Scripture tells us that God’s dealings with man are determined by agreements called covenants. As an overarching theme, the covenant of grace is significant in the history of redemption. When Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God could have allowed all of Adam’s descendants to continue in their sins forever with no hope of redemption. But God, in love, knowing that we could never fulfill His demands, enacted a covenant of grace whereby He would save His people from their sins. In Genesis 3:15, amidst God’s curses, we find the covenant of grace first announced.
The covenant of grace is not without any variety or change. This covenant is unfolded through a variety of successive and progressive “sub-covenants.” Through covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally Christ, the covenant of grace unfolded. Though the one covenant of grace applies to all of God’s people, past and present, some aspects of these “sub-covenants” do not.
We will look at these “sub-covenants” in more detail next week. At present we are looking at Hebrews 8, which refers to the old and new covenants. The old covenant is to be understood primarily in terms of the Mosaic covenant that was always intended to be superseded by the new covenant in Christ. God gave this covenant not because it would perfect His people in and of itself, but because it would point out their need for absolute dependence on God’s grace and drive them to Christ where His grace is found (Rom. 5:20–21).
The original audience of this epistle should have known that a new covenant would replace the old one. Throughout the Old Testament we see that though the people of God would break the old covenant, God would one day establish a covenant that could not be broken. This hope goes back as early as Deuteronomy 30:1–6 where a grand and glorious restoration from exile is promised to the people of God. This grand hope for restoration in the latter days is found throughout the prophetic books but is expressed most explicitly in Jeremiah 31:31–34, the passage that is quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12.
We conclude today by giving one brief comment about the new covenant. Hebrews 8:8–9 says that it is not like the old covenant. And during the next few days, we will look at what this means.
We live our entire lives in absolute dependence upon God. From our first breath to our last, it is God who sustains us. This is most evident in our redemption that comes only after the old covenant points out our absolute need for a savior. Never forget your utter dependence on God for all things, especially your salvation.