Gods desire to have fellowship with mankind drove Him to engineer a changing and yet continuous link that bound Him to us since the time He first created us until now. He constructed a covenant that demonstrates His persistence in wanting to fulfill His desire to have fellowship with mankind. The Covenant is the thread that has bound God to man from the beginning, and it has allowed us to escape annihilation, which was coming to us due to our desperately evil heart. It didnt bind man to God because it was Gods covenant and not ours. God was bound by His Covenant because He knew that in order to keep the Covenant alive, He would have to have a reliable upholder of the Covenant, Himself. Down through the ages, it became necessary for God to alter, change, retire, and resurrect the covenant in order to continue to have fellowship with man. Thankfully, since God bound himself to man, there was nothing that we could do to change that. If upholding the Covenant were left only up to us, mankinds relationship with God would have been in trouble a long time ago. The Covenant was the thread that kept the garment of our relationship together.
The foundation scripture for this lesson is found in Jeremiah 31:31-33 where the Lord is telling us that He is going to make a new covenant with His people wherein His law is written on our minds and in our hearts. The purpose of this covenant is so that we will be His people, and He will be our God.
The word covenant is used 280 times in the Bible. The word in Hebrew that it is taken from is beriyth (#1285 in Strongs concordance). It means, "in the sense of cutting", connotating a compact made by passing between pieces of flesh. The edimology of this word means, "to eat bread with." In Arcadian, the word is berito, and it means to fetter, to tie, and to bind together. In Greek, the word covenant is taken from diatheke (#1242 in Strongs concordance), and it means a contract, especially a devisory will, covenant, testament.
A covenant, in general, has many characteristics. It is entered into by way of a mutual undertaking or by acquiescence to a superior force. It is entered into by way of kerath in Hebrew, which means, "to cut." The purpose of cutting, or letting of the blood, is to ratify the covenant (when cling-ons enter into a matter of honor, they cut their hand). A covenant carries far more weight than any other agreement or contract because that is the way that God designed the system to work. The blood that is shed when the cutting is done symbolizes the very life of man. The parties involved in the covenant are laying their lifeblood on the line saying that they will carry out their end of the bargain. There must be the letting of blood in order to have a covenant. If one does not sign the contract, he is not held accountable to uphold it. Until it is signed, it is not valid. In like manner, the covenant is not in effect until the blood bears witness to the validity of the agreement. Both parties enter into the agreement, and it is beneficial to both parties. This is the incentive to enter into the agreement. One is willing to endure the cutting because he will be benefited by it. Compliance with the terms of the covenant is voluntary. No body forces the parties to comply; however, there are consequences for breaking the covenant. These consequences are spelled out in the covenant, and they always ensue when the covenant is broken. There may also be external signs that bear witness to the covenant having been made. These are witnesses of the covenant. In Genesis 9:13-17, we read that the rainbow stands as a sign of Gods covenant with mankind to never again destroy mankind with water.
The Covenant that bound God to man has many characteristics and facets. In Genesis 17:6, God established a covenant with Him and Abraham and his descendents. There was an outward sign of the covenant at that time; every male child was to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant at eight days old. This was a distinguishing factor. The covenant was grafted in their flesh. Males who would not submit to the circumcision broke the covenant, and they were cut off from the people.
Side Journey: Should people be circumcised today for salvation? It doesnt matter under the New Covenant because the circumcision that matters to God today is that of the heart and not of the flesh. In Acts 15:1 we read that some men came from Judea and taught that you couldnt be saved unless you were circumcised. This occurred under the New Covenant, and the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter. God acknowledged (bore witness to) the Gentiles salvation by giving them the Holy Spirit. We are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and not by circumcision. Circumcision became void and no longer is sufficient as a sign. Now the Holy Spirit is the sign of our salvation under the New Covenant.
The Gentiles were grafted in as Abrahams descendants for an everlasting covenant. The covenant was first specifically entered into with the house of Israel, and then, later on, we, the Gentiles, were grafted into it. In Deuteronomy 29:10, God invites the people of Israel to enter into His covenant because He wants to be their God. We read in verse 14-15 how God made His covenant with the children of Israel there and with those who were not there (those physically absent and the descendants of those there). God warns the children of Israel of the consequences of breaking the covenant in verses 19,20.
