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                              WHAT two covenants are contrasted in the Bible?

                                    "In that He saith, a new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish                                 away." Hebrews 8:13.

                    By what other terms are these covenants designated?

"For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." Verse 7.


When was the old covenant made?

"Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord." Verse 9. (See Exodus 19:3-8.)

When God was about to proclaim His 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." Exodus 19:3, 4.

What proposition did He submit to 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 an holy nation." Verses 5, 6.

What response did the people make to this proposition?

"And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Verse 8.

What covenant obligation was imposed upon Israel?

"Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant." Verse 5, first part. Upon what was this covenant with God based? "He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone." Deuteronomy 4:13.

    NoTE.—Both the old covenant and the new covenant are based upon the Ten Commandments. In proposing a covenant with Israel, God said: "If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant." Exodus 19:5. (See Exodus 24:8.) Obedience to the Ten Commandments was the condition under the old covenant upon which God made certain promises to the people. Obedience to the same ten precepts is likewise the basis of the new covenant, for the Lord declares: "This is the covenant that I will make . .. 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." Hebrews 8:10. Thus "the law is a paragraph in a Covenant of Grace."—STEWART M. ROBINSON in The Presbyterian, July 28, 1932, p. 10. Under the gospel the new covenant can be entered into only when there is a knowledge of God's law, and heartfelt obedience thereto.

After the law had been proclaimed from Sinai, what did the people again say?

"And all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do." Exodus 24:3.

What did Moses do to prevent misunderstanding?

"And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, . . . and he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people." Verses 4-7.

What did the people once again promise to do?

"And they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient." Verse 7.

How was this covenant then confirmed and dedicated?

"He sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the cove- nant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord bath said will we do, and be obedient. 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." Verses 5-8.

How does Paul describe this ratification of the covenant?

"For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you." Hebrews 9:19, 20.

    NOTE.—We here have the account of the making of the first, or old, covenant. God promised to make them His peculiar people on condition that they would keep His commandments. Again they promised to obey. The agreement was then ratified, or sealed, with blood.

Less than forty days after making this covenant, while Moses tarried on the mount, what did Israel say to Aaron?

"Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." Exodus 32:1.

When Moses came down from Sinai, what did he see?

"He saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." Verse 19.

    NOTE.—The great object and secret of the old covenant is revealed here. The people did not realize the weakness and sinfulness of their own hearts, or their need of divine grace and help to keep the law; and so, in their ignorance, they readily pledged obedience. But almost immediately they began to com- mit idolatry, and thus to break the law of God, or the very conditions laid down as their part of the covenant. In themselves the conditions were good; but in their own strength the people were unable to fulfill them. The great object of the old covenant therefore was to teach the people their weakness, and their inability to keep the law without God's help. This covenant was designed, like the law itself, over which it was made, to shut them up to the provisions of the new, or everlasting, covenant of grace and lead them to Christ. And the lesson which Israel as a nation had to learn, each individual now must learn before he can be saved. There is no salvation for any one while trusting in self. Unaided, no one can keep the law. Only in Christ is there remission of sins or power to keep from sinning. The breaking of the tables of the law signified that the terms of the covenant had been broken; the renewing of the tables (Exodus 34:1, 28), God's patience with His people.


Wherein does the new covenant differ from the old?

"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." Hebrews 8:6.

What are the new covenant's "better promises"?

"This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:33, 34. (See Hebrews 8:8-12.)

    NOTE.—The same commandments which God wrote on tables of stone He also writes in the heart. "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them." Ezekiel 36:27. Jesus likewise said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." This is the essence of the gospel. It is God's new covenant with spiritual Israel, and it embraces both forgiveness of sins, and obedience to every one of God's ten precepts through the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart. "The moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the Prophets, . . . never can be broken, which 'stands fast as the faithful witness in heaven.' The moral stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law, which was only designed for a temporary re- straint upon a disobedient and stiffnecked people; whereas this was from the beginning of the world, being 'written not on tables of stone,' but on the hearts of all the children of men, when they came out of the hands of the Creator."—JoHN WESLEY, "Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount," Dis- course 5, in Works, vol. 5 (1829 ed.), p. 311.

How was Christ promised as soon as sin entered?

"And the Lord God said unto the serpent, . . . I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel." Genesis 3:14, 15.

    NoTE.—The covenant of grace, with its provisions of pardon and peace, dates from the foundation of the world. To whom was this covenant-promise later renewed? "God said unto Abraham," "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." "I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars, ... and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Genesis 17:15, 19; 26:4.

