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Many believe the fault with the Old Covenant was with the law and the commandments of God. So, when Hebrews 8:13 states the New Covenant made the first "old" or "obsolete" many believe the New Covenant replaced or supplanted the law and ten commandments with grace and faith.
The Old Covenant was an extension of earlier promises God made to Abraham and his descendants. After God brought Israel out of Egypt and the law, commandments, statutes and judgments had been given, the Israelites made a commitment to obey God and uphold His way of life (Exodus 24:7-8). However, they failed to do this and rejected God’s covenant, choosing to live contrary to God's laws.
God says plainly He found fault: not with the law, not with the Ten Commandments, not with the statutes and judgments, but with the people: “For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Hebrews 8:8).
Many assume once we have faith in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant means there is no need to keep the law. Paul addressed this concept in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void [Greek katargeo, meaning 'destroy' or 'abolish'] the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish [Greek histemi, meaning 'erect' or 'make to stand'] the law." Faith does not abolish the law. it establishes and upholds it. The Apostle Paul, more than 25 years after the death of Jesus Christ, wrote "...the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12).
In Romans 7:7 Paul says man would not recognize sin if it were not for the law. Could the fault possibly be with the law? "Certainly not!" he answers. God's law convicts man of his sinfulness, leading to our much-needed forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8-10).
The fault is not with the law, but with human nature. Although we may recognize what is right and good, we all too easily succumb to selfish pulls of the flesh. This was Israel's dilemma under the Old Covenant, and it is the dilemma of all human beings. Sin is easy. It’s a way of life that comes naturally to us (Romans 7:22-25).
God revealed the solution to the problem of sin to the prophet Jeremiah hundreds of years before the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: "Behold,..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 that I took them…out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord: But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…for they all shall know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremaih 31:31-34).
Jesus Christ would work with His people in writing God's law on their hearts, because the New Covenant would have an additional dimension. The Holy Spirit would make the difference. Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit as the Apostle Paul explained. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
God's Spirit gives us the ability to keep God's law through Christ working in our minds and lives, God's law—the same law written on the tablets of stone—becomes a permanent part of our lives as Christians. It manifests itself in thoughts, words, deeds and character that reflect God.
Romans 8:1-4 summarizes our status before God under the New Covenant. Through Jesus Christ we are forgiven of our sins, and justified (made righteous, or forgiven) by grace through faith. Jesus works in us through the Holy Spirit to help us conquer sin and create a "new man,” enabling us to "put off the old man," our previous self-oriented way of life (Colossians 3:5-10).
To depend on our physical and mental abilities to do this would be hopeless. We must be in partnership with Jesus Christ our Savior—and He is the senior partner. By yielding ourselves to Christ working in us through His Holy Spirit, "the righteous requirement of the law" (Romans 8:4) is fulfilled.
Some people hold to the misperception that Jesus Christ does everything for us. Colossians chapter 3 makes it plain we are in partnership with Christ. Notice some of the imperative commands given to us: "Set your mind on things above…Put to death your members…Put off the old man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:2-9).
The New Covenant is a better covenant because God's way of life, reflected in the Ten Commandments, becomes part of our very being. We are promised not just physical blessings as with the Old Covenant, but eternal life. Throughout eternity, we will reflect God's way of life in everything we think, say and do. The Ten Commandments, anciently written on two tablets of stone, will have become a permanent part of our character, and ultimately we will be given the gift of eternal life. Many sons and daughters will have been brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
The Good News magazine (May-Jun 1997)