The Covenantal Worldview of Hebrews

main image

Hebrews is just an extraordinary book. There real is not book like it in all of Scripture. I believe Hebrews uniquely ties the ‘book of God’ together like nothing else. This is because of its sweeping covenantal content. Of course this can be easily seen by the author’s contrast between the Old and New covenants. But the book of Hebrews communicates to us a much more comprehensive covenantal worldview than just that there is an old and new order. For the author of Hebrews, as with every author of Scripture, all of life is covenantal

Hebrews presents us with the supremacy of the “eternal covenant” (13.20). As we begin to look at the abiding glory of the new covenant our first vantage point starts with the inadequacy of the old covenant arrangement. This needs to be understood for several important reasons that will affect our theology as well as our hermeneutics. It will affect how we understand the relationship of the OT and the NT, how we understand the nature of the people of God (e.g. 4.9), how we understand the relationship between Israel and the Church, our definition of the Church, our hermeneutics for interpreting the OT etc. But beyond these hermeneutical considerations, Hebrews also shows the practical power of covenant theology and covenant life. 

We are given practical wisdom as Hebrews unfolds. We are told to pay attention to the story of Scripture lest we drift away (2.1-4). So much pastoral theology goes into helping people persevere by awakening to the warnings of Scripture. Here Hebrews leads the way with dire warnings to persevere to the end (3.12-14; 4.4-6; 10.22-27; 12.25-29). We are told that the way to worship has been opened because we have covenantal access to the holy place (10.19-20). This means we do not earn our way into God’s favor and presence, in Christ and in the new covenant we have it. Because Jesus was pious, we live because of His righteousness not our own (5.7). Covenantally, Jesus moves us past a state of probation, as in the Garden with Adam (Gen. 2.15-17), and into the benefits of the covenant of Redemption and Grace (John 17.1-5; Gen. 3.15; Eph. 1.3-14). 

We are also told that the only proper response to Jesus’ covenant obedience, access, benefits and privileges is gratitude (12.28). God cares about our worship. He desires that we worship Him with a true heart and true new covenant praise-sacrifices (13.15). He cleansed our hearts in order to have our hearts. In other words, He draws us near so that we would come to Him in truth (10.23), in sincerity (10.22), in holiness (12.14), with confidence (10.19), for all goodness (13.20-21) and with gladness of heart (12.28; 13.1). This is what went wrong with much of the old covenant people— all lips no heart (Dt. 28.47ff.; Is. 29.13). In the new covenant, an internal change has taken place so that our inner disposition matches our external duties (8.7-12). Covenant life is about living in communion with God in the bond of the eternal covenant (Hebrews 13.20)— this is the purpose of our election and our “eternal inheritance” (9.15).     

Soli Deo Gloria