The Covenant of Grace


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1. Introduction

 This topic is the source of disagreement in the Christian world.

Many teach that because in the Old Testament God's saving Covenant (the Covenant of Grace) consisted of all law, when it was replaced at the Cross by the new Covenant, all law was abolished.

Others teach that the new Covenant is a continuation of the old Covenant, but without the ‘old’ part of the old Covenant (the sacrifice of animals) - it is ratified in a new way.

We must therefore study this topic in Scripture to gain a clear and correct understanding.

Note.  The word ‘covenant’ in this study appears many times in Scripture. In the Old Testament ‘covenant’ is translated from Strong’s H1285, a compact.  In the New Testament ‘covenant’ is translated from Strong’s G1242, a contract.

2. The Abrahamic Covenant

The Bible mentions several covenants, for example the covenant after the flood (Ge 9:11), but it is God’s Covenant with Abraham which is His Covenant of saving Grace, and which is the subject of this study:

Ge 17:7  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 

By believing this Covenant, Abraham’s faith was accounted to Him for righteousness (Ge 15:5,6).  Abraham demonstrated his belief by obedience (Ge 26:5).

This Covenant is extended to all who believe and obey, and is thus God’s Covenant of saving Grace for all mankind (see study: ‘Salvation 2’, 2.2). 

Note that throughout this study ‘Covenant’ refers to the Abrahamic Covenant of Grace.

3. The Covenant of Grace

God’s Covenant of Grace is His means to rescue mankind from sin, by becoming their Saviour and taking away their sin.

Ro 11:27  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 

3.1 The Covenant ratified in blood

Sin can be taken away (remitted) only by the shedding of blood:

He 9:22  And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 

In Old Testament times sin was remitted by means of animal sacrifices - this was a figure for the time (see studies: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’ and ‘The Day of Atonement’).

Moses first ratified the Covenant in the blood of oxen:

Ex 24:4-8  And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 

5  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 

6  And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 

7  And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. 

8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

Afterwards, the Covenant was set continually before Israel by the blood of both the daily sacrifices, and the annual sacrifice.  This blood was accepted for the time, but was temporary.

The animal sacrifices could not actually take away sin - they pointed to the Cross, on which Christ shed His own blood for us.  Christ’s blood is sufficient to remit sin and to eradicate it for all eternity:

He 13:20  Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Upon the Cross God Himself ratified the Covenant of Grace in eternal Blood.  By the Cross, and by the sealing of the Holy Spirit, God has given us His pledge of eternal life (Ep 1:13,14).

4. The Covenant in the Old Testament

4.1 The Covenant and law

Note.  The Ten Commandments in this context is addressed in the singular because the stone tables are an indivisible unit.

The Covenant is the Ten Commandments:

De 9:15  So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. 

1Ki 8:9,21  There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb … 

21  And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. 

The Ten Commandments is the Testimony (witness) to God’s Covenant:

Ex 32:15  And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony [Strong’s H5715, witness] were in his hand…

Here we see two important things:  the Covenant consists of the Ten Commandments, and the Ten Commandments is the witness that testifies to God’s saving Covenant of Grace.

The concept of sacrifice for the remission of sin goes back to the beginning - Abel, Adam's son offered the sacrifice of a lamb (Ge 4:4; He 11:4). 

Later, Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac his son (Ge 22:2), but God intervened at the last moment to save Isaac (Ge 22:12) - it was both a test of obedience and a prophecy that God would not withhold His Son (Christ) as a sacrifice for sin. 

Thus the pattern of sacrifice for sin was established and later formalized in the Ceremonial law.  This was sufficient for the time, continuing to the sacrifice of the Cross: the true sacrifice for sin.  

We see in this section that the Ten Commandments is the statement in stone (indicating permanency) of the Covenant itself, and that the stone tables are the testimony to God’s intent and concern for mankind.

Additionally, we see in section 3.1 that Moses took 'the book of the covenant' (Ex 24:7) - this is the book of the law written down by Moses which contains all God's instructions for the sacrifices and feasts that comprise the Ceremonial Law (see study: 'Law, Ceremonial').

Thus Israel was required to demonstrate their adherence to the Covenant of Grace by obedience to all law.

This further teaches us that the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law are each separate aspects of God's all-encompassing Law, each one fulfilling their distinct purpose, and both coming together to testify of God's Covenant of Grace.

4.2 The Covenant is everlasting 

Ge 17:19  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting [Strong’s H5769, vanishing point, time out of mind] covenant, and with his seed after him. 

God’s saving Covenant was established with all of Abraham’s succeeding generations.

4.3 The Covenant remembered by God

 De 4:31  (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. 

