Thursday, May 27

Purposes of Christ's Death, No. 7

The purpose statement we will look at in this post is found in Hebrews 9:15:
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were {committed} under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (NASB)
This verse is similar to the text we looked at in the post on Galatians 3:13 and 14, and I considered grouping the two texts together, but I think there are a couple of new things added in this one, and so it is worthy of it's own post.

So let's look first at what the purpose statement is in this verse. Of course, when we see the phrase "For this reason," we automatically think this must be pointing out a purpose statement, but there is a real possibility that this phrase is looking backward rather than forward, and shows the connection between this verse and the one before it. It is likely that it carries with it the idea of "because of this"--because of the death of Christ mentioned in the previous verse, Christ is the mediator of the new covenant. Both the NET Bible and the ESV translate it to show this connection. There is still a purpose statement here, though, and it's this: so that...those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Christ is the mediator of a new covenant through His death so that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Christ, through his death, mediates a new covenant. This doesn't mean that he mediates in the way we commonly think of mediation--where a compromise is worked out between two parties. There is no compromise here. Rather the term "mediator" points to Christ's function as the one who works out a new relationship between the two parties based on his establishment of a new covenant.

We see in chapter 8 of Hebrews that there was a problem with the old covenant--not with God fulfilling His side of the bargain, but with the people under the covenant fulfilling theirs. As we saw in our look at Galatians 3: 13 and 14, the old covenant included a promise of blessing to the people under the covenant if they kept the terms of the covenant, and a curse to the people if they broke the terms of the covenant. It would have served as a way to bring God and his people together if the people had kept their side of the deal, but they didn't. Covenant breaking was a universal problem for them, and the covenant served as a barrier between them and God, instead of a way for them to stay in relationship to Him.

So God established a new covenant, a covenant cut by the blood of Christ. The transgressions that occurred under the old covenant are taken care of-- and people are in this way bought out (or redeemed) from under the curse for breaking the old covenant. And because of this, those whom God calls may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

The new covenant is to "those who are called". You'll notice that God, under this new covenant, takes the initiative on both sides of the agreement. He, of course, fulfills His side of the deal--giving the promised eternal inheritance, but He also calls those on the other side out of their sin.

The word may that we see in this statement of purpose is not necessarily making this a statement of mere possibility, as if those who are called may or may not, depending on other factors, receive the promise of eternal inheritance. It is an expression of purpose or expectation. The first part of the statement--the calling--helps to accomplish the second part--the promise of inheritance. Let me put it in terms of something simpler. If I say, "I'm going grocery shopping so that we may have supper tonight", you would understand that to mean that my buying food for the family is for the purpose of their eating supper, and it is a part of ensuring that they will be fed. So God not only fulfills His side of this new covenant, but by His calling--His divine initiative--ensures that our side is fulfilled as well.

Another purpose for Christ's death is so that those who are called will receive the promised eternal inheritance.