As believers in Jesus, we understand that we are partakers of the New Covenant, which Jesus inaugurated with His own blood. But do we really understand how we came into this relationship. There is a common misconception, that God made this New Covenant with the Church, or with us as believers. If we look closely at what the Scriptures teach concerning this Covenant, it will be quite revealing, exactly who the Covenant is with. Throughout Biblical History, God has made many covenants with man. And all of these covenants were made with a man, which had its effect upon the whole of the people.
I. THE FIRST COVENANT
THE COVENANT AT SINAI IS THE ONE COVENANT THAT GOD MADE WITH THE WHOLE OF THE PEOPLE
But throughout the history of Israel, they proved that they could not walk in this covenant. There was a fault found in the first covenant. The writer of Hebrews says this,
For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 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:[Heb. 8:7-8]
The writer points out that there was a fault or weakness in this covenant. He states that because of this fault, a new covenant was sought for. What was this fault? Was it the law itself? No, for Paul says, “The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Hebrews gives us the answer in the next verse. He says, For finding fault with them,
The fault with the Covenant was not in the Law itself, but in its recipients. The recipients of the law was its weakness or fault. Paul agrees to this in Rom. 8:3, in that he states that the Law was weak on account of the flesh. The flesh or the natural man was the weakness, in that it could not fulfill all that the Law required. Hebrews 8 continues,
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; 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, 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 upon their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.
Do you notice that the New Covenant is to be made with Israel and the house of Judah. It is not made with the Church, nor with us as individual believers, but with Israel. Why? Because Israel was His Covenant People. Even though God says He will make a new covenant with Israel, the first covenant God made with Israel stands in need of being satisfied. And it must be fulfilled by Israel. The first covenant was made with Israel and Israel must be the one to fulfill it.
But it is obvious that He found no generation among the children of Israel who could walk in the fulfillment of it. But it must still be fulfilled. What is He to do? He must find an Israelite who will walk in the perfection of the Law. But where to find such a man. For,
all we like sheep have went astray, every one is turned unto his way. For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. There is none that doeth right, there is none righteous, no not one.
God knew, as many of us know, that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So God sent forth His Word, made of woman, made under the law, and took upon himself the form of a servant. If the Law was to be fulfilled, He would have to do it Himself, as Man, an Israelite of the seed of Abraham. He would have to fill full, to satisfaction the requirements of the Law, which the Israelites had failed to keep. He says this very clearly, when he says,
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
The I AM came in the flesh to dwell among His People. God in flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, Immanuel, came to fulfill the law, which the nation had failed to fulfill. And this he did.
Since I AM made covenant with Israel, and Israel could not fulfill their part of the covenant, then He would step in, on their behalf, and fulfill it for them. This made the first covenant, in essence, a covenant between God and God as Man. This is the formula that He found to be successful.
II. THE NEW COVENANT.
He came not just to satisfy the First Covenant, but also to cut the New Covenant. Jesus fulfilled the First, and cut the second. If this one man could fulfill the first, then He is the one whom God would find faithful to cut the New Covenant with. Paul says in Galatians,
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one (one party alone), but God in One.
What Paul is pointing out here, is that where there are two distinct contracting parties, there is the need of a mediator. But if you have only one contracting party, there is no need for a mediator. When Paul says, ‘God is One’, he means, God is the One and only contracting party in the New Covenant. God entered into covenant with himself, to assure the conditions of the covenant would be satisfied.
You say, how can this be? God contracted with Himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God, the Righteous Israelite, the Messiah of Israel. You say, how?
JESUS, APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST
We can see a beautiful picture of this in Hebrews 3:1,
Wherefore holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.
This verse actually can be and probably should be translated, “...consider the Apostle, even the High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” The reason for this, is that the high priest was an apostle, or sh’leka, as it is understood in Hebrew. The concept of the sh’leka, or apostle, is rooted and grounded in Jewish thought. It points to one who is sent to represent the person or interests of another. This representative stands in the place of the one who appoints him, with full legal authority.
