But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. Hebrews 8, verse 6.
Super. It’s Monday and that’s just super; uber rah rah already.
Let’s talk supersessionism. Up until this morning, I hadn’t even heard of that word, but some online research about this verse brought it up. In a nutshell, it’s the concept of the new covenant superseding the old covenant. Islam has a similar tenet, namely in how Islam says it supersedes every other faith (sort of like arguing with a kid and they say “no, you are” over and over until they finally say “no you are infinity”). But the long and short of it is that, when you come to faith in Jesus, you begin to understand how Jesus superseded any and all prior covenants with His redemption of mankind. That doesn’t invalidate those earlier covenants; God still promises unconditionally. But, legally speaking, all the conditions of them are complete with the resurrection of Christ.
So, another thing that happened this morning was that, yet again, I was grousing about church hymns. I like all kinds of music but am turning into a curmudgeon about hymns. Yesterday, as is the wont of many music leaders, the leader at our church in Paris changed the words to a beloved hymn. He isn’t the only one to do this; Chris Tomlin and other Christian musicians frequently do this in their new music, altering the lyrics to beloved songs. The bottom line is that it irritates me. It annoys me, especially if said altered song is one dear to me (as this one was. We sang it at my dad’s funeral).
Let’s be clear about this: this is a first world problem. Compared to North Korean missiles, hunger in Africa, and non-existent anthropogenic climate change, this is a problem that only a spoiled first worlder such as myself could air. Yet air it I did and found that, not surprisingly, some agreed with me and some didn’t. A pastor friend of mine reminded me that pastors will sometimes do this to reinforce the message they’re communicating that week; that’s true. And, quite honestly, if it gives constructive praise to God – which it did – then even if a few feathers are ruffled it can be a good thing; that’s true as well.
What’s the point? Do newly doctored songs replace the old ones (I hope not). No, the point is that we’re free to debate this. We can talk, agree to disagree, and still be in unity as believers & friends. That freedom is ONLY possible because Jesus superseded all previous covenants that His Father had made with men. The covenants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David were loving efforts by God to bring man into unity with Him. Not surprisingly, mankind messed them up. We NEED a covenant from Jesus, the God-man, to restore full balance between ourselves and our God. We need Him to redeem us; we need Him to make us righteous in front of a Father who can tolerate only righteousness; we need Him to make us clean again and take away the consequences of our sins. Just like we need air and water, we need Jesus.
That need could only be satisfied by Jesus making us truly free. In fact, the more you study Scripture, the more you begin to see that faith in Jesus is the only foundation for true liberty. Our Founders knew this, even as not all of them were practicing Christians. Freedom through legalism isn’t freedom at all. No government or contract really makes you free. If anything, governments and legal contracts are supposed to protect one’s freedom even as they more frequently limit it. Being bound by the constraints of a human contract limits your ability to say or do what you do. Thus, when people implemented the old covenants, the result was legalism. When you do that, you get the Pharisees (or American academia).
Enter Jesus who, as the verse reminds us, mediates a new covenant between ourselves and our God. The former covenants, misunderstood by we humans, had been twisted to be constraining. Jesus makes a new covenant that removes those constraints by simply asking us to believe He is God, and He takes care of everything else. Life? Done; it’s yours. Provisions for living? Done; they’re yours. Forgiveness of all your sins and the guilt that dog-piles on with them? Done; yours again. All we do is believe. From there, Jesus takes the load and leads us now in His better way. The goal of life isn’t to toe the line: the goal of life becomes loving others to help them with their burdens in life.
All because Jesus’ covenant of life superseded all those before it in the ultimate act of supersessionism. That includes curmudgeon grousing about church music. Pretty super after all.
For further reading: Luke 22:20, Galatians 3:20.
My Lord, I praise You for superseding the old covenants that blessed all my ancestors (and even me). Thank You for making it possible to walk and talk with you and my brothers and sisters.