What’s New About the New Covenant

“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

Jesus shatters any absolute dissociation of commandments and love.

He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. . . . Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father” (John 14:15, 21). “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).

Thinking in terms of commandments and obedience did not stop Jesus from enjoying the love of his Father. And he expects that our thinking of him as one who commands will not jeopardize our love relationship with him either.

This is crucial to realize because the new covenant relationship that we have with God through Jesus Christ is not a covenant without commandments. The basic difference between the old covenant offered by God through the Mosaic law and the new covenant offered by God through Christ is not that one had commandments and the other doesn’t.

The key differences are that (1) the Messiah, Jesus, has come and shed the blood of the new covenant (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 10:29) so that henceforth he is the Mediator of a new covenant, so that all saving, covenant-keeping faith is conscious faith in him; (2) the old covenant has therefore become “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13) and does not govern the new-covenant people of God (2 Corinthians 3:7–18; Romans 7:4, 6; Galatians 3:19); and (3) the promised new heart and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit have been given through faith.

In the old covenant, the gracious enabling power to obey God was not poured out as fully as it is since Jesus. “To this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4). What’s new about the new covenant is not that there are no commandments, but that God’s promise has come true! “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezekiel 36:27).