2017-11-15 / Religion

Mediator of the new covenant

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Hebrews 12:14-29

There are times when a covenant, or agreement, can be difficult for one party to understand. This situation can lead to misunderstandings that can be major or minor. It is helpful for the unlearned one to have someone who is available to explain the fine points of the agreement. A better understanding of the details can make each member more comfortable with the agreement, and, then, be able to more readily carry out the details.

Our Heavenly Father, the creator of the universe made a covenant with the Chosen Nation, Israel. The people, who heard the thundering voice coming from the mountain (Exodus 19:1- 7), agreed to be obedient to the commands. Exodus 19:8. However, these people quickly forgot their pledge. Exodus 32:1-6.

This broken covenant did not change the promise that had been made to the man, Abraham. Genesis 12:2, 3. The system of worship that was prescribed for the nation had a built-in provision for forgiveness for wayward souls. Sacrifices would provide forgiveness for those who would, in sincerity, bring the correct offering to divinely-ordained place. Leviticus 4:20, 31, 35.

Upon the entrance of the children of Israel into the Promised Land, this system continued to be in place. The people began to observe the nations around them, and, gradually, attempted to “blend with” their neighbors. This compromise included acceptance of their false gods. Even though there were times of pure worship of Jehovah, this spiritual roller-coaster was not the divine design.

Under the leadership of King David, preparations were made for the building of the temple. This task was completed during the early years of the reign of Solomon, the son of David. This building continued to be the religious focal point for centuries. The degrading of worship, eventually, led to the downfall of both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. This final fall resulted in the destruction of the temple. The ark of the Covenant, the central point for the national Day of Atonement was lost.

At the end of the 70 years of exile, another temple was, eventually, built. This new structure lacked to beauty of the first building. Worship was resumed, as best as it could, and continued, sporadically, for centuries. By the time of the ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rituals, not faith, had begun to, almost, completely control the religious leadership.

Our Lord taught the people according to the intent of the divine record. His words “cut across the grain” of the traditions that had taken the place of the divine commands. Our Master assured his hearers, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Matthew 5:17.

All of the early believers were Jews. It was easy for some of these believers to attempt to “blend” the Old Testament rituals with the spiritual freedom that has been made available by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Even though they knew that the “blending” had not been successful in the past, these attempts continued to be made.

The Church was established in 33 A. D. The message became accepted by many Gentiles, non-Jews. Evangelism was instructed by our Lord. Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:8. Some of the Jews developed their own theology regarding those who accepted the message, as taught by the apostles. These misguided individuals decided that the gentiles should be required to become Jews in order for their sins to be forgiven. Acts 15:1. A council was convened in Jerusalem to address this question. The conclusion indicated that the grace of God was sufficient, with only a few restrictions regarding personal actions.

The dissenters would not be satisfied by the conclusion of this council. Their opposition brought division, and, eventually persecution of believers on believers. This contention led to some of the believers deciding to return to the Old Testament law, abandoning the grace of God.

The writer to the Hebrews, most probably the Apostle Paul, desired to persuade these believers to remain true to the Gospel. The Old Covenant had been replaced by a New Covenant. The writer of old instructed, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. Thus, the focus of life was that of holiness, set apart for sacred use, rather that contention among believers. Inaccurate focus can result in total spiritual failure, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Hebrews 12:15. Yes, our personal actions can cause trouble for others!

These Jews were familiar with their own history. The account of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai was ingrained in their history. These people needed to remember the fact of this New Covenant. As with many agreements, a Mediator was/is helpful in being able understand all that is taught. These people, as well as we, today, can come “to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12:24.

Our Lord told the disciples that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is that of being our teacher. Paul wrote, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.” Hebrews 12:25. Their history taught them of the great power that was demonstrated to their ancestors, “Whose voice then shook the earth, but now he hath promised saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” Hebrews 12:26.

If these people decided to turn away from grace, they would suffer eternal consequences. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28, 29.

We can accept His grace or the fire of eternal judgment. Please make the right decision, today. John 3:16.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@yahoo.com

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