God is a covenant-making God. He made covenants with His people starting from the creation of man. However, none of these covenants was faultless. Heb 8:7 says, "If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it."
In its Hebrew form, the word "covenant" was use 273 times in the Holy Bible, which comes from the root word meaning, "to cut.” In its simplest form, a covenant is an all-encompassing agreement between two parties with clearly outlined perimeters and promises. It is a mutual understanding between two persons who bind themselves together with specific obligations to fulfill.
It is one of the chief devices of God’s patient and condescending grace made use to stir up and strengthen our faith.
It is so familiar to us, but in actual sense, people do not give so much importance. If we do---people will not break God's ordinances. People will not defile the land, and people will not worship other gods. They will not resort to idolatry and sexual immorality and will stay out of sins. Andrew Murray said in his book “The Two Covenants,” Blessed is the man you truly knows God as his Covenant God’ who knows what the Covenant promises him; what unwavering confidence of expectation it secures, that all its terms will be fulfilled to him; what a claim and hold it gives him on the Covenant-keeping God Himself.”
We are talking about these covenants---with reference to the Word of God or the Holy Bible, which was, divided into two major parts: the Old Testament or the Old Covenant and the New Testament or the New Covenant.
Generally, the word covenant is not always used. We are so familiar to refer it as testament, which derived from the Greek term diathēkē (dee-ath-ay'-kay), from G1303; properly a disposition, that is, (specifically) a contract (especially a devisory will): - covenant, testament.
It is indeed interesting to know whether the Old Covenant is still important now that we have the New Covenant (New Testament).
The following verses speak about the First Covenant (Old Testament):
Exodus 19:5 "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," (NIV)
Here the translation of the Greek term berîyth (ber-eeth') from H1262 (in the sense of cutting (like H1254)); a compact (because made by passing between From H1262 (in the sense of cutting (like H1254)); a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh): - confederacy, [con-]feder[-ate], covenant, league.
The word "covenant" as a noun, refers to a binding agreement, a contract between at least two parties. A covenant can be between human parties (such as nations, friends, rulers and subjects, etc.) or between God and a human person or group. Covenant is an important defining concept in the relationship between God and his people.
Deut. 4:13; 7:12 said: "He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets...If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers."(NIV)
And in Jeremiah 31:33-34, it says, "33 "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.
34 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,"
declares the LORD.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
If we have to meditate and reflect on these verses, we can tell that God has taken the initiative. Man must have the opportunity to do his part or what he can do or what needs to be done for him. My experience and observation that most people seemed to neglect or just do not give importance to the Old Covenant or the Old Testament.
But why would God binds Himself a covenant with His people as if He could not be trusted, and why did He wants to write such law or covenant in the hearts of His people?
God knows the heart of man. He knows our weakness and need. He knows the secrets of our heart. God wanted to give us perfect confidence in Him and the full assurance of all that He, in His everlasting riches, glory and power as God, has promised to do to us. That is why He binds Himself with us with His covenant. He promised to write His law in our hearts so that we will have full access with His grace and blessings, and all of His promises.
Even after the fall of man, the Adamic covenant has already the promised of salvation when God put enmity between the serpent and the woman. God has already given that victory which was fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He had seen that man through his heart work the evil. Still God wanted to save His people and fulfill His promise to write His law in their hearts so that they will not be able to have an excuse not to follow that law. All we have to do… is to believe in Him.
Two great characteristics of the Old Covenant
1.) It was of Divine appointment, fraught with much true blessing, and indispensable for the working out of God's purpose.
2.) It was only provisional and preparatory to something higher, and therefore insufficient for giving that full salvation which man needs if his heart of the heart of God is to be satisfied.
The Old Testament or the Old Covenant described how the people of God failed in fulfilling their part of the laws that God instructed them to do. By the law, it is the knowledge of sin.
It is for the reason of insufficiency that God made the New Covenant and desired to put the law in the minds of His people and write them in their hearts.
Stories in the Old Testament told us how God put judgment to people who were disobedience and wickedness. But God really wanted to know His people. He long to have a relationship with us and wanted to understand us, as His unique creation.
