As more and more brethren return to the Hebraic roots of the true faith and are drawn to observe Torah, the issue has been raised as to the type of covenant we are now under. Those of us that have been enlightened concerning the importance of the law (Torah) of Yahweh and obedience to it as a fruit of our salvation rather than the means to it (justification by works), realize the common Christian view of the New Covenant is wrong.
The Christian view states that believers are no longer "under the law" meaning (in their minds) they don't have to obey the "Old Covenant laws", but only the New Covenant "laws of love". This issue has been addressed in my study entitled, "The Law and the New Covenant Believer," so I won't review it here.
It is this erroneous Christian view of the New Covenant that has led many to reject the idea of a whole "new" covenant in favor of a "renewed" covenant. Now that they see the continuance of the law (Torah), they have trouble, as do most Christians, harmonizing the Old Covenant laws with a "new" covenant.
A new Bible version called "The Scriptures", which is favored by many "Messianics", has also led to the propagation of this error by translating Heb.8:8 as a "renewed covenant". Ironically, this same version translated Jer.31:31, from which Heb.8:8 was quoted, as "new" covenant.
My intention is to address the issue of whether or not believers are under a "renewed" covenant (the Old Covenant being renewed) or whether we are under a "new" covenant (the Old Covenant being destroyed and an entirely new covenant being created). The latter is my current understanding.
Let's begin by quoting the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the New Covenant.
"Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that 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 that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith Yahweh: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith Yahweh, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Yahweh: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Yahweh: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:31-34, KJV.
The Terms of the New Covenant
Yahweh will write His laws in the new hearts of His people (Jer.31:33; Ezek.36:26).
Yahweh will cause His people to "know" Him far deeper than they have ever known Him before (Jer.31:34).
Yahweh will forgive the sins of His people (Jer.31:34; Ezek.36:25).
Yahweh will dwell in the hearts of His people by putting His Holy Spirit within them (Ezek.36:26-27).
Yahweh will cause His people to keep His statutes and judgments through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezek.36:27; John 16:13).
Yahweh will give His people the promised land (Ezek.36:24; 37:26).
Yahweh will multiply His people once they are in the land (Ezek.37:26).
Yahweh will dwell in His sanctuary / temple which will be in the midst of His people (Ezek.37:26-28).
1) Man must confess the Master Yeshua and believe in his resurrection - "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Master Yeshua, and shalt believe in thine heart that Elohim hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom.10:9-10).
The above is true because Yeshua is the means through which man can enter the New Covenant. Yeshua said:
"I am the way . . . no man comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn.14:6)
In Luke 22:20, Yeshua said:
"This cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood which is shed for you."
When we confess Yeshua, we are saying we accept him and his blood sacrifice on our behalf as the "way" to the Father and as the means to enter the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was "dedicated" or ratified with animal blood:
"Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which [Yahweh] hath enjoined unto you." (Heb.9:18-20; also Ex.24:6-8)
The New Covenant was dedicated with better blood and a better sacrifice (Heb.9:23).
What about the part about believing Yahweh raised him from the dead? This is necessary for three reasons. By doing so, we acknowledge;
1) that our Savior is the true and LIVING way to the Father.
2) that Yahweh is the Elohim of the living.
3) our hope that Yahweh will raise us up from the dead as He did Yeshua.
2) Man must repent of his sins and be baptized - "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that Elohim has made that same Yeshua, whom you have crucified, both Master and Messiah. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as Yahweh our Elohim shall call." (Acts.2:36-39).
Repentance (acknowledging our sins or transgressions against Yahweh's laws and turning from them) is necessary in order for Yahweh to carry out His part of forgiving our sins (Jer.31:34; Ezek.36:25).
Baptism is necessary to have those sins washed away (Acts 22:16) and as a symbol that we desire to put to death our old man and be raised a new man who walks according to the New Covenant as our Savior does (Rom.6:3-11).
3) Man must obey Yahweh and Yeshua out of love for them.
"By this we know that we love the children of [Yahweh], when we love [Yahweh], and keep His commandments. For this is the love of [Yahweh], that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:2-3)
"If you love me, keep my commandments" (Jn.14:15)
"Yeshua answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (Jn.14: 23)
Obedience to Yahweh and Yeshua's commandments are a fruit of one's entrance into the New Covenant through Messiah Yeshua. Since sin is the transgression of the law (1 Jn.3:4) and since Yahweh forgave our sins, we should have no desire to continue in the same sins we were forgiven of. Adulterers turn away from adultery, Sabbath breakers turn away from polluting the Sabbath, thieves stop stealing, liars stop lying, etc.
The Holy Spirit inspired the word "chadashah", feminine of Strong's #2319, to be used which most versions translate "new". It has the meaning of freshness and was translated "fresh" and "new thing". Strong's says its root is #2318, "chadash" (spelled the same as the masculine of #2319, but with different vowel points.
If you were reading the Hebrew text as Yahweh originally inspired it (without vowel points), you would need to determine the meaning of the word "chadash" based on its context. Below are a few examples of how "chadash" can only be translated "new" followed by a few examples of how "chadash" can only be translated "renew".
Ex.1:8 - "a new king over Egypt"
De.24:5 - "When a man has taken a new wife . . ."
Jg.16:12 - "Delilah therefore took new ropes . . ."
Job 32:19 - "it is ready to burst like new bottles"
Ps.103:5 - "thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Ps.104:30 - "thou renewest the face of the earth."
La.5:21 - "renew our days as of old."
Since the context determines the meaning, let's look at the context of Jer.31:31-33. Verse 32 says the "new" covenant will NOT be like the covenant made at the time they came out of Egypt (the covenant at Mt. Sinai). A "renewed" covenant would be very similar to the Sinai covenant, but a "new" covenant would not.
