Hebrews: The Difference Between the Old and New Testaments

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete.  And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 8:13

Want to know the difference between the Old and New Testaments?  Grab a Bible and let’s examine Hebrews 8:7-13…

Obviously a full study of Scripture would reveal many differences between the covenants, but here in Hebrews the inspired writer gives what is perhaps the main difference between the two: the first covenant had not been faultless, which was why there was “occasion to look for a second” (8:7).  The Hebrew writer then goes on to show how.

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Once you’ve read it, go back to Hebrews and read verses 8-12 of chapter 8.  You’ll notice the two passages are the same.  The Hebrew author says that God “finds fault with” that first covenant “when he says” what he said through the prophet Jeremiah way back in the Old Testament.  It was always in God’s plan to replace the old covenant with the new.  The old covenant contained faults by design in order to make way for the new covenant.  By quoting Jeremiah, the Hebrew author describes them.

The Lord declared through Jeremiah that “the days are coming…when I will establish a new covenant” with Israel and Judah (8:8; cf. Jeremiah 31:31).  This covenant would be different from “the covenant that I made with their fathers” when God brought them out of Egypt and gave them the law of Moses at Sinai (8:9; cf. Jeremiah 31:32; Nehemiah 9:13-14).  Israel and Judah “did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them” (8:9; cf. Jeremiah 31:32), meaning that he allowed them to be conquered by their enemies (cf. Jeremiah 11:11-14).

The new covenant is then described.  “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts” (8:10; cf. Jeremiah 31:33).  Unlike the law of Moses which had its laws written on tablets of stone, Christ’s new covenant requires God’s laws to be remembered in our minds and written in our hearts (cf. James 1:21).  If you profess Christianity, do you know the New Testament so well that it is practically written in your mind and heart?  If not, why not?  It’s not enough to simply own a Bible or even peruse it like you would a newspaper.  Read Acts 17:11 and 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and make them applicable to you.  This is the first step towards God becoming your God, and you becoming his people (8:10; cf. Jeremiah 31:33).

The new covenant is further described.  “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (8:11; cf. Jeremiah 31:34).  Under the Old Testament, an Israelite automatically became part of God’s chosen people at birth, and as they grew up they had to be taught to know the Lord.  However, the New Testament requires all who would become Christians to first be taught to know the Lord via the gospel before becoming part of God’s chosen people.  Acts provides continuous examples of people being taught about Jesus before deciding to become Christians by obeying the gospel through faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:22-41; 8:12, 34-38; 10:34-38; 16:25-34; cf. Mark 16:15-16).  If you want to be a Christian, you need someone to teach you about Jesus and his plan to save you.  Contact me in the comments below and I would be happy to study with you.

The greatest benefit of the New Testament is then described.  “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (8:12; cf. Jeremiah 31:34).  Unlike the old covenant whose animal sacrifices could not take away sin (Hebrews 10:1ff), the new covenant provides the ultimate blessing!  God can be our God and we can be his people by virtue of forgiveness of sins!  The New Testament teaches that this initially takes place upon one’s faith in Christ, repentance of sins, and baptism into Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16).  It continues for the Christian as they live their lives penitently acknowledging when they sin (1 John 1:7-9).

Chapter 8 closes with God making clear that Christians are no longer under the Old Testament (8:13).  While study of the Old Testament is shown to be of value (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), the laws Christians must follow are found in the New Testament.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s