As we read and study the Bible, one of the most important things we can do is to "rightly divide" the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We need to rightly divide the Word, in seeing the divisions that God Himself has made as He progressively revealed Himself over many hundreds of years.
And one of the most important ways that we need to "rightly divide" the Word is regarding the difference between the Mosaic Covenant, or Old Covenant, and the New Covenant.
In Hebrews 8:7-13 we find three truths:
1. The Old Covenant is obsolete.
This doesn't mean that we can't learn anything from the Old Covenant. It is well worth studying. What we want to know is the heart of our Lord, don't we? There is much we can learn about Him from the Old Covenant.
But it is obsolete.
2. The Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant.
Although the New Covenant was promised to Israel, the Gentiles have been grafted in, Romans Chapter 11 tells us. This is something to be exceedingly grateful to God for. And we Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ are now included in this great New Covenant.
We see this in passages like 1 Corinthians 11:25, "In the same manner he also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"
And 2 Corinthians 3:6, "...who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
3. There is a reason why the New Covenant replaced the Old, and why the New Covenant is a BETTER Covenant.
Hebrews 8:7,8 says, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, 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...'"
What does it mean, "finding fault with them"?
Well, it simply means this. The Old Covenant was a bi-lateral covenant. That means it had conditions for both sides. This was expressed many times in the Old Covenant laws, which said over and over this basic message:
"If you follow these laws, you will be blessed. If you don’t follow these laws, you will be cursed."
Now there are a couple of problems with that, to put it mildly.
First, it couldn’t save. There were over 600 laws under the Old Covenant, and the Bible makes it clear that if you broke one single law, one time, it was just as if you’d broken them all, and that would keep you from earning salvation. And obviously, no one could keep all the law, all the time. Most couldn’t keep any of the law all the time, and some could hardly keep any of the law any of the time. So the Law couldn’t save.
Secondly, the Law was a great burden. If you read through Exodus and Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you will literally thank God that you are not under the burden of the 600 laws prescribed there, many with a simple penalty: death.
But even if you made the attempt, of course you would fail over and over, at least regarding the perfection the Law required. And because you would fail, the sacrificial system itself was a burden. Actual rivers of blood flowed from the slain animals sacrificed to cover sins.
And that brings up a third problem. There could be no forgiveness of sins, only the covering of them. Only the temporary covering of sins, because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins". (Heb. 10:4)
And so the sacrifices had to be done over and over and over, with never any real assurance that it was enough. At times God Himself said something like, "your sacrifices make me sick, because your hearts aren’t right."
Ah, but then came Jesus. Then came the Lamb of God who became the final sacrifice, the once for all sacrifice, the One who gave His blood that truly could take away sins. In came the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is not a bi-lateral Covenant. The bi-lateral Old Covenant failed, in that man was unable to keep his end of the the Covenant. So a better Covenant was put in place. And the one sure defect was left out, namely, dependence on man doing his part.The New Covenant is UNI-lateral, that is, it was planned, instituted, carried out, fulfilled, and maintained by God. It is not a Covenant between God and man, with each having conditions to make the Covenant "work". It is not of the "letter", but of the "Spirit", and thus cannot fail.
It has His laws placed into the hearts and minds of His people, and He causes them to walk in His ways. It causes man to die to the Law (the very *principle* of Law), so that he is no longer under Law, but under Grace. And this very construct insures that the Law, all Law, is fulfilled, not by the [always shaky] performance of man, but by the [always sure] performance of God.
It will bless you to remember that next time you take communion.
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the New Covenant in my blood." (1 Corinthians 11:25)
Let others know that the conditions have been met by Christ. We are under Grace, beloved. Because Jesus paid it all. We love Him and follow Him now, not because of conditions placed on us, but because the conditions have been met in His wonderful New Covenant. Minister that to one another.
"Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)