No other subject perplexes Adventists so much as the covenants. They dread to meet it. They have tried various ways to explain it away, but they are not satisfactory even to themselves. I have been there and know. The abolition of the Sinatic covenant carries with it the abolition of the Jewish Sabbath so completely that no authoritative trace of it can be found this side of the grave of our risen Lord.
Adventist Elder Smith said: “If the ten commandments constituted the old covenant, then they are forever gone.” “This, therefore, becomes a test question.” Two Covenants, page 5.
We will soon see the force of this. Jer. 31:31, 32, says: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that 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 that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.“
Here we learn these facts about the first, or old covenant:
1. It was made between God and Israel.
2. It was made when he brought them out of Egypt.
3. A new covenant is to be made.
4. It will not be according to the old one.
Adventists and all agree that this old covenant is found in Ex. 19 to 24. We all know that the ten commandments, how and why they were given, are the prominent things in those five chapters. We also know that they are called “the covenant,” that was given on Sinai or Horeb.
Thus: “And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.“
“The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” Deut. 4:12,13; 5:2,3. Then follows the ten commandments as the covenant named. Again: “The tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you.” Deut. 9:9. So also, “and he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” Ex. 34:28. Surely this is plain enough for a common man.
What is a covenant? As the decalogue alone is not a mutual agreement, it must enter into, and so become a part of, some agreement, to be called the covenant as it is so frequently. Examining, we find that the decalogue was the very basis of the covenant at Sinai; the chief thing in the covenant between God and Israel. This even Elder Smith owns: “It was the basis of the whole arrangement.” The Two Covenants, page 10. Being the chief thing in the covenant, it is by way of eminence put for the whole and so called “the covenant.”
Opening to Ex. 19, we read: “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.” Verse 1. It was at Sinai as they came out of Egypt. Moses was mediator.
Verse 3. The Lord sends him to say to Israel “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.”
Verse. 5. Moses goes and repeats this offer to the Jews: they say: “All that the Lord hath said we will do.”
Verse 8. Here was an agreement, a covenant, between God and Israel. They agree to obey his voice. He agrees to bless them. Next they prepare to hear his voice. Verses 9-25.
In Chap. 20 God speaks the ten commandments and follows them with various precepts through Moses to the end of chapter 23, closing with a promise to bless their bread and water, to take away sickness from them, to drive out the Canaanites and give them the land.
Chapter 24:1-8, relates how Moses then rehearsed to the people “all the words of the Lord and all the judgments.” Again they agree to obey.
Verse 3. Then “Moses wrote all the words of the Lord” in a book.
Verse 4. Assembling the people again, he read “the book of the covenant” to them, and the third time they say, “All that the Lord hath said we will do.” Verse 7.
Verse 8. “And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.’
That closed the covenant. We know that this was the first, or old, covenant, for the author of Hebrews, quoting this very verse, says it was. Heb. 9:18-20.
8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
9:1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lamp stand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
Notice that the Old Covenant included ceremonial aspects, and also the “stone tables of the covenant.” It cannot be any clearer. That settles it.
How much did the covenant embrace? Only one truthful answer can be given, viz. All included in the record from Ex. 19:1 to Ex. 24:8, for this is the covenant in detail written out.
Is the decalogue included in it? As well deny that the sun shines, for there it is written out in full in the very heart of the covenant. Ex. 20:1-17. As Smith said above, “It was the basis of the whole arrangement.” It was so prominent a part of the covenant that it alone is put for the whole covenant, as we often speak of seeing a vessel, a house, or a river, when we saw only a part of it.
- The stones on which the decalogue was written are called “the tables of the covenant,” Deut. 9:9
- The book in which it was written was called “the book of the covenant,” Ex. 24:7
- The ark in which it was deposited was called “the ark of the covenant,” Deut. 31:26.
But Ex. 19-24, is only an epitome of the covenant; for all the subsequent teachings of Moses are only a further explanation of it and belonged to it. Indeed, it gave its name to the whole Old Testament, that is, Old Covenant.
This covenant was only national and temporal, given only to the Jews and referred only to earthly blessings. It made no reference to the future life. It was an engagement of God, to give Israel possession of Canaan,” etc. “It did not refer to the final salvation of individuals.” On Ex. 19:5.
Now notice how plainly and how repeatedly the ten commandments are called “the covenant,” which God gave at Sinai to Israel when he brought them out of Egypt.
- “And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” Deut. 4:13.
- “When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you.” Deut. 9:9.
What covenant was on the tables of stone? The one the Lord made with them. Again he tells when it was made and what it was:
- “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire (I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to shew you the word of the Lord: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount), saying, I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” Deut. 5:2-7. So He goes on giving the ten commandments. That ought to settle it.
