“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord. “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. … And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” [Jeremiah 31:31-33,34b (NLT)]
In a contract, both parties are expected to hold up their end of the bargain; if one or the other doesn’t, the contract is null and void. A contract has contingencies and failure on one side can negate the relationship. On the other hand, in a covenant, both parties agree to hold up their end of the deal even if the other party doesn’t; failure on one side or the other does not negate the relationship. God’s standard is perfection but, try as we might, we can’t be perfect. In a contractual relationship, He would have no reason to stay true to His word since we’re unable to stay true to ours. Out of necessity, we have a covenant relationship with God; fortunately, He will hold up His end even when we fail.
The old covenant was introduced by Moses to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai over 3,400 years ago. When Jesus blessed the bread and wine in that upper room in Jerusalem 1,400 years later, the New Covenant with God began. It’s important to remember that Jesus did not negate the law—there was nothing wrong with the law. The problem was with the people who couldn’t abide by it.
In the old covenant, people were told what to do (and not to do) to get right with God but, in the new covenant, the getting right with God has been done for us. The old covenant required the blood of animals and yearly atonement; the new covenant is for all of eternity and was satisfied with the sacrifice of just one very special man. The old covenant was one of the law and works but the new one is one of grace and faith. Instead of the law being written on tablets, it is written on men’s hearts. The old covenant was signified by circumcision and the new by a change of heart. The old covenant found God in the temple in Jerusalem but the new finds Him in the temple of the spirit. The old covenant was one of bondage and the new is one of liberty. The old covenant was established on Mt. Sinai for Israel alone; the new was established on the cross and is for all of mankind. It was with Jesus that the old covenant ended and it was with Him that the new covenant began; what was the Last Supper of the old covenant became the First Supper of the new one!