THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS
by ralph jackson
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Those who believe the 10 Commandments were done away with at the Cross and are therefore no longer a requirement for the Christian to keep do not have a full understanding of the Old and New Covenants.
If it were the case, that the 10 Commandments were nailed to the cross, then no Christian is required to keep the law today - why? Because the Christian is now under God’s grace. He does not need the written law. Consequently, he won’t be breaking any of the written code? Is this idea correct?
The 10 Commandments were given in written form to Moses but they existed long before his Scribes pen met parchment. Adam and Eve knew them well. The creator planted them into their minds and as long as Adam and Eve continued under grace they kept all of the Commandments naturally. It was only when they sinned that the law testified against them. They broke God’s law through disobedience and as a consequence the blood of an animal had to be sacrificed on an altar. The sacrifice of an animal was continued from Adam’s day to Jesus. After His crucifixion, blood sacrifices ceased. He was the last Lamb to be slaughtered as atonement for sin.
The First or Old Covenant
In Hebrews 8, Paul tells us the first covenant (v7), which God made with the people of Israel was faulty. My question is: “Was it faulty because of God, so He had to change it - or was it faulty because of the people?” This will become clear as I go on.
Did Paul think that the 10 Commandments were expunged with the old covenant? In Ephesians 6: 1-3, he says:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise.”
My logic informs me that as the fifth commandment was still in force during Paul’s time, so must the other nine be!
It would also appear from this that Paul did not consider the 10 commandments null and void when he wrote in Rom 3:31:
“Do we make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary we establish the law.”
and Rom: 7:12:
“the law is holy and the commandment holy and just and good.” (See also Psalm 19:7)
Does dying to the letter of the law and being renewed in the Spirit mean the law of God written on tablets of stone is no longer to be followed by humanity? If so, then you must destroy something that Paul says is holy, just and good!
I don’t think so! I believe that Grace and law go together. If I have faith, I keep the law, not as a way of salvation – but as a result of it. For example: If I am driving my car over the speed limit and a police officer stops me and gives me a telling off for speeding, but does not give me ticket, am I now, having received the grace of the officer, no longer under the law against speeding? Because I am under grace I can now forget the law and happily speed along the motorway. It doesn’t make sense. God’s grace enables the keeping of the law because we are thankful for His benevolence in forgiving us.
What was the Old Covenant? We have to go to Exodus 19:3-6 to get our answer.
3. And Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain saying: “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to Myself. 5. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you will speak to the children of Israel.”
Here God laid out an agreement with the people of Israel.
In my own words, this is what I understand was Gods proposal to the people of Israel:
‘If the people of Israel listen to Me and do what I say, then I will make them a special people on the earth.’ He was giving the people a choice to enter into an agreement with Him and receive His blessings or reject Him.
Moses relayed to the people what God instructed him to say and the people answered (v8 & 24:3). “All that the Lord has spoken WE will do.” The covenant or agreement between God and the people was then ratified with the blood of oxen and Moses wrote the agreement in a book.
Were the Israelites able to keep the covenant?
Not long after agreeing to keep what God had said, they worshipped a golden calf. Why was the old covenant faulty? Because the people had said that THEY, would keep it. They did not indicate that they wanted or needed help to keep their part of the agreement. What was the result? God kept His side of the agreement, but the people failed making the old covenant faulty.
In Heb 8:8 it says:
“Because finding fault with THEM (notice again it was not with the covenant that was at fault) but with the people, therefore He says:
“Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt: because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.
What does God mean when He says ‘not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers?”
The old agreement written down by Moses contained what we call ‘the ceremonial laws’. These were shadows of things to come and were later nailed to the cross, (2 Col 2:14), even though some of the principles, particularly diet and health would be good for us to follow today. Yes the agreement with Israel included the keeping of the 10 Commandments or moral law but they failed on all accounts. The 10 Commandments couldn’t have been nailed to the cross because as we have already seen, Paul did not consider them void. Even ‘The Lord of the Sabbath’ Jesus, made reference to them in the New Testament. Matt 22:34-40; Mk 10:17-22.
The Second or New Covenant.
God alone would now make a new covenant without asking for the people’s agreement. In the old agreement, the people tried by their own efforts to keep the law without success. This time, God in His new covenant, would take the moral law/10 Commandments and write them into the hearts of the people. This would mean that no-man, through his own efforts would be credited with keeping the agreement – God would initiate the agreement and He would be the keeper of the law in man. How would he ratify this – with the blood of Jesus? Heb 13:21. That’s why Paul says in Rom 8:2-4.
“For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh. God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin. He condemned sin in the flesh, 4. that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
When God gave us His Son, the agreement came into effect at His death, Heb 9:16. We as humans had nothing to do with the agreement/new covenant, so it was unlike the old covenant, which was removed because we could not keep it in our strength.
So the difference between the old and new covenant is:
a. The Old Testament agreement/covenant was: sinful flesh trying to keep an agreement made between them and God, which they could not keep.
b. The New Testament agreement/covenant is God doing it all for us through His Son.
The Moral Law of God has not changed and I don’t believe it is just for the natural Jew. How do we know who is a natural Jew? My grandfathers name was Jackobson (Jacobson), so I may have some natural Jewish blood. Is the Sabbath therefore only for those who think they have some Jewish blood. According to my Bible, there is neither Greek nor Jew. Gal 3:28. All who believe in Christ become Abraham’s seed and part of the chosen people of God (v29), Col 3:11; Rom 2: 28-29; Micah 5:8. If this is the case, then God’s law, including His Sabbath is for all people.
I am grateful to those who continue to challenge my faith and to instruct and correct me when I go wrong, especially God’s Holy Word and His Holy Spirit who have directed my understanding. I am still learning and will, like all those seeking for the truth, continue to learn until I close my eyes in death or Jesus returns to reclaim this lost world from Satan.
It is my hope that this short lesson will spur you on to study the Word of God for yourself, or return you to your first love. We have a heaven to win and a hell to shun.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift”, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them to repentance, since they crucify themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” Heb 6:2-8
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