21 Days in the Word - Tool 14 - New Covenant Perspective
I’ve had several people tell me things like, “I don’t understand the Bible – especially the Old Testament.” Or, “the Old Testament no longer applies to us today. That was the law and Jesus came to fulfill the law.”
One of the keys to understanding Scripture is to understand covenant. Covenants were agreements made between two or more people that bound them together for life. God initiated several covenants with people in the Old Testament (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David). In these covenants, God and those He made covenant each had a commitment to one another. As we know, man is never able, in his own strength, to fulfill his commitment to God. A big part of the Old Testament journey is to show us over and over again how man cannot save himself. That we will inevitably break our covenant with God. That without a savior, we will be woefully lost.
This set the stage for Jesus to enter into His creation and create a new covenant. One where the agreement was no longer based on our good works, but based on His. You’ve heard the saying, Jesus fulfilled the old covenant. But what does that mean?
Generally speaking, we are to understand that the new covenant changed the way we worship (our relationship and access to God). In the Old Testament, God primarily spoke through prophets. And only select priests could enter into His presence in the Temple. In the New Testament, because of Jesus death and resurrection, all believers have direct access to God. We are able to connect with God as often as we would like. New Testament Scripture talks about our bodies now being the temple of the Holy Spirit. No longer do we have to go to a building to find God – He resides in us!
“And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:21-22
We also see in the old covenant that there were many laws about cleanliness, sickness and food. There are also lots of Scriptures about the sacrificial system (sacrificing animals in order for God to forgive your sins). But as we know, Jesus, the Lamb of God, took our place. There is now no longer any need – there is no more payment required for our sin. His blood was the final payment; thus, the sacrificial system is no longer necessary.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus fulfilling the clean laws. Jesus personally interacted with sick people (He did not shun them – He healed them!). And we see in Acts 10 how God spoke to Peter and gave permission to eat other types of animals.
So, what’s left? If we are not bound to the clean laws or the sacrificial system, what are we bound to?
We see both Jesus and Paul reaffirming the moral law under the new covenant. Although, they both change the emphasis of how we are to view the moral law. It is no longer to be done out of duty, but out of love. The shift from the old covenant to the new is a shift in motivation. The old covenant was based on works, and the new is based on grace. When we understand what Jesus has done for us, we won’t see the moral law as a list of do’s and don’ts but something we want to do to protect our relationship with our Savior.
As a general rule, if you’re wondering if something from the Old Testament applies to us today, look at the New Testament to see if Jesus, Paul or one of the other writers reaffirms that law or promise. You will see for example all of the Ten Commandments in the New Testament, and even expanded, because Jesus went beyond just behavior, and pointed out the conditions of a man’s heart. Remember, following the moral law, by itself, doesn’t make you right with God!