With so many things screaming for our attention these days, why should anyone be interested in what the Bible refers to as the Old and New covenants. Only because the biblical covenants is the umbrella theme under which the entire Bible story finds its unifying thread. In other words, when you understand what the Bible teaches and means by the old and new covenants, the Bible makes sense. The study of the covenants reveals how someone can go from living a life without any real purpose or direction, to a life filled with ultimate meaning and hope.
If you’ve read much in the Bible, or attend church on an even somewhat regular basis, you have no doubt read or heard about the new covenant. But the fascinating thing is that if you ask one hundred Christians, or even a hundred Christian ministers, to define the new covenant, you will get many different answers, some of them conflicting. A recent book entitled, New Covenant Theology contains two chapters defining the new covenant. The definition it ended up with is complicated, and I doubt that anyone in that group of one hundred Christians or ministers just referred to would give that particular definition if asked to define the new covenant. What’s even more remarkable, this entire book never once examines the one passage in the Bible where God says, “This is the new covenant…” and then spells out exactly what the new covenant is, in His own words, so simply and plainly that no one could misunderstand it. Since this clear biblical definition of the new covenant is not taken into account as thoroughly as it should be, even by some Christian scholars, it’s little wonder that there is so much confusion on this subject.
It would be a mistake to claim that a person had to thoroughly understand this subject in order to go to heaven. And yet when it is understood, it brings unity and coherence to many different teachings of the Bible, especially to some which initially seem to be conflicting.
For example, take the subject of God’s law. In some places it’s described as perfect, holy, just, good, spiritual, written in the heart, ordained to life, established by faith, truth, converting the soul, providing liberty and freedom. But other passages seem to characterize it as the power of sin, condemnation, a letter that kills, not based on faith, something that veils the truth, a curse, engendering slavery and bondage. What’s up with this?
Some have suggested that maybe these characterizations are talking about two different laws. Maybe all the negative characterizations should be applied to the law in the Old Testament, sometimes called Moses’ law from Sinai, and maybe all the good characterizations should apply only to a different law that Jesus gave when He came to earth. Maybe Jesus switched out laws from the bad one to the good one, a law only for New Testament people. But that doesn't make sense, because Moses’ law was really God’s law in the first place. I mean, Moses didn’t make it up; He got it straight from God. God even spoke the Ten Commandments to the people with His own voice and wrote it on stone tablets with His own finger. And Jesus said He didn’t do anything or teach anything except but what God told Him to do and say; so Jesus’ law was God’s law too.
There are a lot of things like this in the Bible that can be confusing, making it hard to see the coherence in the Bible story. But when the biblical teaching on the covenants is rightly understood, the beautiful unity and coherence of these teachings emerges.
More than that, the biblical teaching on the covenants, rightly understood, can be likened to a divine embrace. It’s like getting a hug from God, with Him assuring You that He’s got you covered, and that no matter how difficult and discouraging your spiritual journey may be at times, He will see you through to the end if you just trust Him.
Reason enough to take a second look at what may seem at first glance to be a very esoteric, stodgy subject. I promise you, it’s not.
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