With this understood, it was the high priest who was the Sh’leka of Israel, and the Sh’leka of God. In his person, he represented Man to God, and God to Man. In his representing man, he must understand the weaknesses and frailties of man; he must be a priest “who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” He must be “in touch” with his own humanity, while representing THE PERFECT MAN. HE MUST STAND BEFORE GOD REPRESENTING THE PERFECT ISRAELITE.
In representing God, he must be perfect, complete and whole. He must show forth in his body the perfection that is God. It was for this reason the high priest could have no physical defects.
So Jesus, as the High Priest who is the Sh’leka of God and Man, must represent both correctly and faithfully. He represents God to man. If you desire to see what God is like, look at Jesus, the Apostle of God. He also is the Sh’leka of man. He represents Man to God. Just as the high priest stood in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, representing all Mankind to God in his person, so Jesus is the same. He represents Man to God. He represents you and I before the Righteous Throne of Justice and Grace. In this sense,
Jesus in His person, is the New Covenant. He is the Covenant, representing the Perfection of God to man, and the Perfect Man to God.
See Isaiah 42:6; 49:8; 55:3-5; 59:20-21; Malachi 3:1.
THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT
In the ratification of the first covenant, the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled upon the Altar and the people [Exodus 24:6-8]. The blood of one sacrifice bound God and His people together in covenant. God did not demand a separate sacrifice for Himself and another one for the people. It was ONE sacrifice that united God and His people together in covenant. And so it is in the New Covenant. The same blood ties God and His people together in an eternal covenant. This blood is not the blood of bulls or goats, but the precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus the Messiah.
The blood of Jesus is at once, the blood of God and the blood of Man. It is the blood of man in that, Jesus took upon himself the seed of Avraham, the seed of David. He entered into the history of mankind, as a man, the Last Adam. But it is also the blood of God. In Acts 20, Paul is exhorting the Ephesian elders at Miletus. In his exhortation to them, he says this,
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
It was the blood of God that has purchased the church of God. It was the blood of Jesus, God in flesh, who has purchased, redeemed the church of God for himself. It is this reason that the incarnation is of great significance. God Almighty became man, to redeem man from the curse brought on us by the first man.
As was said earlier, the first covenant was ratified with blood. The blood of an offering was poured into a basin, and half of it was sprinkled upon the Altar, representing God and the other half was sprinkled on the people. It was the same blood from the same sacrifice that linked God and the people in covenant. After sprinkling the people with the blood of the covenant, Moses said to the people, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” So also, in the New Covenant, it is the same blood of the One offering of Jesus, that links God with man. Jesus is the link. Jesus is the Covenant. His blood is the bond between God and man. His is the only blood acceptable, because his blood is the blood of the righteous innocent.
On the last night of his natural life, at the Passover table, he took the Cup, raised it, blessed it and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.” The blood of the New Covenant is the blood of Jesus, which was shed for you and for me. It is the blood of Jesus that is the guarantee of Righteousness in the New Covenant. How so? Because he is the surety and mediator of the New Covenant.
JESUS, THE SURETY OF A BETTER COVENANT
In Hebrews 7:22, it states, “by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant.” The word ‘surety’ is a legal term, used in contracts. It is the Greek word engous, which means, guarantee. It points to one who accepts the legal obligation for the performance, or payment of a legal action. Jesus, as the Engous, the guarantee, takes upon himself the performance and payment of the legal obligation required by the covenant. This Guarantor is One who stands in for another, taking upon himself the demands made and guaranteeing its performance. In this way, He is the guarantor of a Better Covenant. He stands in our place, fulfilling the requirements of the Covenant.
JESUS, THE MEDIATOR OF THE NEW COVENANT
Hebrews 8:6; 9:15
Jesus as the mediator of the Covenant, is understood in this way. The Greek term is mesites (mes-i-tãs). This is closely related to ‘engous’ and is sometimes used in the sense of guarantor. But the essence of the word means, in the middle, or one who stands in between. In contracts, the mesites is the neutral person that both sides can trust.
