Originally posted at a biblical perspective in November 2007.
Previously: the jerusalem council and torah
Another question I have received about whether we should obey the Law or not is based on a passage in Hebrews:
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says,
“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Heb 8:6-13
Their are seven covenants between God and man recorded in the Scriptures, so we ought to be certain which ones are being referred to here. The seven covenants are:
1) Eden: Gen 1.26-28, Gen 2.15-17; God’s blessing on His creation, man is to multiply and have dominion, and not eat the forbidden fruit.
2) Adam: Gen 3:14-19; curse on Creation and serpent, punishment of work for mankind, but the promise of the seed of the woman given.
3) Noah: Gen 8:21-9:17; God will never flood the earth again, man is to multiply and establish human government as a deterrent to sin.
4) Abraham: Gen 12:1-3, Gen 15; God will establish descendants, land, and a blessing for Abraham.
5) Moses: Exo 19 – 24; God will be a husband to Israel, Israel is to obey the Torah (teaching) of the covenant.
6) David: 2 Sam 7:11-16; God will establish the son of David as the promised seed of the woman and the ruler of Israel.
7) Jesus: Isa 42:6, Jer 31.33, Luk 22.20; the new covenant and fulfillment of the covenants.
The first covenant referred to in Heb 8, is, I believe, the Mosaic covenant, the one through which God gave His Torah, or His instruction in righteousness, to His people, and asked them to live according to it. This covenant is the first one which is exclusive to Israel. The new covenant, is of course, the one Jesus enacted with His own blood. So this passage in Hebrews appears to be saying that the new covenant has replaced the Mosaic covenant.
However, Paul teaches us elsewhere in Scripture that a covenant which was enacted later does not invalidate one which was enacted earlier:
“What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.” Gal 3:17
And we can see that each of the seven covenants build on one another, not replace the ones prior: the Edenic established God’s blessing on His creation, the Adamic established work (works?) as a curse, but promised the Redeemer in the seed of the woman. The Noahic established human government to deter sin so that mankind would not be destroyed wholesale before the time came for the seed of the woman. The Abrahamic established a family through which the seed of the woman could be born; the Mosaic established a land as a dwelling place for the set apart family which would produce the seed of the woman, and also a Torah (Law, or teaching in righteousness) for the set apart family to live by, to deter sin which brings judgment and death, and to promote life and prosperity. The Davidic established the ruling dynasty over the set apart family which would produce the seed of the woman, who would be Redeemer and King of kings. And Jesus, the seed of the woman, was born, and died, and was raised again, thus in Him the purpose of the covenants was met.
So does the new covenant invalidate or make obsolete the Torah, the teaching, the instruction in righteous living, of God? To be continued …
Continued in is the old covenant obsolete? part two