The purpose of the old Testament
In order to understand the necessity for the change to the new law and covenant, we must understand the purpose for the old. The old law and covenant was “a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things …” (Heb 10:1; see Heb 8:5; Cl 2:16,17). In other words, the great things of the new covenant cast a shadow back in time to the Jews in order to give them an indication of greater things to come. The righteous Jews certainly understood this when struggling to live under the old law. They would simply conclude, “There must be something better than this?” There was enough indication in the very nature of the old system to show that there was something to come, something that was better. The old law, therefore, was the shadow of the new which was to come.
Under the Old Testament law it was impossible to receive remission of sins through the blood of bulls and goats. It was impossible to keep the law perfectly in order to be justified by the law. Therefore, the law was a curse if one sought justification before God through meritorious obedience to its ordinances. Paul wrote, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them’” (Gal 3:10). Man was cursed because he could not keep law perfectly in order to justify himself before God. One sin makes a sinner, and thus, it takes only one sin to separate one from God (Isaiah 59:1,2). Therefore, one is dead in sin because of his inability to live perfectly before God. Since there is no meritorious forgiveness through good works, then all those who lived under the law were cursed. They were cursed because there was no forgiveness for those who lived exclusively by law. The purpose of the Old Testament law was to usher the Jews to the
cross. Paul wrote, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal 3:24,25). The Old Testament law ushered in the New Testament law. It educated man concerning sin in that it convicted those living under it that they were sinners (Rom 3:20). In this way it was a tutor or schoolmaster that gave guidance and direction.
The new law and covenant was established to fulfill the old.
Hebrews 8 teaches that Jesus is our “high priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (vs 1). Jesus has “obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He also is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (vs 6). The Hebrew writer then quotes Jeremiah 31:31-29
He associates the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 with the new covenant relationship that we now have with Christ. This is the new covenant wherein the law of the covenant is written on our hearts.
Jesus is “the Mediator of the new covenant … for where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator” (Heb 9:15,16). This new covenant (testament) contains a better hope (Heb 7:19), a better covenant relationship (Heb 7:22), better promises (Heb 8:6), better sacrifices (Heb 9:23), a better possession (Heb 10:34), a better country (Heb 11:16), a better resurrection (Heb 11:35), and a better blood of sprinkling (Heb 12:24). This is a covenant not given to a specific nation. It is given to “whoever believes” (John 3:16). It is a covenant made with individuals throughout the world. It is a covenant where sins, once forgiven by God, are remembered by Him no more. The conclusion of this point would be Hebrews 10:9. “He [Jesus] takes away the first that He may establish the second.”
The fact that the Hebrews writer continued to use the word “better” in explaining the comparison between the old covenant and the new, clearly indicates that there was an insufficiency or temporary nature of the old. Therefore, when studying this subject one must understand that the fact that the new was “better” assumes that the old would pass away. The old covenant, therefore, was not the last covenant God would
establish with man. It was the means to the end of all God’s covenants with man. The end is the new covenant of Jesus. Jesus took away the binding force of the old covenant, and thus the law of the covenant, in order to establish the new covenant and law. All Christians today, therefore, are subject to the laws of this new covenant. Since the new covenant has been established, then men need to look for the new conditions of this covenant. We thus look into the New Testament in order to determine the laws of the new covenant to establish and maintain a covenant relationship with God.
May the good Lord open our eyes. Amen
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