(emphasis added in textual quotations)
The New Testament was a concept that Jesus Christ introduced at his last Passover on earth, what we call the Last Supper. To study the meaning of what the New Testament involves, take out a concordance. Let’s explore all of the uses of “testament” in the Bible. In some cases, we may examine whole chapters of where this word is found. For this study, I find that the “received text” of the King James Bible is better. The KJV is not copywrited language like most modern version, and I also like that. In no way should holy scripture be copywrited except by God, as if something new is produced instead of ancient, holy writ. Instead of “New Testament”, modern versions like the NIV will use other words like Covenant, at times dropping both the “New” and “Testament” wording. While Covenant and Testament are similar, using different words for the sake of being different seems to muddy the waters.
When we think of the word “covenant”, we often think of a marriage covenant, or “the ark of the covenant”. So when people think of a “new covenant”, they might think almost that we are getting a divorce from the Old Testament or the God of the Old Testament. Or they might think since the tablets of law were in the Ark of the Covenant, that the New “Covenant” gets rid of that. Maybe that is what the modern versions WANT you to think. However, when we hear the word “Testament”, we think of scripture itself, and we think of Last Will and Testament. The New Testament is something we receive by inheritance, and it is associated with the concept of death. It is worth your time to compare the KJV and the other versions with respect to the “New Testament” concept.
We commonly refer to the Bible in two parts as the Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, I could not find the word “testament” in the Old Testament. In each of the Old and New Testaments, blood was an important concept.
Let’s Explore the uses of “Testament” in the Bible
In the first instance of “Testament” in the Bible, we have the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was the former tax collector, or we might call him an accountant. I simply love that he is the one who uses the word remission, as in payment of a bill, invoice, or debt.
The use of new testament wording in the gospels, was only communicated during Jesus’ last Passover on earth, and at no other time.
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” –Matthew:26:28
Then, we have Mark’s recording, the evangelist companion of the apostle Peter.
“And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” –Mark 14:24
Next, we have Luke, the physician. His rendition is more personal, using the word “you” and “cup”.
“Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” –Luke 22:20
The gospel of John is the only account that records the passover footwashing and it alludes to the passover observance in John 13, but it doesn’t actually talk about the unleavened bread and wine or the New Testament concept itself. But the book provides great context of explanation in chapters 14-17, where Christ introduces concepts like the Holy Spirit and that that the commandments of God are still in effect.
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
The Apostle Paul backs up the Gospel accounts with the understanding of the New Testament
images from biblepic.com
The apostle Paul was not a witness of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but the evidence is that this “last” and “least” apostle by his self-description in I Corinthians 15:8-9, was personally mentored by the risen Jesus Christ for a period of approximately 3 years, similar to the period the other apostles were mentored by Christ (Acts 1:21-26). During Paul’s apostle training, he went “off the grid” so to speak, in Arabia, for a period of 3 years (Galatians 1:17-24).
As Paul wrote to the Gentiles, he expounds upon the concepts.
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” –I Corinthians 11:23-26
In one whole chapter, Paul explains the Old and New Testaments.
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; 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.
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
–2 Corinthians 3:1-18
So are all of the many, many pages of the Old Testament done away with?
I think not. Jesus warned about this, the bible is very clear.
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” –Matthew 5:18
Furthermore, in the last words of the Bible, the apostle John warns about the penalties for adding or subtracting from God’s words.
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” –Revelation 22:18-19
It is evident that the Gentiles Paul taught kept the feasts. Paul was merely explaining that we need to keep the laws, but do it in sincerity, truth and love.
“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” –I Corinthians 5:6-8
In Hebrews, Paul explains that Jesus Himself is our High Priest, and has taken care of the fulfillment
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
God’s Law was Permanent, but the Old Testament of Animal Sacrifice and was Transitory
It was always God’s intention to sacrifice His Son, because there was no way that the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament would pay for our sin.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” — Revelation 13:8
We are, however, able to be sanctified forever with Jesus’ one-time sacrifice. Paul expounds:
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews Chapter 9
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
New Testament Concepts
As seen in the scriptures cited above, the New Testament introduces two important concepts.
- Christ’s once and for all sacrifice on the cross is remission for the sins of mankind, of those who receive it.
- While the moral law of the 10 commandments and every other law introduced to us is still in effect, the administration of that law has changed. Previously, the law was administrated by consequences including the death penalty. We have gone from a “ministration of death” to a “ministration of the spirit”, and from a “ministration of condemnation” to a “ministration of righteousness”. See again II Corinthians 3:7-11
So the law is not done away with. The law is still there, and we are all transgressors of the law. We cannot gain eternal life unless we have remission for those sins, and that only comes from our Savior Jesus Christ.
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” –Hebrews 9:22
The most important concepts of the New Testament may actually be the concepts of love and mercy.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when 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 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.