The Two Covenants Explained

A scriptural understanding of one’s relationship with God can only be clear if one understands the two covenants and the difference between them.

The Old Covenant is given in the Old Testament in two parts, the first of which is the Covenant with Abraham, in Genesis 17, promising to make him father of many nations and kings and to be a God for his descendants forever. This part of the covenant focuses upon the countless descendants to come, even as the stars in the sky or dust of the earth. See Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 22:17; 28:14; 32:12, all of which emphasize the number of descendants. The first part of the covenant is clearly “everlasting,” meaning that God will be the God of this chosen people forever, unconditionally, a promise that can never be broken. Man’s obligation here is to bear the sign of that agreement in “circumcision.” (Gen. 17:10-14) While the covenant is unconditional, man can reject it personally by refusing circumcision. The second part of the Old Covenant is not unconditional, but depends upon man=s response. This second part is a code of laws by which God’s chosen children should live, namely the Ten Commandments, given about 1486 B.C. God’s blessings would depend upon how well the people obeyed them. The penalty for breaking these laws was severe: death for the individual violator. The promise of the covenant to be “everlasting,” and unconditional would never be broken.

The Old Testament is the story of God developing a relationship with His special race of children through these promises and requirements, and the story of the people’s response, their struggles, and failure.

The Old Covenant laws were not successfully fulfilled. God’s people could not adequately obey those laws, and it wasn’t much more than 700 years after Moses that God would no longer tolerate their apostasy and cursed them with the seven-times curse of Leviticus 26. This happened about 745 B.C. when God let the Assyrians purge the “promised-land” of His children, scattering them to distant lands. It=s important to remember that the first part of the Old Covenant was everlasting and God would never totally abandon His children. Only the second part of the Covenant, the Law, failed at perfecting the people. So God cursed His children for 2,520 years, promising to gather them together again “as a shepherd does his flock. (Jer. 31:10, cf. Jer. 46:27; Amos 9:9-15;) God says “I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more, neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them anymore, as beforetime.” (II Sam. 7:10) See also Ezekiel 34:1-16.

While God=s children, Israel, were being scattered and moving northwestward to be replanted in Greece, Europe, Britain, and eventually the US., God was fulfilling another promise He had made, namely to send a Savior, an anointed Son, to enact a New Covenant in order to save His people from the penalties of the Old one which resulted in bitter failure. The great prophet Jeremiah says in chapter 31, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when 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, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and ever man his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” And in Jer. 32:39-40 (39:39-40 in LXX): “And I will give them another way, and another heart, to fear me continually, and that for good to them and their children after them. And I will make with them an everlasting covenant, which I will by no means turn away from them, and I will put my fear into their heart, that they may not depart from me.”

Here we see a merciful Father, reneging on his sternness, and promising instead to remember their sins no more. Instead of placing them under a written law of commandments, He would put the law in their minds and hearts; He would implant an INSTINCT within His children, so they would be naturally attracted to doing His will. And this means no more written law! That was a major change in man=s relationship to his Father; it is a whole new deal! For every child of God, this is a change in motivation! His motivation to obey is changed; no longer is he under the whip of punishment for breaking a rule, but he acts from his heart and his mind to do his Father’s will. In other words, there is no longer a club hanging over his head, but there is a loving desire within him to obey the rules which his heart tells him are right. This is the covenant of a merciful and loving Father reclaiming his children and freeing them from severe penalty. Listen to the excitingly-wonderful and poignant restatement of God’s promise, written in Hebrews chapters 7 and 8. 7:18 –“For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect.” 8:7 –“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Juda – 9not 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 did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,’ says the Lord. 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 13In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

This is the very message that excited the followers of Jesus: they had just been set free from the penalties of the stern law which no one could keep perfectly. This is something they understood clearly and they spread the word as criers with “Good News.” St. Paul, throughout the book of Romans, writes in great detail about this new covenant and our new relationship to the law. In Romans 7:6, Paul says, “Now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” It should also be made clear here that while Paul is saying “we are discharged from the law,” he goes to great length explaining that he is NOT saying the law ceased to exist. In Romans 3:31, he says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” No, Paul speaks in many places about his love for the law and of its great value; the thing that has changed is man’s relationship to it – instead of being under its threat of condemnation, the Spirit of God motivates us to love God from our minds and hearts, then obeying God’s will because it is our instinct and desire to do so.

It is thrilling to understand how real this New Covenant is for those who accept it as a gift from our Father through His Son Jesus. It is a free gift, received through faith, offered without conditions or penalties. Here is news which fills the heart with exultation and one rejoices to bow his knee at the hearing of Jesus’ name. It is hardly possible to express the great joy which fills the soul, knowing one is released from the curse of the Old Covenant and made free with the New one? St. Paul says in Galatians 3:10-14: 10″For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.’ 11Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’; 12but the law does not rest on faith, for ‘He who does them shall live by them.’ 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.”

This IS our NEW TESTAMENT! There is no New Covenant outside the understanding of one’s relationship to the Father, as given through our Lord, Jesus, the Anointed One of God. This is the very purpose for which Jesus lived. This is the consistent message of the entire New Testament, and unless one understands this, the New Testament has nothing for him.

