One reason for studying the covenants of God is to gain a framework for the entire Bible. Key biblical figures serve as signposts in the Old Testament: Figures such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. These are the people through whom God chose to deliver His covenants, and they are significant characters to study. As we look at their lives, we can learn much about the history of man, the nation of Israel and, most importantly, the character of our God.
CONTRASTING THE OLD AND NEW
Another reason for studying the covenants is to contrast the Old Testament (Old Covenant) with the New Testament (New Covenant). A majority of the Old Testament is about the Law, especially from Exodus to Malachi. In contrast, the entire New Testament is generally about God’s grace.
For us as believers in Christ, the covenant in which we now live is the New Testament/Covenant. As pastors and leaders, we should make it our priority to study and teach from the New Testament. The Old Testament, through its frequent foreshadows and types, points to the New Testament.
The Old Testament contains many illustrations and examples from which we can learn; we can use them in our preaching and teaching. But we need to be preachers and teachers of truths found in our covenant of today, the covenant of grace.
Please understand: The Old Testament is God’s eternal Word and it is true and trustworthy (Isa 40:8). But we no longer live under the Law or the old sacrificial system of the Old Covenant. We now live under the Covenant of Grace and the Lordship of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Hallelujah!
Pastors and teachers, you should study all of the Scriptures. But learn to interpret the Old Covenant through the truths and the Spirit of the New Covenant.
A dominant theme in each of the Old Testament covenants is man’s failure to fulfill the covenant conditions. God, in His foreknowledge, gave each one of these covenants knowing the outcome: that man would break His covenant and fail. You might ask, “Why would God do that?” The answer is clear:
- Man needed to experience the failure that his own “works” would bring, so that man would have no excuse for his sin. Innocence (Edenic), conscience (Adamic), human government (Noahic), promise (Abrahamic) and the Law (Mosaic) were all insufficient to overcome the sin nature of man (Gal 2:21; 3:21).
- In the case of the Law, man would learn that laws and rules actually brought to the surface the rebellion in his heart; man wanted his own way and it was impossible for man to keep the Law (Rom 7:13-24).
- Ultimately, these failures would bring man to the realization that man needs a Savior (Gal 4:4-7).
NEW COVENANT OF GRACE
These covenant “failures,” step by step, pointed to the only possible way mankind could be saved and restored to relationship with a holy God: The way of grace that was mediated by a Savior, Jesus Christ. The promise of a “new and living way” (Heb 10:20) was given to men by God when He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah of the coming New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The New Covenant has been paid for and established by the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross of Calvary. His shed blood provides forgiveness of all sins for every person who believes in Christ for salvation. Jesus’ payment for sin is more than enough to cancel out the sins of all who believe in Him.
There is no person who is so evil, or whose sins are so numerous, as to exclude him from the forgiveness Christ gives. ALL are forgiven when they repent of their sin and believe on Jesus Christ for salvation!
Praise the Lord! This is a message of rejoicing for us all! That is why the salvation message is called the Gospel, which means Good News.
Grace has a very personal meaning for each one of us. We were all at one time in bondage to the Law and sin, which results in death. But in Christ, we are FREE! We are free from sin and death, and able to live for Jesus! We are forgiven and the power of sin is broken (Rom 6:18).
Freedom is the heart of the message of the Gospel. We need to embrace and live in the freedom that Christ died to give us. When we do, we can then effectively present that message of freedom to others.
But our freedom is a unique type of freedom. It is not a freedom to do what we want. That is the way of the unredeemed world. Rather, in Christ our freedom is to do as we ought to do – to obey the living God and walk in daily relationship with Him.
Jesus says very clearly that if we live in Him, and He in us, we will be free! “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’” (John 8:31-32, 36).
FREEDOM WITH PURPOSE
A Christian living in bondage to guilt, shame and fear is a very ineffective Christian. These chains of sin and bondage do not belong in the life of a minister of God! Nor should they ever be used by any leader as tools to manipulate or control others.
Jesus came to give life and life more abundantly to all (John 10:10). We must seek the Lord for His wisdom and deliverance in our own lives, and lead others to freedom in Christ.
- “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15).
- “Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).
- “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Cor 3:17).
- “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage)” (Gal 2:4).
This new freedom in Christ was bought with His priceless and precious blood (1Pet 1:18,19). We have been set free! But free to do what? Christ has a purpose for each one of us. He set us free so that we can be sent by Him (John 17:18; 20:21).
Every person has a mission to fulfill. Our Lord has a purpose for each and every person who, in faith, follows Him. Pastor, every person in your church has a mission. It may be in their current job or position; or the Lord may want to send them somewhere else. What is their mission? What is your mission?
A mission statement is a statement of how one fulfills a vision or a call upon his/her life. Both Jesus and Paul the apostle had mission statements that guided their lives in ministry. The same principles that guided their ministries should guide us as well.
Jesus has a mission statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18,19).
To sum up the preceding scriptures in a phrase, “Jesus came to set the captives free!” How can we do anything less? That is our mission; that is our message!
DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Paul the apostle was called and commanded by Jesus after Paul had been saved: “But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:16-18).
Stop and meditate on those words Jesus spoke to Paul. Allow them to sink into your spirit. Paul was sent to open spiritual eyes so that the people might:
- see the truth;
- have the power of Satan broken;
- receive forgiveness of all of their sins;
- gain a present and eternal reward;
- have sanctification by the Holy Spirit by faith.
Hallelujah! This truly is a message of freedom!
Let us all, as ministers of the Gospel, imitate Paul – and, in so doing, imitate our Lord Jesus. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1Cor 11:1). Their mission statements can be our mission statements!
You have been bought with a price (1Cor 6:20; 7:23) and set free to serve the living God. Your mission from God may take you across the street or across the sea. But wherever you go, preach the Gospel to the unsaved! “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2Tim 4:2,3).
You have a mission – now let your faith rise and go fulfill it!
ONE FINAL POINT
In each of the seven covenants of the Old Testament, there were always two covenant heads. One, of course, was God; the other was a man – beginning with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David. The result of the Old Testament covenants was the realization that man was unable to fulfill his side of the covenant.
The New Covenant also has two covenant heads, God and Jesus. We know that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three Gods, but One. The mystery, then, is that God made a covenant with Himself!
As a result, the New Covenant can never fail or be broken. As a person I may fail, but my God will never fail. And even if I do fail, that failure can never nullify the New Covenant (2Tim 2:11-13; Heb 6:13-20).
FOR HIS GLORY
Rest assured that we serve a GREAT God! God knows exactly what He is doing. He still sits on His Throne as King and Ruler over all. God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness (2Pet 1:3).
God desires relationship with you. He wants your fellowship, and He wants you to have the blessing and freedom that comes from living life on His terms. He desires your obedience to His ways from a heart of love for Him. And He has made all of that possible through the provisions of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.
But this message is not for you alone. God also wants you to live in, and to be a minister of, the New Covenant, of whom Jesus is the Mediator (Heb 8:6). Take this message of salvation and hope to others, for the blessing of God’s people, and for His glory!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord,
thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope”