A More Excellent Ministry

Posted by on Oct 7, 2007

By Mike Withem, Pastor

First Baptist Church of Ranson, WV

October 7, 2007

Sunday Morning

“A More Excellent Ministry”

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 8:1-13

Scripture Text: Hebrews 8:1-13

Introduction:

 

A.   (Illus.- Let me ask you a question. Would you settle for something that is “excellent,” if you could have something that is “more excellent”? For example, would you settle for an “excellent” job, if you could have a “more excellent” job? Would you settle for an “excellent” marriage, if you could have a “more excellent” marriage? Would you settle for an “excellent” home [house], if you could have a “more excellent” home? Would you settle for an “excellent” car, if you could have a “more excellent” car? If the truth were known, no one in their right mind would settle for something that is “excellent,” if they knew they could have something “more excellent.”)

 

B.   The writer of Hebrews certainly understood this fact.

1. This is why he said what he did in Vrs. 6 of our text, notice again the words, “ But now hath he (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry.”

2. Remember now that these Jewish believers to whom the book of Hebrews was written were seriously considering abandoning their new position as believers in Christ, and going back to their old Levitical form of worship.

3. It’s like the writer of Hebrews is asking them, “Why would you do that? Why would you settle for something that may have been ‘excellent’ in its day, when you could have something that is far ‘more excellent’? Why would you do that?”

 

C.   Now this raises another question.

1. Why is Jesus’ ministry “a more excellent ministry” than that of the Levitical priests of Israel?

2. According to our text, there were at least three reasons.

3. First of all, Jesus’ ministry was “a more excellent ministry” because of His…

 

I.       More Excellent Performance.

 

A.   Notice again Vrs. 1 of our text, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”

 

B.   Let me ask you a question.

1. What was the primary role (responsibility) of a priest?

2. The primary role of a priest was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.

3. Now let me as you another question.

4. Who better performed this role, the Levitical priests of Israel, or our Lord Jesus Christ?

5. There’s no doubt that Jesus’ performance as a priest was far “more excellent” than any priest of Israel.

6. Why do I say that?

7. I say that because when Jesus stood in God’s holy of holies in heaven and offered His blood to the Father as a sacrifice for our sins, His work was finished!

8. This is why our text says that He is now “set on the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens.”

9. The word “set” here means that He is “sitting.”

10.   Turn back with me to Heb. 1:3, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

11.   Again, why did He sit down?

12.   He sat down because His work of redemption was finished (there was nothing more to be done).

 

C.   The work of the Levitical priests, on the other hand, was never finished.

1. This is why there was no place to sit down in the tabernacle or the temple (there was some furniture, but no chair, no couch, no love seat, no place to sit down).

2. Why not, because their work was never finished.

3. Whenever they finished offering one sacrifice, there was another one waiting to be offered.

4. There was never a day that they could go home and say to the family, “I’ve offered my last sacrifice, there is no need for any more, now I can retire!”

 

D.   Now before I move on to my next point, let me point out that while Christ’s work of redemption is now finished, His work of intercession continues to this day.

1. Look again at Heb. 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

2. The apostle John put it like this in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

3. And so, while Christ’s work of redemption is finished, His work of intercession continues to this day.

4. I don’t know about you, but I am extremely thankful to have Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven representing me before Him!

 

E.   Why is Jesus’ ministry “a more excellent ministry” than that of the Levitical priest?

1. To begin with, because of His more excellent performance.

2. He offered one sacrifice, and that one sacrifice was more than sufficient to atone for the sins of all of mankind.

3. But there is another reason why Christ’s ministry is “a more excellent ministry,” and that is because of His…

 

II.      More Excellent Place.

 

A.   Not only was Jesus’ performance more excellent than that of the Levitical priests, but the place where He performed was more excellent as well.

1. Now this raises a question.

2. Where did Jesus perform His duty as our high priest?

3. The answer is found in Vrs. 2 of our text, “A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”

4. Did you notice the words, “the true tabernacle”?

5. Where is “the true (real) tabernacle”?

6. The true tabernacle is in heaven!

7. Turn with me to Heb. 9:24, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:”

8. And so, “the true (real) tabernacle” is in heaven.

 

B.   There is something you have to understand about the tabernacle that Moses constructed in the wilderness, as well as the temple that came later during Solomon’s reign.

1. They were merely shadows (pictures) of “the true tabernacle” that is in heaven.

2. Look again at Vrs. 5 of our text, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”

3. Now it is true that the earthly tabernacle was patterned after the heavenly tabernacle, yet you have to remember that the glory of the first could not compare to the glory of the second.

4. (Illus.- Let me illustrate. In Orlando, Florida, there is a theme park called “The Holy Land Experience.” Naysa and I saw a little bit of this park several years ago when we attended a banquet hosted by Hope for the World. While we didn’t see the whole park, it was evident that it was designed and built to be a replica of ancient Jerusalem. Suppose you were to visit this park. While I’m sure that it would be a very interesting experience, do you really think that it would be the same as actually walking the streets of the real Jerusalem during the time of Christ? He answer, of course, is, “No!”)

