History tells us that a covenant was and is an agreement between two parties. The agreement, according to custom, consists of several parts:
1) Identification of parties
2) Historical prologue where the deeds establishing the worthiness of the dominant party is established,
3) Conditions of the agreement
4) Rewards and punishments in regard to keeping the conditions
5) Disposition of the documents where each party receives a copy of the agreement (e.g. the two tablets of stone of the 10 Commandments).
Old Testament Covenants
God made several covenants in the Old Testament:
● Edenic, God’s promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15).
● Noachian, for the preservation of the race (Genesis 9:9).
● Abrahamic, granting blessings through Abram’s family (Genesis15:18).
● Sinaitic, designating Israel as God’s chosen people (Exodus 19:5,6).
● Levitical, making reconciliation through priestly atonement (Numbers 25:12,13).
● Davidic, Messianic salvation promised through David’s dynasty (2Samuel 23:5).
The Abrahamic Covenant
Of particular interest is the Abrahamic covenant found in Genesis Chapters 12-17. In Chapter 15, the following verses are found:
9. “And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
10. “And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”
17. “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”
The Significance of The Shed Blood
Normally, both parties would be pledging their lives to the endurance of the covenant relationship so the shedding of blood represented an inviolable commitment to loyalty on pain of death. However, in verse 17, God is the only one who walks through the blood sacrifice. Only He will pay the price with His life and blood if the covenant is broken. The covenant is restated in Genesis 17:2-9 and Deuteronomy 1:7-8 for the descendants of Abraham’s son, Isaac.
The New Testament
Scripture gives us three pictures of the Lord’s Supper in which Jesus proclaims that it is his blood of the covenant, or “new” covenant:
Matthew 26:27-28 “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant (διαθήκη), which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”
Mark 14:22-23 “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.” And He said to them, “ ‘This is My blood of the covenant (διαθήκη), which is poured out for many’.”
Luke 22:20 “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new (καινός) testament (διαθήκη) in my blood, which is shed for you.”
Scripture also tells us that Jesus came to fulfill the Law in its entirety Matthew 5;17 – “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
New, or Re-New-ed Covenant?
So, is it a “new” covenant, or did Jesus “re-new” the Abrahamic Covenant? By shedding his blood, Christ fulfilled the promise that He made to Abraham in Genesis 12-17. By fulfilling the promise to Abraham, Jesus, blessed all of Abraham’s descendants – both those of the flesh and those of faith. By fulfilling the promise, Jesus has both renewed the existing Abrahamic covenant and extended it in newness to those who now come to faith in His gift of grace and salvation.
How great and wonderful is our God, and how faithful to fulfill all of His promises. That being true, one can only ask: “How close are we to the return of Christ?”
διαθήκη diathēkē G1242; a disposition that is, specifically, a contract, covenant, or testament.
καινός kainos G2537; new, fresh, new things.