A fundamental Biblical concept in the understanding of God's dealing with man and with the children of Israel is the covenant. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated covenant is berith. The basic meaning of the Hebrew word is agreement. [1] The word frequently occurs with the verb karath, which means "to cut," to form the expression "to cut a covenant." The cutting most probably refers to the cutting of the sacrificial victim into pieces by which act the covenant was made. In Jeremiah 34:18-20 the cutting of a calf in two and passing between the parts is mentioned in connection with the covenant which men made before the Lord. There is no explanation of the ceremony, but from the context in Jer. 34:18-20 it would seem that the significance of the cutting of the animals in pieces and passing between the pieces is the symbolic invocation of the same fate upon the parties to the covenant if they should transgress their agreement. [2]

"18 And the men who transgressed my covenant
and did not keep the terms of the covenant which they made before me,
I will make like the calf which they cut in two
and passed between its parts --
19 the princes of Judah,
the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests,
and all the people of the land
who passed between the parts of the calf;
20 and I will give them into the hand of their enemies
and into the hand of those who seek their lives.
Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the earth." (Jer. 34:18-20)
The Hebrew form of the oath, "God do so to me and more also" was probably used in connection with such ceremonies.


In the Old Testament we have records not only of covenants between God and man but also between men. Since our concern here is mainly with covenants between God and man we need only briefly mention some of these covenants between men. Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech (Gen. 21:22-33) and Jacob with Laban (Gen. 31:44-55). David and Jonathan made a covenant between them (I Sam. 18:3-4; 20:4). Details of these covenants are not given, since the readers in the Old Testament times knew quite well how a covenant was "cut" and the writers of the Old Testament did not write down unnecessary details. But from the hints given in the record of these human covenants we find that the following are some of the important elements in making of a covenant. [3]

  1. The drawing up and statement of the terms of the agreement.
  2. The oath to keep the agreement.
  3. The ceremonial slaughter of animals, including both the animal or animals to be divided and those to be offered up in sacrifice and consumed in the fellowship meal.
  4. The provision of witnesses to the covenant such as a heap of stones (Gen. 31:52), a group of seven lambs (Gen. 21:28-30), or a tree (Gen. 21:33).


Gen. 9:8-17
     Gen. 15:8-18                      | Jesus Christ
                Moses------------------ ---------------------
                Ex. 24:3-8             | New Covenant
                        David----------  Jer. 31:31-34
                        II Sam. 7:4-29   Heb. 8:6-13

Now let us turn our attention to the covenants made between God and man that are recorded in the Old and New Testament. There are five of these major covenants in the Bible:



The first covenant between God and man recorded in the Old Testament is the Noahic covenant. Before the flood God said to Noah: "But I will establish my covenant with you." (Gen. 6:18) After the flood,

"8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9 'Behold, I establish my covenant with you
and your descendants after you,
10 and with every living creature that is with you,
the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you,
as many as came out of the ark.
11 I establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood,
and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.'
12 And God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant
which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you,
for all future generations:
13 I set my bow in the cloud,
and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 When I bring clouds over the earth
and the bow is seen in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you
and every living creature of all flesh;
and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 When the bow is in the clouds,
I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant
between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.'
17 God said to Noah,
'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established
between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.'" (Gen. 9:8-17)
We see in this passage the following elements in the making of the Noahic covenant:
  1. The parties to the covenant.
    God made this covenant with Noah as a representative man rather than as an individual. It included all men in all times and all living creatures. (Gen. 9:9-11).
  2. The terms of the covenant.
    God will never destroy all flesh by the waters of a flood (Gen. 9:11, 15). According to Gen. 8:21, the ground will never again be cursed, and neither will God again destroy every living creatures by a flood.
  3. The sign of the covenant.
    The rainbow is the sign of this covenant between God and all living creatures (Gen. 9:12-16).
  4. The ratification of the covenant.
    Although it is not explicitly said, the sacrifice of one of every clean animal and of every bird as a burnt offering was the means of ratifying this covenant. For the sacrifice is directly connected with the terms of the covenant.
    "20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD,
    and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird,
    and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
    21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor,
    the LORD said in his heart,
    'I will never again curse the ground because of man,
    for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth;
    neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
    22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest,
    cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.'"
    (Gen. 8:20-22)
  5. The conditions of the covenant.
    There are no conditions for bestowal of the blessings of this covenant on Noah and every living creature. This is a covenant of grace and the initiative and obligations are all with God. Noah is not represented as doing anything, either in the way of seeking the covenant or of performing any covenant obligations. [4]


