Disclaimer: This is a copy/paste from my article at ODN, it is not formatted for WordPress yet. The content is complete, but the style doesn’t match the site yet.
First of all, let us explain what the Old and New Covenants are so there can be no confusion.
A covenant is an agreement between 2 parties. There are 7 covenants. God made 5 of them with the nation of Israel. There are 2 types of covenants (conditional and unconditional). A conditional or bilateral covenant is an agreement that is binding on both parties for its fulfillment. Both parties agree to fulfill certain conditions. If either party fails to meet their responsibilities, the covenant is broken and neither party has to fulfill the expectations of the covenant. An unconditional or unilateral covenant is an agreement between two parties, but only one of the two parties has to do something. Nothing is required of the other party.
When Jesus says that He has fulfilled the old covenant and brought a new one, He is referring to the conditional covenant of the Mosaic.
The Mosaic Covenant* was centered around God’s giving His divine law to Moses on Mount Sinai. In understanding the different covenants in the Bible and their relationship with one another, it is important to understand that the Mosaic Covenant differs significantly from the Abrahamic Covenant and later biblical covenants because it is conditional in that the blessings that God promises are directly related to Israel’s obedience to the Mosaic Law. If Israel is obedient, then God will bless them, but if they disobey, then God will punish them. The blessings and curses that are associated with this conditional covenant are found in detail in Deuteronomy 28. The other covenants found in the Bible are unilateral covenants of promise, in which God binds Himself to do what He promised, regardless of what the recipients of the promises might do. On the other hand the Mosaic Covenant is a bilateral agreement, which specifies the obligations of both parties to the covenant.
This is significant because it illustrates that the Mosaic covenant is between God and Israel, not between God and all men of all time. There are specific terms to this agreement that Israel must meet. And if they are met, there are specific blessings God will give to Israel (not to all men). If they are not met, there are specific punishments God will give to Israel (not to all men). This alone should be sufficient to show that the Mosaic Covenant is specific to a certain group of people at a specific time in history and that it is not a universal covenant for all people.
Jesus on the other hand, serves the purpose of that universal covenant for all people (so that all may be saved). See below.
Of Covenant and Law
The OT Law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. There are a vareity of types of laws. Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments, for example). Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system). Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law is binding on us today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).
In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).
Now, this does not mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of “loving God” and “loving your neighbor.” The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor. At the same time, to say that the Old Testament law applies to Christians today is incorrect. The Old Testament law is a unit (James 2:10). Either all of it applies, or none of it applies. If Christ fulfilled some it, such as the sacrificial system, He fulfilled all of it.
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 7:7-9; Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us.
The New Covenant
The new covenant is spoken about first in the book of Jeremiah. The old covenant that God had established with His people required obedience to the Old Testament Mosaic law. Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the law required that people perform rituals and sacrifices in order to please God and remain in His grace.
Luke 22:20 says, “After supper, [Jesus] took another cup of wine and said, ‘This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you – an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.’”
Now that we are under the new covenant, we are not under the penalty of the law. We are now given the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through the life-giving Holy Spirit who lives in all believers (Romans 8:9-11), we can now share in the inheritance of Christ and enjoy a permanent, unbroken relationship with God. Hebrews 9:15 declares, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
Notes and Sources
* The Mosaic Covenant is also referred to as the Old Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 8:6, 13) and was replaced by the New Covenant in Christ (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8; 8:13; 9:15; 12:24)
Moody Handbook of Theology, Paul Enns, 1989
The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology, Jason C Meyer, 2009
On Punishments for Breaking the Laws
Punishments are determined by the authority of the state in which the punishments are to be applicable. In the case of a theocracy, God is the authority. In the case of a monarchy, the king or queen is the authority. In the case of a Republic or Democracy, the elected legislature (or people themselves) are the authority.
The punishment a king establishes for their domain (kingdom) no more applies to a neighboring democratic nation, than do the punishments declared by a theocracy apply to a republic. Punishments are not only dependent upon the authority of the state (for creation), but are limited in application to the very nation the authority directly governs.
Therefore, the punishments of ancient, theocratic Israel, as determined by its authority (God), for the breaking of a specific covenant made with the state of Israel, do not apply to parties who are not a part of the covenant.
When Jesus brought the new covenant, it not only changed the agreement itself in what was promised and to who the parties were, but also the punishment involved.
Since the New Covenant is universal (applicable to all men of all time), so too is the blessing (eternal salvation) and the punishment (damnation).
I do not claim that lack of faith is the cause of disease- rather, I note that, if everyone were faithful, there wouldn’t be disease, according to this passage, as apparently faith heals people. Thus, those who are ill clearly do not have enough faith to be healthy again.
Does the passage say that everyone who has faith will be disease free? Or is it an example of Jesus’ power and Him using the experience (as He did all miracles) to bring others to Him through exposing Himself as something other than mere man as well as teaching a valuable lesson?
Let’s see the context of the event…
Jesus is on his way to bring back to life a daughter of a woman who has recently died. The woman asks that Jesus bring her back, and He is going to oblige. He gets up from where He was sitting and starts on His way to where the daughter is. Another woman is wanting to be healed of a disease she has…she thought that all she has to do is touch Jesus or His clothing…as if just the act of touching either is what will cure her. She was mistaken, and Jesus explains…
That is, it wasn’t her act of touching Him or the robe…it was the fact that she had faith in Christ. That was the lesson here…that faith is what matters. The lesson isn’t “Touch something holy and you will be healed” nor was it “Have faith and you will never be sick” (for she already had faith that Jesus was who He said He was) nor was it “Have faith and you will instantly be healed, guaranteed” (there were lots of people who had faith, but it wasn’t until Jesus healed them that they became healed…He was a miracle worker, using miracles to bring people to Him, to God, to salvation, just as all miracles are used for).
While true of some people, as it is true of ALL people in ALL groups for every group has some who will deviate from what they ought to, it is exactly a “damning” objection. Some atheists believe that all forms of religion ought to be eradicated and no person ought to be allowed to worship or practice their religion, even in private. So what? Is this the view of atheism? Of course not. Is this the view held and taught by the majority of atheists? Nope.
Just because some people do something John, doesn’t mean that the entire group is guilty or objectionable. That’s the commission of the hasty generalization fallacy.