown open as long as the former [the outer portion of the] tabernacle remains a recognized institution and is still standing, Seeing that that first [outer portion of the] tabernacle was a parable (a visible symbol or type or picture of the present age).In it gifts and sacrifices are offered, and yet are incapable of perfecting the conscience or of cleansing and renewing the inner man of the worshiper. For [the ceremonies] deal only with clean and unclean meats and drinks and different washings, [mere] external rules and regulations for the body imposed to tide the worshipers over until the time of setting things straight [of reformation, of the complete new order when Christ, the Messiah, shall establish the reality of what these things foreshadow—a better covenant].But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come.[Then] through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with [human] hands, that is, not a part of this material creation, He went once for all into the [Holy of] Holies [of heaven], not by virtue of the blood of goats and calves [by which to make reconciliation between God and man], but His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption (an everlasting release for us).For if [the mere] sprinkling of unholy and defiled persons with blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a burnt heifer is sufficient for the purification of the body, How much more surely shall the blood of Christ, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit [His own preexistent divine personality] has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God? [Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance—since a death has taken place which rescues and delivers and redeems them from the transgressions committed under the [old] first agreement (Hebrews 9:1-15, AMPC).
The ceremonies under the law were shadows of what was to come under the present age of grace.
Under the old covenant, man’s conscience could never be perfected by the continual sacrifices for sin.
In verse 14, “dead works” refers to our efforts to do something to deserve or earn God’s favor.
For a will and testament is valid and takes effect only at death, since it has no force or legal power as long as the one who made it is alive. So even the [old] first covenant (God’s will) was not inaugurated and ratified and put in force without the shedding of blood. For when every command of the Law had been read out by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of slain calves and goats, together with water and scarlet wool and with a bunch of hyssop, and sprinkled both the Book (the roll of the Law and covenant) itself and all the people, Saying these words: This is the blood that seals and ratifies the agreement (the testament, the covenant) which God commanded [me to deliver to] you. And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and all the [sacred] vessels and appliances used in [divine] worship. [In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins. By such means, therefore, it was necessary for the [earthly] copies of the heavenly things to be purified, but the actual heavenly things themselves [required far] better and nobler sacrifices than these.For Christ (the Messiah) has not entered into a sanctuary made with [human] hands, only a copy and pattern and type of the true one, but [He has entered] into heaven itself, now to appear in the [very] presence of God on our behalf. Nor did He [enter into the heavenly sanctuary to] offer Himself regularly again and again, as the high priest enters the [Holy of] Holies every year with blood not his own. For then would He often have had to suffer [over and over again] since the foundation of the world. But as it now is, He has once for all at the consummation and close of the ages appeared to put away and abolish sin by His sacrifice [of Himself].And just as it is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment, Even so it is that Christ, having been offered to take upon Himself and bear as a burden the sins of many once and for all, will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are [eagerly, constantly, and patiently] waiting for and expecting Him(Hebrews 9:17-28, AMPC).
The blood of animals sacrificed annually was a shadow of Jesus’ blood shed as the perfect eternal sacrifice.
Jesus will return, but not to deal with sin. He already took care of sin on the cross.
Under the old covenant, God kept track of everyone’s sins. When Jesus came, God stopped counting our sins against us. Jesus forgave all our sins, even the ones we had not committed yet.
Under the new covenant, we now can go to God directly, and the Holy Spirit leads us.
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (Hebrews 9:15-17).
Jesus had to die so that we could be recipients of the new agreement.
He not only died to put the new covenant in force, but He also rose from the dead to be the executor of this covenant.
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart (2 Corinthians 3:1-15).
“The ministration of death” refers to the Ten Commandments.
The law was given to show us our sins and make us realize we need God.
Under the old covenant, the Ten Commandments were the standard. Now, the standard for us is the Holy Spirit living in us and administering the new covenant.
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone… Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him (2 Corinthians 3:16, 18, MSG).
Jesus has removed the sin barrier that separated us from God. We now have direct access to Him.
We cannot keep the new covenant through our own efforts. It requires the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Our belief is the key to the entire new-covenant agreement.