“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;” Romans 9:4.
There is much disagreement and misunderstanding among Christians concerning a covenant and a testament. There need not be the confusion, and much will disappear when we have a clear understanding of the two words and how they are used in the Bible.
First, we will consider the word, “covenant.” It is used throughout the Old Testament, and our text in Romans states that pertained to Israel; seeing that most of the Old Testament Scriptures are about them.
The first use of the word is with Noah. “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee”. Genesis 6:18. (See Gen. 9:9,11,12,13,15,16,17).
The next use of the word covenant concerns Abraham and the Promised Land. “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” Genesis 15:18. The covenant promises of the land to Israel are too numerous for us to list them here.
At Mount Sinai, God gave the Law to Israel and it was there they entered into a contract with God that they would obey His laws. These were written in a book, which was called the covenant. “And he 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. God’s future dealings with Israel were based upon their agreement to keep this covenant. He told them clearly what the results of obedience or disobedience would be. (See Lev. 26).
We find covenants made between men and men, between men and women, and between tribes and nations. These are promises and agreements made with others to fulfill their word. God made a covenant with Himself concerning Abraham. (See Heb. 6:13).
The Covenant made to Moses and Israel concerned the Law and was testified to by the shedding of the blood of animals. “And he 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.
Keep in mind that the covenant was the agreement between God and Israel, whereas, the blood was the testimony of their agreement. This is why it is called the testament. It testified to the solemnity of the agreement.
God promised Israel that in the latter days He would establish a New Covenant with THEM. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34.
The Christian should read and reread those verses until it becomes clear that the covenant is made with ISRAEL and not with his Gentile church. Since Israel rejected Christ at His first coming, most Christians have ignorantly spiritualized the New Covenant and stolen it for themselves. This New Covenant still awaits fulfillment at the Second Advent! The only thing that has been accomplished concerning it is that the BLOOD THAT RATIFIES IT HAS BEEN SHED AS A TESTAMENT! We will say more about that later.
Most covenants in Scripture and in secular life do not require blood. Therefore, it is important to remember that the two; a covenant and a testament, are not the same.
What is a Testament? No doubt you already see the difference; however, I have gone to the original Oxford English Dictionary for some uses and definitions.
“1880 Muirhead Ulpian xx. §1 A testament is the testification of our will, in the form prescribed by law, made solemnly, on purpose that it may be effectual after our death.”
” Ibid. §27 Where an executor named by the deceased is authorized by the Judge, it is called the confirmation of a testament-testamentary; and when the Judge confers the office of executor upon a person of his own nomination, it is styled the confirmation of a testament-dative. 1838 in W. Bell Dict. Law Scot.”
“In Christian Latin use of testQmentum. Orig. a misuse of the word, arising from the fact that Gr. diah–jg, ‘disposition, arrangement’, was applied both to a covenant (pactum, fœdus) between parties, and to a testament or will (testamentum). Prob. largely due to the use of diah–jg (in the sense ‘covenant’) in the account of the Last Supper immediately before Christ’s death, and its consequent association with the notion of a last will or testament.”
“1766 Blackstone Comm. II. xxiii. 376 That all devises of lands and tenements shall not only be in writing, but signed by the testator.
“Hence te”statorship, the position or office of a testator; “testatory a., pertaining to or of the nature of evidence.”
“To bear witness, to testify, to attest.”
Now, here is where the confusion comes in. When Jesus was in the room with His disciples, He was introducing to them the promised New Covenant. He was preparing them for the shedding of His blood, which would be the testament, witness, evidence or signature to the New Covenant God had promised. Since Jesus is God, He not only gave the covenant promise to Israel, He ratified it with His OWN BLOOD!
He would be returning to heaven for an unspecified period of time. In His absence, they were to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and observe the Lords Supper till He returned. At His return, the New Covenant aspect would be implemented.
The church today gets the benefits of the TESTAMENT, or His blood. It paid for our sins, but the New Covenant promise was to Israel only.
Thus, a covenant is an agreement between two parties and does not require blood. The testament was a testification of a will, in the form prescribed by law, made solemnly, on purpose that it may be effectual after ones death. It assures that all devises of lands and tenements shall not only be in writing, but signed by the testator. A testament is to bear witness, to testify, and to attest. Thus, Jesus signed, as a testament, the promise of the NEW COVENANT to Israel, with His own blood. “The covenant must be made by sacrifice (Psalm 50:5), because, since man has sinned, and forfeited his Creator’s favor, there can be no fellowship by covenant till there be first friendship and atonement by sacrifice.” (Matthew Henry Commentary).
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.
Disciple of Christ says
This was almost on the mark of truth.However, you really have to watch what you say because 90% right and 10% wrong means 100% false. The scripture is being misinterpreted when you say that the new covenant was only for the Isrealites. Now if this were true,then you are calling the word of God a lie when you read Acts 10.Cornelius was NOT an Isrealite in fact it shows that he was a GENTILE.And in this chapter it explains that he was a just and devout man that worshipped God so he believed in him Acts10:1-2. But the point that I want to make is that in his belief and worship and all the good things that he did he was NOT saved as a gentile.It shows that an angel called for Peter and Peter came and preached to Cornelius and his household and they received the Holy Spirit Acts 10:44.This was the second occasion where someone received the Holy Spirit without baptism but Peter then said can any man forbid water that these should not be baptised who received the Holy Spirit jusr as we have.He is howing that we also recieved the Holy Spirit miracuolously,Acts 2:2-4.And they were baptised.Chapter 11 he explains all that happended and proves in verse 14 its shows that what Peter told them would save them.My point is,the house of Cornelius were not JEWS.They were not ISREALITES but they were SAVED. ONLY the saved will inherit the kindom of God.Those that were obedient to the will of God.This message is with love and I pray that this will change your understanding of your article because the truth does exist.And only the truth will make you free.LOVE YOU
Ken Blue says
Thank you for your kind response. However, I think you missed my whole point. There is a world of difference between a covenant and a testament. Israel has not received her NEW COVENANT yet. By rejecting their King, they rejected the covenant.
