This post is from Bible Things in Bible Ways. Parts 1 and 2 of this article are extremely helpful in organizing one of the topics that has become convoluted through the millennia of traditional Christianity. It is well worth your time to read both articles for a fuller understanding of this critical topic. – Steve
One of the biggest arguments in Christianity is, whether the Old Covenant is in effect today or whether it is abolished and no more. I would like to pose a different question in the midst of all this confusion and misunderstandings.
Which Old Covenant?
Some are in the belief that there are only 2 Covenants in the Scriptures. Contrary to this belief God has made several Covenants with man from the beginning of creation. Before we can say that any Covenant is abolished, let us understand what these Covenants are and what God has said about them.
First of all, we need to understand what a Covenant means. A Covenant is an agreement between two parties. The party which has more authority/power could make a Covenant with the other party which includes or does not include certain conditions. After the other party in return agrees upon the Covenant, it is in effect. Blood was spilled as a sign of these contracts in ancient times.
The words “Covenant” and “Testament” written in the bible are the same. In the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, only one word is used wherever “Covenant” or “Testament” is seen in our English translations (Strong’s Greek Concordance – G1242 – διαθήκη – diathēkē – dee-ath-ay’-kay – a disposition, that is, (specifically) a contract (especially a devisory will): – covenant, testament).
Covenants God made with His creation
- Covenant with Adam (Gen 2:16,17) (Hosea 6:7) –
This Covenant had conditions. If Adam obeyed, he would have eternal life. Disobedience would cause him to die.
- Covenant with Noah (Gen 9:9-17) –
This is an Everlasting, Unconditional Covenant made with Noah, his seed & all living creatures. God promised that He will never again destroy the whole earth with a flood. The sign of this covenant was the Rainbow.
- Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:14-17; 15; 17:1-14; 22:15-18)
This was an Everlasting, Conditional Covenant. God asked Abraham to leave his Country first. Then He required him to believe in the promises. He made sure Abraham knew about the slavery of Israel for 400 years. God gave him and his seed the land of Israel. God wanted him to walk before Him and be perfect. The sign of this Covenant was that every male of his seed and every servant bought with money, was to be circumcised. All the blessings which were promised were certified as Abraham obeyed even unto the degree of sacrificing his only son.
This Covenant was renewed with Isaac (Gen 26:3-5, 24) and Jacob (Gen 28:13-15, 46:2-4)
- Covenant with Israel through Moses (Exo chapter 19-24)
This Covenant was a Conditional Covenant with many Everlasting Commandments/Laws(Exod 12:17,24, 21:6, 28:43, 30:21, Lev 3:16-17, 6:17-18, 20-22, 10:9, 15, 16:29, 34, 23:14, Num 19:21). While the person who kept these Commandments would be blessed, the person who broke it would be cursed (Deut 11:26-28). The sign of this Everlasting Covenant was the Seventh Day Sabbath (Exo 31:12-18)
- Covenant with Aaron ( Exo 40:12-15, Num 25:12,13, Neh 13:29)
God made an Everlasting Covenant with Aaron and his descendants to be the priests alongside the Tribe of Levi which was also consecrated for priestly duties.
- Covenant with David (2Sam 7:8-16, 23:5, 2Chr 13:5, Jer 33:20,21)
God made an Everlasting Covenant with David, where His people would always be ruled over by a descendant of David hinting to Messiah Yeshua(Hebrew name of Jesus) who will reign and rule over “His People – Israel”(Luk 1:32,33).
- Covenant with the 2 Houses of Israel through Yeshua (Heb 8:8-10) (Jer 31:33,34) (Heb 13:20)
The New Covenant which we are all familiar with, was spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 31. In verse 31, He says that He will make a New Covenant with The House of Israel & The House of Judah. In verse 33, He says that He will write His Law on peoples hearts. This is the same Covenant spoken in the Book of Hebrews chapter 8. According to verse 34, This Covenant will come to fulfillment when God’s kingdom is established with Yeshua ruling as king, as no one will need to teach another about God anymore.
Blood of the Covenant
Major Covenants with His People were always put into effect by shedding of blood.
