CONTRAST OF THE TWO COVENANTS
All of us recognize that when a government changes, there is also a change in the laws that govern the people. For instance, Texas was for years under the rule of Mexico. But, fighting valiantly at the Alamo, Texans finally won their freedom at the battle of San Jacinto. They were then no longer under Mexican rule. Existing as an independent nation, they were no longer amenable to the laws of Mexico. The government being changed, there was also a change of laws.
Good and honest people can readily see the above principle, and understand it. But when it comes to spiritual laws of God, many are yet blinded to this truth. The Bible speaks clearly of the Law of Moses being "nailed to the cross" (Col. 2:14). The Law of Moses, including its laws of the Sabbath, laws of clean and unclean meats, laws of the priesthood, etc., was "taken away" at the cross of Christ (Heb. 7:18,19; Col. 2:14; etc.). As we read, "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Heb. 7:12). The "first testament" was taken away in order that the testament of Christ could be established (Heb. 9:15-17; 10:9, 10).
The Bible shows, in Rom. 7:1-4, that the wife is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives. Then, "If, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law...Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom. 7:3,4). Thus, when the Law of Moses was done away at the cross of Calvary, we were made free to be joined with Christ! Let us notice in this lesson some of the contrasts between the Law of Moses and the gospel of Christ.
THE GIVERS OF THE TWO COVENANTS.
Keep in mind that the first covenant was given by Moses: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jno. 1:17). The prophet of old reminded Israel of this, "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel" (Mal. 4:4). Although the idea may be dis- tasteful to some folk, God declared that he gave the "Law of Moses" to Moses at Horeb (Mt. Sinai). And this included all of the law, of which the Ten Commandments formed a part. That law, in its entirety, was nailed to the cross, including the Sabbath and rules about feast days and meat and drink (Col. 2:14-17).
The new covenant "came by Jesus Christ" (Jno. 1:17). The gospel of Christ had a different ring to it: "He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes... All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 7:29; 28:18). Jesus died in order that the new covenant could be established: "And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place...For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it" (Heb. 9:15,16). As God gave the first covenant through Moses, He gave the new covenant through Jesus Christ.
RECIPIENTS OF THE TWO COVENANTS.
Contrary to what many seem to believe, the Law of Moses was not designed for all people. Notice again Mal. 4:4, the Law of Moses was "for all Israel." It was never given to other nations. This is stated emphatically by Moses, himself: "Jehovah our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Jehovah made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deut. 5:2,3). And in the verses that follow, Moses lists the Ten Commandments! That law was given only to Israel.
The gospel of Christ, the new covenant, was designed for all people. As Jesus said, "God ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Matt. 28: 19; Mk. 16:15,16). When Jesus died on the cross, it was that "whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jno. 3:16). This new covenant was not limited to one nation of people, but was designed for all people.
ON WHAT THE COVENANTS WERE WRITTEN.
To further show the difference in the two covenants, the apostle Paul wrote of Christians, "Ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh" (2 Cor. 3:3). He then adds, "God; who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministrations of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory?" (2 Cor. 3:5-8). Note that it is clearly stated that the first covenant, given by Moses and written on tables of stone, was a "ministration of death."
The new covenant is not written on stone, but on the hearts of men. When God promised a new covenant, He said, "For this is the covenant that I will make...I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, And they shall be to me a people" (Heb. 8:10). Under the new covenant, God rules from within the hearts of men - not in outward ordinances and rituals. God seeks "obedience from the heart" (Rom. 6:17). What a contrast from the old covenant!
CONTRAST OF COVENANT SACRIFICES.
The blood of animals served as the required offering for sin under the old covenant (Heb. 9:8,9, 18-20). But with limitations: "But in those sacrifices there is a remem- brance made of sins year by year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:3,4). Thus we see the weakness of the old covenant: "For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness" (Heb. 7:18).
The new covenant also has to have a blood offering, "And according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). But under the new covenant, we have a much better sacrifice: "Knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ...Nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (1 Pet. 1:18,19; Heb. 9:12). The blood of Jesus offers cleansing which the blood of animals never could.
QUALITY OF THE TWO COVENANTS.
Even the most ardent advocate of the Law of Moses must recognize the imperfections of that law. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Heb. 8:7,8). God had warned that the Law of Moses would be removed because of its weaknesses. As the Scripture says of Jesus, "But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises" (Heb. 8:6).
The old covenant had only "a shadow of things to come" (Heb. 10:1-4; Col. 2:14-17). But Christ offers the substance. The temple, the sacrifices, even the Sabbath, were all just "shadows" or "types" of what the new covenant would offer (Heb. 8:1,2; 9:9,10,28; etc.). In the "true tabernacle" (the church), we offer up better sacrifices: "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). As Christians, we are "the house of God" (1 Tim. 3:15). the "temple of God" (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 6:16) and are "a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God" (Eph. 2:22).
PURIFYING THE FLESH OR THE SOUL?
Under the Law of Moses, there were various washings and rituals for purifying the flesh after touching a dead body or a leper, for diseases, etc. These rites of purification had to be followed in minute detail. "For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a helfer...sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works?" (Heb. 9:13,14). The rites and sacrifices of the Law of Moses could not cleanse the soul!
Notice the contrast with the new covenant: "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church" (Eph. 5:25, 26). The cleansing of the New Covenant is by the blood of Christ, "In whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins" (Col. 1:14). Also, as Scripture states, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth" (1 Pet. 1:22).
ENDURANCE OF EACH COVENANT.
The old covenant was designed for Israel, and its purpose was not to be permanent. That is why God promised a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13). The Levitical priesthood of that law could not compare with the priesthood of Jesus Christ: "Hath an unchangeable priesthood...Thou art a priest forever...He ever liveth to make intercession" (Heb. 7:21-25). Our High Priest continues, and ever appears before God for us!
With regard to His covenant, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). When we stand before God in the judgment, we will not be judged by the old covenant, but by the word of Christ (Jno. 12:48) With the apostle Paul, we exclaim, "For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory" (2 Cor. 3:11). The hope of the covenant of Christ also is an enduring hope: "Unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4). As Jesus promised, "In my Father's house are many mansions...I go to prepare a place for you" (Jno. 14:;2). The apostle Paul echoed this, "We know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5:1).
Why would anyone want to go back under the carnal ordinance of a "repealed" law? Why try to observe rituals and ordinances which were not even given to us today?! The clincher is found in these words from Scripture: "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:4) Don't make the mistake of forsaking Christ by going back to the law God gave Moses.
By Clem Thurman, Gospel Minutes, Vol. 50, No. 19, May 11, 2001
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