Hebrews 8:6
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry's etc. In these words the writer states in brief what he at once proceeds to illustrate and establish at considerable length, from this point on to Hebrews 10:18. We may perhaps with advantage take a general glance at these three better things, leaving their particular examination until summoned to it by the development of the Epistle.

I. THE BETTER MINISTRY. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry" than the high priests of the Jewish Church. The proposition of the text is that our Lord's ministry is as much better than theirs as the new covenant is better than the old, and the new covenant is better than the old because it has been enacted upon better promises. His ministry is that of our great High Priest, or, in the word used in the text, our Mediator. Let us mention a few particulars in which this ministry of his is more excellent than that of the Jewish high priests.

1. Because it is exercised in a higher sphere. They ministered in the material tabernacle and temple, and for a brief season once a year were permitted to enter the holy of holies where God manifested his presence by a symbol; but these were only copies and shadows of the heavenly realities. Our Savior is a Minister of the heavenly" sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." He "appears before the face of God for us."

2. Because it extends to greater numbers. The ministry of the Jewish high priests was exercised for the Jews only. It was limited to their own race, and to the proselytes to their religion. But the ministry of Jesus Christ is for all mankind. He "tasted death for every man." He is the "Mediator between God and men" of every nationality, and every race, and every age, etc.

3. Because it is enduring. The ministry of individual Jewish high priests ended at their death, if not before; and that ministry as an institution waxed old and vanished away. But the ministry of our great High Priest is of perpetual vitality and efficacy. His mediation will never be superseded, never lose its attractiveness and glory, until man is fitted to approach God without a mediator.

4. Because it secures richer results. These results, or some of them at least, are referred to in the "better promises." The results of the ministry of the Aaronic priesthood, like its functions, were to a great extent symbolic and shadowy rather than essential and real. But through the ministry of the Christ we obtain real benefits and essential blessings: e.g. reconciliation with God, forgiveness, etc.

II. THE BETTER COVENANT. "He is the Mediator of a better covenant." But what are we to understand by the word "covenant"? As used in human relations it denotes a compact or agreement between two or more parties, who are equal, each of whom has the right to propose alterations in the terms of the compact, and to accept or reject such terms. In this sense there can be no covenant between God and man; for there is no equality between the parties, and man cannot reject any requirement of God without committing sin. Perhaps it is for this reason that the word which strictly signifies covenant is not used in the New Testament. But as applied to God and man the "covenant denotes his method of revealing himself to men, and his will concerning their salvation, his arrangement of agencies and means and conditions by which they may be saved. The word 'covenant' becomes appropriate in view of the solemn assent and consent with which man accepts God's proposal, involved in his scheme or plan. In this context the 'old covenant' is the scheme revealed to Israel under Moses; the 'new' is the gospel scheme involving the gift and work of both the Son and the Spirit of God." The old covenant was good, as our text implies. It originated in the grace of God. It involved on his part condescension towards man. It was designed and fitted to benefit and bless and save man. It promised life and blessing to those who complied with its terms; and its promises were true. But the new covenant is very much better than the old. This will appear when we come to notice the "better promises." At present we mention only two aspects of its superiority.

1. It presents a more spiritual revelation of the character and will of God. Under the old covenant nearly everything was expressed by means of material forms and symbols - nearly everything appealed to the senses. Its laws, its ritual, its promised blessings, pertained largely to the visible, the sensuous, and the temporal. It was a revelation suited to the childhood and youth of our race. But the new covenant gives us a more spiritual manifestation of the Divine mind and will; it is a revelation for the manhood of our race. It proclaims the spirituality of God and of his worship. It writes the Divine law upon men's hearts. It promises spiritual blessings.

2. It is a fuller expression of the grace of God. (Cf. John 1:14-18; Romans 3:24; Romans 5:21; Romans 6:14.) The next division of our subject will show us that there is more of Divine grace manifested in the new than in the old covenant.

III. THE BETTER PROMISES. "A better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises." The promises which the writer has chiefly in view are those mentioned in vers. 10-12. Let us mention some of these better promises of the new covenant.

1. It proffers strength to comply with its own conditions. The old covenant promised blessings to the obedient; the new promises blessings to enable us to render obedience. The Holy Spirit is promised to incline our hearts to the good, to strengthen us for duty, etc.

2. Justification for the sinner on condition of faith in Jesus Christ. (Cf. Romans 3:20-26; Romans 10:5-10; Galatians 3:10-14.)

