The Old and New Covenant in God’s faith plan
Note: This article is dedicated to my sweet and lovely daughter Shannon May Allen, discount who was and always will be a light of spiritual encouragement in our home
Understanding and teaching your children about the Old and New Covenants can be challenging. The Old Testament (the container of the Old Covenant) emphasizes the many rules and regulations God wants His people to follow while establishing their faith. Deuteronomy and Leviticus are examples of Old Testament books that include those boundaries and limitations. The New Testament (the container of the New Covenant) on the other hand focuses more on God’s grace. Romans and Galatians are examples of the books with a grace emphasis. If you can create some extra devotional time, read through these four books (Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Romans, and Galatians), and compare the Old and New Covenant messages that permeate them.
In my study of Deuteronomy and Leviticus I observed that the Old Covenant (Exodus 24:7) was centered around the Law which was an embodiment of God’s rules and regulations. In God’s progressive plan to build faith in Israel, the Law was reckoned as a tutor. (Galatians 3:24). The Law also brought to light the presence of sin; something God wanted Israel to recognize early (Romans 5:18).
In my study of the Romans and Galatians the New Covenant definitely brought a change, especially in regard to the faith approach. Jesus basically took the place of the Law tutor (Galatians 3:25-27 ). It was an intentional change announced at the Last Supper (I Cor
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The best way I can explain this change is with my own daughter who is graduating this weekend from the University of Arizona. When I was a young preacher in Colorado and my daughter Shannon was only four years old, she “fidgetedly” listened to my sermons on the front row every Sunday morning. Now to be honest, she was not the least bit interested in what I had to say and often interrupted me at the podium. Of course my wife, Myrna, would quickly remove Shannon from the pulpit and put her back on her front row seat where she could color the Bible lesson I was teaching. In a way that is how I see Israel in the early days of their spiritual development. They were in the presence of God, but needed a simple “color book” of rules, regulations, and specific boundaries to build their faith and contain their immaturity.
As Shannon grew older, her understanding of the Bible correspondingly grew. She was able to respond and act on truth without the aid of a coloring book. In the third grade for example, she entered the speech contest at her Christian school. In her preparation, she memorized a passage of Scripture that was later delivered to a group of judges. She did not really understand the in-depth meaning of the passage, but she was able to proclaim the truth in this setting. In essence, she changed from a spectator to a proclaimer of truth, much like the people of Israel who entered the promised land (Joshua).
Shannon continued her desire to proclaim truth and in the sixth grade she was chosen to address over 1,000 people at her graduation. I worked with Shannon in preparation for this moment. Together we wrote a speech about the spiritual impact Abraham Lincoln had on this country. For the first time she really knew the content of what she was saying; it was not just a memorized performance. And so I believe Israel began to grasp what the glory of God was all about, especially in the days surrounding King David (I and II Samuel).
In the eighth grade she once again took the podium at graduation. This time Shannon worked on the content of her speech. She sought my help, but she wanted the presentation to be hers. The spiritual impact of George Washington on our nation was her theme, and she delivered it without a hitch. I would like to say that Israel followed this same pattern of spiritual development, but for many years they had to suffer God’s judgment in exile due to their disobedience. Eventually, they were restored by God (Nehemiah) and in the course of it all learned a great deal about being obedient.
In Shannon’s senior year in high school, she once again took the podium. She was asked by the school board to deliver an inaugural speech christening the newly built Christian high school. As student body president, she was charged to bring a message that brought the school’s past, present, and future together. Shannon took this assignment seriously and with only a little help from an interested father, delivered a speech that seemingly affected many. One renowned school supporter and pastor commented, “Shannon’s speech, in only a few minutes, was able to capture all the hopes and dreams we held for the school these 17 years. Her challenge motivated us all to not stop, but keep going.”
As I still ponder today what I saw in my daughter that evening, I could not help but note the years and preparation it took her to reach that point. It reminded me of what Paul told the Corinthians when describing the one ordained glory being surpassed by another. Both the glory surrounding the Israelites and Christ were ordained, but one was always meant to replace the other. (2 Cor. 3:11,18). And in the same way, God took centuries to prepare this moment for your children: children of a new glory, and a New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:5-6). The children you are raising are a special generation, for there has never been a generation like them. By being in the New Covenant, they have the entire Bible from which to draw knowledge and wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16). They have Christ living in their hearts (Galatians 2:2). They have a permanent empowering of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26). They have spiritual gifts. They can be confidently sent to any nation in this world. (I Cor. 12:4,5,7). In addition, they have you, their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3), as God’s primary instrument to teach them all these truths.
The following idea for a teachable moment may take a few weeks to accomplish. And of course the ages of your children will limit your ability to try this. Over the next few weeks, attend different age-level Sunday school classes. Perhaps it would even be better to volunteer to help in some different aged Sunday school classes. As an example, help out in a first grade classroom. Have your children observe what is being taught and how it is being done. Hopefully, they will see that things need to be taught very simply with lots of hands-on activities. Then move on to a 6th grade classroom. Have them observe again how the lesson is taught. Finally move up to a junior high or high school classroom. Once again observe. At the conclusion of your time together compare what they saw at each age level. What was the same? What was different? If you are successful, they will see that the truth stays the same, but that the understanding and application changed. A high schooler is far more capable of understanding the same truth, and is far more capable in applying it. God designed His Covenants to be applicable to the spiritual maturity level of the people to which they applied.
Exodus 24:7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”
Galatians 3:24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
Romans 5;18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Galatians 525-27 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christhave clothed yourselves with Christ.
I Cor. 11: 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Hebrews 8:13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
2 Corinthians 3:11 & 18 11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Cor. 3: 5-6 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Timothy 3;16-17 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
John 14: 25-26 25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
I Cor. 12: 4,5,7 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Ephesians 6:1-3 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.