Side Journey: This covenant was the lesser covenant, can you imagine how much greater the consequences for breaking the greater covenant? The sin that breaks the Covenant is the sin of rejecting the Covenant. It is the only sin that you cannot be redeemed from. There is no covenant to restore you from breaking the Covenant. The only thing that can restore you is the shed blood of Jesus. The only way to be restored is to shed the blood of Jesus again God will not allow that to happen. This is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seals you for salvation, and when you reject salvation, you make the Holy Spirit out to be a liar. You deny the best witness you have of your salvation. Breaking the covenant does not involve leaving a certain congregation; it involves leaving Jesus. Believers must be mature, of full-age spiritually, as stated in Hebrews 5:12 14 in order to be qualified to commit this unpardonable sin. If you are not of full-age spiritually, and you get mad at God, you are behaving like a child who throws a temper tantrum. However, if you are of full-age spiritually, and then you reject the Lord, God will honor your decision, but you have no way back. A person like this has nothing to return to; they are so prideful that they dont even see it. Pride makes you like a blind person who is out driving a car. Some warning signs of being in danger of falling victim to pride are refusing to submit to correction and rebuke. If you continue to refuse to receive correction, you are on the path of pride. You must always agree to side in with God.
There are consequences when man breaks the Covenant. In Jeremiah 34:8-11 we read how the people changed their mind and broke the covenant. You cant do that without consequences ensuing. The kings covenant was re-establishing Gods covenant to set slaves free every seven years. The king and the people made a covenant with each other before God and in His house and this prevented perpetual slavery. In Jeremiah 34:18, God reminds them of the cutting. We further read of the consequences of their breaking the Covenant.
God weaved the thread of the Covenant through various godly men at various times in history. The first stitch in the Covenant is Adams stitch. We read in Genesis 1:26 how He created man in His image and gave him dominion over all the earth so that He would be their God and they would be His people. Adam reflected and showed forth the glory of God. There was no sin to be propitiated for at that time so there was no need for blood to ratify that initial thread of the covenant. He made a covenant with Adam, but Adam and his descendants were unfaithful and had to be destroyed. God wiped the earth clean of humanity with the flood, but He continued the Covenant with Noah. Noahs stitch can be found in Genesis 9:8. The Lord established His covenant with Noah and his descendants. We begin to realize that God is determined to have people that He could be a God to. God continued the Covenant through the Abrahamic stitch. In Genesis 15:1, we read that God promised to make Abrams descendants as numerous as the stars. Abram believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Abram brought God a three-year old heifer, a goat, and ram, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. Abram cut the animals in two. God told Abram what would happen to his descendants (They would be strangers in a land that was not theirs, enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. God would judge Egypt for enslaving them and Egypt would let them go. As you know, the Egyptians chased the children of Israel and were killed when God parted the Red Sea. God had a score to settle with the Ammorites with Abrams fourth generation). God sent the burning torch to pass between the pieces of animals to ratify the covenant He made with Abram. When God made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 17:1, He changed his name to Abraham, calling him the father of many nations.
The Covenant that bound God to man is His promise to man of hope and a future. It is our assurance of His continued striving for our hearts and minds and His unwavering desire to have fellowship with us. It is a lifeline thrown to us so that we can rest assured that God will never fail us. He is bound to uphold His end of the covenant. As we continue on in this teaching, we will learn what great depths the Father went to in maintaining fellowship with mankind.
God continued to weave the thread of the Covenant through various men. He continued the Covenant through Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5) and then onto Jacob. At this point, the institution of the tithe became a part of the Covenant. We read in Genesis 28:20-22 how Jacob replied to God. He stated that if God wanted to be His god, that if God would be with him, give him bread to eat and clothing to put on so that he return to his fathers house in peace, then the Lord would be Jacobs god. He also vowed to give a tenth to God and that the pillar should be Gods house. Jacob set-up the rock that he used for a pillow as a pillar and anointed it with oil. He called it the house of God, and it was symbolic of Jesus, the chief cornerstone in the house of God (Matthew 21:42). Jacob took God at His Word. He called the name of the pillar Bethel (which means house of God). The tithe became our part of the bargain; it was our part of the covenant. If we didnt pay the tithe, we broke the covenant. Abraham initiated the concept of the tithe when he gave the tenth part of the spoil to Melchizadek, The preincarnate Jesus, in Genesis 14:18-20. Abraham gave a tenth part back to God, which was from the victory that God had given them. They acknowledged that it was God who brought victory to them. Paying the tithe validates our faith in God. God questions in Malachi 3:8, "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, In what way have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings." Gods part of the Covenant was to open the windows of Heaven and pour out blessings upon them that they did not have room to receive. If we, under the New Covenant, are going to receive all the benefits of the Covenant that they established, we must also tithe as they did. The devil has a legal argument against the Lord blessing us financially when we dont tithe; we arent doing our part. By not sowing into the kingdom of God with the tithe, we are automatically cursed with the curse that is upon the devils money system. When we do tithe, we are entitled to Him being with us, Him providing us food and clothing, keeping us in the way that we are going, and bringing us back to our fathers house in peace.
