Hebrews 8:12-13

Hebrews 8:12‑13  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
But there is a further and most needed gift of mercy to which God stands pledged in the new covenant. This, too, the apostle does not fail to cite as now applied to the believer; though to the Israelite it is set in the last place, whereas the Christian enjoys it as a starting-point, as we may see throughout the Acts of the Apostles.
“Because I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins1 I will remember in no wise more” (Heb. 8:1212For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:12)). It will be noticed that the words “and their lawlessnesses” disappear. They are not in the Septuagint any more than the original Hebrew, which indeed has also the singular form, where the Greek gives the plural. It would seem that the words in question were inserted from Heb. 10:1717And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17), where beyond doubt they occur, but without “their unrighteousnesses.” In any case grace meets the guilty but now renewed souls, and comforts those who feel and own their sinfulness with the assurance of divine forgiveness.
How different the terms of the first covenant, even when Moses went up on high the second time, and saw not Jehovah's glory but His goodness pass before him, and heard Him proclaim Jehovah, Jehovah El, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy unto thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty, visiting &c! Now it is precisely clearance of conscience or guilt, that the awakened soul longs for and seeks from God; and what the law could not do, God does in the gospel by virtue of Christ made sin for us. So our Lord spoke and dealt with Zaccheus, chief publican though he was, and so most offensive in Pharisaic eyes. But the rejected Messiah, the Son of Man, came to seek and to save that which is lost. His coming and work of expiation deposit an infinite fund of mercy toward the guilty, which God in the gospel uses to clear and justify all who believe.
“Merciful” here is not mere pity, but “propitious.” Undoubtedly unrighteousnesses are hateful in God's sight and abhorrent to His nature; so too they become to a soul when born again. For as that which is born of the flesh is flesh, so that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, as our Lord ruled. The old nature does not become new, but remains evil and never to be allowed. But a new one is given, which finds not relief only or even pardon, but deliverance in the death and resurrection of the Savior. Here we transcend the terms and ideas of the new covenant which go no farther than God's mercy in remission and remembrance of sin no more at all. This the Christian has, but in a far surpassing mode and measure. For he is entitled, as we know from other scriptures, to know that he died with Christ to sin, as set forth even in his baptism; that he is risen with Christ, and seated in Him in heavenly places. But as this preeminently exalted aspect of the believer's present blessing is not in the most distant way couched in the promises of the new covenant, so it nowhere appears in the Epistle to the Hebrews. And this rightly; for the Holy Spirit is therein drawing out the force of the O.T., and at most what was latent in it, rather than going on to the wholly unrevealed fullness alike of Christ as head, of the church as His body, and of our individual Christian standing too.
An important inference is now drawn from a word. “In saying 'new,' He hath antiquated the first [covenant]: now what is being antiquated and growing aged [is] near disappearing” (Heb. 8:1313In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13)). It is in vain therefore for Jews or other men to reason abstractly for the perpetuity of God's law: His word has already decided the question. The prophet Jeremiah declares in the Spirit that Jehovah will make a new covenant, and an everlasting one, with all Israel. This, as is here shown, antiquates the first or legal covenant. The new one is evidently not of man's will or weakness, but of God's gracious power working in His people. And those who believe now, whether Jews or Gentiles, anticipate Israel for whom it was made, but to whom it is not yet extended. But it is sure to Israel in due time, for the mouth of the Lord has said it.
Hence it is added that what is being antiquated (not “decayeth” as in the A. V.) and growing aged is near disappearing. The cross fulfilled and annulled the legal covenant; the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was its grave.
1. A few of the most ancient MSS. and Vv. support this as the true text, many later copies adding “and their lawlessnesses” as in Text. Rec.