3. Sanctification of the believer by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. John 14:16-18, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15; Romans 15:13, 16; 2 Corinthians 3:18.) 4. Glorification of his people forever in the future state. (Cf. Romans 8:17, 18, 30; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 5:10.) Verily, these are better promises than those of the old covenant. And the covenant to which they belong is far better than the old one. By so much, also, is our Lord's ministry better than that of the Aaronic high priests. Let us give earnest heed to secure our personal interest in this new and "better covenant." - W.J.







Mediator of a better covenant.
I. THE GOSPEL-DISPENSATION UNDER WHICH WE LIVE IS PROPERLY A COVENANT.

1. What we are to understand by a covenant in general.

2. What by the covenant of grace in particular.

3. Illustrate two or three particular points which have created some doubts and difficulties in this subject.

4. Consider some of the peculiar titles and distinguishing properties of this covenant.

II. JESUS CHRIST IS THE MEDIATOR OF THIS COVENANT.

1. The proper office of a mediator.

2. Christ's peculiar qualification for this high office of Mediator between God and man.

3. His accomplishment of it.

4. How admirably this constitution is founded in the Divine grace and wisdom.

5. What regards are due to Christ under this character of Mediator.(1) Does He not deserve and most justly claim all our love, our superlative and most ardent esteem?(2) What exalted honour, adoration, and praise are due from us to Him, who was so wonderfully qualified for this high office by the hypostatical or personal union of the Divine and human natures.(3) As Mediator of the new covenant, let us readily trust Him with all our spiritual and everlasting interests.(4) As our Mediator, we are humbly to seek to Him for that grace, which must make us meet for His salvation; for His awakening grace, to make us more sensible of our guilt and need of Him; for His quickening grace, to encourage, direct, and strengthen us in the way to eternal life.(5) As our Mediator, we are to perform every part of religious worship in His name. He is our way to the Father.

III. THE GOSPEL DISPENSATION IS A BETTER COVENANT THAN THAT UNDER WHICH THE JEWS LIVED.

1. Because it contains better terms. Repentance, faith, and sincere obedience are called the terms of the covenant, not only because they are the requisites on which the promised blessings of the covenant are suspended, but because they are of themselves essentially necessary to qualify us to partake of them.

2. Because it affords better helps or assistances.(1) The method of worship under the gospel is more easy, rational, and spiritual.(2) The revelation we enjoy is more plain, full, and extensive.(3) The Divine aids offered to us are more particular, ample, and effectual.

3. Because it is founded on better promises.(1) Because they are the promises of better things; or the subjects of them are more excellent, sublime, and glorious.(2) The promises of the gospel are more plain, clear, and explicit than those of the legal covenant.(3) The promises of the gospel are not only more clear, but more numerous and extensive than those of the Jewish dispensation.(4) Another thing which gives the pre-eminence to the promises of our covenant, is that they are all ratified and confirmed to us in Christ, the Mediator of it.

(John Mason, M. A.)

I. The Christian dispensation, or the New Testament, though it be a rich discovery of grace, YET IT CONTAINS THE FAIREST AND FULLEST REPRESENTATION OF THE MORAL LAW. That law, which is of eternal obligation upon all mankind, is more particularly explained here than in any of the former dispensations.

II. In the Christian dispensation THE GOSPEL OR COVENANT OF GRACE IS REVEALED MORE PERFECTLY AND PLAINLY THAN EVER BEFORE; not in obscure expressions, in types, and carnal metaphors, but in its own proper form and language, i.e., as a covenant relating to things spiritual and eternal.

III. THE RITES AND CEREMONIES which are superadded to the covenant of grace, in the Christian dispensation of it, ARE MUCH PREFERABLE TO THOSE IN FORMER TIMES, and that in three respects; they are fewer, they are clearer, and they are much more easy.

IV. THE SON OF GOD, WHO WAS THE REAL MEDIATOR OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE THROUGH ALL FORMER DISPENSATIONS, HAS CONDESCENDED TO BECOME THE VISIBLE MEDIATOR OF THIS DISPENSATION.

V. THIS DISPENSATION OF THE GOSPEL is not confined to one family, or to one nation, or to a few ages of men, but it SPREADS THROUGH ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH, AND REACHES TO THE END OF TIME.

VI. I might add here some OTHER CHARACTERS OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION, which the apostle gives it in 2 Corinthians 3., whereby he exalts it above all the religion of the Jews, and especially far above the Sinai covenant.

