The Two Covenants
[ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]
When God was about to
speak the law to Israel, of what did He tell Moses to remind them?
"Tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the
Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself
." Ex. 19: 3, 4.
What covenant did He
propose to make with them?
"Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant,
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth
is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These
are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." Ex.
What is a covenant?
"A mutual agreement of two or more persons or parties, in writing and
under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing; a contract." Webster.
When Moses told the
people what the Lord had proposed, what did they say?
"And all the people answered together, and said, all that the Lord hath
spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the
Lord." Ex. 19:7, 8.
In the Covenant which the
Lord proposed to make with Israel, what did He say that they were to do?
"Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My
covenant." Ex. 19:5, first part.
What was His covenant
which they were to keep as their part of the mutual agreement or covenant
between Him and them?"
"And he declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to
perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of
stone." Deut. 4:12, 13.
What relation did the ten
commandments bear to the covenant made between God and the children of Israel?NOTE. - The ten
commandments were termed God's covenant before the covenant was made with
Israel. They were not an agreement made, but something which God
commanded them to perform, and He promised them something, provided they would
keep them. Thus the ten commandments, God's covenant, became the basis of the
covenant made between Him and Israel. The ten commandments, in all their
details, are "all these words," concerning which the covenant
was made. See Ex. 24:8.
As seen by the last text quoted, the ten commandments were the
"covenant" to which the Lord referred, when in proposing a covenant
with Israel, He said, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice
indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above
all people: for all the earth is mine:" Ex. 19:5.
After God had spoken His
law (the "covenant which He commanded," Ex. 20:3-17), did He continue
speaking to the people?
"And He added no more. And He wrote them in two tables of stone, and
delivered them unto me." Deut. 5:22.
What was the nature of
the instruction afterward given to Moses (Ex. 20:22, 23)?
It was a practical application or explanation of the ten commandments, so
that the people might be able better to understand what was involved in the
keeping of them. The reference to the altar, how it should be built, and how
approached, in Ex. 20:24-26, simply shows the care that God would have taken in
His worship. In Ex. 23:14-19 we have other commandments also concerning worship.
As reported in Ex. 24:3,
Moses told the people all the words of the Lord, and they promised to be
obedient. What did Moses then do, that there might be no misunderstanding?
"And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in
the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according
to the twelve tribes of Israel... And he took the book of the covenant, and read
in the audience of the people." Ex. 24:4, 7.
When the people had again
heard the words of the Lord, and again promised obedience (verse 7), what was
done to ratify the covenant which had thus been made?NOTE. - We have here
the complete account of the making of the first covenant. It consisted of a
promise of obedience to the ten commandments, on the part of the children of
Israel, and the statement by the Lord of what He would do for them provided they
obeyed His voice.
"And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said,
Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning
all these words." Ex. 24:8. "And sprinkled both the book and all
the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath
enjoined unto you." Heb. 9:19, 20.
Is the covenant made at
Sinai the only covenant which God made with Israel?
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 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 the Lord." Jer. 31:31, 32.
What comparison does God
make between the two covenants?
"But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also
He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon
better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no
place have been sought for the second." Heb. 8:6, 7.
In what respect was the
first covenant faulty?
It must have been faulty in the very particulars wherein the second was
better, namely, in the promises, as seen by the last part of verse 6: "He
[Christ] is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better
What are the promises of
the new covenant?
"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: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man
his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the
greatest." Heb. 8:10-11. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and
I will remember their sin no more." Jer. 31:34, last part.
Are these promises stated
in the order of their fulfillment?
It is evident that in Jer. 31:33, 34, where the promises of the new covenant
are more fully stated than in Heb. 8:10, 11, those promises are not stated in
the regular order of their fulfillment; because forgiveness of sins is mentioned
last, whereas it must necessarily precede the writing of the law in the heart;
remembering sin no more, or blotting out of sin; and translating the people to
the heavenly Jerusalem, where all shall see and know the Lord. See Isa.
54:11-13; Rev. 21:2-4.
In the first covenant, to
what was Israel's promise really equivalent?
In the first covenant the people promised to keep all the commandments of
God, so as to be worthy of a place in His kingdom. This was a virtual promise to
make themselves righteous; for God did not promise to help them. But says
Christ, "Without Me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. And the prophet
says, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isa. 64:6. The
only perfect righteousness is God's righteousness, and that can be obtained only
through faith in Christ. See Rom. 3:20-26. The only righteousness that will
insure us an entrance into the kingdom of God, is "the righteousness which
is of God by faith." Phil. 3:9. Of those who shall inherit the kingdom of
God, the Lord says, "Their righteousness is of Me" (Isa. 54:17); and
the prophet says of Christ, when He has taken His place as king over all the
true Israel, "This is His name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our
Righteousness." Jer. 23:6.
Yet what must be done in order to have eternal life?
"If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Matt. 19:17,
last part; see also Rev. 22:14.
Then how could ancient
Israel have any chance for eternal life?were
under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise
of eternal inheritance." Heb. 9:14, 15.
"How much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit
offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to
serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator of the new
testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions
NOTE. - The fact that Christ, as mediator of the second
covenant, died for the remission of the transgressions that were under the first
covenant, shows that there was no forgiveness by virtue of that first
How alone can the good
works required by the law be manifested in the lives of men?
See John 15:4, 5; Phil. 2:13; Eph. 2:10; Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:10; Gal.
In order to have God make
us "perfect in every good work to do His will," what must be our
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee
from you." James 4:7. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of
unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that
are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto
God." Rom. 6:13.
