The Covenant of Grace

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1. Introduction

This topic is the source of much 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 (discussed in section 4.1), 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 make a thorough study of this topic (in Scripture) to gain a clear and correct understanding.

Note. Throughout this study the Ten Commandments is regarded as a single indivisible unit, and is thus addressed in the singular.

2. 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. 

2.1 'Covenant' in Scripture

Old Testament: ‘Covenant’ is translated from Strong’s H1285, ‘a compact’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘a compact’ as ‘a formal agreement between two parties’.  

However, God’s Covenant with mankind is not like an earthly agreement, where two parties between them define the terms.  The Covenant of Grace is determined entirely by God, and mankind must agree to abide by it. 

New Testament: 'Covenant/Testament are translated from Strong's G1242, 'a contract - especially a devisory will'.  A devisory will is where the will maker (the divisor) determines inheritance. Thus the Covenant of Grace is God's will, determining saving Grace for mankind.

2.2 The beginning of God's saving Covenant

God's saving Covenant began the moment sin entered:

Gen 3:15  And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

God drove a wedge between Satan and fallen mankind, that He might save them all (see Ro 11:32;Ga 3:22).  

To expand and clarify mankind's knowledge of His saving Covenant, God raised up Abraham (Genesis chapter 12).

2.3 The Abrahamic Covenant

God stated His Covenant of Grace to Abraham and his seed as follows:

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. (also verse 9)

Act 3:25  Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 

By believing this Covenant, Abraham’s faith was accounted to Him for righteousness:

Ge 15:5,6  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 

6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. 

Ro 4:3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 

Abraham demonstrated his belief by obedience:

Ge 26:5  Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. 

The Abrahamic Covenant is extended to all who believe and obey (from Abraham to this very day and beyond), and to all mankind who are potentially Covenant believers: 

Ro 1:5  By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 

Rom 16:26  But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 

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

3. 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. 

3.1 The Blood of the Old Testament

In Old Testament times sin was remitted by means of animal sacrifices.  

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 as a sacrifice for sin:

Ge 22:7,8  And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?  

8 And Abraham said, My son, God [Strong’s H430, plural: Elohiym] will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 

Note. In verse 8 above, the phrase ‘will provide himself’ is translated from Strong’s 7200, ‘see’, inflected to mean ‘will see’ and coupled with the pronominal (referring to person[s] or thing[s]) suffix ‘Himself’ to give the meaning: ‘will see himself’.  This could be understood as: God Himself will be the Lamb - which is actually the case.

The animal sacrifices continued from the beginning until the time of Moses, when they were formalized in the Ceremonial Law, which was dictated by God to Moses.

Moses wrote this law in a book - the Book of the Covenant (see study: 'Law 3, Ceremonial',2). The Ceremonial Law placed the Covenant of Grace before God's people in a very visible way (see studies: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’,2, 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, by the blood of both the daily sacrifices and the annual sacrifice (see study: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’,3), the Covenant was set continually before Israel as a remembrance of atoning Grace .  

This blood was accepted for the time (He 9:8,9), but was temporary until the Cross, on which the Messiah would cause all sacrifices to cease (Da 9:27).

3.2 The Blood of the New Testament

The animal sacrifices could not actually take away sin (He 10:4) - they pointed to the Cross, on which Christ would 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 nature of the Covenant

4.1 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 at the entry of sin, and afterwards with all of Abraham’s succeeding generations, onward into eternity.

4.2 The Covenant is the Ten Commandments

The Covenant/Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone:

De 4:13  And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

The tables were placed in the Ark of the Covenant:

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. 

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…

Now we see two important things:  

1. The Covenant consists of the Ten Commandments, and 

2. The Ten Commandments is the witness that testifies to God’s saving Covenant of Grace.

Thus if, as many believe, the Ten Commandments was abolished by the Cross, there is no longer a witness to the Covenant of Grace, and furthermore, the Covenant itself is abolished. 

However, we have seen that the Old Testament Covenant is everlasting (section 4.1) - thus it cannot be abolished, simply renewed by the Cross (see section 7).

5.  God and His Covenant

5.1 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.

5.2 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.

6. Mankind and the Covenant

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 [Strong’s H5769, vanishing point, time out of mind] 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.

7. 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).

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

7.1 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 [G1242], 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.

7.2 The New Covenant confirmed by the Cross

By His sacrifice on the Cross 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 contains neither sacrifices nor oblations. Thus the Ten Commandments is not abolished, and is therefore the very essence of the New Testament Covenant, as it was of the Old Testament Covenant. 

7.3 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 (Reconciler), offering His own blood.  Thus His ministry for we sinners cannot fail.

7.4 The New Covenant is everlasting

As we have seen, the Old Testament Covenant was everlasting (see section 4.1).  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 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 (Reconciler), Christ Jesus.

8. 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.

9. Summary

The Covenant is the Ten Commandments; the Covenant is everlasting; therefore the Ten Commandments is 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 by the Blood of the Cross He secured mankind’s salvation. 

Before the Cross, salvation was by faith in the promise of the Messiah to come. After the Cross, salvation is by faith in the Blood of the Messiah already come. 

This is the fundamental difference between the old and new Covenants, both of which are addressed as everlasting, and consequently, both 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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