The New Covenant

"And having taken some bread, when He had given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me'. And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'." (Luke 22:19-20 NASB)

The New Covenant is what the Gospel is all about.  From the perspective of 'What's in it for us Christians?' this subject is possibly the most important of everything we have considered. Without the New Covenant, there is no Gospel message, no Christianity, no salvation, no inclusion of Gentiles in God's promises.  Without the New Covenant, the Jews would still be bound by the Old Covenant, having to make animal sacrifices for the covering of their sins, and we, as Gentiles, would remain on a fast track to hell!

I have made reference to the New Covenant in a number of essays so far.  It is time I covered the subject in detail.  Jesus announced it at the Passover meal, the bread representing His body and the wine His blood.  Only in Luke is He quoted using the word 'new', and the significance of the final sacrifice is not made abundantly clear in the Gospels. So the details of the New Covenant come from Hebrews. This letter is generally attributed to the Apostle Paul, however it is different from his other letters in that it doesn't start with Paul's usual greeting.  Nevertheless, whoever wrote it was mates with Timothy and knew the Hebrew scriptures like the back of his hand.  Sounds like Paul to me.


Basically, a covenant is an agreement between two parties. It is similar to a contract and it can be conditional or unconditional. However, you can take a contract to court and argue over the validity of conditions it contains. You can try to get the contract annulled and appeal any court decision in a higher court.  That's something you can't do with a covenant. A covenant stands on its own overt simplicity, and the promises are in force as soon as any conditions have been complied with.  If anything, a covenant is more like a Last Will and Testament. The heirs realise the benefits when the Testator dies. When I die, my children will inherit all of my estate.  However, I am entitled to spend all of my estate while I'm still alive.  Again, that is something God will not do. Whatever He has promised, He will fulfill, and He won't be spending the inheritance before we get to heaven.


The Bible makes reference to numerous covenants made between parties.  We are particularly concerned here with covenants made between God and Man:

The Adamic covenant:
The very first covenant was between God and Adam (Genesis 2:16-17).  Adam was promised he could eat any fruit in the garden whatsoever, except one.  Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would cause him to surely die. Of course, that was the one he had to have.

The Noahic Covenant: 
God made an unconditional covenant with Noah and all flesh on the earth, promising never again to destroy all life on earth in a flood (Genesis 9:8-17).  He established the rainbow as a sign of this unconditional covenant.

The Abrahamic Covenant:
There were actually two covenants made between God and Abraham.  The first was an unconditional land grant, roughly describing the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18).  The second is found in Genesis 17, where God promises to make Abraham the father of many nations and give him all the land of Canaan, conditional upon circumcision of all the male offspring.  In addition, (and more importantly), they were to "Walk before Him and be blameless."

Old (Sineatic) Covenant:

The Old Covenant is articulated throughout the Pentateuch. To appreciate the essence, we have to isolate the promises and the conditions from those first five books of Moses.  The promises are probably best described in Exodus 19:5-6:

"...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."

The conditions are best summarised in Exodus 34:27-28:

"Then the Lord said to Moses. 'write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel'.  So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments."

This 'Old' Covenant is basically the ratification of the Abrahamic Covenants.  It doesn't cancel the agreements made in those preceding covenants.

Let's start by putting down the words of this critical Covenant. It expresses the agreement with God governing our relationship with Him today.  It is found in Hebrews, quoting directly from Jeremiah 31:

"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 upon their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people, and they shall not teach every one his fellow citizen, and every one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord', for all shall 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." (Hebrews 8: 8-10 NASB)

Whilst the New Covenant is generally considered to be unconditional by most scholars, I disagree.  There certainly is no mention of any condition in that passage, but remember that you can't argue over the legalistic parameters of a covenant.  Chapter 9 of Hebrews reads:

"For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."
 (Hebrews 9:12-15  NASB)

