The New Covenant Versus the Old


[Reading time: 5 minutes] The old and new covenants aren’t the same and the old has been replaced completely by the new. It’s important to believe the whole Bible, yet we must correctly handle all the truth it contains (2 Tim. 2:15). For example, God didn’t give every command in the Bible to every nation, people group or individual.

Let’s examine some of the more significant differences between the two covenants.

In previous articles, we saw that the terms of the old covenant or law of Moses (1) made people aware of sin, (2) mandated punishment for sin, (3) showed they couldn’t become righteous by their own efforts, and therefore (4) proved they needed a savior. In contrast, the new covenant (1) provides a savior for people’s sin so it no longer separates them from God, (2) allows people to enter covenant relationship with God, and (3) transforms their nature to erase the effects of sin and produce godly character.

Treatment of Sin

The old covenant revealed the problem of sin but remove sin’s effects. The new covenant provided the solution because Jesus bore the punishment for all sin. Following are some of the results of these differences.

Sacrifices Required

  • Old: sacrifices needed perpetually; Heb. 9:6-7; 10:11
  • New: one sacrifice, offered once for all time; Heb. 9:12, 26; 10:10, 12

Substitutionary Sacrifices

  • Old: animal sacrifice; Heb. 9:19-22
  • New: Jesus offered himself as sacrifice; Heb. 9:12, 26

Effect of Sacrifices

  • Old: sacrifices were reminders of sin, couldn’t erase sin or guilt; Heb. 10:3-4, 11
  • New: Jesus’ sacrifice took away sin and guilt; Rom. 11:27; Heb. 9:26

Impact of Sacrifices on Person’s Conscience

  • Old: sacrifices couldn’t clear conscience; Heb. 9:9
  • New: Jesus’ sacrifice cleansed conscience; Heb. 9:14

Impact on Person’s Nature or Character

  • Old: none; people remained sinners because their sins remained; Heb. 10:11
  • New: sinful nature put to death, replaced with God-like nature; Rom. 6:6; 2 Pet. 1:4

God’s Anger

  • Old: sinners experienced God anger; Exod. 32:34; 2 Chron. 19:10
  • New: we’re saved from God’s anger; Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 5:9

Record of Sin

  • Old: God remembered and punished sin; Jer. 14:10
  • New: God doesn’t remember or record our sins; Heb. 8:12

Nature of the Covenants

The two covenants are fundamentally different in nature. Following are some of the most significant differences.


  • Old:
    • a national covenant available only to Israelites, setting them apart from Gentiles; Lev. 20:24, 26; 1 Chron. 16:17
    • only Israelites were God’s people; Exod. 6:7; Lev. 26:12
  • New:
    • a spiritual covenant available to Jews and all others who believe; Heb. 8:8; Rom. 1:16
    • all believers are God’s people; Rom. 9:24-26


  • Old:
    • written on scrolls and stone tablets; Deut. 9:9; 30:10
    • written lists of laws to obey by human effort; Lev. 25:18
  • New:
    • written on believers’ hearts/spirits; 2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10
    • Holy Spirit helps us; Rom. 8:14


  • Old: initially Aaron’s family, then Levites appointed as priests; Exod. 30:30; Deut. 17:9
  • New: every believer a priest; 1 Pet. 2:9

Location of Worship

  • Old: worship in specified earthly location; Deut. 12:14; John 4:20
  • New: worship anywhere in spirit and truth; John 4:21, 23


  • Old: only a copy and shadow; Heb. 8:5; 10:1
  • New: real and true; Heb. 8:2; 10:1

Venue and Values

  • Old:
    • earth-based (Lev. 26:3-13)
    • physical possessions (land, flocks, crops)
    • physical peace with enemies or physical victories in war
    • physical wealth and prosperity
    • long and enjoyable life
  • New:
    • spirit-based; Rom. 14:17; old covenant’s earth-based values not included
    • not of this world; John 18:36; Rom. 12:2
    • warns the rich; 1 Tim. 6:9
    • trouble in life; Matt. 10:35; John 16:33
    • stewards, not owners; Luke 16:10-11

Treatment by the World

  • Old: praise, fame and honor among the people of the world; Deut. 26:19
  • New: hated and persecuted; Matt. 10:22-23

Attachment to the World

  • Old: promised a land of their own; Exod. 6:8
  • New: we are aliens and strangers in this world, don’t belong here; 1 Pet. 2:11

Functions of the Covenants

Entering God’s Presence

  • Old: only the high priest could enter Holy Place (God’s presence), only at designated times and properly prepared or he would die; Lev. 16:2; Exod. 28:43
  • New: all believers may enter God’s presence with full freedom and confidence because of Jesus’ sacrifice; Eph. 3:12; Heb 10:19

Attaining Righteousness

  • Old: must obey all the law by human effort (impossible); Deut. 6:25
  • New: God imparts righteousness as a gift through our faith in Jesus’ works; Rom. 1:17; 3:22; 5:17


  • Old: required obedience to qualify; Deut. 28:2, 13
  • New: God richly blesses all who call on him; Rom. 10:12


  • Old: cursed if they didn’t obey God’s commandments perfectly; Lev. 26:14-16; Deut. 28:15
  • New: there is no curse for those who remain in covenant; Gal. 3:13

Presence of the Holy Spirit

  • Old:
    • Holy Spirit “came on” people temporarily for specific needs or service; Num. 24:2; Judg. 3:10; 14:6; et al
    • David pleaded with God never to take Holy Spirit away, which was possible; Ps. 51:11
  • New: Holy Spirit lives within believers permanently; 1 Cor. 3:16


  • Old: inquired of Urim and Thummim or a prophet to know God’s will; Exod. 28:30; Num. 27:21; Deut. 18:18
  • New: Holy Spirit leads us and guides us into all truth, speaks only what he hears from God; John 16:13; Rom. 8:14

Sickness, Disease

  • Old: God brought sickness and disease on Israelites because of their disobedience; Deut. 28:58-61
  • New: Jesus bore our sickness and diseases; Matt. 8:17; 1 Pet. 2:24

With the new covenant readily available, why would anyone want to live under the old covenant?


There are major differences between the old and new covenants, and the old has been replaced completely by the new.

Find other articles about the old covenant’s relevance to Christians