VII. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS AND PERSUASIVE HELPS WHICH CHRISTIANITY GIVES US TO FULFIL THE DUTIES OF THE COVENANT ARE MUCH SUPERIOR TO THOSE WHICH WERE ENJOYED UNDER ANY OF THE FORMER DISPENSATIONS. NOW these consist chiefly in examples and motives.

1. Do examples invite us to our duty, and by a soft and secret influence encourage and lead us on to the performance of it? Such indeed were the names of Abraham and David, each in their day a happy pattern to their several ages; but in my opinion all the praises which are due to David and Abraham fall far short of the labours and sufferings, the zeal and patience, the holiness and the love of St. Paul. And not one of them is to be compared with the more excellent and perfect pattern of Jesus Christ.

2. Let us next consider our various motives to duty under the New Testament. Are the motives of love and gratitude powerful principles to encourage and persuade us to every active service? Such indeed were the blessings and gifts which God bestowed on men under former dispensations. But what were all those gifts and blessings in comparison of the unspeakable gift of His own Son, to die as a sacrifice in our stead, which is one of the chief themes and glories of the Christian revelation? Are the promises and threatenings of God another set of motives to duty? Do the awful glories and terrors of a future and eternal world work upon all the springs of our activity and diligence by hope and fear? Yes, certainly, in a high degree. But the former dispensations had but few of these eternal terrors and glories, these threatenings and promises relating to an invisible state.

(Isaac Watts, D. D.)

I. THE GENERAL NOTION OF A COVENANT OF GOD WITH MAN. By a covenant among men we understand an agreement or compact, by which the parties bind themselves, and each the other, to the fulfilment of certain conditions. Now, when we speak of a covenant of God with men, one important difference is to be observed. In this case there is no natural equality between the parties. God wills, and man must obey. But. this revealed mind and purpose of God is called a covenant, because —

1. As respects God, He who has no rule of action but His own will is pleased hereby to bind Himself, in His dealings with men, to the observance of certain specified terms.

2. As respects men. they are bound to fulfil the conditions herein prescribed to them, under pain of forfeiting the offered benefits, and incurring the attendant penalties. The covenant under which all men are born, as children of Adam, is that of works. It must be evident to every one, that if he be tried according to the letter of this covenant, there remains no hope for him before God, for he is a transgressor of it from the womb. And thus the Scriptures everywhere testify. We are led then to the inquiry: is there any other covenant or dispensation of God for His creatures, whereby (letting go the first, and laying hold on this) we may have that eternal life and blessedness which we have irrecoverably forfeited by the first? Such a covenant there is. The terms of it are fully made known to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the "glad tidings of great joy."

II. The particular features of this "BETTER COVENANT, which was established upon better promises."

1. Whereas in the old covenant something is required on the part of man, as a title to its privileges, this contemplates in him nothing but sins and unrighteousness, and lays the basis of all covenant good vouchsafed to him in the sovereign grace of God, a promise as large and unlimited as language can express of the free removal of sins, and that for ever. Herein is summed up all the grace of the covenant, that it supposes guilt of every kind and degree, in the objects of it, and meets them with this cheering assurance, I will be merciful to it, I will remember it no more. But has God, then, deserted His justice, in showing mercy to a sinner, and dishonoured His law by suffering the violation of it with impunity? God forbid! The condition of life under the new covenant is precisely that of the old — perfect obedience. But under the gospel this obedience is rendered for the sinner by his surety, and the life which is its due becomes his, not by working, but by believing. Christ has fulfilled the law for us. Mercy, therefore, to man is the jut reward of merit in Christ.

2. Mark another feature, no less distinguishing the gospel as a "ministration of glory." This is the exceeding fulness of its promised blessings (Romans 15:29).

(1)Divine renewal;

(2)Divine relationship;

(3)Divine illumination.

3. Its security. The effectual provision which God has made in it for the sure enjoyment of its rich benefits.

4. Its everlasting continuance. Hence it is expressly called " the everlasting covenant" (Hebrews 13:20).Lessons:

1. The overwhelming motives afforded us, by this covenant of grace, to walk before God in all holiness and godliness of living.

2. The grievous sin of those who carelessly neglect this covenant of grace, or obstinately refuse to close with it.

3. The abundant encouragement which this covenant holds out to the most guilty and desponding sinner to return to God and be at peace.

4. Lastly, let the established believer recognise in this covenant the charter of all his privileges. Ever rejoice, my Christian brethren, in your entire deliverance from the law of works as a means of obtaining life. Life is yours by free gift, covenant gift of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. Having the Son, you have life. Only abide, then, in Him, your Covenant Head, and walk worthy of your exalted privileges, in all holy and happy obedience.

