Jer 31:31 Behold, the Days Come 2/15/2009 ßà
· Two Covenants and the Ceremonial Law (Jer 31:31-34, Ex 20:11, Deut 5:15, 2Chr 7:14, Gal 4:21-26)
#1. The First (Old) Covenant (of Works) (Ex 19:8, 24:7, Gal 3:10,21, 2Cor 3:6-9, Ex 34:29-35)
Broken (Ex 32:1-6,19), Obedience Required (Ex 34:7,14), A Ministration of Condemnation (2Cor 3:6-9)
#2. The Second (New) Covenant (of Grace) (Deut 9:15-17, 10:1-2, Col 2:14, Heb 8:6-12)
Forgiveness of Sins, Ministration of Righteousness (2Cor 3:10-17)
(Heb 8:12, 9:11-12, 10:14-18)
#3. Summary (Eph 1:4-5)
Please open your Bibles to the Prophecy of Jeremiah, Jer 31:31 (2X). I promised that today I would speak on the Covenant. If you check our website you will see that I spoke on the Covenant exactly two years ago. I preached five sermons on the Covenant from February 11 to March 11, in the year 2007. I tried to be as thorough as I could be. But I also noticed that not many people understood the concept of the Covenant. Therefore today I will try to summarize the concept of the Covenant in one sermon, and I hope that it will be sufficient to drive home the concept in easy to understand terms.
The Bible teaches that there are two covenants, but that there is only one Covenant that saves, for God has only one plan of salvation. The first one is commonly known as the First Covenant, or the Old Covenant, or the Covenant of the Law, or the Covenant of Works. The second one is commonly known as the Second Covenant, or the New Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace, and this is the Covenant that saves. There are no other covenants in the Bible. We read in Jer 31:31-34 about this Covenant,
Jer 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Since this passage peaks about forgiveness of sins, we know that it must refer to the NT time period, for it must refer to a time after the cross. That is why we read in verse 31, “Behold, the days come”. But which Israel is in view here? We all remember the words of God to Solomon in 2Chron 7:14, which says,
2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2X).
What did God mean when He said, “my people, which are called by my name”? Does it not mean that God identifies Himself by the name of Israel? We have learned from Matt 2:15 and Hos 11:1 that the Lord Jesus Christ indeed is called Israel. And thus, the promise of 2Chron 7:14 is not restricted to the nation of Israel, but it is a promise to Christ and to all those who are in Christ, which means it is a promise to all the faithful in the OT church as well as in the NT church. Likewise, the promises of Jer 31:31-34 were not limited to the nation of Israel, but God is addressing the OT church as well as the NT church. And thus, a superficial reading of Jer 31:31-34 leads us to think that all those who lived in the OT time were under the Old Covenant, and all those in the NT time live under the New Covenant. But only the New Covenant saves, for only under the New Covenant God says in Jer 31:34, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”, and God did not say this for the Old Covenant. And so, at this point we realize that something in our interpretation has gone seriously wrong. We cannot identify the OT time with the Old Covenant and the NT time with the New Covenant, for that will make God a deceiver. It would mean that God deliberately gave OT people the Law, and then He caused people to be condemned because they were living under that Law, the Covenant of the Law.
In our interpretations of the Covenant we must hold to two principles: #1. We may not make God to be a deceiver; God does not give a Covenant that condemns. #2. God does not have two different plans of salvation for the Lord Jesus said in John 14:6, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Let us see how we might apply these two principles in the two Covenants. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 4:21 (2X). We have here the story of Abraham and Sarah and her slave girl Hagar. Abraham was 85 years old, and Sarah was 75 years old, and she was beyond the age of child bearing. But since God had promised to Abraham that out of his loins would come a multitude of descendants, Sarah suggested that Abraham would take her slave girl Hagar, and see if he could father children by her. The result was that Hagar bore Ishmael. But 15 years later God caused a miracle in Sarah’s womb and she bore Isaac, the son of promise. Now we read in Gal 4:21-26
Ga 4:21-26 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Paraphrased God says that these two women are a picture of the two Covenants. Hagar represents the Old Covenant, or the Covenant of the Law, where all those who have been gendered under the Covenant of the Law are under bondage, meaning they are still enslaved to sin and Satan, and that includes the Jerusalem of bricks and mortar. Sarah represents the New Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace, where all those who have been gendered under the Covenant of Grace have been liberated by the Lord Jesus Christ, and are now citizens of the Jerusalem that is above. And we understand that when God says in verse 26, “us all”, He does not refer to all of mankind, but only to those who are the elect of God. And so, this is the condition of the two Covenants: they are contemporaries; they exist at the same time. God is very clear about this. If we might have thought from Jer 31 that he two Covenants are sequential, then we should make a correction in our mind, for the two Covenants are existing at the same time. And so, what is the nature of the two Covenants? Let us first look at the first Covenant.