A testament is different, and it was by the blood of Christ. Any person, Jew or Gentile could be saved because the blood has paid for their sins. SO, I have not “missed the mark.” I hit it 100%. You missed the mark, when you failed to understand my point, and to whom the new covenant was given. There is no covenant given to the church. “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” Romans 9:1-5.
Tour Ke Tibet says
Hello there! This post could not be written any better!
Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
He always kept talking about this. I’ll send this post to him.
Pretty sure he’ll have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
Where does it say that the new covenant will be established when he returns?
Why are you making a point in your writing that the covenant was made with Israel(which I agree with) when it is meant for all man?
Thanks for the clarification and good explanation of the differences between covenant and testament.
Ken Blue says
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Romans 9:4
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. Romans 11:26-27
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34
Jay Marcum says
Is the gentile church today in the new covenant with God or is it the Testament of Jesus or something else ?
Blessings to Al and Merry Christmas
Ken Blue says
No, the church is not in the New Covenant. It was made with Israel, and will not be established until the Second Advent, and they repent as a nation. Jesus has shed the blood for the covenant. We are saved because He shed His blood. We are in Him, and are His body, called the church.
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2Corinthians 3:6
Ken Blue says
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 KJV
I thought we have become the spiritual Israel through FAITH in the blood or sacrifice of our LORD JESUS ?
GALATIANS 6:16 calls the Church The Israel of GOD. In the old testament for you to be a Jew or an Israelite you needed to be circumcised. Those who were not were regarded as gentiles. But St Paul makes it clear in the new testament in Romans 2: 26-28 that the real Jew is not one who is physically circumcised but the real Jew is what one is INWARDLY. Read also Galatians 3:26-29.
The first Covenant GOD made with Israel was with Abraham. St Paul makes it clear that we are heirs of this covenant in CHRIST if we belong to CHRIST in Galatians 3:29 when he said “If you belong to CHRIST, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” We are the new spiritual Israel.
Ken Blue says
GIVE US THE VERSE WHERE PAUL SAYS WE ARE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT.
Ken Blue says
SORRY, YOU THOUGHT WRONG.
Ken Blue says
WE BENEFIT FROM THE TESTAMENT, WHICH WAS HIS BLOOD. HOWEVER, THE COVENANT WAS MADE TO ISRAEL. ONCE THEY RECEIVE THAT COVENANT, GENTILES WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH A CONVERTED NATION OF ISRAEL.
Ken Blue says
WE HAVE NOT!
Daniel Purifoy says
Ken, I appreciate the explanation of the Testament being Distinct from the Covenant, but I have a question concerning ( Isaiah 42:6-8) where in my understanding is that anyone who accepts Jesus Christ comes into Covenant with God, even Gentiles.
In my understanding, Jesus Christ Himself is the New Covenant according to ( Isaiah 42:6-8).
Thank you, Daniel
monty cline says
Ken you make Christs death invain, you are saying that Jesus Christ is not Lord of lords and King of kings right at this moment; It is foolish to say they are 2 covenants, when the bible says Abraham is the father of us all (thru Christ, both Jew and Gentile, whom he broke down the middle wall between Jews and Gentiles). God only has one covenant, he did not postpone His Kingdom because the Jews rejected His covenant. You must be premill, which is heresy
Ken Blue says
How is He King of Kings today any different than He was in the O. T.? Also, you are blind if you don’t see more that one covenant in Scripture. The New Covenant with Israel is not in effect today. If you think we are living in the Kingdom of Heaven offered in Scripture, I want to know where you are living.
thanx for the explanation between the covenant and testament.
“Ken Blue says
August 14, 2015 at 1:41 pm
GIVE US THE VERSE WHERE PAUL SAYS WE ARE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT.”
hebrews chapter 8 verse 13
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
I was doing some study in Hebrews which pointed me to take a deeper look at the covenants of the O.T. Ex. 16:34 states that Aaron placed the manna ‘before the tablets of covenant law’ (NIV), ‘before the testimony’ (RSV), or ‘before the testimon’ (KJV). I don’t understand what that was. The commandments had formally not been prescribed until Chapter 20 and not rewritten until Chapter 34. Ther were things God required of them prior to issue of the law (Passover; 12:14, firstborn consecration; 13:1, sabbath keeping; 16:4,5). What was the testimony at that point?
Hebrews 9:17 –
“For a #testament is confirmed by the death: otherwise it is not valid as long as the testator lives” A LAST WILL TESTAMENT
Clearly, the New testament of christianity is not the covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
THE COVENANT STATED:
“…I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
So, hiw do you thing God, as a father to Israel would puti his laws within the Jewish people? How would God write his laws ini their hearts?
By killing his only begotten son as supposed by brainless christians?
Of course not. As a father to Israel, God punished Israel. He brought upon the people of Israel all the written punishments ini the sinaitic covenant. Read deuteronomy chapter 28, leviticus 26 AND others Books AND chapters ini the Hebrew scriptures, Israel suffered the punishments written therein.
A father wouldnt punish his innocent child so that his child who was some wrong would laen from his mistakes.
A father who would do such thing is stupid.
That is the Character of the Christian god.
He is no different from the people who condemned Jesus AND freed the criminal barabas.
God’s way are righteous. Read ezekiel 18:21-32.
God does not need to kill a supposed begotten son! There is no righteousness there…but stupidity!!!