What Does It Mean that Christians Live Under a New Covenant?

Contributing Writer
What Does It Mean that Christians Live Under a New Covenant?

On the night before his death, Jesus broke bread, distributed wine, and instituted the new covenant when sharing the Passover meal. The bread and wine symbolize Jesus’ body and blood. When we use these elements in worship gatherings, we declare the new covenant reality in Christ.

Covenants mark Israel’s history from its earliest days: covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. Israel lived under these covenants, relationships between two partners who made binding promises to each other and worked together to reach a common goal, often accompanied by oaths, signs, and ceremonies.

The idea of the new covenant emerged centuries before Jesus came to earth. Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied the need for a new covenant for God’s people.

For the people of God today, what does it mean for us to live under the new covenant?

What is the New Covenant in the Bible?

On the night of the Passover (Luke 22:20), Jesus speaks of himself as the new covenant, which we enter through his death and resurrection.

Central to the new covenant is the belief in Jesus Christ as the mediator between God and humanity. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus fulfills the Old Covenant’s requirements, offering salvation to all who believe in him. John 3:16 encapsulates this belief: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Unlike the Old Covenant, characterized by external laws and regulations, the new covenant operates through internal transformation. Jeremiah 31:33 prophesies the future New Covenant: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Reading all the Old Testament covenants, we notice that none dealt with the problem of the heart. Jeremiah and Ezekiel write about this need, a new covenant directly dealing with the curse. While the Law was righteous, it relied upon the sinful human heart to perform it, which it couldn’t and can’t. The new covenant negates the curse, the problem’s root.

Humanity was subjected to the curse of sin and death after Adam’s Fall. Christ came as divine in human form, and when he died, he sacrificed the curse on the cross in his earthly body, and his resurrection finally and fully beat death, the consequence of disobeying God.

Repenting unto Christ, we enter the new covenant. Once in the new covenant, we enjoy forgiveness of sin and the removal of guilt (Hebrews 8:12). With the indwelling Holy Spirit, God’s presence transforms and empowers us to live according to God’s will. The Scripture calls this the new creation. Living as new creatures in Christ offers the assurance of eternal life and fellowship with God in this world and the one to come. Jesus promises in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” We enjoy this abundant life on the earth, and it extends eternally to heaven, to God’s forever presence.

How Many Covenants Came Before the New Covenant?

We will focus on four main covenants from the Old Testament.

God called Abraham out from his homeland to the wilderness, promising him a land and countless descendants, otherwise known as the Abrahamic Covenant. God pledges to make Abraham the father of a great nation and bless all peoples through them. This covenant includes divine favor for Abraham and his children. Throughout Scripture, this promise serves as a foundation for God’s ongoing relationship with Israel.

Interestingly, God makes this covenant alone in the mystical ceremony establishing the covenant. Moses only prepares the sacrifice and sleeps while God moves between the pieces (Genesis 15:9-18). Circumcision became the symbol of the covenant.

After Israel experienced deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the people made a covenant with God at Mount Sinai. We often refer to this as the Law, the Old Covenant, or the Mosaic Covenant, compromising the laws, commandments, and ordinances that govern Israel’s religious, moral, and social life. It established the Holy Tabernacle and details regarding holy places within it. The Law contained several feasts and celebrations to remember God’s work, like the Sabbath, Passover, Year of Jubilee, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Aaronic Covenant, named for Moses’ brother Aaron, primarily instituted the priesthood within Israel’s religious system. It outlined the priesthood’s responsibilities and privileges, including sacrificial regulations, tabernacle maintenance, and mediation between God and people.

The Davidic Covenant, made with King David, focused on promising an eternal kingdom and dynasty. God pledged to establish David’s throne forever, ensuring one of his descendants would perpetually rule over Israel. This covenant highlighted God’s commitment to fulfill his redemptive purposes through David’s lineage. It also foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah, who would reign as the Davidic promise’s ultimate fulfillment, ushering in a kingdom of righteousness and peace.

