his life Christ is an example showing us how to live. In his death,
He is a sacrifice satisfying our sins; in His resurrection, a
conqueror; in his ascension a king; in his intercession a high
priest.”- Martin Luther
church has fought what came to be known as “Judaizing”
throughout its history. In simple terms Judaizing is the
teaching that one must keep the entirety of Old Testament Laws in
order to be a good disciple of Jesus and inherit heavenly glory. The
most current manifestation of this old heresy is that of the Hebrew
Roots movement. This movement has misled many former Christians into
a spiritual life of bondage, all under the guise of being superior or
more mature disciples than Christians who do not keep the minutia of
Old Covenant Law. This paper will attempt to address the basics of
why the Old Covenant is inferior to the New Covenant, and provide
solid Scriptural evidences for this position.
The Old Covenant Was An Imperfect Foreshadowing (Hebrews
The Old Covenant acted more on the level of civil law,
proscribing certain behaviors and prohibiting others. And like most
civil law it was a written law to which on could refer. It had no
living expression as such, but was (at least originally) nothing
more than a cold code of conduct. In fact, Paul is clear that it was
written on cold, lifeless “stones”. (2 Corinthians 3:3) This
reference of Paul gives us a glimpse into the imperfection of the
Old Covenant which, unlike the New Covenant, was not written on
“tablets of human hearts”. The Old Covenant was inferior as it
could not enter into a man's heart and transform Him, but only
served to reveal his sin to him, and convict him of his need for a
savior. The author of Hebrews tells us the Old Covenant was simply a
foreshadowing of the perfect New Covenant to come.
We must add to this imperfection the fact that no one could be saved
through the Old Covenant. (Galatians 2:16) The function of the Old
Covenant was not to save or justify man, nor could it.
The Old Covenant also indebted man to God due to the sins the Law
revealed. This is why we find in Scripture that the Old Covenant was
nailed to the cross. It was a canceling of that debt before God at
the crucifixion of Christ, who fulfilled all the requirements of the
Old Covenant. (Colossians 2:14)
The Perfection of the New Covenant (Hebrews
New Covenant suffers none of these defects. It is not simply a code
of conduct (though conduct is changed in it), nor is it useless to
enter into a man and transform him. The New Covenant is a
transformational relationship directly to and with God in the person
of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Second Person of the Holy
Trinity. The Old Covenant did not afford Man any such relationship.
God always remained distant.
The New Covenant is written on “tablets of human hearts”. That
is, it is a covenant that reaches far deeper than the behavioral
rules of the Old Covenant, and makes a person desire change in
his/her life with passion. This also implies that the New Covenant is
a living, vibrant force rather than a cold, lifeless set of rules.
Through the New Covenant all can be saved. (Romans 10:4). The New
Covenant, unlike the Old, offers salvation; and not just for the Jew,
but for the Gentile-the nations. This means anyone who approaches
Jesus Christ and sincerely desires to be His disciple is welcome
without regard to his race or ethnicity.
That the New Covenant is superior to the Old is also evidenced in
the fact that the Old was indeed replaced at the crucifixion.
(Ephesians 2:14–17) If the Old Covenant were superior, it could
never have been replaced and it would have offered Man salvation.
The New Covenant Sanctuary is Superior (Hebrews
Jesus foretold of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, which
happened in 70 A.D. Once the temple was destroyed Judaism faced an
existential crisis: how to continue their faith without access to the
central act of worship for Jews. Paul informs us in these verses that
Christ is in a “tent” that “the Lord set up”. This place of
worship is far superior to the one that was temporal and quite easily
destroyed, as it is eternal and can never perish.
The High Priest is Superior (Heb. 4:14–16; 7:1–28)
The High Priest is firstly the Son of God, Second Person of the Holy
Trinity. This means that rather than having a high priest who is
subject to sin himself, we have God the Son Himself as our High
Priest and advocate. This does not mean that He does not understand
our struggles from our perspective, since He was tempted as we are.
The major difference is, unlike a high priest given to the defects of
Inherited Depravity, our High Priest is completely and totally
The New Covenant High Priest has made it possible for us to draw near
to the very throne of grace with confidence; something the Old
Covenant could never have done as the focus was on recognition of sin
and rules of conduct. In fact, the only people spoken
of as approaching the throne in Judaism are the prophets, and even
then not with the confidence Paul mentions.
Sacrifice is Superior
The Levitical priests offered up animals in the earthly sanctuary.
(Leviticus 4:20) None of these sacrifices removed sin. The Hebrew
word used in this passage from Leviticus, often translated as
“forgiven: is actually “kaphar”, which does not at all imply
removal, but “cover”.1
The best they could do was “cover” sins temporarily. Paul also
tells us that the blood of sacrifices does not and cannot remove sin.
(Hebrews 10:4) They merely foreshadowed the only sacrifice that could
do so; that of Jesus Christ on the cross, which the author of Hebrews
informs us is superior. (Hebrews 9:23)
The Lamb of God offers up Himself in the heavenly sanctuary. As
noted, no animal sacrifice could remove sin. The once and eternal
sacrifice of Christ removes sin and allows Man to once again commune
with God in a personal relationship. In the superior sanctuary,
referred to in Hebrews 9:11-12 as the “greater and more perfect
tent”, entered “once for all into the holy places”, and rather
than offering up the blood of animals offers up Himself. And unlike
the Jerusalem Temple, which was a mere foreshadowing, the sanctuary
Christ enters is “heaven itself” (Hebrews 9:24).
John MacArthur writes,“The
old covenant was glorious, but it was “fading away,” replaced by
a covenant much more glorious. Paul was already administering the
new covenant. The old was obsolete, and was fading away. Although
to be administered in Jerusalem, they would cease soon after Paul
wrote. The old covenant has ended, and we should live by the terms
of the new covenant.”2
are to die to the Law as part of the New Covenant.
again writes, “Paul
says that we have died to the law — even the Jews have died to the
law through identification with Jesus Christ. Therefore, the law no
longer has authority over us, since we belong to Christ, not to the
law. Christ is the one we obey, so that we can bear spiritual fruit.
The law is contrasted with Christ, and it is the old covenant law
that Paul is talking about — the Torah, the Law portion of the
Scriptures. We can be under the law, or under Christ. Being under
both is not an option.”3
is abundantly clear from the Scriptural evidences that the New
Covenant is superior to the Old. It is superior in its
transformational power, its ability to offer salvation to anyone, its
promises, its sanctuary, its high priest, and its sacrifice.
Ron, Did Animal Sacrifices Remove Sin?,
John, The Old Covenant and the Law of Moses,