1. The covenant of Moses. This is the law. The ten commandments and all the permutations thereof. All moral law is built upon this covenant. All worship is built on this covenant.
2. The covenant of Abraham. This is faith. God made a covenant with Abraham 430 years before he gave the law through Moses. God fulfilled both sides of the covenant and Abraham believed God's promises. In Genesis 15, God told Abraham:
a. Do not fear.
b. I am a shield to you.
c. Your reward shall be very great.
d. Your heir will be your natural son.
e. Your descendants will number the stars.
Abraham believed the Lord, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. When we have faith in God, we do not fear, because he is a shield to us. Our reward is very great, for our reward is Christ, who is the ultimate heir of Abraham. Anyone who has faith in Christ can be called a true descendant of Abraham, and we can be numbered among the stars visible from Earth. That is a great amount of believers in history.
Now, Hebrews 3 describes the flaws in the singlemindedness of the Mosaic covenant, which, when followed alone, does not enable us to enter God's rest:
1. Moses freed the slaves of Israel from the Egyptians.
2. He brought them out into the wilderness.
3. God gave them the law through Moses.
4. They hardened their hearts when they heard his voice.
5. For 40 years of trial they hardened their hearts.
6. They did not enter the promised land.
Because of sin, all of life for everyone is one big trial. It's as if we are all in a vast wilderness of struggle. All mankind, regardless of religion or philosophy, are in a struggle to obey a universal standard: do not murder, do not lie, do not steal, do not cheat. The law given to Moses is an explicit spelling-out of the God-given conscience that is burned into all human hearts.
Here is the unique claim of Christianity: if you struggle to keep the law, you will fail. If you attempt to conquer the Mosaic covenant, it will crush you. However, if you embrace the Abrahamic covenant, God will bless you with the ability to keep the Mosaic covenant, too. Remember, do not fear; God is our shield; he rewards our faith in his son by making us his children.
Galatians 3 spells this crucial difference in the covenants out:
1. We do not receive the Holy Spirit by works of the law.
2. We receive the Holy Spirit by hearing the gospel with faith.
3. Those who are of faith are the true sons and daughters of Abraham.
4. The faithful include those naturally outside Israel and those naturally inside Israel.
5. Outside of faith in Christ, all mankind is cursed.
6. Attempting to fulfill the law and failing increases the effect of the curse.
7. Living by faith enables us to fulfill the law. Why?
8. Because Jesus Christ took on the curse for us. How?
a. He fulfills the law. He kept the Mosaic covenant perfectly.
b. He was cursed anyway.
c. He suffered the penalty of the curse on our behalf.
d. Faith in the cursed one removes the curse from us.
e. We are able to live by the law as a rule of life.
For a demonstration of the two covenants, we turn to Mark 9:14-29:
1. Sin is a destructive force that corrupts the whole man. (v. 17)
2. Attempts to live by the law only intensifies sin in us. (v. 18)
3. Christ reveals the problem to be unbelief. (v. 19)
4. Sin corrupts us from childhood. (v. 21)
5. Our unbelief reduces God to just another option for help. Maybe he will work, maybe he won't. (v. 22)
6. With faith, all things are possible (v. 23)
7. Even with faith in Christ, unbelief will still creep in. We must cry out to God for help. (v. 24)
8. Jesus defeats sin.
9. We must die to sin.
10. Christ raises us to everlasting life.
Which covenant are you immersed in? Which one are you following? The Mosaic? Are you attempting to live by the law and finding that it is more difficult than ever? Do you find that sin keeps getting the upper hand? Open your Bible, pray to God, and let the Abrahamic covenant be your guide. Think of God as your protector, not your oppressor. Think of him as your hope, not your judge. Live life in faith and you will find that you are able to worship God in truth and holiness, and you are able to love God and your neighbor as yourself.