Welcome back! We are in the middle of a very interesting study about the agreement God made with the nation of Israel. We learned that this agreement made them God’s special people and that they were the only nation who had this status. We also learned that the agreement was conditional and built around more than 600 laws and regulations, of which the “10 Commandments” are the most well known in religion today. The agreement was for Israel ONLY and no other nation was included! We also learned that God made this agreement with Israel because 1) he loved them and was keeping the promise he made to Abraham, and 2) the other nations believed in other gods and did evil things in their lives.
The most important thing to remember at this point in this study, so far, is that this was the first time in recorded history where God took his laws, packaged them into a contract, and offered them to a single nation with the condition that IF they fulfilled their portion THEN they would be his special people. Israel accepted the offer and became the “chosen people” of God.Even though we have covered most of the basic details of this agreement, we still need to study about the TERMINATION of the agreement. To do this, we will look at the history of Israel during the time of the agreement and see what happened to them.
To answer this question we must review what we learned about Israel’s special agreement in our previous lesson. Remember that their agreement was CONDITIONAL. (IF…, THEN…) As long as Israel would be faithful in their portion of the agreement then God would be faithful in his portion. There was no time limitation mentioned in any of the passages we studied and so it had the POTENTIAL for continuing forever! In fact, the people of Israel today claim that their agreement is still continuing and this is the main reason why they claim that the modern land of Israel is supposed to be theirs; by right of an agreement with God.
Is their claim true? Are they STILL God’s ONLY chosen people? Does the Sinai agreement still exist today? We need to do more research from the Old Testament.
Please turn to and read Jeremiah 11:3-5. Here we jump into the future several hundred years after the time of Moses and the Book of Exodus. God has sent his prophet, Jeremiah, with a message. These first few verses review what we already know about the agreement - that it is for Israel as long as they keep it. However, there is more to his message. Please read Jeremiah 11:6-10. We discover something here something that is very important to our research. It seems that Israel HAD BROKEN the agreement many times and did not remain faithful to their portion. We have no problem understanding this because if you take a careful look throughout the books of the Old Testament, you will notice MANY times when Israel did not keep the agreement and God became upset with them. Often, he sent sickness and drought upon them as punishments until they repented of their sins and renewed their commitment to be faithful to what they had promised. There were even times when God used other nations as his instruments to come in and win battles against Israel as punishment for their disobedience! Therefore, this prophet’s message is not something Israel is hearing for the first time. However, there IS something different in this prophet’s message.
Please stop and read Jeremiah 31:31-341 at least three times. Take a piece of paper and write down the main points mentioned in this passage.
This passage reveals something new. It seems that God has a limit to his patience and he has finally reached that limit with Israel! If we list the major points of this passage, we find that 1) God is speaking here about the Sinai agreement, 2) God says that he had taken good care of Israel, 3) Israel had BROKEN the Sinai agreement, and 4) therefore, God announces that the agreement is over and that he will make a NEW AGREEMENT with Israel at some time in the future.
Please read Hebrews 8:6-13 three times. Take a piece of paper and write down the main points mentioned in this passage.
As you read the passage, did any of it sound familiar to you? Yes, it did. In fact, most of it is a quotation of Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is very interesting! What does the writer say to his readers? He introduces the idea that Jesus is the mediator2 of the NEW AGREEMENT, which he says is a BETTER agreement. He says that the FIRST AGREEMENT had flaws in it and even shows that the flaw was that the people did not keep their part of the agreement. This supports everything we learned about the history of Israel and their actions under the agreement. As he explains what he means, he then quotes the Jeremiah passage. He ends his explanation by pointing out that when God spoke of a NEW AGREEMENT then the first one became “OLD” and that anything OLD is going to be replaced by the NEW!
Perhaps the most important thing we learn from this passage is that God’s promise of a NEW AGREEMENT, which Jeremiah predicted in his time, was fulfilled by Christ! Christ stood between God and the people and he gave the NEW AGREEMENT. In Lesson 2 of Jesus: Man of the Bible we learned that the Bible is divided into TWO parts and that these two parts are actually two messages and that Jesus gave the second message. Now, we learn that these two messages3 were actually TWO AGREEMENTS – or TESTAMENTS!4
Since we now understand that there are TWO agreements in the Bible and that the first one was replaced by the second one there is a very important question we need to ask.
