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New Covenant

Posted on April 25, 2020 at 9:25 AM

According to my Bible, aren't there many scriptures that clearly state the old covenant is obsolete and nailed to the cross?  Doesn't that mean we now live under a new set of laws?


Jeremiah 31 and 32 do talk about a new covenant God will make with the people of Israel.  Headings in both chapters (which were placed there by men) refer to a restoration.  This is clearly evident when God says I will bring my people back from being scattered and they will be my people just as i will their God.  It says that the earlier covenant established when Israel came out of Egypt was broken by the people.  The key part says, “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 3:33-14 ESV). 


God says three interesting things concerning the new everlasting covenant.  One, the covenant is made with God’s house. The writer of Hebrews later quotes this passage and makes the point that Moses was a servant in the house, but Jesus was the Son (Hebrews 3:5-6). It was the same house, though. The house of Israel was to be restored.  We are told Jesus "will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:33 NLT).  Neither Jeremiah nor the Hebrews author are referring to a new religion or a new people.  Two,  the new covenant is about forgiveness, which we know is the only way of achieving restoration with Yahweh.  "I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins."  Three, the new covenant is now to be written on the hearts of God's people.  Presumably, this is in contrast to the earlier covenant delivered in writing on stones.  It is notable that there is nothing about the new covenant being a new written set of rules to replace the earlier.  Rather, the new covenant is one where forgiveness and restoration replaces rebellion and sin.  And the new covenant is one where God's law becomes real in the lives of his people (metaphorically, "written on their hearts") instead of simply being words written on parchment or a stone but ignored.   The difference under the new covenant is that now "I will be their God, they shall be my people...and they shall know me."


In quoting Jeremiah, the Hebrews writer shows that Jesus is superior to the earlier law.  In chapter 8, he (perhaps she) says we have a better covenant because we have a High Priest who mediates better promises.  Therefore, the new covenant will improve or replace the old covenant because it will now contain a "better promise" clause.  In chapter 9, the writer continues the discussion and gives examples of some of the rules and regulations under the old covenant.  It is key that nowhere does he speak of the old covenant with its written set of laws being replaced by a set of written laws under a new covenant.  However, that is often believed and taught for some reason.  Likely, it is commonly accepted that man must have a set of laws and rules laid out and we must follow them to be saved.  That certainly was a misconception of many Jews.  Salvation, though, comes from God and does not come from our keeping perfectly a set of rules.  That was true earlier and is still true now.  The Hebrew writer never mentions any supposed new set of rules.  Rather, he explains that the new covenant is better because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ allows for forgiveness for all people. "Once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.  And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.  He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him."  The new covenant is executed with better promises built around the forgiveness found in the one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  There is nothing about us having to follow a new set of rules rather than an old set of rules.


In Colossians 2, Paul says God has wiped out the "handwriting of requirements" or "legal obligation" and nailed it to the cross.  He doesn't directly say this refers to the Mosaic law, but the context indicates that is likely what he had in mind (although it could include other rules as well).  What then allows this cancellation to take place? Paul identifies that when he says "You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins."   Again, just like the new covenant, it is all about forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  Forgiveness that comes from the death and resurrection are what makes the nailing possible and wipes out any legal obligations of rules and laws.  There is nothing here that talks about a new set of laws. 


We are set free, as Paul explains elsewhere, from the law of sin and death.  That has to mean any law of sin and death.  We are set free not by following a new set of laws but by being in the Spirit.  There is no set of laws, old or new, that can set us free from sin.  Only the sacrifice of the Lamb can do that.  God did not create a better set of laws.  Instead, he offered us a better promise and a better sacrifice.

Categories: Erased: God's Complete Forgiveness of Sins

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