The next divine covenant recorded in the Old Testament is that with Abraham. In answer to Abram's question as to how he should know that he would subsequently (in his seed) inherit the land of Canaan, God commanded him to take certain animals and cut them in two and lay each half opposite the other (Gen. 15:8-11).

"12 As the sun was going down,
a deep sleep fell on Abram;
and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him.
13 Then the LORD said to Abram,
'Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land
that is not theirs, and will be slaves there,
and they will be oppressed for four hundred years;
14 but I will bring judgment on the nation which they serve,
and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.
15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace;
you shall be buried in a good old age.
16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation;
for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.'
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold,
a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,
'To your descendants I give this land,
from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates...'"
(Gen. 15:12-18)
In Genesis 17:1-14 there are recorded further details of this Abrahamic covenant that the Lord revealed to him when he was 99 years old. From these two passages we see the following elements of the Abrahamic covenant.
  1. The parties to the Abrahamic covenant.
    God made this covenant with Abraham and with his descendants (his seed) after him. The covenant is made with Abraham as a representative man and not as an individual. (Gen. 15:18; 17:2, 7)
  2. The terms of the Abrahamic covenant are given in the form of a promise by God to give Abraham's descendants the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession, to multiply him greatly, and make of him a multitude of nations, and that the Lord will be God to him and his descendants (Gen. 15:18; 17:2, 4-8).
  3. The sign of the Abrahamic covenant is the circumcision of every male (Gen. 17:12). But circumcision was more than sign; it was the covenant (Gen. 17:10, 13) and its seal (Rom. 4:11).
  4. The ratification of the covenant was animal sacrifice that Abraham made at God's command (Gen. 15:12-18).
  5. The conditions of the Abrahamic covenant.
    None. God alone takes upon himself all of the obligations. He alone symbolically passed through the pieces of the sacrifice, because Abraham was not taking upon himself any obligation (Gen. 15:17-18). Later God imposed certain duties upon Abraham and his descendants to see that every male among them is circumcised (Gen. 17:9-10). But this is not a condition for fulfillment of the promises of the covenant; God will still do all things he had promised. Only any individual male who is not circumcised will be cut off from his people (Gen. 17:14). A covenant of grace may have duties to fulfill and commandments to keep. But they should not be construed as conditions for fulfillment of the promises of the covenant.
The Abrahamic covenant was renewed with Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5, 24) and with Jacob (Gen. 35:9-12).


The next divine covenant recorded in the Old Testament is the Mosaic covenant. When the children of Israel came to Mount Sinai after the exodus from Egypt, God made a covenant with them through Moses.

