Tuesday, October 12

Covenants: The Old and the New

Have you ever heard of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant? Perhaps you may have, perhaps not. The basic concept is that the Old Covenant was the Covenant made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai, whereas the New Covenant was made between God and the whole of humanity, through his son Jesus Christ. In this entry, we will be taking a look at both. We need to understand that there are not merely two covenants found in the entirety of the Bible. There were covenants made between God and Abraham, (Genesis 15:18) God and Jacob, with groups of people, such as the descendants of King David (2nd Samuel 7:12-16), and like the New Covenant, there were some made with all of humanity, such as the promise that God would not flood the whole earth ever again. (Genesis 9:17-18(Photo Credit to: Seeking Jesus)

Jeremiah the prophet spoke of the Old and New Covenants. Jeremiah 31:31-33, "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was their master, declares the Lord. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that Time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" By stating that there would be a new covenant, there is an implied difference between and old and a new - two separate covenants. St. Paul speaks of this new covenant several times. Romans 7:6, "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."  

2nd Corinthians 3:13-16 says, "We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." St. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:17, "What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise." In Hebrews 8:6-7, we read, "But in fact the ministry of 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. For if there had been nothing wrong with the first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people..." 

The text goes on the show the prophecy from Jeremiah 31. Hebrews 8:13 ends, "By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear." God gave the Old Covenant to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. Bear in mind that it was God who gave the covenant, not man. This is what God said to them: (Exodus 19:3-6"This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: `You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." Moses, after receiving the Covenant, along with the Ten Commandments, went down to the elders of Israel and spoke with them. They readily agreed to do all God had asked of them. After formalizing the covenant, Moses returned to the Mt. and was told by God to write down the following laws. You can find these laws in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

When Moses passed, God communicated with Israel through various means - the Urim and the Thummim, Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Zechariah, Jonah, Malachi, and many others. About 1,440 years after the Old Covenant was initiated, there was a baby born in Bethlehem. This baby grew up, working alongside his Mother's husband as a carpenter in the town of Nazareth. When he reached the age of 30, he began a 3-Year Ministry across Israel, from Judea to Galilee, and the like. Between 31-33 AD, he was arrested, and taken to the Roman Governor. After a visit between the King Herod and the Roman Governor, the Israelites called for the man to be crucified for his supposed crimes. So this man was taken to a hill, named Golgotha, and was crucified on a Roman Cross, one of the worst forms of Roman Punishment. A few hours later, the man was dead. When he died, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life." (Matthew 27:51-52, For more on that, see here) But the journey of this supposed criminal was not over. Three days after his crucifixion, he arose from the dead. His name? Jesus of Nazareth. The Messiah.

When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he also initiated the New Covenant by his body and blood. In fact, this was spoken of throughout the Hebrew Bible (Hosea 2:18, Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:61-62). The following table is a overview of the New Covenant, and how it applies to us. (Original Table - credit to: Dan and Melinda Harrison, edited by Troy Hillman)
The Characteristics of the New Covenant
(Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:10-12)
Prophecy of New Covenant How it Applies
"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts." (Jeremiah 31:33b) Emphasizes the spiritual life, rather than ceremonies and offerings. The covenant appeals to the intellect, will, emotions, and to the conscience.
"I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33c) Any who partake in the new covenant have a close and personal relationship with God. They do not need to be a priest to be close to God any longer.
"No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Jeremiah 31:34a) No one can become part of the new covenant without already knowing God, and entering into the new covenant through both faith and obedience.
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34b) Under the new covenant, forgiveness is given by God through his son, Jesus, who was the "final sacrifice," so that no more offerings had to take place.

We need to understand that both Covenants cannot be in effect at the same time. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Covenant and put into place the New. He fulfilled the Old when he died for us. (John 19:28-30) The purpose of the Old Covenant has been achieved and is therefore no longer needed. It was put into place to prepare the Israelites for the coming of the Messiah. Once Christ's death and resurrection occurred, the old was gone. (Galatians 3:24-25Now, some will take all this to mean that the Ten Commandments are not legally and eternally binding. Not so. They are still binding - St. Paul and Christ clearly state this more than once. Yes, it is true that when Jesus died, the law was removed. But that does not by any means show that the Ten Commandments are not still in place. The law of Christ is the same as the Commandments. Christ now has all authority under Heaven. (See Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:20-23) See the below table for clarification. (Original Table credit goes to Dan and Melinda Harrison, edited by Troy Hillman)
The Ten Commandments and the New Covenant Law
The Commandment Law under the New Covenant
"You shall have no other gods before me."(Exodus 20:3) There is only one God, do not put anything before God. (Ephesians 4:6)
"You shall not make for yourself an idol." (Exodus 20:4) Idolatry is to be avoided (1st Corinthians 10:14; Galatians 5:20)
"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God." (Exodus 20:7) Only wholesome speech is to be used, do not take the Lord's name in vain, do not swear or curse. (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4; James 1:26, 3:5-10)
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8) There is no specific corresponding law. However, we are told to live each day for God, and to set aside one day for worship.
"Honor your father and your mother." (Exodus 20:12) Honor your parents. (Ephesians 6:2-3)
"You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13) Murder is forbidden, any who have ever been angry are guilty of breaking this commandment. (Romans 13:9; Matthew 5:21-22) Bear in mind that it says, "Do not murder." Most misunderstand it to say not to kill. Killing may sometimes be necessary in self-defense situations, though I would not condone killing.
"You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14) Sexual immorality is forbidden. Do not lust, for lust is like committing adultery in one's mind. (Matthew 5:27-28; 1st Corinthians. 6:18; Galatians 5:19)
"You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15) Do not steal, no matter how small, large, significant or insignificant something is. (Ephesians 4:28)
"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16) All lying is forbidden, be it a "white lie," or a "big lie." (Colossians 3:9; Revelation 21:8)
"You shall not covet."- (Exodus 20:17) Greed is forbidden. Do not want what others have, be it a girl/guy, object, or other such things. (Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5)
As you can see from the above table, The Commandments are still in place, under the New Covenant. For more on the Ten Commandments, see here. What was the Old Covenant? The Old Covenant was between God and Israel, involving many sacrificial laws, among others. The Old was removed when Christ died on the cross. That is when the New Covenant, between not only Israel, but the Gentiles - all of humanity, was put into effect. It remains that way to this day. Jesus, at the infamous last supper, gave his disciples bread and "fruit of the vine." He said, "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14:24-25) After he had said this, when his death and resurrection passed, the New Covenant was in effect. That is why Christians, to this day, drink and eat "In remembrance of" Christ.

I thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth." I trust it has proven both helpful and insightful, and that you come away with a clearer and better understanding of the Old and the New Covenant. 

Troy Hillman

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