Troublesome Topic: The New Covenant is Just as Demanding

Lesson 6 of 8

Many of us have probably said, “I’m glad I didn’t live under the Law of Moses.” We see the Former Covenant was rigid, harsh, and overly demanding. Regulations such as those forbidding the mixing of different threads in a cloth, seem “just too much”.

The truth is that the New Covenant is just as demanding as the Former Covenant, but in different ways!

Here’s why:

1.         We have the privilege of seeing things from a post-Calvary perspective. We can understand much better what God’s great plan has been because a larger part of the puzzle has been put together. With that added understanding comes added responsibility. God expects more of us as a result of our clearer perspective.

2.         He also expects more from us because we are no longer in the stage of instruction.

In a new job, more is expected after one has been trained than during training. We have discussed the fact that the Former Covenant was a time of instruction in the things of God, with the real thing coming through Jesus. Since we are privileged to be a part of this era rather than the time of instruction, more is expected of us. Observe what the author of Hebrews had to say about this:

Hebrews 10:28


If someone has violated

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the Law of Moses, he dies without mercies on the bases of two or three witnesses.


If anyone fails to properly esteem the Law given through Moses and sets it aside, refusing to live by it, he dies; no mercy is shown him, and all it takes is the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Hebrews 10:29


How much worse do you think he will deserve punishment who has trampled on the SON OF GOD, and has esteemed the blood of the covenant which sanctified him as something unholy,

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and has treated contemptuously the Spirit of grace?


How much more severely do you think someone should be punished who by his actions has rejected and shown disdain for THE CO-CREATOR AND CO-OWNER OF ALL THINGS, and acted in ways that demonstrate that he thinks the blood-pledge that bound him to the covenant and set him apart as holy was something shameful and dirty, and has treated with reproach the grace-filled Holy Spirit?

God holds us to a higher standard than He did those of the Former Covenant.

3.         The visible guidelines are no longer present, only the foundational principles are left. The covenant conditions of the Old Testament acted like the lines painted on a road; they were clearly visible guides intended to enable them to stay on track. Think about driving at night on a new blacktop road that does not have the lines painted on it yet. In the New Covenant there are no visible guidelines at all, there are only principles.

For some people, it is all about rules. Today there are still some who, like the Pharisees, try to regulate every aspect of life for fellow Christians. They see the lack of lines on the blacktop road and decide to paint the lines themselves. They grant themselves the authority to write the rules.

For others it is all about freedom. They see no line in the road and think that there are no covenant conditions whatsoever, so they think they can live foot loose and fancy free, and still serve God. They grant themselves the freedom to do whatever they want.

There are indeed covenant conditions, but they are no longer visible, palpable, and measurable; they are internal, sometimes invisible, and often hard to measure. 

If visible guidelines are not a part of the New Covenant, how are we to know what to do? The only things left to guide us are the principles taught in God’s word and the Holy Spirit of God himself who helps us live those principles. He is the one that lets us know what we should do or not do. He guides us in knowing how to pray, what to say, when to be silent, how to avoid compromising situations, etc. etc. The word and the Holy Spirit are all we have, and all we need.

If God’s Spirit is in us to guide us every step of the way, it would seem that the New Covenant would be easier to follow than the old. Actually, the Former Covenant and the New Covenant are equally difficult to follow, just for different reasons. Because of our human tendencies and weaknesses, it is usually easier to follow clear guidelines than to depend on the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We like things to be measurable. We like the palpable and clear, not the invisible. Because of such characteristics in us, the New Covenant is possibly more difficult to follow than the Old. It is hard work learning to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He seldom shouts. He usually speaks to us in an almost imperceptible whisper—a voiceless suggestion. We need to be in close communion with God, and be listening very carefully to that internal nudge from His Spirit, or we will not hear it at all.

In some ways the New Covenant’s conditions are tougher than those of the Former Covenant. For instance, if you read what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, you will see several ways in which He was raising the bar. Here I will give only one example:

Matthew 5:27


You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery.


You were taught, Do not have sex in a way that violates either party’s marriage vows.

Matthew 5:28


But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman in order to lust after her

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has committed adultery with her in his heart.


But I tell you that if anyone, with lustful intent, seeks an opportunity to look at a woman when she is not as covered up as she should be in public, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

To many men, resisting lust seems impossible; it is like trying to jump over the pole vault bar – without a pole! Only by the Spirit of God guiding us can we begin to live according to this God’s Covenant. But actually, that is the way it has always been.

Here is another example: The Former Covenant and the New Covenant say the same thing – “love your neighbor as [you love] yourself” (Lev 19:18 & Mt. 22:37-40). Many of us will say, “I can’t love everyone on my own.” There are always going to be people we find impossible to love in our own strength. This is precisely the way God wants it. He wants us to have to love people with His love, not our own. The Holy Spirit who dwells inside of us is the only one who can produce that kind of love in us. If we lack love, we should get closer to God and as we do so, His love will begin to flow from us, for it is a product of the control of the Spirit over our lives.

Under the Former Covenant, there was no way to meet all the requirements; all that was left was to throw themselves on the mercy of God. Today, living up to God’s demands can still seem like something totally impossible. And in our strength it is impossible! Without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. However, in the New Covenant, there is the potential for faithfully follow God’s requirements – if we yield to the Holy Spirit.

How well do you listen to the Holy Spirit?

The next lesson in the Full and Midsize series on Covenants is: Stop Focusing on Ease and Comfort

The next lesson in the Short Series on Covenants is: Jesus is the Only True Sacrifice



The word I have rendered as “violates,” has as its primary meaning “to set aside, or cast aside,” also “to fail to esteem.” In relation to covenants it can mean “to invalidate,” and how did a person invalidate a covenant? By violating its conditions or refusing to obey it.


The word I have rendered as “unholy” means “common, defiled, profane.” The reason for this is that things are either common or uncommon (holy). If some that was holy is no longer holy it was made common by some act of defilement or contamination.


In ancient Israel the women dressed in such a way that when they were in public there was not much to catch the attention of a man, except her eyes, and possible a bit of shape for just a moment when the wind blew just right. I assume that to “look in order to lust after her” would usually involve some abnormal activity such as going to the river and hiding in the bushes while the women washed the clothes, or finding a vantage point from which one could watch a woman bathe, which usually would require a height advantage like what David had overlooking the house of Uriah and Bathsheba. Today there is plenty of sexual stimuli everywhere one looks in most cultures of the world with the exception of Muslim cultures. God’s standard has not changed, but living by it is exponentially more difficult.

When we studied the sacrificial system of the Former Covenant we learned that there was no sacrifice for purposeful sins committed knowingly and defiantly. If we look at lust and adultery in that light, we realize that those two things were similar in that there was no sacrifice to atone for either one of them. Under the Law, people thought they could get away with lust more easily than adultery, but according to Jesus, in the New Covenant there is little hope for getting away with any such thing.