Summary: A sermon of "pastoral clarification" showing the superiority of the covenant of grace.
THE NEW COVENANT AND THE OLD LAW: A PASTORAL CLARIFICATION
• Reading from the Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:31-34
• Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 40:4-8
• Epistle: Hebrews 8:7-13
• Reading from the Gospels: Matthew 9:14-16
Heb 8:7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
Heb 8:8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
Heb 8:9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
Heb 8:10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Heb 8:11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.
Heb 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Heb 8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
It seems inevitable to me that anyone who speaks week after week will, at times, miscommunicate and be misunderstood. It is the nature of such a vocation.
As a pastor, I know this happens. I will, for example, say something I assume will be understood properly by everyone yet someone “hears” me to say something I did not intend.
It is my sincerest desire as a communicator of the Gospel and God’s Word to rightly discern and proclaim the Scriptures. When there is confusion, I am more than willing to stop and explain.
The last few sermons from Hebrews have produced some new ways of understanding our covenant relationship with God … and some confusion. I want very much to make the Scriptures clear to you because I am convinced their truth will set you free. That is never more true than in relation to God’s covenant relationship with us through Christ. I cannot, in any series of sermons, answer all your questions (however I would be glad to on a one-on-one basis throughout the week) but when I receive an unusual amount of queries regarding the same issue I am eager to call a “time out” and address the issue again. This seems to be the case with recent sermons on covenant and law … particularly when I have said things like “You do not have to keep the Ten Commandments to go to heaven.”
May I simply take today’s sermon time to explain what the New Testament teaches about the law, grace, and covenant? I think I can clear up some confusion and, in the process, give you reason to revel in the grace of God through Christ.
THE LAW OF MOSES
My conversation with you about covenant must begin with a clarification of the term “law” and / or “Law of Moses;” particularly their use in the New Testament.
I am persuaded that when the New Testament speaks of “law” that the writers are speaking of the entire Law of Moses (the Torah or the Pentateuch). Some assume that it is speaking of simply the Ten Commandments. Others assume it is speaking of the ceremonial and civic laws. But there is no evidence in the New Testament that Paul (or any other writer intended) to separate the law in this fashion. In fact, I think Hebrews suggests that they are inherently tied together. One “division” of the law requires the others to function properly.
There are seven places in the New Testament where the term “The Law of Moses” is mentioned. They are:
1. Luke 2:22: "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord." Here, the Law of Moses includes rituals regarding uncleanness after childbirth. They are known as “purification rituals” and are an intricate component of the law and were expected to be strictly enforced.
2. Luke 24:44: Jesus, after his resurrection, said to his disciples: "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Jesus states that the Law of Moses includes prophecies about the Messiah. They are found within the “Torah” also known as “the law” or “Law of Moses.”