God continued the covenant in Exodus 19:5 through Moses Stitch. He reiterated the Covenant with Moses. He stated that if the people would obey His commands and keep His covenant, they would be His special treasure. We further learn in II Samuel 7:1 about Davids Stitch of the Covenant. God spoke of Solomon, Davids son and Davids descendant, Jesus, who would establish the throne of His covenant forever.
The Covenant then underwent what we call a Transition Period when the Old Covenant had to be redone in order to refine it to encompass all of humanity. Jeremiah 31:31 reads that God stated that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel. He would put His law in their minds and in their hearts, rather than from the mouth of the prophet or on tablets of stone (Isaiah 55:5). This covenant is the everlasting covenant. Romans 11:11-26 talks about how God grafted the Gentiles into the olive tree (the Covenant) by faith. God told the nation of Israel in Isaiah 42:5-9 that they would be a light to the Gentiles. The Covenant was opened-up to include the Gentiles; up until that time, the Covenant was extended by bloodline, and, even then, the dividing line was drawn between believing Abraham and the rest of the people.
THE DEATH OF THE OLD COVENANT
THE END OF THE OLD COVENANT AND THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW
JESUS, MEDIATOR OF THE NEW COVENANT
Side Journey: Deaths grip is sin. We read in Acts 2:22-24 that Jesus could not be held by death once He was raised up by God (nor could He be captured by death before His crucifixion until he drank the cup of our iniquity). God tricked death into receiving Jesus. Jesus gave up His life, but death couldnt hold Him because there was only the illusion of sin in Him, not actually His sin, but ours. Death cannot hold you for someone elses iniquity. Death uses sin as the glue whereby he can grab and hold onto you. Death cant hold you, o Believer! Death holds onto sin that is in you, and when death comes, it grabs and takes. If there is no sin in you, it may grab you, but it cannot hold you. Life and death are ours because we are in Christ Jesus, joint heirs with Him. Because Death had to let Jesus go, God the Father accounted the life that Jesus took back to Himself in the resurrection to those who believe on Christ Jesus. David speaks as Jesus prophetically in verse 25-28; Jesus went to Hell straight from His own mouth He stated it-but He didnt stay there.
Jesus came and fulfilled that requirement of death by having His own blood shed. The blood of bulls and goats could not remit mans sin. For Jesus, the only way to escape once He took the cup, was to submit to death. He had been reckoned in the likeness of sinful flesh at that point. Had Jesus not submitted to death, He would have been bound to that sinful flesh and died and went to Hell. Jesus walked the earth another six to ten hours after taking the cup of our iniquity. He probably noticed the separation from the Father the moment He took the cup, but it became unbearable for Him in the moment of anguish. We read in Matthew 26:36-46 that Jesus did not want to take the cup of our iniquity, if it was possible. The very hour that Jesus had been prepared for since before the foundation of the earth came, and Jesus asked the Father is if there was any other way. Had God forced Jesus to submit to death, He would rightfully have been a murderer and would be found guilty. On the contrary, Jesus willingly submitted to the will of the Father. Jesus faith accounted sin unto Him, and He could only cry-out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" He did that because God had forsaken Him because our sin had been attributed to Him. He took our sin. He bore in His own soul the weight of our sin. We have a High Priest, Jesus, whose job it was to go into the Holy of Holies and minister unto the Lord on behalf of the people. He did this once and for all, and it was permanent. He came to be a minister of a new tabernacle that the Lord administered and not man. The earthly high priest had to go in and offer gifts and sacrifices. The great High Priest also had to do this; but His ministry was not of this earth. As a matter of fact, Jesus didnt even qualify to stand in the position of high priest on the earth because He was not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah. The priests on earth served as a shadow and copy of the heavenly things.
Side Journey: It is much better to live by faith and be saved through faith than to try to be made righteous through following the works of the Law. We read in Galatians 3:69 that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. If you have broken the tiniest fraction of the Law, youve broken all of it. Since it is not possible to fulfill all the Law, you are guaranteed to be accursed. Those who are self-righteous attempt to fulfill the Law, but they are cursed because it is impossible to do. If you broke one of the laws, youve broken all of the laws. The purpose of the Law was not to bring righteousness, but to prove to us that we are lawless. The New Covenant took those laws and put them on our hearts and off of the cold stones; it gave us the ability to live up to what God wants us to do. The Old Covenant told us what we couldnt do; whereas, the New Covenant proves to us what we can do. Those who are considered just are those who live by faith. As stated in Galatians 3:15, our Covenant cannot be annulled. When an agreement is annulled, it is made to seem like it never happened. However, you cannot cancel a covenant. In like manner, marriage is a covenant, and once it is entered into, it becomes permanently binding. A marriage between two believers cannot be cancelled because it is a miniature example of Christ Jesus and the church, which cannot be cancelled.
