A New Covenant
The New Testament is the covenant God made with Himself on behalf of and out of love for mankind. It is recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and explained further by the rest of the New Testament. This covenant is not with us as individuals, but with all of mankind. Jesus became mankind’s representative, died for our sins so we could be restored to fellowship with the Father, rose to sit on God’s right hand, and sent the Holy Spirit to prove His covenant was in effect. He laid out the benefits we receive and the responsibilities required of us.
The first step in making a covenant was to choose representatives for both parties. They were required to belong to the group they represented. They would be the ones responsible for seeing that the terms of the covenant were kept.
Since one of the representatives had to be a man in order to represent mankind, Jesus divested Himself of His Godly power and was born to the virgin, Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God became fully human and walked out the terms of the covenant for us. He had to learn the Scriptures and understand them. He had to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, so He could know God’s will in every situation. He experienced every temptation we do, yet without sinning. And He did it as a man, not as God.
Once the representatives were chosen, the terms were made. Next, blood must be shed when making a covenant. They would sacrifice an animal, cut it up, and walk a figure 8 through the split pieces. Symbolically they were saying that if one of the parties broke the covenant, the other covenant partner could do the same to them as was done to the sacrifice. This was not an agreement to be taken lightly! God was called on to witness the covenant. What man may miss, God would notice.
In the New Testament, Jesus became, not only the representative of mankind but also the blood sacrifice. Man could not keep the terms of the covenant and man cannot break this covenant. Jesus was the only one who could keep the terms or break this covenant. As the perfect sacrifice, His shed blood ratified the covenant, declaring it was officially in effect. He paid the price for our restoration to God. Now each one of us must decide whether to participate in the covenant and life in Christ or be separated from God, which is death.
Names were exchanged. In the Abrahamic covenant, Abram took on God’s name of “Yah,” making his name Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. God became “the God of Abraham.” In the New Covenant, we become “Christians,” “sons of God,” and the “bride of Christ.” Jesus became the “Son of Man.”
They listed their belongings. What belonged to one, now also belonged to the other. If one partner needed something the other possessed, it was given to him. We are joint heirs with Jesus (see Rom. 8:17). Everything Jesus has is now available to mankind:
“According as his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Everything we have is now God’s. He wants to take our burdens from us. He wants His people to become just like Him. In exchange, we give to God what He wants. And what do we have that God would want? Our love, worship, and obedience, and our acknowledgment of who He is.
He sent Jesus to show us the way and Holy Spirit to indwell us and help us become just like Him. All we have to do is seek Him and allow Him to change us. We can’t become like God through our own efforts. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. We just have to let Him do it:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Next, the covenant partners exchanged robes. This signified that they were so close that when you saw one, you saw the other. Jesus took on flesh and became fully man. We are to put on Christ, to become so like Him that when the world looks at us, they see Jesus. We put on the robe of righteousness and walk in love.
They exchanged weapons, saying in essence, “Your enemies are now my enemies. My enemies are now your enemies. Whenever you need me, I will be there.”
Joshua and the Gibeonites illustrate this perfectly in Joshua 9 and 10. The Israelites had been commanded by God to destroy all the nations of the land of Canaan. The Gibeonites were afraid of them because they knew that the Israelites would kill them. So, pretending to be from a far country, they convinced Israel to make a covenant with them. Joshua did so, neglecting to consult with God first. But even though the Gibeonites lied in order to get the Israelites to covenant with them, the covenant was still binding. Thus, when five kings attacked Gibeon, the Gibeonites called on Joshua for help. Immediately he rode to their defense, riding day and night to get there in time to join the battle. Israel did not finish vanquishing the enemy before sundown, so Joshua called on God, his covenant partner, to make the sun and moon stand still while they finished the fight. Thus, God affirmed His covenant with Israel.
Under the New Covenant, God’s enemies are now our enemies. Our enemies are His enemies. His weapons are now our weapons:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
Paul tells us to “Put on the whole armor of God.” Dress yourself in truth; guard your heart with righteousness; walk in the “gospel of peace;” use faith to protect yourself like a shield; let salvation protect your mind; and go on the offensive with the Word of God, which will also be a defensive weapon for you (see Ephesians 6:11-17).
“Thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
God is there whenever we need Him. We are never alone (see Matthew 28:20). God takes on our enemies, and we take on God’s enemies. But now we fight with the weapons and armor He has given us. God’s strength is now our strength, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The covenant partners cut their wrists and rubbed them together. Since life is in the blood (see Leviticus17:11), as their blood mingled, they considered that their very lives and natures mingled, truly making them as one. Then they rubbed dirt into the wound to cause a scar that would be seen forever. It would be a constant, visible reminder of their covenant. They had each other’s backs. Every time they ate, drank, raised the hand to work or in play, they would remember they had given up their right to live only for themselves. Every decision now had to be made with the partner’s best interests at heart. The scar would also be prominent when greeting people. Anyone seeing the scar would know he was in covenant and there would be a partner coming to his aid if it was needed.
Jesus took the scars on His hands, feet, and side. Everything He did and commanded are for our greater good. Circumcision of the heart is our scar. It becomes visible as we make decisions that take our covenant partner’s best interests into consideration. Remember, when the world looks at us, they see Jesus through the way we live our lives. Jesus took on the nature of man. Now we are to take on His nature and become just like Him. It is a requirement of the covenant.
Covenant partners become close. You can’t become like someone or keep their best interests at heart if you don’t know them. In the making of the covenant, they called each other “friend,” the kind that will die for you if necessary! Abraham was the “friend of God,” and God was the “Friend of Abraham.” Jesus called us friends and laid down His life for us:
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:13-15).
Let me elaborate on this a little because it has been a stumbling block to me. What kind of friend is only your friend if you do what he tells you? That sounds more like a master-servant relationship, not friendship. But it makes sense when you look at it from a covenant perspective. Jesus is love, and as a “covenant friend” He loves you so much He was willing to die for you. Everything He does is for your greater good. And the covenant is reciprocal. When we partake of the covenant Jesus made on our behalf, we are to become conformed to His image. Everything He commands us to do is for our good. If we don’t obey His commandments, we have not entered into the covenant, because obedience is one of the requirements set forth as a condition of the covenant.
Here Jesus is telling us that obedience to His Word is required of us. We don’t get to enjoy all the benefits of the covenant if we don’t love Him, and we can’t love Him without a change in our lives. He died so that we could be restored to a relationship with our heavenly Father. We have to become like Him, a son of God, and exhibit His nature. Covenant is not a casual undertaking. Becoming a Christian is a commitment to a relationship with God Almighty. It is a relationship where we acknowledge Jesus as our Savior, but also our Lord and Master. Obedience out of love, not duty, is required.
After reciting the terms and conditions and exchanging identities, they sealed the covenant by sharing a meal. They fed each other bread and gave each other wine. They called it “eating each other,” showing they were partaking of each other. The two had become one. You couldn’t look at one without seeing the other. Have you noticed how much of the covenant emphasized becoming one?
Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…Verily, verily, I say to you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:51, 53).