#1. The First (Old) Covenant (of Works) (Ex 19:8, 24:7, Gal 3:10,21, 2Cor 3:6-9, Ex 34:29-35)
Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Exodus, Ex 19:8 (2X). God was preparing to give the
Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. For this they had to cleanse themselves, and wash their clothes, and be in the proper frame of mind to receive the commandments of the Lord in chapter 20. But when Moses spoke to them he words God gave him, they preempted him in Ex 19:8,
Ex 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
This they said not once, not twice, but several times. They decided they were going to do all that the Lord has spoken. But they were going to do it mindlessly. They were going to do it as an end in itself, rather than pay attention to God’s words. Please drop down to Ex 24:7 (2X). We see here that they indeed were going to obey the Lord. We read in Ex 24:7,
Ex 24:7 And Moses took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.
And so, we see here the beginnings of the making of the Covenant of the Law. When God continued to give Moses more laws, and when God began to include the Ceremonial Law, the Jews obeyed these laws as an end in itself, and so they entirely missed the purpose of the Ceremonial Law, which was to show them types and figures of the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed that if they would just do all that God has said, they would have earned their way into heaven. Please turn again to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 3:10 (2X). We can read in the Epistle to the Galatians about the impossibility of earning our way to heaven by obeying the entire Law of God. Those who believe that this is possible are stuck up in pride and are ignorant. We read in Gal 3:10,
Ga 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
This verse tells us that anyone who relies on their obedience to the Law of God are under a curse. The curse is that our works become acceptable to God only when they are done perfectly, which is impossible, for then we would have done those works as perfectly as God Himself would have done it. Moreover, we must continue to do those things perfectly and not miss one, for if we miss one we have broken the Law. But if God did not expect us to obey His Law perfectly, why then did God give us the Law? God gave us the Law so that we might see that our sins are exceedingly sinful. God gave us the Law so that we might come to seek a Savior. God gave us the Law so that we will see the impossibility of salvation by works. Please drop down to Gal 3:21 (2X). There we read,
Ga 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
You see, if God would have given us one law, in the mix of all the laws that God has given us, one law which could have given eternal life if we would obey that one law, then God would have changed His plan of salvation to the obedience of that one law, and Christ would not have to come. This illustrates very well that it is impossible to become acceptable to God by obeying His Law. And so, the Covenant of works, or the Covenant of the Law, is hopelessly stuck in an ideology that has a wrong concept of God and the wrong concept of the Law of God, and thus it is an ideology that has an idol on the throne, but it is not God. It is an ideology whereby the Covenant is seen as a contract with God. It is an ideology whereby God is a dictator who demands absolute obedience, and who shows no mercy. This was the god whom the Pharisees worshipped; a god who shows no mercy for the Gentiles because they were ignorant about the Law. But God looked at them and God saw only a ministration of condemnation. Please turn in your Bibles to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 2Cor 3:6 (2X). We have here a passage which speaks of the contrast between the letter and the Spirit, which is another way of presenting the contrast between the Law and the Gospel. We read in 2Cor 3:6-9,
2Co 3:6-9 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
The Law brings condemnation, but the Gospel brings life through the cross of Christ. Using the context of verse 3 where the Law is referred to as “tables of stone”, we understand that the Law refers to those letters that were fixed in stone, the Ten Commandments. We understand that by the term “of the letter” is meant the outward preaching when the Holy Spirit is not present, and thus it does not reach the hearts of the hearers. On the other hand, the term “of the spirit” means that a living doctrine is preached and is of such a nature that it works effectually on the minds of men through the irresistible grace of the Spirit. But why is the Law called the ministration of death, and why was it glorious? It is called glorious because when God thundered down the words of the Ten Commandments God accompanied those words with great thunderings, and lightnings, and deafening sound of the trumpet, and the mountain was on fire and was smoking, and there was a thick cloud and thick darkness, and a great voice from God. Moreover, we read in Ex 34:29-35 that Moses went up on the mountain to talk with God, and when Moses came down from the mountain the skin of his face shone so bright that he had to put a veil on his face. But this brightness of his face was only temporary. In a few days or weeks his face returned to its original color. But the Law is called “the ministration of death” because the Law was added to convict people of their sinfulness, and make them aware that their sins require a payment from God. Therefore the Law is also called “the ministration of condemnation” in verse 9. The Law teaches us that there is Hell to pay, and so the Law makes us seek for a Savior who can rescue us out of this predicament. Therefore the preaching of the Law without the Gospel is like the preaching of the Covenant of the Law, a ministration of condemnation.
