Comparing the Old and New Covenant


Comparing

the Old and New Covenants

Everyone who reads the Scriptures with some degree of seriousness will discover elements of similarity and contrast, continuity and discontinuity, between the old covenant and the new covenant. The “old covenant” (2 Cor. 3:14) or “first covenant” (Heb. 8:7,13; 9:15) was given to the people of Israel through Moses (Deut. 5:1-5).

The “new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8,13; 9:15) or “second covenant” (Heb. 8:7) is a “better covenant” which has been enacted on “better promises” (Heb. 8:6). It was given to believers of all nations through Christ Jesus (Heb. 12:24). The old covenant was inaugurated with the blood of sacrificial animals, “the blood of the covenant” (Exod. 24:5-8; Heb. 9:18-22). The new covenant was also inaugurated with blood—”the blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20), the blood of Christ Jesus (Heb. 9:15-28; cf. Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

What were the characteristics, provisions, and requirements of the old covenant in comparison with the new covenant? What contrasts do we find between the two? Consider the following points as you pursue this study. Can you add to this list?

Old Covenant

New Covenant

Written on tablets of stone and scrolls (2 Cor. 3:3,7; Exod. 24:4,7; 34:1; Deut. 4:13) Written on human hearts (2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10; Jer. 31:33) Old covenant ratified or inaugurated with the blood of animals (Exod. 24:1-8; Heb. 9:18-20) New covenant inaugurated with the precious blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 10:29; 13:20) Given to Earthly kingdom (Exod. 19:5-6) Given to a Heavenly kingdom (John 18:36; Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:28; Luke 22:29-30; Rev. 1:6) Entrance by physical, natural birth (Gen. 17:9-10) Entrance by spiritual birth (John 3:3-7) Earthly nation of Israel (Gen. 12:2; Exod. 19:6) Spiritual nation—composed of all nations (1 Peter 2:9; Matt. 21:43; cf. Luke 24:47; Rev. 7:9) God’s focus on one nation and special revelation to that one nation alone (Deut. 5:1-2; 7:6-16) Gospel of Christ given to all nations and every person in the world (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) Earthly king over the kingdom (1 Sam. 8:5, 19-20; 10:1) Heavenly king over the kingdom (John 18:36-37; Rev. 19:16) Earthly land promised and given (Gen. 13:14-15; 17:8; Josh. 21:43; Deut. 7:1) Heavenly country (Heb. 11:16; Phil. 3:20; John 14:1-3) and new heavens and new earth promised (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1-2) Earthly city of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:9; Psalm 48:1-2) Heavenly city, the new Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 21:2) Worship in the city of Jerusalem (Luke 2:41; Deut. 16:16) Gathered worship not limited to central location (John 4:20-24) Messiah promised (Deut. 18:15-19; Isaiah 7:14; 11:1ff; 52:13-53:12) Messiah given (Luke 24:25-26, 44-48; Acts 3:13-26; 8:30-35; Gal. 4:4) Aaronic high-priesthood (Exod. 28:1,29,41,43; 29:1-9; Lev. 8) Perfect Priesthood of Christ (Heb. 3:1; 4:14-16; 5:1-10; cf. 7:25; 9:24) Ordinary priests as mediators (Luke 1:5,8-9) Priesthood of all believers with no human mediators (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; cf. Heb. 13:15-16; Rom. 12:1-2) Many and varied physical sacrifices of animals and birds (Lev. 1-7; Heb. 9:22) Single, once-for-all, perfect sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:11-14, 24-28; 10:11-12) Clear distinction between priests and Levites, and the common people (Num. 3:6-10; 18:21-24; Deut. 12:19; 18:6-8) Every Christian serves with special gifts from God (Rom. 12:3-8; 15:14; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11; cf. 1 Cor. 12:7-11) Swearing of oaths practiced to confirm truthfulness (Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2) “Yes” and “no” expected to be sufficient—no swearing needed (Matt. 5:34-37; James 5:12) Seventh day Sabbath as day of rest (Ex. 20:8-11; 35:1-3; Deut. 5:12-15; Neh. 9:13-14; cf. Mark 1:21; 2:23; 6:2; Luke 4:16,31; John 5:9; Acts 13:14; 16:13; 17:2) First day, the Lord’s day, as day of gathering with believers (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; cf. Rev. 1:10; Col. 2:16-17; Rom. 14:5-6; Gal. 4:10-11) Passover a memorial of physical deliverance from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 12:1-28; Deut. 16:3,6) Lord’s supper a memorial of spiritual deliverance from sin through Christ (Matt. 26:26-29; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) Passover lamb or goat offered to save the firstborn (Exod. 12:5-11) Christ is our Passover to save believers (1 Cor. 5:7-8; cf. John 1:29) Praise with mechanical instrumental music, and often associated with Temple Levitical worship

(2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Chron. 15:16; 16:4-6, 42; 23:5; 2 Chron 5:12-13; 29:26-28; Psalm 150)

