I am getting ready to lead the next lesson in our series on the topical Bible study of covenant. I love this course because of its life-changing ability. Many people have had their eyes opened to our covenant God via this awesome inductive Bible study. Here is a quick recap of the previous 8 lessons:
- Covenant Lesson 1
- Covenant Lesson 2
- Covenant Lesson 3
- Covenant Lesson 4
- Covenant Lesson 5
- Covenant Lesson 6
- No article
- Covenant Lesson 8
Today’s lesson is one of my favorites because of its practicality. I am a concrete thinker so practicality resonates with me. In this article, I would like to contrast the Old Covenant with the New Covenant of grace. This is a comparison and contrast of the Covenant of Law and the Covenant of Grace, two of the three major covenants in the Bible. The New Covenant is not in contrast with the Abrahamic covenant. As we have already seen in previous lessons, the New Covenant does not replace the Abrahamic Covenant. The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. The New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant of Law made with the people of Israel. If that is the case, what was the point of the Old Covenant? Is it important? Why do I need to understand it? Why is the New Covenant better? In what ways is the New Covenant better? Let’s discover all of these answers and many more.
I. The Old Covenant of Law
In our previous lessons, we thoroughly covered the making of the Covenant of Law. This Covenant was between the children of Israel and God. The Promised One, the Messiah, the Savior was spoken of to Adam and Eve, two Gentiles. This same Promised One was spoken of to another Gentile, Abram. From Abraham’s loins came the children of Israel, a group of people set apart by God in order to bring about the Promised One, the Savior of the Jews and the Gentiles. About 2, 000 years would pass between the promise made to Adam and Eve and that same promise reaffirmed with Abraham. Another two thousand years would pass between the time that the promise was made to Abraham and the fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. The first two thousands years did not work out well for the majority of the Gentiles as they were awaiting the promise to be fulfilled. The problem was their sin nature. It caused them to self-destruct. Once it entered the human race via Adam, it was a virus that all inherited from their parents. God had to wipe out the majority of the Gentiles in the flood during the days of Noah. The survivors carried the same sin nature that they had inherited and they passed it on to their children. The self destruction continued. God called Abram out from the rest of humanity. God changed Abram from the inside out. The descendants of Abram were all born with a sin nature just like Abram. In order to keep the descendants from self destructing until the fulfillment of the promise, God made the Covenant of Law. It was a distinct Covenant with a specific group of people. It set the Hebrews apart from the rest of humanity. Here is why God did it.
- The Law was to show the Hebrews their need for a Savior. The word Savior means “Rescuer”. The Hebrews, like the Gentiles, need to be rescued from their sin nature. They could not rescue themselves. Only God could do it. He rescued Abraham from his sin nature. The Law was not a bunch of rules and regulations to follow to attain God’s favor. They reveal the impossibility of sinful man to attain God’s favor on his own.
- The Law was to keep the Israelites from self-destructing because of their sin nature.
- The Law was to be a tutor, leading the Israelites to the Savior. The Law was not the Savior and was never intended to be. The Law was just there to lead and keep the people on track over that 2,000 year period.
- The Law could not change people from the inside out. Only God could do that, the way He did with Abraham and Sarah.
The Hebrews made a common mistake that all people born with a sin nature make. We think that we can work our way to God. If we are faithful enough then He will have to accept us. If we do enough good and avoid enough evil then we can gain God’s approval. All the religions of the world teach this. God’s Word does not teach this. His plan is different. His plan involved His intervention to change man from the inside out. He set an example with Abraham and Sarah. He promised that type of change under the New Covenant of grace, not in the Old Covenant of Law. Let’s examine that promise, given after the Old Covenant of Law had been cut.
