When God speaks of “A new covenant,” He makes the first one obsolete.
And whatever is becoming obsolete (out of use, annulled)
and growing old is ready to disappear.
Sometimes I am amazed that in this supposedly "enlightened" age, we in the Body of Christ, can still be so confused about the meaning of Scripture. Hebrews 8:13 is one of those verses, that if not considered in the whole context of Jesus's mission on earth, can easily be misconstrued.
I have heard it explained that this verse is spoken in reference to "the Law". And we have to even be careful when using that terminology, because Christians conflate the Mosaic Law and God's Law, and tend to relegate "the Law" to the ceremonial system of rules God designed to direct the lives of the Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant. But the Law was more than the Ten Commandments which were embodied in the Mosaic Law given at Sinai. Those ten commandments were an extension of the eternal moral law of God as it was given to Israel to govern her life as a nation, in order to experience God’s blessing under the Abrahamic covenant. And God's moral law is eternal!
But we have been told that we no longer live under the Law and we abide in the Age of Grace... that the Law was instituted under the Old Covenant and we are under the New Covenant, by which Christ told us He came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill. Then, we are told that "to fulfill" means "to bring an end to", or "to do away with". That is when this verse in Hebrews, Chapter 8, is brought forth to prove that the Law is equated with the Old Covenant, which is declared in verse 13 to be "obsolete".
This controversy has led to a whole lot of misunderstanding among the Body of Christ. There will be those who say the Law no longer has any significance for us, and that is what verse 13 is saying. But I would venture that this is a gross exaggeration. First of all, it depends on exactly what you mean by "The Law". Secondly, it depends on a correct understanding of "Old" and "New" Covenant. The fact that the Mosaic law (and its rituals of animal sacrifice for salvation) has been terminated does not mean that there is no law in this age of grace. The New Testament is full of references to various forms of law under God's direction: “the perfect law of liberty" (James. 1:25), “the royal law” (James. 2:8), the Law of Christ (Galatians. 6:2), and the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Romans. 8:2). These all point to various commands found throughout the epistles which comprise God's Law. They cover all areas of the believer’s life to direct him in the will of God in today’s world.
We can all agree that the Mosaic Law was weak because it was dependent on man’s ability, and God put an end to that system with the advent of Christ. But that was the system God used to divorce the Israelites from the pagan ways of their centuries of bondage in Egypt. They were so steeped in the occultic practices and sins of Egypt that they had lost any sense of a relationship with their God. The Mosaic Law was designed to build and maintain a proper relationship (through covenant) between God and His people Israel (blessing versus cursing), but only until the coming of Messiah and the establishment of a New Covenant. The Mosaic Law was never designed to be a permanent rule of life. It was merely a tutor or guardian to guide Israel in all areas of her life until Christ.
A reading of the entire Chapter of Hebrews 8 clearly shows that it is not "the Law" (in the form of ceremonial rituals and restrictive rules) that is the focal point of what will become obsolete between the Old and the New Covenant; indeed, God says in verse 10, "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". What I believe the Scripture is saying is that the method of instituting God's law through animal sacrifice and ceremonial rituals will become obsolete. The Law, itself, will be written on our hearts as we walk by the Spirit of Christ in our faith, and the Covenant of relationship with God will be renewed. It is not a matter of one Covenant being replaced by another. Rather, the way of receiving God's grace (through the blood sacrifice of animals) will become obsolete, but not the need for the sacrifice, itself. God still demanded that, and it was fulfilled in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. The need for God's laws remain ... and they are circumcised upon our hearts because the means of blood sacrifice to receive God's grace and mercy is no longer demanded.
It is no wonder that the Body of Christ is confused, and accused of legalism if you proclaim that the Law still exists, and is written on your heart. It doesn't help to understand the issue when statements such as these are made: "Since the Lord Jesus Christ fulfills the Law by His person and work, believers are under a new law; the obligation to walk by the Spirit of Life through faith (Rom. 8:2-4). If we are led by the Spirit, then we are not under the Law (Gal. 5:18)". Or this statement: "Against such, i.e., the fruit of the Spirit, there is no law because the believer is then operating under the highest law, the standards are met as we walk by the Holy Spirit and grow in the Word (Gal. 5:22)". Can you see how difficult it is for us to all come to an agreement of what "the Law" is, or which law we are talking about?
It is important to understand that there is a very definite difference between God's laws which are moral commandments, and the commandments contained in ordinances which had to do with the ceremonies of the old Jewish rituals for receiving grace. And it is because the unlearned Church misapplies Bible statements about these different kinds of laws (and their purpose) that they become confused. And the result? The Body of Christ ends up in endless and circular arguments; even to the point of disagreeing if the Ten Commandments are part of the "Old Covenant", and therefore obsolete! It shouldn't be that hard! Yes, the system of sacrifice under the Law of Moses did vanish away; but those animal sacrifices were instituted and designed to prepare the way for the sacrifice of Christ, and then to pass away -- all as a principle of God's continual Covenant with men. That covenant of relationship did not end, it was simply renewed in faith in Christ. And unlike the old sacrificial system (which was temporary), this method of receiving God's grace is designed to last for eternity. Praise God for His Mercy and Grace!
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