#2. The Second (New) Covenant (of Grace) (Deut 9:15-17, 10:1-2, Col 2:14, Heb 8:6-12)
Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Deuteronomy, Deut 9:15 (2X). Moses tells us here of the events when he came down from Mount Sinai, and he saw that the children of Israel worshipped a golden calf. Here was sin and the condemnation that the Law of God demanded. But here was also an opportunity for reconciliation by the mercy of God and by the cross of Christ. We read in Deut 9:15-17,
De 9:15-17 So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you. And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
Moses’ righteous anger was red hot. And Moses broke the tables of the Covenant, which were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God. But God was not out of control. God showed us in this event that the Word of God was broken, or it was a picture of Christ, who is the Word of God, was broken because of our sins. And thus it pictured the death of Christ. And who caused the death of Christ in this picture? It was Moses as a representative of the Law of God who caused the death of Christ. But the stone tables were broken so that a second copy could be made. We read in Deut 10:1-2,
De 10:1-2 At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark.
What was this a picture of? Christ died so that a resurrected Christ could come forth, and take His place in the Ark of the Covenant, under the Mercy Seat. The Ark of the Covenant was a picture of the mercy of God for His people Israel. And when we think of the Second Covenant, we think of the Covenant of Grace for those who have received the mercy of God. It was the mercy of God which kept the tables of the Law out of sight. It reminds us of the words of Col 2:14 where God says, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 8:7 (2X). The dominant theme of Heb 8 is the forgiveness of sins that is available through the death of Christ. It was necessary that Christ should die, for only if He died would His inheritance be given to the heirs of the Covenant. Repeatedly does God speak of the heirs of the New Testament, or New Covenant. We read i:
Heb 8:6-12 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Finding fault with them, the children of Israel, God says “Behold, the days come” when God will make a New Covenant with a new nation of Israel; it is the Israel of God who are a remnant drawn from all the nations of the world, for the old nation of Israel “continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not”. And even though God will put His laws into the hearts of the new nation of Israel, God’s dealings with the new nation of Israel will be characterized by His abundant mercy for His people, as is expressed in verse 12, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” You see, the Covenant of Grace means that God’s grace will be evident in our life; not only at he point of salvation, but it will be evident that God’s grace has been active in all our life, from the moment we were born. And so, at the very present moment we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for all our sins, because He had mercy on us. Therefore we too experience His overarching grace in our minds, for He says to us, “And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”
#3. Summary (Eph 1:4-5)
Let me now summarize what I have endeavored to tell you in the past 30 minutes. The Old Covenant is not the Old Testament time, and the New Covenant is not the New Testament time. If that is our simplistic view of the two Covenants, we have made God to be a cruel ogre, who has lured people into believing the OT Law, and then condemns them for believing Him. We should quickly abandon this view, for it is a hindrance to our understanding of the correct view of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Instead, we must look at the two Covenants in terms of what God does and what we must do.
People who live under the Old Covenant are aware of what God has said and has done from the Bible, and they are very serious in obeying Him. And even though they have read that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world to die on the cross, and even though they have read here and there that God will be merciful to some and forgive their sins, they believe that God has made a contract with them, and they understand that God requires strict obedience to His Law, so that their sins will plunge them into Hell if they will not obey His Law. In other words, the sins that man does supersede what God has done. They believe that it is possible to live a life in obedience to God’s Law in such a way that it becomes acceptable to God. But this is why the Old Covenant is called a Covenant of Works, and it is a Covenant that brings condemnation, for it is a Covenant by which people are trying to get into heaven by obeying the Law. And even though the Law is holy and good, this understanding of salvation is actually a ministration of condemnation. And why this is a Covenant that brings condemnation? It is a way of salvation that is not through the Lord Jesus Christ but it is another way, through obeying the Law. That is why Hagar, in Gal 4, is a picture of the Covenant of Works, for Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia where the Law was given. The Law is not evil; the Law is holy and good, but believing that obedience to the Law can bring us to heaven is evil, for this kind of thinking does away with the mercy of God through the cross of Christ. This kind of thinking brings glory to man, but not to God.
