Just as Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, so too Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant. In this message Pastor Brian outlines the similarities and differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and shows why the New Covenant is based on better promises.
Christ – The Mediator Of A Better Covenant
As we come to Exodus 19 through 24, we are going to see the Lord God enter into a covenant with the nation of Israel. Now, to enter into a covenant is to make binding promises to someone. Marriage, for example is a covenant. The man makes certain promises, and the woman makes certain promises. Once those binding promises are made, they are husband and wife. Now, why do I believe Exodus chapters 19 through 24 is describing a covenant? Read 19:1-6, “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: `You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. `Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.´ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Verses 5 and 6 are covenant language. There are certain things Israel must bind themselves to do, and there are certain things God binds Himself to do. Notice also that in verse 5 God says, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant,…” What covenant? The covenant that He was laying out for them. He lays out this covenant in chapters 20-23. In chapter 20, God gives Moses the 10 Commandments, which is the core of this covenant. But then God goes on for three more chapters laying out various and sundry laws that Israel must keep as their part of the covenant. There are laws concerning slaves that they bought, personal injuries, property rights, national feasts, and various other laws.
Then, pick it up in chapter 24:1-8, “Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance.
Moses alone, however, shall come near to the LORD, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.” Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then 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!” So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
In verse 4 Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he offered animal sacrifices. Then in verse 7, he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. Wait a minute? What book of the covenant? What was he reading? Verse 4 tells us. It was the words of the Lord that he wrote down. What words of the Lord? Chapters 20-23! The laws that God gave Moses for Israel constituted the covenant, and when Moses read God’s laws, he was reading the book of the covenant.
Look also at Exodus 31:16-17, `So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.´ It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”
Notice that celebrating the sabbath was a perpetual covenant. The sabbath was a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. This may help you to understand why the sabbath was included in the 10 commandments, and why God gave so much space to it in Exodus 20. Notice, that it is a sign. It is not a moral command. It is a symbolic command. When a man and woman get married, they exchange rings. These are the signs of the covenant they are entering into. In the same way, God required Israel to keep the sabbath as the sign of the covenant that they had entered into with God. That’s also why there is no sabbath command in the New Testament. God’s covenant with Israel is gone, and there is now a New Covenant with his believing people.
My purpose this morning is to show you how Jesus Christ is the mediator of a better covenant. There are certain similarities between the Old and the New Covenant, and there are certain dissimilarities. I’m going to ask some questions, and seek to get answers from both Exodus 19, and Hebrews 8.
- When did God inaugurate each covenant?
- Who are the mediators of each covenant?
- Who are the parties in each covenant?
- What is the basis of each covenant?
- Who is making promises in each covenant?
- What are the stipulations of each covenant?
- What are the blessings of each covenant?
1. When Did God Inaugurate Each Covenant?
The Old Covenant. God inaugurated the Old Covenant at Sinai, two months after they were delivered from Egypt. Exodus 19:1 says, “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.”
The New Covenant. God inaugurated the New Covenant at Calvary. Jesus said in Luke 22:20, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” The New Covenant could not take effect until Christ’s blood was shed on the cross.
2. Who Are The Mediators Of Each Covenant?
What is a Mediator? A mediator is a middle-man; a go-between. A mediator is someone who brings two people or parties together that were hostile to one another. A mediator is someone who establishes peace between two hostile parties. If a husband and wife are estranged, and just can’t get along, a mediator may step in to reconcile them.
The Old Covenant. Galatians 3:19-20 says, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.” Now this verse says that the Law was added through the agency of a mediator. Who was the mediator that brought the Law? Moses! This is obvious as you read Exodus 19. Moses is the representative of Israel. He is the one who goes between Israel and God. Notice verse 3 and verse 8. “Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel… All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.’” Moses appeared before God on behalf of Israel, and he spoke to Israel on behalf of God. Moses was the middle-man, the go-between for Israel and God.
