The Two Main Covenants

It’s well known to most of the Born-again believers that there are two main covenants in the Bible. But still most of them are confused about the details of these two covenants and how they are linked to their spiritual lives.

I have also heard many a time both preachers and believers alike discussing this topic. However, many of those discussions did not entertain the idea of the “Ten Commandments” being the main component of these two covenants especially the New one.  

A huge number of Preachers, Pastors and believers think that the Commandments were part of the Old Mosaic Covenant and hence they are not bound to live by them. But are they right? Let us examine. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are two Main Covenants in the Bible which the God Almighty executed at two different times for the purpose of establishing a long-lasting relationship with HIS people, the Israelites-the twelve tribes of Israel. (Both Old and New Covenants were made with the Israelites only, Gentiles had no role whatsoever in both the covenants)

Now let us go through each one of them in detail:

The Old Covenant.

The old covenant was established at Mount Sinai, as soon as the Israelites came out of Egypt. So, what were the terms of this covenant?

This is what The LORD Almighty spoke to the Israelites through Moses prior to instituting the old covenant.

5Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’(Exodus 19, 5-6)

Here, we see God Almighty promising to choose the descendants of Jacob as a nation that is:

  • special and holy in His sight.
  • A nation that will be a treasured possession for Him.

However, this election would be on the basis of them fulfilling certain conditions of which the most important one was:  

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession”

Well, obeying what? The “Ten Commandments” written on the stone tablets with the finger of Almighty God.

Next, God Invites Moses to the Mountain and talks with him about the covenant and its terms. After meeting the LORD, Moses returns to the elders and inform them about the requirements of the covenant to which all the people in one voice said:

“We will do everything the Lord has said.”

 Thus, the preliminary step for formalizing the covenant was completed.The verses below tell the story clearly.

These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” 7So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So, Moses brought their answer back to the Lord. (Exodus 19, 7-8)

After receiving the answer from the elders, The LORD decides to institute the covenant with the Israelites through Moses; more details of which can be found in Exodus Chapter 24.

In this chapter, we see, Moses building an alter and offering sacrifices on behalf of the Israelites and he also takes some of the blood and sprinkles it on the people. Thus, the covenant was formally established.You could read more about this in the following verses.

4Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. 7Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

8Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24, 4-8)

Thus, the first Main Covenant was formally established between the LORD Almighty and the Israelites; Moses being the mediator.

As per this covenant:

  • The Israelites would become the chosen people of God. (6For you are a people holy to the Lordyour God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession(Deuteronomy 7, 6)
  • As the people of God; The Israelites were bound to obey the Commandments of God and follow HIM only. (13He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. (Deuteronomy 4, 13)

After establishing the First Covenant God also introduced a sacrificial system with the aim of providing the people a way to receive forgiveness in case, they disobeyed the commandments and broke the covenant; it was a temporary arrangement though.

The New Covenant

As you read earlier, the Old Covenant was only between God Almighty and the Israelites; Moses being the Mediator, with no scope whatsoever for the inclusion of gentiles.

However, the New Covenant, though it’s also with the Israelites had the provision for the inclusion of gentiles into the citizenship of Israel through faith in Christ. This is a major difference between the Old and the New Covenants. You might wonder what is the proof for this inclusion:

11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace (Ephesians 2, 11-15)

So, as you read above, the New Covenant was established between God Almighty and His people, the Israelites; Jesus Christ being the Mediator. However, the method of instituting this New Covenant was different from that of the Old one. The following verses give us the details about this.  

26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the b covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Mathew 26, 26-28)

As the above verses describe, the New Covenant was instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper.  

Jesus and his disciples were gathered on the upper room to have the Passover meal and while having the meal He took the cup, gave thanks and said:

This is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”  

Here, we see a different procedure being followed for instituting the New Covenant which seems to be a bit different from the previous one. Well, what was the procedural difference?  

  • In the Upper Room there were only Jesus Christ and His twelve disciples. Jesus being the mediator and the twelve disciples representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Also, while instituting the New Covenant we don’t find the re-introduction of the Aaronic priestly system or the animal sacrifices. Because Christ himself was the Chief Priest and also the Lamb of God to be sacrificed.

Christ being the Chief Priest in the order of Melchizedek, which was far superior than the Aaronic priesthood. Moreover, being a Chief Priest in the order of Melchizedek also means; it is of heavenly origin and is eternal in nature. The following verses confirm this fact.  

20where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6, 20)

1This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. (Hebrews 7, 1-3)

Thus, God Almighty established the New Covenant with the Israelites; Christ being the Mediator, The Chief Priest and the Lamb of God.

Next, let us examine the similarities and differences between these two Main Covenants.

