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What’s the difference between the two covenants?

All Bible students know that there are two major divisions of the Bible—the Old Testament and the New Testament.  These divisions are not separated merely by a page with words printed, “The New Testament,” but it is God who has drawn a distinct line between the Old (or First) Covenant that He made and the New (or Second) Covenant.

God instructs us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  One key to “rightly dividing the word of truth” is rightly dividing the Old Testament from the New Testament.  In the following paragraphs, notice the contrast between the two covenants.

The Old Covenant was made only with the Israelite nation. Moses reminded Israel that “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb” (Deuteronomy 5:2).  This covenant was not with the Gentiles but only the Jews.

The New Covenant was made with every nation. Jesus told His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).  Peter learned that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).

The Old Covenant was revealed by God through His prophets. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets…” (Hebrews 1:1).

The New Covenant was revealed by God through His Son. “God...has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2).  “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).

The Old Covenant could not take away sin. “For the law... can never with these same sacrifices...make those who approach perfect...For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).

The New Covenant, in force after Christ’s death (Hebrews 9:15-17), has the power to forgive sins (Hebrews 9:22)“He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The Old Covenant served as a tutor to bring man to Christ (Galatians 3:24), but after Christ has come, “we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:25).  In writing about the Old Covenant, Paul said, “He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

The New Covenant is an “everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20), which “is much more glorious” (2 Corinthians 3:11) than the first, for it “gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

We are no longer bound by the Old Testament to do those things written therein, for Jesus came to “fulfill” it all (Matthew 5:17), taking “away the first that He may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9).  Jesus said that we will be judged by His words (John 12:48), as revealed in the pages of the New Testament.

Let us “rightly divide the word of truth” so that we might be “approved to God.”