Let’s start with what Jesus says on the night before He was crucified, while He and His disciples share the Passover meal:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, NKJV)
When the disciples heard this, they would connect the words and actions with what they already knew and revered about covenant, and about Passover. Jesus split the bread, saying it was His body, and then declared the wine His blood.
Even more, remember why the disciples are gathered with Jesus for this last supper—it is the Passover meal. God promised to free the Israelites from Egypt and leave them unharmed when He moved through Egypt, striking down all of the first-born—except those houses whose doors were marked with the blood of a lamb—a lamb “without blemish,” the same Hebrew word used with Abraham when he was told to walk “blameless.”
These homes God promised to “pass over.” At this first Passover, they were saved by the blood of the lamb. God commanded the Israelites to memorialize this event every year by celebrating a Passover meal together and retelling the story of their Exodus to freedom.
When, at that Passover meal, Jesus says of the cup of wine, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” His words are echoes of cutting and blood in covenant, of the lamb without blemish whose blood spared the Israelites, and of deliverance from the oppression under Egypt. In fact, the word Jesus used, translated “remission,” means “deliverance” - from the oppression and domination of sin, just as the Israelites were delivered from the oppression and domination of the Egyptians.
So the blood of an animal, offered by Aaron (and the generations of priests that followed him), can produce deliverance from the domination of sin for the people of Israel. The cost of such sin is death—the sacrifice of a valuable living being by a high priest of God—and then the people are free from the judgment that sin has caused.
It was not their righteousness that brought them atonement; it was the blood of another, spilled on their behalf, and they trusted that it was so, because God told them it would be so. Remembering this, now listen to Hebrews:
Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews7:22-28, NKJV)
Later Hebrews speaks of the covenant Jesus declared:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. (Hebrews 8:7-12, NKJV)
This new covenant declared by Jesus had been promised long before; it was to be one where sin is wiped away, forgotten, by the profound sacrifice of an obedient and sinless man—a sacrifice greater than that of lambs or oxen—and therefore permanent, not temporary.
Further, the covenant Jesus declares is one where those who are redeemed will “know the LORD,” and His laws (teachings and instructions) will be internalized and lived out, rather than performed because of external behavior control, whether by peer pressure or because of scrutiny from religious leaders.
That is, people would not harm each other, and would care for each other, not because there were rules, enforced by others, to make them behave, but because God’s counsel was incorporated directly in their own hearts and minds! It is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the house of Israel that He will be their God and they will be His people, and they will be so close to Him as to know His heart, and will act in ways that make others fall in love with Him.
He told them how to demonstrate that they were His followers, not by proper defense and assertion of theology, not by agreeing to certain propositions or concepts, not by affirming carefully reasoned doctrines, but by how they treated each other: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NKJV)
SALVATION, SANCTIFICATION, AND…
The order of salvation in covenant is as it always has been: God initiates a saving relationship, like a marriage, and promises to be with us eternally. We believe in Him; that is, we trust that He can and will do what He promises.
We rely on the promise.
In Jesus, as He fulfills the covenant, we witness the depth of God’s love for us: sacrifice even unto death, and the power of love so great that it brings resurrection to new life. He lives with us, in us and through us, to teach us His ways, so that we too might love those around us—neighbors and even enemies.
That is our sanctification, our being conformed to Him, learning to be like Him, learning to love like Him.
In these, salvation and sanctification (and ultimately glorification) is Life in Christ. It is the covenant Jesus taught, and fulfills within us, and through us.
We are called to covenant. We obey and we hear.