Something new, wholly and essentially new! Turn to Hebrews 8:13. “In that He says, A new covenant, He has made the first old,” so we read in our grand Old Version. Yet the Greek is even more striking. There it is simply—“In that He says ‘NEW’!” for there is no word in the original for “covenant.”
It is one of those bold, brief ejaculations of Scripture that call attention by their very abruptness.
And the Greek word for “New” here is not that which signifies repaired, or even renovated, as it may be possible to renew an article that has run out of repair, but it signifies what is absolutely and radically new, something which had not existed before. It is the same word as we find in Colossians 3:10, the “new man.”
Now this attaches great importance to the character of the “New Covenant.” It is one of a distinctly different kind and order from the old. An amalgamation or infusion of the two is not allowed. They are essentially distinct. The old may have furnished types and shadows of the new, but in nature they stand apart. The old was legal, and dealt with man on the ground of responsibility; the new is of grace, and takes up the cause of man as he is—guilty, and without strength. It is therefore a better covenant, and is established on better promises. As to its letter, it is to be made with Israel and Judah after those days—that is, with the nation when Christianity as such, and the Church, have run the course of their testimony here; but as to the spirit of it Paul could write—“Has made us able ministers of the new covenant” (2 Cor. 3), “not of the letter, but of the spirit.” And, seeing that the blood of Christ is called “the blood of the new covenant” we (Christians) have thereby the remission of our sins. Hence we read, in Hebrews 10, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” That is, although the new covenant is not de facto made with Christians, yet the old covenant—as a covenant or compact—has passed away, and we stand before God on the ground of the new—that is, on the ground of grace.
Then is the law abrogated? Certainly not! If so, when? The passing away of the old covenant was not a doing away with the law, but of the means of blessing on that basis. The old covenant was, “This do, and thou shalt live”; but the cross of Christ demonstrated to all, that blessing could not be obtained on the principle of works—nay, it proved man utterly guilty, and therefore the old covenant was faulty and ineffectual. Good in itself, the material on which it wrought was thoroughly bad, so that it was “weak through the flesh.”
That covenant then has passed away, though the law—the Ten Commandments—being a principle of perfect morality, retains its force for ever.
But God is dealing with man now, not on the ground of the old and legal covenant, but on the ground of grace, a precious principle that meets poor guilty and needy man, whether sinner or saint, just where and as he is; and whilst allowing room for all governmental and corrective measures, proves itself the one and perfect way of his salvation and blessing, from the lowest point of spiritual need to the highest height of heavenly favour. Well may we thank God that His Spirit could pen such a sentence—“In that He says ‘NEW’”.