Summary: Christians have a New Covenant.
THE NEW COVENANT
Hebrews 8:1-13; 10:1
By Cleavon Matthews
March 26, 2006
There was a time when you knew what a church believed simply by it’s name or association. But now in our postmodern day many churches have dropped their denominational names and associations disguising themselves with more inviting user and seeker friendly names.
Also in this postmodern era there has been a shift in the language and terminology regarding the vocabulary of the religious community. Dynamic phrases and terms such as anointing, covenant, harvest, seed, miracle, and pastor have recently gained prominence and popularity. The adoption of church names including: fellowship, faith, ministry, new life, and believers have developed.
In desperate attempts to attract non-church goers many churches have appealed to the felt and perceived needs of people. Christianity has been commercialized. Church has become another suggested alternative to temporarily satisfy the wants and aches of the hurting. People at crossroads and crisis are often advised to start going to church! But which church among the thousands should they attend? If they need counseling then the ideal church would provide it. If they are having family problems then obviously a church with a strong family emphasis is preferable. If they are single then a church with a strong singles group is of course recommended. If they are into the cutting edge of technology and hip hop then there is a church for them!
Perhaps the shift in vocabulary and religious terminology is a reflection of the changes in the attitudes and motives of church leaders and church goers. Church goers have felt needs and church leaders recommend their churches as the solution! Unfortunately a solid Biblical understanding of these terms often does not accompany their flippant use. Many religious groups have begun to emphasize the great biblical idea of covenant and many churches have incorporated the term covenant into their name. The term ‘Covenant’ has even made its way into the social domain. ‘The Covenant with Black America’ has made it onto the New York Times Best Seller List! And although it appears to contain good ideas to address the social injustices in America; there is no saving power in the 10 Covenants!
The letter to the Hebrews was written in order to push and urge God’s people forward. Some where turning back and contemplating a departure from the faith because the demands of Christianity were challenging. Persecution was real and in an attempt to circumvent chastisement many considered opting for a lesser religion. They wanted a religion based on their felt needs rather than God’s plan.
The same thing is prominent in this period of history. Most people base their religious and spiritual decisions on felt needs or perceptions rather than God’s word. However if we would abandon our felt needs and think seriously while listening closely to God’s message we would be immersed with His truth, saturated with His wisdom, humbled by His holiness, astonished by His glory, and satisfied by His sacrifice.
Again covenant is one of those terms being thrown around today. What is a covenant? A covenant is a contract or agreement between two parties. A covenant is a formal agreement or treaty between two parties with each assuming some obligation. A covenant is an agreement between two parties involving mutual obligations; especially the arrangement that established the relationship between God and His people, expressed in grace first with Israel and then with the church.
When the covenant is between God and man God is always the initiator. God initiated covenant with Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the church. In other words man cannot put God under obligation. God alone obligates Himself to man. If man does not keep his responsibility he becomes a covenant-breaker (Romans 1:31). But concerning God the Scripture says, ‘let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath, said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Hebrews 13:5).
The Hebrew writer does not want the people of God to become covenant-breakers by abandoning the New Covenant and returning to the Old Covenant. In Hebrews a striking contrast is made between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
I.THE OLD COVENANT WAS EXCLUSIVE
In approximately 1500 B.C. God initiated the Old Covenant in Horeb on Mount Sinai with Israel. This is recorded in Deuteronomy 5:1ff. This covenant was made with Israel and not the Patriarchs (5:3). The Old Covenant was exclusive (Ephesians 2:12). It was a covenant of mutual obligation.
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said: ’I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. ’You shall have no other gods before Me. ’You shall not make for yourself any carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,”