The New Covenant Advantage
By Al Stoner
“For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh” (Heb. 10:1, ASV).
We that are in Christ have become the partakers of good things to come, of which the law was but a shadow. We are presently living in the anticipation of the greater fullness of these good things to break forth upon us, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come again “the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28).
When seen from the right perspective, the things, into which we have come in Christ Jesus, not only make for joy and great gladness, but also have become for us a blessed advantage before God. The remission of sins (Acts 10:43), acceptance with God in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6), justification from all things (Acts 13:39), and the sanctification by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:10) are some of the many blessed things that have become ours through obedience to the gospel. We are speaking here of Divine accomplishments, and things which must be declared unto men in order for them to take hold of them and to be persuaded of them.
Perfection for the Comers. The law made for imperfection, so to speak, in its “comers.” It could not take away sins, it did not cleanse the conscience, it could not actually set men and women apart unto God experientially, though it did so ceremonially. Every son and daughter of Israel who availed themselves of the provision for sins made under the first covenant was made to feel acutely and first handedly that the law made nothing perfect. This perfection pertaining to the conscience spoken of here could not be achieved under the first covenant, but it is an advantage that we now have in the new covenant, which has now been established!
When people would draw nigh under the first covenant, consciences still remained defiled, and became even moreso, wherever there was any sensitivity to God, because those sacrifices which they offered year after year only became an effectual remembrancer of their sins and iniquities!
Oh, let us think for a moment of the blessedness into which we have now come by the grace of God! When those that are in Christ draw near to God, they now experiencecleansing, not defilement (cf. I Jn. 1:7; 3:16). They taste first-handedly of sins having been forgiven and they feel comfortable in God's Presence. This is something not to be taken casually. It is owing exclusively to the fact that payment has now made to God for our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that sins have now been washed away by His blood!
The Ineffectiveness of Burnt Offerings. “Else would they not have ceased to be offered? because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins” (Heb. 10:2, ASV). Let us reason with the Apostle here and seek to view things from this perspective. If the sacrifices, which were under the law, did, in fact, make the comers and the worshippers perfect, would there have been a need to continually offer them year after year? There were literally thousands upon thousands of offerings and whole burnt offerings offered up to God under the law. And they could not take away sins! They could not remove sins from before the face of God, and they could not purge the conscience.
The Worshippers. Incidentally, there were worshippers under the first covenant, and, as well, there are worshippers under the second. We that are in Christ, by the grace of God, are worshippers. The worshippers of which we speak here are persons who have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. They have been “enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:3-5). And because of these things, they worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. In the world to come there shall be none other than worshippers there.
Our Heritage in Christ. This is part of the heritage that is ours in Christ Jesus, no more consciousness of sins. We have been called, by the grace of God, to walk in the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. We have been summoned to side with God in His perspective of sins being put away by Christ. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. And as we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son continues to cleanse us from all sin.
The Blood of Bulls and Goats Caused Remembrance of Sins. “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year” (v.3). The sacrifices offered up under the law became a continual reminder and remembrancer to men that they had, in fact, sinned and come short of the glory of God. The sacrifices under the law continually cried "guilty"! And they had the effect of defiling men's consciences rather than cleansing them. Those sacrifices made men think of their transgressions; they pointed to sins; they made sin to become exceeding sinful (cf. Rom. 7:13).
A Sacrifice Worthy of our Attention. But the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ is not on this wise. Let us continually give thanks to God that there is another Sacrifice that is worthy of speaking about! It is a sacrifice that only had to be offered once and it was abundantly sufficient to cleanse and wash away the sins of the whole world (cf. Jn. 1:29; I Jn. 2:1-2). There was nothing under the law to compare with this!
But now in Christ Jesus, the Scripture speaks on this wise. You “know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not” (I Jn. 3:5-6a). There is now abundant provision for men, who have obeyed the gospel, not to sin. They, as new creatures in Christ, have been granted a new heart and a new spirit so that sin is repugnant to them. Sin is perceived by them to be precisely as the Scripture represents it to be. They themselves earnestly do not want to be involved with sin, and they are repulsed by every distraction and departure from the will and purpose of God.
