What is a Covenant?

Our Relationship with God

The Hebrew word for “covenant” is berit, meaning, “to cut or divide”…having reference to blood. In Genesis 15:10-21 Abraham cut/divided several sacrificial animals in token of God’s covenant with him. The New Testament Greek word for “covenant” is diatheke (testament or will) i.e., a treaty that is between two parties, but binding only on one, according to terms fixed by the other. (WILLMINGTON’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE, p. 520)

The Old Covenant pertained to the Old Testament economy: … God first made the promise [old Covenant] with Abraham. During the interval, before the promise was fulfilled, the Law was added until Christ should come. He has now come, [New Covenant] and the Mosaic law has passed away (fulfilled) … (Jeremiah 31:31-34- Hebrews 8:6-13).

(LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, VOL. 11, p. 691)Because of His [Christ’s] blood, His death, Christ has accomplished what the Old Covenant could not. Therefore, He has been set as the Mediator for a New Covenant His sacrifice has achieved what the many sacrifices of the Old Testament could not, for He effectuated “the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first” (Hebrews 9:15).

The Old Testament sacrifices could not take away sin (Hebrews 10:4); they merely made an atonement, a covering for sin. Christ’s sacrifice expediated all those past sins that had received atonement. (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, VOL. II, p. 695).

Comparisons of Covenants

WILLMINGTON’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE, presents the following comparison/contrasts of the Old/New Covenants on page 520:

The Old Covenant

The Old Covenant was to prepare the children of Israel (Jews) for the mediator of a better covenant (Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:24), which was established upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6; Jeremiah 31:31). The Apostle Paul noted that the law “engraved in stones was to be done away” (2 Corinthians 3:7). The New Covenant was new because it was not inaugurated until Christ (see Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:7-23; 1 Corinthians 11:25- Hebrews 8:8- 9:15). The Old Covenant law was holy, just, and good (Romans 7:21); but the best it could do was condemn the sinner “the latter killeth,” but the “spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6-7).

a. It was mediated by Moses (Exodus 19- John 1:17; Galatians 3:19).
b. It was conditional (See Deuteronomy 28).
c. It could not produce the necessary righteousness (Hebrews 8:8).
d. It was written on dead stones (Exodus 32:15).

The New Covenant

The New Covenant is based upon an inner, spiritual change within people (salvation). This covenant is not written upon stone, but in their heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27; II Corinthians 3:6-18). The next two principles of the New Covenant involve its spiritual superiority over the Old Covenant. All who are involved in the New Covenant will personally know the Lord. It is unlike the old, Mosaic Covenant which included all according to a physical, national qualification [given only to Israel]. Further, this covenant involves a complete forgiveness for its people [all saved] (Hebrews 8:12). The once-for-all sacrifice of its High Priest [Christ] will remove the remembrance of sins. The daily sacrifices made it difficult for the Old Testament saint to forget his sins. (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, VOL II, p. 691).

a. It is mediated by Christ (Hebrews 9:15; John 1:17).
b. It is unconditional (Hebrews 8:9)
c. It can produce the necessary righteousness (Hebrews 8:11).
d. It is written on living hearts (Hebrews 8:10).


People who desire to hold to the Old Covenant of worship are rightly called legalizers. They rigorously prefer to worship in a legalistic form rather than in the liberty of the Spirit of Christ (II Corinthians 4:7; John 8:32; 14:17 “But if ye be led of the spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18; also see Galatians 5: 1)

There is one day that a Christian can recognize above any other, day–“the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7,8a). Thus, any particular day of the week, calendar, or year may be special to the born again Christian. The Apostle Paul warned believers against judging a man for “esteeming one day above another” (Romans 14:5), because one day certainly is special to the Christian–the day of salvation!

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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