•••by Russell Young
A covenant is a compact or an agreement that holds surety of promise between two parties. The Old Covenant is often referred to as the Covenant of the Law through which the Lord promised good to those who obey Him. “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in the ways I command you, that it may go well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23, NIV) This is also the “Everlasting Covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5)
According to the Old Covenant the Israelites had to obey all of the elements of the Law. It was not arbitrarily designed but its purpose was to create a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6) Because man “was weakened by the sinful nature,” (Romans 8:3, NIV) he could not keep the Covenant. However, the Covenant is everlasting and God’s blessings to man depends upon the believer satisfying its righteous requirements without which a holy nation could not be created.
The Old Covenant was brought to a close for those willing to accept Christ’s lordship (Romans 10:9-10) by having its requirement of death for sin satisfied through His substitutionary sacrifice. The New Covenant makes the believer competent through Christ’s indwelling presence to overcome his sinful nature and become transformed into His likeness. (Romans 8:29)
The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6) The Spirit is Christ in the believer (Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18) who is able to live without sin in the believer just as He had in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary…provided He is obeyed.
Paul wrote: “He [God] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4, NIV) Rather than accomplishing the law through one’s own resources as required by the Old Covenant, the believer has been provided with Christ’s indwelling Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower Him to live righteously and develop a state of holiness (Romans 6:19, 22) without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) The requirements set by God have not changed but the means of accomplishing them has. According to either Covenant, obedience is required. The writer of Hebrews has stated that “eternal salvation” comes to those who “obey” Him. (Hebrews 5:9)
The New Covenant is not engraved on stone but is in the flesh…the mind and the heart. It is not legally based on satisfying the law but is based on the believer having a personal, living relationship with Christ. It is those who are led by the Spirit who are no longer under the law (Galatians 5:18) and who are sons of God. (Romans 8:14) Those who choose to walk according to their sinful nature, even after pledging Christ’s lordship, will reap destruction. (Galatians 6:7-8; Romans 8:13)
Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant. That is, He is the One who intervenes on behalf of the believer to accomplish the eternal hope for the believer. He has done this to provide access to the Covenant through His death. As mediator He has provided His Spirit to accomplish its requirements. As High Priest, He intercedes on behalf of the believer for sins committed “in ignorance” (Hebrews 9:7) and for sins that have been confessed and repented. (1 John 1:9)
Peter wrote that “His [the Lord’s] divine power [Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3); however, the believer is not to be passive or lukewarm but is “to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling;” (Philippians 2:12, NIV) that is, through obedience.
The New Covenant is NOT the promise of an eternal hope through the sacrificial death of Christ on his behalf. It is a covenant by God which allows the Christ to live in the believer and through obedience to satisfy God’s righteous requirements for His Eternal Kingdom. In honouring God’s Son the believer will be transformed into His likeness, will truly become His brother, and will inherit all of the blessing that apply to a son of God. In the end, the “Everlasting Covenant” will be honoured by both God and man.