5. And so, while the earthly tabernacle was patterned after the heavenly tabernacle, ministering in the earthly tabernacle (as the Levitical priests did) could not compare to ministering in the heavenly tabernacle (as Christ is doing now).

6. This is one reason why Christ’s ministry was “a more excellent ministry.”

 

C.   There is at least one more reason why Christ’s ministry is “a more excellent ministry” than that of the Levitical priests, and that is because of His…

 

III.    More Excellent Promises.

 

A.   Notice again Vrs. 6-7 of our text, “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises….For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.”

 

B.   I’m sure you know that we, as believers today, are living under a different covenant than that under which the nation of Israel lived before Christ came.

1. Israel lived under the old covenant (the law).

2. The law, of course, was given to Israel through Moses, when he was on the Mount.

3. Not only did God give the law through Moses, Moses was the first mediator of the old covenant.

4. When Moses appointed Aaron and his sons to be priests, they also became mediators.

5. This was the old covenant, a covenant that was based upon the law (of God).

 

C.   However, the prophet Jeremiah predicted a day when God would give Israel a new covenant.

1. Notice again Vrs. 8 of our text, which is actually taken from Jer. 31, “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”

2. While the old covenant came through Moses, the new covenant was to come through our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. The Bible says in John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

 

D.   Now there are at least three things that you need to understand about this new covenant.

1. First of all, you need to understand that this new covenant was originally given to Israel, not to Gentiles.

2. Notice again Vrs. 8, the Lord said, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:”

3. This is why when Jesus sent out His twelve apostles, He said to them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:…But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mat. 10:5-6)

4. Now it is true that when it became apparent that Israel was not going to receive Christ or the new covenant that He offered them, the Gentiles were included in (grafted into) the covenant, however, it was originally given to Israel.

 

E.   The second thing that you need to understand about the new covenant is that it superceded (made null and void) the old covenant.

1. Notice again Vrs. 13 of our text, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

2. One of the reasons that Jews have a hard time coming to Christ today is because in order to do so, they must come to grips with the fact that the old covenant (the covenant that God made with their ancestors) is no longer valid.

3. Now please don’t misunderstand what the writer of Hebrews is saying here.

4. He is NOT saying that the law was without any value whatsoever.

5. In it’s day, the law served a beautiful, God-given purpose. (What was that purpose???)

6. The law…

-pointed to Christ,

-declared man’s need or Christ,

-foreshadowed the coming of Christ,

however, once Christ came, it’s purpose was fulfilled.

 

F.    The third thing that you need to understand about the new covenant is that it was “better” than the old covenant.

1. Notice again Vrs. 6 of our text, “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant.”

2. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the new covenant was “a better covenant.”

3. Why was it “a better covenant”?

4. It was a better covenant because it was based on better promises.

5. Notice how Vrs. 6 of our text ends, “….which was established upon better promises.”

6. Think about it for a moment.

7. What did the law promise?

8. While the law did promise temporal blessings to those who obeyed it, other than that, there was only one thing that the law promised.

9. Do you know what that was?

10.   It was death.

11.   Because no one was able to keep the law, the only thing that the law promised was death.

12.   This is why the Bible says in Eze. 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

13.   The Bible also says in Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.”

14.   The Bible also says in Jam. 1:15, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

15.   And so, the only thing that the law promised was death.

 

G.   But how about the new covenant?

1. While the old covenant promised death, the new covenant promises life.

2. While the old covenant promised justice, the new covenant promises mercy.

3. While the old covenant promised judgment, the new covenant promises forgiveness.

4. Notice again Vrs. 12 of our text, speaking of the new covenant, it says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”

5. And so, the new covenant is “a better covenant” because it is based upon “better promises.”

6. Which covenant would you rather live under?

7. If you ask me, it’s a no brainer.

8. Death or life?

9. Justice or mercy?

10.   Judgment or forgiveness?

 

H.   And so, Jesus’ ministry is “a more excellent ministry” because of His more excellent promises.

Conclusion:

 

A.   Now let’s go back to our original question.

1. Why is Jesus’ ministry “a more excellent ministry” than that of the Levitical priests?

2. First of all, it is more excellent because of His more excellent performance (offered one sacrifice, then sat down at the right hand of the Father on high).

3. Secondly, it is more excellent because of His more excellent place (Jesus ministers in a heavenly tabernacle, the original after which the earthly tabernacle was patterned).

4. Finally, it is more excellent because of His more excellent promises (life, mercy and forgiveness as compared to death, justice and judgment).

 

B.   Perhaps I am speaking to someone this morning who is in need of God’s forgiveness.

1. If so, I have good news for you.

2. Listen again to what God has promised to those who come to Christ and place their faith in Him as Savior, it says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Vrs. 12)

3. Is this what you are in need of this morning?

4. If so, then I invite you to come to Jesus!