I have entitled my sermon today “Better!” I have done this not because I lack creativity, but because I want to drive home the truth that everything about Christianity is BETTER! That is the whole point of the book of Hebrews and especially chapter 8. Remember, some in this community of believers were being tempted to leave Christianity and go back to Judaism or Paganism. We face the same temptation today. Just as in the 1st century, today in the 21st century Christianity is a mark of low social status. In an editorial this week in Patheos, the author writes:
In the middle of the 20th century, [the low social status of Christianity] was more difficult to see … after all, during that period America was still dominated by a form of Christianity as its civil religion. Some religious figures were widely admired, Billy Graham being the most obvious example. Millions of people still attended church.
But, even then, in elite circles, Christian belief was a mark of low status. In such places, traditional Christian belief was largely considered the province of the weak, the bourgeois, the misinformed, the gullible or the wicked .
[Consequently,] Christianity has become marginalized because Christian belief has become an obstacle to getting what most people want: social status and the privileges which accompany it.
This “soft persecution” was exactly the temptation that was causing people to leave the church then and now. In addition, “soft persecution” can quickly turn to “hard persecution.” You see, once it becomes socially acceptable to view Christians as “as social rejects” it is very easy to move to the next step and see them as a “threat to society,” which must be controlled if not eliminated.
It is in this environment that the author of Hebrews wants to remind his readers that Christianity is BETTER! The grass is NOT greener on the other side! We have a BETTER Priesthood! We have a BETTER Tabernacle! We have a BETTER Covenant!
Chapter 8 begins where we have already been—Jesus is a BETTER priest.
A BETTER Priest
A BETTER Priest
Verses 1-2 act as a transition, they read...
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
You probably notice that by saying Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” the author is once again making an allusion to Psalm 110:1:
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1 is the most frequently cited Old Testament verse in the New Testament. Clearly, the early church saw this Messianic prophecy as extremely important. Being at God’s right hand is testimony to Jesus’ authority and position.
To be at the right hand of a king was to hold a position and authority second only to the king. This is why we find the disciples frequently fighting over who would be seated at Jesus’ right hand.
By saying that Jesus is at God’s right hand, the author is saying that is Jesus superior to all others. The main point of Hebrews 4:14-7:28 is that Jesus has been appointed to a superior order of priesthood—the order of Melchizedek.
This message that Jesus is superior dominates the book of Hebrews and for good reason. The world sees Jesus and His followers as inferior. It is very easy to lose sight of the superiority of Jesus and turn to the ways of this world. This “inferiority” complex is what drove the liberals in the 19th and 20th centuries to abandon biblical Christianity and replace it with a “modern Christianity” totally devoid of the supernatural. This is what is driving the Millennial generation to abandon the church and what is driving the few remaining to create “hipster” churches.
Of course the world is not impressed. Christians will never be the “cool kids” in the social pecking order of the world. We might as well admit it and boldly proclaim, “Jesus is BETTER!”
If Jesus is a BETTER priest, then He must serve in...
A BETTER Tabernacle
A BETTER Tabernacle
Let’s turn our attention back to the text:
a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
As we learned in Hebrews 7, Jesus was not a priest according to the order of Aaron. He was not from the tribe of Levi, but of Judah. Therefore, He cannot serve in the Temple in Jerusalem, nor can He offer animal sacrifices there.
This however is not a disadvantage, because He serves as high priest, not in the earthly temple located in Jerusalem, but in the Heavenly Tabernacle located in heaven! The author reminds his readers that the earthly tabernacle set up by Moses was never the “true tent” of God. He cites Exodus 25:40 as proof of this.
And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.
Notice that the Tabernacle was made after a “pattern.” What Moses was shown on Mt. Sinai was the true Heavenly Tabernacle. It was this Tabernacle that Moses’ Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple were patterned after and this Heavenly Tabernacle is where Jesus now serves as our Great High Priest!
The Temple in Jerusalem was very impressive, as were the pagan temples scattered around the Roman Empire. Seeing these temples was a great temptation to the early Christians. They met in homes, they didn’t even have church buildings! There was once a time that the most impressive buildings in our cities were our churches, but not any more! Go to New York City, the churches there are dwarfed by the skyscrapers. It has been said that skyscrapers are the “cathedrals” of the modern world. The message is clear—the church is inferior.
But the church is not inferior. Our church buildings are NOT the House of God. Our true place of worship is in heaven! Our bodies my be in this building this morning, but our spirits are united to Christ. Consequently, God has...
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
So brothers and sister, be encouraged we have a BETTER Tabernacle!
Finally we have...
A BETTER Covenant
A BETTER Covenant
We find this in Hebrews 8:6-7.
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
In returning to the Old Covenant, the author of Hebrews is warning them that they are making a grave mistake—they are leaving a faultless covenant for one that is with faults. The author cites Jeremiah 31:31-34 to prove his point.
The very fact that there is a need for a New Covenant show that the Old Covenant is not adequate. It is not adequate because it cannot produce the obedience and holiness God requires. Later in his letter/sermon the author of Hebrews urges his readers to “strive for…holiness without which on one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) In John vision recorded in the book of Revelation we learn this about the Heavenly Jerusalem that will come down to earth:
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
So there is only one way to enter that BETTER Tabernacle where Jesus is—the perfect holiness that Christ gives us and produces in us by the Holy Spirit.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Now this is in sharp contrast to the Old Covenant.
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
Because the Law was written on stone, rather than on the heart, Israel continually broke covenant with God, with the result being their relationship with God was broken: God “showed no concern for them.”
In contrast to this broken relationship, under the New Covenant, every believer will “know the Lord” and God will be merciful to them.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
The author of Hebrews concludes by saying...
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
So in conclusion, while the world views the Christian faith as inferior, the exact opposite is true: We have a BETTER Priesthood! We have a BETTER Tabernacle! We have a BETTER Covenant!
But that is not all—We have a BETTER Sacrifice! This we will learn about in Hebrews 9-10.
Let us pray.