The Bible is composed of the Old and the New Testament. A testament is a covenant or a will. A will is bequeathed to heirs only after the testator or maker of the will has died. In the following studies of this mini-series we are going to examine both the Old and the New Covenant. May God bless you as you understand and rejoice in the New Covenant God has made with you through the shed blood of Christ.
The Abrahamic Covenant
Four thousand years ago God reached into Ur of the Chaldees, now known as Iraq, and in His wisdom, sovereignty and grace chose Abram (later called Abraham) for a very special purpose. He called him to leave his country and go to a place He would show him. Separated from the culture of his birthplace, God established a new nation and a new culture totally separate from the rest of the world. God led him to and gave him the land of Palestine. He promised to bless him and make his progeny a blessing to the world. The promise God gave to Abraham is called the Abrahamic Covenant and it is found in Genesis chapters 12 and 17.
Abrahamic Covenant continues through Isaac, Jacob and Judah
Time passed and Abraham and his wife Sarah grew old. Though promised descendents as vast as the stars in number, they still had no children. His wife was well past the age of bearing children. In their impatience with God, Abraham, at the suggestion of Sarah, had a son, Ishmael, by Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar. Ishmael became father of the Arabs. Finally when Abraham was 100 years old it is recorded in Genesis 22 that God gave Abraham and Sarah their promised son, Isaac, through whom the Abrahamic Covenant continued. Later, Isaac was married to Rebecca and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. In Genesis 28 it is recorded that God in His sovereignty continued His Covenant through Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Jacob had twelve sons, and from those sons, Genesis 49 records that God chose Judah through whom the Abrahamic Covenant should continue and through whom the Messiah would come.
The rest of the Old Testament story is the record of how God directed and protected the Tribe of Judah through whom came our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ we who have trusted Him have been blessed, and through Him one day the whole world will be blessed.
Joseph protects his brothers, including Judah, in famine
Later because of famine in Israel, the twelve sons of Jacob went down to Egypt to find food. Interestingly, years earlier eleven of these sons, had grown jealous of their brother Joseph and sold him to some traders going down to Egypt. God was with Joseph and eventually he became the prime minister of Egypt under Pharaoh. God used the wisdom of Joseph to prepare for famine and the twelve sons were reunited in Egypt and settled there in a special place called Goshen. There the twelve tribes of Israel prospered and grew until a new Pharaoh came along who did not know or appreciate Joseph. For the next four hundred years, Israel suffered in slavery in Egypt.
Moses leads the Exodus of Israel from Egypt to their Promised Land
At the end of the four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, God raised up a new leader from the tribe of Levi, whose name was Moses. You can read the exciting story in the early chapters of Exodus. God prepared and used Moses to lead Israel, now millions strong, to go back to the land God had promised them in the Abrahamic Covenant. In their journey back to Canaan, they traveled through the Sinai desert. There in the Sinai desert God gave to Moses to give to the people, His Laws: including His moral law, His civil law and His ceremonial law.
The moral law, summed up in the Ten Commandments, showed Israel God’s moral standards for them. The people promised to keep His law, but like all of us as sinners, they failed miserably.
The ceremonial law provided a way for sinful people to approach a holy God. It was a system of intricate details concerning the building of a tabernacle. It included a system of approaching God through the sacrifice of animals. All of these animal sacrifices were a picture and a type of the Lord Jesus Christ who as the Lamb of God, would one day be the complete and final sacrifice for sin. If Jesus had not come and died for sin, then all of the ceremonial system of worship with its sacrifices, feasts, Sabbaths and holy days would have been in vain.
The Abrahamic Covenant continues through King David and King Solomon
Later David of the Tribe of Judah was born and eventually became king of Israel. While king God gave him what is known as the Davidic Covenant. You can read it in II Samuel 7:8-17. In that covenant he refers to David’s son, Solomon, who would follow him on the throne. God also promised David that his throne would be eternal. Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour was promised who would reign forever on David’s throne over the whole earth. Read more about that reign in Isaiah 11 and 35 and in the Minor Prophet, Zechariah 11-13. Read also the prophetic fulfillment that is yet to come as it is described in Revelation 19:11-16 and Revelation 20:4.