In St. John’s first letter, he reminds his readers of the value of the New Covenant in their lives. He writes: 2:20″You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” and 2:27″But the anointing that you have received from him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” Note that John points to the “anointing” as the teacher who teaches you all things. The concept of “anointing” is worthy of a book in itself, for “anointing” means the gift of the Holy Spirit to work actively within you, not just the knowledge of God, but it is that very INSTINCT which the New Covenant promises. It is this presence of God’s Spirit within us that motivates us, empowers us, teaches us, and accomplishes a direct relationship with our Father, without need of any mediaries (priests, teachers, written laws, etc.). How could any spiritual person imagine any greater gift in the Kingdom of God than this, that we are filled with God’s Divine Spirit, and that from this foundation we can step forth to live Godly lives, striving toward achievement of our divine potentials. We are not pawns on a chessboard, sitting out there alone as victims of capricious forces, but we are more like containers filled with God’s Spirit.

We have become so accustomed to living in a wicked world where we are beset by greedy and wicked people, that we have learned to be non-innocent; we have learned to be “street-wise,” and under the circumstances our principles often get compromised and we find ourselves doing things we know are not quite right. But, now we can begin to find our new selves, and live new lives, innocently and with honor and integrity. Now, we know we are not alone; we are not victims; we are active, dynamic participants in God’s exciting program, and He lives within us to motivate us to be all we can truly be: His Divine Heirs. With such indwelling of God, in our hearts and minds, we need not wonder what is right or wrong for us, but we can meditate and pray to learn what we need to know. There is no more “go to the preacher and ask him,” but rather we go to God and ask Him, in quietness and by yielding totally to His will in spite of our earthly desires.

You see, the Kingdom of God has begun, and we have the high honor of being part of this early stage of it. This is a difficult time for God=s children, but by knowing we are “anointed ones” (Χρίστoι = Christs (plural)), and that the New Covenant has been obtained, we can each reconsider our own personal lives and begin to blossom as the special children that we really are.

We can see the fulfillment of God=s promises in the United States of America. The early communities of our nation, during the 17th and 18th centuries were religious people whose societies centered about their churches. They were zealous and enthusiastic Christians, whose scripture guided their daily lives. Never had such a nation been born before. We were known as a “Christian” nation. The Ten Commandments have always been at the heart of our basic social laws, and we as a society, never, for 300 years, questioned their value. It has only been during this last century that the moral laws of God have been overturned or corrupted by the political/legal system. We were a nation of God’s people, and the amazing thing is, that, even without the knowledge of our true Israelite identity, we knew in our hearts that we were God=s people. The prophecy of Jeremiah came true and was beautifully and wonderfully fulfilled by the sincere people who founded and pioneered and developed our nation. That New Covenant promise of, “I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” was manifested in the founding of our new nation. This IS the Spirit of America; we are a great land, beloved of God. We are the new Jerusalem. We are the people, Israel. (Note: Israel is a people, not a state or nation like the fraudulent Edomite Jews now claim) Our ancestors didn’t need teachers to teach the law; they knew it within their hearts and minds. We can but look back at them with admiration and envy, for they lived Godly lives from their very hearts. What a glorious land! God=s promise was fulfilled as He promised, and our nation became the envy of the world; people from all countries yearned to come to America where people were free under God to achieve divine and wonderful potentials.

One other thing that helped to make all that possible is that they hallowed the last day (Sunday) of their week as a day for church and for rest, they remembered their God before each meal and before going to sleep each night. They generously shared with neighbors and strangers the love they felt from their Father. They generously and happily shared their wealth with the whole world because they felt their blessings were endless. They trusted their loving God that their own children would have even a better land and opportunities than they themselves, and they worked successfully to fulfill their dreams. God has blessed this nation of his children more richly than ancients could have dreamed. We’ve had the green-pastures, the milk and honey, a cornucopia of abundance, and we’ve had blessings of creative genius, inventors of magical wonders, a wealth of resources, and except for the Civil War, we were blessed with a peaceful and fruitful land for nearly four hundred years.

I can imagine our Father watching and smiling and saying, “Well, done, my children; you are my glory and my pride; you are my people and I am your God.”

I also imagine our Father watching with great anger the exploitation and enslavement of his children during the last century-and-a-half. Esau (Jews) has dominated and enslaved the children of Jacob, just as foretold in the Old Testament. And, because we children of God became naive and too trusting, we did not guard the purity of our Israelite race; we did not hold sacred the land our fathers gave us, and we permitted others to come in and plunder our substance; we also did not preserve our holy laws, but let them become defiled by evil leaders so the wicked are protected while the producers are punished. It is like innocent and ignorant sheep that we have let the wolves in our land where they have ravaged and looted and plundered and killed. Yes, just as Jesus went like a sheep to slaughter, without crying a word, so has it happened to God’s beloved children in this land. Our passion and crucifixion is nearly complete; we will be mostly destroyed along with the entire civilization, and then we shall rise again to a new kingdom under the reign of our Lord, Christ.

Thus is the blessed fulfillment of the New Covenant which God made with His children, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Shall we not bow in grateful adoration before His throne and praise Him with endless praise from these same hearts in which He put His holy law of Spirit?