 Eze 16:60  Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting [Strong’s H5769, time out of mind] covenant. 

 4.4 God will not break nor alter His Covenant

Le 26:44  And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. 

Jdg 2:1  And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. 

Ps 89:34  My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. 

Is 49:7 …Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful…

1Co 1:9  God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can trust God to keep His promised Covenant.

4.5 The Covenant broken by man

Le 26:15  And if ye shall despise my statutes [Strong's H2708, statutes], or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments [Strong’s H4687, mitzuth, plural of mitzvah, instructions], but that ye break my covenant: 

Note. A ‘mitzvah’ was something commanded by God to be performed as a religious duty.

Is 24:5  The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws [Strong's H8451, the Torah], changed the ordinance [Strong's H2706, enactment], broken the everlasting covenant. 

Israel transgressed the Torah, which consists of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) - these contain all God’s Laws, both Moral (the Ten Commandments) and Ceremonial (the law of sacrifices).

Thus Israel broke the everlasting Covenant of Grace by contravening all God’s Laws.

4.6 Summary section 4

Israel broke the everlasting Covenant by transgressing God’s laws, confirming that the Covenant is indeed the Law (the Ten Commandments, and until the Cross, the law of sacrifices), and that the Covenant/Moral law is everlasting. 

Thus, as the Covenant in the Old Testament was everlasting it could not have been abolished at the Cross.

5. The Covenant in the New Testament

As we have seen (section 3.1) the Covenant is ratified in blood - in Old Testament times by the blood of an animal, which was sufficient for the time but could not take away sin:

He 10:4  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 

Thus to actually take away sin, a better sacrifice and a renewed Covenant is needed.

5.1 The New Covenant

Introduced first in the Old Testament:

Je 31:31-33  Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 

32  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 

33  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

Confirmed in the New Testament:

He 8:8-10  For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 

9  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 

10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 

2Co 3:3  Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

The new Covenant is written by the Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer. 

These Scriptures testify that the New Testament is a continuation of the Old Testament.  The Covenant of Grace is the heart of the Old Testament , and it continues on as the Heart of the New Testament.

5.2 The New Covenant confirmed by  the Cross

By His sacrifice on the Christ confirmed the Covenant and abolished sacrifices and oblations (offerings):

Da 9:25,27  … Messiah the Prince …  27  … shall confirm the covenant with many … he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease… 

All the sacrifices of the Sanctuary ceased when Christ paid the one true sacrifice on the Cross - they were no longer needed.

Note.  The Ten Commandments contain neither sacrifices nor oblations. Thus the Ten Commandments were not abolished at the Cross, and they therefore are the very essence of the new Covenant, as they were of the old Covenant.

5.3 Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant

He 12:24  And to Jesus the mediator [Strong’s G3316, a reconciler] of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

He 9:15  And for this cause he is the mediator [G3316] of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 

Mt 26:28  For this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

He 13:20  Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 

Christ is both the true Sacrifice for sin and our Mediator, offering His own blood.  Thus His ministry for we sinners cannot fail.

5.4 The New Covenant is everlasting

As we have seen, the Old Testament Covenant was everlasting (see section 4.2).  The New Testament Covenant is also confirmed as everlasting:

He 13:20  Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting  [Strong’s G166, perpetual] covenant, 

Both the Old Testament (section 4.2) and the New Testament Covenants contain the same everlasting promise of salvation - implemented in the New Testament in a new and better way, with a new Mediator (One who reconciles), Christ Jesus.

6. The sign of the Covenant

In Ex 31:16 we see that the seventh day Sabbath is a perpetual sign of God's Covenant.  By His seventh day Sabbath God gives His promise that mankind is saved.  By observing the seventh day Sabbath, mankind acknowledges God as Lord and Saviour.

The importance of the seventh day Sabbath is addressed in studies: 'The Sabbath' and 'The mark of the beast and the Seal of God',3.

7. Summary

The Covenant is the Ten Commandments; the Covenant is everlasting; therefore the Ten Commandments are everlasting.

The difference between the old and new Covenants is the way in which they were ratified: the old by the blood of bulls and goats (sufficient for the time), and the new by Christ’s own Blood (sufficient for eternity). 

God formed His Covenant because He loves mankind and gave His Son, Jesus Christ, for mankind’s salvation. 

Before the Cross, salvation was by faith in the Messiah to come; after the Cross, salvation is by faith in the Messiah already come - this is the fundamental difference between the old and new Covenants, both of which are based on the one Abrahamic Covenant of Grace.

God's sign of His saving Covenant is His seventh day Sabbath.

In its real meaning, the Abrahamic Covenant of Grace has never changed - it is valid to this day, and beyond.

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