The New Covenant Prophesied
Several hundred years later the Prophet Jeremiah appeared on the scene and in Jeremiah 31:31-37 he announced a New Covenant that would one day replace the Old Covenant. In a later article I will say more about this New Covenant.
The Old Covenant Ceases
When the Lord Jesus Christ came and died on a cross for the sins of the world the ceremonial system came to an abrupt end. The moment Jesus died, Matthew 27:50-51 tells us that the heavy veil in the temple was torn supernaturally from top to bottom, thus showing that the way to approach God through the Old Covenant had come to an end forever. At that moment salvation would come to sinful man through the New Covenant.
The Lord Jesus introduced the New Covenant to His disciples at the Last Supper in the Upper Room. He took the bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples and He took the cup of wine and passed it to them and as they shared together in these symbols, He explained to them in Luke 22:19-20, "This cup is the New Testament (New covenant) in my blood which is shed for you." Those symbols pictured His body and His blood that would soon be sacrificed on the cross. They were symbols of the New Covenant, reminding us constantly that we are saved by faith in Christ's sacrifice for us. The New Covenant is God's promise to forgive our sins and bless us with all the blessings of salvation, through faith in the merits of Jesus' shed blood.
Six hundred years earlier the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a future New Covenant recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-37. As the Old Covenant had been made with Israel, so the New Covenant would also be made with Israel. The basic difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is that the Old Covenant dealt with external conduct and the New Covenant dealt with the heart. Though God's Laws were written on tables of stone under the Old Covenant; under the New Covenant those laws are written in our hearts. Whereas the Old Covenant was a temporary measure to deal with sins until Jesus came and died on the cross, the New Covenant is eternal. Those who have received Christ's blood sacrifice as the atonement for their sins, will live forever with Christ in Heaven because of God's promise in the New Covenant. Although God made the New Covenant with Israel, Gentiles are given the high privilege of sharing with Israel in that Covenant.
Explained in Galatians
In Galatians chapter 3 we are given some very important truths concerning the New Covenant. Verse 6 declares Abraham believed God and His faith was accounted to him for righteousness. What did he believe about God? Verse 8 says that he believed the Gospel that God had preached to him. What Gospel? The good news that one day God would send a Saviour to the world through Abraham's seed; and through faith in Christ, people would be saved from sin's destruction and be blessed. Verse 16 identifies Abraham's seed as Christ. In verse 7 and 9 we learn that all of us, Jews or Gentiles, are blessed children of Abraham through faith in Christ.
Verse 10-14 declare that apart from faith in Christ, we are all under the curse of God's Law because we are unable to keep it perfectly. No one is justified or declared righteous through his feeble efforts to keep the Law. Only Christ kept the Law perfectly and if our trust is in Him alone for salvation, His righteousness is imputed or put to our account. See II Corinthians 5:21. When God opens our eyes to the truth of this verse, we rejoice in His wonderful gift of salvation. This is one of the clearest explanations of salvation in all of the Bible.
Galatians 3:15-18 shows us that Abraham was not saved by Law keeping. The Law had not been given to Israel yet. That came 430 years later. So Abraham's righteousness had absolutely nothing to do with law keeping. It had everything to do with his faith in God.
In Galatians 3:23-26 we understand that the purpose of the Law under the Old Covenant was to be our schoolmaster or tutor to show us our need of Christ. Now that we have come to know Christ under the New Covenant, we are no longer under the condemnation of the Law. Romans 8:1 We are in the family of God. We are Abraham's seed and heirs with him of the promise of Christ.
Explained in Colossians
Read Colossians 2 and Galatians 5 carefully. In these chapter you will see that the Jewish rite of circumcision, which was required under the Old Covenant with Abraham, has been abolished. Today, under the New Covenant, that procedure is merely a health matter and not a requirement of God. This chapter also teaches that all the Feast Days and Sabbath Days under the Old Covenant have been abolished. Christians do not observe the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week.. Instead we observe the Lord's Day, the first day of the week; the day Jesus rose from the dead.
