A New Covenant (Hebrews, Part 1)
The letter to the Hebrews is one of the least preached, and therefore least understood books in the Bible. This is hardly surprising given that Hebrews is steeped in the obscure traditions of the Old Covenant liturgy and typology. Nevertheless, it emphasises the centrality of Christ and his death and resurrection to our faith.
The essential message of Hebrews is quite simply that the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the person of Christ who has established the New Covenant. The writer explains how Jesus Christ is greater than Moses and the prophets; how he out-ranks the angels and the priesthood of Aaron, and how he supersedes the entire Old Covenant law and culture. However, Jesus does not simply abolish and cast aside all these things; rather he fulfils and completes them. Jesus is not just another prophet who points us to God—he is God. He is not merely a priestly representative representing us to God—he is the intersection of divine and human life. Whatever reason the Old Covenant worshippers had for confidence; in Christ we have more.
Yet so often the church has fallen back into the well-worn wheel ruts of the Old Covenant. It is as instinctive as breathing to lapse into old forms of religious piety that separates God and humanity—that keeps God at a manageable arm’s length—that makes worship an external exercise. The writer to the Hebrews won’t have it thus. He makes it perfectly clear that there is now a new priest and leader of our worship—Christ himself. God and humanity are now forever connected; God is in the room with us—inside us and us in Him—our ethical response works from inside out.
Worship is now something we join in Christ, not initiate in ourselves. This affects every aspect of our worship. In Christ we get to participate in the life and love between the Father and the Son in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Worship is no longer a us reaching up to God, it is a celebration of God who has reached out and touched humanity in the body of Jesus Christ. This changes everything and that ‘everything changed’ is what the writer to the Hebrews was attempting to communicate.