Jesus is the mediator of this New Covenant, or the person who goes between us and the Father.  It is His prerogative to attach whatever conditions He sees fit.  And one condition He attached, was that we forgive one another. (Matthew 6:14-15, see my essay on Forgiveness)  One could argue there is a second condition attached, which is that we actually accept His sacrifice and genuinely repent (Matthew 4:17). If the New Covenant was totally unconditional, everyone would be saved, regardless of repentance.  Obviously this is not the case (Matthew 7:13-14)

Next we need to look at who exactly are the beneficiaries of this eternal inheritance. The wording of the covenant nominates 'the house of Israel' in chapter 8 and 'those who have been called' in chapter 9. Hebrews makes no mention of Gentiles. Fortunately, chapters 2 and 3 of Ephesians and chapter 3 of Galatians leave no doubt that the Gentiles are now fellow heirs, fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ through the Gospel. Jesus Himself forecast this inclusion of Gentiles in the parable of the King's wedding feast given for his son (Matthew 22).  And there are too many references to mention here, in Acts and Romans, all dealing with Gentiles being included in the Gospel.  This makes all genuine Christians, collectively, what is commonly referred to as the 'Spiritual Israel', although that exact phraseology isn't used in the Bible.

Romans 11:11 actually asserts that the reason Gentiles are included, is the Jews' failure and apathy (transgression), in order to make them jealous! If the nation of Israel had been faithful to God and recognised Jesus as the Messiah when He came, we would have been left out!  Again, this inclusion of the Gentiles was prophesied very early in history, when God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations (Genesis 17), showing God's purpose and foreknowledge pervades all scripture.


"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 for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)

"When He said, "a new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Hebrews 8:13)

The new covenant has replaced the old one. But does that mean that the benefits promised under the old covenant have been withdrawn?  Clearly not.  This is where it is most important to fully grasp the difference between a contract and a covenant.  The world will never again be wiped out by a world-wide flood.  The Promised Land still belongs to the Jews as an everlasting possession.  Jesus came, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-18) and not the smallest letter of the Law shall pass away until all is accomplished.  God has shown how righteous He is by declaring His Law.  Now He has made Himself the fulfillment of the Law by dying on a cross on our behalf.

Now, having established that the New Covenant applies to all followers of Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, and that there are some conditions attached, let's look at the detailed promises and determine exactly what's in it for us.


There are numerous promises:

1. Mercy to our iniquities
2. Redemption of our transgressions
3. Remembering our sins no more
4. Cleansing of our conscience
5. Writing His laws upon our hearts and minds
6. Personal intimacy with our Maker
7. Partaking in the eternal inheritance

Mercy is a wonderful act of grace, giving someone a dispensation to which they were in no way entitled. In Matthew 9:13 and 12:7, Jesus deplores the fact that the people He was talking to had not grasped the meaning of Hosea 6:6, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice".  The NASB translates it as, "I desire compassion, and not sacrifice".  God's heart is to forgive.  All He asks is that we do likewise.

Redemption literally means to 'buy back' or to pay a ransom. It is a little like we had been kidnapped by the devil, and Jesus rescued us by paying the ransom demands of the kidnapper.  Yet the payment was not made to Satan - it was a price incurred by the Father, payable to Him for breach of His standards.  All Satan really wanted all along was to usurp God's place, and he never expected Jesus to go through with His crucifixion.  I think Satan was calling God's bluff.  Who would have ever expected God to actually proceed with dying a human death for His Creation?  Fooled him good!

Forgetting our sins. Truly forgiving is one thing, but forgetting it ever happened? God says He can do it and I believe Him. It would be a real blot on the landscape of eternity, if our sin and rebellion always remained somewhere in the back of His mind.  

Cleansing our conscience speaks of the renewing of our minds.  Today, we are still hindered by the dogged persistence of our minds wanting to revert to secular thinking patterns. Our entire brain needs to be rewired to get it to absorb the astounding realities of the Gospel message.  God has promised to wipe our minds clean of progress-inhibiting guilt feelings, paving the way for a new way of thinking (Romans 12:2). Our 'hard disk' needs to be totally reformatted, to rid it of old and outdated programs and insidious viruses causing unanticipated malfunctions and crashes.

