Scott Gage

PO Box 3425
Fayetteville, AR 72702



September/October Issue 2010 - Volume 29   Number 5

The Old and the New Covenants

Patience and Comfort of the Scriptures

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”  Romans 15:4

There is an old saying that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This saying holds true. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are important parts of the inspired word of God. When we affirm that we no longer live under the Old Testament Law, we certainly do not mean that the Old Testament no longer has any value for God’s people today.

We may follow road signs that direct us to Fayetteville, Arkansas. The road signs are not the destination, but they are invaluable in helping us to arrive at that destination. In a sense, the Old Testament is a road sign leading us to the New Testament. The Old Testament contains types, symbols, prophecies and principles that lead us to the faith of the New Testament.

In his sermon #2753 delivered on July 20, 1879 C.H. Spurgeon wrote in part regarding Romans 15:4:

THE Apostle Paul was an Inspired man when he wrote this Epistle, so there was no necessity on the part of the Holy Spirit, when guiding his mind and pen, to employ words which had been used before in the Scriptures, for His language is unlimited. Yet Paul, Inspired as he was, frequently quoted from the Old Testament and in the verse preceding our text he quotes from the Psalms—“As it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached You fell on Me.” One special reason for quoting from the Old Testament was, doubtless, to put honor upon it, for the Holy Spirit foresaw that there would be some in these later days who would speak of it disparagingly. Not so did our Lord Jesus Christ! Not so did His Apostles! Not so did any by whom the Holy Spirit spoke! The Old Testament is not to be regarded with one jot less of reverence and love than is the New Testament—they must remain bound together, for they are the one Revelation of the mind and will of God—and woe be to the man who shall attempt to rend asunder that seamless garment of Holy Scripture!


There are some who speak of the Old Testament as if it were worn out, but, indeed, it has about it all the freshness, the force and the dew of its youth and, in the additional light that the New Testament throws upon its histories, its prophecies and its promises, it has gathered force rather than lost any, so that we, probably, can appreciate the Old Testament Scripture far more highly, now that we also have the New Testament, than we could have done if we had not received both the early and the later Revelations.


Some have supposed that the light of the New Testament is so bright that it quite eclipses the light of the Old Testament, as the rising of the sun makes us forget the moon, but it is not so. The Old Testament now shines with a brighter light than ever to those whose faith is fixed on Jesus Christ and whose eyes behold Him in the pages of the New Testament. I confess that, sometimes, a type or an emblem which would have been dark or obscure but for the light that has been shed upon it by the New Testament, has seemed to me, if possible, to be clearer even than the New Testament itself. I have seemed to see the brightness of the glory of the Revelation concentrated and focused about some of the darker passages of the Old Testament so manifestly that, instead of the Old seeming to be outdone by the New, I have almost thought it to be the other way around—if such a thought might be tolerated for a moment. There is no need, however, to compare them, for they are both a part of all that Scripture which is God-breathed.


Nor has the authority of the Old Testament ceased. Of course the legal ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation are done away with, for we are not under the Law, but under Grace—yet even in their passing away, they answer an important purpose. They often afford us instruction where they are not needed for direction. Still is it true, my Brothers and Sisters, concerning the entire Book, that it was “written for our learning.” And he is a learned man who knows much of Scripture. But he is unlearned and unstable in the things of God who knows a thousand other things, but does not know “what things were written before,” and who does not bend his soul, his heart, his intellect to the believing and the understanding of that which God has spoken of old times by His Prophets and Apostles.


It certainly is helpful and enlightening to understand how to divide the Scriptures. The first division that we must make is that between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We must come to understand and appreciate how each of these testaments fit into God’s eternal purpose and plan in Christ Jesus our Lord.


We are reprinting in this issue an article by Roy Davison from www.oldpaths.com. I believe it will be helpful to us as we try to understand the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Perhaps we can gain new insight that will clear away any confusion that clouds our view of the Holy Scriptures.



“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.”  Hebrews 9:15-17

The Old and the New Covenants

Many wrong practices and doctrines are based on a misunderstanding of the difference between the Old and the New Covenant.


The Old and the New Testaments together form the Holy Scriptures. All the Scriptures are necessary: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (23:16,17).


This does not mean, however, that everything in the Scriptures applies to us as law. Noah was commanded to construct a boat to save his family. His example of faith and obedience is edifying for us, but we do not have to build a boat!


Through Moses, God gave a law to Israel. We can learn much from that law. But it was never given to the church of Christ as a law.


In the first century this point was clarified. Some Jews wanted to obligate the non-Jews to keep the Law of Moses. "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question" (Acts 15:1,2).


Certain ones at Jerusalem had the same idea: "But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses" (Acts 15:5).


Peter refuted this: "And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: 'Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they" (Acts 15:7-11).


Notice that this applies to all disciples, not just to the Gentiles. Christians are not obligated to keep the Law of Moses because it is a yoke that no one can bear.


What then is the value of the Old Testament for Christians? "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).


Jesus said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19).