In Rabbinic uses, this concept of mediator denotes one who arranges the bringing together of those who have not previously had any dealings with each other. His primary function is bringing together those who have had no previous relationship, and establishes one. He is the one who stands in the middle, and ensures the maintenance of the contractual relationship.
The connection here is that, engous, the surety, stresses the fact of the guarantee of a better, stronger Covenant, while mesites, the mediator, stresses the actual act of the accomplishing of the guarantee. In the case of our Messiah, it is BY HIS DEATH, that He guarantees the Covenant for those who partake of it. Jesus does not simply give the guarantee, He is the guarantee in His Person. BY HIS LIFE, He is the one who stands in the middle, the one who can be trusted by God and man. He is the one who brings together God and man in a relationship that never before existed.
PAUL’S ‘IN CHRIST’
Paul, who is the master theologian of the New Covenant, reveals this picture of Messiah, being the Covenant Man. If one were to boil the theology of Paul down to two words, it would be found in the phrase, “In Christ.” This phrase is the cornerstone and foundation of Paul’s theology.
For Paul, everything that God has given and done for His people, He has done so, In Christ.
- Every blessing and spiritual benefit that God has provided for us, is found in Messiah.
- Every work or act of salvation is accomplished in Messiah.
- All spiritual power and authority that is given, is in Messiah.
To put it simply, there is nothing that we receive from God, that is outside of ‘being in Christ’. There is nothing that God has provided for us, that is found outside of, ‘being in Christ’. For Paul, the Covenant riches and treasures, which God has given unto Israel in covenant, can be found no where else, but In Christ Jesus. If you are not In Christ, you are not in covenant with God.
This New Covenant that God has made with Israel, is wrapped in the Israelite, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. A question that some will ask is, If the covenant is made with Jesus, then how do we get into the covenant? Did we not just answer this? We are in covenant with God by being In Christ. It is by grace through faith, in the finished work of Jesus. It is believing that what He has done is sufficient. That when he cried upon the cross, “It is finished”, he meant it, and we believe it.
By trusting in His finished work, he gives us of His Spirit, so that we may be partakers of his divine nature (2 Pet.1:4). As the branch shares in the life of the vine, so we share in and are dependent upon His Life.
By His Spirit, He has put his laws in our hearts and written them in our minds. By walking in His Spirit, we fulfill the Law of God [Gal. 5:16-26]. By His Spirit abiding in us, He brings forth the Fruit which He desires, the fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. These are in full harmony with His Law. This is how we keep the Law of God, is by walking in His Spirit. We do not keep the Law by looking at the law.
We do not please God by remembering the “thou shalt not’s” or the “thou shalt’s”. We are pleasing to God and walk in harmony with His Law, by loving the Lord our God with our whole heart and mind and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. We keep the law by looking at and being connected to Him.
By grace through faith in His finished work, we are made partakers of the New Covenant. In partaking of this Covenant, we become his children, we become joint heirs with Him. By walking in His Spirit, we walk in harmony and fellowship with our God, Jesus the Messiah.
He is the Covenant Man, and by faith in Him, we are His covenant people.
It is obvious that this truth, has a rippling effect upon other Scriptural doctrines. Which perhaps in the future we will look into. In the meanwhile, let us praise, rejoice in and trust the One who is our Covenant Man, Jesus the Messiah.
Have you entered into relationship and fellowship with God, through His Covenant man, Jesus the Messiah?
Have you trusted in His finished work, which He accomplished on the cross at Golgotha?
Have you repented of your sins, and ask Jesus to cleanse you of your sins?
If not, do so today, for “Today is the day of Salvation”.
The next part of this study will look into how we are maintained in this New Covenant, in which Jesus is our Guarantee and Mediator.