What is a covenant?
A covenant is a promise, a contract. It may be made by the declaration of one person alone, or by agreement between two or more persons. It may be conditional or unconditional.
Why is it New?
The new covenant is called "new" because there was a covenant that came before it, and the new will supersede the one that came before it. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
In that he says, “A new covenant,” he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away. (Heb 8:13 WEB)
To fully understand the new we need to first understand the old. We need to understand the answers to the following questions:
- Is the old covenant a unilateral promise or is it an agreement between two or more persons?
- Who owns the old covenant? Is it one person or two or more persons?
- Who made the old covenant? Is it one person or two or more persons?
- Why is God making this covenant?
- Who is God making this covenant with?
- Is the old covenant conditional or unconditional?
- Is the old covenant optional?
You stand assembled today, all of you, before the LORD your God—the leaders of your tribes, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your women, and the aliens who are in your camp, both those who cut your wood and those who draw your water— to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God, sworn by an oath, which the LORD your God is making with you today; in order that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I am making this covenant, sworn by an oath, not only with you who stand here with us today before the LORD our God, but also with those who are not here with us today. (Deut. 29:10–15 NRSV)
Who owns the old covenant?
"the covenant of the LORD your God, sworn by an oath," this covenant belongs to God and was sworn by Him.
Who made the old covenant?
"which the LORD your God is making with you today;" God is the maker of the old covenant.
If the maker and owner of the old covenant is God alone, then it was a promise made by the declaration of God alone, it was not made by agreement between God and the people.
Why is God making this covenant?
"...in order that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." The purpose of this covenant is to fulfil a previous promise that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
What was God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
God promised to:
- bless all the families of the earth by their offspring
- give them innumerable descendants
- be the God of them and their descendants
- give land, as a permanent possession, to them and their descendants
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1–3 ESV)
Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Gen. 12:6–7 ESV)
The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Gen. 13:14–17 ESV)
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Gen. 15:5 ESV)
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Gen. 15:18–21 ESV)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless. I will set up my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”
Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him: “As for me, here is my covenant with you: You will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will confirm my covenant that is between me and you and your future offspring throughout their generations. It is a permanent covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as a permanent possession, and I will be their God.” (Gen. 17:1–8 CSB17)
The LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land that I tell you about; stay in this land as an alien, and I will be with you and bless you. For I will give all these lands to you and your offspring, and I will confirm the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, (Gen. 26:2–4 CSB17)
The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. (Gen. 28:13–14 CSB17)
God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; you will no longer be named Jacob, but your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. God also said to him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed an assembly of nations, will come from you, and kings will descend from you. I will give to you the land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac. And I will give the land to your future descendants.” (Gen. 35:10–12 CSB17)
OK now back to the old covenant.
Who is God making this covenant with?
"I am making this covenant, sworn by an oath, not only with you who stand here with us today before the LORD our God, but also with those who are not here with us today." The old covenant was made with everyone.
For those who insist that the old covenant was an agreement. How can an agreement be made between persons when the majority of the persons are not present at the time that the agreement is formed?
Is the old covenant conditional or unconditional?
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deut. 30:15–20 ESV)
- "If you obey...then you shall live..."
- "if your heart turns away...you shall surely perish..."
The old covenant is clearly conditional. Those who choose to obey God get the good things promised, and those who choose to turn away from God get the bad things promised.
Was the covenant optional?
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. (Deut. 30:19 ESV)
Notice that only two choices where given, there is no opt out. Although the old covenant was conditional it was not optional.
What did the children of Israel say that they would do?
Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Ex. 24:3 ESV)
What did God say the children of Israel would do?
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. (Deut. 31:16–18 ESV)
How many people chose to obey God and get the good things that God promised?
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. (Rom. 3:9–19 ESV)
According to the apostle Paul not one person kept the law.
If God knew that we would not keep his law, then why did He make the old covenant?
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:19–20 ESV)
What the old covenant does:
- stops our mouths (that is from justifying ourselves)
- holds us accountable to God for our sins
- gives us knowledge of our sins
Notice: The law is all inclusive; Paul says "that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law". Who are those that are under the law?
- "every mouth"
- "the whole world"
- every human being
In Paul's letter to the Galatians he gives more information regarding the purpose of the law.
So then, why the Law? It was added to favor the stepping beyond of its boundaries until the Seed should come, to whom the promise had been made; and it was advocated by means of Messengers by the hand of a mediator. (Gal. 3:19 CB)
Is the Law therefore contrary to the promises of God? Never may it be! For if a law had been given being able to impart life, then righteousness indeed would have emerged from out of the Law. But the Scripture imprisoned all things under sin, so that by faith from Jesus Christ, the promise might be given to those believing. (Gal. 3:21–22 BLB)
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:23–29 ESV)
Why the law?
- to favor the stepping beyond of its boundaries
- to imprison all people under sin
- to hold captive all people under the law, imprisoned
- to be our guardian
Until the Seed, Christ Jesus, to whom the promise had been made should come.
- so that by faith from Jesus Christ, the promise might be given to those believing
- in order that we might be justified by faith
- you are all sons of God, through faith
The law convicts us all of our guilt until we are set free by faith from Jesus.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us more about the Christ.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Heb. 9:11–15 ESV)
- appeared as a high priest
- entered once for all into the holy places by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption
- offered himself without blemish to God, to purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God
- is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance
- redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first (old) covenant
What is the New Covenant?
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31–34 ESV)
Notice that God says that this new covenant is different from the covenant that they broke.
How is the New Covenant Different?
The new covenant is an unconditional promise, but the old covenant was a conditional promise.
The old covenant says:
- "If you obey...then you shall live..."
- "if your heart turns away...you shall surely perish..."
The new covenant says:
- "I will put my law within them"
- "I will write it on their hearts"
- "I will be their God"
- "they shall be my people"
- "they shall all know me"
- "I will forgive their iniquity"
- "I will remember their sin no more"
How is the New Covenant the Same?
Both the old and new covenants are not optional.
Who is God making this new covenant with?
The old covenant was made with everyone, and the new covenant is also being made with everyone.
The new covenant states "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah".
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:26–29 ESV)
If you have faith in Christ Jesus then you are Abraham’s offspring and the new covenant is with you.
And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:14–17 NLT-SE)
God's purpose for sending His son into the world is "to save the world through him." It is through faith in Jesus that the world will be saved.
for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. (Eph. 2:8–9 WEB)
Notice, the grace, and the faith does not come from us; it is the gift from God.
How Many of Us Will God Save?
So if salvation is all of God and not of ourselves, then how many of us will He save?
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
“Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. (Is. 45:22–24 ESV)
God will save everyone, including those who were incensed against Him.
This is a work in progress. Please come back soon.If you have any questions or comments.