Praise to God and to edify one another with vocal music or singing, making melody with the heart (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:26; cf. Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26) Tabernacle and temple incense offered to God (Exod. 37:25-29) The “incense” of prayers offered to God (Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4) Tithing—giving 2/10 or 3/10 of all income to the Lord (Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 12:6; 14:22-29; 26:12-15; 2 Chron. 31:5-10; Neh. 10:37-38; 13:12; Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12) Giving generously and liberally (2 Cor. 8:1-15), abundantly (8:7; 9:6), earnestly and sincerely (8:8), lovingly (8:8,24), cheerfully (9:7), sacrificially (8:1-5; Mk. 12:41-44) Divorce tolerated for many causes (Matt. 19:3-8; Mark 10:2-9; Deut. 24:1-4) One man for one woman, as in the beginning, established as the ideal and norm; divorce condemned (Matt. 19:4-9; Mark 10:6-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:10-11, 39) Polygamy (Exod. 21:10; 1 Sam. 1:1-2; 2 Sam. 5:13; cf. Deut. 25:5; Mark12:19) One man for one woman, as in the beginning; no provision for polygamy (Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:2) Wars of extermination commanded (Deut. 7:1-2; Josh. 6:21; 1 Sam. 15:2-3) Peace toward enemies, nonretaliation, and outgoing love (Matt. 5:38-42; 26:52; Rom. 12:17-21; 1 Thess. 5:15) Physical warfare commanded toward national enemies (Num. 1:45; 2:32; 1 Sam. 17:45-47; 18:6-7) Spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies using spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-17; 1 Thess. 5:8; 2 Tim. 2:3-4) Earthly tabernacle and temple (Exod. 25:1-9, 40; 26-40; 1 Kings 6:1-38; 8:17-21) Spiritual temple of God—His people (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:5) Earthly riches for the nation contingent on obedience to the Law (Lev. 26:3-10; Deut. 28:2-14) Riches a danger, the poor blessed, and no national prosperity promised (James 2:5; 1 Cor. 4:11; 2 Cor. 6:10; 8:1-5; 1 Tim. 6:9-10) Ritually clean and unclean food restrictions imposed (Lev. 11:1-23; Deut. 14:3-20) All foods are ritually clean (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:9-16; 1 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:15; Rom. 14:14) Many feast days and seasons required (Exod. 23:14-17; 34:18-26; Lev. 23:4-44; Num. 28:16-40; Deut. 16:1-17) No special Judaic feast days to observe (Col. 2:16-17; Gal. 4:10-11) unless it be the “feast” of remembering the Lord’s sacrifice and living for Him in sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8) Veil separated the people from the presence of God (Exod. 26:33; Lev. 16:2; Heb. 9:3) “Veil” removed in Christ, giving full access to God (Heb. 6:19; 10:19-20; cf. 4:14-16) Physical circumcision of the flesh (Exod. 12:48; Lev. 12:3; Josh. 5:2-3; Luke 1:59; John 7:22) Spiritual circumcision of the spirit by Christ (Col. 2:11; cf. 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15) Focus on doing (Gal. 3:10-12) Focus on faith or believing (Gal. 3:1-9, 22-26) Holy Spirit not given to indwell the people of God (John 7:39; 14:16-17) Holy Spirit promised, given, and indwells the obedient believer (John 14:16-17; 15:26; Acts 2:38-39; 5:32; Rom. 5:5; 8:11; Eph. 1:13) Sinful and apostate Israelites executed by the people of God (Deut. 13:1-11, 12-15; Lev. 20:10,13,14,15,16,27; Deut. 22:22-25) Sinful and apostate Christians excluded from fellowship by the people of God (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; Titus 3:10-11; Matt. 18:15-17) Prosperity, plenty, national prominence and peace promised to the nation that obediently keeps the covenant (Lev. 26:3-10; Deut. 28:2-14) Tribulation, suffering, trials, hardship, distress, persecution, difficulties, rejection promised those who are faithful to Christ and obey His will (Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-20; 16:1-2; Acts 5:41; 14:22; Rom. 8:17-18, 35-37; 2 Cor. 12:10; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 3:12)

Additional Contrasts Between the Old and New Covenants

Old Covenant

New Covenant

Of the letter (2 Cor. 3:6) Of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6) Ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:6) Ministry of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:9) Ministry of condemnation (2 Cor. 3:9) Ministry of righteousness (2 Cor. 3:9) Came with glory (2 Cor. 3:7) Abounds in glory (2 Cor. 3:9) Has no glory (in comparison) (2 Cor. 3:10) Has surpassing glory (2 Cor. 3:10) “Married” to the law (Rom. 7:2,6) “Joined” (married) to Christ (Rom. 7:3-4) Oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:6) Newness of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6) Provisions are shadows (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1) Reality found in Christ (Col. 2:17) Made nothing or no one perfect (Heb. 7:19; 9:9; 10:1) Made believers perfect in Christ (Heb. 10:14) Offered no justification (Gal. 2:16; 3:11) Justified (declared righteous) in Christ by faith (Gal. 2:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 3:24; 5:1) Yoke of slavery/bondage (Gal. 4:22,24,31; cf. Acts 15:10) Liberty; freedom from bondage (Gal. 5:1; cf. 2:4; 4:22,24,26, 30-31)

The Old Covenant Ends and the New Covenant Remains

Old Covenant

New Covenant

Tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24-25) No longer under a tutor; now under Christ (Gal. 3:24) Allegorical Hagar (the bondwoman) is cast out (Gal. 4:21-31) Allegorical Sarah (the free woman) remains (Gal. 4:21-31) Fades away (2 Cor. 3:11) Remains (2 Cor. 3:11) Obsolete (Heb. 8:13) (Current, Continuing) Abolished (Eph. 2:15) (Remains)

Richard Hollerman

 

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