Explained in Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is primarily a treatise on the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. Chapters 8,9 and 10 get to the heart of the matter.
In Heb. 8:7-9 we learn the Old Covenant was faulty. It did not change hearts. Religion under the Old Covenant was external. A New Covenant was needed to reach and change our hearts.
Heb. 8:13 explains that when the New Covenant came, the Old Covenant decayed and became useless. It was time for it to be abolished, never to burden down God's people again. Acts 15:10
Hebrews chapters 9 & 10 teach us the superiority of Christ's blood sacrifice over the sacrifice of animals under the Old Covenant. Read these chapters carefully and rejoice in the complete and finished sacrifice of Christ. This sacrifice is never to be repeated. Unlike our Roman Catholic friends who sacrifice the body and blood of Christ repeatedly in their Mass, in our communion services we do not repeat the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ again and again. It was accomplished once for all 2000 years ago. As believers, we simply rejoice in that finished work and we take the communion elements, symbols of Jesus' broken body and poured out blood, with thanksgiving.
Out with the Old and In with the New.
Under the Old Covenant once a year the High Priest went into the temple with the blood of an animal sacrifice and cautiously went behind the heavy veil, sprinkling the shed blood on the Ark of the Covenant, thereby atoning for the sins of Israel. I say cautiously because if he had dared to enter the Holy of Holies without the blood, he would have been killed instantly. But finally the day came when Jesus died on the cross. He cried out with His last breath, "IT IS FINISHED!" Immediately an amazing thing happened. Matthew 27:50-51 tells us that in that moment of death the heavy veil that had hidden the Holy of Holies from human view was supernaturally torn in two from top to bottom, exposing the former Holy of Holies. Now that temple was useless and ready to be destroyed. The Romans destroyed it 70 years later. Look what happened in Hebrews 10:19-23 When God tore that veil in two, a new and living way was opened for every believer, both Jew and Gentile, to come boldly into the presence of God through the merits of the shed blood of Christ. No longer were animal sacrifices necessary. Jesus shed blood is all it takes to forgive our sins and to cleanse our conscience. Now our bodies are the temple of God. We need not go to any temple and go through rituals and ceremonies to make ourselves presentable to God. Christian friend, read I Corinthians 3:16-17 and also II Corinthians 6:14-18 and recognize that your body is important. It is holy property belonging to God. You dare not defile it with sin at the risk of God's chastening.
Think of it! If you have been born again through faith in Christ, your body is holy. God dwells in you by His Holy Spirit. You can walk and talk with God anytime and anywhere. Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us to seek out a church where God's Word is preached and where you can grow and mature as a Christian. If you live in or visit the Albuquerque area, I invite you to visit us. You will receive a warm welcome and food for your soul.
In our next message, Lord willing, we will deal with the relationship of God's Law to the Christian under the New Covenant.
The following are some common misconceptions about Christians and God’s Law
Misconception # 1. Old Covenant saints were saved by keeping the Law and New Covenant saints are saved by grace.
Correction No one since the Fall of Adam under the Old or New Covenant was ever saved by attempting to keep God’s Law. That would be an utter impossibility. Romans 3:19-20 No one is capable of keeping God’s law perfectly. Read Romans 4 and you will see that Abraham was not saved by works, nor by keeping God’s moral law nor by keeping the ceremonial law. In the first place God’s moral law and ceremonial law did not come along until 430 years after Abraham. Where there is no law, there is no transgression of the law. Romans 4:15
The Law was not given to save men in any age. It was given to show God’s holy standards and to convince all men that they had come short of God’s holy standards and that they were transgressors of the Law. Galatians 3:10 shows us that The Law curses us. The Law condemns us as we see our total inability to keep it. It shows us our need of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus. Galatians 3:19-26 The Law slays us because of our inability to keep it. Romans 7:9-11
Romans 3:20 tells us “By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” In Hebrews 11 we have a long list of Old Testament saints who were saved; not by law keeping, but by faith in God’s grace alone. No, they did not put their faith in Jesus’ shed blood for that blood would not be sacrificed until Jesus came 2000 years after Abraham. Instead, they put their trust in the promised Saviour who was typified by the countless animal sacrifices of the Levitical ceremonial system.
