Misunderstanding about the New Covenant


By Jan Willem van der Hoeven

There seems to be widespread misunderstanding concerning the nature and character of the New Covenant which God promised through His prophet Jeremiah to one day impart to His people Israel.

These are the words of this promise:

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt

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By Jan Willem van der Hoeven

There seems to be widespread misunderstanding concerning the nature and character of the New Covenant which God promised through His prophet Jeremiah to one day impart to His people Israel.

These are the words of this promise:

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”    (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Ezekiel also describes and prophesies about this New Covenant.

But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.  (Ezekiel 36:21-28)

First of all, please notice that this New Covenant was not promised to a new people called Christians, but to Gods own people, the house of Israel, and that God specifically states that this New Covenant (with Israel!) would supersede the Old Covenant He made with Israel when He took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt (Jeremiah 31:32).

In itself this is already an amazing point, for most Jewish people firmly believe that the Old Covenant is the only guide they have. Yes it has been added to by the many interpretations and traditions of the sages over the centuries, but basically they all refer back to the same Law of God as given through Moses the Torah.

What God promises here through Jeremiah, however, is a New Covenant with a new reality. He promises that the day will come when He will put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts. In other words, God says that His people will know from within their own minds and hearts what to do to please Him!

God then adds this astonishing statement, that no more shall every man teach his neighbor or his brother (Jeremiah 31:34), for every individual will know Him personally and know how to do what is right from within him or her self. This aspect is of course greatly emphasized in the writings and epistles of the apostles Paul and John, who expound on this wonderful characteristic of Gods promised New Covenant when they say:

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.  (1 John 2:27)

It is only the hearts that have been changed from rebellious hearts of stones into obedient hearts of flesh that the Holy Spirit can write His laws on.  The first Covenant was written in stone for people that have a heart of stone. The Second Covenant is for those who have experienced by the Spirit of grace and supplications a change of heart and  have so become tender and receptive to the promptings of His Spirit who guides us into all truth and into all the ways of God for our lives

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtorsnot to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father.   (Romans 8:2-15)

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:23-26)

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.   (Galatians 5:1-6, 14-18)

These words are written in the context of the promised New Covenant by the prophet Jeremiah, an amazing truth and yet one so little understood by both Jews as well as Christian believers. If they had pondered this promise and these words by God through Jeremiah, there would have been opened up to both Jewish as well as Gentile believers a tremendous new, revolutionary, horizon!

The Old Covenant God made with His people, when He took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, was written on tablets of stone and taught to the people by Moses, the elders, and later the rabbinical sages who taught every one what he or she had to do according to Torah. In other words, it was very much administered and taught from the outside written on stones.

The New Covenant by the same God of Israel who gave the law to Moses in Sinai would instead be written on the hearts of men and women and put upon their minds, a description of that wonderful and faithful Author of the Laws and Ordinances of God, the Holy Spirit, Who would administer to every person the law of God in their lives. This is what the authors of that New Covenant described as a wonderful, wonderful reality.

We can now be lead in our daily decision-making by the Author of the Torah not from without in words printed on stones Thou shalt; Thou shalt not but from within; every one as John puts it in his epistle being able to listen to the small voice of the Spirit within, and so being led in all truth, IF WE LISTEN TO AND OBEY HIM, to a life essentially of love (see Galatians 5:14).

It is because many do not see the distinctiveness of this covenant promised by God to His people Israel, that they often fall into the trap of a mixture of law and spirit in the daily conduct of their lives. The emphasis of this New Covenant then is a life of love for God and our fellow man, based on our willingness to obey and be led by the Spirit not by our carnal, fleshly desires thereby fulfilling the law of God that is the One Law in His Kingdom of love.

As Paul puts this in Galatians 5:14-25 and especially clearly in Romans 13:8-10:

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:14-25)

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  (Romans 13:8-10)

In this Paul fully concurs with the Lord and Messiah, Who Himself emphasized this:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  (John 15:9-12)

Now this is quite amazing! Jesus, and the Apostles after Him, bring for those who have entered into this New Covenant relationship with the Lord a New Commandment as the fulfillment of all the laws through Moses that preceded during the days of Gods first Covenant. Jesus very clearly expounded this New Law of the New Covenant in His Sermon on the Mount near the Sea of Galilee as his Father gave the Old Covenant to Moses on Mount Sinai. This sermon is an exposition of how far this New Law will take us in loving our neighbor, even our enemy, if we allow ourselves to be guided by it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.   (Matthew 5:38-48)

This, then, is the exposition given on the Mount by Jesus whereby He heralded the New Covenant, which God had ages before already promised through his prophet Jeremiah that He would make with His people Israel. And what a wonderful covenant it is!

© Israel My Beloved

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