Originally posted at a biblical perspective in November 2007
Previously: is the old covenant obsolete?
Our passage in question is 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
It appears that Hebrews is saying the old covenant is obsolete. We already learned, however, that newer covenants do not invalidate older ones. So does the new covenant invalidate or make obsolete the Torah, the teaching, the instruction in righteous living, of God?
First, this passage quotes Jer 31:31-33, where God says that the new covenant will not be written on tablets of stone, but He Himself will write His Law on the tablets of our hearts. This is the better covenant. Better, because the covenant of Moses gave us God’s standards of righteous living, what was right and what was wrong. It was outside of us, and the sin nature we had inherited from Adam still ruled within us. We saw the Law written on tablets of stone, but we could not obey it from our hearts.
But the new covenant, Jesus’ covenant, changes that, because by it He gives us new hearts. He places His Spirit within us and writes His Law on our hearts, so that we are motivated to obey it from within, instead of obligated to obey it from without even if we would have no desire to do so. Looking at it that way, the new covenant is a better covenant. It is not the Law, i.e., the instruction in God’s ways, the paths of righteousness, the definition of right and wrong, that is abolished or obsolete, but just the place where the Law is written that has changed. To be continued …
Continued in is the new covenant obsolete? part three