Answering Questions About the Old Covenant and the New Covenant

Answering Questions About the Old Covenant and the New Covenant January 18, 2018
Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Why do you say the Old Covenant is “obsolete”?

Because in Hebrews 8:13 we read: “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”

But, how can the OT be obsolete if Jesus said he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it?

Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” ( Matthew 5:17-18)

There are two qualifiers here: One is that the Law will not disappear “until Heaven and Earth disappear”, and the second qualifier is that the Law will not disappear until “everything is accomplished.”

So, first Jesus assures us that His mission is to fulfill or to accomplish the Law, and then He tells us that the Law will not disappear “until everything is accomplished.”

“Was everything accomplished?”

And the answer is: Yes!

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

The Greek word Jesus used here is literally “accomplished”.

So here, on the cross, Jesus declares that He has accomplished His mission to “fulfill the Law”, just as He set out to do.

Plus, Jesus prayed to the Father before the cross and confirmed: “I have glorified You on earth by accomplishing the work You gave Me to do” [John 17:4]

What does that mean, then, according to the two qualifiers Jesus placed on the Law? It means that since everything has been accomplished, the Law has now disappeared.

Maybe this is why Paul the Apostle told us that, on the cross, Jesus actually DID “abolish the Law” by fulfilling (or “accomplishing”) it?

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” (Eph. 2:15)

Elsewhere Paul also affirms for us that “Christ is the end of the law.”  (Rom. 10:4).

Furthermore, Paul explains for us the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant – not once but twice.

The first time, in 2 Corinthians, Paul contrasts the Old and the New Covenant saying:

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, [that’s the Old Covenant] came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, [the Old was “fading”] will not the ministry of the Spirit [that’s the New Covenant] be even more glorious?”

“If the ministry that condemns men [the Old] is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! [that’s the New] For what was glorious [the Old] has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away [the Old] came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! [the New] – (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

So, Paul tells us the following about the Old Covenant:

  • It brought death
  • Its glory was fading
  • It condemns men
  • It was glorious (past tense)
  • It now has no glory
  • It is fading away

 

The New Covenant, in contrast :

  • Is More glorious than the Old Covenant
  • Brings righteousness
  • Has a glory that is surpassing
  • Is everlasting

The second contrast and comparison that Paul does between the Old and the New Covenant is here in Galatians:

“The women (Hagar and Sarah) represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:24-26)

“But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Gal.4: 30-31)

Now what does Paul say about the Old Covenant?

The Old Covenant:

  • Is from Mount Sinai (where the 10 Commandments were given)
  • Bears children who are slaves
  • Corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem
  • Is in slavery with her children
  • Should be cast out of our presence
  • Will not share in the inheritance of Christ
  • Is not our Mother

 

Paul says the New Covenant:

  • Bears children who are free
  • Is of the heavenly  New Jerusalem, not the physical city
  • Is our true Mother
  • Shares in the inheritance of Christ

 

To drive the point home even further, Paul tells us many times:

“We are not under the law” (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18).

“We are dead to the law” (Rom. 7:4).

“We are delivered from the law” (Rom. 7:6).

Therefore, those who are in Christ are not under the Ten Commandments but under the “Law of Christ” as Paul says:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

But what about the Jewish people, then? Aren’t they God’s Chosen people?

That depends on what you mean by “Israel” and “Chosen”. Paul pointed out to us that not everyone who claims to be “Israel” is actually, truly “Israel” in God’s eyes.

 “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.” (Romans 9:6)

John the Baptist said the same thing to the Pharisees who wanted to claim that they were “Children of Abraham” (or “Israel”) and therefore blessed and favored of God. He said to them:

“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:9-10)

So, the true “Israel of God” is actually found in Galatians where Paul assures us that:

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)

Where does that leave the unbelieving Jewish people? The answer is troubling, and it should give us sincere pause and cause us to fall on our knees and cry out to God for their salvation.

Consider this:

“Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22)

The Jewish people today who deny Jesus is the Messiah have neither the Father, nor the Son. They are without christ and they are lost without Him.

But I thought they were God’s “Chosen” people?

Consider what the Apostle Peter says about the Christians he writes to in his epistle:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Who, then, is the true Israel of God according to the New Testament?

Anyone who is in Christ.

Who are the “Chosen people” of God?

Those who put their hope in Jesus as their Lord and King.

So, the Jews are no longer the “Chosen people of God”?

Let’s go back and look at what the Jewish people were “Chosen” for in the first place. Were they chosen to be saved? No, because salvation depends upon trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.

What we find is that God chose the Jews to be the people group from whom the Messiah would be born.  That’s it.

So, since Jesus was born a Jew, they have fulfilled their calling. There’s nothing more for them to be “chosen” for.

Christians, according to Peter, are now the “Chosen of God” to carry the message of the Gospel to every nation. This is our calling as God’s “chosen people”.

How can you say the 10 Commandments are no longer relevant for Christians today?

Because the 10 commandments were the terms of the Old Covenant (which is obsolete and vanishing).

“Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)

“He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.” (Deut. 4:13)

The Ten Commandments are only mentioned (by name) three times in the entire Bible. Here in these two scriptures referenced above, and also in Deut.10:4. But in each case it is clear that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews as a Covenant. (Note: There are many other terms used such as “Tablets of Stone”, “Stone Tables”, etc.)

Also because the 10 Commandments were a covenant between Himself and with the Nation of Israel, not with the entire world:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27)

Without this Covenant, the Jewish people had no basis for being called a nation. If this Covenant was in force, then they would have a claim to the promises included in the Covenant, but if they broke this Covenant then they would lose all their status as God’s chosen people and their status as a nation.

“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, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

In much the same way that the Constitution is a document that outlines the laws of our nation and establishes our system of government, the Ten Commandments (or the Law) outlines God’s terms for establishing the nation state of Israel.

The terms of Israel’s nationhood are dependent upon a few things. First, it says, “If you obey me and keep my covenant, THEN you will be my treasured possession.”

That’s a conditional covenant. We know that the History of Israel records their continual disobedience to God and to His covenant. Because they broke their covenant with God, they were scattered over and over again, until finally they nation of Israel was judged in AD 70 during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, as Jesus predicted it would be (Luke 21) and in the Parable of the Vineyard (Matt. 21:33-46).

Did you know that the promises connected to the Old Covenant have now been offered unconditionally to those who are under the New Covenant?

It’s true! The very same conditional covenant terms spoken to the Jews are repeated in the New Testament as being unconditionally applied to the Church:

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Here, Peter declares that Christians “ARE a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…”. The very same conditional promises originally offered to the Jewish nation in Exodus 19:5-6 are now spoken to the Church as being now in effect. So that anyone who is currently found in Christ is the recipient of these promises to be chosen, of the priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special possession. We are also promised to be called the people of God and to receive mercy.

The Good News is that Jesus first came and fulfilled the terms of the Old Covenant, and then He made a New Covenant with anyone who would receive Him as Lord and Savior.

THE TERMS OF THE NEW COVENANT

 “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…and they will all know me from the least to the greatest for I will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34 and Hebrews 8:7-9)

We are now under one Covenant, not two. The first has been fulfilled and is now obsolete:

“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrew 8:13)

**

Keith Giles is the author of “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” and the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons and are part of a house church that gives away 100% of their offerings to help the poor in their community.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Arbustin

    If the hostility to Judaism presented in this article’s supercessionism is “progressive,” I’m truly frightened to know what the “conservative” articles have to say.

  • mcbekki

    Good exegesis of scripture Keith. Beautifully outlined.

  • saffiregal

    Excellent article.

    Love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10

    Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

    For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

    Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.