Is the Old Testament or Old Covenant still important? Absolutely important, in fact, according to Andres Murray in his book "The Two Covenants," it is indispensably necessary to waken man's desires, to call forth his efforts, to deepen the sense of dependence on God, to convince of his sin and impotence, and so to prepare him to feel the need of the salvation of Christ." We will not be able to understand the New Testament or Covenant if we will not understand the Old Covenant (Testament).
What are the two great lessons that God would teach us?
1) The Lesson of Sin; (Old Covenant)
2) The Lesson of Holiness; (New Covenant)
The Old Covenant with the law was written on stone had done its work in the discovering and condemning sin. The old covenant was external and legal. The people were commanded to take the words of the law to heart, whereas the New Covenant would be a vital, person-to-person relationship. It is a Christ-centered life with full of obedience and true holiness of heart.
God wanted a relationship with His people... He wanted to bless His people by putting their hearts right and fitted to know God. The Scripture in Hebrew 8:10-12 was really quoted from Jeremiah 31:33-34, which speak also the superior or the fourfold blessings of the New Covenant, which emphasized the redeeming, transforming change of an individual's spiritual nature.
Hebrews 8:10-12 says "But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord. ’For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins."
Fourfold blessings of the New Covenant (Superior benefits)
1. I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. God wanted to take possession of our hearts. It says that nothing can be put into our hearts especially by God without securing its affection and controlling its whole being. What God did, He breathe life to us, the very spirit of His law into and through our minds and write them on our hearts. Imagine the covenant of God written on our hearts... if the Holy Spirit of God possessed our whole being and taken complete control of our minds and our emotions... everything that comes out of it shall be from God. We will no longer be separated from Him. We will know Him completely; for we are no longer on our own when we are one in Christ Jesus. As what Galatians 3:25 says, "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (The Ten Commandments as part of the Old Covenant) God's laws will then become our inner principles that enable us, His people, to delight in doing His will.
2. I will be their God, and they will be my people. The promise of God as everlasting covenant, which expressed the very highest experience of the Covenant relationship. It is only when we learn to love and obey the law of God, when our heart and life are together and given wholly to the Lord, devoted to Him and His will that God can be to us the altogether inconceivable blessings which these words express, "I will be their God." God is not hard to find... he lives in our heart. But it is only when we are truly circumcised and truly separated from God, that is, by cutting all those things that separate or blocked us from the face of God that we will truly find Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." That includes total surrender or submission to the Lord. In short... sincere repentance and turning away from our wicked ways and focused only our eyes unto Jesus. In short, we will have an intimate fellowship (relationship) with our God.
3. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord. ’For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. This is the individual fellowship with God, from the least to the greatest. This will really happen when Christians will seek and draw more closer and more closer to God that we will really know our God... not just by word by in all essence of His being our Omnipotence and Omnipresent God. He has no favoritism. It does not matter who you are, where you come from... what you have done... or whatever... the important thing is that you want a relationship with God and willing to submit your will to Him and let Him be God to you. This sinful ignorance of God will be removed forever.
4. And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins. The forgiveness of sins will be an everlasting reality. This is the final characteristic of the new covenant is that God would forgive our wickedness and never again remember our sins. The blood of Jesus cleanses us, his people, completely from sin. The divine blotting out of our sins cleanses and sets us free from its power, so that God can write His law in our hearts.
Summary of the New Covenant inheritance
1. Pardon of sin, the root of all
2. Having God as our God
3. The Divine Teaching, are the fruit. The tree itself that grows on this root, and bears such fruit---the law in the heart.
Now we know the difference in the new covenant is that God’s laws would be in people’s minds and on their hearts. People would have renewed hearts and minds, with God’s law as an intrinsic, internal motivation.
It is not only that the laws of God would be in our minds and hearts but in the new covenant, Christ mediates the relationship between God and people by his sacrificial death. Jesus Christ as our High Priest, Intercessor, the only Mediator... gave us the highest level of security as children of God. But only as one who is truly abiding in Him and walking in righteousness and holiness.
Paul said, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Cor 3:2-3).
Jesus Christ is the author of the transformation of the lives of the people. The laws of God given to Moses were written on tablets of stone... Jesus Christ the end of the law for righteousness to those who believe, as said in Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."
