“for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26:28 NASB
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,” – Hebrews 13:20 NASB
Many of us confuse covenant and testament. In ancient Hebrew society (the context in which the Bible was written), those two words never meant the same thing.
In a Greek legal document a testament defined the lawful rights of all those to whom it applied. By contrast, a covenant defined an ongoing relationship with no appointed end, unless otherwise specified. Rather than being a legal document, a covenant is a commitment to develop a certain kind of continuing relationship. By its very existence it implies a dynamic interaction between partners, and a growing organic process.
Given this reality, there’s really no legitimate way to use the phrase “new covenant” to imply that you are somehow trotting out a new one to replace an old one (As you might send in a backup to replace a quarterback with a broken leg.) You can adapt an existing covenant by adding additional conditions, but you can’t terminate it (i.e., declare it null and void) and replace it with a different (or “new”) one.
A pivotal verse in Jeremiah gives us a clarification in regard to the concept of covenant.
“Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:” Jeremiah 31:31 KJV
In Hebrew, “hadashah” (new) comes from the word meaning “to renew” as in “a cycle of restoration” (the new moon) or “to return to a previous state” as when you polish a sword. The same word is also used in reference to the lunar cycle, meaning that we don’t get an actual new moon each month but rather, the old one gets restored to a pervious condition. The same is true of B’rit Hadashah. B’rit meaning covenant, refers to the fact that somewhere in the history of covenant, we have been here before!
Our arbitrary attempts at organizing Scripture into two halves, like assigning verses and chapters in our English translations, did not originate with God. From His perspective there is no such thing as what we call the Old Testament and the New Testament. He wrote, “Scripture” to define His All-inclusive, all-encompassing plan of redemption as an ongoing covenant between Himself and us. Perhaps this is why Christ could speak with such insight and clarity to the disciples on the road to Emmaus from the Holy Scripture about Himself (See Luke 24:13-32 and my previous teaching on Christ in the Old Testament linked here)
Therefore, a more accurate title for the New Testament would be “Renewed Covenant,” or “Renewed Relationship” not “New Covenant” as the original Hebrew in Jeremiah 31:31-32 is commonly mistranslated. After reading portions of Lost in Translation, by Rabbi Spears, I was so struck by this truth that I have written in my Bible where it say’s the Old Testament, I have written “the Book of the Covenants,” and for the New Testament I have written, The Renewed Covenant!
That renewed relationship is expanded on in Jeremiah when it states, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Jeremiah Jeremiah 31:33.
In light of the Cross and the era in which we now live, the covenants can and should be experienced in a fuller capacity as we now have an internal awareness of God’s Truth contained in us by the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament saints could not internally be empowered by the Holy Spirit as He only came upon prophets, priests and kings for their specific functions. As Christ followers, however, we have the Holy Spirit and, therefore, His power within us (Acts 1:8). This renewed relationship infuses us with an invigorated motivation to know Him as our Lord and obey Him as we are now are called friends of Yahweh God (John 15:15; Colossians 1:24-29).
Remember, the primary recipients of this Renewed Covenant found in Jeremiah will be the “house of Israel” (vs. 31) or the converted Jews in the final days of the tribulation (Zechariah 13:8). Because we the church are grafted into the benefits of the Promises, the Law, and the Glory of God (Romans 9:4) we also are beneficiaries of this covenant through Christ. Look to Romans 11:17, 24!
Generally when I teach some truth from the Scriptures I ask myself, “So what?” “What should I be doing in light of the truth I just taught?”
The Holy Spirit is challenging me to look to the Book of the Covenants in instructing me how to address a variety of challenges in our culture. Here are just a few: How do we discern the false ideologies manifesting themselves? For example:
- The New Tolerance, which states that a person MUST accept and believe all views as equal, (Isaiah 5:20); or some forms of “social justice” can sometimes enable the poor rather than teaching them to work (Deuteronomy 24; 2 Thessalonians 3:10)
I am personally challenged to write and articulate in the public square a Biblical Worldview of: economics, education, social justice, foreign policy, and politics.
Wow! What a challenge.
How is the Spirit of God challenging you?