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The Sinai Covenant - Renewed Or Replaced

By Elie Nessim, September 15 2002 Printer Friendly Version

Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD, I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
This text from Jeremiah 31:31-34 introduces our topic, the New Covenant. There is a move in Messianic circles to affirm that what has commonly been known as the New Covenant is in reality the 'Renewed Sinai Covenant'. Theologically and Biblically, this view is nothing less than heretical and can only lead to renewed spiritual bondage; it stems from the failure to distinguish between the two aspects of  'Law' (in the Biblical sense).

1. Law as Teaching, never changes or is replaced.

2. Law as Covenant, has been replaced.

We seek  the reader's patience as we deal with this issue in the following propositions (all quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

1. 'Law' as Teaching has Abiding Relevance and Authority

In Malachi 4:4, God says: 'Remember the Law of Moses My servant,   even the statutes and ordinances which I  commanded him in Horeb  for all Israel'.

In Matthew 5:17-18, Messiah Yeshua says: 'Do not think that I came  to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but  to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,  not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished'.

In these two statements, 'Law' means 'Teaching' and is synonymous with the entire Word of God. The prophet Malachi is not referring to the Sinai Covenant, although the teaching of the Law  was at that time renewed and  reaffirmed; the reference is rather to  the teaching that accompanied the giving of the Law and the inauguration of the Sinai Covenant. Likewise, Messiah Yeshua  is not  referring to the Sinai Covenant, but to the entire Word of God,  which includes all that He taught through Moses. The vast major  ity of Biblical texts refers to the Law in this sense; there is however  a smaller number of texts that refer to the Law as Covenant, and to  these we now direct our attention.

2. 'Law' as Covenant has been replaced.

Our text, Jeremiah 31:31-34, is the foundational statement of the New Covenant, yet God does not speak of a renewed covenant (Mechudesheth' = 'Renewed' in Hebrew); rather, he speaks of a New (chadash' = 'New in' Hebrew) covenant. Further, this New is to be altogether unlike the Sinai Covenant. This passage depicts the two senses in which  'Law' is used, and for confirmation we find that Hebrews 8:8-12 uses the word 'Kainos' (Greek for 'New'), and not 'Neos' (also Greek for 'New'). The word 'Kainos' means 'of a different nature'; whereas  'Neos' means 'recent' or 'reproduced', like new wine, which is wine still. Nor are the terms and conditions the same as in the Sinai Covenant , which was a Covenant of Works.

In Galatians 3:10-12 God's Word says; 'For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, to perform them. Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, The righteous man shall live by faith. However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, he who practises them shall live by them'.

Evidently, it is not Law as Teaching, but as a Covenant of Works, that is being spoken of. Law as Covenant condemns, Faith apart from Law justifies.

 E.g. Romans 3:21'But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets'.

Hebrews 10:1'For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near'.

In all these passages, Law is referred to in the sense of Covenant, and not Teaching. As Covenant, 'Law' was temporary; but as Teaching, 'Law' is eternal.

The Nature of the New Covenant

In the New Covenant, some things have changed and others have not; hence the confusion caused by the term 'Renewed Covenant' would be dispelled by the term 'Replaced Covenant'.

What has changed in the New Covenant?

I. The Lawgiver has changed!

Isaiah 33:22'For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is  our King; He will save  us'.

Genesis 49:10'The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,  nor the ruler's staff  from  between his feet, until Shiloh  comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples'.

1. Corinthians 9:21'To those who are without Law,  as without law, though not  being without the law of  God, but under the law of  Messiah, that I might win  those who are without law'.

II. The Priesthood has changed!

Psalm 110:4'The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'.

Hebrews 7:28 – 'For the Law appoints men as high  priests who are weak, but the word of the oath,  which came after the Law, appoints the Son, made  perfect  forever'.

III. The Sacrifice has changed!

Isaiah 53:6'All of us like sheep have gone astray,  each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him'.

Hebrews 10:11-12'And every priest stands daily  ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God'.

IV. The Administration has changed!

Jeremiah 3:16'And it shall be in those days, when you are multiplied and increased in the land, declares the LORD, they shall say no more, 'The ark of the  covenant of the LORD'.  And it shall not come to        mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they miss  it, nor shall it be made again'.

Hebrews 10:9'Then he said, Behold, I have come to do  Thy will. He takes away the first in order to establish the second'.

The Old Covenant has prepared the way for the New, as a blossom gives way to the fruit; the blossom falls off, in order to make room for the fruit following. The Precept has been transformed into a promise – God gives in the New what He required in the Old (Sinai) Covenant.

Deuteronomy 10:16'Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen no more'. Deuteronomy 30:6  'Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants....' That is to say, the ground of acceptance has changed, as outlined in Jeremiah 31:31-34

What has not changed in the New Covenant?

I. The Law has not changed.

Psalm 119:89'Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven'.

2 Timothy 3:16'All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for  correction, for  training in righteousness'.

II. God's provisions have not changed – the earthly has been  exchanged for the heavenly, the temporal for  the eternal. This applies to the Sanctuary, Altar, Sacrifice, High Priest etc.

Hebrews 9:11-12'But when Messiah appeared as a  high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say,  not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own  blood, He  entered the holy place  once for all, having obtained eternal redemption'.

III. The penalty for disobedience has not changed.

Hebrews 10:28-29'Anyone who has set aside the Law  of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two  or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and  has insulted the Spirit of grace?'.

IV. The promises have not changed

The New Covenant, which as inaugurated with Abraham,  is unilateral: God takes it upon Himself to meet all the  conditions,  thereby making it unconditional to every       believer.

Genesis 15:17-18'And it came about when the sun  had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which  passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD  made a covenant with Abram...'.

Galatians 3:20'Now a mediator is not for one party  only; whereas God is only one'. The gist of both passages is  that the New Covenant is the unilateral Covenant of Grace made with Abraham, in which God takes upon Himself to give all which he requires of the believers, and to make compensation for their shortcomings. The New Covenant is therefore unconditional as far as they are concerned, though not unconditional to Him, for He must provide the atonement that is promised. Deuteronomy 32:43'Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on his adversaries,  and will atone for His land and His people. God purposed and acted to provide this atonement once for all, through the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah, ushering in by His sacrifice the New Covenant based on better promises and provisions to all who believe.

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