The Word is near us; it is in our mouth and in our hearts. That is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart the God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved," For it is with your heart that that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 3:9-10 NIV)
Thus, we can say that Jesus Christ is the surety of that law that God will write on our hearts... if we enter into that covenant... we received the everlasting promise of salvation. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. God has no favoritism... Jews, Gentiles or Greeks... we are all equal in the eyes of God for He gave His life unto us being His prized possession.
The word surety in Greek egguos (eng'-goo-os) from G1722 and γυῖον guion (a limb) means pledged (as if articulated by a member), that is, a bondsman: - surety.
Bondsman or surety -one who is bound, or who gives security, for another.
In other words, it refers to the person who bears the risk of another person’s investment or debt. Because of God’s oath, Jesus’ priesthood is unassailable, so our covenant relationship with God is secure. Having Jesus as the guarantor makes the new covenant better for the law is secured in our hearts... Jesus Christ is in our hearts... and for all those who believe. It is not in a piece of stone or written in letter, which kills, but it is through the ministration of the Holy Spirit, which gives life.
Why God does wants to write His law in our hearts? Just think of an answer… the Holy Bible says… faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
God wanted us to have faith in Him, really trust in Him completely. Through our faith, we have confidence in His Word and that we are sure and certain that His Word will happen, even if we have not seen it.
Faith: It is acting on what God has revealed about his will and character. • The confidence of faith is based on the God who fulfills his promises. • The word translated assurance means an active certainty that what God has promised will come to pass despite our not yet seeing it.
“Blessed are the people in whose heart is God’s law. ‘But it is there invisibly. He takes God’s promise in faith, knows that it is in his own heart.”
We think God’s law is written invisibly and not conscious of it. That does not matter. We have to deal with the divine and hidden work of the Holy Spirit. When God has written His law in our hearts, He has given us then… a new heart. He has taken away the stony and wicked heart. It is by this new heart that we live. This new heart who belongs only to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. Amen!
The Two Covenants, Andrew Murray
The New Living Translation Study Bible
The New International Version Study Bible
The Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible
Will on March 14, 2011:
In Colossians 2:14, the apostle Paul wrote, speaking of Christ, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.”
This is referring to Moses and his 'handwritten' law.While Christ’s sacrifice did do away with the need for animal sacrifices, as well as eliminating other physical, priestly duties and various other physical requirements (Heb. 7:12; also again notice Gal. 3:10-13), the “ordinances” referred to pharisaical decrees that restricted and burdened the Jews and certain ascetic, oppressive ordinances of “touch not, taste not, handle not” (vs. 21) that had been bound on the Colossian Gentiles. (Notice I Corinthians 8:4-10.)
The 'Royal Law' (10 Commandments)is immutable, This includes the Sabbath (Saturday). The Pharisees had 65 separate “do’s” and “don’ts” governing almost every tiny aspect of how the Sabbath should or should not be kept. Their man-made regulations, developed over centuries, had turned the Sabbath into bondage instead of the blessing for mankind that God intended it to be. Many things were considered “not lawful.”
Jesus stressed that the Sabbath was made for man’s needs—to rest, be refreshed, and commune with God. The Pharisees acted as if man was made for complying with their endless rules. Their maze of regulations separated them from the Sabbath’s true meaning. Nowhere, not once does the New Testament endorse Sunday worship.
Alecs Johnson (author) from New Mexico on December 03, 2010:
Peace and blessings to you Bruce_Leiter. Thank you very much for your comments. I really appreciate it.
Bruce_Leiter on November 22, 2010:
I agree with much of your writing, but I believe that some clarification is necessary. After 40 years of Bible study and much meditation about this very topic, I believe that God has made the relationship between the old and new covenant clear to me. I pass it on to all of you.
First, remember that the old covenant was not started at Sinai with the nation of Israel but with Abram, later known as Abraham (read Genesis 12-17). God came to Abram in Genesis 12 and promised that he would be blessed and made a blessing to the nations. Those promises were God's part of his agreement (covenant) with Abram, which is sometimes called the covenant of grace because God gave it unconditionally. He came back to Abram in Genesis 15 to promise that Abram, whose name meant "Father," would have a son and would inherit the Land of Promise, Canaan, where present-day Israel is. Note that Genesis 15:6 is a reference to Abraham's faith quoted often in the New Testament.
However, since Abram and his wife, Sarai, were too old to have children, humanly speaking, they decided in chapter 16 to devise their own solution to fulfill God's promises. The result was Ishmael, who was not God's solution. In chapter 17 God returns to 99-year-old Abram and establishes a mutual covenant with his repeated promises and Abram's covenant responsibilities as his faith-response to God's covenant with him. Notice that God changed Abram's name to Abraham ("father of many") to assert his authority over Abraham, pictured also by the rite of circumcision. Israel's covenant with God begun at Mt. Sinai with God's speaking the Ten Commandments was the national form of the covenant that God made with Abraham (see Exodus 1). Later, in the new covenant baptism replaced circumcision with the same meaning (Colossians 2).
In the new covenant that God enables Jeremiah to predict, the newness is an emphasis on the inner commitment that all believers (Old and New) have to the God of the Bible. The word "new" in the New Testament, new Jerusalem, new covenant, and new heaven and earth means "new and improved," not "brand-new," according to Trent in his book on the synonyms of the New Testament--new in quality rather than in kind.
In other words, the new covenant has continuity and discontinuity with the old covenant, which was made with Abraham and carried on with the nation of Israel. The new covenant no longer has the national outward form of the laws given to Israel. For example, the distinction between the clean and unclean foods in Leviticus is no longer in effect, but the purpose of the law in pointing out the uncleanness in our lives is confirmed in the New Testament, while Jesus and Paul said that all foods are clean for us under the new covenant. Another obvioous example is the bloody sacrifices replaced with the one bloody sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Thus, it's through Jesus' death rather than animal sacrifices that the people of the new covenant receive God's forgiveness.
Another example is the Saturday-Sabbath, which Jesus followed, but he said that he was the Lord of the Sabbath and that it was made for humans rather than having an outward, legalistic control over our lives, the way the Pharisees used it. Thus, the early church freely began worshiping and resting on Sunday to celebrate Jesus' resurrection rather than following the outward, national form of the commandment.
Thus, you see that Jesus abolished the outward, national form of the law with his death on the cross (see Colossians 2), for his international church, the successor to Old Testament Israel. We believers are spiritual "children" of Abraham, according to Paul in Galatians 3 and Romans 4. Therefore, the inner purposes of the old covenant still apply to us, except that the outward form does not anymore.
Another example is the puzzling command that we are not to boil a kid in its mother goat's milk. Apparently, that action was part of the Canaanites' pagan rituals in some way. The principle, though, carries on to us under the new covenant that we must keep our worship free from unbelieving ideas and practices.
I hope that these comments help clarify your thinking about the old and new covenant.
Alecs Johnson (author) from New Mexico on November 14, 2010:
To God be all the glory, Amen! Thank you very much for such an inspiring words lifegate and Angelaca. It was really a surprise to me that after all this time... someone read what the Holy Spirit inspires for me to write.
Peace and blessings to you both,
Angelaca on September 04, 2010:
Wonderfully written with depth and understanding of God's purpose and plan for His Creation. Us becoming God's Word by living it out in our daily lives makes for a better witness of His power and His Sovereignty and Authority over every thing.
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on August 12, 2010:
Thanks for a very clear and concise study.
Alecs Johnson (author) from New Mexico on February 11, 2010:
Amen to that A M Werner. Thank you for your wonderful comment and the added wisdom. Yes... we cannot enjoy the unleashing of the power of God if we are not in covenant with Him. Peace and blessings to you.
Allen Werner from West Allis on February 10, 2010:
ajbless48, I have come to know I can expect another word study when I come to read your hubs. I changed a long time ago and started using 'covenant' more often than 'testament' because the word seemed to have more force and commitment to it. A covenant reminded us that it is an arrangement, a contract of sorts. The grace is freely given but how you use that grace means something. People want to be like the ten lepers who were healed. Nine ran off to do whatever it was they wanted to do with the grace they received while only one came back to praise and thank. Great work. Keep plugging away. Peace.