The Two Covenants

It is important to keep in mind that a covenant is a disposition of God, and that it is the terms upon which God sets a people in relationship with Himself upon earth. It could have no reference to a people called out of the world to heaven. Therefore there is no covenant made with the Assembly of God, though the great and leading principles of the new covenant have a very distinct bearing upon the blessings that are ours. There was a covenant made with Noah (Gen. 9:1-16), also with Abraham (Gen. 15), and with Israel at Sinai. The new covenant will be made in a coming day with the same people, Israel (Jer. 31:31-34). These two covenants, both of which are made with God’s earthly people, are the covenants referred to in Hebrews; and with these covenants we have most to do.

The covenant made with the people at Sinai was one of demand, presented to them on two stony tablets. On the ground of their fulfilment of these obligations they were to live. But they were unable to meet the demand of God, and therefore that which was ordained to life became death to them; it was found by them to be a ministration of death and condemnation. It could not do anything else, because men were by nature transgressors. They could not endure the word when it was spoken in their ears from the midst of the devouring fire, and as soon as the back of Moses was turned they apostatized from God, made a golden calf, and worshipped the idol. Stephen has to tell them centuries afterwards: “Ye received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7).

Therefore God found fault with that covenant, and says: “Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that 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 bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, says the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I shall make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31).

The old covenant was made with Israel, and the new covenant will be made with the same people. There were two sides to the old covenant—God’s and the people’s. The people broke their side of the covenant, and this compelled God to break His, or rather to find fault with it, as a principle of relationship with Himself which could do nothing for the people. There will be only one side to the new. In the old God said, “I will, if you will”; but in the new it is all “I WILL” on the part of God, and the people have no will in the matter. They are to be passive in His hands, like the clay in the hand of the potter. He will put His law, not upon two stony tablets, but upon the hearts and minds of the people. He will make them just what He desires them to be; and at that time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, “WHAT HAS GOD WROUGHT!”

But what about us of this dispensation? There is no covenant made with us, for God has not placed Himself in relationship with us as a people upon earth, but as in Christ, who has gone into heaven, and who has sent down the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and links us up with Christ in the place where He is. The gospel is not a covenant. If it were, it would be a covenant between God and the whole human race, for the gospel is preached to every creature, and though there are a people gathered out of the world by its means their position is a heavenly one.

The ministry of the apostles was on the lines of the new covenant, and they speak of themselves as able new covenant ministers. The new covenant speaks of forgiveness of sins to Israel, the gospel carries it to all men, and the believer has it. Under the new covenant the law will be written on the hearts of Israel; Christ is written on the hearts of the believers. Then Israel shall have their blessings upon earth; we have ours today in heaven. With the law upon their hearts they will be descriptive of the law; with Christ upon our hearts we are descriptive of Christ. Our blessings are therefore greatly superior to all that the new covenant can confer upon those under it, though there are certain things we have in common. Their relations will be with the Most High and the Messiah, ours are with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We are members of Christ’s body; this they cannot be. Even in the world to come we shall have a heavenly position, they an earthly.

The blood of Jesus is, however, the basis of all blessing, and in the value of this they will stand equally with ourselves, for only on that ground can any soul be in relationship with God. Though we are not under the new covenant we lose nothing, for we are on higher and heavenly ground. And though not under the covenant we have come to Jesus the Mediator of it, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. May we know how to appreciate our blessings.