(The following study is taken from a response to some points recently presented to me. I paraphrased the main points that were presented and responded to each one. I pray that you will gain deeper insights into the Sabbath and the issue of the law in the New Testament after reading these points and their Bible answers. Editor)
Your views regarding the seventh-day Sabbath are a misconception of the place of the Old Covenant in the lives of New Testament Christians.
Thank you for your question. In order to have a correct understanding of the old covenant we must first gain a Bible definition of what it is. The only verse in the KJV Bible that uses the two words “old” and “covenant” in the same verse is Hebrews 8:13. Let us read the context to get a clearer picture of its meaning.
“But now hath he [Jesus Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6)
Notice that a covenant is established upon promises. A covenant really is a promise or set of promises. I could make a covenant with you that if you pay me a certain sum of money, I will build you a house. That would be a covenant based upon two promises—you promise to pay the money and I promise to build you a house. The writer of Hebrews said that the new covenant was established on better promises than the old covenant.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” (Hebrews 8:7)
Here we find that the first covenant had problems. There were faults in the covenant. There were promises made that were not fulfilled, and thus they were faulty promises. Who do you suppose made the faulty promises, God or the Israelites? Paul makes it clear that the fault was with Israel.
“For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”(Hebrews 8:8)
The Jewish nation made faulty promises to God, and thus made the first covenant a faulty covenant. Notice what the Bible says about the first covenant. “And he [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” (Exodus 24:7, 8) Notice that the covenant was based upon promises. God’s promises and the Jewish nation’s promises. God promised many blessings to the Jewish nation, and the Jewish nation promised to be obedient to all that the Lord said. Anyone who promises to do all that the Lord commands is making a faulty promise, because on our own we have no strength to do the Lord’s commands. So God said, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, chapter 31, and quoted in Hebrews chapter 8, that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel.
“Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:9)
Notice that God does not make the new covenant according to the covenant He made with Israel, because the Israelites did not continue in His covenant. The Israelites did not keep their end of the bargain. They made faulty promises and did not keep them. The fault was wholly with the Israelites and their promises, and not with God or His promises.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Hebrews 8:10)
Here is the Old and New Testament explanation of the new covenant. The new covenant is the Lord putting His laws into the hearts and minds of His people. The moral law that the Jews promised to keep would now be placed in the hearts of God’s people. God said, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26, 27)
Notice where the promises are in the new covenant. It is not God promising to bless and the people promising to obey. It is God promising to bless and God promising tocause you to obey—He promises to do the work in you Himself, if you will allow Him to do it. The new covenant is based solely upon God’s promises, and therefore must be faultless, for there are no faults in God. God promises, and He performs. He “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 1:24) This is the new covenant.
“And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:11)
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:12, 13)
Notice it is the old covenant that decayeth and is ready to vanish away, not the law of God. Paul says, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”(Romans 7:12) He also said, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31) And again, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” (1 Timothy 1:8) David said, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”(Psalms 19:7) It is certain that there is no fault with God’s perfect law, and it could not possibly be the old covenant. The old covenant was based upon the promises of God and the promises of Israel. It was Israel’s promises that were faulty, which made the old covenant to be ready to vanish away.
“Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.” (Hebrews 9:1)
The first covenant had the Levitical priesthood who offered sacrifices and performed ceremonies required by the old covenant. There were many laws relating to the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the sanctuary which are not needed in the new covenant.