We’re all familiar with the New Covenant reference in Jeremiah 31:31-33 (HCSB) “Look, the days are coming”—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. ⌊This one will⌋ not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the LORD’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the LORD’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.
Many WCF Reformers deny the newness of the New Covenant, but that error is not my point right now.
Notice what the Spirit said through the prophet: The New Covenant will NOT BE LIKE the Old Covenant; that covenant made with the forefathers when He brought them out of Egypt. The New Covenant, established with the death of Christ, is a better covenant than the Old one (Hebrews 7:22).
Here’s the question: SINCE the New Covenant is NOT LIKE the Old Covenant, WHY would His teaching (KJV says “law” – the Hebrew word can mean law, instruction, precept) be the same as that of the Old Covenant?
In the epistle to the Hebrews, we read of differences between the Old and New Covenants. In chapter 7 the Spirit contrasts the priesthoods of the two covenants. In verse 11 we see that the Mosaic Law was received under the Levitical priesthood. Verses 13 – 17 tells us the priesthood of the New Covenant is different and indescribably superior to the priesthood of the Mosaic Covenant. Verse 12 tells us that the change of priesthood from old to new covenants REQUIRES a change of law. And then we read, Hebrews 7:18-19 (HCSB) “So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” The “previous command” is the Mosaic Law (of which the Decalogue is the testimony) which was annulled. This aligns with Jesus’ statement that He came to “fulfill” the law – which is to bring it to its intended end or goal. This aligns with Paul’s statement that the law of Moses was a guardian of ethnic Israel until the coming of the promised Messiah.
We recognize that Jeremiah 29:11 is not directly applicable to us, though we learn much about man and about God in that entire passage. Why do so many not recognize this same reality with the law of Moses? The Decalogue was written on stone tablets, given to people with stone hearts who worshiped God in a stone temple. All of these stony things are gone, are not the substance of the New Covenant. The law of Christ is not a codified list of commands. Paul said of the fruit of the Spirit that against these things there is no law. Rather than a list of prohibitions and attending promises of punishment, the law of Christ is the law of love; written on fleshy hearts which are in spiritual people who are the temple of God. Yes, the New Covenant Scriptures have many imperatives – written with pen on paper. These help us understand the law of Christ as we are still in these sinful bodies of flesh.
The narrow path is the path of love – since we are first loved by Christ, we love Him and one another. His written Word guides us, His spirit wills and equips us to do what is pleasing to Him. There is a ditch on either side of the narrow path: one side is the heavy yoke of the Mosaic Law, which no man can bear (Acts 15:10); the other side is antinomianism, the sin of thinking and living as is there is no law (1 John 3:4 – often wrongly translated as saying “sin is the breaking of the law”. It says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” There is no reference to ‘transgressing’ in that verse – it was added by the Geneva Bible translators, and other translations (KJV, Jubilee 2000, American KJV) simply followed suit. On the other hand, the NIV, New KJV, ESV, Berean Literal, NASB, CSB, NET, NAS1977, ASV, ERV, Young’s Literal all agree: sin is lawlessness.)
The narrow path is Christ focused as He leads; we walk with Moses, not led by him.