Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
The Great Possession.
I. Let us look at the reality of the fact. We have such an High Priest. It is not a matter of useless desire or of future hope, but of present accomplished possession.
II. The words affirm the singleness of the Person, and of the office He fulfils. "We have such an High Priest"—not many, but one, one and only one; so absolutely alone that it is blasphemy to arrogate any part of His work. Who shall dare to do what Christ is doing, and what room is there for human priests, when the Divine Priest ever liveth? It is as if a man bought a wretched taper to help the light of the noonday sun.
III. The words call attention strongly to the perfection of the high priesthood of Christ, the perfection of Him who fulfils it. "We have such an High Priest." Turn back to the preceding chapter, and you will find that the Apostle enumerates beauty after beauty in Christ, as if he were gathering together a cluster of jewels to deck His crown of glory. It is singular, when we read the passage carefully, how we find it crowded with insignia of honour. In human priests, if the most extravagant claims were admitted, it would yet be true that the dignity is only in the office, and not in the men. But when we turn to the true High Priest, how different it is. Here is not only the glory of the office, but the glory of the Person, infinitely qualified in His Deity to stand between the justice of God and the whole human race. He is no mere dying man like an earthly priest, but clothed with the power of an endless life. He does not fill a delegated office, like earthly priests, but fulfils His own office, and that so perfectly that He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him. Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne—come for pardon, come for peace, come for protection, come for sympathy, come for help here and glory hereafter, since we have such an High Priest.
E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 40.
The Crowning Point—Christ the High Priest in heaven.
I. Christ in heaven. This sums up all our faith. Here is our righteousness and our standing before God; here our storehouse of inexhaustible blessings, and of unsearchable riches; here our armoury, whence we obtain the weapons of our warfare; here is our citizenship and the hope of our glory. The right hand is the place of affection, as well as of honour and dignity. Christ is on the right hand of the Father, being His beloved Son, in whom He manifests His glory. The right hand is also the symbol of sovereign power and rule. Christ is Lord over all. Heaven being the locality of Christ's priesthood, it must needs be perfect, eternal, spiritual, and substantial. What are the things with which Christ is now occupied as a priest? In one respect He rests, because He finished His work upon the earth, and, therefore, He is described as sitting down on His Father's throne; His is now the perfect and peaceful rest of victory, for He has overcome. But, on the other hand, His is now a constant priestly activity.
II. If Christ is in heaven, we must lift up our eyes and hearts to heaven. There are things above. The things above are the spiritual blessings in heavenly places. The things above are also the future things for which we wait, seeing that our inheritance is not here upon earth. If our life is now hid with Christ in God, then, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with Him in glory. Our citizenship is in heaven, and Jesus, whom we now love and serve, will come to receive us unto Himself.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 1.
Hebrews 8:1-2The True Tabernacle.
I. The tabernacle has no fewer than three meanings: (1) In the first place, the tabernacle is a type, a visible illustration, of the heavenly place in which God has His dwelling. (2) The tabernacle is a type of Jesus Christ, who is the meeting-place between God and man. (3) The tabernacle is a type of Christ in the Church, of the communion of Jesus with all believers.
II. Our High Priest, by virtue of the one sacrifice, is in heaven. There can be only one temple. There was only one ark in the days of Noah, one tabernacle in the wilderness, one temple in Jerusalem. The forgiving, merciful, and glorious presence of Jehovah is manifested now in the throne on which Jesus is seated. Before the coming of Jesus, the shadow symbolised truth to believing worshippers. After the coming of Jesus, it must fade and vanish before the substance. If this is true of the Levitical priesthood, which was of Divine appointment, how much more fearful is the assumption of any priestly title, position, or function, during the new dispensation. All Christians are priests. To imitate a revival of that which God has Himself set aside by a fulfilment, perfect and glorious, is audacious, and full of peril to the souls of men. It is not even the shadow of a substance, but the unauthorised shadow of a departed shade.
III. We learn here of the wonderful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the minister of the sanctuary; He is still going on with His service. He has ascended into the holiest, into the region of perfection and glory; but not to forget us who are still in the wilderness. As he loved His own, even to the end, He loves them now, and throughout all the ages; and He will come again to receive us unto Himself.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 31.
References: Hebrews 8:1-3.—G. Huntingdon, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 223. Hebrews 8:1-5.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 358; R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 153.
Hebrews 8:1-2, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:10-12The New Covenant—Its Promises.
I. Pardon is the last named of the promises, but it is the first bestowed. The terms of the promise indicate two things respecting the blessing it holds forth, namely, its source and its fulness. (1) Its source—"I will be merciful to their unrighteousness." The source, then, of the promised pardon is the mercifulness of God. We mean, of course, its moral source, for its legal source is the atonement of Jesus Christ. (2) The fulness of mercy—"Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." This oblivion of transgression is a feature of the Divine pardon, much emphasized in Scripture, with a view no doubt of duly impressing men with the fact of its absolute entirety.
