What Is the Difference Between the Old and New Covenants?
Jamey Escamilla • November 5, 2020
If you open up your Bible to the very first verse and then flip back one page, what do you see?
“Old Testament” in big, bold letters.
And if you flip to Matthew 1:1, and then also go back one page, you’ll see this:
“New Testament” in big, bold letters.
What are these testaments?
What is the difference between the Old and New Testament?
Why is this important?
Something that’s always shocked me is that it seems many Christians don’t understand the difference between the two.
They also don’t understand the significance of living under the New Covenant.
In this blog, we’ll explore these questions in a simple way so that you can understand your relationship with God and the Bible a bit more.
Before we begin though, what is a covenant?
A covenant is a contract.
Like when you go buy a new car and sign a contract.
It says how much you’re going to pay for how long, and what are the rules and grounds revolving around you buying this car.
You can also call a covenant an agreement that two parties settle on.
All throughout the Bible, we see that God is a God of covenants.
He would make a contract between him and someone else in order to restore the broken relationship between God and man.
So that’s all a covenant is. Let’s keep it simple.
Now, let’s begin with the Old Covenant.
When the Bible or Christians say “Old Covenant”, we’re talking about the Law of Moses.
So you can use these phrases interchangeably – “Old Covenant” and “Law of Moses”.
God gave this Law of Moses (Old Covenant) to the people of Israel in the book of Exodus.
This Old Covenant contained all of the rules that the Israelites had to keep in order to be God’s people.
It contained the 10 Commandments, along with over 600 other commands to keep.
It was the whole, covenant system that the Jews lived under throughout most of the Old Testament.
And that’s actually an important thing to point out:
Not everything in the “Old Testament” is “Old Covenant”.
Again, the Old COVENANT didn’t begin until around Exodus 20.
So everything that happened before then in the Old TESTAMENT, like the story of Noah, didn’t happen during the Old Covenant.
It’s actually the same way with the NEW Covenant:
Not everything in the “New Testament” is “New Covenant”.
The Old Covenant went on until the death of Jesus, as Hebrews 9:16-17 tells us:
Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.
This tells us why not everything in the New TESTAMENT is New Covenant!
Jesus didn’t die until the ends of each Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
So these first four books of the New Testament are actually mostly Old Covenant.
So yes, like I said, Jesus died and brought in the New Covenant.
And the rest of the New Testament is all about the writers trying to get people to see that we’re now under a New Covenant.
God is dealing with us in a new way now.
The Law of Moses is over – Jesus is the end of the Law.
This New Covenant is a covenant made between God and Jesus, with better promises.
And if we’re IN Christ, we are heirs to these promises! Woo hoo!
This New Covenant says that Christ forgave us for our sins, and doesn’t count them against us.
It says that we’re righteous not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus has done!
In this covenant, God lives IN US, not in some temple down the street.
It’s just so amazing that the Bible says that the people in the Old Covenant days, even the angels, looked at us with envy when they saw what we now have.
Yet many Christians are trying to live as they did in the Old Covenant – by works.
By performance. Metrics. As if God is far from us when we do wrong, even though he lives in us.
This is why it’s so important that we understand the significance of the New Covenant.
We have to know what this covenant means, what it entails, and how we are to live in it.
Here are the differences between the Old and New Covenants.
This is a great chart taken from the book, Unmerited Favor, by Joseph Prince:
So what’s the significance of being under the New Covenant?
As you can see from the chart, there are plenty!
It means that we’re now sons and daughters of God, not just servants trying to make it into heaven.
It means that we can’t do anything to make God love us any more, or any less.
This is exactly why Jesus came to die for us and shed his “blood of the New Covenant”.
So you never want to live under the spirit of the Old Covenant law by basing your right-standing with God on your performance.
You don’t want to go around quoting and living by scriptures from the Old Testament that clearly highlight Old Covenant standards.
For example, God doesn’t curse us when we fail him anymore, or fail to live by the Law of Moses.
As a Christian, it’s time you not only KNOW what covenant you’re under, but explore it!