Covenants New and Old

“This is the covenant I will make with the people 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.”  Jeremiah 34:33

“Most Christians are still living with an Old Testament view of their heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, ‘My heart is deceitfully wicked.’ No, it’s not. Not after the work of Christ, because the promise of the new covenant is a new heart.”   John Eldredge

The Adventure Blog posts have been covering two connected themes of great importance to those who would be followers of Jesus Christ.  The first theme has been on living the crucified life and the second what it means to live in a new covenant relationship with our God. These are connected since the purpose of the crucified life is to enable us to live in a new covenant relationship with our God. So many people who believe in Jesus as the Son of God do not understand the importance of the new covenant Jesus established, or how it is so radically different from the old covenant and the law. 

The covenants are commitments by our God to cover His dealings with humans according to His divine character.  The institution of the covenants between our God and His people began with Adam and Eve. It originally was the agreement with these two to have dominion in the created world, to share in God’s work in it, and to have companionship with their God in His actual presence.   This original covenant is the foundation for the new covenant under which we live today, for the new covenant restores companionship and co-responsibility in the actual presence of our God.  When we live the new covenant, we regain substantially the relationship Adam and Eve had with our God before the fall. 

The “old covenant” was actually a series of covenants made by our God with His people, yet most often people think of the one initiated with Abraham. Among other things, it established a people for God’s own possession.  The fulfilment unfolded through Isaac, then Jacob (Israel), and the twelve tribes that came through his children.

The next phase of the unfolding old covenant revealed that the people of God were to be set-apart for holy living.  The focus of this legal phase of the old covenant was the law, the temple, the rituals, and the religious duties.  The people were now aware that their God was in their midst, present in their temple behind the great veil.

Despite the religious activity of  old covenant living, the people knew that the requirements of the law were not sufficient to save them.  They longed for a savior who would redeem them.  Hebrews 10:1-4 tells us, “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

The old covenant and the law were finally fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah. By His death and resurrection, Jesus surpassed forever the old covenant.  Nothing about the old covenant fits into our God’s work among His people now.  The new Kingdom of our God has been established and a new covenant between our God and His people is now in operation.  If we do not understand these pivotal changes from the old to the new covenant, we do not understand our salvation and relationship with our God.  These are not mere points of theological interest.  These are core truths that must define our faith and living.

Sadly, much of what passes for Christianity today – most of it, really – is based on old covenant thinking.  Little of it is based on new covenant truth.  We are living in an age of amazing new covenant realities which most Western Christians do not understand and do not experience.  This situation was the subject of several warnings by Jesus in His earthly ministry, warnings we have either missed or ignored.

The next post will unpack one of these warnings from the Master, and future posts will reveal the new covenant realities that are so important to living today.

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