"3 And Moses went up to God,
and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying,
'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob,
and tell the people of Israel:
4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians,
and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.
5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,
you shall be my own possession among all peoples;
for all the earth is mine,
6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.'
7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people,
and set before them all the words which the LORD had commanded him.
8 And all the people answered together and said,
'All that the LORD has spoken we will do.'
And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD."
(Exodus 19:3-8)
After God stated the terms of the covenant in the law of the ten commandments, the children of Israel accepted the conditions of the covenant.
"3 Moses came and told 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.'
4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD.
And he rose early in the morning,
and built an altar at the foot of the mountain,
and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
5 And he sent young men of the people Israel,
who offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.
6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins,
and half of the blood he threw against the altar.
7 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.'
8 And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said,
'Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words.'" (Ex. 24:3-8)
The following are the essential elements of the Mosaic covenant:
  1. The parties to the Mosaic covenant were God and the children of Israel. The covenant is not with Moses as a representative man but with the whole of the people of Israel. This point is emphasized 40 years later just before the people of Israel entered the promised land.
    "2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
    3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant,
    but with us, who are all of us here alive this day." (Deut. 5:2-3)
    Moses functioned only as a mediator between God and the people of Israel (Ex. 20:3-17; Deut. 5:4-5; Gal. 3:19-20).
  2. The terms of the Mosaic covenant are given in terms of commandments to be obeyed (Ex. 20:3-17; Deut. 5:6-21) and blessings are conditioned upon that obedience and curses are conditioned upon disobedience (Deut. 30:1-20). God promised that if they obeyed Him, they would be His people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex. 19:5-6).
  3. The sign of the Mosaic covenant is the Sabbath.
    "12 And the LORD said to Moses,
    13 'Say to the people of Israel,
    'You shall keep my sabbaths,
    for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations,
    that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.
    14 You shall keep the sabbath,
    because it is holy for you;
    every one who profanes it shall be put to death;
    whoever does any work on it,
    that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
    15 Six days shall work be done,
    but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD;
    whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.
    16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the sabbath,
    observing the sabbath throughout their generations,
    as a perpetual covenant.
    17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel
    that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth,
    and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.''"
    (Ex. 31:12-17)
  4. The ratification of the Mosaic covenant was fourfold:
    1. The sacrifice of young bulls as peace offerings and burnt offering to the Lord (Ex. 24:5).
    2. The sprinkling of half of the blood upon the altar (Ex. 24:6).
    3. The reading of the book of the covenant and the promise of obedience by the people of Israel (Ex. 24:7).
    4. The sprinkling of the blood upon the people (Ex. 24:8). From other incidents in the Old Testament wherein men are sprinkled with blood (Lev. 8:30; 14:6-7), the purpose of sprinkling with blood was to cleanse the people from their sin and to consecrate and sanctify them for their part in the covenant. [5]
  5. The conditions of the Mosaic covenant.
    In contrast to the covenants with Noah and with Abraham which were covenants of sheer grace, with no conditions attached to the blessings of the covenant, the Mosaic covenant is conditional. The blessings of the covenant are conditioned upon obedience and the curses upon disobedience (Deut. 30:1-20). But this must not be construed into a legalism wherein the blessing is earned or merited by their obedience to the law. There is no hint in the Old Testament of the legalism like that which developed in Judaism after the close of the Old Testament canon. Legalism is primarily concerned with keeping the law, whereas, the covenant of the Law is primarily concerned with obedience to God. The obedience to God that was commanded in the law is not law-keeping to earn God's favor or blessing. God's favor cannot be earned by meritorious works because in principle God does not operate on the basis of merit and demerit (Matt. 20:1-16). The Mosaic covenant of law is not legalism. Legalism absolutizes the law and depersonalizes, externalizes and quantitizes the relationship between God and man. Legalism is a distortion of the law. (See the discussion of this distortion in my paper on legalism.)

What is the difference between law and grace? The difference is in the relation of the blessing to obedience. In the covenant of law the bestowal of the blessing is conditioned upon the obedience: obey in order to be blessed. In the covenant of grace the blessing is bestowed unconditionally to bring about obedience: obey because you are already blessed. Grace appeals to the unconditioned prior bestowal of the blessing as the ground of obedience. Law, on the other hand, appeals to obedience as the ground of the bestowal of the blessing.

The Mosaic covenant is not pure law [6] but is based upon the grace of God who graciously provided redemption for the children of Israel (Deut. 4:37-40; Psa. 119:146) and who in His free grace choose to establish a covenant with them (Exodus 19:3-6; 24:1-8; Deut. 5:1-3). The Hebrew word for law, torah, means direction, guidance, instruction, teaching. As such it is the whole content of God's revelation of Himself, which makes clear man's relationship to God and to his fellow man. Thus it is the Word of the Lord (Deut. 5:5; Psa. 119:43, 160; Isa. 1:10). It is first of all about God's act of redemption of Israel from Egypt (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6; Psa. 119: 174 parallelism) and then about man's obedient response to this act (Ex. 2:3-17; Deut. 5:7-21). Obey because you are already blessed. This is the order of grace. The commandments are based upon the grace of God.

