Old Testament. Old Covenant. New Testament. New Covenant
Old and New
While Old and New Testament mean the same thing as Old and New Covenant, the Church has forgotten something: The word of God is one [united].
When presenting truth to the world, believers often stumble when a non-believer points out that something is from the Old Testament. Non-believers know just enough scripture to know that Jesus made a new Covenant and therefore “old and outdated” laws are no longer relevant.
So let’s address that at two levels.
The first, at the human nature level. Human nature leads us to avoid responsibility for our actions. Simply put, when a non-believer claims that truth is “old and outdated” because “times have changed” what they are actually saying is that they don’t believe God is outside of time and that they don’t want to accept responsibility for their actions. So it is easier to reject God and live without remorse, than to accept God and turn away from death. As Ravi Zacharias recently put it, “You can choose the consequences of your actions, but you cannot change them”
Second, let’s address the old laws. There were two sets, the Laws of the prophets, I.E. the 10 commandments, and the second set being the Mosaic laws [laws of Moses].
- The laws of the prophets and 10 commandments were written by the hand of God and therefore are always valid and always in play. They reveal sin and the cost of it.
- The laws of Moses were in place to deal with a culture and a people. Many laws were merely for that time, but many stemmed from the 10 commandments.
Several topics on particular sins have come up in the media and they are dismissed as being “old testament.” However many of the same sins of the old testament are covered in the book of Romans which is the New Testament. Yet it would be poor judgment to assume that a non-believer reads or understands scripture, but it is our duty as followers of Christ to prepare a logical and scriptural answer for the hope that we have in Christ. So we must always study and learn. Non-believers tend believe that since something is in the Old Testament, it no longer applies because of the New Testament.
There are two major flaws with this thinking.
Genesis and the Gospels.
In the first chapters of Genesis, God creates the universe and places mankind as his crowned creation. At that time there was no covenant other than the one we find in the New Testament and with Jesus. Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply and to honor God by avoiding one tree. They were not given 10 laws or 1000 laws because truth was written on their hearts. In the beginning sin had not entered into the equation. Therefore, in the beginning, was the New Testament Covenant that had not yet “needed” to be written out. People equate the Old Covenant with the books of the bible that precede the New Testament page in our bibles. However there’s an inherent flaw with that. The Gospels. While Jesus walked with the disciples, the old laws were still in effect. The Old Covenant was still at work.
Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them. -Matthew 5:17
Jesus had come to fulfill the covenant, not to undo it. The first covenant stated that in order for the people of Israel to be in right-standing with God [to be righteous] they had to adhere to the law and atone for their sins through blood sacrifices in order to fulfill the law. They had several feasts, several times a year they were required to sacrifice to the Lord, and all of that was to fulfill the terms of the covenant.
However, even in the old testament there was a foretelling of what was to come
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law within them, and on their hearts will I write it; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will no more teach each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they will all know Me [recognize, understand, and be acquainted with Me], from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will [seriously] remember their sin no more. -Jeremiah 31:33-34
Jeremiah prophesied about this next passage and in it there is a key component of understanding what the Old and New Covenants were.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will imprint My laws upon their minds, even upon their innermost thoughts and understanding, and engrave them upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And it will nevermore be necessary for each one to teach his neighbor and his fellow citizen or each one his brother, saying, Know (perceive, have knowledge of, and get acquainted by experience with) the Lord, for all will know Me, from the smallest to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more. When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether. -Hebrews 8:10-13
We see the Lord declaring the terms of the new covenant and notice God doesn’t say “I will do away with the laws.”
God did not make the 10 commandments null and void. That would mean God’s word is not eternal and the laws He set up were a failure. It would also make no sense for Jesus to abolish “thou shalt have no other gods before me” as that would go against His very nature.
A simple way to say all of this is that the Old Covenant required animal sacrifices as [partial and inconsequential] payment for sin, yet they could never atone for the whole amount.
The New Covenant has the SAME laws and the same requirements as the Old Covenant. However rather than written on stone, the covenant is written on hearts, and rather than animal sacrifices, Jesus paid the sacrifice. Since His blood is infinitely powerful, it atoned for all sin and thus the payment to the Covenant was met.
So, before believers start equating the covenants and laws with Old and New Testament, let’s remind ourselves that both covenants played roles and were active in both the first half of our Bibles [before the “New Testament” page] and the second half.