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Clifford McLain's avatar
January 3, 1986

The New Covenant Necessary

The New Covenant Necessary

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, there should no place have been sought for the second; for finding fault with them He said, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant” (Heb. viii. 7, 8).

The fault was two-fold: (1) The covenant itself; and (2) “with them,” i.e., Israel. The fault of the Old Covenant was that sin could only be passed over. The fault with Israel was that they were unable to fulfil the terms of the covenant.

The purpose of the Old Covenant and its terms embodied in the law of Sinai was to make manifest to Israel their faults and lead them to Christ. The covenant of promise made with Abraham concerning his seed and their land was received by faith and confirmed by an oath. The Old Covenant made at the exodus concerning Israel as a kingdom of priests depended on their works; this introduced a conflicting principle, but only for the times then present:

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made . . . 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 . . . wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions . . . wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. iii. 16-24).

It is necessary to read the whole of Galations iii. The Old Covenant was given a long and thorough trial, yet while perfect and just in God’s sight, it but made manifest Israel’s inability to receive God’s promises, or to accomplish God’s purposes, by their own efforts. If these promises or purposes were to be realized at all, it must be on some other terms:

“A New Covenant . . . not according to the (old) covenant . . . this is the covenant . . . they shall be to me a people . . . their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. viii. 8-12).

The Old Covenant prepared Israel for the New Covenant by showing them their weakness; it led them to Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, through Whom alone sins could be done away:

“For this is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. xxvi. 28).

Previously we considered the parallel between the Old and New Covenants, but now, in examining their respective principles, we discover the contrast.

Under the Old Covenant, “there was a remembrance again made of sins every year” (Heb. x. 3). Under the New Covenant, God has said, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. x. 17). The Old Covenant said “come not,” the New gives “boldness to enter” (Heb. xii). The Old Covenant could make nothing perfect, but the coming of a better covenant does. The promises were to be received by works under the Old Covenant, but by faith under the New. The Old was made without an oath, but the mediator of the New Covenant was appointed with an oath.

Under the Old Covenant the inheritance could never have been received:

“For this cause He is the mediator of the New Covenant, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. ix. 15).

From the Study: The New Covenant