II. The promise of the New Covenant
Our first example of the promise of the New Covenant, not counting the promise to Adam, Eve, and Abraham, comes from the pen of Jeremiah the prophet. In the Old Testament, a prophet was a person who had a message from God and he delivered that message to the people exactly how God had given it to him. Jeremiah wrote his book in about 630 B.C., almost 1,000 years after the Old Covenant of Law had been cut. In Jeremiah 31-32, we learn that God is going to make a New Covenant with Israel. This New Covenant will be different from the Old Covenant because under the New Covenant, God will write His Laws on man’s heart and not on tablets of stone. Under the New Covenant, man’s sins will be forgiven. Under the Old Covenant, man’s sins was just covered and he was reminded of his slavery to his sin nature. Under the New Covenant, an internal change will take place in the heart of man. This internal change was not experienced by the children of Israel. It was only experienced by Abraham and Sarah as an example of what was to come when the Promised One would come and bring in a New Covenant. The prophet Ezekiel writes about this internal transformation in his writings, written in about 600 B.C. In chapter 11 of Ezekiel’s writings, we see that under the New Covenant, God is going to remove the old heart of stone and He is going to give man a new heart. God is also going to put His Spirit within them. Part of His character is going to be put in them, the same thing that He did with Abraham and Sarah. This transformation will be for all of those who are under the New Covenant. The result of this transformation is the fact that under the New Covenant, we will have the ability to obey God and no longer listen to our sin nature. Is this New Covenant just for the Hebrews? No! Based on what we have seen, the Promised One was spoken of to Adam and Eve (Gentiles) and also to Abraham (a Gentile). All the families of the earth were to be blessed in the Promised One. At the time this was spoken, all the families of the earth were Gentile. From the very beginning, God’s plan was to Save the Gentiles and the Jews. This idea is also mentioned in the New Testament by Jews who had entered into the New Covenant via the Promised One who was spoken of almost 4,000 years prior.
III. The New Covenant of Grace
The Apostle Paul was a Jewish man, born under the Old Covenant of Law and trained to be a religious leader. His faith was in the tutor and not in the One to whom the tutor was to lead. He did not allow the Law to expose his sin nature and his need for a Savior. He trusted in himself and his abilities to please God by his own actions. The Promised One, Jesus Christ, met with Paul and revealed the Truth to him. He placed his faith in the Promised One and no longer trusted in the tutor. He realized the purpose of the tutor and allowed it to lead him to Christ. He dedicated his life to taking the tutor and using it for its intended purpose, pointing people to Christ. He penned Romans later in his life and he reveals that the New Covenant is not just for the Jews, but, just like God intended from the very beginning, the New Covenant is also for the Gentiles. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, he mentioned that grace is for both Jew and Gentile alike, that both can be heirs of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Under the New Covenant, both Jew and Gentile would receive new hearts and the Holy Spirit would indwell them. They would both be transformed from the inside out the way that Abraham and Sarah were transformed by God’s character. In the next two lessons, we are going to cover the specifics of why the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant. For now, in general, Hebrews 8, a letter I believe was written by the same Apostle Paul mentioned earlier, reveals why the New Covenant of grace is better than the Old Covenant of Law. The High Priest under the New Covenant is Jesus Christ and He is far superior to the high priests under the Old Covenant. He does not have to offer a sacrifice for Himself. He is perfect, born human but without a sin nature like the rest of us. The mediator of the New Covenant is better. Moses was a great man of God but he was flawed, even as the mediator chosen by God under the Old Covenant. Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant and He is perfect, unlike Moses. Under the New Covenant, the Laws of God are not written on our hearts instead of on a outside source. Under the New Covenant, our sins are cleansed and remembered no longer. The New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete. Now that the New is here, we can go directly to God through Christ instead of needing a tutor or high priest, or human mediator.
So, my dear friend, based on what we have discovered, have you placed your faith in your own ability to please God, or, have you seen that you need a Savior and that the only way to please God is to enter the New Covenant through Jesus Christ? Have you been changed from the inside out or are you trying to change yourself from the outside in? When you share the Good News of the Gospel, are you leading people to the Savior of the New Covenant or trying to help people improve themselves so that they can please God? Are you living by rules and regulations to try and please God, or, are you walking in obedience to God because you have been transformed from the inside out and now have the ability to obey God? I pray that you have entered the New Covenant and are walking in the beauty of what the New Covenant has to offer everyone, Jew and Gentile. If you have a sin nature (we all do) then the New Covenant is for you! May the Lord help us live under the New Covenant and lead others to the New Covenant in all that we say and do.