Summary: # 25 in series on Hebrews. A comparison of Mt Sinai - the law, with Mt Zion - representing grace.
A Study of Hebrews
“Jesus Is Better”
Sermon # 25
“Grace Is Better Than The Law”
The key thought of Hebrews is seen in the word “better” and our whole series has been “Jesus is Better.” Throughout this book we have seen the superiority of Jesus displayed; Jesus is better than the Old Covenant, Jesus is better than the Prophets, Jesus is better the angels, Jesus is better than anything that can be imagined. Now the writer again points out that Jesus is better, in that, the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. Grace is infinitely better than the law.
In Galatians 3 the Apostle Paul had some very stern words for those who have added works to salvation. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (2) This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (3) Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3) Paul says, I just have one question, “Were you saved by keeping the law?” The answer of course is No! Why then would anyone wish to add some legalistic requirement to salvation or the Christian life?
The writer of Hebrews also addresses the problem of legalism in 12:18-29. Here he points out that Legalism takes the individual back to Mt Sinai, where the law was given.
“Every man or woman will be judged based on one of two bases. Either they will be judged by the law or by grace; by their works or by Christ’s work; by the provisions of Sinai or by the provisions of Mt. Zion. God has two sets of books. In one is recorded the names of all those who have rejected God, in the other the names of those who have accepted Him through his Son, Jesus Christ (Rev 20:12). The saved are in the book of Life, sometimes called the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 13:8). Those who whose names are in this book will be judged by what Christ has done on their behalf.” [John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews. (Chicago: Moody, 1983) p. 410]
We have before us this morning the God of Mt Sinai and the God of Mt. Zion. Some biblical scholars today dismiss the God of Old Testament as God of wrath and terror and say that the New Testament version of God demonstrated in the person of Jesus as a God of Love, is the right perspective. But we do not have two different Gods, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, but the same God revealing two different aspects of His power and two ways to approach God.
Two contrasting pictures are introduced with opposite expressions, (v. 18) says “for you have not come” and (v. 22) says “but you have come.” If a person wants to meet God on the basis of their works then it’s back to Mt. Sinai they must go and when they do there are certain things they need to understand.
How to Approach God (12:18-21)
• Mt. Sinai– The Mountain of Fear (vv. 18-21)
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, (19) and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (20) For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” (21) And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”
Although the author of Hebrews never mentions Sinai by name it is clearly this mountain he has in view, for Mt Sinai is the place where God appeared to Moses and the children of Israel in Exodus 19-30 to give them the law. Mt. Sinai was untouchable, unapproachable and so off limits to the people that God commanded Moses to set up a boundary around the mountain so that the people might not accidentally walk into God’s presence and be consumed because of their sin.
Moses led his people to the foot of Mt. Sinai and according to Exodus 19:18-19 this is what they saw. “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. (19) And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.”