The New Covenant. So, who is the mediator of the New Covenant? Now, that one is easy, because the Bible is very clear here. Hebrews 8:6 says, “But now, He [Jesus from 7:24] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant. The new covenant is a better covenant than the old covenant, because it was enacted on better promises. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There is only one mediator between the holy God, and sinful men. These two parties are at enmity with each other. We are enemies of God. Whenever we sin, we are waging war with Him. We needed a middle-man who could reconcile us to God. And, that’s exactly what Jesus Christ has done! He is the mediator of the new covenant.
3. Who Are The Parties In Each Covenant?
The Old Covenant. The old covenant was a binding agreement made between God and Israel. We know this from Exodus 19:3-5, “Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” In verse 3 God calls the party He is entering into covenant with “the house of Jacob” and “the sons of Israel.” So, in the old covenant, God made a pact with Israel. They bound themselves with solemn promises.
The New Covenant. Now, who are the parties in the new covenant? Jesus Christ and God the Father. The Jews under the old covenant had to obey God’s law. However, Jesus meticulously kept the Law, and brought an end to all of the animal sacrifices of the old covenant by dying in our place for our transgressions. Now, all who are in Christ, are part of this new covenant. Whereas the old covenant was between Jehovah and Israel, the new covenant is between Jehovah and Christ, and all who are in Christ.
4. Who Is Making Promises In Each Covenant?
The Old Covenant. In Exodus 19:5 God says, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In verse 8 it says, “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do!’” The people promise to obey God’s laws. God promises they will be His own possession among all the peoples and make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Both God and Israel make binding promises to one another. This is a bilateral covenant. There are two parties compacting together.
The New Covenant. Listen to the language of Hebrews 8:6-12, But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying ‘know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Now, in this passage the author of Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34. Jeremiah says that days are coming when God is going to enter into a new covenant. But did you hear who is making promises in this covenant? God alone! There is not one word about what the sinner must do. God does everything in this covenant. In the old covenant, it was an “if…then” covenant. If you do this, then I will do that. But in this covenant it is an “I will… and they shall” covenant. The old covenant was a bilateral covenant. This is a unilateral covenant.
5. What Is The Basis Of Each Covenant?
The Old Covenant. Well, if the old covenant was conditioned upon Israel’s obedience to God’s law, what was the basis of that covenant? Their works! They had to work to continue in that covenant. If they stopped working, the covenant would fail.
The New Covenant. The new covenant is conditioned upon Christ’s obedience. So what is the basis of that covenant? Grace! John 1:17 says, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” The Old Covenant was a covenant of works. The New Covenant is a covenant of grace. By the way, that’s why we are secure in the new covenant. In Hebrews 8:9 it says, “for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.” If Israel would fulfill her obligations as a wife, then the covenant would remain intact. However, if she committed spiritual adultery, which is idolatry, and go after other gods, then the covenant would be broken, and the marriage would be dissolved. In the old covenant, God married Israel, but because of her continual spiritual adultery, God divorced her. They did not continue in God’s covenant, and God did not care for them. But under the new covenant, our basis of relationship with God is His grace. Since Christ obeyed the Law perfectly, we don’t have to work to earn favor with Him. Christ has already earned our acceptance with God!
6. What Are The Stipulations Of Each Covenant
The Old Covenant. Exodus 19:5 says, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant..” Those were the stipulations on Israel’s side. So, what exactly did God mean by obeying His voice and keeping His covenant. We get a more detailed answer in Exodus 23:23-24, “For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them. You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.” Also, verses 32-33. In order for Israel to keep the covenant, she must not worship other gods. If she did, then she would break the covenant.
The New Covenant. Interestingly, both in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and Hebrews 8:8-12, there are no stipulations listed for God’s people under the new covenant. Christ has fulfilled all of the conditions for His people. We simply rest in the works of our covenant-keeping Lord! That’s what faith is. It is to rest in the works of Jesus Christ.
7. What Are The Blessings of Each Covenant
The Old Covenant. We have some of the blessings listed for us in Exodus 23:25-31, “But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.”
