Christians: What is the New Covenant?
The study of covenants now brings us to the ultimate covenant in all of Scripture, that covenant which is the fulfillment and extension of all prior covenants between God and his people, expanding the benefits to people from the nations of the earth. Jeremiah 31:31–34 promised the new covenant:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Many years after Jeremiah prophesied, as Passover approached, Jesus Christ sat down with his disciples to celebrate the Mosaic covenant by partaking of the Passover meal. For over a millennium God’s covenant people had partaken of the Passover by following a strict order with sacred statements of promise interspersed throughout the meal. Keenly aware of the magnitude of the moment, Jesus did not speak the words tradition had dictated. Instead, Matthew 26:26–29 reports:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
The new covenant is God not merely giving us a human mediator but the second member of the Trinity himself coming into human history as the man Jesus Christ. This time, rather than taking life as he did when he flooded the earth in the days of Noah or requiring sacrifices for sin in the Mosaic covenant, he offered himself as the sacrificial substitute for sinners on the cross where he shed his blood in their place.
In the Bible, all of the covenants lead up to the New Covenant relationship believers enjoy with Jesus Christ forever. The New Covenant is the fulfilment of all previous covenants that God made with His people made possible through Jesus Christ.
Commenting on one of the innumerable blessings enjoyed in the new covenant, 2 Corinthians 3:5–6 says:
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” In the new covenant, God comes to be with each of his people as he did with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. He also places the Holy Spirit in them to make them into a temple where worship occurs. The Spirit makes them new creations as the dawning and firstfruits of the finality of the new creation that will dawn with Jesus’ second coming. The Spirit’s work includes transfiguring us into Jesus’ image bearers, as Moses was.
Perhaps the lengthiest treatment of the new covenant and its superiority to all preceding covenants is found in the book of Hebrews. In light of our study of covenants, the most helpful thing would be to simply read Hebrews 8:6–9:28.
In summary of the five biblical covenants, Jesus is a better Noah who brings judgment of sin, salvation by grace to the family of God, and a new world free of sin and its effects. Jesus is a better Abraham, the blessing to the nations of the earth. Jesus is a better Moses as God’s prophet who fulfilled the law for us, allows God’s wrath to pass over us because of his shed blood, conquered our pharaoh of Satan, redeemed us from sin, and journeys with us toward home despite our sin and grumbling. And Jesus is a better David who is seated on a throne ruling as the King of kings and is coming again to establish his eternal and global kingdom of peace and prosperity.
Has God been faithful to you? Are you being faithful to God?