42 The New Testament Covenant
by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013
And for this cause he is the
mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the
redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament,
they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
Most of the discussions of the covenant are in the
Old Testament. People of that period usually thought of there being just
one covenant. The new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah implied that there
was also an old covenant, “which my covenant they brake” (Jer. 31:32),
but this concept was little discussed at the time.
In the New
Testament, we have the story of Jesus Christ. He is the focus, the
fulfillment, and the Mediator of the everlasting covenant, also called
the new covenant.
How do we know that there is a New Testament
covenant? God gave Abraham the everlasting covenant, which was to extend
to his seed after him (Gen. 17:7-10, 19). This included Israel through
their entire history and the Christian church. Paul summarized this in
one verse: “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed,
according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
Paul discusses and
compares these concepts in Hebrews, Romans 2, 2 Corinthians 3,
Galatians, and Ephesians.All Families Blessed Through Abraham
God gave a foretaste of the new covenant to Adam and Eve, to Noah,
and to Abraham and his descendants. The covenant extended to Jews and
Gentiles (Gal. 3:29; 1 Peter 2:9). Jesus is the mediator of the new
Several events in Abraham’s life illustrate events that
would occur in Jesus’ life. God called Abram out of Haran and promised,
“Thou shalt be a blessing: “and in thee shall all families of the
earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2, 3). The descendants of Abraham received
this promise in the years to come.
Understand, then, that those
who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance
to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3;
who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ;
that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith... Now to
Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds,
as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I
say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the
law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul,
that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance
be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by
promise. (Gal. 3:7-9, 14, 16-18, emphasis supplied)
to “all families” was the gospel given to Jews and Gentiles through
faith. God included a significant phrase when He gave Abraham the
covenant in detail. In addition to promising Abraham that he would
become “a father of many nations,” God promised that His covenant with
Abraham would extend to all his descendants. God repeats the phrase “thy
seed after thee” five times for emphasis. God certainly did not want the
object of His purpose to be missed!
Acted Parables in the Life of Abraham
And I will establish my
covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their
generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to
thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after
thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for
an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said
Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after
thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep,
between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you
shall be circumcised. (Gen. 17:7-10, emphasis supplied)
Shortly after Abram had
rescued Lot from the kings of the east, God again presented His promises
to Abram. God would be his shield, and Abram did not need to become a
man of war. God would give him a son and heir, and his descendants would
become as the stars in the sky for number. “And he believed in the Lord;
and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).
followed these promises with the promise of land, which was more than
Abram could believe. He asked God, “Whereby shall I know that I shall
inherit it?” (Gen. 15:8).
God answered Abram with a covenant
ceremony according to the customs of the people at that time. In the
course of this covenant, “a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an
horror of great darkness fell upon him” (Gen. 15:12). To experience
“great darkness” is to look into an eternity without life or God. That
was Jesus’ experience on the cross of Calvary.
When Abraham was
100 years old, and Sarah was ninety, Isaac was born as promised (Gen.
17:19; 21:5). Later, when Isaac was seventeen to twenty years old, God
came to Abraham again.1
“And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son
Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer
him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will
tell thee of “ (Gen. 22:2).
One can only imagine the terror and
sorrow this command brought to Abraham. Without explanation, Abraham
took Isaac and two servants and set out on their journey. In response to
Isaac’s question, Abraham said, “God will provide himself a lamb for a
burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). When the purpose of the journey became
clear, Isaac willingly complied. He already knew and obeyed the voice of
God. Providentially, a voice from heaven
interrupted the sacrifice at
the last minute, and Isaac was freed. A ram, caught in a thicket, took
his place as the sacrifice. (Some have said that the ram had a "crown of
Through that event, another Son
learned that the sacrifice would be an “only begotten Son.”
Momentum of the Abrahamic Covenant of Grace
God presented the
covenant to Abraham seven times during his life. Yet, it was a single
covenant, presented seven times. God also gave the covenant to Isaac, to
Jacob, to Moses at the burning bush, and to the elders of Israel when
Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh (Exod. 4:28-31;
6:3-9). At Sinai God gave the people the covenant He called “My
covenant,” an indication that it was a covenant previously given.
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will
obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar
treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye
shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the
words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exod.
This was the covenant of grace, promised through the
strength of God, which He exhibited in His deliverance of Israel from
Egyptian bondage. The people ignored the promise of grace,
own promises to obey, and conducted their own ratification ceremony-a
ceremony that was fundamentally different from the ratification of
Christ, which took place at Calvary! Their covenant of human promises
was the historical old covenant, and it lasted just forty-six days.
