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The Old Covenant of the Jews and the New Covenant of Christ

A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties, with conditions to be met and promises to be fulfilled. While a number of covenants are mentioned in Scripture (e.g. Gen. 6:18; 9:9; 17:9), two stand out in prominence. Understanding the differences between these two covenants is vital to interpreting the Bible correctly.

About fifteen centuries before Christ, God made a covenant with the Israelites when Moses led them out of Egypt to Mt. Horeb in the Sinai Wilderness (Exod. 19:1-25; Deut. 5:1-22). While this covenant was based on “10 commandments” written on tablets of stone (Deut. 4:13), it eventually included around 613 additional statutes, judgements, and regulations. This covenant, also known as the Old Testament (2 Cor. 3:14), the Law of Moses (Mal. 4:4), the Law of God or simply the Law (Neh. 8:7-8), was comprised of discernible parts (cf. Luke 24:44), but there was still only one law to which the Jews were amenable (Rom. 2:17-18).

Although the promises of this covenant were conditional (Josh. 23:14-16) and Israel did not live up to their end of the agreement (Jer. 11:8-11), the covenant was never meant to be permanent. It was a temporary measure to help the Jews remain faithful until the Messiah came into the world (Gal. 3:16-25), after which it fulfilled its purpose and became obsolete (Heb. 7:12, 18; 8:13; 10:9).

Around six centuries before Christ, God promised to make a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). When Jesus died on the cross, this prophecy was fulfilled and the old covenant of the Jews was superceded by the new covenant of Jesus Christ (Heb. 8:6-13; 9:15-17). This new covenant is a better covenant in that it is established on better promises (Heb. 8:6), is intended for all people rather than a single nation or ethnic group (Luke 24:47; Eph. 2:11-22), has a superior priesthood and more excellent mediator (Heb. 7:11-28; 12:24), provides the assurance of a greater rest and hope (Heb. 4:1-16; 6:11-19), offers forgiveness of sins (Heb. 8:12; 10:17), has a superior atoning sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-28), and is everlasting (Heb. 13:20). Above all else, the new covenant is better because it alone has the validation of a Saviour, Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).

Even though the Old Testament has been annulled as a binding set of regulations, it still serves a useful purpose for our learning and admonition (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-12). Nevertheless, no one today is justified by that law (Rom. 3:20-22). “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Originally posted on 11 May 2011 by Kevin L. Moore at http://www.poriruachurch.com. Quotations are from the NKJV.

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This entry was posted on 11/05/2011 by in The Bible and tagged , , .