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THE NEW COVENANT

What is a covenant?

In everyday use a covenant describes an agreement between parties where there are benefits and responsibilities for the parties and penalties for non-compliance. It was the practice when Scripture was being written to sacrifice an animal and divide the carcase into pieces. The parties contracting the covenant would then pass between the pieces to confirm the covenant and in acknowledgement that their lives would be forfeit if they failed to keep their part of the agreement. In Genesis 15:18[1], where the promise of the land is confirmed to Abraham, it says: “In the same day the Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates”. The word “made” should be translated ‘cut’. It is clear when this chapter is carefully read that Abraham passed between the pieces of several sacrifices (vv. 10,11)[2] and God also did (v. 17; the burning lamp or flaming torch must have been the Spirit of God)[3]. Another example of this practice is found in Jeremiah 34:18,19[4], and in the New Testament the writer to the Hebrews also seems to refer to this procedure in 9:15-17[5], where he argues that Jesus is the covenant sacrifice, the mediator who died to confirm the new testament, that is, covenant.

Covenants of promise

Covenants necessarily involve the two parties making solemn promises to each other. Scrip-ture often links the ideas of covenants and promises, for example, Psalm 105:8,9[6] and Luke 1:72,73[7]. Paul in Ephesians writes of ”the covenants of promise” to which Gentiles can now be related (2:12,13)[8]. Whilst God will never renege on his side of a covenant, men have always failed to live up to their side, Jesus being the one exception. It is a wonder that the great God of heaven will stoop to make covenants with erring men, and many men of faith have acknowledged this in their prayers and teaching, addressing the Almighty as “God, Which keepeth covenant and mercy” (Deut. 7:9; cf. Neh. 1:5; Dan. 9:4)[9].

Examples of covenants

1 The earliest covenant was made in Eden, and sacrifice was associated with it (Gen. 3:15,21)[10]. It is not called a covenant here, but God called it so when he saved Noah from the Flood: “But with thee will I establish My covenant” (6:18)[11]. Later on God gave Noah (and us) the rainbow as a token of His everlasting covenant with the earth and with all flesh, never again to bring a flood to destroy all life (9:8-17)[12].

2 When Abraham was given the promise of a seed he was told that this was an everlasting covenant between God and his seed. The sign of this covenant would be circumcision, and every living descendant of Abraham through his son Isaac is a reminder to us that God’s purpose with Israel will never fail (17:9-14,21)[13].

3 Under Moses the nation of Israel entered into a covenant with God. This is called the old covenant, and it was confirmed, like the other covenants, by sacrifice. Moses sprinkled the blood of the offerings on the people, and they said: “All that the LORD hath said will we do” (Ex. 19:5; 24:4-8)[14]. But they soon broke the covenant.

The new covenant

When Jesus introduced the breaking of bread in the upper room in Jerusalem, shortly before his death, before he passed the cup of wine round he said: “this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28)[15]. This covenant is different from the old (Mosaic) covenant because under it God promises forgive-ness of sins. The old covenant was constantly broken by Israel, but, because of the excellence of Christ’s offering, under the new covenant God can forgive, and will be able to fulfil all His covenants of promise (Rom. 8:1-4)[16]. References such as 2 Corinthians 4:14,15[17] and Galatians 2:20[18] show that the love of Christ in offering himself acts as a powerful example in the outworking of the new covenant on the hearts of believers. It is this which is called to mind in the breaking of bread service.

The covenant promises to Abraham and David confirmed by the death and resurrection of Jesus

Jesus is introduced to us in the New Testament as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1)[19]. Two of the great covenants of Scripture were given to these men (Gen. 17:7; 2 Sam. 23:5)[20]. Paul says that Jesus came “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers [of Israel]”, and that all the promises of God in him are yea and Amen (Rom. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:20)[21]. So the offering of Jesus makes possible the fulfilment of the great and precious promises. This is seen in Genesis 15:4-21[22]. Abraham was not lacking in faith, but wanted to know by what means he, a mortal and sinful man, might inherit the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. God’s answer to him was a prophetic vision of the sacrifice of Christ (see above). The apostle calls Jesus “the mediator of the new testament [covenant]” (Heb. 9:15)[23]. Zacharias, when his tongue was loosed, saw the Lord Jesus as the one who would fulfil the covenants of promise to Abraham and David (Lk. 1:68-73)[24].

