Bible Study Opportunities
The New Covenant
By Jon W. Quinn
The Old Testament is referred to as a “tutor” that was designed to lead the way to Christ (Galatians 3:24; see vss. 23-29). For a more detailed discussion of this, see the last Bradley Banner (“The Old Tutor”; Bradley Banner; November 12, 2000).
However, many of the teachings of the Old Covenant have been brought over and elaborated upon in the New Covenant, which is the "law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1,2). Those who live by faith keep the commandments of Christ (John 15:10; James 1:22-25; 1 John 2:4,5; 5:2).
When the New Testament talks of "not being under Law", it is referring to the Old Law, not the Law of Christ, which makes us sons of God by faith as we clothe ourselves with Christ in baptism. (Galatians 3:26,27).
Jesus Brought a New Covenant
When Jesus died the veil which hung in the temple separating the holy place from the most holy place was rent in two (Luke 23:44,45). Certainly this symbolized that a change in covenants was taking place; a new covenant was being established between God and man that would replace the Old Covenant. The book of Hebrews affirms that this is so (Hebrews 9:15-17).
But why the change in covenants? The reason that God gave us a new covenant was because there was a problem with the first one (Hebrews 8:7). The problem was not in the covenant itself, but in man's failure to keep it. In fact, the first covenant did everything that it was intended to do, but it was never intended to provide the means necessary to save the sinner. Instead, it pointed the way to the coming of a Redeemer and a new covenant which would be God's final and only answer to man's need for redemption.
Similarities in the Covenants
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1,2). This passage tells us that God is responsible for both covenants. They are both therefore absolutely true, even though we are only under the New Covenant today. So, this means that there are at least two similarities already: First, that God is the source of both, and second, that both are true.
We could add a third similarity between the Old and New Covenants by suggesting that both of these testaments contain vital information. No part of the Bible should be ignored or neglected. There are important truths revealed about God in the Old Testament as well as the New, so we should be familiar with both (see Romans 15:4).
Ways in Which the Covenants Differ
“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises...” (Hebrews 8:6). There are many differences between the two covenants. One was given in the age prior to the coming of the Messiah while the other was given as a result of His coming. Jesus' coming was so pivotal to the whole history of the relationship between God and man that many aspects of that relationship changed with the coming of Jesus. What the Old Testament could only speak of as a mystery or shadow becomes spiritual reality in our era. So, that would be one difference: the Old Law was a shadow, the gospel is the substance (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1).
We find another difference in emphasis. Many of the blessings promised under the old were more physical in nature; increases in flocks and crops and so forth. Under the New, the emphasis is on the spiritual blessings we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Many of the Old Testament religious rituals were symbols of New Testament themes and occurrences. For example, the sacrifice of a lamb symbolized the sacrifice that Jesus would one day make on the cross.
The Ten Commandments and the New Testament
The ten commandments were written on tablets of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3). . They, too, are a part of the Old Covenant, in fact, they are the foundation of it. We are not under the law written on tablets of stone; for as glorious as the events of the giving of the ten commandments at Mount Sinai was, we have a more glorious covenant (2 Corinthians 3:7,8).
While we are not now under the Old Covenant, including the ten commandments, the principles expressed in them are also found in the New Testament, and we are under obligation to it. The ten commandments - Exodus 20:3-17.
1. You shall have no other gods before me. Of course, the New Testament makes this same point and speaks of our duty to Him (Ephesians 4:6).
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol...or serve them... Again, the New Testament contains the same prohibition (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. The New Testament also warns us not to profane or casually use the name of the Lord (James 2:7).
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. The New Testament shows that Christians assembled on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2). The Sabbath was on the seventh day of the week and no longer remains in effect. However, a Sabbath rest does remain for us; a spiritual rest will one day be ours in heaven (Hebrews 4:9-11).
5. Honor your father and mother. Children are commanded in the New Testament as well to respect their parents (Ephesians 6:1)
6. You shall not murder. Not only are we commanded not to murder in the New Testament, we are not even to hate our brother (Matthew 5:21,22).
7. You shall not commit adultery. Again, the New Testament goes even further to not only prohibit the act of adultery but also the lustful thought or plan to take such action (Matthew 5:27,28).
8. You shall not steal. It always has been, and still is an ungodly and unmanly thing to steal. The New Testament also condemns such behavior (Ephesians 4:28).
9. You not shall bear false witness against your neighbor. Lying is condemned in both testaments of God (Colossians 3:9).
10. You shall not covet.. To allow the desire to have that which rightfully belongs to another to control our attitudes and behavior most certainly leads to many sinful actions (Ephesians 5:3).
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois November 19, 2000