But not only is the Mosaic covenant based upon the grace of God, but it is based upon the prior covenant of grace made with Abraham. This becomes clear when the people of Israel first broke the Mosaic covenant by making and worshipping the golden calf (Ex. 32:1-10). In Moses' intercession with God for the disobedient people of Israel, Moses appealed to the prior covenant of grace with Abraham for God to spare Israel and not destroy them.

"12a Turn from thy fierce wrath,
and repent of this evil against thy people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants,
to whom thou didst swear by thine own self,
and didst say to them,
'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven,
and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants,
and they shall inherit it forever.'
14 And the LORD repented of the evil he thought to do his people."
(Ex. 32:12a-14; see also Deut. 9:26-27)
God promises to restore them after they have repented of their sins on the basis of this covenant of grace with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob (Lev. 26:40-45; II Kings 13:23; Psa. 106:40-46; Jer. 14:20-22). To remember the covenant was not just to think about it but to do and act according to it (Deut. 4:31). The redemption of the children of Israel from Egypt was also based upon God's covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God said to Moses,
"5 Moreover I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel
whom the Egyptians hold in bondage and I have remembered my covenant.
6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD,
and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians,
and I will deliver you from their bondage,
and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment,
7 and I will take you for my people,
and I will be your God;
and you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
8 And I will bring you into the land
which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob;
I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'"
(Ex. 6:5-8; see also Ex. 2:24)
But the Mosaic covenant is not pure grace because the blessings of the covenant are conditioned upon Israel's obedience.
"15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.
16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God
which I command you this day,
by loving the Lord your God, by walking in His ways,
and keeping His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances,
then you shall live and multiply,
and the Lord your God will bless you in the land
which you are entering to take possession of it.
17 But if your heart turns away,
and you will not hear
but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them,
18 I declare to you this day, that you shall perish,
you shall not live long in the land
which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse;
therefore, choose life, that you and your descendants may live."
(Deut. 30:15-19)
This is the order of law. Obey in order to be blessed. The Mosaic covenant is a mixed covenant of law and grace.

The sin of idolatry is always the sin associated with Israel's transgression, forsaking and forgetting of the Mosaic covenant (Deut. 4:24; 17:2-3; 29:24-28; 31:16-21; Josh. 7:11, 15; 23:16; Judges 2:19-20; II Kings 17:15, 34-40; Jer. 11:10; 22:9). Idolatry is rebellion against the authority of the true God and an insult and an affront to His divine majesty. This is why the first two commandments of the Mosaic law are about idolatry (Ex. 20:3-6; see also Ex. 20:23; 22:20; 34:12-17; Deut. 5:7-9). The second commandment is the only commandment which explicitly mentions God's wrath, showing how serious and basic is the sin of idolatry. Moses often and strongly warns the children of Israel against this sin (Deut. 4:15-19, 23-28, 39; 6:14-15; 7:4-5, 16; 8:19; 11:16-17, 28; 12:2-4, 29-31; 13:1-16; 17:2-5; 29:24-28; 31:16-18; 32:15-22).
The message of the prophets is also directed against this sin (Josh. 23:15-16; Judges 2:11-15; 3:7-8; 10:6-7; I Kings 14:9; 16:25-26; 22:53; II Kings 17:9-18; 21:2-6; Psa. 44:20-21; 78:56-64; 81:8-10; 96:4-5; 106:19-21; 34-39; 115:2-8; 135:15-18; Isa. 2:8; 37:18-20; 40:18-20; 41:29; 42:8, 17; 43:10-12; 44:6-20; 45:5-6, 16-17, 20-22; 46:5-7; Jer. 1:16; 2:11-13; 26-28; 5:19; 8:19; 10:1-16; 19:4-5; 44:2-8, 22-23; Ezek. 14:2-11; 20:15-18, 23-24; 36:17-18; Hosea 2:13; 4:11-13; Micah 5:13-15; Hab. 2:18-19; Zeph. 1:4-6).
The Old Testament writers were thus so concerned with the sin of idolatry because it is the most basic and the most serious of all the sins of Israel. As Samuel said to Saul:

"For rebellion is as the sin of divination;
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry."
(I Sam. 15:23)
Samuel thus equates rebellion and insubordination to the more basic and serious sin of idolatry. (Divination in the Old Testament times was almost always associated with idolatry [Deut. 18:9-14; Ezek. 13:17-23; 21:21-22]. The parallelism in this verse shows that idolatry and divination to be nearly synonymous.) In fact, rebellion and insubordination are the negative side of the sin of idolatry; that is, the act of turning away from and against the true God is the other side of the act of turning to a false god.


