JESUS CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO THE OLD COVENANT
by Jeffrey Hagan
The Old Covenant was established between God and the people of Israel after God freed them from slavery in Egypt. Moses, who led the people out, served as the mediator of this covenant which was made at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:8). God promised that the people of Israel would be his chosen people, and he would be their God (Exodus 6:7).
Altogether, there were 613 laws, covering every aspect of human behavior. Males had to be circumcised, sabbaths had to be observed, and people had to obey hundreds of dietary, social, and hygiene rules. All of these regulations were intended to protect the Israelites from the pagan influences of their neighbors, but no one could keep so many strict laws. To address the people's sins, God set up a system of animal sacrifices, because sin required blood sacrifices.
Under the old covenant, those sacrifices were carried out at the desert tabernacle. God installed Moses' brother Aaron and Aaron's sons as priests, who performed the actual slaughter of the animals. Only Aaron, the high priest, could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, to intercede for the people directly with God.
After the Israelites conquered Canaan, King Solomon built the first permanent temple in Jerusalem, where the animal sacrifices continued. Invaders eventually destroyed the temples, but when they were rebuilt, the sacrifices resumed.
That system of animal sacrifice lasted hundreds of years, but even so, it was only temporary. Out of love, God the Father sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world. This new covenant would resolve the problem of sin once and for all.
Besides serving as the sacrifice, Jesus also became the new and better high priest:
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Instead of physical prosperity, the new covenant promises salvation from sin and eternal life with God. As high priest, Jesus constantly intercedes for his followers. Individuals may now approach God themselves; they no longer need a human high priest to speak for them.
The Old Testament is a record of the nation of Israel struggling—and failing—to keep her covenant with God. The New Testament shows Jesus Christ keeping the covenant FOR his people, doing what they cannot do.
Hebrews, gives several reasons why Jesus is superior to the old covenant. Some of those reasons are:
1. Jesus is superior to Moses as mediator.
Hebrews 3:1-6, "Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope" (ESV).
2. Jesus is our high priest forever sitting next to God in heaven.
Hebrews 5:6, "So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,;“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
3. Jesus' sacrifice is once for all, cleansing believers for eternal life.
Hebrews 9:24, 26b
"For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf...he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
Hebrews 10:8-10, "When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Both the Old and New Testaments are the story of the same God, a God of love, mercy, and grace who gives people the opportunity to come to him by receiving Jesus Christ. And he waits patiently with open arms for his chosen who have faltered to repent.
The old covenant was for a specific people in a specific place and time. The new covenant extends to people from every tribe, nation and tongue.