Who was the seed here referred to?

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Galatians 3:16.

What shows that the new, or second, covenant and the Abra- hamic covenant are virtually the same?

"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Verse 29.

    NOTE.—No one should be confused by the terms first covenant and second covenant. While the one made at Sinai is called the first covenant, it is by no means the first covenant that God ever made with man. Long before this He made a covenant with Abraham; He also made a covenant with Noah, and with Adam. Neither must it be supposed that the first, or old, covenant existed for a time as the only covenant with mankind, and that this must serve its purpose and pass away before any one could share in the promised blessings of the second or new covenant. In that case, during that time there would have been no pardon for anyone. What is called the new, or second, covenant virtually existed before the covenant made at Sinai; for the covenant with Abraham was confirmed in Christ (Galatians 3:17), and only through Christ is there any value to the new, or second, covenant. There is no blessing that can be gained by virtue of the new covenant that was not promised to Abra- ham. And we, with whom the new covenant is made, can share the inheritance which it promises only by being children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7, 9.) Since no one can have anything except as a child of Abraham, it follows that there is nothing in what is called the new, or second, covenant that was not in the covenant made with Abraham. The second covenant existed in every essential feature,' except its ratification, long before the first, even from the days of Adam. It is called second because its ratification occurred after the covenant made and ratified at Sinai

What is necessary where there is a covenant?

"For where a covenant is, there must also of necessity be the death of that which establishes it. For a covenant is made firm over the dead victims; whereas it is of no force while that which establisheth it liveth." Hebrews 9:16, 17, Boothroyd's translation. With whose blood was the new covenant dedicated? "And [He took] the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood, even that which is poured out for you." Luke 22:20, R.V.

What power is there in the blood of this covenant?

"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, make you perfect in every good work to do His will." Hebrews 13:20, 21.

Through which covenant only is there remission of sins?

"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God ? 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." Hebrews 9:14, 15, R.V.

    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 the first covenant.


Under the old covenant, what did the people promise?

To keep the law of God in their own strength.

    NOTE.—Under this covenant the people promised to keep all the com- mandments of God in order to be His peculiar people, and this without help. This was virtually a promise to make themselves righteous. But Christ says, "Without Me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. And the prophet Isaiah says, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isaiah 64:6. The only perfect righteous- ness is God's righteousness, obtained only through faith in Christ. (Romans 3:20-26.) The only righteousness that will ensure an entrance into the kingdom of God is "the righteousness which is of God by faith." Philippians 3:9. Of those who inherit the kingdom of God, the Lord says, "Their righteousness is of Me" (Isaiah 54:17); and the prophet Jeremiah says of Christ, "This is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6).

Under the new covenant, what does God promise to do?

"I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Jeremiah 31:33.

    Note.—The new covenant is an arrangement for bringing man again into harmony with the divine will, and placing him where he can keep God's law. Its "better promises" bring forgiveness of sins, grace to renew the heart, and power to obey the law of God. The dissolution of the old covenant and the making of the new in no wise abrogated the law of God. Where was God's law written under the old covenant? "And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone. ... And He wrote on the tables .. . the ten commandments." Deuteronomy 10:3, 4.

Where is the law of God written under the new covenant?

"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Jeremiah 31:33.

What reason is given for making the new covenant?

"For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant." Hebrews 8:7, 8.

    NOTE.—The chief fault in connection with the old covenant lay with the people. They were not able, in themselves, to fulfill their part of it, and it provided them no help for so doing. There was no Christ in it. It was of works and not of grace. It was valuable only as a means of impressing upon them their sinfulness and their need of divine aid.

What unites all believers under the new covenant?

"Ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, 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: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far ofi are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:11-13.


                1. Both are called covenants.

                2. Both were ratified with blood.

                3. Both were made concerning the law of God.

                4. Both were made with the people of God.

                5. Both were established upon promises.




  • Called the old covenant.
  • Called the first covenant.
  • A temporary compact.
  • Dedicated with the blood of animals.
  • Was faulty.
  • Was established upon the promises of the people.
  • Had no mediator.
  • Had no provision for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Under this, the law was written on tables of stone.


  • Called the new covenant.
  • Called the second covenant.
  • An everlasting covenant.
  • Ratified with the blood of Christ.
  • Is a better covenant.
  • Is established upon the promises of God.
  • Has a mediator.
  • Has provision for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Under this, the law is written in the heart.

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