But when those in Christ occasionally sin, they are made to know and to judge that their sins are very great, yes to be sure, but they have also tasted of something that is even greater! They have found a Man who is worthy to be remembered even more than their sins. The grace and remembrance of this Man effectually enables believing men to hate sin, to resist the Devil, to lay aside the sin that doth so easily beset them, and to live holily and godly in the present evil world. When Jesus’ death for their sins is properly and lovingly remembered, men are experientially cleansed anew from their iniquities. The remembrance of God’s Lamb enables them to forget all offenses against the Holy One, because God has forgotten them for Jesus’ sake. As John declared, "Your sins are forgiven you for His Name's sake" (I Jn. 2:12).
An Impossibility to Consider. “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (v.4). We must consider well the stated impossibility here, and learn it well. Let us state it loudly again, "it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins!" There is absolutely no sin-cleansing efficacy in that kind of blood. There is no purging of the conscience and no cleansing from guilt, which purging is absolutely essential, if men are to be reconciled to God, and to walk in fellowship with Him, taking great delight in His ways.
We give thanks to the God of our salvation that He has made provision for another blood, even the blood of His only begotten Son. It called in Scripture the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of Christ, the precious blood of Christ, the blood of God, and the blood of the everlasting covenant, among several other Spirit-breathed expressions. These all are teaching us that there are depths of mercy, depths of God’s lovingkindness, and depths of understanding that must be plumbed and earnestly considered out of gratitude to both the Father and the Son, and for our own profit while we are yet in this present world.
Take away sins. Let us labor to get this language and these words of the Scripture down into our souls. Since the impossibility is declared plainly by the Scripture that animal blood cannot take away sins, then one might reason, is it then possible that sins can be taken away at all? These are the words of the Holy Spirit. Would He have mentioned an impossibility in the one instance, unless a very real possibility, yea and much more than a possibility, was made abundantly available to men? This is the glorious message that we have to declare in the gospel of Christ!
Let us go a step further and affirm that sins have indeed been taken away by the Lord Jesus Christ. They not only can be taken away, but also they must be taken away experientially, if men are to live acceptably unto God, and if they are to have fellowship with the Father and the Son, living in possession of a genuine hope of the world to come. The Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the whole world (Jn. 1:29). And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:1-2). He was manifested to take away our sins (I Jn. 3:5). He has borne them away into a land of Divine forgetfulness (cf. Lev. 16:8-10), where God no longer sees them (cf. Num. 23:21). In the words of the prophet, He has cast them into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19)! From God's perspective He put away sins, from our perspective He took away sins.
The Psalm 40 Text. “Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, But a body didst Thou prepare for Me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure” (vv. 5-6). These words of the Psalmist (40:6-8) were actually the words of the Son of God prior to His entrance into the world to put away sins.
This is the Holy Spirit's comment on the sacrifices that were offered under the law. God really did not want the sacrifices, and He took no pleasure in them. This “body” prepared of God for the Lord Jesus Christ would prove to be the vessel in which the sins of the world would be effectively taken away, put away, washed away, atoned for, propitiated, remitted, forgiven. Men may now be cleansed from their iniquities because of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The Will of God in this Connection. “Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me) To do Thy will, O God” (v. 7). There is a lot of misdirected talk in the church world about the will of God. In this case however, the will of God was that our sins would be effectually taken away, because those sins had driven a wedge between Him and us. And Jesus Christ came to do God's will, yes, and He did God's will! He did it perfectly and without spot. And now, by the grace of God, we are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The Establishment of the Second Covenant. “Then hath He said, Lo, I am come to do Thy will. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second” (v. 9). God Himself took away the first covenant. Satan did not take it away, and God does not call upon men to take it away. He took it away, when sins were taken away by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, let us seek to see this connection clearly!
“The first” spoken of here is the first covenant. It was the God- ordained means of approaching unto God on the basis of personal merit and achievement. We all have tried that way and have miserably failed. But the first covenant is now marvelously taken away, and another more blessed way is presently established in the previous covenant’s place.
Oh, let us assure our hearts together anew that the Lord Jesus Christ has now established the second, or the new covenant! This is the blessed provision of approaching unto God in the merits of Another, even Jesus Christ the Righteous One. This new and living way is not only set in place, but it is established for us, yea it is “consecrated” (Heb. 10:20, KJV) by the Lord Jesus Christ for us through the veil.
There is still a lot of religion afoot in the world today where men, as clearly evidenced by their legalistic approach to, and conception of, the things of God, do not believe that God has established the second covenant, or a least, being charitable toward such ones, they have not yet comprehended the new covenant’s glorious provisions and nature. The second covenant, or the new covenant, is also called elsewhere an everlasting covenant (Isa. 55:3; Jer. 32:40). Its glorious provisions shall endure into and throughout the ages to come.