>The following is another posting from the past (moore4christ blog) that I am transferring over to this blog. If you have not read this before, I hope this is edifying. If you have already read this, I will be writing new posts in the coming days. This blog post was another response to a collaboration question in Old Testament II. Thank you! jtm
Perhaps the finest expression of Jeremiah’s prophetic preaching is found in 31:31-40. Jeremiah describes the new covenant as “permanent” (see especially 31:35-40). If this new covenant is “permanent,” what is its relationship to the covenant made at Sinai? Does the new covenant supplant the covenant at Sinai? Can this new covenant be broken as was the one at Sinai? Can Jeremiah’s new covenant be equated with the covenant established by Christ’s blood? Why, or why not?
Clearly, the context of Jeremiah 31:31-40 illustrates and describes a permanent, new covenant between God and His people.First I want to quickly answer these questions and then make some observational points in more detail.
What is the relationship to the covenant here described and the covenant made at Mount Sinai? I would say that new covenant does not SUPPLANT the Mosaic Covenant, but it fulfills the covenant. In other words, the covenant made at Sinai is fulfilled ultimately in this new covenant.
Can this new covenant be broken as was the one at Sinai? No, not in an ultimate sense.
Can Jeremiah’s new covenant be equated with the covenant established by Christ’s blood? Yes, I have always equated the two in my interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31-40. I see the covenant provided by the atonement of Christ for our sins and the justification that is found in grace and through faith and repentance to be equal with the new covenant described in Jeremiah 31.
With these brief responses, I would like to make the following points of observation:
Jesus definitely represents and enacts a new covenant, one that is synonymous with the covenant described in our focal discussion. The writer of the book of Hebrews makes this plain in Hebrews Chapter 8. Starting in verse 6, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” (Hebrews 8:6-7). The writer then quotes verbatim Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Hebrews 8:8-12. Thus, it is obvious that the writer of Hebrews through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit equates the Then the writer wraps up the discussion of the covenant by saying in verse 13 of Chapter 8, ‘In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” This verse raises the earlier questions in the issue – is the Sinai Covenant now abolished or overthrown and to be forgotten?Since Jesus inaugurates this new covenant in his life and ministry, which is fulfilled ultimately in his death, burial, and resurrection, we need to see what Jesus said about the old covenant. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said in Matthew 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heave and earth pass away, not an iota, or a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus in this passage clearly is connecting his ministry with the old covenant in that he will be the fulfillment of that covenant. Reading the old covenant (the Law and the Prophets) is not abolished, it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.But what about Hebrews 8:13? The ESV translation says that the old covenant is obsolete. This at first glance seems to be synonymous with “abolished”. But I believe that this is not what the writer of Hebrews is saying. The writer is not saying that the old covenant is abolished, but that many aspects of the old covenant, heavily dependent on the sacrificial system, is now obsolete given the complete and victorious work of Christ on the cross.Can this new covenant be broken like the old one could? The language of the new covenant in Jeremiah is totally opposite the language of the Sinaitic covenant. This new covenant illustrates a loving God actually doing the action of creating the new covenant “within” the believer. No longer is the covenant externally focused on the obedience of a nation or chosen race. This covenant is forged within the individual believer. We must be careful however to make the distinction that the Old Testament believers were not saved because of their works or in obeying the Law to the letter. Legalism has never saved. Paul in Romans 4 makes clear that even before the Law was instituted on Mt. Sinai, the righteous were saved through faith. Justification has always been through faith alone by grace alone. The difference in the Sinaitic Covenant (the best I can see it right now), is that it encompassed both the remnant of Israel (those who truly believed) and also “nation” of Israel, even including those who were unregenerate. In the new covenant, there is no distinction. In the universal church, there is no such thing as a visible church and invisible church. Yes, there are some denominations that want to place this moniker on the church, but the new covenant will NOT be broken. Once you are regenerate, once you are justified, and as you are sanctified, you will persevere to the end. Yes we are subject to sin, but we will not break the covenant.