Differences Between the Old and New Covenants

by | Updated August 26th, 2015 | Posted in Theology, Apologetics and Biblical Studies

Covenants are conditional promises made to humanity by God. There are two distinct covenants mentioned in the Bible – the old (first) covenant and the new covenant. The following is an outline of the differences between the old and new covenants.

The Old Covenant

The first or old covenant was between a holy God and sinful man. Was there anything wrong with the first covenant? Of course not. “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). The problem was man’s inability to keep it. The failure was with man and not God. The covenant designed to result in life, resulted in death (Romans 7:10). With the advent of the law 3,000 people died (Exodus 32:28).

The New Covenant

“Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD, I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The old covenant revealed we needed something better. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor (schoolmaster) to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The new covenant is only between the Father and the Son. God told Jesus if He would go to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3) and go to the cross for the sins of mankind (1 Peter 3:18), God would forgive the sins of anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 4:4-5, Romans 5:1).

Why will this covenant succeed when the first one failed? Because the new one doesn’t depend on us. It’s a covenant between the Father and the Son. God lived up to the first contract, but we failed to live up to our part. In the new contract man is left out of the equation. Jesus lived up to the covenant by going to the cross in payment for our sins. God lived up to the covenant by forgiving and justifying all who put their faith in Jesus. “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

The Good News

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge (condemn) the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

The first covenant brought death, but life ensued at the coming of the new covenant. When the law came, 3,000 died (Exodus 32:28). When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, 3,000 received eternal life (Acts 2:41). What a glorious contrast. The new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted by the writer of Hebrews in chapters 8:8-12 and 10:16-17. The key word in Hebrews is “better.” Jesus is better than the angels, the high priestly system, Moses, and He created a better covenant. In Hebrews 8:10-12 we see four “I wills” or benefits of the new covenant.

Micah prophesied of this, “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Corrie Ten Boom used to say that God casts our sins into the sea of His forgetfulness and puts up a “NO FISHING” sign.

Don’t let the enemy and others bring up what God has washed away from our lives forever (1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9, Hebrew 10:14, Romans 8:33-34). Remember, the accuser of the brethern has been cast down (Revelation 12:10, Luke 10:17-19).

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