People who live under the New Covenant are aware of what God has said and has done from the Bible, and we are very serious in obeying Him. But we also understand the great distance between an infinitely holy God and sinful mortal man. We understand that it is impossible to have a contract going between these two very unequal parties, and we believe that God will be merciful on us, for God has given us the faith to believe that Christ paid in full for all the sins that we have committed. We believe that it is impossible to obey God’s Law perfectly, and therefore we rely totally on the mercy of God through the cross of Christ. And so, the dominant theme of the New Covenant is that it is entirely orchestrated by God, and that the outworking of it is the forgiveness of sins. God provides the initiative, and God orchestrates the conclusion. In other words, the mercy and grace of God supersede what we have done. Even the worst of sinners can be forgiven, if God so desires that He would draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His atonement on the cross all our sins are forgiven. And that is why this Covenant is called the Covenant of Grace, for it is the only Covenant that saves, because we enter into heaven through the Lord Jesus Christ, and are giving Him all the honor, and all the credit, and all the glory for our salvation. None of our works play a role in making us acceptable to God, only the work that Christ has done on the cross and the work that He has done in our soul through God the Holy Spirit. That is why this Covenant is also God’s last will and testament, according to Gal 3 and Heb 9, for it becomes effective through the death of Christ, and it becomes effective only for those whom the Father chose from before the foundation of the world. Therefore this Covenant is also a ministration of righteousness, for when we proclaim this Covenant to the world, as we should, we proclaim that the perfect righteousness of God will be imputed to the souls of all those whom the Father will draw to Christ. The Law is holy and good, but the Law is not able to convert our souls; the Law only points out our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. That is why Sarah in Gal 4 is a picture of the Covenant of Grace, because through her are born the children of the promise, which is the promise of God to save all His elect. This brings glory to God, but not to man. And so, these are the two Covenants of Gal 4.
And so we see hat the concept of the Covenant is not something new, but it is a concept that is totally harmonious with the concept of salvation by grace. Those who are the elect of God are in His Covenant of Grace, and those in the Covenant of Grace are the elect; and they shall inherit all that God has, for this Covenant is God’s last will and testament, which was confirmed when Christ died on the cross. The time element enters in, for example in Heb 8 and in Jer 31, to indicate that the Ceremonial Law for a period of 1500 years has greatly expanded the Law, but the principle is still the same. They that looked for obedience to the Law as an end to salvation were under the Old Covenant, whereas others who lived at the same time were under the New Covenant, because their sins were forgiven. And so, David, and Hezekiah, and Josiah, and others, had their sins forgiven through the atonement of Christ many years later. And all the heroes of faith listed in Heb 11, even sinful Samson, had their sins forgiven even though they lived in a time where they had to obey the Ceremonial Law. However to indicate the transition of the Law from the OT time before the cross to the NT time after the cross, God wrote in Heb 8 and in Jer 31, “Behold, the days come”, and “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days.” It does not mean that before the cross no one was saved because the Old Covenant ruled, and after the cross many were saved because the New Covenant ruled, for salvation took place before the cross as well as after the cross, telling us that the Old Covenant and the New Covenant were in effect simultaneously, as demonstrated by both Sarah and Hagar living at the same time. Superimposed on the nature of the Law before the cross and after the cross we can see the external manifestations of the Ceremonial Law in sacrifices, and circumcision, and celebration of the feast days, and other types and ordinances, whereas in the NT time, after the Ceremonial Law has been done away, we see only water baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Word of God. But all these outward manifestations have nothing to do with the nature of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The primary difference between the Old and the New is the forgiveness of sins, for there is no salvation under the Old Covenant. And the forgiveness of sins enters in only through the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace. What a glorious gift of God that He has made us to be inheritors of His last will and testament, and has made us see that this is not in any way different from His declaration in Eph 1:4-5, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.