I work for a company whose motto is, “Let’s make things better.” I remember a particular beverage commercial that said, “It doesn’t get any better” when drinking their product. Another famous company indicated that they made “better things for better living.” When making comparisons, we often are told that “one thing is better than another.” We must take an honest look and decide whether these things are true before being fully persuaded. Unfortunately, many people go through life without taking a hard look at anything, and are “carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men” (Eph. 4:14 KJV). This article seeks to compare, from God’s Word, things which are better than others. These comparisons are found and illustrated throughout the New Testament book of Hebrews. In fact, Hebrews uses the word “better” more than any other New Testament book, and is third behind Ecclesiastes and Proverbs in the entire Bible. The writer of Hebrews could say, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you” (Heb. 6:9). That is, he was confident that these Hebrew Christians were living in the blessings of Christ. The work and labor they showed toward His name bore that out. They had tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, and they were living accordingly.
The writer of this letter was fully persuaded that these Christians would be brought to full maturity when shown again and again how much better the Son is than any other, as well as how much better He is for them. God wants us to appreciate His Son as much as He does. When Peter, on the Mount of Transfiguration, thought to put the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) on the same level as God’s Son, God intervened and said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Mt. 17:5). The Son was far better than anything that God had ever given before. God spoke before by the prophets, but now has spoken “by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). The Law was received by the disposition of angels, but the Son was made so much better than the angels, for the Son of God is God Himself (Heb. 1:4,8). While on earth He said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old … But I say unto you” (Mt. 5:21-22). He fulfilled the Law and therefore had the authority to superintend the Law and bring in a better covenant, for it is a covenant of the heart and not of the letter.
This brings us back to all the things that are better in the book of Hebrews: Jesus is a better priest (Heb. 7:7), serving a better covenant (Heb. 8:6), with a better sanctuary (Heb. 9:11), on the basis of a better sacrifice (Heb. 9:23) due to better blood (Heb. 9:22), that speaks better things (Heb. 12:24). The results of this for us are: we have a better hope (Heb. 7:19), established upon better promises (Heb. 8:6), the promise of a better substance (10:34), even the promise of a better country (Heb. 11:16), because we obtain a better resurrection (Heb. 11:35). What a better thing for us (Heb. 11:40), since He is so much better than the angels (Heb. 1:4)!
A Better Priest
Jesus is a great High Priest (Heb. 4:14). His consecration like that of Aaron was without blood (Lev. 8:12). The heavens opened, the Dove descended, and a voice said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But He “needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the people’s; for this He did once, when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27). The high priest of old would lay his hands on the sacrificial animal to place the sins of the people upon that animal.
The Lord Jesus laid our sins upon Himself when suffering for sin. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This He did once for all. In so doing, “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:9), “made an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 6:20), “after the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16). “For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by Him that said unto Him, ‘The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec’” (Heb. 7:21).
This priesthood is an eternal one. Melchisedec was better than Abraham, the one to whom God made the promises. He could bless Abraham, since “the less is blessed of the better” (Heb. 7:7), indicating that Melchisedec was ever greater than the father of our faith, Abraham. The phrase “high priest” appears 15 times in Hebrews; all but one is the same word. The one that is different is Hebrews 10:21 where “high” is the word “mega.” The Jews, on their “mega” day (Jn. 19:31), crucified the “Mega” Priest. “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament” (Heb. 7:22).
A Better Covenant
“A better covenant” (Heb. 8:6) implies that it is replacing an inferior one. The primary inferiority of the old covenant is that “the Law, having a shadow of good things to come … can never with those sacrifices year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect … For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:1,4). That first covenant, referred to as the Law regarding the sacrifice for sins on the Day of Atonement, can be summarized by looking at the manner, the method, and the man. The man was the high priest. The manner of approach to God was once a year with trepidation, for any sensible man would tremble at the thought of entering the very presence of God. The method was “not without blood.”
Jesus fulfills all three, for “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). The man is now “an high (mega) priest over the house of God.” The manner of approach to God now is: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.” The method is: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22). In fact, “You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross” (Col. 2:13-14). That inferior covenant of external regulations can never be put over us again; it is done away in Christ.
The new covenant is also more glorious than the old. “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?” (2 Cor. 3:7-8). The second giving of the Ten commandments was only a picture of how gracious God is. Being in the presence of such a God of grace caused Moses’ face to shine. The new covenant is so much more glorious, for God gave us His Son. That light “hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). This knowledge implies that we have a “better” sanctuary than any found in the Old Testament.
A Better Sanctuary
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building” (Heb. 9:11). Where is this greater and more perfect tabernacle? It is not a physical place on earth like the tabernacle of old. Rather, it is this: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). The knowledge that He is there, wherever we gather unto Him, is so much better than having to make a pilgrimage somewhere to be approved, or meet in a certain place to be heard. Jesus could say to the Samaritan woman, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father … But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (Jn. 4:21,23).
We can gather to worship Him in a home, a building, a cave, under a tree – the place matters not. The only thing that matters is that He is there. And you can’t get any better place on this earth than that! In fact, He has “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). This is not a future hope but a present enjoyment. When we gather to Him especially in the breaking of bread, the Lord’s Supper, it is truly heaven on earth. It is the Spirit of God who glorifies the Lord in our hearts through the knowledge of His sacrifice for our sins.
A Better Sacrifice
“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these … But now once in the end of the world, hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:23,26). The “better sacrifices” have now become one sacrifice, far better than all the bulls and goats ever slain on Jewish altars. Those sacrifices covered sins committed, but could never take away sin – that which is in our very nature that causes us to commit sins. So that one sacrifice truly broke the bondage to sin that we were in.
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). Jesus died for our sins; He was crucified for our sin. Our sin nailed Him to the cross, that He might break sin’s curse. The old man is Adam’s sinful likeness (Gen. 5:3), which has been handed down generation after generation. That old man has been reckoned by God as crucified with Christ. Now our hearts can be sprinkled from an evil conscience, the burden of our sin is taken away, and we are made free. No sacrifice of old could ever do that! They shed the blood of bulls and goats; our sacrifice is better because of “better” blood.
By Tom Steere
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org