Why is the Covenant BETTER?
Hebrews 8 tells us the new agreement offered by God through Jesus Christ is better than the old because:
"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." (Hebrews 8:6)
These better and unique promises are:
Internal Motivation to Obey God
The first new covenant promise concerns internal motivation. Israel didn't have the heart or nature to obey God (Deuteronomy 5:29, Hebrews 8:7-8, Romans 8:3). God now promises, however, to put His laws into the mind and write them on the heart:
"'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.' " (Hebrews 8:10-11)
What does this mean?
"I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8).
Delighting in God's law is not a normal human response (Romans 8:7).
What is the POWER promised that will help man OBEY God? It is the Holy Spirit dwelling inside a person:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to THE SPIRIT. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit . . .
"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, IF INDEED THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN YOU. " (Romans 8:1-4, 9)
The fundamental basis of this new covenant relationship is the conversion process, whereby each day the believer draws closer to God:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being RENEWED DAY BY DAY." (2 Corinthians 4:16)
" . . . for it is God who works in you both to WILL and to DO for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)
This change of nature results in an intimate relationship with God.
Forgiveness of Sin
The second covenant promise concerns forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins, also necessary for a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2), is another unique benefit:
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). It is the sacrifice of Christ, however, that makes possible the remission of our sins:
"Then He (Jesus) took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the NEW COVENANT, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.' " (Matthew 26:27-28).
The Old Covenant was made at Sinai when Israel accepted its terms while the new is made at baptism when a person accepts Christ's sacrifice and commits themselves completely to God.
The third new promise is about the inheritance those who love God will receive after they are resurrected:
"And for this reason He (Jesus) 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." (Hebrews 9:15)
Eternal life is more than a change from flesh to spirit -- it means a never ending relationship with God (John 17:3).
When will it be offered to ALL Israel?
The main fulfillment of Jeremiah's chapter 31 prophecy will occur with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8:10). After Jesus returns to set up the kingdom of God he will establish a new relationship with all Israel and ultimately all mankind. Malachi 3 calls the returning Christ:
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT, in whom you delight." (Malachi 3:1)
Under the rule of Jesus the world will be taught the law of God from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). This shows the Law remains an integral part of God's relationship with mankind. Mercy and forgiveness of sin will be extended to all (Isaiah 59:20-21). As a result, Israel will enjoy an intimate relationship with God (Hosea 2:16, 19-20, 23).
Are the commandments obsolete?
Some people break the Ten Commandments, especially the fourth commandment, under the assumption that they are "done away with" and not even mentioned in the New Testament. This is simply not true, as EACH of the commandments are repeated somewhere! Additionally, Jesus himself stated that God's laws were and are still in effect:
"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. (Matthew 5:17-19)!
The Old Covenant is NOT the same as the Ten Commandments as it is an agreement; commandments are laws or terms OF the agreement. The Ten Commandments are the words [terms, Jewish Publication Society translation] of the contract NOT the contract itself (Exodus 34:27-28). The agreement became obsolete, and not necessarily the laws within it. That said, certain specific parts of Old Testament law are specifically referred to in the New Testament as no longer necessary. For example, Hebrews 10:9-18 shows Christ's sacrifice made animal sacrifices at the temple no longer required.
What is a simple definition?
God wants us to have a relationship with Him. Obeying His laws is fundamental to that relationship. The way God has communicated His laws has varied, but the laws remain the same. He related His laws verbally to the patriarchs (see Genesis 26:5 where God said Abraham obeyed his voice). To Israel, God wrote His laws on stones and in the book of the law. Today, God writes His laws on the minds and hearts of man.
The New Covenant provides the motivation to obey His laws, extends forgiveness when we don't, and results in an intimate relationship with God for all eternity.