What is said of the law
in the second, or new covenant?
"I [the Lord] will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in
their hearts." Jer. 31:33.
Since no such promise was
made in the old covenant (see Ex. 19: 5-8; 24:3-7), were not the promises of the
new covenant much "better" than those of the old?
When and how was the second covenant ratified?
By the death of Christ: "And He shall confirm the covenant with many
for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the
oblation to cease." Dan. 9:27. "For where a testament is, there must
also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force
after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator
liveth." Heb. 9:16, 17.
Then how could the
Israelites, or any people before the first advent, derive any benefit from it?
By faith in the promised Redeemer. See. Heb. 6:13, 16-20; Rom. 4:17.
How and in whom was the
covenant with Abraham confirmed?
In Christ. See Heb. 6:13, 16-20; Gal. 3:17.
Is there anything in the
second covenant that was not in the Abrahamic covenant?NOTE. - None should
allow themselves to be confused by the terms first covenant and second
covenant. While the covenant made at Sinai is called "the first
covenant," it is by no means the first covenant that God ever made with
man. Long before He made a covenant with Abraham, and He also made a covenant
with Noah, and with Adam. Neither must it be supposed that the first or old
covenant existed for a period of time as the only covenant with the people
before the promise of the second or new covenant could be shared. If that had
been the case, then during that time there would have been no pardon for the
people. What is called the "second covenant" virtually existed before
the covenant was made at Sinai; for the covenant with Abraham was confirmed in
Christ (Gal. 3:17), and it is only through Christ that there is any value to
what is known as the second covenant. There is no blessing that can be gained by
virtue of the second covenant, that was not promised to Abraham. And we, with
whom the second covenant is made, can share the inheritance which it promises,
only by being children of Abraham. To be Christ's is the same as to be children
of Abraham (Gal. 3:29); all who are of faith are the children of Abraham, and
share in his blessing (Gal. 3:7-9); and since no one can have anything except as
children of Abraham, it follows that there is nothing in what is called the
second covenant that was not in the covenant made with Abraham. The second
covenant existed in every feature long before the first, even from the days of
Adam. It is called "second" because both its ratification by blood and
its more minute statement, were after the ratification of the covenant made at
Sinai. More than this, it was the second covenant made with the Jewish
people. The one from Sinai was the first made with that nation.
"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according
to the promise." Gal. 3:29, 6-9.
Then why was the covenant
made at Sinai?
The Lord was just giving His law. The promise of the Israelites to keep it
perfectly, and their failure, brought them face to face with the consequences of
violating the law of God. The consciousness of guilt, and a sense of its
consequences, would be much more forcibly impressed upon their minds than if
they had not made the promise which they did. And being thus brought face to
face with their sin, and realizing its full enormity, they would be driven to
the only source of help, ample provision for which had been made in the covenant
with their father Abraham. Thus it might be said that the first covenant was
made in order to bring the second covenant (all the terms of which were the
Abrahamic covenant) into bolder relief, and to secure its acceptance by the
When it was demonstrated that the first covenant, the Sinai covenant, contained
no provisions for pardon of sins, some will at once say, "But they did have
pardon under that covenant." The trouble arises from a confusion of terms.
It is not denial that under the old covenant, i.e., during the time when it was
specially in force, there was pardon of sins, but that pardon was not offered in
the old covenant, and could not be secured by virtue of something else, as shown
by Heb. 9:15. Not only was there the opportunity of finding free pardon of sins,
and grace to help in time of need, during the time of the old covenant, but the
same opportunity existed before that covenant was made, by virtue of God's
covenant with Abraham, which differs in no respect from that made with Adam and
Eve, except that we have the particulars given more in detail. We see, then,
that there was not necessity for provisions to be made in the Sinai covenant for
forgiveness of sins. The plan of salvation was developed long before the gospel
was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8), and was amply sufficient to save to the
uttermost all who would accept it; the covenant at Sinai was made for the
purpose of making the people see the necessity of accepting the gospel.
Hebrews 9:1 is a text that hinders many from seeing that all God's blessings to
man are gained by virtue of the second covenant, and not by the first. That text
reads: "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine
service, and a worldly sanctuary." This, together with the fact that when
men complied with these ordinances of divine service, they were forgiven
(Leviticus 4), seems to some conclusive evidence that the old covenant contained
the gospel and its blessings. But forgiveness of sins was not secured by virtue
of those offerings. "for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and
goats should take away sins." Heb. 10:4. Forgiveness was obtained only by
virtue of the promised sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:15), the mediator of the new
covenant, their faith in whom was shown by their offerings. So it was by virtue
of the second or new covenant that pardon was secured to those who offered the
sacrifices provided for in the ordinances of divine service connected with the
old or first covenant.
Moreover, those "ordinances of divine service" formed no part of the
first covenant. If they had, they must have been mentioned in the making of that
covenant; but they were not. They were connected with it, but not a part of it.
They were simply the means by which the people acknowledged the justice of their
condemnation to death for the violation of the law which they had covenanted to
keep, and their faith in the mediator of the new covenant.
In brief, then, God's plan in the salvation of sinners, whether now or in the
days of Moses, is: The law went home emphatically to the individual, to produce
conviction of sin, and thus to drive the sinner to seek freedom; then the
acceptance of Christ's gracious invitation, which was extended long before, but
which the sinner would not listen to; and lastly, having accepted Christ, and
being justified by faith, the manifestation of the faith, through the ordinances
of. the gospel, and the living of a life of righteousness by faith in Christ.