The teaching of The New Covenant is one that is rarely taught at all in churches or bible colleges today in almost any denomination. If it is taught, this doctrine is glazed over or taught falsely. There are hundreds of scriptures that point to the veracity and excellence of The New Covenant. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians says that The New Covenant excelled The Old in glory so much that The Old Covenant almost looked like it had no glory at all (2 Cor. 3:10). When was the last time you heard that statement preached in church? Rather, it seems that The Old Covenant is constantly imposed on New Covenant believers in Christ. This is a grievous error that goes back many centuries in mainstream evangelical Christianity. Our generation needs to deal with this.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever (Heb. 13:8). The same God that gave the New Covenant established the Old (Jeremiah 31:31-32). God did things a certain way from Moses to Christ, and then He decided to change it. This seems to be very difficult for most people to come to terms with. The Old was a picture of the New. It was a reminder of what would come. Those who had The Old did not have a name or a face to the work that needed to be completed. Their work was never finished under The Old, but now in Christ the work is done. God is satisfied.
Paul makes a pretty bold statement when he says The New Covenant is so glorious that it makes The Old appear to have no glory at all.
So what are the major differences and why is The New so much better than The Old?
The best starting place would seem to be with the parties that made the agreements and what the agreements were about. The Old covenant was agreed upon between God and Israel concerning the keeping of the law given on Mt. Sinai. If the conditions were met, God would bless, but if the conditions of the law were broken there would be serious condemnation and consequences.
The New Covenant was made between God the Father and His Son, Jesus. This covenant agreement was based upon the blood of Jesus and His resurrection. The covenant was confirmed to Abraham by a promise from God and then later Jesus would perform on our behalf and anyone from eternity past to eternity future could place their trust in Jesus' finished work would become a benefactor to this New Covenant.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, ... For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." Hebrews 6:13, 16-20 KJV
Life and Righteousness
The Old Covenant was never a means of salvation nor could it have been.
The Bible equates life and righteousness when describing the differences of the Covenants. The fact is when we speak of life and righteousness we are talking about what occurs at salvation. When we become saved we obtain eternal life and we are made the righteousness of God in Christ. Paul says this objective was something that keeping the law could have never done, and this is where many people make a mistake. The law cannot make you righteous, nor could it impart life. It brought condemnation and death because of our inability to perform to God's standard. The real question is not, "what would it have done for them if they had kept their end of the old covenant?" but rather, "If the law was an impossible feat, then what could have imparted life and brought righteousness?".
Enter Jesus Christ and The New Covenant. In Galatians chapter three Paul is on a discourse about how God promised and preached the Gospel (The New Covenant) to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before the law (The Old Covenant). Abraham was saved before the law. By being credited the righteousness of Jesus based on His faith in the promise of what God would do through Jesus. Now, after the finished work of Christ, we are no longer credited His righteousness but we are born again with the nature of Christ and His righteousness flowing from the core of our being (Galatians 3:26, Colossians 3:9-10, Ephesians 4:24, Romans 5:19, 1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:21).
Paul makes several great points through this chapter:
Abraham was saved by faith not by works. (Galatians 3:6).
Faith is what includes you in the New Covenant (Galatians 3:7).
God foresaw that He would include the gentiles in the New Covenant and prophesied this to Abraham saying that in him would all the nations be blessed. (Galatians 3:8)
The person who relies on the works of the law (and their performance of any law for that matter) are under a curse. Also, if you were to try to be justified in them you must keep the entire book, not just the ones you like. (Galatians 3:10)
No-one is justified by the works of the law before God, but the just live by faith and the law is not of faith. (Galatians 3:11-12)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. Now we receive the life of the Spirit by faith. This was promised to Abraham before the law although He did not yet receive the promise. (Galatians 3:13, Genesis 22)
Paul then explains that even with a man-made deal no-one ratifies it after the papers have been signed. The promise was made to Abraham, it was signed by God and Abraham agreed by faith. The Old Covenant of The Law is made four hundred and thirty years after the papers were "signed" with Abraham. The keeping or not keeping of the law does not nullify the promise made to Abraham which would be that in Christ all nations would be blessed by Abraham's offspring (Christ) and that promise would be given by faith of all who call on Christ's finished work. (Galatians 3:15-18)
So why was the law added then? According to Galatians 3:19-21 it was added because of transgressions until the offspring of Abraham would come and intermediate the Covenant promised to Abraham.
Finally we see that the law is not against the promise made to Abraham of the coming of The New Covenant in Christ, but it was a temporary governor or supervisor until the promise would come. It also foreshadowed the promise (Hebrews 10). Galatians 3:21-22 says, "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Galatians 3:21-22 KJV)
Galatians 3:25-29 sums it up by saying that now that the promise of life and righteousness has come, there is not one soul on earth that answers to the Law of Moses. God prefers faith and always did. The law is not of faith. The law breeds sin in our lives because of the weakness of our flesh, but faith in Christ brings life and righteousness for salvation and in our every day lives. The saints under The Old Covenant never ever had what we have until Christ FINISHED the work (Hebrews 11:39). God never referred to them as His own literal offspring or children, but He does refer to us as His sons and daughters (I John 3:2, Galatians 3:26).
I will just keep it fairly general in listing the major differences in what keeping the law did for Israel and what Christ does for all mankind in fulfilling the Old Covenant and the promise made to Abraham.
The keeping of the law did not offer them Sonship. Jesus offers us the ability to be born again as the children of God in Christ. (Gal. 3:23-36)
The keeping of the law was a temporary Covenant with the Children of Israel that was done away with because of the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. The permanent solution was the New Covenant mediated by Jesus. (Hebrews 8:6)
The flesh kept them from keeping the law under The Old Covenant. What the law could not do, God did in The New Covenant. (Romans 8:3) He performed for us and put sin to death in the flesh that we might live through the Spirit.
Keeping the sacrificial system of The Old was just a temporary covering of sin that could not take away transgressions and shortcomings. The once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus permanently removes sins as if they never occured. (Hebrews 10)
Under The Old Covenant Israel would be blessed for obeying the law, or chastened and cursed for breaking it. The Old Covenant with Israel was a performance-based fellowship and relationship with God (Deuteronomy 27-28). Under The New Covenant we have every spiritual blessing through our faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) and we are not held to a standard of law. Instead, God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus and the promises afforded us through His performance on our behalf (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Under The Old Covenant the people failed and were condemned (Galatians 3:10, Romans 3:19, Heb. 8:8, Romans 5:20-21). Under The New Covenant we are reconciled to God with nothing standing in between (Romans 5:10, Colossians 1:21). The cross worked.
Under The Old Covenant it did not matter how much the people kept the law, the Holy Spirit would not live within them. God never promised them the indwelling of the Spirit by their performance of the law. Under The New Covenant we are not only indwelt by The Holy Spirit, but He is the means by which we are born again (Titus 3:5). The Spirit of Christ within guides us instead of the law (Galatians 5:18).
Under The Old Covenant even the keeping of the law was done in the flesh (Galatians 3:1-3, Galatians 6:12, Romans 3:20). Walking in the Spirit is from the inside out (Romans 8:8-9).
The law was never meant to cure sin, in fact it increased sin and it incites the sinful passions of the flesh (Romans 5:20-21, Romans 7:5). The Spirit under The New Covenant is the only means by which we can overcome sin (Galatians 5:16). Trying to mix law with grace is like mixing Jesus and Moses. It will not work, not for salvation and not for anytime thereafter. You can take Moses, just give me Jesus. He is enough.