The Old Covenant.

  • When Moses Established the Old Covenant, we see him placing twelve stone pillars, near the alter, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Moses was the Mediator and the Priest (Levitical Priesthood) of the Old Covenant.
  • There was a sacrifice involved in the establishment of the Old Covenant.
  • At the time of Instituting the Old Covenant, the blood was sprinkled on the people.
  • Under the Old covenant the Covenant Laws were written on the stone tablets.
  • Under the Old Covenant a sacrificial system existed for the remission of sins.
  • The Israelites are still the chosen people of God.
  • As the people of God; The Israelites were bound to obey the Commandments of God and follow HIM only.

The New Covenant.

  • Similarly, when Jesus Christ established the New covenant, we could also see the presence of twelve Apostles representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Jesus was the Mediator and the Chief Priest (In the order of Melchizedek) of the New Covenant. .(Hebrews 9, 15)
  • In the New Covenant too, a sacrifice was involved; that is the sacrifice of Christ (the Lamb of God) and the covenant was established by HIS blood shed on the cross.
  • At the time of instituting the New Covenant the disciples drank the wine which symbolically represented the blood of Christ. In fact, the  covenant was made in HIS blood. (Luke 22, 20)
  • Under the New Covenant, the Covenant Laws are written in the hearts of the people which means it is permanent in nature.
  • Under the New Covenant, the old sacrificial system was replaced by the sacrifice of Christ. Anyone who disobeyed the commandments could receive forgiveness by going before the throne of Grace of Christ.

Believers do not need to sacrifice animals year after year anymore. Forgiveness was readily available in the name of Jesus Christ for anyone who called up on HIM and repented of their sins. (.(Hebrews 10, 12-14))

  • The Israelites are still the chosen people of God.
  • As the people of God; The Israelites were bound to obey the Commandments of God and follow HIM only.

Here, you might ask me “what is the proof that Israelites are still the chosen people of God” Well, the proof is there in the book of Prophet Jeremiah 31.

31“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. (Jeremiah 31, 31)

 33“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31, 33)

 As I described earlier, this New Covenant was established by Jesus Christ; the day before His crucifixion and It was a covenant between God Almighty and the Israelites; Christ being the mediator.  

Furthermore, another key point we need to keep in mind is;

The Commandments that were introduced under the First Covenant was not temporary in nature. How do we know this? Let us go through the verses below:

15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9, 15)

 Read the verses very carefully: “Jesus Christ died as a ransom to set free the people from the sins that they committed under the first covenant”.

Why Apostle Paul says “The sins that were committed under the first covenant”?

The reason is: The Commandments came into existence through the first covenant with an eternal nature built into it. So, whenever we break a commandment, we are breaking it under the first covenant.

Under the New Covenant, the commandments of the Old Covenant move from the stone tablets to the hearts of the people; that is the only difference. In other words; the commandments instituted in the Old Covenant continue to exist under the New Covenant and beyond.   

Again, let me ask you a question; What is Sin? How do you define it under the New Testament?

4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.( 1 John 3, 4-6)

Sin is the transgression of the Law. (The Commandments) Anyone who breaks the Law (The Commandments) commits sin. So, whenever we break a commandment, we are breaking it under the first covenant, that is why Apostle Paul says: 

“Jesus Christ died as a ransom to set free the people from the sins that they committed under the first covenant”

Saints, whether in the Old Covenant or in the New Covenant – Sin is nothing but “Transgression of the Law or The Commandments”

Another important point that I would like to re-state here is:

All the main clauses of the Old Covenant had been incorporated into the New Covenant except the Sacrificial System and the Aaronic Priesthood.

The Aaronic Priesthood has been replaced by the Priesthood of Christ in the Order of Melchizedek. The Sacrificial system has been replaced by the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the World.

29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1, 29)

Please also remember: Whether under the Old Covenant or the New Covenant; the Commandants remain the same and we are bound to obey them. However, the method of atonement for breaking a commandment is different in both the covenants.

As I stated earlier, under the Old Covenant: When people committed a sin, they had to go to the temple and sacrifice a sin offering in order to receive forgiveness. The priest would pray for their forgiveness and bless them.

But under the New Covenant; we don’t need to go with an animal to sacrifice as a sin offering nor we need to go before the throne of god through an Aaronic priest. Instead, we could go before the Throne of Grace directly, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and receive forgiveness.  

Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.(Hebrews 4:16.)

I think I have already explained in detail about the eternal nature of God’s Holy Laws and how we are bound to live by them. If you study the Holy Scriptures with an honest heart and a desire to seek the truth, you will definitely find enough proof to affirm the above facts.

Stay Blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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