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The New Covenant

Updated on June 8, 2010

The boiled down Biblical definition of "Covenant:" A pact with promises

Synonyms for "Covenant": agreement, arrangement, bargain, bond, commitment, compact, concordat, contract, convention, deal, deed, stipulation, transaction, treaty, trust.


Those who are under the New Covenant are NOT to submit themselves to the Old Covenant. Why? Because the engine that drives the New Covenant is – grace.The engine that drives the Old Covenant is – law. Law works by attempting to conform the flesh by giving it boundaries of demand. Under the Old Covenant, if one exceeds the boundaries of the law then curses result (Deuteronomy 28:15). If one stays within these boundaries then blessings result (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Grace doesn’t give fleshly boundaries (1Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23). The grace of God in Christ produces thoughts and actions governed by unconditional love. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, ”For the love of Christ constrains us" in 2Corinthians 5:14 (see also 1John 4:19 & Romans 2:4).

Grace can be understood as unmerited divine favor (God blessing us beyond what we deserve). God poured out His blessings to us because of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in our behalf. This far reaching love of God was to constrain us to not live for ourselves, but for him who died and rose again on our behalf (2Corinthians 5:15). Grace gave us the blessings of God because of Christ’s work in our behalf. Law promised blessings by our work only if it was adhered to in totality: the blessings came only by our work. By the Law we say, “I’m trying to walk with God.” By grace we say, “God made me in the image of His Son so that I can walk with God.”

THE WORDS OF THE TWO COVENANTS: John 1:17 says that, “the law came by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The words of the Old Covenant are the Law. The words of the New Covenant are grace and truth. These are two different covenants with two different sets of words from God to live by. As Moses was the mediator of the words of the Old Covenant, so Jesus Christ is the mediator of the words of the New Covenant.

This word "new" used in “New Covenant” is defined by E. W. Bullinger in his Lexicon and Concordance: "not merely recent, but different from that which had been formerly; new, as coming in the place of a thing that was formerly, and as not yet used."

Jesus Christ said that the Old Covenant CANNOT be mixed with the New Covenant: Mark 2:21-22. Both will be lost because they are contrary to each other.

OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW! This is the idea of Hebrews 8:13: “In that he saith, A new covenant he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away.” This same point is reiterated in chapter 10, verse 9: “then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”

What is the Old Covenant? Deuteronomy 4:13: the “ten commandments.”

Malachi. 4:4: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances.”

So, who was the Law “for?”

Luke 16:16: “The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are announced..."

Romans 3:20: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Romans 4:15: “for the law worketh wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there transgression.”

Romans 5:13: “for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”

Rom. 5:20: “And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly:”

Romans 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.”

Romans 7:4: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.” (Please read all of chapter 7 for richer insight) There is nothing wrong with the Law. The Law is holy. We were the problem. We were too weak by our flesh to keep it.

Romans 7:6: “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter."

Romans 8:1-4 "There is therefore now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the thing impossible for the Law to do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteousness requirement of the Law should be fulfilled in us, the ones not walking about according to flesh, but according to the Spirit."

2Corinthians 3 compares the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. Referring to the Law, verse 6 says that “the letter kills.” Verse 7 calls it “the ministry of death.” Verse 9 says that it is “the ministry of condemnation.” Verse 11 says it is “that which fades away.” In verse 14 “it is removed in Christ.”

Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Galatians 3:21-25 "Therefore, is the Law against the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law was given which was able to make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by law. But the Scripture confined all under sin, so that the promise shall be given by faith in Jesus Christ to the ones believing. But before faith came, we were being guarded or, being kept in protective custody under the Law, having been confined to the faith about to be revealed. Therefore, the Law has became our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that by faith we should be justified [or, declared righteous]. But since faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Galatians 4:21-31 "Tell me, those of you desiring to be under the Law, do you not pay attention to the Law? For it has been written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave-woman and one by the free-woman. But the one by the slave-woman has been born according to flesh, but the one by the free-woman through the promise, which things speak allegorically. For these are two covenants: one indeed from Mount Sinai giving birth to children into slavery, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and stands corresponding to the present Jerusalem and serves as a slave with her children. But the Jerusalem above is the free-woman, which is mother of us all. For it has been written, "Celebrate, O barren woman, the one not giving birth; break forth and shout, the one not experiencing labor pains, because many are the children of the forsaken woman more than those of the one having the husband." Now we, brothers and sisters, just like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time, the one having been born according to the flesh was persecuting the one according to the spirit, so it is also now. But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave-woman and her son, for by no means shall the son of the slave-woman be a heir with the son of the free-woman." Consequently, brothers and sisters, we are not a slave-woman's children, but the free-woman's."

Who does the bondwoman and her son represent in this allegory? That's right - the Old Covenant! Who does the free-womans and her son represent? That's right - the New Covenant!