True, New Covenant saints are saved by grace, and so were the saints under the Old Covenant. From the days of Adam and Eve to this present day, every sinner who has looked to God for salvation has been saved by the grace of God through faith in His provision, whether it was an animal sacrifice under the Old Covenant or the sacrifice of Christ under the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant the animal sacrifice was made in anticipation of the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ, the promised Seed of Abraham. If Christ had never come to this earth, died for our sins and risen again then all the animal sacrifices offered under the Old Covenant would have been in vain. No one would be saved.
Misconception # 2 If you are saved by grace, it doesn’t matter how you live since you can never lose your salvation.
Correction What a terrible misconception! Only the devil could come up with such an idea and place it in the minds of depraved men and women. The Apostle Paul is horrified by the idea. In Romans 6:1 he asks that rhetorical question “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Then he thunders back, “GOD FORBID! How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” With that reply Paul launches into an explanation of how to live victoriously over sin. Thank God for His grace that saves and for His grace that enables us to live the Christian life by faith. For a further explanation of this truth go to the article on VICTORY on this site.
True, God gives eternal life to those who trust Christ. John 3:16 True, those of us who trust Christ can never lose the salvation God has given to us by His grace. John 10:28-29 Romans 8:29-39. For more on this, see the article on ETERNAL SECURITY.
When He saves us, He totally changes our hearts so that we hate our sins and desire to live a pure life and bring glory to Him. If that has not happened in your heart, you need to be born again. You are deceiving yourself if you think you are a Christian.
Misconception #3 It is our calling to bring about Christ’s Kingdom (Christianize society) on this earth now through implementing God’s laws on society.
Correction The Puritans who founded America established this nation on Biblical principles. Four hundred years later we are still experiencing the blessings of that noble experiment. But we must never forget that the unregenerate heart is only evil continually. Because of that fact, we face an uphill battle today to try to legislate morality in our land by forcing citizens to live by God’s law. As Christians we can be examples and we can let our Light shine, but we cannot force unregenerate citizens to live by Biblical standards. That will only happen during the Millenium when Jesus rules this earth with a “rod of iron”.
Our calling is not to Christianize America. Our calling is to evangelize America. That is, we are to help others understand God’s holy standards and help them see how far short we have all come in attempting to meet those standards. Then we are to give them the good news of what Christ has done for us in dying for our sins and rising again for our justification. When God brings salvation to a sinner, God begins the work of sanctification and He enables a believer through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to live out the righteousness of God’s Law. Our responsibility is to evangelize. God does the Christianization in the heart of a believer. Though Christians differ on this; I believe Christ is returning to personally reign over this earth. Psalm 2, Isaiah 11, 35, Zechariah 12-14, Luke 1:30-33. II Timothy 2:12, Revelation 19 and 20
Misconception # 4 In addition to trusting Christ, we need to observe certain ceremonial laws and OT feasts in order to be stronger and better Christians.
Correction The short answer is NO, we do not need to observe the Ceremonial Laws given to Israel under the Old Covenant. That means, we do not need to observe any of the Feasts, including the Passover. We do not have to observe the practice of circumcision as a religious ritual. We do not have to observe the Sabbath. All of these were symbols, pictures and types of Christ. We have Christ. We do not need the symbols.
God’s moral laws, embodied in the Ten Commandments and in the Sermon on the Mount, are holy, just, good and spiritual. Romans 7:12, 14 Christians as well as godly Old Testament saints love God’s Law. We desire to keep His law. Psalm 40:8, Romans 7:22. A Christian is not guilty of legalism for wanting to do right.
The problem is that no matter how hard we try, we fail miserably to keep God’s Law perfectly. That’s where God’s grace comes in. Thank God for His grace. We are saved by God’s grace when we receive Christ as our Saviour. God not only saves us from the penalty of sin, but by His grace He gives us the power to begin walking a new life of obedience, bringing glory to Him. Titus 2:11-14 Has God started this work in your life?