Study 10 Objective: What is the New Covenant and why is it of vital importance to the believer?
Historically, the covenants also involved signs as indications of continued participation by either or both parties. These signs also point to the New Covenant.
For example, the sign of the covenant with Noah and creation was the rainbow (Genesis 9:11-17), a colorful dispersion of light. It is Christ who is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 1:4-9).
The sign for Abraham was male circumcision (Genesis 17:10-11). This links in with the consensus of scholarship concerning the root meaning of the Hebrew word translated as covenant, berith, a term to do with cutting. The phrase to cut a covenant is still sometimes used. Jesus, the
Seed of Abraham, was circumcised according to this practice (Luke 2:21). Paul explained that, for the believer, circumcision is no longer physical but spiritual. Under the New Covenant “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter” (Romans 2:29; see also Philippians 3:3).
Also, the Sabbath was the sign given for the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 31:12-18). Christ is the rest from all our works (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:10). This rest is future as well as present. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then he would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (4:8-9).
The New Covenant also has a sign, and it is not a rainbow or circumcision or the Sabbath. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His
name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The first indication that we are God’s people of the New Covenant is that God has come to dwell among us in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:21; John 1:14).
There is also a promise involved in the New Covenant. “Behold” said Christ, “I send the Promise of My Father upon you” (Luke 24:49), and the promise was the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33; Galatians 3:14).
Believers are sealed into the New Covenant “with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
A true believer is identified neither by ritual circumcision nor by a set of obligations but by the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9).
The idea of covenant provides a range and depth of experience in which God’s grace can be understood literally, metaphorically, symbolically and by analogy.
In what way is the Holy Spirit the guarantee of your inheritance?
How do you achieve circumcision of the heart?
Which covenants are still in force?
All previous covenants are subsumed in the glory of the everlasting New Covenant. Paul illustrates this when he compares the Mosaic
covenant, also called the Old Testament, with the New Covenant.
Paul refers to the Mosaic covenant as the “ministry of death, written and engraved on stones” (2 Corinthians 3:7; see also Exodus 34:27-28), and says that, although it was once glorious, it now has “no glory in this
respect, because of the glory that excels”, referring to the ministry of the Spirit, in other words, the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:10). Christ has been “counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (Hebrews 3:3).
The Greek word for covenant, diatheke, brings fresh meaning to this discussion. It adds the dimension of an agreement which is a last will or testament. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word berith was not used in this sense, the issue in question being addressed typically via inheritance laws and customs.