How Does the New Covenant Fulfill the Old Covenants?

All promises and covenants are fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul primarily refers to the Abrahamic Covenant in his writings. Since Paul had been called to the Gentiles, the promise to bless all nations makes sense as the ultimate fulfillment through Jesus, Abraham’s descendant. The new covenant preaches circumcising the heart for both men and women, not an outward mark on a male body part. Also, the new covenant is between God and Jesus, and it is not dependent upon humanity to fulfill it.

For the Old Covenant, Jesus reveals himself as the ultimate meaning of the Passover, and Revelation worships Jesus as the lamb that was slain. No longer an outward law, we follow the new laws of freedom and liberty (James 1:25) and Spirit and life (Romans 8:2). We find freedom in Christ. At Christ’s death, the Temple’s torn veil shows we now have access to the holiest places in heaven. Jesus fulfills the Aaronic Covenant, becoming the immortal High Priest, the best intercessor between God and humanity.

Finally, Jesus completed the Davidic Covenant. He came as the Christ, the Messiah. For this reason, Luke and Matthew take time to trace Jesus’ Davidic lineage. When the nation of Israel first asked the judge/prophet Samuel for a king, God declared they rejected him as their king (1 Samuel 8). The Davidic Covenant, through Jesus, gives us back God as our king. We don’t need an earthly one.

The Davidic Covenant promises the Messiah will establish a righteous, eternal kingdom. Jesus taught extensively about the Kingdom of God through parables and miracles. Jesus’ Gospel was, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The book of Revelation reveals this future Kingdom.

What Does the New Covenant Mean for Us Today?

God promised a new covenant through the prophet Jeremiah (31:33). Ezekiel 36:26-27 promises this: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

We can’t follow God’s ways in our own strength. Therefore, God must complete this work through us. God swore by himself (Hebrews 6:13-14), like with Abraham, to bring deliverance. To accomplish this, he came to live and prepare the way through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Since the covenant is between God and the Son, he sent his Spirit to dwell in our hearts and to live through us. We are also now in Christ, within the Person, and the Bible instructs us to be “in Christ” and “in him” to partake in the covenant.

Paul tells us not to let anyone deceive regarding the simplicity of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). To be in Christ, who is life, we must die to ourselves (Matthew 16:25), receiving the message of the cross, which is foolishness to the world yet brings us to resurrection life (1 Corinthians 1:18). Upon dying to ourselves, we no longer live but Christ lives the new covenant resurrection life through us (Galatians 2:20). God works in and through us to do his pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

This doesn’t mean our passivity. We have a part, as simple as it is. We have one focus: to walk by the Spirit, the divine Person gifted to live through us. Yet we must actively participate in the new covenant by resting in and being led by the Spirit, which is the same act. Romans 8, that wonderful passage, contrasts two laws. First is the law of sin and death, a curse dominating our lives and dooming us to destruction. We live a new law through Christ: the law of spirit and life.

If we fall from thousands of feet, the law of gravity pulls us to splat on the earth, a violent death. Yet, if we have wings, we can operate by a different law, the law of aerodynamics. Through the law of aerodynamics, we fly. One law overcomes the previous.

The new covenant doesn’t give us a parachute. We’ve been given wings of the Spirit to fly in freedom. Any spiritual discipline is only valuable when teaching us to walk better by the Spirit. Jesus gives an example in John 5:39, where he criticizes the religious Jews—they study the scriptures because they believe the Old Testament possesses eternal life. But these scriptures testified about Christ, yet they wouldn’t come to him to have life.

No spiritual discipline exists as an end in and of itself. God designed these disciplines to help us better understand and rely on Him through the Spirit.

Let us live in the new covenant through relationship with Life and love, walking with him alone to enjoy eternal life now and forever.


Further Reading:

What is a Covenant? Bible Definition and Meaning

5 Beautiful Covenants in the Bible and What They Mean

What is a Covenant? Why is it Important Today?

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/mbolina

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.