The next divine covenant recorded in the Old Testament is God's covenant with David, the great king of Israel. The record of its establishment is given in II Sam. 7:4-29. Although the word covenant does not appear in this passage, according to other Old Testament passages (II Sam. 23:5; Psa. 89:3-4, 26-37; 132:11-12; Jer. 33:19-26) God did make a covenant with David, and these were the terms of the covenant. No sign or ratification of the covenant is given, but it is very clear from the terms of the covenant that it is a covenant of grace. The fulfillment of the promises of this covenant was in the person of the great Son of David, Jesus Christ. He shall sit on the throne of His father David forever. For He shall never die but shall live and reign forever.

The following summarize the elements of Davidic covenant:

  1. Parties to the Davidic covenant.
    Although the word covenant does not appear in the II Sam. 7:4-29 passage, according to other Old Testament passages (II Sam. 23:5; Psa. 89:3-4, 26-37; 132:11-12; Jer. 33:19-26) God did make a covenant with David.
  2. The terms of the Davidic covenant.
    The terms are in the form of promises by God
    1. to make his name great,
      "like the name of the great ones of the earth" (II Sam. 7:9) and
    2. to make sure his house and his kingdom forever and to establish his throne forever. (II Sam. 7:12-16).
    The fulfillment of these promises was in the person of the great son of David, Jesus Christ. He shall sit on the throne of His father David forever. For He shall never die but shall live and reign forever.
  3. The sign of the Davidic covenant.
    None recorded.
  4. The ratification of the Davidic covenant.
    None recorded.
  5. The conditions of the Davidic covenant.
    None. A covenant of grace. God unconditionally promises to do these things for David.


The last divine covenant recorded in the Old Testament is one that was not made in the Old Testament times but was only prophesied and foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. The great Old Testament prophet of the New Covenant was Jeremiah. To him God gave the revelation of this New Covenant.

"31 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant
with house of Israel and the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt,
my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
33 But this is the covenant
which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:
I will put my law within them,
and I will write it upon their hearts;
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor
and each his brother, saying
'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me,
from the least to the greatest, says the LORD;
for I will forgive their iniquity,
and I will remember their sin no more."
(Jer. 31:31-34; see also Jer. 32:38-41 and Heb. 8:6-13)
Other details are given in the prophecies of Isaiah (55:2; 59:21), and Ezekiel (16:59-63; 37:24-28) and Hosea (2:16-23).

The following are the elements of the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.