The Old and the New Testaments together form one whole. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus goes on to teach many things that are different from the law. He wanted to make clear that He was not against the law. The Old Testament had its function in God's plan. Jesus came to fulfill the old law and bring a new one. Although the law was replaced, that was not a 'destruction' because the Old Testament foretold its own replacement!


Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted in Hebrews as proof that the Old Covenant no longer applies as law: "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: '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 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,' says the LORD. 'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' says the LORD: 'I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, "Know the LORD," for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:6-13).


Jesus did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill their predictions. Anyone with true respect for the Law of Moses would also accept Jesus and become a Christian. But hypocrites who did not respect the law would also not accept Christ (See John 1:45; 5:45,46).


In our time people support many unchristian practices and doctrines with passages from the Old Covenant: the establishment of central ecclesiastical organizations; the maintenance of a separate priest class; the use of candles, incense and musical instruments in worship; the observance of the Sabbath and the obligation to give a tenth, to mention a few. None of these things are found in the New Testament church. But people who want to do such things, or to bind them on others, fall back on passages in the Old Testament in an arbitrary manner to support their ideas. I say 'in an arbitrary manner' because to be consistent they would have to do everything required under the Old Covenant, but they of course do not want to do that.


Some claim that the Ten Commandments, that are found in the Old Testament, still apply as law for believers, even though the rest has expired. Their argumentation is: "What? May we then murder and steal and commit adultery?" Many are deceived by this superficial argument, but it is not logical.


The Ten Commandments no longer apply as law because in the doctrine of Christ they are completely superseded. Read the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus demands much more of us than the Ten Commandments: "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).


Paul wrote that the ten commandments have been replaced by something much better: "But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious" (23:7-11). The Ten Commandments, engraved on stones, were a ministry of death that had to disappear. Christ brought something better.


The gospel of Christ encompasses all fundamental, unchangeable values of the Ten Commandments. Christians certainly may not steal or murder. But they avoid this because of their love for God and fellowman, not just because there is a command: "You shall not kill".


Certain externals in the Ten Commandments are not included in the New Covenant. A Christian has not been told, for example, that he may not make a statue; he has been told not to worship idols. According to the Ten Commandments, however, one may not even make a statue.


Nor is the Sabbath command applicable under the New Covenant: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16,17).


Although we can learn much from the Old Testament (we must know the Old Testament to understand the New Testament), we now live under the New Testament, a covenant of grace.


We are not under the Law of Moses: "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" (Romans 6:14,15). "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another -- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God" (Romans 7:4). "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" (Romans 7:6). "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4). "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" (Galatians 3:24,25). "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18). "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace" (Ephesians 2:14,15).


It is important to know exactly

when the New Testament went into effect. "For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives" (Hebrews 9:16,17). Thus, the New Testament took effect after the death of Christ.


Jesus Himself lived under the Old Covenant: "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4,5). This means that many things in the four Gospels still relate to the Old Covenant, although Jesus, in anticipation, also taught many things that are part of the New Covenant. If we use our discernment, we can distinguish between the two.


By overlooking the distinction between the old and the new covenants in the Gospels, certain false doctrines are advanced. Some teach, for example: "Jesus kept the Sabbath, we must do the same." Jesus also kept the Passover and worshipped in the temple. Must we follow these examples? Of course not. The Sabbath, the Passover and the temple service were part of the Old Covenant. Some have claimed that Jesus' teaching about divorce does not apply to us because He spoke before the New Covenant took effect. From the text it is clear, however, that Jesus was not teaching the Law of Moses (his teaching was completely different). He was presenting His own teaching that is part of the new covenant.


All the Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testaments, are useful for our instruction. But we do not now live under the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments. The gospel of Jesus Christ applies to us; we serve God under the New Covenant.


What did God say from heaven when Peter's words indicated that he placed Jesus on a par with Moses and Elijah? "Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah' -- because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!'" (Mark 9:5-7).


Let us make a correct distinction between the Old and the New Covenant. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1,2).


...Roy Davison









Ol' man Lister and I were at our customary place last Friday night, watching our Ponder Point Pirates in mortal gridiron combat.  In the middle of the third quarter I looked down and couldn't find the head coach, Skeeter Dash.

I asked, “Hey, Lister, where did Skeeter go?  Did he get sick on his chewing tobacco again?"

Lister said, “Naw, I reckon he's in the press box."

I said, “This ain't the time for him to saunter off, we're behind by fourteen points!  What's he doing up there?  Getting coffee?"

Lister answered, “No, kid, he's getting perspective. He's up there during the third quarter of every game, no matter what the score.  Skeeter tells me that sometimes he  gets so distracted by the referees, the crowd, and all the yelling and screaming, that he can't concentrate on the game.  So he goes up to the press box to watch the game from a different perspective.  A lot of things in life clear up when you look at them from a higher point of view.

You know...I reckon he's right

...Steve McLean

Canyon, Texas

Volume 29  -  Number 5 -  Sept/Oct 2010     BC is published every other month. Send all inquiries, address changes and subscriptions to the editor:  Scott Gage, PO Box 3425, Fayetteville, AR  72702-3425 Voice & Fax 479-521-6809  Email: Lsgage129@cs.com