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*** When God was about
to speak the law to Israel, of what did He tell Moses to remind them?
“Tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the
Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto
Myself .” Ex. 19:3, 4.
*** What covenant did
He propose to make with them?
“Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My
covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people:
for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests,
and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the
children of Israel.” Ex. 19:5, 6.
*** What is a covenant?
“A mutual agreement of two or more persons or parties, in writing
and under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing; a
*** When Moses told the
people what the Lord had proposed, what did they say?
“And all the people answered together, and said, all that the
Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people
unto the Lord.” Ex. 19:7, 8.
*** In the Covenant
which the Lord proposed to make with Israel, what did He say that they
were to do?
“Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My
covenant.” Ex. 19:5, first part.
*** What was His
covenant which they were to keep as their part of the mutual agreement or
covenant between Him and them?”
“And he declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to
perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables
of stone.” Deut. 4:12, 13.
*** What relation did
the ten commandments bear to the covenant made between God and the
children of Israel?
NOTE. The ten commandments
were termed God’s covenant before the covenant was made with Israel. They
were not an agreement made, but something which God commanded them
to perform, and He promised them something, provided they would keep them.
Thus the ten commandments, God’s covenant, became the basis of the
covenant made between Him and Israel. The ten commandments, in all their
details, are “all these words,” concerning which the
covenant was made. See Ex. 24:8.
As seen by the last text quoted, the ten commandments were the “covenant” to which the Lord referred, when in proposing a
covenant with Israel, He said, “Now therefore, if ye will obey
my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar
treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:” Ex. 19:5.
*** After God had
spoken His law (the “covenant which He commanded,” Ex. 20:3-17),
did He continue speaking to the people?
“And He added no more. And He wrote them in two tables of stone,
and delivered them unto me.” Deut. 5:22.
*** What was the nature
of the instruction afterward given to Moses (Ex. 20:22, 23)?
It was a practical application or explanation of the ten commandments,
so that the people might be able better to understand what was involved in
the keeping of them. The reference to the altar, how it should be built,
and how approached, in Ex. 20:24-26, simply shows the care that God would
have taken in His worship. In Ex. 23:14-19 we have other commandments also
*** As reported in Ex. 24:3, Moses told the people all the words of the Lord, and they promised
to be obedient. What did Moses then do, that there might be no
“And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up
early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve
pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel... And he took the book
of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people.” Ex. 24:4, 7.
*** When the people had
again heard the words of the Lord, and again promised obedience (verse 7),
what was done to ratify the covenant which had thus been made?
NOTE. We have here the
complete account of the making of the first covenant. It consisted of a
promise of obedience to the ten commandments, on the part of the children
of Israel, and the statement by the Lord of what He would do for them
provided they obeyed His voice.
“And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and
said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you
concerning all these words.” Ex. 24:8. “And sprinkled both
the book and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the
testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” Heb. 9:19, 20.
*** Is the covenant
made at Sinai the only covenant which God made with Israel?
“Behold, the days come, saith 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 a husband unto them, saith the
Lord.” Jer. 31:31, 32.
*** What comparison
does God make between the two covenants?
“But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much
also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established
upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then
should no place have been sought for the second.” Heb. 8:6, 7.
*** In what respect was
the first covenant faulty?
It must have been faulty in the very particulars wherein the second
was better, namely, in the promises, as seen by the last part of verse 6:
“He [Christ] is the mediator of a better covenant, which was
established upon better promises.”
*** What are the
promises of the new covenant?
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of
Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their
mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and
they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his
neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall
know Me, from the least to the greatest.” Heb. 8:10-11. “For I
will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no
more.” Jer. 31:34, last part.
*** Are these promises
stated in the order of their fulfillment?
It is evident that in Jer. 31:33, 34, where the promises of the new
covenant are more fully stated than in Heb. 8:10, 11, those promises are
not stated in the regular order of their fulfillment; because forgiveness
of sins is mentioned last, whereas it must necessarily precede the writing
of the law in the heart; remembering sin no more, or blotting out of sin;
and translating the people to the heavenly Jerusalem, where all shall see
and know the Lord. See Isa. 54:11-13; Rev. 21:2-4.
*** In the first
covenant, to what was Israel’s promise really equivalent?
In the first covenant the people promised to keep all the commandments
of God, so as to be worthy of a place in His kingdom. This was a virtual
promise to make themselves righteous; for God did not promise to help
them. But says Christ, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. And the prophet says, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy
rags.” Isa. 64:6. The only perfect righteousness is God’s
righteousness, and that can be obtained only through faith in Christ. See
Rom. 3:20-26. The only righteousness that will insure us an entrance into
the kingdom of God, is “the righteousness which is of God by
faith.” Phil. 3:9. Of those who shall inherit the kingdom of God, the
Lord says, “Their righteousness is of Me” (Isa. 54:17); and the
prophet says of Christ, when He has taken His place as king over all the
true Israel, “This is His name whereby He shall be called, the Lord
our Righteousness.” Jer. 23:6.
Yet what must be done in order to have eternal life?
“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matt. 19:17, last part; see also Rev. 22:14.
*** Then how could
ancient Israel have any chance for eternal life?
were under the first testament, they which are called might receive
the promise of eternal inheritance.” Heb. 9:14, 15.
“How much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal
Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from
dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator
of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the
NOTE. The fact that Christ, as mediator of the second
covenant, died for the remission of the transgressions that were under the
first covenant, shows that there was no forgiveness by virtue of
that first covenant.
*** How alone can the good works required by the law be manifested in the lives of men?
See John 15:4, 5; Phil. 2:13; Eph. 2:10; Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 2:20.
*** In order to have
God make us “perfect in every good work to do His will,” what
must be our position?
