If only God Himself had given a clear, straightforward definition of the new covenant. Oh, but wait, He did! In the inScribe verses for this week, God Himself defines the new covenant! No equivocation, no ambiguity, no obscurity; just a straightforward definition that most anyone could understand.
But before we get to the definition proper, here is a brief backstory. God first announced and defined the new covenant in the Old Testament through Jeremiah (Jer. 31:33, 34). Hebrews in the New Testament picked it up straight from Jeremiah. In the longest New Testament quotation of an Old Testament passage, Hebrews 8:7–12 quotes Jeremiah 31:31–34, essentially verbatim. God defines the “new covenant” (Heb. 8:8) as four promises He makes to His people.
Promise 1: He promises that He will write His laws in their hearts (Heb 8:10), to sanctify them, to make them holy, aligning their hearts and characters with His. When God gave Israel His law at Sinai, the people immediately responded, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do, . . . and be obedient” (Exod. 24:3, 7, NKJV), as in, “We’re good, God; we got this.” But they weren’t good, not that good; and they hadn’t “got this” (recall the golden-calf incident at this point!). He wants them to know that He didn’t give them His law to challenge them to try and keep it. “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14, NKJV). He gave it to them as a promise of the kind of people He would make of them if they would rely on Him and trust Him. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you . . . and cause you to walk in My statutes” (Ezek. 36:26, 27, NKJV).
Promise 2: He promises to be their God and make them His people (Heb. 8:10) to reconcile them to Himself. Isaiah warned, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (59:2, NKJV), the most vulnerable condition possible for people living in a hostile environment such as our world. God says, “I want to be your shield and refuge. Rely on Me, trust Me; let Me do my thing on your behalf.” God would reconcile us through Christ’s death on the cross (2 Cor. 5:17–21).
Promise 3: God promises to reveal Himself to the whole world, and He promises that the day is coming when that will not be necessary anymore, because everyone will know Him, from the least to the greatest (Heb. 8:11)—the harmony of Eden will be restored. Until that day of final consummation, He invites those who already know Him to team up with Him and other believers in His mission to make Himself known within their own circles of influence (Matt. 28:19, 20).
Promise 4: God promises to forgive our sins and remember them no more (Heb. 8:12), in order to justify us so that we stand before God as though we had never sinned. At some point in human history, the Covenant Maker Himself came from heaven to earth to shed His “blood of the everlasting covenant” to make this possible and to make it hard to resist.
These four promises shout out that God has made sure anyone who really wants to be in His eternal kingdom can be, because He has committed Himself and all of His resources to make it happen! God Himself defines the new covenant by these four promises; they are the DNA of the new covenant. In short, the new covenant is the gospel!
Why don’t more Christians already know this? God couldn’t have made it plainer. Could it be that some sinister force is at work to dull people’s minds and veil their hearts to the gospel lest people hear it, understand it, believe it, walk in it, and receive the full inheritance prepared for them from the creation of the world?