Does the New Covenant Trash the Old?
May/21/2010 05:29 PM Filed in: Scripture
Hebrews 8:13 says, "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."
While teaching that section, I compared the Old Covenant to trash. Was this too strong of a comparison? Was the Mosaic covenant undervalued? At the outset, let me be clear, none of God's covenants are trash. My words were intended to be strictly comparative to what we have in Christ. It is similar to my old computer. When I bought it, I spent good money for what was the latest technology. Today, it is nothing more than scrap metal compared to my Macbook Pro. The greatness of the New Covenant through Christ so greatly outstripped the Old Covenant that the Mosaic Covenant experienced extreme devaluation next to Christ.
While Hebrews is clear on the greatness we have in the New Covenant through Christ, what value remains of value in the Mosaic Covenant? Some areas of value are:
- The Law helps show us our sin. Apart from the law, we would not know the depth of our sin (Galatians 3:19-25). The law is not a ladder up which we climb to God but it a mirror that shows us how far short we fall from God.
- The Ten Commandments express fundamentally important principles for the Christian life.
What role should the Mosaic law play in our lives? While certain Old Covenant laws like stealing and adultery are still binding, other laws, like eating bacon and wearing clothing woven with multiple kinds of fabrics, are not. How do we make this distinction?
One solution is to divide the law into three categories.
Ceremonial Laws - These refer to the priesthood, sacrifices, temple and cleanness. These are now fulfilled in Christ and are no longer binding. This is the primary focus on the relationship between the covenants in the book of Hebrews. The Jewish Christians in Rome struggled what to do with temple worship once Christ came. These laws are no longer binding since Christ is our priest, temple, sacrifice and cleanser.
Civil Laws - These are laws pertaining to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since Israel as a nation ruled by God no longer exists, these laws, while insightful, are no longer directly binding.
Moral Laws - These refer to commands such as rape, murder and adultery. These laws are still binding even though Jesus fulfilled their requirements. Jesus repeated nine of the Ten Commandments (with the exception being the Sabbath, since Jesus is our rest).
Adopting this view, ceremonial and civil laws are no longer binding but moral laws are
Other Bible scholars see the solution in the relationship between the law of Moses and the New Covenant differently.
The whole law was valid until its purpose was accomplished in Christ (Romans 10:4, Colossians 2:17). Now that Jesus' work is complete, the Law of Moses is abolished. We are now under the law of Christ. That is, we are to love God and love our neighbor as guided by the Spirit (Romans 13:8-0; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).
This seems to be supported by Paul's teaching in Galatians 3:16-4:7 where he says the law was added to God's promise to Abraham 430 years afterward because of sin. It imprisoned the people of God until Jesus came.
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. Galatians 3:24-25.
The relationship between the Old Covenant and the New is a tricky but one thing is clear. What we have in Christ is beyond our imagination. Our focus is on the New Covenant and not the Old. The old only serves to magnify the greatness of the new we have through Jesus.
To God be the glory for the great things he has done through Christ!