Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Covenants, old and new, Abrahamic and Mosaic and Christian

  • Jeremiah refers to two covenants:
    • an old one which YHWH made with the ancestors of the houses of Israel and Judah when he took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt
    • a new one which was to be different than that old one
  • Luke 1:72-73 refers to the covenant made via oath sworn to Abraham
  • Hebrews 8 specifies:
    • that the old covenant mentioned by Jeremiah is aging and about to disappear
    • that the new, better, covenant, promised in Jeremiah, is mediated by Jesus, and it delivers the promise of eternal inheritance, and a death to provide redemption of transgressions committed under the old covenant
  • Gal 3 mentions the covenant of Abraham (the same one mentioned in Luke 1), saying that it was not set aside by the coming of the temporary covenant which came 430 years later (referred to in Jeremiah as the "old covenant"), and that the old covenant was "until the Seed came". Now that Jesus has come, that old covenant is no more, and the original Abrahamic covenant is inherited by those who, like Abraham, have faith (that is, those who "belong to Christ").


  • the "old covenant" refers only to the Law of Moses, and not to earlier covenants such as that with Abraham, Noah, or Adam, or to later covenants, such as that with David.
  • the "old covenant" has passed away now with the coming of Christ.
  • the "new covenant" replaces the old.
  • the "new covenant" is a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant.
  • the "new covenant" is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise that all nations (not just Jews) would be blessed through the Seed. In fact, this is a definition for the term "gospel" according to Gal 3:8.
  • unlike the old covenant which consisted of regulations for ministry, written in stone (Heb 9:1; 2 Cor 3:3,7), the "different" new covenant:
    • is one of the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law (2 Cor 3:6), and
    • does not consist of regulations (Col 2:20ff), but consists of "knowing God" in the heart (Jer 31:33-34).
    • Mature adults don't need "law":
      • mature adults choose to do "the right thing" regardless of written regulations
      • Jesus taught this principle, that heart-condition matters more than law-keeping:
        • in the specifics of adultery in the heart (intention) vs actual law-breaking action (Matt 5:28).
        • in his admonition to the Pharisees to administer justice and mercy and faithfulness rather then fussing over the details of tithing (Matt 23:23).
        • in his admonition to the Pharisees to "clean the inside of the cup", rather than to look shiny on the outside while being full of greed and self-indulgence on the inside (Matt 23:24-25).
      • "Law" was to get us to a state of maturity (Gal 3:24).
      • As a child, you needed a law to keep you from stepping out into the street; as an adult, you no longer need that letter of the law to keep you from getting run over, as you are mature enough now to keep the spirit of the law, which is to "be careful when crossing the street".
    • It is this heart-condition vs law-keeping-condition:
      • which justified Abraham by faith, prior to action (Rom 4:10), and
      • which God saw in Cornelius' group, leading him to cleanse their hearts prior to immersion (Acts 15:8), and
      • which allowed Jesus to define adultery, murder, greed, etc as a heart-condition rather than as an action, and
      • which makes the new covenant different from the old.
    • But with that freedom which comes with maturity comes a greater responsibility to honor the spirit of the law, and he who insults/outrages/spites the Spirit of grace will receive worse punishment than he who merely breaks the letter of the law (Heb 10:29).
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