  1. The parties to the New Covenant are God and the houses of Judah and Israel (Jer. 31:33), united Judah and Israel joined by the Gentiles (Jer. 3:15-20). According to the New Testament fulfillment of the promises of the New Covenant the Gentiles are also included (John 10:16; 11:51-52; Acts 11:18; Rom. 11:26-32; Eph. 2:11-22; 3:1-6).
  2. The terms of the New Covenant are the following:
    1. God will put His law within them and will write His law on their hearts (Jer. 31:33; cf. Ezek. 36:25-27; 37:14; 39:29; Isa. 59:21). This is not just the words of the law but the actualization of the law. That is,
    2. The Lord will be their God and they shall be His people (Jer. 31:33: Ezek. 36:28; 37:27). God will put the fear of Him in their hearts, and they will be of one heart and one way (Jer. 32:39-40).
    3. Everyone of the house of Israel from the least to the greatest shall personally know the Lord (Jer. 31:34; Ez. 16:62). According to the New Testament fulfillment, this knowledge is life eternal (Gal. 4:8-9; John 17:3; cf. Ezek. 37:14).
    4. The Lord will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more (Jer. 31:34; see Ezek. 16:63; 36:25, 29; 37:23, 28). According to the New Testament fulfillment recorded in Hebrews 10:1-18, the worshippers are made perfect (vv.1, 14), no more consciousness of sin (v.2), sins are taken away (vv.4, 11), sanctified (vv.10, 14) and no more sacrifice or offering for sin (v.18).
  3. The sign of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit.
    "And as for me, this is my covenant with them,
    say the LORD: my spirit which is upon you,
    and my words which I have put in your mouth,
    shall not depart out of your mouth,
    or out of the mouth of your children,
    or out of the mouth of your children's children,
    says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore."
    (Isa. 59:21; See also Ezek. 36:26; 37:14; 39:29).
    According to the New Testament fulfillment, believers are said to be sealed with the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The Greek word for "seal" used in these passages is also used with the word "sign" in speaking of circumcision under the Abrahamic covenant (Rom. 4:11). Also Paul refers to the ministers of the New Covenant as ministers of the Spirit (II Cor. 3:4-8). The speaking in tongues or glossolalia which accompanied the giving of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-33; cf. Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-17). Indirectly glossolalia may be referred to as the sign of the New Covenant since it is a sign of the Holy Spirit, who is the real sign and seal of the New Covenant.
  4. The ratification of the New Covenant.
    There is no mention in the Old Testament prophecies of a ratification of the New Covenant with sacrifices. According to the New Testament fulfillment, Jesus at the institution of the Lord's Supper refers to the cup as His blood of the New Covenant.
    "26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread,
    blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said,
    'Take, eat; this is my body.'
    27 And he took a cup,
    and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying,
    'Drink of it, all of you;
    28for this is my blood of the covenant,
    which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins.
    29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine
    until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.'"
    (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; I Cor. 11:23-26).
    The writer to the Hebrews identifies the death of Jesus as the ratification of the New Covenant and Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant.
    "11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come.
    then through a greater and more perfect tent
    (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
    12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place,
    taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood,
    thus securing eternal redemption.
    13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons
    with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer
    sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,
    14 how much more shall the blood of Christ,
    who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God,
    purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
    15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,
    so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,
    since a death has occurred which redeems them
    from the transgressions under the first covenant.
    16 For where a will is involved,
    the death of the one who made it must be established.
    17 For a will takes effect only at death,
    since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
    18 Hence even the first covenant was not ratified without blood.
    19 For when every commandment was declared by Moses to all the people,
    he took the blood of calves and goats,
    with water and scarlet wool and hyssop,
    and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
    20 saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.'
    21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood
    both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.
    22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood.
    and without the shedding of blood is there no forgiveness of sins."
    (Heb. 9:11-22; see Isa. 42:6; 49:8)
  5. The conditions of the New Covenant.
    The New Covenant is a covenant of grace; it is unconditioned. It is because of the conditional character of the Mosaic or Old Covenant that it had to be replaced by the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-32). No conditions are needed in the New Covenant because God is going to do away with the weakness of the Old Covenant (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 8;7-8, 13). God is going to put His law in their hearts so that they will not worship false gods, transgressing the covenant, but worship only the true God. They shall then from the heart love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. And God says that He is going to do this by His Spirit (Ezek. 36:24-27).

Faith is not a condition of the New Covenant but is the result of the knowledge of God promised in the New Covenant. By faith in Jesus Christ one enters into the New Covenant and becomes the recipient of blessings of the New Covenant. Because all depends upon God and is not conditioned on man's obedience or faith, this covenant is an everlasting covenant (Jer. 32:40; Ezek. 16:60; 37:26). The New Covenant is the Eternal Covenant.

"20 Now may the God of peace
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great shepherd of the sheep,
by the blood of the eternal covenant,
21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will,
working in you that which is pleasing in his sight,
through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory
for ever and ever. Amen." (Heb. 13:20-21)


[1] Leon Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), p. 62.

[2] Ibid., pp. 62-63.

[3] Ibid., p. 65.

[4] Ibid., p. 66.

[5] Ibid., pp. 69-72.

[6] Ibid., pp. 75-76.