Read This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 5:1–6:9

When Something Doesn’t Add Up

In their discussion of the old and new covenants, scholars generally believe that scriptural references and allusions to the old covenant pertain to the historical old covenant, namely, the covenant God made with His people at Mount Sinai and its attendant law, including the Sabbath. They also believe that the New Testament’s pejorative characterizations of the old covenant apply to the Sinai covenant.

You may remember the list included in the Introduction to this lesson series, the list that depicts God’s covenant and law (identified in the minds of most scholars as the Sinai covenant and law) as: a tutor no longer needed once one comes to Christ (Gal. 3:24, 25); of “the flesh,” not the Spirit (Gal. 4:23, 30); keeping people from “shar[ing] in the [eternal] inheritance” (Gal. 4:3, NIV); “a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1, NIV); a “letter [that] kills” (2 Cor. 3:6, NKJV); a “ministry that brought death [and] . . . condemns” (2 Cor. 3:7, 9, NIV); keeping people “under the law,” not “under grace” (Rom. 6:14); something we must die to in order to be married to Christ and receive salvation (Rom. 7:1–4); something that became obsolete once the new covenant had come (Heb. 8:13).

These characterizations of the Sinai covenant and its laws are about as far from the identity-marking promises and assurances of the new covenant (as we discovered them in our previous lesson) as one could possibly imagine, are they not? No wonder God needed a new covenant! Oh, but wait, in His preface to the new covenant, where He gave the reasons why He needed to make a new covenant, He did not mention any of the things in the list above. Rather, He said a new covenant was needed because of how the people of the covenant had been unfaithful to the Sinai covenant. Very interesting!

In our lesson this week, we will take a closer look at how the Sinai covenant and the new covenant compare at some fundamental levels that should change the equation on how the two covenants should be compared as they relate to the gospel.