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What is a covenant?
- A covenant is an agreement between persons or parties.
- In theology it can mean the promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures.
What are the primary covenants spoken of in the Scriptures?
- Covenant with Noah
- Covenant with Abraham
- Covenant with the nation of Israel
- New Covenant
Are other covenants mentioned in the Scriptures?
Yes, the Scriptures speak of covenants between individuals and nations, and the covenant of salt, peace, etc.
When is the word, covenant, first used in the Scriptures?
The word is first used in reference to Noah and the promises God first made to him. Some speak of an Adamic covenant (with Adam) with the seventh day Sabbath being the sign and seal of this covenant. The Scriptures on several counts do not substantiate this:
- The term "covenant" is not used in reference to Adam.
- The term "Sabbath" was not used until Exodus 16.
- The Sabbath was not kept until Exodus 16.
- The Sabbath was a sign between God and the nation of Israel. Exodus 31: 16-17
Was mankind prior to giving of the old covenant to the nation of Israel under law to God?
Those who would impose the old covenant including the Ten Commandments on all people today, not realizing what they are saying, often maintain that without the Ten Commandments there would be no law. This is simply not true. The Scriptures tell us that from the beginning all people are under the commandment of love. This is the commandment that Cain violated when he killed his brother. The command to love God and to love others is the basis of all law, including the Ten Commandments. 1John 2: 7,8, 14; 3: 11, 12; 4: 21; Matthew 22: 37-40; John 13: 34, 35; 15: 12-17; Romans 13: 8-10
With whom was the Sabbath a sign?
The Sabbath was a sign with the nation of Israel not with Adam nor the Gentiles. Exodus 31: 13, 17; Ezekiel 20: 12, 20
What is the covenant with Noah?
God promised Noah and every living thing, never to destroy all flesh nor the earth again by water. Genesis 6: 18; 9: 8- 17
What is the sign of this covenant?
The sign of the covenant with Noah was the rain bow. Genesis 9: 16, 17
What is the covenant with Abraham?
This is the covenant first made with Abram (Abraham) then renewed with Isaac and Jacob.
- Make you a great nation.
- Bless you and make your name great.
- Bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you.
- All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.
- Give the land of Canaan to his descendants Genesis 12: 1-4; 17: 1-8
Has this covenant been fulfilled?
Yes, it has been fulfilled in every aspect.
- The nation of Israel came from Isaac and the Arabian people from Ishmael, his son with Hagar. 1 Kings 3: 8; Deuteronomy 26: 5
- The name of Abraham is revered among the Jews, Mohammedans, and Christians.
- God certainly blessed Abraham and his descendants and cursed those who opposed them.
- All nations, both Jew and Gentile are blessed in Christ. Galatians 3: 8, 9; Acts 3: 25
- The land has been possessed. Joshua 21: 43-45; Acts 13: 19
What is the sign of this covenant?
Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham. Genesis 17: 11
When was the faith of Abraham imputed to him for righteousness?
His faith was imputed for righteousness at least thirteen years before he was circumcised, showing that this blessing was not limited to the circumcision, the Jew, but also intended for the uncircumcised, the Gentile. Romans 4: 7-12, 22-25; Genesis 15: 4-6; 17: 9-14
Does the Law of the covenant with the nation of Israel invalidate the covenant and promises God made with Abraham?
No, the Law, given 430 years later, does not invalidate the promise to Abraham because the inheritance is not based on law but upon promise. Please note that the Law including the 10 commandments was not in effect from the beginning and that it was given only to Israel not to the Gentiles. Galatians 3: 17, 18
Was the Law contrary to the promises to Abraham?
No, because the law is not able to impart life and was never intended to do so. Life comes through faith not works of the law. The just shall live by faith. Galatians 3: 21, 22; Romans 1: 17
Why was the law added?