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he
will flee from you.” James 4:7. “Neither yield ye your members
as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto
God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as
instruments of righteousness unto God.” Rom. 6:13.
*** What is said of the
law in the second, or new covenant?
“I [the Lord] will put My law in their inward parts, and write it
in their hearts.” Jer. 31:33.
*** Since no such
promise was made in the old covenant (see Ex. 19:5-8; 24:3-7), were not
the promises of the new covenant much “better” than those of the old?
When and how was the second covenant ratified?
By the death of Christ: “And He shall confirm the covenant with
many for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the
sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” Dan. 9:27. “For where a
testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no
strength at all while the testator liveth.” Heb. 9:16, 17.
*** Then how could the
Israelites, or any people before the first advent, derive any benefit from
By faith in the promised Redeemer. See. Heb. 6:13, 16-20; Rom. 4:17.
*** How and in whom was
the covenant with Abraham confirmed?
In Christ. See Heb. 6:13, 16-20; Gal. 3:17.
*** Is there anything in the second covenant that was not in the Abrahamic covenant?
NOTE. None should allow
themselves to be confused by the terms first covenant and second
covenant. While the covenant made at Sinai is called “the first
covenant,” it is by no means the first covenant that God ever made
with man. Long before He made a covenant with Abraham, and He also made a
covenant with Noah, and with Adam. Neither must it be supposed that the
first or old covenant existed for a period of time as the only covenant
with the people before the promise of the second or new covenant could be
shared. If that had been the case, then during that time there would have
been no pardon for the people. What is called the “second
covenant” virtually existed before the covenant was made at Sinai;
for the covenant with Abraham was confirmed in Christ (Gal. 3:17), and it
is only through Christ that there is any value to what is known as the
second covenant. There is no blessing that can be gained by virtue of the
second covenant, that was not promised to Abraham. And we, with whom the
second covenant is made, can share the inheritance which it promises, only
by being children of Abraham. To be Christ’s is the same as to be children
of Abraham (Gal. 3:29); all who are of faith are the children of Abraham,
and share in his blessing (Gal. 3:7-9); and since no one can have anything
except as children of Abraham, it follows that there is nothing in what is
called the second covenant that was not in the covenant made with Abraham.
The second covenant existed in every feature long before the first, even
from the days of Adam. It is called “second” because both its
ratification by blood and its more minute statement, were after the
ratification of the covenant made at Sinai. More than this, it was the
second covenant made with the Jewish people. The one from Sinai was
the first made with that nation.
“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3:29, 6-9.
*** Then why was the covenant made at Sinai?
NOTE. The Lord was just giving His law. The promise of the Israelites to
keep it perfectly, and their failure, brought them face to face with the
consequences of violating the law of God. The consciousness of guilt, and
a sense of its consequences, would be much more forcibly impressed upon
their minds than if they had not made the promise which they did. And
being thus brought face to face with their sin, and realizing its full
enormity, they would be driven to the only source of help, ample provision
for which had been made in the covenant with their father Abraham. Thus it
might be said that the first covenant was made in order to bring the
second covenant (all the terms of which were the Abrahamic covenant) into
bolder relief, and to secure its acceptance by the people.
When it was demonstrated that the first covenant, the Sinai covenant,
contained no provisions for pardon of sins, some will at once say,
“But they did have pardon under that covenant.” The trouble
arises from a confusion of terms. It is not denial that under the old
covenant, i.e., during the time when it was specially in force, there was
pardon of sins, but that pardon was not offered in the old covenant, and
could not be secured by virtue of something else, as shown by Heb. 9:15.
Not only was there the opportunity of finding free pardon of sins, and
grace to help in time of need, during the time of the old covenant, but
the same opportunity existed before that covenant was made, by virtue of
God’s covenant with Abraham, which differs in no respect from that made
with Adam and Eve, except that we have the particulars given more in
detail. We see, then, that there was not necessity for provisions to be
made in the Sinai covenant for forgiveness of sins. The plan of salvation
was developed long before the gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8),
and was amply sufficient to save to the uttermost all who would accept it;
the covenant at Sinai was made for the purpose of making the people see
the necessity of accepting the gospel.
Hebrews 9:1 is a text that hinders many from seeing that all God’s blessings to man are gained by virtue of the second covenant, and not by
the first. That text reads: “Then verily the first covenant had also
ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.” This,
together with the fact that when men complied with these ordinances of
divine service, they were forgiven (Leviticus 4), seems to some conclusive
evidence that the old covenant contained the gospel and its blessings. But
forgiveness of sins was not secured by virtue of those offerings,
“for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take
away sins.” Heb. 10:4. Forgiveness was obtained only by virtue of the
promised sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:15), the mediator of the new
covenant, their faith in whom was shown by their offerings. So it was by
virtue of the second or new covenant that pardon was secured to
those who offered the sacrifices provided for in the ordinances of divine
service connected with the old or first covenant.
Moreover, those “ordinances of divine service” formed no part of
the first covenant. If they had, they must have been mentioned in the
making of that covenant; but they were not. They were connected with it,
but not a part of it. They were simply the means by which the people
acknowledged the justice of their condemnation to death for the violation
of the law which they had covenanted to keep, and their faith in the
mediator of the new covenant.
In brief, then, God’s plan in the salvation of sinners, whether now or in
the days of Moses, is: The law went home emphatically to the individual,
to produce conviction of sin, and thus to drive the sinner to seek
freedom; then the acceptance of Christ’s gracious invitation, which was
extended long before, but which the sinner would not listen to; and
lastly, having accepted Christ, and being justified by faith, the
manifestation of the faith, through the ordinances of. the gospel, and the
living of a life of righteousness by faith in Christ.
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