5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:5-6)
When Paul talked about the Old versus the New Covenant, he said that ”the letter kills” but “the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). With “the letter”, Paul was referring specifically to the 10 Commandments, but the context shows us that he was talking about the totality of the whole Old Covenant system, based on the Law of Moses, including the 10 Commandments.
The Bible contains both the Old and the New Covenant and depending on how we use it, we can preach either life or death to those who hear our words. Don’t make the mistake of believing that preaching the Old Covenant is necessarily the same thing as preaching from the Old Testament in the Bible, nor that preaching the New Covenant is preaching from New Testament scriptures. It is fully possible to preach the Old Covenant, which leads to death, from the New Testament, and it is equally possible to preach the New Covenant from the Old Testament, and so to bring life to those who listen.
It all comes down to revelation. The New Covenant is a mystery to the natural mind and can only be understood through divine revelation.
“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” (Ps. 25:14)
Once we begin to understand the New Covenant, everything changes. We then start reading the Bible in a new way and from a new perspective.
This is serious stuff! In the Bible, we have a potential “machine gun” with the capacity of killing people, and in it we have life-giving words from God that will transform people’s lives, truth that will set them free, food and nourishment for people’s spirit, soul and body.
What then is the difference between the Old and the New Covenant? There is much to say about this subject. Below are some of the important differences:
The law vs. The finished work of Jesus
– The Old Covenant is based on the Law of Moses.
– The New Covenant is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Law vs. Grace
– The Old Covenant is about rules and regulations.
– The New Covenant is about grace, i.e. we receive gifts from God that we have not deserved and never can deserve.
All are disqualified vs. All are qualified
– The Old Covenant disqualifies and condemns all, including the best of us (Rom. 3:10-20, 5:12, 18-19).
– The New Covenant qualifies and gives grace to all, including the worst of us (Rom. 4:5, 5:18-19).
The burden on us vs. The burden on Christ in us
– The Old Covenant puts the burden on us (Deut. chapter 28, Gal. 3:12).
– The New Covenant puts the burden on Jesus who lives in us (1 Cor. 15:10, Col. 1:27).
Our sins are punished vs. Our sins have been put away
– In the Old Covenant our sins will be punished unto the third and fourth generation of our descendants (Ex. 20:5).
– In the New Covenant all of our sins; past, present, and future, were punished once and for all in the flesh of Jesus on the cross, and God remembers our sins no more (Heb. 9:26, 10:17).
Trying to get hold of God’s blessings vs. Already blessed
– In the Old Covenant we are standing on the outside, trying to get hold of the blessings of God through spiritual disciplines and religious exercises.
– In the New Covenant we are on the inside, because we are in Christ, seated with Him in heaven, already blessed with all spiritual blessings in Him (Eph. 2:6, 1:3).
Blessed in proportion to our performance vs. Blessed because of Jesus
– In the Old Covenant we are blessed in proportion to how good we have been (Deut. chapter 28).
– In the New Covenant we are blessed in proportion to how good Jesus has been and our faith in what He has done (Rom. 4:13, 2 Cor. 1:20).
Works-based love vs. Jesus-based love
– The Old Covenant is about what we must do for God to be pleased with us (Ex. 19:5, Jer. 7:23).
– The New Covenant is about that we are “accepted in the Beloved”, fully pleasing to God because of Jesus, and that the Father loves us just us much as He loves Jesus (Eph. 1:6, Jn. 17:23).
Self vs. Jesus
– The Old Covenant glorifies self and our own efforts to do things for God (Gal. 3:12).
– The New Covenant glorifies Jesus, who lives in and works through us (Phil. 2:13).
Clean on the outside vs. Clean inside out
– The Old Covenant cleanses us on the outside, but on the inside we are just as dirty as before (Mt. 23:27).
– The New Covenant cleanses us inside out (Col. 2:11, 1 Cor. 6:17, Eph. 4:24).
Never good enough vs. Righteous and complete in Christ
– In the Old Covenant we are never righteous or holy enough. It is a constant struggle to grab hold of or achieve something, without ever reaching the goal (Rom. 8:3).
– In the New Covenant Jesus is our righteousness and holiness (1 Cor. 1:30) and we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). We are now called to live out what we already have been made to be on the inside (Col. 2:6, 3:1-5).
Obedience because we “have to” vs. Obedience because we “want to”
– In the Old Covenant we obey God because we “have to, or else…”
– In the New Covenant we obey God from the heart becausewe have a brand new nature on the inside that wants to obey and please God (2 Cor. 5:17, Heb. 8:10-11).
Deception vs. The truth that sets us free
– An Old Covenant mindset is nothing but spiritual deception, it is of the flesh (Mt. 23:1-36, Gal. 3:3).
– A New Covenant mindset is of the Spirit, it is the truth that sets us free (Jn. 8:32, Gal. 3:3, 2 Cor. 3:6).
Self-righteousness vs. Jesus’ righteousness
– The Old Covenant makes us self-reliant and self-righteous (Lk. 18:9-14).
– The New Covenant makes us humble, as we only dare to trust in Jesus and His righteousness, as opposed to trusting in our own righteousness. (Gal. 6:14, Phil. 3:7-9).
What covenant do you preach? Are you a “killer” or a “life-giver”? And more importantly, what covenant do you live? I used to be a “good Christian legalist”, and if I am honest, thinking that I, because of my spiritually disciplined life and deep devotion, was better than most Christians. Now I don’t want to talk about myself in other terms than to say, along with the Apostle Paul, that I am “the least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8).
However, Jesus is great. He is the Lover of our soul, the Ruler of the universe, our Creator who loves us without limit. Dear friend, I wish that you would discover the New Covenant, the true Gospel, and God’s unconditional love for you personally, through Jesus Christ.