CONTRASTING THE OLD AND THE NEW
Side Journey: We read in Galatians 3:26-29 how all people are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. It states that there is no difference between Jews or Greeks, males or females. This does not mean that women should be put in a position within the church that they should not be in. These verses pertain to salvation and receiving the promise. To go beyond that thought with this scripture is not correct; this scripture is not talking to administration within the church. Otherwise, God contradicts Himself because He has stated in other places that women are not to be in a position of authority within the church.
WHILE JESUS WAS IN HELL PAYING THE PENALTY FOR OUR SIN
Those who died from Moses to Jesus also went to prison; some went to Abrahams bossom and some to the hot part of Hell. There are three groups of mankind: those born between Adam and Moses, those born from Moses and the bringing of the Law to Christ Jesus, and the group that was born after Jesus came. Under the Law, people would make offerings for known sins that they committed, the trespass offering, and once a year, the priest made sacrifices for the sins that the people committed in ignorance during Yom Kippur. On the day of Christ Jesus crucifixion, the sacrifice of animals ceased being accepted in Heaven as atonement for sins.
INAUGURATION OF THE NEW COVENANT: JESUS IS RESURRECTED
Side Journey: Could Satan have stopped Jesus from ascending into Heaven where He would complete the transaction of salvation? No, it could not have been possible. The job of our salvation was not yet done. There still remained one more transaction before the covenant could be ratified; otherwise the death of Jesus would have been in vain. He still had to ascend to the right hand of the Father.
When was Jesus role done? It was completed when He breathed His last and said, "It is finished." Jesus flesh rested in hope that the Fathers word is true, hoping that nothing would keep the Father from raising Him up. His fate was no longer in His own hands at that point. Jesus died in hope, leaving His fate into the Fathers hands. He died with the hope that God would do what He promised to do.
ATTRIBUTES OF THE NEW COVENANT - Hebrews 8:1
The good promise of the old covenant was that you wouldnt die physically this year because the high priest would offer sacrifices to atone for your sin for one more year. The good promise of the new covenant is that we will never die.
Jesus made the final sacrifice. After 1500 years of sacrificing, 1500 times, the people werent any closer to God. Jesus made the sacrifice once and for all, and it was sufficient. The Shekinah glory of God emanated from a box (Hebrews 9:5) under the Old Covenant; the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest. Jesus came not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. We learn in John 20:15 that Jesus obtained eternal redemption right after He spoke to Mary; He still was yet to take His blood and enter into the Holiest of All. Jesus told Mary to stay back because she would defile Him if she touched Him. Twelve hours later, Jesus told His disciples to handle Him. Jesus offered Himself without spot to God (Hebrews 9:14). Jesus offered Himself in order to cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the true and living God. You cannot claim to know Jesus and still live by the Law. Hebrews 9:18 tells us that not even the first covenant was ratified without blood. Had it been possible that the blood of bulls and goats could remove our sins, Jesus would not have had to die (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus became the ultimate trespass offering. Once we are saved, we no longer have a sin nature. We cannot discount the blood of Jesus in our lives by having a sin consciousness. We sin because we wrestle with the flesh. Jesus took away the first covenant (Hebrews 10:9). Jesus has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
The sign of the New Covenant is that we believers are one (John 17:21) with each other and with God. We partake of the unity of the Body of Christ Jesus in the truth of God. We demonstrate and remind God of this unity when we partake of Communion (I Corinthians 11:24).
Side Journey: Jesus ministry was between the terrestrial and the celestial. He brought things to bear from each realm that each did not understand. Jesus was God - celestial, made flesh - terrestrial. Humans are living examples of the communion of the celestial and the terrestrial. Anything that the disciples needed to have to get the job done as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus, we need today. The job of the apostles was to lay the foundation of the House of God. Everyone who has come afterward has built upon that foundation. The same tools necessary to lay the foundation are the same tools necessary to build the house.This series has demonstrated the great lengths that the Father went to in order to have a relationship with mankind and possess a people that He could call His own. We are members of His Family, His people, and it has been made possible because of the Covenant.