Hebrews 7:28 – 8:6 Bodily and mental discipline is the foundation towards Spirit-filled living
Hebrews 7:28 – 8:6
Today’s passage seeks to place the Levitical priesthood and the earthly temple into proper perspective. This is important because the earthly temple is a type of the local church today. The ultimate purpose of the earthly temple or the church’s existence is to lead people to Christ, who alone is able to impart life. The earthly temple with its priesthood is temporal and it is making way for the perfect, which is the true tabernacle – the body of Christ. Moses’ Law prescribes bodily and mental disciplines which forms the foundation of a Spirit-filled life. The focus of the local church is to promote unity and to avoid competing with one another for prominence.
28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. 8:1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.
The author seeks to put into perspective a lifestyle based on the earthly temple system (based on Moses’ Law) vis-à-vis a lifestyle based on the true tabernacle where Christ is the high priest. The Law of Moses appoints men as priests who are weak, who has no power to transform lives. But God appoints the Son as the high priest, who imparts life and salvation to all who come to Him. The ability (of the Son) to transform lives is evident by His exaltation to the highest station: His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. Christ’s ability to regenerate hearts is attributed to His role as a minister in the true tabernacle of the Spirit. The earthly tabernacle and the Law of Moses has no power to transform lives. But the true tabernacle of the Spirit is effective in regenerating the lives of those who worship in it.
Moses’ Law -> Earthly Tabernacle -> Levitical Priests -> weak in transforming lives
Better Covenant -> True Tabernacle -> Christ, high priest -> effective in transforming lives
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “ See,” He says, “ that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
The role of the high priest is to offer gifts and sacrifices as propitiation on behalf of the people so that they may draw near to God and be accepted as God’s children. Jesus as the high priest is also expected to perform priestly duties to reconcile men to God. But Moses’ Law has disqualified Jesus from earthly priesthood because He does not belong to the tribe of Levi. If Jesus was not a priest on earth, then what was His role during His tenure of 33 years on earth? The text says Jesus is a priest (mediator) of a better covenant of salvation and life transformation. What the earthly temple and its priesthood could not do, Jesus can by regenerating the hearts all who come to Him. The Levitical priests discipline themselves physically and mentally in order to conform to the Law of Moses. Christ, the high priest disciplines himself by offering Himself in order to impart life in the Spirit.
Moses’ Law -> Personal discipline w/o the Spirit -> A life of fear and bondage
Better covenant -> Personal sacrifice in the Spirit -> Abundant life (better promises)
What is the purpose of the earthly temple? It serves to prepare men to enter into the true tabernacle, which is the body of Christ, the universal congregation of believers. In this section, the author explains the origin of the earthly temple and the Levitical priesthood. Moses was instructed by God to build an earthly temple according to the heavenly model that was shown to him on the mountain (Exodus 25:40). Much like an architectural mockup that must first be set up prior to building the true concrete structure. God uses the earthly tabernacle, which is symbolic and imperfect (made by man) to prepare the men to enter into the true tabernacle, which is perfect and eternal. However, the earthly tabernacle, the priesthood and the sacrifices are not religious rituals without substance; they are meant to teach a spiritual lifestyle in relation to God and with the community.
Even though Jesus was excluded from the call of priesthood during His 33 years on earth, He has obtained (from God) a more excellent ministry. This better covenant that is based on Jesus’ sacrifice breaks the curses of sin that hinder men from experiencing the abundant life. Moses’ Law, which is the old covenant is not meant to break the bondage of sin, but to prepare them to receive the better covenant.
The believer’s bodily and mental discipline is the foundation of a Spirit-filled life. Many believers supposed by their recognition of God’s grace alone will grant them immediate gratification in abundant living. They celebrate the finished work of the cross thinking that there is nothing more they need to do. They do not need to discipline themselves in fighting temptations and in personal sanctification. Many of them attended church for many years but could not experience abundant living in Christ-likeness because they did not exercise discipline over their minds and bodies.
For 1400 years, the Israelites abided by the Law of Moses for a reason: so that they may learn to live in the ways of the Spirit. The Law of Moses prescribes strict bodily and mental discipline as a foundation for abundant living. Moses’ Law consists of three major elements: the moral code, the priestly function and the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law consists of a series of bodily and mental disciplines detailing men’s dietary requirements, their personal habits and worship lifestyle. These disciplines serve as a foundation for abundant living in the Spirit. The earthly temple with its rituals is a “copy” of life in the Spirit, which is the “heavenly things”: serves as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.
Men receive frequent teachings of moral principles from the priests at the temple. Jewish children are taught the law, and they learn to memorize them at a very young age. The priests function as shepherds to the people guiding and to encouraging them in their daily endeavors. The people bring offerings and sacrifices to the temple, which serve as propitiation for their sins and gifts of thanksgiving. The people adhere to strict dietary requirements, personal discipline and a communal lifestyle as accordance to the Law.
The close relationship between the priest and the people foreshadows a kind of intimate relationship believers should have with the Spirit of Christ. The ceremonial laws (which dictates their diet and lifestyle) and the moral laws form the fabric of the Jewish culture mirroring the importance of the word in the believers’ life. The ceremonial law of animal sacrifices depicts the centrality of Christ in the believers’ lives.
In order to experience abundant living as God intended, believers must discipline themselves daily by reading the word. By immersing ourselves in the word, we let the truth permeate our mindset and transform the way we think and feel. Believers must exercise bodily discipline by overcoming physical and mental lethargy as well as the lust of the flesh. In so doing, believers subject their body and mind to the control of the Holy Spirit making life meaningful and productive.
The seasons of futility are foundations for our future prosperity. We often blame ourselves for the times when life is futile and unfruitful. We write off those years and hope they will never to be brought to mind. What we consider as wasted years are in fact divine foundations for our future prosperity. Hence, we must not perceive those unfortunate events as a bulk of wasted years. The resilience of the Jewish race and the tenacity of Israel today is the consequence of generations of seemingly futile fixation on Moses’ Law. Moses’ Law, considered by many in Christianity as much ado about nothing. But it forms the very foundation of present-day Christian revivals and evangelistic movements. The Old Testament is in fact birthed out of the era of the Moses’ Law. Let us be encouraged that our failures are not after all meaningless; they are providentially ordained to pave our future towards success. Our past mistakes must result in greater wisdom and conviction towards the ways of God. Hence, we should celebrate not only our victories but even more so our failures.
The church should not focus on shoring up membership for herself, but to lead people towards the true tabernacle, which is the body of Christ. The earthly temple with its priesthood is imperfect and transitory, and it must make way for the true tabernacle where Christ is the high priest. Therefore, members of the local church must do all to create unity among the local churches. The role of the local church is not to make herself more prominent, but to lead people into the true tabernacle, which is the body of Christ. Hence, churches must avoid competing with one another but to cover one another’s weaknesses resulting in true church growth.
- Do you look back into your past and wish that somethings never happened? Perhaps, God has allowed “somethings” to happen in order to bring you to where you are today. Although you can no longer return to the past and change “somethings”, but with God’s help, you can determine your future. Therefore, you must stop looking to the past with regret, but learn from your mistakes and be determined to embrace a glorious future.
- Do you have a perennial problem of self-discipline? Hold yourself accountable to a group of faithful and disciplined believers over certain areas of your life: bodily discipline in holy living, and mental discipline in being focused on the goals of the day etc.
Dear Lord, I understand that bodily and mental disciplines are keys to a meaningful life. Strengthen me with your Spirit and help me overcome the weaknesses of my mind and body. I release my past regrets and trust that you have a divine purpose for them. Hold my hand today and lead me towards a glorious future. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.