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Old Covenants vs. New Covenant

Where did the New Covenant come from?

The New Covenant instituted by the Lord Jesus through his sacrifice at the cross, was, as we read, initially with the Jews. This makes us prick up our ears and consider how it relates to the two other covenants we have encountered in the Old Testament; the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with Moses. 

The New Covenant replaces the one made with Moses, on account of the Jews breaking that particular covenant.

"But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: 'The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to My covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.' By calling this covenant 'new', He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and ageing will soon disappear." (Hebrews 8:6-13)

We have to be clear what is happening here. The covenant with Moses, made at Sinai, with its 613 laws and instructions, was a conditional covenant, which could be broken and was broken, through the idolatrous and unfaithful behaviour of the Jews towards their God. This was the Mosaic Covenant, replaced by the New Covenant instituted by Jesus.

So the covenant with Moses was no more, but the covenant with Abraham - which, as explained earlier, was unconditional - remained intact. It couldn't be broken and it wasn't broken. What this meant is that the coming of Jesus would have no effect on the covenant with Abraham, although his coming did fulfil an aspect of the covenant. After all, Jesus was, without a doubt, the means by which 'all peoples on earth will be blessed'. But this was just one aspect of the covenant, so what about the others? God's promises to Abraham concerning the land are still in effect. Jesus's coming affected this not one jot. 'The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God' (Genesis 17:8).

Misunderstandings on this point and the teaching of Jesus on the nature of his Kingdom, lead some to go as far as to imply he said 'Because I have come to initiate a new Kingdom, this old talk of physical return to the land is now irrelevant'. Mr. Shoots would say that Jesus's silence on the subject indicated that the land promises given to Abraham are no longer physical promises to the Jewish nation but spiritual promises to Christians. For them, the 'Promised Land' now becomes the Kingdom of Heaven

If you followed this approach then you’d have to concede that Jesus was only interested in subjects that he explicitly taught about. Does this mean that, because Jesus didn’t speak on child sacrifice (a practice totally condemned in the Old Testament), he was in fact saying that this was of no concern to him and it was OK to toss your children onto Moloch's fiery altar? Common sense tells me that you can't formulate doctrine out of what is not spoken about!

The reason why Jesus did not speak about the land and God's promises of it to the Jews is because the New Covenant was to run alongside the one given to Abraham, not instead of it, and so there was nothing new for him to add. The Abrahamic Covenant was a given, a done deal, no arguments needed. Surely this fits the facts best ... unless we need to believe that God's eternal promises to the Jews were torn up when Jesus appeared on the scene.

Steve Maltz
February 2014

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation

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