Chapter 12: The difference between the two Testaments.


a. What is required for a testament to be of value?; b. The Old Covenant; c. The New Covenant; d. The Sabbath – a sign to the Jews.


a.  What is required for a testament to be of value?

We could spend thousands of pages on this topic, which would only confuse the issue.  I would prefer to just state the facts briefly as stated in the Bible.

There are 2 testaments, 2 covenants, the Old one and the new one.  If a testament or a covenant is to be enforced, someone must die. Heb 9:16-18 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.”

As long as my dad was alive, his written testament was of little value to anyone.  However, when he passed away, his testament became law, and though I would have preferred for him to stay alive, it was enforced.  The same is true with both of God’s covenants, the old and the new.  The old one required animal sacrifices.  The new one was sealed by Jesus’ blood.

Ex 24:8 “Moses 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."

Matt 26:28-29 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

b. The Old Covenant

Basically, the old covenant was between God and the people of Israel.  God would bless them if they kept His commandments.

Ex 34:27-28 “Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments.”

Please note that the covenant referred to here is the ten commandments.

Lev 26:3 If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit….”

Lev 26:14-17 "'But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it…”

The old covenant was sealed by animals’ blood.

Ex 24:8 “Moses 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."

Israel would be a kingdom of priests of the Lord.

Ex 19:5-6 Now 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, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

The first covenant was far from being perfect.

Heb 8:7 “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.”

Heb 10:10 “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Finally, the Israelites constantly broke their covenant with the Lord.

Jer 31:32 “When I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them…”

c.  The New Covenant

The Old Covenant was broken by God’s people, not by God.

Heb 8:7-9 “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.”

God promised a New Covenant in the Old Testament, which consists of having God’s laws not on stone any longer, but in our hearts.  Forgiveness is the key with the New Covenant.

Heb 8: 10-12 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 neighbor, 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."

This promise can be found in the Old Testament in Jer 31:31-34 “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 broke my covenant, though I was a husband to 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 law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD, 'because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."”

Once the New Covenant was in place the Old Covenant became obsolete.

Heb 8: 13  By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

The new covenant is superior to the old one.

Heb 8:6 “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.”  

Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant.  He is the One who sets us free and made forgiveness possible.

Heb 9:15 For 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.” NIV

Jesus is the one who makes us holy through His sacrifice.

Heb 10: 9-10 He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

What was the goal of the law in the Old Covenant?

Gal 3:19, 24 “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Heb 10:1-4 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming-not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

2 Cor 3: 7-11 “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!”

The New Covenant is a Covenant of the Spirit.

2 Cor 3:6 “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Only those who turn to Jesus will have the veil taken away and will fully understand the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in Jesus Christ. Where God’s Spirit is there is freedom!  The New Covenant promises us God’s Spirit and freedom!

2 Cor 3: 12- 4:1 “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Jesus is the One who freed us and made forgiveness possible.  Through Him we are now a kingdom of priests!

Rev 1:5-6 “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”

We are not saved by works, nor by keeping the law.  We are saved by grace!

Eph 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.

The Holy Spirit confirms the certitude of our salvation.

2 Cor 1:21-22 “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Eph 1:13-14 “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory.”

Gentiles were not part of the Old Covenant.

Eph 2:11-12 “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)- 12 remember 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.

But gentiles can be part of the New Covenant:

Eph 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one (Jews and gentiles) and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…”

We are now fellow citizens with God’s people, the Israelites and members of God’s household. Both Jew and gentile believers are recipients to God’s Holy Spirit.

Eph 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Salvation (the New Covenant) was only possible through Jesus Christ.

Gal 4:4-5 “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

John 14:6-7 “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

d. The Sabbath – a sign to the Jews

Ex 31:12-17 “Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. "'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.'”

Deut 5:1-6, 12-15 “Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

Neh 9:13-14 "You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.”

Ezek 20:10-13 “Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert. I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws-although the man who obeys them will live by them-and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the desert.”

The Bible is clear that the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Israelites and was part of the Old Covenant.  Why do some Christians like to go back to the Old Covenant?  Isn’t Jesus’ New Covenant adequate?  Jesus clearly warned us against this in Luke 5:36-39 “He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.  And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.”

In other words we cannot take a piece of the New Covenant and attach it to the Old Covenant.  It would ruin the message of the New Covenant and the Old Covenant would look distorted.

Wine is clearly indicated by Jesus Himself to be His blood for the New Covenant Matt 26:27-29 “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.   If you mix elements from the New Covenant with elements from the Old Covenant, you will say 'The old is better” and will start to have a distorted version of salvation by grace.

This message is proclaimed not once, but three times in the New Testament (see also Mark 2:21-22 and Matt 9:16-17).  When God proclaims something once, it is important.  But when God makes sure that it is written three times in His Word, we better pay close attention!

It is also interesting that in two of the places where this is recorded, it is immediately following incidents where Jesus and His disciples were breaking the Sabbath laws, and where He declared that He was “Lord of the Sabbath” (see Luke 6:1-5 and Mark 2:23-3:1).  Coincidence? I don’t believe so.

(see also chapter 6a)

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