The new covenant is to be fulfilled by the nation of Israel

When we read Jeremiah 31:31-34[25], and the apostle’s quotation of it in its entirety in Hebrews 8, we realise that the primary purpose of the new covenant is the cleansing and adoption of Israel as the people of God in the Kingdom. The apostle refers clearly to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and the context is the people who rejected the old covenant now accepting the new. Other prophets teach the same. Isaiah 59:20,21[26] (quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:26,27)[27] tells us that the redeemer (Christ) will come to Zion and turn away ungod-liness from Jacob to fulfil the covenant. Ezekiel speaks of the everlasting covenant that God will make with His nation, and of their cleansing (37:23-26)[28]. Jeremiah tells us that the covenant of night and day is a guarantee to us that God will keep His promises to David (32:40; 33:20- 22)[29]. Zechariah 12 and 13 describes how Jews in the land will be cleansed, and Ezekiel 20:33- 44[30] tells how the Diaspora Jews will be cleansed by the work of the new covenant.

Some features of the new covenant

• It is primarily made with the nation of Israel (Jer. 31:31)[31]

• It offers forgiveness of sins to many (Mt. 26:28) [32]

• Jesus is its mediator (Heb. 9:15)[33]

• Its work of forgiveness covers those under the old covenant and before (9:15)[34]

• It is everlasting (13:20)[35]

• It confirms the promises made in Eden, to Abraham and to David (Rom. 15:8)[36]

• It preceded the old covenant by 430 years, but was not ratified until Christ came (Gal. 3:17)[37]

• Today, believers enter the new covenant by baptism[38], which associates them with the sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27-29; Ps. 50:5)[39]

• Those in covenant relationship with God should have God’s laws written in their hearts and minds, and walk in faith to the Kingdom (Heb. 8:10; Jas. 2:20-22)[40].

- by The Testimony Magazine, 26 Tiercel Avenue, Norwich NR7 8JN



[1]  “In that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Ge 15:18 ASV)

[2]  10  And he took him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half over against the other: but the birds divided he not. 11  And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.” (Ge 15:10-11 ASV)

[3]  “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces.” (Ge 15:17 ASV)

[4]  18  As for the men who violated my covenant by not living up to the conditions of the covenant which they made in my presence when they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts – 19  the leaders of Y’hudah, the leaders of Yerushalayim, the officials, the cohanim and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf;” (Jer 34:18-19 CJB)

[5]  15 ¶  It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant (or will). Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. 16  For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker’s death, 17  since a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive.” (Heb 9:15-17 CJB)

[6]  8 ¶  He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. 9  Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac;” (Ps 105:8-9 AV)

[7]  72  To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73  The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,” (Lu 1:72-73 AV)

[8]  12  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:12-13 AV)

[9]  “Know therefore that Jehovah thy God, he is God, the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations,” (De 7:9 ASV)

 “and said, I beseech thee, O Jehovah, the God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments:” (Ne 1:5 ASV)

 “And I prayed unto Jehovah my God, and made confession, and said, Oh, Lord, the great and dreadful God, who keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments,” (Da 9:4 ASV)

[10]  “and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Ge 3:15 ASV)

 “And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Ge 3:21 ASV)

[11]  “But I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.” (Ge 6:18 ASV)

[12]  8 ¶  And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9  And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that go out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 ¶  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14  And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, 15  and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16  And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17  And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Ge 9:8-17 ASV)

[13]  9  And God said unto Abraham, And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. 10  This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11  And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt me and you. 12  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner that is not of thy seed. 13  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14  And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” (Ge 17:9-14 ASV)