So, what are the blessings for Israel if she obeys the covenant? 1) sickness is removed; 2) no miscarriages or barren women; 3) their enemies will be driven out; 4) the land of Palestine. Now, did you notice something about those blessings? They are all physical and material. These blessings are not spiritual at all. If Israel obeys God and does not go after other gods, the Lord will remove sickness, grant children to the women, drive out their enemies, and give them the land of Palestine as their inheritance.
The New Covenant. Now, let’s see what the blessings are for those in the New Covenant. There are four of them.
1) A Desire To Obey God: Hebrews 8:10 says, “I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.” Under the new covenant, God gives His people a desire to obey Him. This is different from the old covenant. In the old covenant, God gave a Law, but it was external. It was written on tablets of stone. God gave His people a very high standard, but did not give them the power to keep it. Under the new covenant, God has written His law, not on tablets of stone, but on the fleshly tablets of the human heart. God has given us both the desire and the power to obey His will. At birth, something else is engraved on our hearts. Jeremiah 17:1 says, “The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus; with a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart.” Before we enter the new covenant, we have sin written on the tablet of our heart with a diamond point, which is the hardest stone in the world! Our sin nature is etched into us indellibly from birth. Now God etches something new onto our hearts – His Law! How does He do it? Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” When we are born of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit writes God’s law upon our hearts. Only He can give us the desire to please and obey Christ! And He does this in every person who is born of the Spirit. He implants the divine nature in them. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, and the Holy Spirit is the agent of the new covenant.
Now, why will the new covenant never be dissolved? Why are we sure of its success? Well, the old covenant required obedience to an external law. Thus, men were sure to disregard that law. In the new covenant, the law is internal, written on our hearts. So, the new covenant is sure to succeed! The old covenant was broken because of spiritual infidelity. The new covenant will succeed because God will cause His people to obey! Listen to the words of Jeremiah 32:40, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” If you give your child a command to clean up his room, he’ll drag his feet and look for a way out of it. But if you command him to read a book on Babe Ruth, and write a book report, that’s no problem! Why? Because he wants to read a book on Babe Ruth. God has simply changed our hearts, so that we want to do what He has commanded us to do.
Is this true of you? If you have been included in the new covenant it is! This right here is the starting point of sanctification. What a blessing! How dreary to be under a law that you hated, but had to keep or else you would end up in hell! That’s how many people relate to God. They feel they have to be good or else. No matter how hard they try to keep the law, they are still lost. But God begins this work by sending His Spirit into our hearts to write His law upon us so that now it is the greatest desire of our life to please Him! Does that resonate with you? Do you know experientially what I’m talking about?
2) A Relationship To God: Hebrews 8:10 says, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” God is establishing a covenant relationship with them. This language speaks of a marriage union. God could have said, “I will be their husband and they shall be my wife.” The Jews of the Old Testament broke God’s covenant of marriage, by committing spiritual adultery and going after other gods. At some point, God gave Israel a certificate of divorce (Jer.3:8). By the time we come to the New Testament, faithless Israel has ceased to be God’s covenant people. They have ceased to be God’s special possession, His chosen nation, His kingdom of priests. Now God gives those blessings to the church. They inherit the blessings that Israel forfeited. Christ establishes a new covenant with believers that will never be broken. Now, when two people get married they now have joint ownership of all things. What is his is also hers, and what is hers is now his. When God takes us into covenant, all that is His be comes ours! What an incredible thought. This is the greatest blessing we could ever receive! By nature we are enemies of God. But He takes us into the union of marriage with Himself. Then He exercises His perfections for our good. He grants us His wisdom to guide us, His power to protect us, His love to enrich us, His faithfulness to preserve us. We are now heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We possess all things! All things work together for our good. We are infinitely rich!
My friends, is this true of you? If He is your God, then it is also true that you are His people. Not only is all that is His yours, but it is also true that all that is yours is now His. Your life, your time, your money, your spiritual gifts, your energy, your mind, your heart, your soul, your strength is all His! Those in this new covenant are in a new relationship with God, and thus find their joy in giving all back to their Husband and Maker!
