[This is the eighth section of a paper I wrote for the Great Plains Pastors' Conference (of Circuits 7, 8, & 9) which is titled Notes on Reading the Letter to the Hebrews With a Focus on Chapter 9. It was delivered at Bethany Lutheran College on Wednesday, May 25th
τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν]
The Explicit Use of New Covenant Liturgical/Sacramental Language.
We remember the opening verse:
ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ
in these last days He has spoken to us by means of the Son
The Son speaks, what did He Say? The writer to the Hebrews is very specific in his choice of texts to show how the reader should listen to Jesus. While there are references to the New Covenant before chapter 8, it is in chapter 8 that the author makes very clear and overt statements about the New Covenant based on Jeremiah 31:31-34:1
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a διαθήκην καινήν new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The New Covenant is termed διαθήκην καινήν (8:8, 13). It is a covenant that is established because the First Covenant πεπαλαίωκεν He has made ole/obsolete (8:13).
So we listen to Jesus. There is only one thing that Christ declared as the New Covenant. This is the Divine Service through which Christ Himself has established the New Covenant for us, to us, and among us. Chapter 9 addresses the need for this particular blood-shedding and partaking of His blood shed to establish the Covenant (esp. 9:18-22).
In the Gospels, Christ Himself names the sign and seal of the New Covenant.
Matthew 26:26-28 [Maundy Thursday Historical Series 2]
Ἐσθιόντων δὲ αὐτῶν
λαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἄρτον
καὶ εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν
καὶ δοὺς τοῖς μαθηταῖς εἶπεν·
While they were eating
Jesus took bread
and He spoke thanksgivings
and He gave it to the disciples saying
τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
This is my body
καὶ λαβὼν ποτήριον
καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων·
Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες,
And he took the cup
And he gave thanks saying to them
Drink from it everyone,
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν
εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν·
For this is
[my blood] of the new covenant
[my blood which] for many is shed
for the forgiveness of sins.
[my blood] of the New Covenant
[my blood which] is shed for many.
Luke 22:20 [Maundy Thursday]
καὶ τὸ ποτήριον ὡσαύτως μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι,
τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου,
τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυννόμενον.
And the cup which likewise after supper [He took]
the cup, the New Covenant in my blood,
[my blood] which for you is shed.
New Covenant Sacramental language and references are abundant throughout the opening chapters of Hebrews. But the exegetical arguments based on the Old Covenant Divine Service in chapters 8-9 bring the focus directly to the New Covenant in the Blood of the Incarnate Son of God. It is through His flesh and His blood that we enter the Holy Place—the real Sanctuary in heaven.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’” [Ps 40:4-7=He 10:5-7 Annunciation and Good Friday]
The citation of Ps 40 serves to establish
- that the Incarnation is part of the regular liturgical proclamation in the OT Divine Service,
- that this text also maintains that the rest of the Scriptures testify to this purpose, and
- that it is the Father's will that the Incarnation of the Son of God in a flesh and bone human body would be how the Son would serve Himself as the fulfillment sacrifice on behalf of sinners.
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας·
οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι·[Matthew 5:17]
The letter exhorts us to gather together for worship around Baptism, the Lord's Supper, the preaching of the word, the confession of the faith, Prayer and intercession.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, [The Lord's Supper] and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water [Baptism]. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering [Creed], for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some [Congregational Worship], but exhorting one another [preaching the Word], and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. [He 10:19-24 Good Friday, Trinity 20]
1Trinity 7 uses Jeremiah 31:23-25, which is contextually directly related to the promised New Covenant in this text.