What Does the Bible Say About Covenants?

Christian MölkBible Talks 1 Comment

A covenant, also known as a “testament”, which is the Latin word for covenant, is an agreement between two or more parties that is often confirmed by a promise, a sacrifice, and a meal. Those who enter into covenant with each other promise to uphold the agreement and accept the consequences of breaking the covenant. In biblical times, a king could make a covenant with another country. He then promised to protect the people if they obeyed him and punish them if they were rebellious. In the same way, God offers a covenant to Israel in which God will be the God of Israel and Israel will be the people of God. When God makes a covenant with Israel on Mount Sinai, God promises Israel that he will protect and bless Israel. Israel, in turn, promises to love God and worship no other gods and to obey the Law of Moses. When Israel no longer keeps their part of the covenant, they no longer receive protection from God and are therefore displaced from their land. Since it was not possible for Israel to fully obey the Law, they performed continual sacrifices to atone for their sins and thus remain under God’s protection. Through Israel’s continual failure to keep their part of the covenant, God showed Israel and the rest of the world the need for a savior and promised Israel a new and better covenant. This new covenant God makes with humanity when Jesus dies on the cross. There Jesus becomes the sacrifice that confirms the covenant and where the Lord’s Supper is the meal that shows that we are part of the covenant. In the New Covenant, we are no longer bound to obey the Law but are instead given the promise of salvation and eternal life as a free gift through faith in Jesus. In this new covenant, people from all nations can enter and receive the Spirit of God who helps us to voluntarily want to live according to God’s word. 

Bible Verses

3Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 9Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.(Ex 24:3–11)

10They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. 11Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them.(Je 11:10–11)

6But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.(Heb 8:6–13)

26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.(Mt 26:26–28)

25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”(1 Co 11:25)

Study Questions

  1. What is the Old Covenant promise, sacrifice and meal?
  2. What is the New Covenant promise, sacrifice and meal?
  3. Why did Israel fail to keep its part of the covenant?
  4. In what way is the New Covenant better than the Old Covenant?
  5. Is the Old Covenant between God and Israel still valid?

Additional Bible Verses

Deut 28, Gen 31:43-55, Gen 8:20-9:17, Gen 15, Ex 19-24, Joshua 24:1-28, 2 Sam 3:9-10, 2 Sam 7:8-16, 2 Kings 11:17, 2 Kings 23:1-3, Nehemiah 9:38-10:39, Hos 6:7, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:17-34, Zech 2:11, Rev 21:3, Eph 2:8-9, Rom 8:9-11, Heb 7:22-25, Ezek 37:26-28, Jer 31:31-33, Heb 9:15, Jer 3:1

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