II. The intuitional knowledge of God assured by the better Covenant. The knowledge of God obtained through experience of His pardon is the grandest of all knowledge of Him. This is a knowledge of God that makes Him the predominant idea of the man's whole life, the supreme fact of his life, whether as regards its activities or its happiness.
III. The Divine kinship assured by the New Covenant. "God is not ashamed to be their God." He permits His people the utmost freedom in their assertion of the relationship. He holds it not in any way derogatory to His Divine dignity to be recognised as their Father. This relationship is in itself a guarantee of the fullest and most devoted service on their behalf.
IV. Observe the assurance which the better Covenant gives of a loving, childlike subjection to the Divine will. "I will put My laws in their minds, and will write them in their hearts." We see from this how completely the law of God, or the Divine will, becomes the motive power in the life of the divinely pardoned man, how wholly it assimilates his entire being, bringing it into beautiful harmony with the mind of God.
A. J. Parry, Phases of Christian Truth, p. 170.
References: Hebrews 8:2.—W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 1. Hebrews 8:5.—P. Brooks, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 344; Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 150; A. Johnson, Ibid., vol. xxxv., p. 356; S. Macnaughton, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 184.
Hebrews 8:6The New Covenant—The Superiority of Its Promises.
This superiority relates to two things—the quality of the promises and their certainty.
I. The Quality of the Blessings. (1) Note the greater excellence of the Christian blessings. The Jewish religion had its pardon, or something that passed for pardon; the superiority, however, of the pardon held forth by the gospel is indicated by the expression, "And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Contrast this statement with what is said respecting the method of dealing with sins under the Old Covenant: "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance of sins every year." In the one case we have the forgetting of sins, in the other the remembrance of them. The ancient pardon, then, was not really such, but only a kind of reprieve annually renewed, a kind of suspension of the sentence, not the removal or abrogation of it. It was in the nature of a ticket-of-leave transaction. A convict, through good behaviour, obtains a suspension of his punishment, but he is not pardoned; for one of the conditions of his liberty is that he report himself regularly at stated times to the authorities. There was only sufficient efficacy in the Jewish sacrifices to revive the memory of sin; but the infinite sacrifice of Christ, on the contrary, is of sufficient efficacy, not only to abolish the penalty of sin, but also to obliterate the very memory of it, in the sense we have explained, from the mind of God. (2) The greater excellence of the knowledge of God, assured by the New Covenant. (3) The greater excellence of the relationship between God and His people. (4) The greater excellence of the formative principle of the New Covenant.
II. The superior certainty of the promise of the New Covenant. The utmost assurance that these promises will be fully realised in the experience of every one who accepts Christ's salvation is given us in the fact that they are called by the term covenant. The term "promise" is merged in the term "covenant." This substitution of covenant for promise indicates the element of certainty belonging to the latter. To appreciate properly the nice use of terms by our author, we must bear in mind the difference between a promise and a covenant. A promise is the bare word; a covenant is the act which ratifies that word and guarantees its due performance. It is implied, then, by this designation "covenant," applied to the promises, that they are accompanied by guarantees for their due fulfilment. The promises of the gospel rest upon the atonement of Christ The grand and mighty act of sacrifice is the sure foundation whereon rest the Divine promises enumerated in the text.
A. J. Parry, Phases of Christian Truth, p. 184.
Hebrews 8:6-13The Blessings of the New Covenant.
I. The blessings of the New Covenant are all based upon the forgiveness of sin. God promises to put His laws into our minds, and write them upon our hearts, and to be to us a God, because He is merciful to our unrighteousness, and will remember our sins and iniquities no more. All our progress in the Divine life, and all the consolations of the Christian pilgrim, are rooted in this primary doctrine of forgiveness through faith in Jesus.
II. From Jesus, the Anointed, all Christians receive the Holy Ghost. They have, according to their name, the unction from above. Hence they possess the Teacher who guides unto all truth. Knowledge is within them. There is within them a well of living water. Every Christian knows himself individually, and that because he is taught of God; he relies not on the testimony of man; his faith stands in the power of God.
III. The personal knowledge of our God is the source of our spiritual life. It is our safeguard against error and against sin. It is the great and constant gift of God, the fruit of Christ's redemption. We now see and know God and His Son; we know Jesus, because Jesus always knows His sheep, revealing Himself unto them, and giving them guidance and life. This knowledge is nothing less than walking with God, walking in the light, praying without ceasing. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. In much darkness, amid many difficulties, and in constant warfare, we yet walk in the light of His countenance, until at last we shall see Him as He is, and know even as we are known.
A. Saphir, Lectures on Hebrews, vol. ii., p. 55.
References: Hebrews 8:6-13.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 359; R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 103. Hebrews 8:9-11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 83. Hebrews 8:10.—Good Words, vol. iii., p. 571; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ix., p. 231; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 52. Hebrews 8:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1685. Hebrews 8:13.—G. Dawson, Sermons on Disputed Points, p. 73.
A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.