The old and new covenant.
Today, I am looking into a bit of history to remind us of what the ‘old covenant’ and the ‘new covenant’ are all about. Pre-biblical times, there was long history concerning covenants. They generally came in two guises: conditional and unconditional. Conditional covenants came from a law background and were put in place between two parties. The more powerful of the parties had the power to invoke retribution if the lesser party failed to uphold their part in the covenant. Unconditional covenants were a promise made by the more powerful party to a lesser party, which required nothing from the lesser party in return. There are various covenants God makes in the Old Testament between the Israelites and himself, some unconditional, such as the first covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of many people, and some conditional such as the covenant referred to as the ‘old covenant’ between God and his people through Moses following his rescue of them from Egypt.
The old covenant was therefore based in law, known as the Torah to the Jews, or Mosaic Law, which can be found in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The Jews continue to live by this law.
However, the new testament teaches of a new covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah and quoted here in Hebrews 8. This comes as the final completion of the old covenant. The truth is, we can never, ever, fulfil our side of the bargain in the old covenant. We are sinners and we cannot, with all our efforts make ourselves as God required. The action upon the lesser party within a conditional covenant is retribution, but God gives us a way out in Jesus. Jesus stated at the last supper: “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Praise the Lord! That through his death on the cross, we no longer live under the law or in sin. As verse 12 says ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.’ By His grace, we are saved. We are now forgiven all that debt, relieved of all that law and blessed with eternal life.
Does that mean we have no law to live by, we can invite Christ into our lives and then just get on with it? This is not the case because just two parts of the old law were kept as the Law of Christ. Jesus tells us “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”(Leviticus 19:18b) There is no other commandment greater than these.
So, to love is the command. And funnily enough, you can’t love and be greedy. You can’t love and be impatient. You can’t love and take advantage of others etc, etc. It doesn’t work, so really the command to love is all encompassing. However, the difference between this new covenant and the command laid down by Christ to love is that it is unconditional. We are forgiven when we fail. Thank you Jesus.