The law was added to the promise because of transgressions, until the seed (Christ) should come to whom the promise had been made. The law was added to clearly define sin so that Israel would know what was right and wrong. God had selected Israel as the vehicle through which Christ should come. They were Gods instruments. Because of their rebellious nature, they needed a constraint, the law, to control them so that they might serve the purpose for which God selected them. When Christ came the law, having served its purpose was no longer needed and was taken away. The old law and covenant were crafted for an unrighteous immoral people while the new law and covenant were made for the righteous, Gods own people. Galatians 3: 19; Hebrews 7: 11-12; 1 Timothy 1: 9-11; Hebrews 8: 8-12
What is the covenant with the nation of Israel?
In Exodus 19: 5-8 God spoke to Moses about obedience to His voice and keeping His covenant. Moses went down to the elders and the people and set the words that the Lord had spoken before them. The people said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do." The people were consecrated two days, and on the third day the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain. The Lord told Moses to go down and tell the people not to break through to the mountain lest they perish and to return with Aaron. God then spoke the words of the Ten Commandments and other ordinances. Moses recounted these words to the people who said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do." Moses wrote all the words down, built an altar, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. He took half the blood and sprinkled it on the altar, read the book of the covenant in the hearing of the people. The people said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Moses took some of the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words." Exodus 24: 7, 8 This covenant given by God to Israel was based upon the obedience of the people. God told Israel they would be His people "if you indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant. Later in Leviticus 18: 5 God says "So you shall keep my statutes and judgements, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord." This verse is quoted by the Apostle Paul to show that the law was not of faith but of works. Galatians 3: 11, 12
What is the sign of this covenant given at Horeb to Israel?
The Scriptures say that the Sabbath was to be a sign between God and the nation of Israel. God declared this at Horeb, when the 10 commandments were given. Exodus 31: 12-18
With whom was the covenant made?
God made this covenant with the nation of Israel, at Horeb or Sinai when God delivered that nation from Egyptian bondage. It was made with those alive that day, not with the fathers that preceded them, not with the Gentiles. Exodus 19: 1-5; Deuteronomy 4: 1-13; 5: 5: 1-6;
Romans 9: 4
What is the New Covenant?
It is the covenant God made with His people through His Son, Jesus Christ.
"For this is the covenant that I shall make with the house of Israel
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
I will write them upon their hearts.
And I will be there God,
And they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen.
And everyone his brother, saying, Know the Lord,"
For all shall know me.
From the least to the greatest of them.
For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more."
Hebrews 8: 10-12
What is the sign of this new covenant?
The Scriptures do not specifically say that baptism is the sign of the new covenant, but baptism is compared with circumcision the sign of covenant with Abraham. Colossians 2: 11-13
Are all the covenants essentially the same?
Certainly not, the Covenant with Israel was added because of transgression some 430 years after the covenant with Abraham. It basically involves keeping a law of works and was to serve until Christ should come. The Hebrew writer specifically says that the new covenant is not like the old. Of course the covenant with Noah and every living creature served a different purpose, a sign that God would not destroy the earth with water.
Was the covenant made with the nations of Israel also made with the fathers?
No, it was not. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all those prior to Sinai were not under this covenant. The Gentiles were never under this covenant. No other nation had a law as righteous as that which God gave to Israel. Deuteronomy 4: 7, 8, 12, 13; 5: 2, 3; Romans 2: 14; 9: 4
Do the Scriptures call the Ten Commandments the covenant made with the nation of Israel?
Yes, the Ten Commandments are called the covenant, as they are a synopsis of the law given by God through Moses. Exodus 34: 28; Deuteronomy 9: 9; 1 Kings 8: 9-21; 2 Chronicles 6: 11
How do we know that the covenant made with Israel was the "first" or "old" covenant, which was to be done away?
The writer of Hebrews quoted Exodus 24: 8 so it must be referring to that covenant.
Hebrews 9: 18-20
Are Christians under law?
