Friday, September 12, 2008

The Contrast Between the Old and New Covenants


Now, let’s bring all of this together and apply it to our lives. How do we respond to the information we’ve studied? Can the subject of whether or not we move in the power and freedom of the New Covenant be reduced to calling it “doctrine” and then dismissing it as unimportant? Can we neglect diligent study to understand what God has put in scripture for us because we have become jaded regarding the subject of doctrine? Paul expended a lot of energy spelling out the distinctions between the old and the new. He patiently and painstakingly taught the Galatians how to serve God in the New Covenant when he said: “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come…” Gal 3:18, 19 If the law was added it suggests that an immutable law of moral obligation existed before the Jewish Law or there would have been no transgression. And moral obligation did not include the Sabbath because it is never mentioned before Moses. This understanding will be made clear below in the statements made during the 2nd century AD by the early church fathers. A law that was added could not have been eternal and unchanging.

“For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised (through the Abrahamic covenant), being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ (a law that was “put in place” did not exist from creation) that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” Gal 3:21b-25 (NIV)


"One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves... Get rid of the slave woman and her child."

The clearest teaching about the contrast between the New and Old Covenants is given in Galatians and leaves no doubt about God’s view on the matter. “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was bor
Saint Annen as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant
 is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai... and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem (old Jerusalem where there is a temple, temple services, rituals, sun and moon above: the shadows of things to come), because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free (this is the New Jerusalem where there is no temple or rituals, no sun or moon, because there, Jesus is the reality - the shadows are replaced with the substance), and she is our mother. For it is written: Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.’ Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” Gal 4:21-31 (NIV)

“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” Heb 8:6 (NIV)



"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone..." The ministry that brought death is the Ten Commandments.

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, (the ministry that brought death is the Ten Commandments) came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” 2 Cor 3:6-11 (NIV)

Paul is using the description from Deuteronomy to draw comparisons between the Old and New Covenants. “So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands.” Deut 9:15 (NIV) That was the giving of the Ten Commandments. Paul is saying in the text above that the New Covenant was not of the letter. The text in Deuteronomy identifies the Old Covenant as the Ten Commandments (the letters written on stone). As the two thoughts are put together it is clear that the Old Covenant is excluded from the New.


Paul says: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day (singular, not plural, in the Greek). These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Col 2:16-17 (NIV)

This scripture was spoken to new gentile Christians and was telling them not to fear or worry if the Jewish Christians Paul had encountered in Jerusalem criticized them because they were not following any of the Jewish covenant laws such as the weekly Sabbath, the monthly new moon celebrations or the yearly seasonal festivals.

These criticisms became so troublesome that a council was convened in Jerusalem to resolve the issue. And this was the conclusion: “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’--to whom we gave no such commandment-- it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen …men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 15:24-26



Obviously, the Holy Spirit did not think that Sabbath keeping was important enough to be mentioned. Nor was it necessary.

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:27-29 (NKJV) It was not required of them to be circumcised and, as noted earlier, unless a person was circumcised they could not take part in any of the rest of the covenant. And, in agreement with that there is no mention of the Sabbath. Obviously, the Holy Spirit did not think that Sabbath-keeping was important enough to be mentioned, nor was it necessary.

In fact, there was a bit of a row because Paul was teaching the Jews, who lived among the gentiles to whom he was sent, that they did not need to keep the Jewish Law. “Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs [which included Sabbath-keeping].’” Acts 21:20-21 (NIV) Interesting to note: Paul did not consider it enough to just leave them alone to continue to practice the Old Covenant law. He was actively teaching them to turn away from it.

"But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read." Could that covering still be over our hearts?

“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.” 2 Cor 3:12-18 (NIV) Could that covering still be over our hearts?

“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Cor 3:3 (NIV)


Summary of The Contrast Between the New and Old Covenants:

1) The Law (including the Ten Commandments) was added (not present since creation).

2) The Law was put in place temporarily until when? Until Jesus came.
3) The Law was put in place to lead us to Christ. But since Christ has come we are no longer under its supervision.
4) Now the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus.
5) The Old Covenant (including the Ten Commandments) is represented by Hagar and produces children of slavery.
6) The New Covenant is represented by Sarah and produces free children.
7) Paul says, “Get rid of the slave woman and her children."
8) Paul spells out those things that are no longer required including the weekly Sabbath, the monthly new moon and yearly festivals. They are only misty shadows that evaporated with the rising of the Son.
9) The Jerusalem Council and the Holy Spirit did not think it necessary for the gentiles to keep the Sabbath.
10) Paul actively taught the Jews to turn away from the Law.
11) The Law results in spiritual bondage that must be broken if the veils are to be removed from our hearts. It was true for those in Paul's time and it is true for us.



The allegation in Adventism is that the Catholic Church changed the Sabbath to Sunday. When Christians meet on Sunday, they are not keeping a sabbath. They are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. Samuel Bacchiochi further states that Ellen White was incorrect in her accusation that Constantine legislated Sunday keeping. The history is fascinating.

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