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The Sinai Covenant Is A Temporary Covenant

By Elie Nessim, November 25, 2003 Printer Friendly Version



What purpose then does the Law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the temporary nature of the Sinai Covenant. By this we mean the Covenant of Works, and not the (Torah) teaching. Both are characterized by the word 'Law', but the context will determine whether Law-Covenant is meant, or Law, God's Code of holiness. An example of this is found in Exodus 34:27, where the Lord said to Moses, 'Write thee these words for after the tenor of these words Have I made a covenant with thee and with Israel. In saying so, the Lord bestowed the Torah on His people within the frameworks (or administration) of a covenant. Both senses, that of Covenant and of Code are included in His command.

All Covenants in Scripture are unilateral, except for the Covenant of Works, which was first made with unfallen Adam and repeated at Sinai with Israel. In both cases, this Works-Covenant failed because it depended on fallible man. This is the main reason why it could not and never will succeed. In Romans 8:3, the Word of God affirms that the reason the Law Covenant failed was its weakness through the flesh, i.e. sinful man did not honour his obligations to its terms and conditions. To put it plainly, we are saved, not by our own works, but by the works of Messiah, the holy, harmless and sinless Son of God; we benefit from His imputed righteousness, inherited from Him. We are not, and never can be, saved by our own works. When the Law offers life in return for keeping all its commands perfectly, the point of departure is sinless perfection: we have to start by proving at the very beginning that we have never sinned, or we would be instantly disqualified. Sinless perfection means we have not forfeited our right to life; and in such a case, all the Law does (or can do) is to affirm our right to life; provided we maintain an unbroken, untarnished sinlessness to the end. Only Messiah Yeshua could and did meet these requirements; and in His grace and mercy He has passed on the benefit of a perfect  righteousness to His people. In the words of Isaiah 61:10, 'I will greatly rejoice in the Lord...He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness...' For this reason He is called Adonai Tsidkenu, 'The Lord our Righteousness' (Jeremiah 23:;6)

In Galatians 3:1 ff. the Word of God asserts that we are not saved by the works of the Law, but by faith in God. The principles that guide every true believer are not those of works, but those of faith, as was the case with Abraham. Abraham did not merely believe God's promise; He believed in his promising God, and it was this faith that was reckoned to Him as righteousness. This  blessing comes to all, Jew or Gentile, who believe in God and who trust in His promises because of who He is. This is the order in Hebrews 11:6: 'He that draws near to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who seek Him out'. It is those who are on the principle of faith that are blessed with believing Abraham. Conversely, as many as are on the principle of works of law are under a curse, for not beginning, continuing and ending in all things which are written in the book of the Law. No one is justified by the Law, because the Law is not on the  principle of faith; by that we mean the Law viewed as a Covenant of works. The Law does not say, 'Believe', but 'he that shall have done these things shall live by them'. It curses everyone who doesn't. The Law-Covenant is not on the principle of faith, which is diametrically opposed to the principle of works. Only Messiah Yeshua could and did buy us out from the curse, by  acknowledging it to be wholly just and submitting to it in His people's behalf. Now that believers have been redeemed from the curse, they are free to receive the promise of righteousness through faith.

It should be emphasized that this promise not only preceded the Law (as Covenant), but it has succeeded it; and it should also be stressed that the Law (as Covenant) was not one of promise but of works. Law as Covenant cannot give life, righteousness, mercy, blessing, inheritance; Law as God's Code of holiness shows us how these are obtained through Messiah, not through itself. Why then was the Law given? Galatians 3:19 provides the answer: 'it was ADDED for the sake of transgressions, UNTIL the Seed came to Whom the promise was made'. Those two words 'ADDED' and 'UNTIL', declare plainly the temporary nature of the Sinai Covenant. The term 'SEED' refers to Messiah, on Whom all the promises were bestowed in eternity and in Whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen (2. Corinthians 1:20). The Law was given as our  guardian in the interim between Sinai and Bethlehem; its teaching leads us to Messiah, not to Moses; and having done so its jurisdiction has accomplished its purpose, although its God-given instructions in holiness are eternally valid. The teaching remains in full force, but not the Covenant under which it was given. We are now under our Divine Lawgiver, not our human one (2. Corinthians 9:21).

Jeremiah 31:31-34 announced the removal of the Sinai Covenant and its replacement by the New Covenant. In the former case, the Law (the teaching) was written on tablets of stone; in the latter, the same Law (teaching) is inscribed on the tablets of the heart. The time of setting things right, spoken of in Hebrews 9:10, arrived with Messiah; the outward and temporal has given place to the inward and eternal. It is under the New Covenant, not that of Sinai, that we obtain life, righteousness mercy, blessing and inheritance. 'For ye are saved by grace, through faith: and this is  not of yourselves; it is God's gift: not on the principle of works, that no one might boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9).




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