Read This Week’s Passage: Hebrews 8:7–12

Definitions Matter!

Do definitions matter? Hand out a sheet of paper to a hundred Christians and ask them what their definition of the new covenant is. You are likely to get close to that many different answers, and that is from those who even attempt an answer. Ask a hundred theologians to define the new covenant and you will likely get a much higher percentage who attempt an answer, but nearly the same percentage of disparity in their answers. Some books written about the covenants do not even attempt to define the new covenant; the authors apparently assume their readers know what the new covenant is. Do you know what it is? Before you proceed further, why not grab a sheet of paper and write down your own definition of the new covenant.

Most books on the covenants focus primarily on the old and new covenants. A vast majority of scholars agree that the old covenant is the covenant made with Israel at Sinai, together with its law. But when it comes to defining the new covenant, it seems as though most Christians are nonplussed. Those who do attempt a definition generally include references to one or more of the following: Jesus, His death and resurrection, the gospel, grace, love, the Holy Spirit, the law written on the heart, and so forth. Some define the new covenant in terms of how it is different from the Sinai covenant and its laws, i.e., defining it in in terms of what it is not rather than to what it is.

Our lesson this week focuses on a two-dimensional definition of the new covenant. We cannot decode the covenants without understanding both dimensions.