When I send longer e-mails (over a paragraph), I tend to write out my thoughts on Microsoft Word, and then I copy and paste it in an e-mail. Word allows me to see if my grammar is right and if the spelling it correct. I came across today my response to an e-mail from back in 2010. After reading it, I thought it will make a good blog post. I’ve titled it Digging Deeper.
The back story of the e-mail and my response is a man from my men’s Bible Study group I used to lead at my old church had some questions about a passage of scripture. We were studying the book of Hebrews. We didn’t use a curriculum. I asked the men to just read through a chapter of the book of Hebrews and come prepared to discuss. I challenged the men to not just read the book and each chapter, but to really study it during the week. One of the guys sent me an e-mail with questions relating to his study. Below are his e-mailed questions and my answers to his questions.
I was reading Hebrews 6 and 7 this morning, when I came across the cross references which was talking about covenants. So, I went off on a bit of a tangent but, I have some questions for you. I did a little bit of reading on the Abraham, Nomadic, Davidic, Mosaic, and the “new covenant” in Jeremiah 31. Jeremiah 31:31-34 reads:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Ok so here come the questions…
Question 1: The covenant is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Are we included in that? By we, I mean gentiles and ‘Christians’?
Answer: Jeremiah is telling Israel that a new covenant will be made and that new covenant is Jesus Christ. The nature of this covenant in general is a new covenant and not according to the covenant made with them when they came out of Egypt; not as if that made with them at Mount Sinai were a covenant of nature and innocence. Sinners in the Old Testament were saved by old covenant upon their repentance, and faith in a Messiah to come, whose blood, confirming that covenant, was typified by that of the legal sacrifices as shown in Ex. 24:7, 8. Jesus Christ is the new covenant; the Promised One who paid the sin debt once for all. We are part of this new covenant because through belief in what Christ did for us we are called God’s children.
Question 2: If we are God’s people then don’t we have law written on our hearts? And if so, why? Why do we have something written on our hearts that can only condemn us as law can?
Answer: The whole “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” refers to the indwelling of God (in the form of the Holy Spirit) in the hearts of God’s people and not the law as the Ten Commandments. In this passage, Jeremiah is showing the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. The new covenant brings with it the grace of regeneration: its doctrine, therefore, is not that of the letter, but penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties, so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.
Question 3: In v 34 it says ‘for they shall all know me…’ does that mean that Hebrews (or other folks he is talking about) are saved? Because they know God and he will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. I mean that sounds a lot like salvation.
Answer: I’m thinking that Hebrews 8:12 is quoting Jeremiah 31:34, so reading this passage (Heb. 8:12) in context will answer this one. The new covenant also promised knowledge of God based on personal experience according to Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12. The knowledge of God based on personal experience was limited under the old covenant because the law restricted access to God. Only the high priest was able to enter the Most Holy Place where God dwelled on Earth. And that entrance was only available to the high priest once a year. The superior high priest, Jesus Christ, has provided access into the very presence of God and He (Jesus) invites us to draw near. The new covenant makes a personal knowledge of God available to us. The final characteristic of the new covenant is that God would no longer remember his people’s sins. This does not simply mean that God had a decision to forget some information about the sins committed by his people. Rather it means that God is providing a means by which the sin problem can be taken care of. Atonement, not just for sins but for sin, was made by the better sacrifice offered by Christ.
I take my job to equip the church to be able to feed themselves very seriously. I instilled in the minds and hearts of the men in our group the importance of not only reading the Bible but to study it. Sometimes what we read will cause us to have questions. If a person is equipped to be able to find the answers to these questions then great. If not, pastors and Bible teachers are here to help. Digging deeper can get messy, but digging deeper gets the answers God intends for us to get.