A Journal for Bible Teachers

Understanding the New Covenant

Understanding the New Covenant

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people…” (Jeremiah 31:33)

If someone were to ask you what the general theme of the New Testament was, it might seen like a pretty indistinct question. Yet, the answer is so obvious that we wonder why we did not see it. The theme of the New Testament is the ‘New Covenant’. Or, you could say, the theme of the New Testament is the “New Testament.” (The Covenant and the New Testament are the same.)

  • Jesus was the “Messenger” of the New Covenant.
  • The apostles preached the New Covenant.
  • The epistles explain the New Covenant.
  • The book of Revelation gives us a picture of those who have entered the fullness of the New Covenant – they are reigning with Christ!

Four Words that Categories the New Covenant

1. Manifestation The Four Gospels reveal Christ as the “Messenger” of the New Covenant, or Christ the embodiment of the New Covenant.

2. Propagation The Book of Acts gives the account of the apostles spreading the message of the New Covenant.

3. Explanation The Epistles explain the mysteries of the New Covenant.

4. Consummation The Book of Revelation gives us a picture of those who have appropriated the New Covenant and are now gloriously reigning with Christ.

Living Below the Means

The church (generally speaking) is living far below the provisions that the New Covenant affords. There maybe a number of reasons for this, but we will deal with two of them. The first reason is most Christians do not know and understand the objectives of this covenant. I have not met many Christians that fully understand its implications. Obviously, if God’s people are not being sufficiently taught, they cannot live up to it.

Perhaps another reason is to be found in a statement that David makes in Psalm 25:14 “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant. ” It may well be that this is why many Christians are deficient in their understanding of the ways of God. The fear of the Lord is not part of their spiritual composition! The fear of the Lord makes us afraid of sin. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, perverse conversation, and every evil way (Proverbs 8:13).

We live in a generation of Christendom that does not seem terribly concerned about keeping the commandments, or mixing themselves with the world. The Lord is certainly not going to write His laws upon the hearts of people who have no qualms about breaking them. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).

This New Testament covenant was first promised to Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). However, Israel will not enter into that covenant until Christ comes at the beginning of the millennium. Why? Basically for the reasons mentioned above. The Lord gave Israel over to blindness because of their hypocritical life style. God gives light to those who walk righteously. Israel could not receive their promised covenant because they walked so contrary to the One who was the very embodiment of the covenant!

Ezekiel’s View of the New Covenant

Ezekiel describes the covenant: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). This new life (new heart/new spirit) begins at salvation with the forgiveness of sins, a fresh start. Paul quotes from Jeremiah 31:34 when he says: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17). The initial promises of a purged conscience and a new boldness to approach the living God are wonderful promises in themselves; yet, they do not end here. They continue to give us a greater hope that God will remove the stony heart, and give us the enabling of His Spirit to walk in His ways. This is a promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The New Covenant is all about having the laws of God written upon the fleshly tables of our heart. It is how a heart that is made sensitive to the ways of God, indeed, reflects the ways of God. This does not take place when we are saved, but takes place as we walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:4). As we continue to walk in the light, God brings us into the conditions that deal with the old nature—the stony heart. Israel had to go into captivity to be cleansed from the inbred idolatries. Those who submitted to the dealings of the captivity were brought back with a new heart—a heart that was in harmony with God. “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

I once knew a man who had served about three years in prison for a crime he did not commit. His own testimony was that he had been living very carelessly at the time of his arrest. In fact, he was betrayed by some of the bad company that he had been keeping. While he was in prison, he was offered a reduced sentence if he would go to certain rehabilitation classes. He refused on the grounds he had not committed the crime, and consequently served the full sentence. I asked him if he was bitter about the whole affair, and his response was “No, the Lord gave me a new heart while I was there!”

Christ Introduces the Covenant

The Sermon on the Mount was actually an introduction to the New Covenant. Our Lord was taking the law that was written upon stone (the outward observance of the law) and revealing the real issue. The real issue of keeping the law stems from the condition of the heart. Moses condemned the physical transgression of the law, but Jesus traced the problem to the sins of the heart and spirit: “For out of the heart proceedeth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).

Although the Master was raising the standard, He was also bringing a greater grace and enabling to fulfil it. The Old Covenant had many debilitating factors.

  • There was an inferior mediation, the earthly priests.
  • There was inferior sacrifice, the inferior blood, blood that could not purge the conscience. It was confined to time and place.
  • There was not the endowment of the Holy Spirit.
  • The law was veiled, the ark (the presence of God) was veiled, and their minds were veiled.

The Better Covenant According to Hebrews

The whole book of Hebrews is a contrast of the two covenants. The author is trying to show the Jews the superiority of the New Covenant by virtue of its better promises. Many of the Hebrew believers were drifting back into the old rituals. The better promises include full redemption—salvation to the uttermost because the blood of Jesus opened the way and gave us access to the One who can make the comers perfect.

The two mountains in Hebrews chapter twelve best illustrate the two covenants. Sinai was symbolic of the Old Covenant, shrouded with fear, quaking, and death. Mt Zion symbolizes the New Covenant, the veil has been rent—the unveiled Ark of the Covenant rested there. The New Covenant symbolizes the abundant life. It even symbolizes resurrection power because the ark contained the rod that budded. The way to the ark wherein was the covenant (law) has now been opened; and Christ is there to give us the enabling to fulfil His law (Hebrews 10:19-20). We, in the New Testament dispensation, have been given every advantage to experience the “fullness” of salvation. The millennial promises, the millennial reign as kings and priests for 1000 years, is to those who have fully appropriated the promises of the New Covenant. May the Lord graciously renew the spirit of our mind with a fresh desire to press toward the mark. Amen!

And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Revelation 21:3)

About the Author

Rev. Daniel G. Caram and his wife, Jane, have pastored in Erie PA, for over 25 years. Together they have two children and two grandchildren. He has authored several books and articles, which have been published in many nations and languages. Rev. Daniel Caram has taught at Zion Ministerial Institute for 22 years, as well as participating in leadership seminars throughout the world. He received a Bachelor of Theology (Th. B.) from Vision Christian Bible College.

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