First and Second

“…He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9).

Just as no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), nobody can live under two different divine laws. This truth was especially challenging to the Jews in the first century and remains a source of confusion for many people today.

As used in the context of the book of Hebrews, God’s first covenant was with the nation of Israel. It commenced at Mount Sinai and was God’s authoritative will for all those who lived after it was given. Because of its inherent flaws, a second and better covenant was given by God. It was prophesied by Jeremiah (Hebrews 8:7-13). It had to be removed legally—via fulfillment; no other way would be righteous.

As predicted by David in Psalm 40, one of the weighty reasons Jesus came as the Lamb of God was to provide the righteous means by which the first covenant could be legally abolished and lawfully replaced by the second covenant.

Using the familiar topic of marriage, the apostle Paul compares the first and second covenant like this: “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:2-4).

Just as a widow has remarried after the death of her first husband has no legal obligations to that man, so no one living after Mount Calvary has any legal obligations to anything bound in the Old Testament. Jesus has taken it away.

Because of the universal nature of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and the universal scope of the second covenant, every creature of every nation has legal obligations to everything bound in the New Testament. Jesus has established the second covenant, and all will be judged by it (John 12:48).

Because of Jesus, the first has been taken away, and the second has been established.

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Author: jchowning

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