Yes and no; how is that for a definite maybe. Paradoxically the Scriptures say that we are not under law but under grace; we are however under law to Christ. The explanation is that we are not under a law of works, such as the law given by God through Moses, but we are under law of Christ, which is a law of faith. In other words we do not serve God under the principle of works but we do serve God under the principle of faith. Faith is compatible with grace; the law of Christ is compatible with grace but works are not compatible with grace.
Romans 6: 14; 3: 27; 11: 6; 1 Corinthians 9: 20, 21,; Galatians 6: 2; James 1: 25; 2: 8-12
What was the law that was to be written on the heart of His people under the New Covenant?
Some say that this is the Law of God, the Ten Commandments. First we must note that the Scriptures do not distinguish, the Law is called the Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord.
"The Law" is not synonymous with Ten Commandments but the Ten Commandments are included in the term "the Law". The Law of Christ, which is also called the perfect law of liberty, the and the royal law is the law to be written on the hearts of His people under the New Covenant which was mediated by Christ. The Law, including the Ten Commandments could not be under consideration because:
- The Law is not of faith but is based on works. Galatians 3: 12
- The Law has a curse. If you stumble in one point you are transgressor of all. Galatians 3: 10; James 2: 10
- The Ten Commandments are a ministration of death and condemnation. 2 Corinthians 3: 7, 9, Romans 7: 7-10
- The first covenant was not faultless. Hebrews 8: 7
- The Law was crafted for the unrighteous and added to the promises to Abraham because of transgression. 1 Timothy 1: 9
Where do we read of the law of Christ and God?
The law of Christ, the commandments of Christ, is two principles. It is not a written law, neither engraved on stone, as the ten commandments, nor written with pin on rolls of paper, as the book of the covenant, but they are to principles written on the heart of his people. "And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us." Faith and love, this is the law of Christ 1 John 3: 23
What were the tables of the covenant?
They were the tables of stones upon which the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments. This expression shows that they pertain to the covenant God made with the nation of Israel at Sinai. Deuteronomy 9: 9
What is the book of the covenant?
The book of the covenant is book in which Moses wrote all the words of the covenant including the Ten Commandments. Exodus 24: 7
What is the Ark of the covenant?
The Ark of the Covenant was the most holy item in the tabernacle and was placed in the most holy place. It was basically a small chest overlaid with gold; the cover was called the mercy seat; two cherubims of gold were on this cover. It was the place where God was present. The two tables of the covenant were placed in the ark with a pot of manna and Aarons rod. The book of the covenant was placed by the side of the ark. Deuteronomy 31: 26
What prophecy promises a new covenant not like the old?
Jeremiah gave the prophecy. Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Of what covenant is Paul a minister?
Paul is a minister of the new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3: 6
How are the covenants contrasted?
Written with ink written with the Spirit of the living God
Engraved on tables of stone on the tablets of the human heart
Condemnation no condemnation
Glory abound with glory
Remembrance of sin forgiveness of sins
Shadow of things to come reality truth, and substance
Inaugurated with the blood of animals blood of Christ
Moses the mediator Christ the mediator
Aaronic priesthood Priesthood of Melchizedek
How can we know that the covenant God made with the nation of Israel is ending?
- Paul said "that which fades away" was with glory. He was speaking of the glory associated with the giving of the old covenant with the tables of stone on which were engraved the Ten Commandments. 2 Corinthians 3: 3, 7-13
- Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant. Hebrews 7: 22; 8: 6
- The first covenant was faulty. Hebrews 8: 7, 8
- By giving a new covenant, the first is becoming obsolete and growing old and is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8: 13
- He takes away the first (covenant) in order to establish the second. Hebrews 10: 9
- We do not go to mount Sinai but to Mount Zion. Hebrews 13: 18-24
My friends we who are living today, are not under the law given by God through Moses, not under the covenant given at mount Horeb, and not under the Ten Commandments. These were great and glorious. We are under a new covenant, a better covenant, which is so glorious the former can not be compared with it. The new covenant has a better priesthood, a better law, better promises, and a better Mediator, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Last Update 09/26/12