Verse 32 also says the original covenant was broken. Once broken by either party, it becomes null and void. A "new" covenant was needed because the old could not be fixed. Something that cannot be fixed cannot be renewed. You cannot renew a house that has burned to the ground, or a pumpkin that has been destroyed, or anything that has disappeared.
Heb. 8:13 reads:
"In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."
The Old Covenant would vanish away or disappear making it impossible to renew. What was needed was a whole new covenant, not like the first.
Verse 33 says the New Covenant would have the law (Torah) written in the hearts of the people as opposed to on tables of stone. The ten commandments are the heart of Torah. While those commandments remained unchanged from one covenant to the other, there were many laws under the Sinai covenant that did not become part of the New Covenant. For example, laws that could only be kept in the land of Israel, sacrificial laws, temple related laws, judicial laws such as stoning to death and drinking bitter water to test a suspected adulterer.
This is not to say that those laws have been abolished and only the ten commandments remain. The sacrificial laws, for example, are not to be kept today by shedding the blood of animals, but through Messiah's one time sacrifice for all. Whenever we sin under the New Covenant, we can go before Yahweh with Yeshua as our offering for sin.
Yeshua is also our High Priest who is daily ministering and interceding for us in the heavenly temple. So, while the Old Covenant temple laws are not applicable to us in regards to an earthly temple, they are still applicable concerning the heavenly temple.
If the context of Jer.31:31-33 is not clear enough to establish the meaning of "chadash", we can also turn to the Septuagint version which was translated by Jews into Greek more than two hundred years before Messiah. The Jews of that day used the Greek word "kainen" (a form of Strong's # 2537, "kainos". This is the same word the New Testament Greek manuscripts use in Heb.8:8 when quoting Jer.31:31. This same word was used in reference to "new bottles" (Mt.9:17), new vs. old treasures (Mt.13:52), a "new" tomb (Mt 27:60), "new" doctrine (Mk.1:27), "new" tongues (Mk.16:17), a "new" name (Rev.2:17), a "new" song (Rev.5:9), . . .
None of these examples can be translated "renewed" which is why the Greek has a specific word meaning "renewed" in the sense of renovation. It is Strong's #341, "anakainoo". This word comes from #2537 with the prefix "ana" #303 added.
A variation of "anakainoo", "anakainison" was used in La.5:21 for "renew our days". Variations of "anakainoo" were also used in Ps.103:5 - "thy youth is renewed like the eagle's" and 104:30 - "thou renewest the face of the earth".
So far we have seen the immediate context and the Greek Old and New Testaments support a "new" covenant rather than a "renewed" covenant. Now let's see how other references to this New Covenant prove it is indeed "new" and not "renewed".
In Gal.4:21-31, the Apostle Paul offers an allegory to explain the difference between the covenant at Sinai (the Old Covenant) and the New Covenant. He explains how the Old Covenant leads to bondage and the new covenant to freedom. He concludes by saying, "we are not children of the bondwoman (the Old Covenant), but of the free" (vs.31). Therefore, we should, "cast out the bondwoman" (vs.30), not renew her.
It is impossible to renew something that is to be discarded or cast out. Only things that are kept can be renewed. If you have a Model T Ford, you can renovate it or renew it as long as you have it. If you cast it out into the junk yard where it will wax old and decay until it vanishes away (Heb.8:13), it cannot possibly be renewed. Please do not misunderstand me. The Old Covenant was glorious, not junk. I'm just trying to make an analogy.
In 2 Cor.3, Paul tells us some of the problems with the Old Covenant as it related to the children of Israel. Of course, as Heb.8:8 says, the fault with the Old Covenant was with the people, not with the covenant. However, because of the way the Old Covenant was administered in relation to a disobedient people, it was very problematic.
Paul says it was a "ministration of death" and a "ministration of condemnation" (vss. 7 & 9). When the law was transgressed (sin) it brought death and condemnation for those under its rule for the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23; Ezek.18:20). A temporary remedy was available in animal sacrifices, but the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin permanently (Heb.10:4). All were sinners and all were condemned to death. As Gal.3:23 puts it; "But before faith came, we were kept (guarded) under the law (under its condemning death sentence) shut up (locked up in prison) unto the faith which should afterward be revealed." Transgressors were on death row awaiting their sentence to be carried out.
The entire Old Covenant had to be abolished and a new one created that would be profitable to a people full of faults. This new covenant would be founded upon a law that was written in their hearts rather than on tables of stone. Through the indwelling Spirit of Messiah, our hearts and minds would be changed. As we abide in the living Torah (Messiah) the Torah would be written on our hearts. As the mind of Messiah formed in us, a mind that was obedient to Torah, Torah would be written in our minds.
This is why Paul wrote the following in 2 Cor.3:9-11:
"For if the ministration of condemnation [O.C.] be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness [N.C.] exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious [O.C.] , much more that which remaineth is glorious [N.C.]."
This new covenant would also include:
This covenant is truly a new thing that Yahweh has created, totally unlike the Old Covenant. Nothing has been renewed, but everything is better. The only thing that is not new is Torah. Yet, even that is not renewed. However, we relate to it in a whole new way.
In conclusion, the Greek, the context, and related passages all show that a new covenant has been created by Yahweh. To teach that we are under a renewed old covenant is to drive a wedge between Christianity and the Messianic faith. It is totally unnecessary and detrimental in drawing people into the Hebraic way of life. We need to educate Christians to understand Torah is to be written on our hearts as part of the New Covenant and not try and convince them that they are in any way under the Old Covenant made better. May it be so.