The New Covenant
Most people who are familiar with the Christian faith know that the Bible is divided into two main sections consisting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament and Old Testament are sometimes referred to as the Old Covenant and the New Covenant because they are basically covenants that state the terms of agreement that are to be adhered to between God and man.
Righteous Requirements Fulfilled In Christ
The Old Covenant was primarily based on the Law that God gave to the people of Israel which can be found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy with the 10 Commandments being found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The Covenant demanded obedience from the people according to the laws and regulations set forth by God. Obedience brought the blessing of God, and disobedience brought curses and the wrath of God (Deuteronomy 28).
In the New Covenant, the Law is fulfilled by Jesus on our behalf and blessings come to us because of His righteousness which is given (imputed) to us as an unearned gift if we simply believe and accept what he has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8:3-4, Romans 5:4). Likewise, the curse of disobedience and the wrath of God that would result from our disobedience was placed upon Jesus upon the cross. The Bible says that he became a curse for us in order that we could be blessed and receive His Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14).
In the Old Covenant, access to God was based on a place that was designated as a house for God’s presence. This place began as the tabernacle which was a tent that could be moved as the Israelites moved from one location to another. Eventually, when they settled in the Promised Land of Israel, a Temple was built for God during the time of Solomon in Jerusalem. The tabernacle and temple of God were divided into sections and the most sacred section was called the Most Holy Place, which contained The Ark of the Covenant. This is where the presence of God dwelled (Hebrews 9:1-10). Access to the presence of God required a temple that people could come to.
In the New Covenant, Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, which means God with us. His presence was not limited to a temple but He came to be among men wherever they lived. When He was crucified, He promised that when He went away, He would send another who would be the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us forever (John 14:15-18 and John 16:7). After his death, He rose from the dead and was seated at the right hand of God in the Most Holy Place of heaven where the presence of God dwells. From there, He poured out the Holy Spirit (the presence of God) on anyone who would have faith in Him and accept Him so that His presence would be among us and in us (Acts 2:32-33). No longer would He limit his presence to being in a section of a temple, but He chose to reside in the hearts and the bodies of believers so that we who believe would be the temple where his presence dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Christ Is Our High Priest Who Represents us Before God at all Times
In the Old Covenant, priests from the tribe of Levi were chosen as accepted representatives who could mediate between man and God. The Israelite people had to have a priest come to God on their behalf in order to have access and favor with God. Not only that, but there was only one High Priest who was accepted by God to go into the Most Holy Place where the presence of God dwelled, so that he could ask for pardon for the sins of the people, and he was only allowed to come into the Most Holy Place once per year on a special day called The Day of Atonement (Hebrews 9:6-7).
In the New Testament, Jesus is the High Priest who is accepted and chosen by God to stand before Him on behalf of the people so that we who believe in Him can have access and favor with God. Not only that, but He is always in the Most Holy Place to give us access to God. He is not limited to standing before God once per year, but He is always before God and lives eternally to represent us before God (Hebrews 9:11-15).
In the Old Covenant, blood sacrifices of specified animals or birds were offered to God. The animal sacrifices were the recipients of God’s wrath and judgment towards sin. Not that the animals sinned, they were designated as substitutes that were taking the place of man who had sinned. These animals had to be high quality animals that were spotless and without blemish, so it cost man the best of what he had to have his sins covered from God’s wrath (Leviticus chapters 1, 3, 4 and 5).
In the New Covenant, Jesus is the blood sacrifice and the Covenant is put into effect through His blood (Luke 22:19-20). By His sacrifice, He was offered up to God to suffer the wrath and judgment towards the sins that we have committed. Not that Jesus sinned, he was acting as a substitute and standing in our place for the punishment we deserved. Contrary to the Old Testament, the sacrifice of the most prized possession who was perfect was not something that we had to give up in order to make the sacrifice, rather, it cost God the Father the price of giving up His own beloved son whom He cherished above all else, so that we could be forgiven of our sins. It was important that Jesus be a sinless sacrifice of perfection because if He had sinned, He would have to die for His own sins instead of ours, and His sacrificial death wouldn’t have done us any good (Hebrews chapter 9).
Through Christ, We May Approach God at Any Time
In the Old Covenant, special days were set aside for worship. The people were to rest from work and honor God on the Sabbath. Seven feasts were to be held at various times throughout each year and each feast had its own meaning of the redemptive work that God intended for His people. The feasts were special times of blessing and favor where God could show His people what He wanted to do in their lives. Some of the feasts were also times of journey to the temple where people could come before God (Leviticus chapter 23).
