The New Covenant in Christ
And now, dear child, God has entered into a covenant with you. That’s right; just as Abraham and his descendants—the nation of Israel—were able to enter into a covenant relationship with God, wherein they enjoyed His promises and blessings, you also get to enjoy a covenant relationship with God through what we now know as, “the new covenant in Christ.” The Bible says:
For this reason He [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
(Hebrews 9:15, NASB)
It is important for you to know that the covenant given through Moses and the new covenant in Christ are both rooted in that ancient covenant that God first made with Abraham. The covenant given through Moses related to God’s promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation. It was meant to govern the nation of Israel through the Law of Moses and to keep them faithful to God. The new covenant in Christ relates to God’s promise to Abraham that, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, NASB). It is meant to govern the hearts and minds of God’s children in the present Christian dispensation and to keep us faithful to God.
However, it is also important to know that these two covenants—the old covenant given through Moses and the new covenant given in Christ—are distinctly different from one another. Three times—once back in the Old Testament through the prophet Jeremiah, and twice in the New Testament book of Hebrews—we are reminded that the new covenant is not like the old covenant. The Bible says:
Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
(Hebrews 8:8-12, NASB)
Sadly, many people today are confused when it comes to understanding the distinctions between the old covenant given through Moses and the new covenant in Christ. Many people don’t seem to understand the purpose of the old covenant and its accompanying Law of Moses and how different the new covenant in Christ really is. You see, the old covenant manifested itself among God’s people in very physical ways; remember, it was meant to govern a physical, earthly nation. But the new covenant manifests itself among God’s people in spiritual ways because it is meant to govern a nation that is entirely spiritual. When people try to impose old covenant ways of thinking and acting upon the new covenant kingdom of God, negative, and sometimes tragic, consequences result. This is why Jesus said:
No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.
(Luke 5:36-38, NASB)
Jesus wasn’t talking about mending clothes and making wine. He was talking about the changes that were coming as a result of His ministry and mission upon the earth. He was talking about covenant and the distinctions between the old and the new. As new covenant children of God, we must become new covenant thinkers. We must understand the difference between the physical manifestations of the old covenant, as illustrated in the Law of Moses—which were only meant to be “a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things” (Hebrews 10:1, NASB)—and the spiritual realities of “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2, NASB) which identifies and governs God’s children today.
For example, every covenant child from Abraham through Moses, and right on up until the time of Christ, understood that fleshly circumcision was the sign of the covenant that God had made with them—as stated in Genesis 17. Some people, therefore, have insisted that Christians, because we are the spiritual heirs of Abraham, must also continue the practice—that every male in the family of God must be circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant. However, what they have failed to comprehend is that the physical manifestation of the old covenant—seen in circumcision—has become a spiritual manifestation in the new covenant; and that the symbolic act of baptism has replaced circumcision. That’s right, your baptism into Christ, male or female, symbolizes your spiritual circumcision—a circumcision of the heart. The Bible says:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
(Romans 2:28-19, NASB)
… and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
(Colossians 2:11-12, NASB)
Just as He did with Abraham and the nation of Israel, God has invited you to a covenant inauguration ceremony—your baptism. Some wonderful theologians have likened baptism to a wedding ceremony; and I wholeheartedly agree with that analogy. I also like to think of our baptism in terms of our formal adoption proceedings—the official inauguration of our adoption into the family of God. The Apostle Paul said, “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5, NASB).
Although acted out in this present world, baptism is a spiritual experience. It is a physical symbol of a spiritual reality. When you went down into that watery grave of baptism to be “united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5, NASB), something else occurred as well; you were circumcised—distinguished as a child of the new covenant in Christ. And not only did you become a Christian, you became a descendent of Abraham—not by flesh and blood, but by faith. The Bible says, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29, NASB). In this way, God is fulfilling His promise to Abraham that, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, NASB).
Furthermore, as with both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, this new covenant in Christ is not without its tokens to help us remember and celebrate the promises of God’s love and the terms by which we have entered into relationship with Him. As with all aspects of the new covenant in Christ, the tokens are spiritual; although, for our sakes, God has ordained that some be symbolically acted out here in this earthly realm.
As a token of His love, and of His promise that we now belong to Him, we have been given “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NASB) who has taken up residence in our mortal bodies. The scriptures say:
…having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge [arrabon] of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
(Ephesians 1:13-14, NASB)
The Greek term, “arrabon,” means: “a deposit which guarantees, down payment, pledge” (ἀρραβών, 2013). “The word was also used sometimes in connection with an engagement ring” (Biblical, 2009). When you were baptized into Christ, God pledged His eternal love to you by presenting you with the gift of His own Spirit. This precious gift signifies that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NASB).
Just as spiritual, but played out on a more tangible level, God has instituted the beautiful tokens of the Lord’s supper—holy communion—to perpetually remind us of His promises and to help us continually remember and proclaim the terms of the new covenant. Like baptism, the Lord’s supper is a physical symbol of a spiritual reality. The Apostle Paul says:
… the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
(I Corinthians 11:23-26, NASB)
I hope, beloved, that my sharing these truths with you has helped you see just how beautiful and precious you are in the sight of God. Look at great lengths to which God has gone—all the beautiful promises and incredible provisions He has made—just to make you His own and to keep you mindful of His love. It is no accident that you now call yourself a “Christian.” He delights in you, He favors you, He celebrates you, He has deliberately and purposefully chosen you. He has reached out to you and made you His child by covenant.
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I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you.
~ Isaiah 44:22 ~
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