What Are The Old And New Testaments?


Craig Thomas

There is a great need for people to understand the nature and character of the Old and New Testaments. A lack of instruction in this area has given way to a variety of false ideas regarding the subject. To further our understanding of the covenants God has had with His people, this study is dedicated.

1) The basic meaning of the word testament or covenant is an “agreement.” A covenant is an agreement or contract entered into between two parties. In a spiritual sense, it involves God and man. From a legal standpoint, God is the party of the first part and man is the party of the second part. We see that in the case of Noah God made a covenant with only one man (Gen. 6:18). God said that if Noah would build the ark and “come into” it, He would save Noah and his family from the flood waters.

2) Understanding the three periods of Bible history are key to understanding the Old and New Testaments. There are three main divisions of Bible history, which are commonly referred to as the Patriarchal period (lasting from the days of Adam until Moses), the Mosaic period (lasting from Moses until Christ), and the Gospel period (began with Christ and will continue until His return). God dealt predominantly during the Patriarch period with only certain individuals such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This history is recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis. During the Mosaic period God dealt specifically with the Jews. He made a covenant with them which Moses received at Mt. Horeb (Sinai) (Deut. 5:1-3). This covenant is commonly referred to as the old law or Law of Moses and is recorded especially in the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Other Old Testament books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) record the history of the Jewish people under the Law of Moses. Today, God has made a covenant with all men. This covenant was dedicated by the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:11-15), was enacted at His death upon the cross (Heb. 9:16-17), is “mediated” by Christ (Heb. 12:24) and is contained in the gospel of His son (Rom. 1:9, 16-17). The new covenant of Christ supersedes and replaces the Law of Moses (Heb. 7:12; 8:13). The new covenant is not limited to the Jews but enables men of all nations to be included in “the household of God” (Eph. 2:13-22, esp. v. 19).


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