The Covenant of Promise
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20
Do you ever feel like you just can’t stop sinning? Many Christians feel that way. Maybe that’s the reason so many of us buy this bumper sticker: Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.
Israel had been chosen by God to be his special people, but they weren’t perfect either. During the days of Moses, God established a covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were a part of that covenant. It included a system of sacrifices and offerings, so that the people could continually be cleansed from their sins (Exodus 19:3-8).
The word covenant used in Luke is the Greek diathēkē meaning “a testament, will, or covenant.”* A covenant specifies relationships and responsibilities between two parties. According to one Bible dictionary, the most sacred covenant of all required that something or someone had to die—blood must be shed. Both parties pledged their lives: if the covenant was broken, the party breaking it must die.** Therefore, when Israel broke the covenant by turning their back on God and worshiping other gods, the terms of their agreement required a death.
When Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper that he was about to die and pour out his blood for them, they did not understand what He meant. Not until after His resurrection did they realize that his death was “a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” – the Mosaic one (Hebrews 9:15).
The New Covenant gives believers imputed righteousness. Imputed means “credited, ascribed, given to another.” Christ’s sinlessness and obedience was credited to us. We are declared righteous, but we will sin until we die because we were born with a sin nature.
The New Covenant is a covenant of promise. “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28).
Don’t feel defeated because you sin. Trust Jesus. His shed blood on the cross ratified the promises of the New Covenant. His righteousness has permanently set us free from our bondage to sin.
Read Genesis 15:6-21. How was Abraham made righteous? How are you made righteous?
Read Romans 4:13-25. What message is given to us about imputed (credited) righteousness? How can those words be reassuring when you find you’ve sinned—again?
Hebrews 12:18-24 says we haven’t come to a terrifying Mount Sinai experience. What have we come to experience—now and in the future?
To learn more about imputed righteousness, read Justification.
Nancy J. Baker
**Dr. Lawrence O. Richards, gen. ed. The Revell Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1990), 257.