The blood of the covenant

The blood of the covenant – a sermon on Hebrews 9:8-28 by Rev. Ralph Adams.

Text: Heb. 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Some things just cannot be changed. The Christian faith just cannot be re-written to satisfy opinions that may have changed over time. The image of Jesus with blood dripping from His wounds is fundamental to the Christian message. So too, is the fact that our beginnings lie solidly in the Old Testament. The words of Hebrews 9, verse 22 proclaim an unavoidable truth—“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Behind this was God speaking through Ezekiel, “The soul who sins shall die.” Paul went on to add his beautiful doxology, 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God gave the O.T. sacrificial system to His people to allow them to deal with sin in the covenant community. Through the incessant sprinkling of blood, His intent was to teach that sin demands the shedding of blood. This was pointing unashamedly to one particular sacrifice still to come. Yet to critics of Christianity in our day, it all seems unnecessarily gruesome, and repulsive. John Philips points out: “Today many look with revulsion on the shedding of blood that formed such an essential feature of the Old Testament religion. They consider with equal horror the New Testament’s teaching concerning Christ’s blood. They shudder with abhorrence at many of the gospel hymns that emphasize the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Those who thus scorn the shed blood have their eyes blinded both to God’s blazing holiness and to the dreadful… nature of sin. Sin is a radical and terrible reality that calls for a radical and terrible cure.”

People with such a critical view will shudder at the reading of our Bible passage today, for if any passage in the Bible revels in the blood of Jesus Christ, this is the one. Hebrews 9 shows why the crucifixion of Christ was not only necessary but is also a source of marvellous joy and strength to believers.

The blood of God’s own Son is the price He paid for our forgiveness. You can see from this that forgiveness is not cheap. God bought our forgiveness with the blood of His own Son. Forgiveness is not just a matter of God looking down and saying, “I like you a lot… and because you did some good stuff this week, I’ll let you off the hook.” God’s holiness and sense of justice will not allow Him to overlook sin. Sin demands someone’s death. And the only death great enough to pay for our sins is the death of Jesus.

According to Richard Phillips, “The writer to the Hebrews [is comparing] the Old Testament [religion with] Christianity… [his] conclusions are summed up in the phrase in (v.11), “the good things that have come” [when] compared to the provisional and shadowy order of the earlier time.”

For us, the important thing to remember is that this Writer to the Hebrews is addressing Jews. He’s comparing the saving power of the Old Covenant with that of the New. He’s demonstrating how Jesus’ once for all ‘sacrifice for sins’ is far superior to all the ongoing sacrifices offered by the Old Testament priests.

We shall now look at this more closely under three points: