I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11 ESV)
God has interacted with man through covenants during human history from the time of Noah through the present day. The first covenant that appears in Scripture was made with Noah and all living creatures. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow.
Redemptive history is revealed in the Bible through two major covenants and understanding these covenants is essential to understanding God’s plan of redemption. The first major covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, was in force for nearly all of the Old Testament beginning with Moses at Mt. Sinai. This covenant is also referred to in Scripture as the Old Covenant (2 Cor. 3:14), First Covenant (Heb. 8:7, 9:1), or Law (Ex. 34:28). The Mosaic Covenant was a temporary covenant that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Mt. 5:17) and replaced with the permanent New Covenant (Gal. 3:23-25, Heb. 8:13, 2 Cor. 3:7-11). Christians celebrate the New Covenant with the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor. 11:25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.) While the Old Covenant was temporary, the New Covenant is permanent with a better mediator in Jesus Christ who can save sinners, which the blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant could never do.
God is one of the parties in all Biblical covenants, and the other party varies depending upon the covenant. In the Mosaic Covenant the other party was the nation of Israel that was physically delivered from Egypt and their offspring. Not many of them were spiritually redeemed (Rom. 9:27). The Old Covenant did not include any of the descendents of Abraham and Jacob that lived prior to the exodus, and it did not include anyone other than the Jews that were delivered from Egypt (Deut. 5:3 Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.). The New Covenant includes only regenerated believers who are in-Christ through faith (Heb. 8:10-12).
Therefore, the only covenant now in force is the New Covenant. There are no temporary New Covenant members and there are no covenant members that enter the New Covenant based on being born a Jew or being born to Christian parents (Romans 9:1-18). Faith in Christ is the only way a person can enter into the New Covenant. Paul makes it clear that the covenant of promise made with Abraham was for the spiritual descendents of Abraham and not his physical descendents (Rom. 9:6-8, Rom. 2:28-29, Gal. 6:16).
While the Old Testament is very useful for much information concerning God and his plan of redemption, Christians should be careful to follow the exhortations found in the New Testament for their covenant practice. God’s laws for the New Covenant (Law of Christ 1 Cor. 9:20-21) are found in the New Testament. Many are the same as in the Old Covenant, many have expired, and many have been strengthened (Matt. 5-7). The New Covenant blessings found in the New Testament are better (Heb. 7:22, 8:6-7). So to look to the Old Covenant for our covenant instruction is to literally place a yoke of slavery upon our necks (Acts 15:10, Gal. 5:1). Believers in the New Covenant era should reject looking to Moses and the Old Covenant yoke of slavery for their covenant responsibilities. This is the message of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.