Further Study: The Two Covenants
avatar

Read Ellen G. White, “The Law and the Covenants,” pp. 363–373, in Patriarchs and Prophets.

“But if the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant. . . .

“God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: ‘If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. . . . Yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 371, 372.

Discussion Questions:

 1  Is your own walk with the Lord more of an “old covenant” or a “new covenant” type? How can you tell the difference? 

2 What are some of the issues in your local church that are causing tension within the body? How are they being resolved? Though you might find yourself being the victim of “persecution,” how can you make sure, too, that you aren’t the one doing the persecuting? Where’s the fine line there? (See also Matt. 18:15–17.) 

3  How many times have you made promises to the Lord that you would not do this or that, only to do this or that? How does this sad fact help you understand the meaning of grace? 

Summary:

The stories of Hagar, Ishmael, and the children of Israel at Sinai illustrate the foolishness of trying to rely upon our own efforts to accomplish what God has promised. This method of self-righteousness is referred to as the old covenant. The new covenant is the everlasting covenant of grace first established with Adam and Eve after sin, renewed with Abraham, and ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

Share Button

Comments

Further Study: The Two Covenants — 6 Comments

  1. In reference to the covenant in Jeremiah 31:31, 33,34: God promising to write the law in 'their' hearts. Question is--whose hearts will God write his law on? Does this refer exclusively to believers' hearts in the end times only? OR, My main point in query is: Did God promise to write his law on all people including Hindus and Moslems so that later on they would have the chance to accept the law and obey it? The thing that is gray to me is this: if God only promised this writing of law on BELIEVERS hearts only, there would be less chance for non-believers to be saved. But if the covenant covers all people particularly non -Christians then everyone will have the opportunity to believe and be saved. In brief, did the writing of law on hearts neccessitate that the "recipient first believe"?

    Like(0)
    • Alvin, I think Paul pretty well answers your questions in Rom 1 and Rom 2:11-16 particularly, "for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)" (Rom 2:14-15 NKJV).

      To me what these verses are talking about is choice, "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine" (John 7:17 NKJV). In other words the ones who choose to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit will have the law written on their hearts while the rebels who refuse to be there will be left alone to go wherever.

      Those that choose to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit are somewhere on a path. Some are further ahead on the path than others so that those who are near the beginning may not even know of Jesus but are nevertheless still on the path.

      Like(0)
    • Alvin,
      The short answer to your question is yes. The Hindus and Muslims are also God's creation, but as a whole they are not aware of their need for a change of heart, at least in the Biblical sense. God cannot change anyone's heart unless that person voluntarily allows him. In 1 Peter 3:9 the apostle tells us that God may seem as though he is delaying his coming, but that in reality he is patient so that as many as possible have the chance to learn about him and his desire to save the human race, and come to repentance. Although it seems impossible the Bible tells us that the message of salvation will be preached to every tribe, tongue and people (Rev 14:6-8), and that the gospel will be preached to the whole world and then the end will come (Matt 24:14). As the we near the close of this earth's history, there will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and millions will come to know the gospel and be given a chance to accept Jesus. In fact, through TV and radio evangelism millions are being reached. In the end our loving God will judge every according to the knowledge they had, like it says in the passage that Tyler shared. It is our privilege to know the truth, and to be part of God's team to proclaim the gospel.

      Like(0)
  2. some how i cant seem to understand the latter part of
    the quote of EG White, PP. " yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant, ... seeing their sinfulness and their need of pordon, they were brough to feel their need of the Saviour...now they were prepared to appreciate the blessing of the new covenant. P P. p371, 372.
    seems to me,the quote is reffering to Isreal who never relingushed their belief in salvation by works, for if the did, why wold God promise them a new covenant in Jer
    31:31,34.?

    Like(0)
    • Dear Godfrey,
      It is true that all of Israel did not learn to appreciate salvation by grace. The same can be said of modern Israel.

      However, Ellen White is referring specifically to the situation at Mt. Sinai. The people had spectacularly broken their covenant with God in the worship of the golden calf. And Moses had made sure they realized what they had done. Many of their number were summarily executed for their sins. It must have left shaken up the people rather thoroughly. At this point, they were very aware of their sin and their inability to keep God's covenant on their own. They could then see their need of pardon and a Savior. And, they could appreciate the terms of the new covenant, as they were illustrated in the sanctuary services.

      We can see that the vast majority of the people had a genuine change of heart when we read how gladly and willingly they brought their precious possessions as offerings to be used in building a sanctuary for God to live among them.

      Just as in our own lives, we have high points and low points, so it is in the life of God's people as a whole. The worship of the golden calf was a low point. The subsequent repentance and joyful giving to the building of the temple was a high point.

      I don't believe that the people of Israel, as a whole, were any more sinful than we are. Their sins just looked a little different. We can find the same sins among us today.

      The wonderful thing is that out of this "mixed multitude" that is the contemporary church, God will bring out a faithful remnant who will reflect the character of Christ to the world. It is up to us whether we will be part of that remnant. If we choose to surrender ourselves fully to Christ and His indwelling Spirit, He will change us from the inside out. And the world will know that we "have been with Jesus."

      Like(0)
  3. Are there only two covenants? I believed that God made multiple covenants with each descendants and adding to the previous covenants all pointing to one main covenant – life everlasting. All the covenants have blessings for humans who “keep” the agreement of the covenants – obedience. Why some say two covenants? Apparently it seems from discussion that one of them is the instructions given at Mount Sinai and the other is? I guess all the others.
    The instructions at Mount Sinai are the same covenant given to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, and even us today. Mount Sinai instructions only explain in details the phrase “my commandments”. The essence of God promises to us is twofold: blessing and sanctification. Sanctification – the Laws of God which are the guarantors for the blessings. Mount Sinai instructions (or commandments), if uphold, will ensure the blessings – everlasting life. God always make a way (sanctification) to deliver what He promises.
    So I can understand why some may say “two covenants” when in fact it is only one (blessings) and a guarantor (laws) for the blessings: one supplements the other (2 John 1:2). If you separate them, then you have tried to weaken the bonds between them.
    Why some people say that the new covenant is one of grace, when the Bible says “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”?
    The structure is the same: a guarantor (instructions written on our hearts) for the blessings – everlasting life - promised to Adam and to us. So how do we get to discuss two covenants when God only promises us everlasting life and has set instructions on how to get it?

    Like(0)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.