1. Noah sacrificed animals before God made the Covenant (Gen 8:20)
2. Abraham sacrificed animals before God made the Covenant (Gen 15)
3. When God made the Covenant at Sinai, Moses sprinkled the Blood of the Covenant
(Exo 24:8, Heb 9:19,20)
4.Yeshua renewed the Covenant as per God’s Word in Jer 31 through shedding His blood (Mat 26:28, Mar 14:24, Luk 22:20, Heb 10:29, 12:24, 13:20)
Now that we understand a bit more about the Covenants in Scripture, lets look at what is commonly known as the Old and New Covenants.
Old Covenant vs. New Covenant
As you see above, there are many Covenants God made with His creation. Many of these Covenants were made by God as Everlasting Covenants as the Scriptures show us. What people generally mean by “Old Covenant” is the Covenant God made through Moses (The Mosaic Covenant) at Mount Sinai, while the Scriptures have also been broken into and commonly known as “Old Testament” & “New Testament”.
As our focus is on this Mosaic Covenant, and whether it is done away with, let us look at some important facts about this Covenant before we make our conclusions and find answers for any of the persisting misunderstandings.
- The Mosaic Covenant is called an Everlasting Covenant and God says that He will not break His Covenant (Judg 2:1, Lev 26:44, Psa 89:34, 105:8-10, 111:7-9, 1Chr 16:15-17, Deu 5:29, 12:28)
- The Mosaic Covenant was written with the finger of God (Deut 4:13) (Exo 31:18, 32:16)
- The Mosaic Covenant was made with all 12 Tribes of Israel (Exo 19:5,6, 24:4)
- The Mosaic Covenant was there for 3 reasons.
1) It would bless the person who obeyed (Deut 11:26-28)
2) It would curse the person who disobeyed (Deut 11:26-28)
3) It would show right from wrong, sin from righteousness (Rom 7:7)
- The Ten Commandments are the conditions, and part and parcel of the Mosaic Covenant (Deut 7:9, 4:13, Neh 1:5, Dan 9:4)
If the Old Covenant (Mosaic Covenant) is abolished after Yeshua, then we can no longer have the 10 Commandments. Jesus himself said we cannot break the least of the commandments, and that not the minutest detail will pass from it as long as heaven and earth exists (Mat 5:18,19).
The questions arise when you read some of the epistles of Paul, The Book of Hebrews and some verses in the Gospels. Paul and other writers of the “New Testament” seem to be saying that the Law and the Old Covenant is done away with, in some places.
We have a serious problem with our Bible if there are contradictions in the Scriptures. One verse cannot disagree with another. One author cannot disagree with another Author. All Scripture has to be in perfect harmony, as our God is not a God of Chaos, but of perfect order and peace.
As we saw earlier, The Mosaic Covenant as well as the New Covenant mentioned in Jer 31 & Heb 8 are both Everlasting Covenants. So how can one abolish the other? The New Covenant could be better understood as a “Renewed” Covenant. One does not abolish the other, but the “Older Covenant” is renewed by the “New Covenant”. This renewal happened by the shedding of the blood of Yeshua. If the Old Covenant was taken away, there would no longer be any Commandments. We would no longer need to adhere to God’s Laws, which mean there would be no yard stick for judgement. All of us will receive judgement at the end of time, according to Scripture. And God will not judge by our standards, but His own. If we were free from God’s Commandments, to do as each of us see fit, how would the righteous judge be able to judge us?
What about all the verses that say the Old Covenant is done away with?
Doesn’t Heb 8:13 say that the Old Covenant is ready to vanish away? Didn’t Jesus say the Law is Finished in Joh 19:31? Are we not free from the Law, and under Grace? Isn’t the Law a Curse? Wasn’t the Law nailed to the cross? Some even say that we do not have 10 Commandments any longer, and that we have only the 2 new Commandments that Yeshua gave us. In the next part of this study, we will delve into the meaning of “Law” and try to understand some of these misunderstood verses and see whether we can unravel the true meaning in them.
My request to you, is this. If you believe in a certain doctrine, Test it. See whether it is in perfect harmony with all of the verses in the Bible. If there are contradictions, most probably, something is wrong with the understanding you have. I hope this study has given you something to think about, and that it will help you to better understand the Word of God.