Sabbath: Christ, the Law and the Covenants
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Read for This Week’s Study: Gen. 9:12-17, Gen 17:2-12, Gal. 3:15-28, Deut. 9:9, Heb. 10:11-18, Heb. 9:15-28.

Memory Text: For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:15, NIV).gless10-2014b

God’s eternal decision to save humanity has been revealed to us through the ages in the covenants. Though the Bible speaks of covenants in the plural (Rom. 9:4, Gal. 4:24, Eph. 2:12), there is really only the covenant of grace, in which salvation is given to sinners, not on the basis of their merits but on the merits of Jesus that are offered to all who claim those merits by faith. The plural, covenants, simply means that God has advanced His saving purposes by restating the covenant in various ways in order to meet the needs of His people in different times and settings. It is always, though, one covenant-the eternal covenant of God’s saving grace.

The heart of this covenant is our Lord’s steadfast, faithful love, a love that the Bible at times even equates with the covenants themselves (see Deut. 7:9, 1 Kings 8:23, Dan. 9:4). As part of that covenant, God calls His people to obey His law, not as a means of salvation but as the fruit of it. Law and grace together have always been central to God’s eternal covenant.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 7.

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Sabbath: Christ, the Law and the Covenants — 5 Comments

  1. "Though the Bible speaks of covenants in the plural (Rom. 9:4, Gal. 4:24,Eph. 2:12), there is really only the covenant of grace, in which salvation is given to sinners, not on the basis of their merits but on the merits of Jesus that are offered to all who claim those merits by faith. The plural, covenants, simply means that God has advanced His saving purposes by restating the covenant in various ways in order to meet the needs of His people in different times and settings."

    Let's put what the lesson says here a bit differently: God has had only one requirement for His creatures, the great law of love and He has always had only one way that His creatures could keep that law and that has always been by grace. I believe that is what the lesson author intended saying by there being only one covenant. However, the Bible is also very clear that there is more than one covenant concerning salvation.

    Man in times past has approached the salvation issue in different ways according to what he understood. Because of this there are two major covenants spoken of in the New Testament, the old covenant and the new covenant. The new covenant is the same as the everlasting covenant and is essentially the same as the Abrahamic covenant.

    There is one major difference between these two covenants and it isn't the law that is involved. Concerning the new covenant Hebrews says that it is a, "better covenant, which was established on better promises" (Heb. 8:6 NKJV). The difference is in the promises. In the old covenant man was the one promising while in the new covenant God is the one who is promising. When considering texts such as, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23 NKJV) and "we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6 NKJV) we can easily see why man failed so much in the Old Testament and will always fail under the old covenant because man can't do anything on his own (Jn 15:5). All his promises about keeping the old covenant were and still are absolutely worthless!

    "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:26 NKJV). That is what makes the new covenant the only one that will work. The only one who can do is the one who is promising. In fact, the only requirement for man under the new covenant is for him to accept its provisions and even that is implicit.

    For those that can stream video on their computer Doug Batchelor has a very good lesson study on this lesson.

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    • I appreciate your explanation of the new vs the old. I might add that the old covenant had two aspects of weakness, the promise of man, and the power of the sacrifices. As you pointed out, our promises (like those of Israel) have no power to save. And the sacrifices of the old covenant had value for salvation only as they pointed to the new; the old sacrifices never could save on their own (Hebrews 10:4) but they did serve as "the copy and shadow" of the powerful ministry of Jesus.

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  2. Tyler you said "In the old covenant man was the one promising while in the new covenant God is the one who is promising."
    In Hebrews 11:13 The Bible says "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." The promises they were looking forward to were the promises God made to them. I do not see the promises they were following being the promises they made to God. Please enlighten me.

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    • Eileen, thank you for asking the question and allowing me to explain. My comment was specifically addressing the difference between the old and new covenants and the fact that there are indeed two major covenants. While Hebrews 11 does indeed talk of faith it is not the promises under the old covenant that is being discussed but rather those under the everlasting covenant which is the same as the new covenant.

      The designation old and new refer to the date of ratification, as an explanation consider what Paul has to say in Galatians, "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (Gal. 3:16-18 NKJV). Now as I said the Abrahamic covenant was essentially the everlasting covenant and that was the covenant that the sons of faith put themselves under. The point that Paul makes is that the old covenant could not annul a previous covenant which was the everlasting covenant and the one Hebrews 11 references to.

      As Exodus says concerning the ratification of the old covenant and Moses, "Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, 'All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.'" (Exod. 24:7 NKJV). That, Eileen, is the failed promises of the old covenant (Heb 8:6-7).

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