WE RETURN FINALLY TO VERSES 8-9. HERE THE WRITER DRAWS A FURTHER LESSON FROM PSALM 40, NAMELY THT THE COMING OF THE NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST NECESSITATES THE EXTINCTION OF THE OLD COVENANT. He writes, ‘Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin you did not desire, nor had pleasure in them (which are offered according to the law), then he said, “behold, I have come to do your will, O God.” He takes away the first that he may establish the second.’ (10:8=9). The sacrifices made according to the law are no longer acceptable to God. He has no pleasure in them at all – they have lost both their significance and any efficacy they once possessed. Why? Because God deliberately ‘takes away the first’. Although, technically, ‘the first’ refers to the old-covenant sacrificial system, commentators generally agree that the sacrifices here stand for the arrangement or covenant from which they denied their validity.
UNDER THE FIRST COVENANT, SACRIFICES WERE ESSENTIAL TO MAN’SAPPROACH TO GOD. ONLY THROUGH THOSE SACRIFICES WAS IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO DRAW NEAR IN A HOLY GOD AND FIND PARDON AND CLEANSING. Of course, as we have seen, such cleansing was ceremonial, not affecting the heart or conscience. But nevertheless, it was sufficient to restore a formal peach between god and the sinner. But now, suddenly, the first covenant is annulled and its sacrifices and other ordinances become meaningless. again, why has God done this?
THE WRITER PROVIDES THE ANSWER. ‘HE TAKES AWAY THE FIRST THAT HE MAY ESTABLISH THE SECOND’ (10:9, EMPHASIS ADDED). THE ‘SECOND’ SACRIFICE – THE NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST – COULD NOT BE ESTABLISHED WITHOUT THE ANNULMENT OF THE OLD. That is, the two covenants cannot coexist. This is a fundamental tenet of Paul’s theology and underlies his argument in the epistle to the Galatians (see, e.g., Gal 4:21-31).
PAUL DOES, OF COURSE, TEACH THAT THE ‘COVENANT OF PROMISE’, WHICH HAD ITS FULFILMENT IN THE NEW COVENANT, EXISTED HISTORICALLY ALONGSIDE THE OLD COVENANT (GAL. 3:15-18). But there was never any blending or admixture of the covenants of promise and law; they remained separate and distinct. It was the basic error of the Judaisers to teach that the work of Christ could somehow be grafted on to the Mosaic covenant.’
BUT THE NEW COVENANT IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, WHICH IS THAT CULMINATION AND FULL FLOWER OF THE COVENANT OF PROMISE, NOT ONLY STANDS SEPARATE FROM THE OLD COVENANT – IT NECESSITATES ITS REMOVAL. Guthrie explains: ‘The verb (take away) generally has a sense of “kill”. There is a finality about the passing of the old. If there had not been, the second could never have been established.’ The law remains only as ‘our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come we are no longer under a tutor’ (Gal. 3:24-25).
MANY WHO CLAIM TO FOLLOW CHRIST STILL MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AS THE JUDAIZERS. THEY TEACH THAT THE WORKS OF THE LAW ARE NECESSARY FOR SALVATION (legalism – Gal. 5:1-6). They make faith itself a work, believing it to be a capacity of the unregenerate human mind, whereas it is in fact God’s gift by grace (Eph. 2:8-9). They perpetuate a human priesthood, still offering sacrifices for fellow sinners – when Christ has abolished human priestly orders and made a final sacrifice for sin (10:13-14). Yet others, more mildly, are confused about the role of old-covenant law in the Christian life.
LET US HEED PAUL’S APPEAL TO THE GALATIANS: STAND FAST THEREFORE IN THE LIBERTY BY WHICH CHRIST HAS MADE US FREE AND DO NOT BE ENTANGLED AGAIN WITH A YOKE OF BONDAGE’ (Gal. 5:1). Some accused Paul of antinomianism, which teaches that because we are no longer ‘under the law’ we may live as we like, free of all moral constraint. Paul nails this lie, ”Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” he asks. ‘Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom 6:1-3). As we saw in Hebrews 8:7-13, the essence of the new covenant in Christ is that the ineffective externality of the Mosaic las is replaced by an efficacious inward principle, namely of the law of Christ written in the mind and heart of every believer. – Andrews
Professor Thomas A. Rohm