There are many places in the New Testament where we see comparisons between specific details of the first and second agreements. However, we first need to look closer at the message given in Jeremiah 31 and quoted in Hebrews 8. This was God’s original announcement of a future NEW AGREEMENT. What are some basic differences mentioned in these passages? We hope that the chart below will help you understand the points a little easier.
From what the two passages tell us, we can see that the NEW AGREEMENT WILL NOT simply be a revision or expansion of the OLD AGREEMENT. Jeremiah mentions specifically that the new one “will not be like the agreement I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and lead them out of Egypt”. How will the NEW AGREEMENT be different? There are two areas mentioned in the text.
God said something about the laws of the NEW AGREEMENT being written on the heart. We need to first stop and think about the laws of the OLD AGREEMENT. Where were they written? They were written on tables of stone. We therefore can conclude that the laws of the NEW AGREEMENT are not going to be on tables of stone! However, it is not very likely that this actually means the laws will be “physically” written on a person’s heart because that would not help the person much. Therefore, it must be speaking in a figurative way. In figurative language, when we speak of something being on a person’s heart, we usually mean that it is something that is special and important to the person. The way this applies to what God said about the laws of his NEW AGREEMENT is not difficult to understand. When laws are only words written on paper (or stone) then people will read them and follow them, but often they only follow them when some authority is watching. However, if laws are written on a person’s heart then the person considers them to be special and important and they will obey those laws no matter if an authority is watching or not. Laws that are written on the heart of a person become a part of who that person is! And they help shape and mold how that person thinks!
If we closely examine the laws of the OLD AGREEMENT, we notice they emphasized the EXTERNAL ACTIONS of a person. It was possible for people to have evil hearts and still do what the law required. It was possible, for example, for a person to have the heart of a murderer and not be guilty of murder, because, under the first agreement, a person could only be considered guilty of murder if he or she actually did the act of murder. The NEW AGREEMENT is very different! It emphasizes the INTERNAL THOUGHTS of a person. This is a very good thing because we know that the REAL PROBLEM inside of a person is not their actions, but their thoughts.5 We know that a person’s actions come from the person’s thoughts. Therefore, the only way to control the actions of a person is to first control the thoughts!
Notice the differences between the following OLD AGREEMENT teachings and those of Christ in the NEW AGREEMENT!
Please read Mathew 5:21-22. What is the difference between the OLD AGREEMENT teaching and the teaching in the NEW? The “commandment” only prohibited the act of murder. If you thought about killing someone, you were not guilty off anything. On the other hand, under the NEW AGREEMENT, a person can be guilty of murder without ever touching the victim! That is very different from the original commandment!Another example of this is found in Mathew 5:27-28. What is the 10 Commandment Jesus speaks about this time? ADULTERY! Once again, we see that the original commandment only mentions the ACT and does not say anything about the THOUGHTS! However, Jesus emphasizes the THOUGHTS and not just the action itself. This is very different from the FIRST AGREEMENT.
If we go deeper into the matter, we see passages like Romans 12:1-2. Please stop and read this passage carefully, get a piece of paper, and list the major points. He explains to us that the main goal of Christianity is to get us to offer our lives as “living sacrifices” to God. While we will study this idea in detail in future lessons we can easily understand that this “living sacrifice” is another figurative statement. God does not say that we should physically kill ourselves! Verse 2 clearly explains what the “living sacrifice” is. It tells us to CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK and that if we do this then we will become "transformed"! We “sacrifice” our old self and become someone new and different!
Another important passage that speaks about “our thoughts” is Romans 8:5-8. Please stop and read this passage carefully, get a piece of paper, and list the main points. Here we learn that the way to eliminate sin in our lives is by changing the THOUGHTS inside of our minds. A person acts according to the way they think and so a mind that is not focused upon the things of God cannot live a life of service to God. It brings out the relationship between thought and action, and shows us that the beginning point of action is the THOUGHT! Changing a person’s thoughts is what the NEW AGREEMENT laws are designed to accomplish and this is what God meant when he said that they would be written on the hearts of the people!