3) A Knowledge Of God: Hebrews 8:11 says, “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for all will know Me from the least to the greatest of them.” Every single person who has entered into this new covenant knows the Lord. He is regenerate. All – from the least to the greatest of them know the Lord. From the newest believer, to the saint who has been walking with the Lord for 70 years. They all know Him. Some know Him more intimately than others, but all know Him. Now, this is different than Israel. Some of the people of Israel knew the Lord, and some didn’t. Within Israel you had the remnant, the true Israel, and then you had the rest who didn’t know Him. But in God’s church all believers know Him. You may know many things about Michael Jordan, but you don’t know him. You have never talked with him or corresponded with him. Knowing God is not the same as knowing about God. Now, how does a person get to know God? Since man can’t find God on his own, God must reveal Himself to him. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” And that’s exactly what God does in the new covenant. He reveals Himself to us. Jesus said in John 6:44-45, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.’” The only way we can get to know someone is to come to them. But Jesus said no one can come to Him unless something else happens first. They must be drawn by God. What does that mean? It means that God personally teaches them. Then they come in faith to Christ.
Is this true of you? Do you know Him? Married persons know each other. If you are in the new covenant, you are in a marriage like covenant with God. Do you speak with God? Does He speak to you? Are you conscious of His presence? Does He manifest Himself to you? Is He real to you? Is He as real to you as a spouse or a friend? That’s what it is to know God. What a blessing! Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn.17:3)!
4) A Pardon From God: Hebrews 8:12 says, “I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Every single member of the new covenant has a full and complete pardon from God. God promises never to remember them again. Wait a minute! An omniscient Being can’t forget anything! This simply means that God will never hold these sins against you ever again. Instead, He will treat you as though you have never sinned, and He acts as though He’s forgotten all about it. Sin is what keeps us from God’s blessings. It separates us from God and dams up the current of God’s blessings. If you take sin away, the hindrance is removed, and grace runs down like a mighty torrent. Under the old covenant animal sacrifices were offered, but they couldn’t really take away sin. All the could do is cover them over for another year. However, these sacrifices had to be repeated again and again. The new covenant is much better. It completely takes away sin by the offering of Jesus Christ once for all. This pardon from God is final and unchanging. God has pledged to never again remember these sins. He won’t recall them. He will treat us as if He had forgotten them.
Is this true of you? Then rejoice and give praise to God! Your sins are gone! As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed your transgressions from you. We have a perfect and eternal standing with God. Hallelujah!
Now, let’s put all of this together in a chart:
|Old Covenant||New Covenant|
|When did God Inaugurate Each Covenant?||At Sinai||At Calvary|
|Who are the Mediators of each Covenant?||Moses||Christ|
|Who are the parties in each Covenant?||Jehovah & Israel||Jehovah and Christ (and all who are in Christ)|
|Who is making promises in each Covenant?||Jehovah and Israel||Jehovah alone|
|Can this Covenant be broken?||Yes||No|
|What is the basis of each Covenant?||Works||Grace|
|Is this Covenant conditional or unconditional?||Conditional||Unconditional|
|Who is binding themselves in each Covenant?||Jehovah and Israel||Jehovah alone|
|What are the stipulations of each Covenant?||Obey God’s voice and keep His covenant||Faith in Christ|
|What are the blessings of each Covenant?||1. be God’s own possession among all the peoples
2. be a kingdom of priests
3. be a holy nation
|1. A desire to obey God
2. A relationship with God
3. A knowledge of God
4. A pardon from God
My friends, do you know how blessed you are to be in the New Covenant?! Unlike the old covenant, this covenant can never be broken, because it doesn’t depend on your obedience, but Christ’s! It doesn’t depend on your faithfulness but Christ’s! And the promises of this covenant are so much better than the old covenant. Instead of the promise that God will drive out our physical enemies, and put an end to miscarriages, and make every woman able to bear children, and remove sickness, God grants us a desire to obey, a relationship with Him, a knowledge of Him, and a pardon of sin! These are spiritual and eternal blessings. O church, worship the true and living God for being so good to us!
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