(Francis Goode, M. A.)

The covenant of grace is, strictly speaking, made between God and Christ; and, in this view, is part of that great covenant of redemption, ordered from eternity between the persons of the Godhead. Man is a party to it only in the second instance, as he is viewed in Christ, coming in for the blessings of it by his surety's fulfilment of its terms. To Him we are indebted for its grace; and through Him alone it has all its efficacy in the experience of redeemed sinners.

I. Consider it As IT BEGAN IN ETERNITY. As there never was a moment in which God was not, so never was there a moment in which this grace to man was not the determinate counsel and object of delight of the Eternal mind. The purpose of redemption was not (as many unworthily think of it) a purpose conceived only when man fell, to remedy a mischief never contemplated till then. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." Rather, the whole mystery of grace in the gospel, yea, creation itself, with all its consequences, is a result of the purpose of God to make, in the person of Christ, the most illustrious display, before all intelligent creatures, of the glories of the Divine nature, by man's redemption.

II. As IT WAS CARRIED ON UPON EARTH With His incarnation commenced that active ministry of which the apostle is here speaking as "more excellent" than that of Aaron, above which it is one great object of this Epistle to exalt it. The main intention of this earthly ministry of Christ was to make atonement.

1. It was the life of a sinless Being, and so was altogether unforfeited; it was that which He had to give to God, in exchange for His people, who are therefore called "the purchased possession" (Ephesians 1:14); the law of God had no claim upon it, except as He voluntarily subjected Himself to its curse for us.

2. While it was human life, it was life taken into union with Deity; and so it was not only of infinite value, but this Priest as well as Victim possessed in Himself infinite ability both to lay it down and to take it again.

3. But let us look at the effect of this atonement which Christ, as our High Priest, made for the sins of men, in reference to the covenant of which we are treating. The blood of Jesus Christ is represented by Himself, and throughout this Epistle, as the ratification of the covenant.

III. AS IT IS COMPLETED IN HEAVEN (Hebrews 6:20).

1. His intercession above gives efficacy to His offering of Himself on earth.

2. His mediatorial dominion. He holds the reign of universal empire. Heaven, earth, and hell — all things in all worlds — obey His sovereign will.

(Francis Goode, M. A.)

The whole analogy of nature removes all imagined presumption against the notion of a "Mediator between God and man." For we find all living creatures are brought into the world, and that life is infancy is preserved, by the instrumentality of others, and every satisfaction of it. some way or other, is bestowed by the like means.

(Bp. Butler.)

The general meaning of the word διαθήκη, covenant, is a Divine institution for man; it is not συνθήκη, or compact between two parties. God has the ordering of all, and therefore covenant and dispensation are really the same.

(W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Established upon better promises.
In the promises there are these two things, the matter and the manner. As for matter and substance, the promises were all one in the Old and New Testament, that is Christ, and eternal salvation by Him. But ours in respect of the manner are better and excel theirs.

1. Their promises were included within the narrow compass of Judea; our promises are blazed all the world over.

2. Their promises were published by men, by the patriarchs, prophets, which were but servants; ours by Christ the Son of God.

3. They according to God's promise had the graces of the Spirit as we have, yet not in such abundant measure as they be now poured out in the time of the gospel.

4. Their promises were dark and obscure, covered under the veil of many ceremonies, and shadowed out by temporal things; our promises are more clear and evident.

5. Theirs were at the delivery of the law with a condition, "Do this and live. Cursed be he that continueth not in all things," &c. Ours "Believe and live."

6. The sacraments, whereby the promises were confirmed unto them, were more hard and difficult: the cutting off the foreskin, the preparing of a lamb for every house; ours are more easy and familiar: the sprinkling of a little water, or the dipping in the water, the procuring of bread and wine.

7. Their promises were of things to come: there should come a Lamb that should take away the sins of the world; ours are of things already come and exhibited. This Lamb is come, and hath offered up Himself on the altar of the cross for us.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

Every promise is built upon four pillars: God's justice and holiness, which will not suffer Him to deceive; His grace or goodness, which will not suffer Him to forget; His truth, which will not suffer Him to change; His power, which makes Him able to accomplish.

(H. G. Salter.)

The promises which God hath made are a full storehouse of all kind of blessings; they include in them both the upper and nether springs, the recycle, of this life and of that which is to come: there is n- good that can present itself as an object to our desires or thoughts, of which the promises are not a ground for faith to believe and hope to expect the enjoyment of.

(H. Spurstowe.)

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