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The Two Covenants

The Two Covenants
Photo used under Creative Commons from pixydust8605
  The Two Covenants in a Nutshell

The New Covenant is the promises of God, including writing of the law on our hearts, and the Old Covenant is any attempt to save ourselves by our own efforts. This includes promises made to God to do right in order to be saved.

What is the Debate?

There is a lot of debate about the Two Covenants. Many churches teach that the Old Covenant is the Old Testament and the New Covenant is the New Testament. And that the law is only for the Old Testament and grace for the New.

But the Bible does not support this theory. The apostles taught and studied from the Old Testament and would not have done this if the Old Testament was the Old Covenant and not valid anymore. This was the only Bible they had back then.

Also the Two Covenants run side by side throughout history. Cain was under the Old Covenant when he offered his offering of works, while Abraham was under the New Covenant when God made His promise (or Covenant) to him in Genesis 12:1-3. Abraham accepted it without promising anything in return. However the Hagar incident was an Old Covenant action because he was trying to solve the problem his own way. So we can be under either one by what we do.

More reasons why the Old Testament was not the Old Covenant.

Saved by faith comes from the Old Testament and faith clearly establishes the law in the New.

Paul used Abraham as an example of righteousness by faith in Romans 3. So Abraham was not under the Old Covenant. For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13)

Hebrews 11 is called the faith chapter. It lists a lot of people from the Old Testament that lived by faith.

Paul quotes this verse from the OT Habakkuk in Romans 1:17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Living by faith has its origins from the Old Testament. Habakkuk 2:4 Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.

King David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. Romans 4:6

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 1:3, 4.

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 1 Corinthians 7:19.

There are so many texts where faith establishes the law in the New Testament that the list would be as long or longer than this article.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8. He would not have one way of saving people and then change that way later. The people in the Old Testament times were looking forward to Jesus (through faith) and the sacrificed lamb was a representation of Christ. Now we look back to when Jesus died on the cross for us.

Since everyone has sinned (broken the 10 commandments) and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) how would anyone be saved in Old Testament times by keeping the commandments since they could not keep themselves from breaking them? Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8) so it was only through Jesus that anyone can be forgiven and be saved.

So what is the Old and New Covenants?

New Covenant:
The promises of God to us.

The New Covenant (or everlasting covenant) was sealed with the blood of Christ before the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
The everlasting covenant is laid on "better promises" (Hebrews 8:6) that are without fault. The first summary statement of God's covenant with Abraham is found in
Genesis 12:1-3

Hebrews 8:8 Because finding fault with them, He says: Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah
Hebrews 8:10 For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

To get the entire study on this go HERE and write to request this free study or even do all studies offered through postal mail.

Why is it called the "New Covenant" when it came before the old?
"Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham it could not be ratified (confirmed) until the death of Christ. It has existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it has been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called the New Covenant. The law of God was the basis of this covenant, which was simply an arrangement for bringing men again into harmony with the divine will, placing them where they could obey God's law."
The Law and the Covenants Pages 370, 371

Old Covenant:
The people's promises were worthless:

Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

What were these promises of the people at Mt. Sinai that were so worthless?
Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth [is] Mine.
Exodus 19:8 Then all the people answered together and said, All that the LORD has spoken we will do. So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.
Exodus 24:3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, All the words, which the LORD has said we will do.
Exodus 24:7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.
Exodus 24:8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled [it] on the people, and said, This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.

In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul gives an example of the Two Covenants. Hagar represents the Old Covenant and Sarah represents the New. To read the story, go to Genesis 20.
God promised that Abraham and Sarah would have a son. This represents the New Covenant. They should have believed God and waited patiently but did an Old Covenant response. They decided to do it themselves instead of waiting for God. They tried to make the promise happen their way by introducing Hagar into their marriage and produce a son through her. This was an example of the Old Covenant.

Here is a study on Galatians 4:21-31.
Galatians 4:21-31

Quotes from this study on Galatians.

"The apostle when speaking of Hagar and Sarah says: "These women are two covenants." These two covenants exist today. The two covenants are not matters of time, but of condition. Let no one flatter himself that he cannot be bound under the old covenant, thinking that its time has passed. The time for that is passed only in the sense that "the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lust, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." 1 Peter 4:3, KJV" ...So the covenant from Sinai holds all who adhere to it in bondage "under the law," while the covenant from above gives freedom, not freedom from obedience to the law, but freedom from disobedience to it." (Page 12)

Entrance of the Old Covenant

1. The "old covenant" has always been man's thinking that he can save himself through his own efforts. Consider Cain and Abel. Read Genesis 4:3-8; Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 3:12.

What does the Bible say was the reason that Cain's offering was not acceptable?
It was not a blood sacrifice and therefore was not acceptable as a sin offering.

What does the Bible call Cain's offering (1 John 3:12)?
Evil works

The offering for sin required the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22), which pointed forward to Christ's blood shed for all mankind (Romans 5:15-19; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 9:26-28). Cain's offering was based in pride and a refusal to see himself as a sinner, whereas Abel's offering was a humble acknowledgement of his sinful condition and a joyful acceptance of God's grace and mercy. At the time of Cain and Abel there was no sanctuary system that typified any other kinds of offering other than the blood sacrifice for sin. Cain's offering for sin was not according to the plan of God, and it was not acceptable. The Bible calls it "evil works." Wounded pride and desire for self-justification resulted in the first murder (Genesis 4:5-8).

In the Old Testament the Bible speaks of various types of covenants. Some were created between men of equal social stature and dealt with social matters (Genesis 21:22-32; 26:26-31); some were between kings and nations and resolved political disputes or ended wars (Joshua 9:14, 15; 1 Kings 20:31-34; Ezekiel 17:12-21). While these covenants were similar to contracts and involved promises and pledges from both contracting parties, God's everlasting covenant is of a completely different character.

To get the entire study on this go HERE and write to request this free study or even do all studies offered through postal mail.

Where did the mistaken Old Covenant idea come from?

This mistake mainly goes back to Hebrews 8 & 9. (NKJV) Here are the verses:

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. Hebrews 8:7

When He said, "A new covenant, " He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8:13

Then indeed, even the first covenant has ordinances of divine service and the earthy sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1

Whenever a word is in Italics this means it was added by the Bible translators in the King James Version. They sometimes supplied words they thought would make the text clearer. In this case it made it harder to understand. To be honest they always put the word in italics so the reader can know it was a supplied word and not from the original.
Other versions just copied the KJV and don't even put these words in Italics, which then gives the appearance that it belongs there.

Chapter 8 in Hebrews is talking about the old priesthood passing away so the word should be replaced with priesthood.

More good reading on the Two Covenants
Christ, the Law and the Covenants

Susan Dietel
Web Programmer

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