Hebrews tells of new covenant

By Leonart Laurialt: Church of Christ

The short (13: 22, unless otherwise indicated, scripture references are from Hebrews) Hebrews letter, mainly demonstrates the superiority of Jesus and his new covenant over the old covenant (8: 6-13). Today, God speaks through Jesus, who’s equally God and provided purification for our sins (1: 1-14). Sin results in physical and spiritual death (Romans 3: 23; 6: 23; Revelation 20: 11-15; 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10). Satan uses fear of death against us, but Jesus shared our humanity and tasted both physical and spiritual death for our sins (2: 9-18; 9: 15; Matthew 27: 45-51). There were good things in the old covenant, but they were limited because they had only an external effect until Jesus established the new covenant (9: 9-14; 10: 1-18). The blood of animals couldn’t clear one’s conscience or relieve our fear, but Jesus’ blood can.

Hebrews also is packed with information about becoming a Christian and living the Christian life. Basic instruction about salvation includes faith, repentance and baptism (6: 1-3; Ephesians 4: 4-6). The means by which men become pure to enter the temple and approach God today, no longer includes outward, fleshly circumcision and ceremonial washings symbolizing internal cleansing (Exodus 4: 24-26; Romans 2: 28, 29). Now, entering the temple of God (1 Corinthians 12: 12-14, 27; Colossians 1: 24; 2 Corinthians 6: 16), Jesus’ body, begins with the outward symbol of baptism (1 Peter 3: 18-22), which is when God circumcises our hearts (Colossians 2: 11, 12). The two are inseparable – you couldn’t be a Jew, one of God’s people under the old covenant, without being circumcised and you cannot be a Christian, a member of God’s household today, without submitting to baptism in water to wash away your sinful uncleanness (Acts 22: 16; John 13: 8-10). The old covenant blood of cleansing also was connected with water (9: 10; Exodus 12: 12-20).

We can only approach God through faith if our hearts are sprinkled with his blood to cleanse our conscience and our bodies are washed with water (7: 18, 19; 4: 14-16; 10: 19-23). It’s fine to have our hearts sprinkled, but we also must wash our bodies. Christians must do this for non-Christians (Matthew 28: 18-20) so they can be adopted into God’s family and approach him as their Father (Galatians 3: 26-29; 4: 4-7; Romans 8: 12-17).

God’s work in redemption is complete (4: 1-6; 9: 24-28; John 19: 28-30; Ephesians 1: 3-10), but ours isn’t. Jesus can save us completely and make us part of his family only if we pay careful attention and obey him (7: 25-28; 2: 1-4; 5: 7-9), which takes effort on our part (4: 7-11; Philippians 2: 12-18). The gospel is useless if obedience isn’t combined with faith (James 2: 24) and vice versa. Anyone refusing the command of God – the means by which he says we can approach him – will be rejected at the judgment (12: 18-29).
Having learned and obeyed the basic teachings, we are to mature as Christians (5: 11-14; 6: 7-12; 2 Peter 3: 18; Ephesians 4: 11-16), living a life that confesses Christ (3: 1-6; Matthew 10: 32, 33) and draws others into the family (1 Peter 2: 11, 12; 3: 15, 16). This level of faithfulness can be accomplished, as demonstrated by many before us (11: 1-39), because when we become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives (3: 7-19; Acts 2: 38, 39; 5: 32; Romans 8: 9; John 14: 15-21). He helps us understand God’s will revealed through his word (4: 12, 13; 1 Corinthians 2: 9-16); he convicts us regarding sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16: 7-15); and he intercedes for us (Romans 8: 26, 27). We must listen to the Spirit and not suppress him (Ephesians 4: 30; 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-22) so we won’t be disinherited (6: 4-6; 10: 26-39; 12: 14-17). We’re also to encourage one another to remember our God-given blessings and duties (10: 24, 25; Ecclesiastes 12: 13, 14).
Food and drink the Jews participated in as a reminder of their former slavery and shortcomings and God’s provision continues now as Christians remember Jesus sacrifice (12: 1-4; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-32), which is to be celebrated even more regularly (9: 6, 7; Acts 20: 7).

Christians and, especially, leaders are accountable to God for what they teach (13: 7-18; James 3: 1, 2). We all must follow Jesus’ example (1 Corinthians 11: 1), sharing in the suffering he bore outside the city. This is the basic teaching of how we come to him. If we’re united with him in his death through baptism, we’ll also be united with him in his resurrection (Romans 6: 3-11). Have you followed Jesus (Luke 14: 27)?