Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 14, 1963

Bible Answers

Gene Frost, 1900 Jenny Lind, Fort Smith, Arkansas

QUESTION: In what way is the Old Testament "old" and the New Testament "new"?

ANSWER: The Old Testament is also called the "first covenant" and the New Testament is called the "second covenant." With reference to order of enactment, the Old Testament was "first." The word "old" is not used as a comparative of time, which case the word would be "older." The word "old" is used in reference to authority. Is the first covenant active? No, it is old: God has made it old. The second covenant is "new" in that it is not the same as the first, not a continuation of it, but is different, distinct.

Concerning the first covenant, Paul quotes Jeremiah (31:31-33), "Behold, the days come, saith that Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will he to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Then Paul concludes, "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old." (Heb. 8:8-13). In contrasting the covenants, Paul makes three clear distinctions. The first was written on stones: the second would be written in hearts, i.e. with many under the first, that law was never accepted in the heart and their conduct was formal, whereas under the new covenant no one can be a partaker of its benefits who does not first believe. Under the first one was born into the kingdom and then had to he taught; now one cannot enter the kingdom without first having been taught. (John 6:44-45). Under the first covenant there was no absolute forgiveness of sins; under the new sins are remembered no more. (Heb. 10:4, 9:7, 25). So the new covenant is "new", different from the old. It is not an enlargement, abridgement, or continuation of that which had been before. It is new! Jesus is the mediator "of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." (Heb. 8:6). In that He saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old.

God made the first covenant old. The original language translated "old" means to "declare a thing to be old and so about to be abrogated." (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon) Arndt and Gingrich (Greek Lexicon) define "old" as to "declare or treat as obsolete." So then, in that God has made the first covenant old, He has made it obsolete. Paul adds, "Now that which waxeth old is ready to vanish away." "Waxeth old" means "to be deprived of force and authority." The first covenant having been deprived of its force and authority - now all authority is given to Christ who established the new covenant - is abolished. Jesus took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross. (Col. 2:14) "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second." (Heb. 10:9)

Other Scriptures of particular interest in this connection are: Gal. 3:16-29, 4:21-31, Eph. 2:11-18, 2 Cor. 3:311, et al.