A second major difference that is described in the Jeremiah announcement is that it will no longer be necessary for the people to teach other people who are already included in the NEW AGREEMENT to “know the Lord” because everyone in the Agreement will already know the Lord! What does this mean? Since we have no explanation we can only guess, but if we make a careful analysis of the details that we discovered about the OLD AGREEMENT we can already see one possible application.
How did a person become a part of the OLD AGREEMENT, and when did this happen? Since you had to be an Israelite to be part of that agreement then that happened when an Israelite baby was born! This means that people became part of the agreement BEFORE they actually knew and understood their responsibilities as participants of the agreement! It therefore became necessary for the other (older) Israelites to TEACH them their responsibilities as they grew so that they would know what they were supposed to do. Therefore, under the OLD AGREEMENT, it could be said that a person entered into the agreement first and then learned about it later!
It seems that this will no longer be the case for the NEW AGREEMENT! Every person who enters this agreement will already know their responsibilities BEFORE they become part of it! Therefore, in the NEW AGREEMENT, a person will know first and then enter!
If you consider what we have learned in this lesson, you will agree that these two agreements are as different as night is different from day. The 10 Commandments have no place in the NEW AGREEMENT. Instead, WE SEE Jesus building a new idea of morality! He CHANGES the ideas represented by the original commandments so much that the original wording of the original commandments do not adequately communicate the teaching of the NEW AGREEMENT. Besides that, Jesus only specifically refers to TWO “commandments” inside his teachings. (Please read Matthew 22:36-40.)
Still, many sincere people in religion today believe that the “10 Commandments” are the moral foundation of Christianity and they insist that people today should devote themselves to memorizing and following these Commandments! However, as we discovered in our discussions about contracts and agreements, the 10 Commandments were not given by God for educating mankind about morality. With the exception of the command about the Sabbath, there was nothing in the 10 Commandments that mankind did not already know BEFORE the time of Mount Sinai! Please do not forget that the 10 Commandments were PACKAGED together by God to form an agreement, that this “package” contained some 600 PLUS laws and regulations, and that this “package” was offered to ONLY Israel! NO OTHER NATION RECEIVED THE MOUNT SINAI AGREEMENT! In all fairness to context, if a person wants to bring the 10 Commandments over from the OLD AGREEMENT, wouldn’t they also have to bring the other laws with it since it was all ONE package? Today, many people try to go around this difficulty by simply making a distinct separation between the 10 Commandments, which they call “the moral law” and all of the other laws, which they call “the ceremonial law”. According to their teachings, only the ceremonial law (the sacrifices and the priesthood) has passed away! They say that the moral law (the 10 Commandments) still remains inside of the NEW AGREEMENT! In response, we must ask where the Bible teaches this! There is no such teaching in the Bible! The Bible never divides the 600 PLUS laws and regulations into these two groupings! The Bible does not teach that the ceremonial law, of the OLD AGREEMENT, has passed away and that the moral law, of the OLD AGREEMENT, remains today and that it has been expanded to include ALL NATIONS of the world!
One of the great difficulties in saying that the 10 Commandments are for all people today is regarding the commandment that speaks of keeping of the Sabbath? How can this fit into the practice we see of NEW AGREEMENT people meeting together on SUNDAY? The Sabbath Day is Saturday, not Sunday and this fact cannot be changed, and yet it is amazing to see that people will simply say, “The church changed the Sabbath Day to Sunday.” We learned in our first lessons of Jesus: Man of the Bible that no person has the authority to change the things God has said. Therefore, if it is true that the Sabbath Day was changed, then where can we find this in the Bible? We cannot and more than that, we found all of those warnings from the early writers telling their people NOT TO CHANGE the original message - even if angels might come down from heaven and tell them something different from the original message they received. If it was true that God changed the Sabbath Day from Saturday to Sunday, we would be able to read about that in the pages of the New Testament. The fact that we do not read any such teaching is proof that the Sabbath Day remained the same in the time of the New Testament and that the practice of people in the NEW AGREEMENT meeting together on Sunday is something completely different from the Sabbath Day of the 10 Commandments! (We will study about the Sunday meeting in our later lessons.)