The Covenant Renewed
After the people had broken their
covenant, Moses interceded with God four times until God accepted Israel
into the covenant again.
Then the Lord said: “I am making a
covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before
done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see
how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.” (Exod.
Was this a renewal of the historical old covenant,
which the people broke? No, it was not! It was the renewal of the
“Abrahamic covenant” (Exod. 19:4-6). In the new covenant, which is
identified as the covenant of God, God takes the initiative to do for
humans what they cannot do for themselves. To Adam and Eve after they
sinned, God “put enmity between” Satan “and the woman” (Gen. 3:15). God
would restore all that was lost, destroy sin and Satan, and save
mankind, and He would do this through His own suffering. God also gave
the new covenant to Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9, 14, 16-18).
God “make” a covenant, when the covenant ceremony would not take place
until Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary? The everlasting covenant of God,
which He calls “My Covenant” and which Jeremiah called the new covenant,
refers to the covenant made by God in eternity before the creation of
this earth. We humans had no part in making this covenant, and we cannot
break it or modify it. All we can do is humbly bow before Him, trusting
in what God will do. This covenant was “announced” to Adam and Eve in
Based on the everlasting covenant, God then madeG
covenant with humans, which required their response. Abraham believed
God (Gen. 15:6) and “fell on his face” (Gen. 17:3), knowing that God
would do what He had promised. The Abrahamic covenant was comprised of
God’s everlasting covenant and Abraham’s faith response.
Ten years into the captivity, God gave the promise of a
new covenant. He did this to reassure His people that He would restore
them after the completion of the seventy years. It was a prophecy of
what God would do, when “the days come.” He would put His “law in their
inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and “be their God.” (Jer.
“My covenant,” the everlasting covenant of God, or
the Abrahamic covenant was confirmed by Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary. The
parts of the ceremonial law that pointed forward to Jesus’ sacrifice
were fulfilled. People no longer looked for a Redeemer through the
sacrifices but could now look back by faith to the completed sacrifice
of Christ. The Levitical priesthood ended but the priesthood continued
in the heavenly Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus Christ.3
now mediates the New Testament--the new covenant-through the blood He
shed on the cross (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:15; 12:24). Through His blood,
symbolically presented in the heavenly sanctuary, He pardons our sins.4
Using the same words He used at Sinai, God extends the covenant to the
New Testament church (Exod. 19:4-6; 1 Peter 2:9):
But you are a
chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to
God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of
darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9, NIV)
and meaning are the same. Christians are included in what God gave
Israel at Sinai. As Paul said, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s
seed” (Gal. 3:29). There is one parent stock-Israel.
If some of
the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot,
have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing
sap from the olive root do not boast over those branches. If you do,
consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. They were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not
be arrogant, but be afraid. (Rom. 11:17, 18, 20, NIV)
Christian church is “Abraham’s seed” and is grafted into the root of
God’s chosen people. The church, Jews and Gentiles alike, now must bear
the privileges and responsibilities of the covenant. There are other
passages in the New Testament on the covenant in the writings of Paul.5
At the time of the test, Isaac was described as
being a “lad” (Heb. na’ar) able to carry wood (Gen. 22:5, 6, 12). Joseph
was described as being a na’ar at age 17 and was still a na’ar at age 30
(Gen. 37:2; 41:12, 46).2.
Both the Septuagint of Jeremiah 31:33
and the Greek of Hebrews 8:10; 10:16 use the plural “laws” (Greek
nomous). This eliminates the generic sense of “law” that some expositors
attempt to superimpose upon the promise.3.
Jesus is the Mediator
of the new covenant (Dan. 9:27; Mark 14:22-24; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Heb.
In the symbolism of the Old Testament, the blood of the
sacrificial animal was brought into the sanctuary (Lev 4). It was the
blood, which was sprinkled before the presence of God in the sanctuary,
that brought reconciliation between God and man. The blood still
reconciles, and it still cleanses us from sin. As the apostle John said:
“... the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1
John 1:7). He says this in the context of God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9,
10) and Jesus’ acting as our Advocate (1 John 2:1).5.
Testament discussions of the covenant are in Romans 2:21-29
(consistency); 2 Corinthians 3:1-18 (the new covenant being “of the
spirit”); Galatians 3 and 4 (contrast between “the works of the law” and
“the hearing of faith”); Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:6 (a single household of
faith in the church); and Hebrews 8-10 (Jesus’ “better covenant”).