The Need for a New Covenant

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The Need for a New Covenant

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The problem with the Israelites was with their heart —their thinking and attitude. The Israelites did not obey God and fulfill their part in their relationship with Him for a simple reason: “. . . Everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart” (Jeremiah 11:8 Jeremiah 11:8Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do: but they did them not.
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). God, however, had a solution: a different covenant, a new covenant, that would correct the problem.

Notice God prophesied He would someday create a new heart in His people by giving them His Spirit so they would obey Him: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:26-28 Ezekiel 36:26-28 26 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. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
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).

Why do we need God’s Spirit?

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:6-9 Romans 8:6-9 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
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).

People do not naturally like to obey God’s laws. It is not in our natural, carnal nature to follow God’s ways. Many people through the ages have tried to solve their own problems their own ways, without the Spirit of God. But those ways produce human misery and ultimately lead to death (Romans 3:16 Romans 3:16Destruction and misery are in their ways:
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; Proverbs 14:12 Proverbs 14:12There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
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; Proverbs 16:25 Proverbs 16:25There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
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).

What effect does God’s Spirit have on those who receive it?

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:13-15 Romans 8:13-15 13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
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, New American Bible).

God’s Spirit empowers us to put to death the deeds of the body, the evil works of the flesh such as adultery, fornication, hatred, jealousy, anger and selfishness (Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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). When we have God’s Spirit dwelling in us, it enables us to have an attitude of enthusiastically and from the heart wanting to submit to God and follow His lead.

What is different in the New Covenant?

“ ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days,’ says the Lord, ‘I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’ ” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 Jeremiah 31:31-33 31 Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said 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.
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; compare Hebrews 8:10 Hebrews 8:10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
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; Hebrews 10:16 Hebrews 10:16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
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).

The New Covenant is God’s commitment to give His people His Spirit so they can obey Him. Notice in this passage that God’s law is included in the New Covenant. His law has not changed. What God commits Himself to change is the human heart . He will enable those entering the New Covenant with Him to willingly and wholeheartedly obey His laws.

Remember, God did not find a fault in His law under the terms of the Old Covenant. The fault was in the self-centered and rebellious thinking of the people. God’s law and way of life remain an integral part of the New Covenant. The New Covenant requires a genuine change in the heart and mind that can be accomplished only through the transforming power of God’s Spirit.

Once a young man asked Jesus, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus responded, “. . . If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments ‘” (Matthew 19:16-17 Matthew 19:16-17 16 And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
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). Rules are involved in any relationship. God’s laws were part of the Old Covenant. They are also part of the New Covenant. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can have a heart able to respond much differently from those ancient Israelites who rejected God’s way of life.

The nature of God’s law is fundamental to the understanding of biblical covenants. The laws of God endure forever (Psalms 119:89 Psalms 119:89For ever, O LORD, your word is settled in heaven.
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, Psalms 119:160 Psalms 119:160Your word is true from the beginning: and every one of your righteous judgments endures for ever.
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). He established them to last forever (Psalms 119:152 Psalms 119:152Concerning your testimonies, I have known of old that you have founded them for ever.
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). The notion of a covenant without rules that define the relationship simply makes no sense.

What makes the New Covenant a better covenant?

“. . . He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:6But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
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).

The major difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is in the promises God makes. The New Covenant is, in a sense, an expansion and renewal of the promises He made in the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant offered primarily physical blessings. How are the promises of the New Covenant better?

The New Covenant includes the promises God made to Abraham that were the basis of the Old Covenant. But its emphasis is on promises related to conversion through God’s Spirit and to eternal life. Paul tells us that “the blessing of Abraham [has] come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14 Galatians 3:14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
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). One of the promises was that of the Holy Spirit, which would bring the spiritual renewal of the heart. This, as we saw earlier, was the problem with the relationship between God and Israel under the Old Covenant. The Israelites didn’t have a converted heart to obey their Creator.

Some of the requirements of the Old Covenant, such as animal sacrifices and temple rituals, pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which replaced them when He died for our sins (Hebrews 9:1-14 Hebrews 9:1-14 1 Then truly the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the show bread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
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; Hebrews 10:1-14 Hebrews 10:1-14 1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Why when he comes into the world, he said, Sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body have you prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, See, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do your will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin you would not, neither had pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, See, I come to do your will, O God. He takes away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From now on expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
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). However, the laws of God that were the foundation of the Old Covenant relationship are also the foundation of the New Covenant relationship. Now they are infused in the hearts and minds of God’s people instead of only written on stone or scrolls.

What “exceedingly great” promise does God make under the New Covenant?

“. . . By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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).

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Matthew 25:34 Matthew 25:34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
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; compare Matthew 25:46 Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
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).

The greatest promise of the New Covenant is eternal life. The Old Covenant made no provisions for people to receive eternal life. However, under the New Covenant, “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit [which] dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 Romans 8:11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
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). Having God’s Spirit makes it possible for us to receive God’s gift of eternal life. The physical blessings of the Old Covenant, such as prosperity and protection, cannot compare with the far greater blessing of immortality available to us under the New.

As Paul exhorted Timothy, “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12 1 Timothy 6:12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses.
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). God promises we will inherit His Kingdom and His nature, His holy, righteous character.

God confirms His promises are certain by a solemn oath. “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18 Hebrews 6:17-18 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us:
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).

God even assures us He will glorify us as Christ is glorified. “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvationwhich is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:10-12 2 Timothy 2:10-12 10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
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).

The New Covenant assures us of help from Jesus Christ, our living Savior and High Priest, through the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme expression of God’s love and His desire for us to have an eternal, everlasting relationship with Him as His children.