What’s new about the new covenant?
Among God’s formal agreements with men, the old and new covenants take up the most space in Scripture. Let’s compare and contrast them here.
The old covenant was given by God to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These Israelites were led out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and to Mount Sinai, by Moses, where he (and angels) mediated this covenant to the new nation camped at the foot of the mountain. This old covenant, also called the Mosaic or Sinaitic covenant, was introduced and sealed in Exodus 19-24. Its Levitical tabernacle, laws, and customs are further described from Exodus 25 to Numbers 10.
The new covenant was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34), revealed by God through Jesus Christ in the four Gospels, sealed by His atoning death at Mount Calvary, and confirmed by His resurrection from the dead (Matthew 26-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24; John 18-21). It is further clarified, explained, and illustrated in the ministry of the apostles (Acts) and the New Testament epistles (Romans through Jude; especially Hebrews 8:8-13; 10:15-17).
A careful reading of relevant Bible texts reveals many ways in which the new covenant is truly new and better than the old (Hebrews 7:22).
- Range: New covenant is offered to all nations (Matthew 28:19), not just one (as in Exodus 19:3-6).
- Impact: New covenant leads all God’s people to know Him truly, not just some (Jeremiah 31:34).
- Focus: New covenant’s central theme is God’s grace, rather than His law (Romans 3:19-28).
- Priesthood: New covenant is of Melchizedek’s priesthood (i.e., Christ), not of the Levites who served tabernacle and temple (Hebrews 7).
- Light: New covenant reveals Messiah as personal God-man with us, no longer concealed in misunderstood prophecies (1 Peter 1:10-13).
- Remedy: Under the new covenant, sins are forgiven by the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross, not the oft-shed blood of animals (Hebrews 9:25, 26).
- Repository: Under the new covenant, God’s laws of love and liberty are written on human hearts, not on tablets of stone (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16).
- Holiness: Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit is Christ’s personal presence in us to make us like Him, a dynamic previously unavailable (John 14:16ff).
- Assurance: New covenant accents God’s intent to save His people to the uttermost through Jesus — not like Israel under Moses, most of whom fell short of the promised land (Hebrews 7:25a).
- Heavenly Mediator: New covenant proclaims Christ, no mere mortal over a temple made by hands, but our present and eternal intercessor and mediator at the right hand of Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 7:25b; 8:1-6).
Further Bible evidence of the superiority of the new covenant over the old, or how the two covenants are similar, that is sent by readers will be considered for a future BA “Mail Bag.”
— Elder Calvin Burrell
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