The New Covenant
By Shawn Tomlin
For the last couple months we have been examining the covenants found throughout scripture. We have reached the climax of the covenantal redemptive story, the New Covenant.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the first mention of the New Covenant and what sticks out is in verse 32 where it says, “This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors…” This covenant is different in that instead of the responsibility of the covenant being on us, that is humanity, it rests upon someone else. That someone would perfectly fulfill the covenant on our behalf, FOR US. It is only in faith in the one doing the fulfilling that the promises of this covenant are delivered to us. That “someone” is Jesus Christ.
Many people will then jump to the conclusion that the previous covenants have been nullified. If that were the case then God’s promise attached to those covenants would also be null and void. Galatians 3:17 says, “For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise; but God has graciously given it to Abraham through the promise.” So the original context of God making the covenants with His people was based not in the law, but in His promise, that promise of salvation that found its ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
There is so much theologically that could be discussed that this blog article may become a book if I hit every point. Instead, I’ve chosen to focus on a few major points. The first of those points being the shedding of blood. The act of sacrifice is evident in scripture as playing roles in covenants. Adam was covered by an animal skin, taken from an animal sacrificed by God to cover his shame. Abraham split animals in half and God passed between the pieces. Also, the Levitical priests sacrificed animals to atone for the sin of God’s people for not upholding the Mosaic Covenant. The New Covenant was also brought about by bloodshed. Not just any lamb would do though, for it to be an eternal sacrificial atonement for sin, that lamb had to be perfect. So in the fullness of time “God provided the lamb for the burnt offering” and Jesus Christ came into this sinful world and died in our place to bring about the New Covenant in His blood. At every celebration of the Lord’s Supper we drink in the sign of Christ’s blood shed for us and eat the bread, the sign of His body broken for us. We do this to “remember, receive spiritual nourishment, grow in Christ, and as a bond and pledge of our communion with Him and with each other” (1689 LBCF Chapter 30 Paragraph 1).
In an instant, our sin was placed on the Word made flesh and His perfect righteousness was poured over his people like the blood and water that poured from his side
Another point is our freedom from the Law. As believers in Christ, we have placed our hope in Christ who has already died in our place, but those who lived before Christ’s incarnation, they had the hope of the Promised Seed who would crush the serpent’s head. The law of God over Israel demanded perfect obedience, something impossible for sinful people. Therefore atonement through animal sacrifice happened regularly. The Law only condemned them as it only condemns us, but it also points to the Savior who can save us. As people of the New Covenant, we are free from the curse of the law and the burden of keeping it perfectly. It seems counterintuitive, but this freedom allows us to serve and love one another, thereby fulfilling the law. Galatians 5:13-14 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
With that in mind my last point is on obedience to the law. Not our obedience, but Christ’s. Christ fulfilled the law down to the last letter. Everything God commanded of His covenant people do, Christ did. He was perfectly righteous, and in that, all fulfillment was on Him, but it did not remain there. He went to the cross to to complete the work the Father gave to Him. In an instant, our sin was placed on the Word made flesh and His perfect righteousness was poured over his people like the blood and water poured from his side as he was pierced for our iniquities. In faith alone is Christ’s perfect obedience ours.
I could go on and on but I would simply like to end with this passage of scripture. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens- Jesus the Son of God- let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.”