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What is the New Covenant?

Updated on June 28, 2020
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Barry is the founder and director of Expositors International Ministry and dean of Bible Expositors Seminary, Philippines.

Hebrews 8:8-13

For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for 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 into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For all will know Me, From the least to the greatest of them. “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

The Old Covenant

The Old Covenant was established by God with the nation of Israel (verse 9). It was not a permanent covenant but was a “copy and shadow.” The sacrifices of the bulls, lambs, and goats could never permanently remove sin. The sacrifices were repeated over and over but the debt was never settled. These only served as a temporal covering and pointed to a greater reality. That greater fulfillment is found in the sacrifice of Christ, who paid for sins “once for all” (Romans 6:10).

The Old Covenant could not save because it was flawed (v.7). The flaw was not in the covenant but in the parties that were part of the covenant. The nation of Israel did not keep the conditions of the covenant. Time and time again they broke God’s Laws. They made offerings to the pagan idols and depended on other nations to deliver them from their captivities. The Old Covenant never offered eternal life.

Even the Old Testament saints were saved by a forward-looking faith in the Messiah who would come. They were justified by this faith (Hebrews 11).


Jesus is Superior

The New Covenant has a better high priest. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in the “true tabernacle.” (Heb.8:1-2). Christ is contrasted with the Levitical priests whose offerings were according to the Law (v. 4) and who were only serving a “copy and shadow” of the reality. The blood of animals could never atone for sin. But Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed once and for all to forgive sins (Romans 6:10).

Jesus now lives as the Mediator of His people (Hebrews 7:25; 8:6). And those for whom He died, He will save them. They are secure in Him, their sins are forgiven, and they will receive eternal life.

The New Covenant

While the Old Covenant was made with the people of Israel the New Covenant is between the Trinity with the elect people receiving the benefits. Israel was the type and shadow of the Church. The circumcision of the foreskin could not save. The ceremonial laws could not atone for sin. We see in the New Testament that those who try to go back to ceremonial laws have cut themselves off from Christ. The book of Hebrews, the book of Galatians, as well as other places in the New Testament, shows very plainly that those things have passed away. They are no more and they have been fulfilled in Christ. There is no more need for the circumcision of the foreskin, for the animal sacrifices, and there is even no more need for the temple in Jerusalem. These things were all pointing to a greater reality that we now have in Christ.

In the New Covenant, the people will have the Law of God in the minds and on their hearts. This is what it means to be “born again" and regenerated. When Adam sinned all die. The bible says we are born dead in our trespasses and sins. Throughout the scripture, the description of the human soul apart from God is that it is dead, at war with God, and in the bondage to sin. The picture of being saved is that we are born again- given life. God removes a heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh. With this new heart, we get new desires. Our desire now is to obey God. Yes, the Christian is still in a physical body that awaits to be freed from the curse of the Fall but he has a regenerate soul. His soul now desires to do good and delights in the law of the lord.

The New Covenant was not like the Old Covenant. It cannot be broken because it is based upon a “better promise” (v.6). The promise was that the offspring of Abraham would be the Messiah who would be a blessing to the nations. He would be the sacrificial Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world. The people of the New Covenant can never fall away permanently, like many of those in the Old Covenant did. They cannot fail away because they are held by Christ (John 10:28).

With the new birth comes adoption. The people who were once alienated from God are now the people of God. They do not simply know about God but they have a relationship with God. Through the work of the Son, the elect are reunited with God the Father. What Adam lost in the garden, those who have been born again have regained in Christ. We now are back in a relationship with our Father for eternity, and never to be separated again.


Further Explanation of The New Covenant

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I like your style. All truth here.

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