The modern teaching, that the 10 Commandments are included inside the NEW AGREEMENT, is another example of how man has chosen to do things his way instead of taking the time to research from God’s word to find and understand the explanation God has given in his book. Please remember what we learned about man doing things in a way that seems right to him! (Proverbs 14:12)
By now, we hope that your understanding of the TWO agreements of the Bible is becoming clear. The only thing that still remains in our study for this lesson is to see WHO can be part of this NEW AGREEMENT. The first agreement was very exclusive - for Israel only - and we already know from the passages we studied in Jeremiah and Hebrews that Israel will also be invited to join the second agreement. What about the OTHER nations? Will they also be invited to join?
The answer to this is found in a letter that Paul wrote to a group of Christians living in the Gentile city of Ephesus. Please read Ephesians 2:11-22 three times very carefully, take a piece of paper, and list the major points.
This passage is important because of who the readers of the book were. The writer refers to them as “Gentiles”. Who were the Gentiles? This word and the word “Jew” were groupings of people that represented the membership in the OLD AGREEMENT. The “Jews” were the people of Israel, the ones who had the agreement, while the “Gentiles” were the people of all the other nations, those who did not have the agreement! If we understand these words then the meaning of the passage is very easy to understand.
In this passage, we know that Paul is speaking to Christians who come from Gentile families and he begins by taking them back to the time in history when the OLD AGREEMENT was still present. He speaks to them about all the things that WE HAVE LEARNED in our research.
He points out that under the OLD AGREEMENT, Gentiles were people who were "strangers", "without hope", and “without God”6 in the world. However, he continues by explaining that Gentiles are very fortunate NOW because Christ came and helped them. He helped them by “taking away” that thing, which divided between the Gentiles and the Jews. That thing was like a great wall between them. What was that dividing wall? Paul explains that the dividing wall was the OLD AGREEMENT – with all of its commands and regulations. The problem was that the Jews had the agreement and the Gentiles did not have it. Only those who had the agreement could be God’s people and so this is why the Gentiles did not have God. Paul says that Jesus took that dividing wall (the OLD AGREEMENT) away with his death on the cross.
He went on to say that the result of Christ’s death was a situation where God no longer chooses his people by "nationality". There are no longer these groupings of the people of the world, called Jews and Gentiles, and that anyone from any nation can be part of the NEW AGREEMENT! He says that this only happened because Jesus came and died! When he died, the OLD AGREEMENT died with him and the NEW AGREEMENT was born!
His point is very simple. Look at the diagrams below. If the OLD AGREEMENT was still existing, then those Gentile people would still be hopeless and without God. However, IT IS NOT still existing and so instead of being “strangers”, Paul says that the Gentiles are now “fellow citizens”!
This is one reason why the writer of Hebrews said that the NEW AGREEMENT, which Jesus has, is a much BETTER one! It is certainly much better for US TODAY because people who are not Jews CAN join this agreement! They were left out of the OLD AGREEMENT because that agreement was only given to the Jews!
In our next lesson, the last one on the topic of the “Scheme of Redemption”, we will continue our comparison between the two agreements and learn even MORE amazing things!
1 The prophet Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet” because his message was so sad. He was the prophet sent to tell Israel that their agreement with God had been cancelled, because God lost his patience with them due to their continued disobedience.
2 Remember that a mediator is a go-between, or a person who helps people in their relationship with one another.
3 We read and discussed Hebrews 1:1-2, where we learned that the two parts of the Bible are two messages from God given in different times, through different people, and to different recipients.
4 This is where the term Old TESTAMENT and New TESTAMENT come from.
5 This is what we learned in James 1:12-15!
6 In the original language, he uses the word atheist! An atheist is a person who has no god!
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