In the New Covenant, Jesus has completed all work in terms of doing what is required to gain the favor and access to God. Since He has done these things for us, we are to be at rest from any works required by the Law for obtaining righteousness and gaining favor and access to God. For this reason, He is our Sabbath rest as He grants us rest from having to work for acceptance and blessing from God. In addition to this, all of the feasts are types and shadows that represent either what Jesus has already done, or what He will do to fulfill His plan for His people, the church and His chosen people of Israel. Because of this, we don’t need a Sabbath day or an assigned feast in order to come to God and be under His favor and blessing. With Jesus constantly being the fulfillment of the feasts and our Sabbath rest, we can come to God anytime, rather than at certain limited appointed times.
The Apostle Paul points to these truths in Colossians 2:16-17 when he says, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” The fact is that the laws and practices of the Old Covenant were illustrations of Christ to point people to Him as the fulfillment of the all of the demands of the Old Covenant. Jesus has done it all for us so that our relationship with God is not based on keep the Law and doing good works. In the New Covenant, we approach God and have blessing, favor, and relationship with Him by faith in what Jesus has done to give us these privileges.
The New Covenant is Offered to All People; Both Jew and Gentile Believers
Because of the fact that the New Covenant no longer depends on a special place, with appointed human representatives and appointed days and times of worship, it means that access to God is no longer restricted to the Jewish people who were given the Old Covenant. Now a Covenant is extended to anyone who may come to God at any time because we don’t have to journey to a Jewish temple. Instead, God’s Spirit lives in us. We also know that Jesus is a sacrifice for those who may not have one to offer, and He is a High Priest for those who wouldn’t have access to a human high priest from a chosen tribe, and Jesus is the fulfillment of the law for those who were never given the law to follow. All of this makes access to God and his favor and blessings available to anyone, any place, any time, for both Jew and non-Jewish (gentile) people. God has done this for us to make the New Covenant a better Covenant that is for all people (Ephesians 3:1-6).
Good Works are the Fruit of God’s Freely Given Power Working in Us
All of this is great and some people may say to themselves, if all of this is true and Jesus has done everything for us, we can live however we want. In a sense that is true if the fullness of the New Covenant is working within a heart as God desires, because a believers heart will be touched by God to want to live for Him. This is a big difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant.
In the Old Covenant, a person was expected to do good works whether they wanted to do them or not. If they were obedient to God and followed all of right protocol in approaching Him, then they could be acceptable to God so that they could come to Him and be under His blessing. In the New Covenant, it works almost the opposite, a person does not approach God on basis of good works to gain acceptance and have access to Him and His blessings. Instead, they admit their sins and confess that they aren’t good, and that their only hope for gaining access to God and His blessings is by Jesus acting as a righteous representative who has met all qualifications on their behalf.
Coming into God’s presence is a gift and receiving His life into one’s own heart is not something that is earned through good works, it’s a free gift of God’ grace. It’s through this gift of God’s Spirit coming into a human heart that transforms a believer from having a sin nature with sinful desires, into a new spiritual creation with a righteous nature and Godly desires. When this happens, a the power of God’s goodness will flow through a person’s heart so that they will want to do good works; but the desire to want to do what is good is a gift from God, not a striving for goodness that originates within one’s own self.
Under the New Covenant, loving God, living a righteous life, and following in His ways, are all works of the Spirit that are given by God’s grace rather than a mandatory dictate that God demands whether a person really wants to do right or not. God’s desire is to do away with the sin nature and give us a new nature by the power of His Spirit working within us to move us to follow Him and do what is right. This is seen in Ezekiel 36:26-27 which says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” This is how God intends for works of righteousness to be exercised according to the New Covenant.
In Hebrews 10:16, the Bible says, “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” God is saying that His laws will no longer simply be written on stone as commands that people must do, but those laws will actually enter into people hearts; they will be written on our heart so that we will want to do them.
A Better Covenant to Live By
We have a choice to educate ourselves and live under the power of the New Covenant by looking to Christ through whom that Covenant was made, or we can choose to rely upon our own strength and goodness, by approaching God in an Old Covenant manner. The Bible calls the New Covenant (Hebrews 7:22 and Hebrews 8:6) a better Covenant. Let us then live according to the New Covenant.