 “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.” (Ge 17:21 ASV)

[14] “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine:” (Ex 19:5 ASV)

 4  And Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt–offerings, and sacrificed peace–offerings of oxen unto Jehovah. 6  And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7  And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient. 8  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah hath made with you concerning all these words.” (Ex 24:4-8 ASV)

[15] “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.” (Mt 26:28 ASV)

[16]1 ¶  There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. 2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. 3  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4  that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Ro 8:1-4 ASV)

[17]14  knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15  For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.” (2Co 4:14-15 ASV)

[18] “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” (Ga 2:20 ASV)

[19] “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Mt 1:1 ASV)

[20] “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.” (Ge 17:7 ASV)

 “Verily my house is not so with God; Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things, and sure: For it is all my salvation, and all my desire, Although he maketh it not to grow.” (2Sa 23:5 ASV)

[21] “For I say that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers,” (Ro 15:8 ASV)

 “For how many soever be the promises of God, in him is the yea: wherefore also through him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us.” (2Co 1:20 ASV)

[22]4  And, behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, This man shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6  And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness. 7 ¶  And he said unto him, I am Jehovah that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 8  And he said, O Lord Jehovah, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 9  And he said unto him, Take me a heifer three years old, and a she–goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and a turtle–dove, and a young pigeon. 10  And he took him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half over against the other: but the birds divided he not. 11  And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. 12 ¶  And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14  and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15  But thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16  And in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full. 17 ¶  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces. 18  In that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19  the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite, 20  and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim, 21  and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.” (Ge 15:4-21 ASV)

[23] “And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 ASV)

[24]68  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; For he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people, 69  And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David 70  (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old), 71  Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72  To show mercy towards, our fathers, And to remember his holy covenant; 73  The oath which he spake unto Abraham our father,” (Lu 1:68-73 ASV)

[25]31  Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32  not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. 33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: 34  and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.” (Jer 31:31-34 ASV)

[26]20  And a Redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith Jehovah. 21  And as for me, this is my covenant with them, saith Jehovah: my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforth and for ever.” (Isa 59:20-21 ASV)

[27]26  and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27  And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins.” (Ro 11:26-27 ASV)

[28]23  neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling–places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24  And my servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in mine ordinances, and observe my statutes, and do them. 25  And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. 26  Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.” (Eze 37:23-26 ASV)

[29] “and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.” (Jer 32:40 ASV)

 20  Thus saith Jehovah: If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, so that there shall not be day and night in their season; 21  then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he shall not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. 22  As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured; so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.” (Jer 33:20-22 ASV)

[30]33 ¶  As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, will I be king over you: 34  and I will bring you out from the peoples, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; 35  and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face. 36  Like as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment with you, saith the Lord Jehovah. 37  And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38  and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me; I will bring them forth out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. 39  As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Go ye, serve every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me; but my holy name shall ye no more profane with your gifts, and with your idols. 40  For in my holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them, serve me in the land: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the first–fruits of your oblations, with all your holy things. 41  As a sweet savor will I accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations. 42  And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country which I sware to give unto your fathers. 43  And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have polluted yourselves; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. 44  And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have dealt with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Eze 20:33-44 ASV)

[31] “(31:30) “Here, the days are coming, ”says ADONAI, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah.” (Jer 31:31 CJB)

[32] “For this is my blood, which ratifies the New Covenant, my blood shed on behalf of many, so that they may have their sins forgiven.” (Mt 26:28 CJB)

[33] “For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 HNV)

[34] “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 Webster)

[35] “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” (Heb 13:20 Webster)

[36] “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers:” (Ro 15:8 Webster)

[37] “And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of no effect.” (Ga 3:17 Webster)

[39] 3  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? 4  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Ro 6:3-6 Webster)

 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” (Ga 3:27 Webster)

 “Gather my saints together to me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Ps 50:5 Webster)

[40] “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” (Heb 8:10 Webster)

 20  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (Jas 2:20-22 Webster)


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