As Christians, we often talk about the New Covenant established through the death and resurrection of Jesus in His blood. But what exactly is the New Covenant, and how is it different to the Old Covenant? God has a single plan of redemption for humanity, and the covenants with man unfold that one plan. There are seven Covenants in the Bible between God and man. Each covenant plays a part in preparing us for the coming of the Messiah and the culmination of God’s glorious plan for salvation, Amen! Not only that, but God’s covenants progress from one to another. Covenants are essential because it helps us understand passages in the Bible and then correctly apply it to our lives. We know more of who God is through the covenants and why He does what He does. As we read the covenants and scriptures, we should always ask how this covenant reveals the God who saves us and the one who He will send a Saviour, the Messiah.
In the Bible we see that God’s dealings with man were determined by agreements called “covenants”. The Christian relationship with God must be understood through a covenant because this is how God has chosen to relate to man. Some of these covenants were conditional, and others were unconditional. An example of a conditional covenant is the Mosaic covenant in which God blesses the people “if” they follow His Law (Exodus 19-24, Deuteronomy 28). An example of an unconditional covenant is where God promised Abraham to make him a great nation (Gen 12:1-3, 15:4-7, 17:6-8). In essence, all these come under the overarching theme of “grace”. Covenants of grace. Amen!
The Old Covenant served as a guidepost to Christ. Galatians 3:24-26 says, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” The Old Covenant in terms of the Mosaic covenant was always intended to be superseded by the new covenant in Christ. God gave the Israelites this covenant not because it would perfect them, but it would point to their need for complete dependence on God’s grace and point them to Christ where His grace can be found (Romans 5:20-21). In the Old Testament blood sacrifices were required for the cleansing and atonement of sin when the Law was broken. The people were required to strictly obey the Mosaic Law. In Romans 6:23, it says that the “wages of sin is death”.
Throughout the Old Testament, there were many prophecies of the “New Covenant”. The pre-exilic prophets continually taught that judgment was coming because of Israel’s failure to keep God’s covenant. From the time of Moses onwards the history of Israel was one of continual disobedience and apostasy. In fact, both Moses and Joshua indicated that Israel was incapable of keeping the old covenant,. In fact, the prophets Moses (Deutereonomy 29:4), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34), Isaiah (Isaiah 42:6, 54:10), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:26) talk about the new covenant.
The New Covenant is the promise that God makes with all humanity that He will forgive their sins and restore fellowship with God. The mediator of this New Covenant is Jesus Christ, and the promise was executed by His death on the cross and His resurrection (Luke 22:20).
Jeremiah 31:31-34 says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The Old Covenant was written in stone, but the New Covenant is written on our hearts. No one was able to keep the Old Covenant because of the weakness of man. So Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) and by doing so He established the New Covenant between God and man. Entering into the New Covenant with God is only possible by the work of God and by His Spirit in our hearts to give us faith to put our trust in His perfect sacrifice by which God enables us to stand in the righteousness of Jesus and not our own. Amen! What was impossible for man, was made possible through Christ (Luke 18:27).
Ezekiel also alludes to the New Covenant in chapter 36:26-27, and shows God will give you a new heart, a new spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and lead you to true holiness, none of which the Mosaic law could do. Romans 3:20 says “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
Although the New Covenant was originally given to Israel, the Gentiles (the nations of the world) were also brought into the blessing of it. We see this in Acts 10 and in Ephesians 2:13-14. Similarly in the Old Testament in Isaiah 42:6, 60:3, Zechariah 14:16, etc. In the New Covenant we are no longer under the Law but we are under grace. Romans 6:14 says “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
The Abrahamic covenant gave us the promie of the blessing for the nations through Abraham’s seed and offspring, which was the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Through Christ the universal intention of this covenant was made possible in the New Covenant. God’s New Covenant reverses Adam;s sin and rebellion which meant there was death and judgment as the punishment for sin. In the New Covenant the people are regenerate, loving God and being in obedience to Him. Like it says in Jeremiah 31:33 “‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts'”.
In the New Covenant we receive salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) through faith in Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the Law perfectly on our behalf because it was impossible for us to do so. Instead of the Law’s sacrifices, He became the ultimate sacrifice through His death on the cross and took the punishment for our sins. Now when we receive the gift of salvation we receive the Holy Spirit who is given to us a guarantee of our inheritance in Him (Ephesians 1:14).
Let us close with the words of Jesus, in Matthew 26:26-29, saying:
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”