Setting the Covenants Straight (Part One)

Many false doctrines are rooted in a failure to properly discern the covenants of Scripture. The Bible is comprised of the Old and New Testaments. Dungan says, “No one can understand his duty without knowing to what law he is amenable (under, RM).” /1 He adds, “each covenant is for the man, or the men, to whom it was given, and for whom it was intended.” /2
The Bible student who rightly divides the word of truth will be certain he understands which covenant he is being judged under (2 Timothy 2:15).
In a secular sense, we understand this principle very well. As a citizen of the United States, we can look back and see that we were formerly under the law of England as the previous rule of the land. This rule has passed into history, and we are now under the Constitution of the United States of America. We are no longer citizens of England, so the laws of Parliament no longer apply to us.
The Old Covenant was once the law of God. But it has now passed into history and we are now under the New Covenant. The old law has no legal bearing on us today even though it serves a useful and important purpose. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (NKJV).
Through the Old Testament we learn about God, how to respond to him in service, worship, and obedience. We take the stories of the people of God and make application to our lives today. Yet, as the laws of England are no longer our laws, the Laws of the Old Covenant are no longer judging us today.
Moses dedicates the Law of Moses in Exodus 24 when he reads the book of the covenant and sprinkles blood on the people and says, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words” (Exodus 24:8, cf. Hebrews 9:16-22). Thousands of years later, Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper and says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). At that point, Jesus’ blood had not yet been shed on the cross. Therefore, the new covenant was not yet in effect.
The Apostle Paul compares the passing of the Old Testament and the coming of the New Testament to a marriage dissolved because of death. He tells the Romans they have become “dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). The old marriage is over because of death and a new marriage or covenant is in action.
Paul said there was a veil over the “Old Testament” but it has now been lifted through Christ (2 Corinthians 3:14).
The Hebrew writer explains that Jesus is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second” (Hebrews 8:6-7).
Jeremiah wrote, “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” (Jeremiah 31:31). In the next few verses he makes a distinction between the present covenant they were under and the new covenant that would come in the near future.
1/ D. R. Dungan, Hermeneutics (Delight: Gospel Light, n.a.), 106.
2/ Ibid.

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