Galatians 5:18: “But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”

Ephesians 2:15 - Jesus Christ: “having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”

Colossians 2:14: “having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;”

Hebrews 7:18-19: “For there is a setting aside of the commandment going before for its weakness and unprofitableness, (for the law perfected nothing,) and the introduction of a better hope by which we draw nigh to God."

Hebrews 8:6-7: “But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second.”

Hebrews 8:13: “In that he saith, A new covenant he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away.”

Hebrews 10:9 - Jesus Christ’s work regarding the two covenants: “then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”

Acts 13:38: “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

Acts 15:1-2: “And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, “Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.” The problem being disputed here was whether or not the Law of Moses should be adhered to. The conclusion of this crucial conference is found in verses 19-21. Certain men were arguing that the Gentile believers were to be circumcised and to observe the Law of Moses. This cut Paul and Barnabas to their bones because it was contrary to the New Covenant.

Whenever the Old Covenant is merged with the New Covenant sin consciousness and guilt are prevalent (Romans 7:7-8). This is clearly contrary to God’s will for us under the New Covenant (Roman 8:1 & 8:33). In comparing the Old Covenant to the New Covenant the contrasts related to sin are elucidated. Through the Law is the knowledge of sin (Roman 3:20). Through Jesus Christ we are justified from sin (Roman 6:7).

Hebrews 8:6-8 The first covenant had a flaw, or fault. The flaw was the people’s inability to keep the Law. So, God sought for a second where those who He made the covenant with would be blameless/flawless (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14).

Under the Old Covenant God’s people were reminded of sin every time they did a sacrifice of an animal for sins. We’ve been justified from sin (Romans 6:7) and now that we are purged we should have no more conscience of sins (see Hebrews 10:1-3). This is a drastic difference between the two covenants. Hebrews 8-10 demonstrates the weakness of the Old Covenant in comparison to the New Covenant and that the Old Covenant was a temporary shadow, a silhouette, of the permanent New Covenant.

Under the New Covenant we’re to be mindful of Jesus Christ’s payment for all sins on that cursed tree. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of himself at Calvary was the satisfactory payment for all of our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2).

Under the New Covenant we’re to “reckon ourselves dead unto sin, and alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:11) Our justification was accomplished by the redemptive work of Christ. When all the work was done he was seated at the right hand of God. Do you see the contrast with the New Covenant and the common practice of confessing our sins? To confess our sins (the ones that we recognize as sin) is to acknowledge sin in our lives, which is to disregard the truth that Jesus Christ dealt with the sin problem. The doctrine of Christ is that we’re dead unto sin through him. The Lord Jesus Christ paid for any sin (error) in my life, at Calvary. We’re to “walk in Christ Jesus.” We’re to walk in the realm of being delivered from sin. The correct practice is to conclude that Jesus Christ carried our sins and paid for them all on the cross. Our sins were nailed to that tree just as sure as he was. The correct practice is to walk in light of this truth and not receive the grace of God in vain.

ENEMIES OF THE CROSS: Philippians 3:18-19. Enemies of the cross of Christ are those who walk and minister contrary to what was accomplished by the cross of Christ, hence, his payment for our sin. Their words will ultimately address what you are to do to deal with sin in your life. These enemies of the cross do not believe in the completed work by Jesus Christ in their behalf, and so they speak and lead others in the same. Galatians 5:7b-9 tells us that these enemies are those “who hinder you from obeying the truth. This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” We would be wise to learn to recognize these “enemies of the cross” to mark them and avoid them even at the expense of friendships and personal relations. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

IN CONCLUSION: There are distinct differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Under the Old people must earn righteous by the keeping of the Law of Moses. Under the New we’ve been justified from sin by the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:7) and are therefore righteous by his work and not our own (Romans 3:21-22). Anything that is contrary to this most foundational truth should be carefully considered as dangerous doctrine or practice.

We are not under law to try to live sin-free lives. Jesus Christ paid the price of the one sacrifice for sins forever. It is no longer as it was under the Old Covenant, to be in remembrance of our sins. On the contrary, according to Hebrews 10:1-3, we are not to be conscious of sins, but rather, to be conscious of having been justified from sin by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we set our thoughts on the things of heaven (Christ’s payment for sins) rather than of the things upon the earth (our sins, or others’). Our mind’s eye is to be on Christ and his accomplishment, not on us and our works. “We died with him” refers to our sins having been dealt with by him on the cross. “I die daily” means that we daily place ourselves at the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ where he died in our behalf. He carried our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. Praise God for His glorious grace! (again, and again, and again). Through the death of Jesus Christ for sins we’re not to be conscious of our sins, but instead, we’re to be conscious of his sacrifice for our sins. This leaves us thankful and rejoicing in our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God, our redemption is eternal! (Hebrews 9:12)


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