Putting His laws into our minds and writing them upon our hearts speaks of revolutionary new programming, enabling us to think God's way about the environment in which we find ourselves and the people we mix with. It will reveal the Spirit of the Law, the reason for its existence and the goal it is intended to achieve.

The letter of the law might say: 'don't speed in your car';
the spirit of that law is: 'don't cause damage or hurt someone'.
The letter of God's law says: 'don't have other gods before Me';
the Spirit of that law is: 'love God more than anything else'.
The letter of the law says: 'do unto others, as you would have others do unto you';
the Spirit of that law is: 'share God's love and mercy the way Jesus loved you’.

Personally, I think it is fair to say that the New Commandment Jesus gave us (see my essay by that name) beautifully expresses the Spirit of the Ten Commandments.  "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you." (John 13:34)  From that perspective, this commandment turns out not only to be a promise of potential, but almost a condition of the New Covenant!! Obviously, salvation is not conditional upon our ability to love as perfectly as Jesus can. But I do believe provision of such ready access to His law inherently comes with some level of expectation.

Personal intimacy. '... all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them'.  With God's laws written on our hearts and put in our minds, we really have no need for anyone else to teach us Truth. Pursuit of personal intimacy in our relationship with Jesus cannot fail to bring revelation (see my essay on Church Leadership). There's nothing wrong with having 'teachers', but if the teachers lose the plot, we should put them right.

If the 'teacher says: "God wants you to love money",
a thousand in the congregation should stand up and say: "No, He doesn't!"
If the 'preacher' says: "The earth is millions of years old",
a thousand should stand up and say: "No, it isn't!"
If the 'prophet' prophesies garbage to the congregation,
a thousand should stand up and censure him.

Whilst we should submit to our elders, they also should submit to us (1 Peter 5:5).  If you read anything in this website that is scripturally incorrect, I hope you will take the time and trouble to email me and point it out.  The time of abrogating our personal responsibility within the body of Christ is over.

The 'eternal inheritance'
 is something for eternity and therefore still to come.  I see it like this (and always remember, I can be wrong too):  

Following His return, which won't happen till our perfection as a Bride is complete (Ephesians 5:27, John 17:21), Jesus marries us (Revelation 19 and 21) and we will become joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8). (There are many who believe that we will be perfected after Jesus returns.  To me, that view makes the Gospel message impotent.  And it disparages the entire purpose of Creation.  God might as well have snapped His fingers at the moment of creation, to make perfect robots.)

There will be some 'first fruits', taken up from the earth before the large harvest (Revelation 14), but they will be exclusively Jewish (Revelation 7). Obviously the blood line of the Chosen People, to this day, still holds a very special meaning in the heart of God.

There is no doubt that there will be a wedding.  There is no doubt there will be an inheritance, and eternal life in God's presence. The Father already knows when this will be (Mark 13:32), but regarding the exact details and workings of this eternal arrangement, we can only speculate.  I can't imagine the Father bowing out, in order to pass on the heavenly estate to His Son. As far as I understand these things, we will be eternally worshipping the Father (Revelation 22:1-5). What I doknow is that, whatever the eternal arrangements will be, I want to be a part of it! Total understanding of the things of God must wait until perfection comes (1 Corinthians 13:9-12)


The New Covenant is the agreement governing the relationship between God and His people today.  The agreement is with the House of Israel, but it includes all Christians.  It has set us free from worship in buildings, from depending on priests or leaders to tell us what the scriptures mean, and from the curse of sin and death. It entitles us to spend eternity as a bride for Jesus, to become joint heirs with Him as His spouse. It promises intimacy with our Maker and forgiveness of our sins.

For our part, all we need to do is accept that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin. We must learn to love Him as our very first love.  We must forgive all others both the appalling atrocities, as well as the minor infringements, they have committed, be it against us, God or others.  And we must take that first step in inviting Him to become Lord of our life.


Thank God for the New Covenant!

There certainly are lots of benefits.  But when I said: "what's in it for us?" I was saying it tongue in cheek! Living under the Spirit of the Law automatically places self-interest at the very end of the queue.