- “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” Ex. 34:27, 28.
If that is not plain enough, what would be?
- “There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” “And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, which he made with our fathers when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” 1 Kings, 8:9-21.
- “And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, that he made with the children of Israel.” 2 Chron. 6:11.
This shuts off all possible doubt as to what the covenant was. 1) There was nothing in the ark except the tables of stone. 2) Yet in that ark was “the covenant of the Lord which he made with Israel when he brought them out of Egypt.” That certainly was the ten commandments. Elder Smith says: “If the ten commandments constituted the old covenant, then they are forever gone.” Two Covenants, page 5. So they are indeed as we will now see.
That Covenant Is Done Away
As we have seen, Jeremiah, Chap. 31:31-34, foretold that the Lord would make a new covenant not according to the old one. The author of Hebrews quotes this in full and says it is fulfilled in the gospel, thus:
“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 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 neighbor, 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.” Heb. 8:6-13.
Notice the points in this.
1. Jesus is mediator of a better covenant than the old. Verse 6. Then we have something better than the decalogue.
2. The new is established on better promises than the old, which as we have seen, were all temporal. See Ex. 23:22-33. But the promises of the new covenant are all spiritual. They are
(1) God’s laws are to be in their hearts.
(2) All shall know the Lord, as only converted souls will be admitted; whereas under the old, every member of the nation, good or bad, was a citizen.
(3) God will forgive and forget all their sins, and so they will all be saints and heirs of heaven.
(4) Hebrews says that if the first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second.
This shows that the first covenant was always imperfect. Hence the Lord says he will make a new one, not according to the old one. Then we cannot have the old decalogue right over again unchanged. Finally, Hebrews says the first is made old and is ready to vanish away. That ends the old covenant, the one from Sinai, the ten commandments as the Bible shows.
In 2 Cor. 3 Paul makes it even plainer still that the decalogue has been removed.
Verse 3. “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 fleshly tables of the heart. verse 6. Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament [covenant] not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; 8. How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9. For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 11. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 13. And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14. 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.”
Observe the following points:
1. Verse 3 refers to the prophecy of Jeremiah that a new covenant would supersede the old one on stones. Now Paul says it is not written with ink as the law of Moses was in a book, nor on stones as the decalogue was, but by the spirit in the heart. The law in the book and on stones have both gone.
2. Verse 6: he says the apostles do not minister the letter but the spirit. “The letter refers exclusively to *the law*.” “The context shows that by the letter he meant the old covenant and by the spirit the new.”
3. To put it beyond all doubt, as to what he means, Paul, in verse 7, specifies “the ministration of death written and engraven in stones.” Surely we know that this was the decalogue. This he calls “the ministration of death.”
4. In verses 8 and 9 he calls the gospel “the ministration of the spirit” and “the ministration of righteousness” and says that it exceeds in glory the old ministration of death.
5. To put it beyond doubt that he means the decalogue, he refers to the vail which Moses put over his face when he came down with the tables of stone in his hands. Compare verse 13 with Ex. 34:27-35.
6. Twice Paul directly names that which was “written in stone,” verses 3 and 7; once he says we do not minister the letter, verse 6; he says that that which was engraven in stones was the ministration of death, verse 7, and the “ministration of condemnation,” verse 9; then he says this was “abolished,” verse 13, and three times he says it “was done away,”verses 7, 11, 14. 7.
Compare verses 7 and 11. “The ministration of death written and engraven in stones was glorious” and “that which is done away was glorious;” the very thing which was written in stones in verse 7, is said to “be done away” in verse 11.
8. In verse 7 the ten commandments are evidently taken to represent the whole Mosaic dispensation. If these, the foundation of the whole system, are removed, then of course all the system must go with them. “The ten commandments thus written here represent the whole Mosaic economy.”
Adventists have tried to save their theory here by saying that in verse 7, “ministration” was not what was “engraven” in stones; but that “death” is what was written there. This will not do. In the Greek the word for engraven exactly agrees with *ministration* but does not agree with *death*, hence the decalogue is what is called “the ministration,” and that was done away. Dr. Adam Clarke says on this verse: “Here the apostle evidently intends the law.” “This ministration of death, the ten commandments, written on stones, a part of the Mosaic institution, being put for the whole, was glorious.”
The Pulpit Commentary on this verse says: “Literally, *engraved in* letters on stones (Ex. 31:18). The reference shows that, in speaking of ‘the letter,’ St. Paul was only thinking of the Mosaic Law, and indeed, specifically of the decalogue.” How can a candid man deny that Paul meant this very thing, the decalogue?
To the Galatians Paul also writes that the covenant of Sinai has gone. It will be seen that he uses “covenant” and “law” as synonymous, showing that the law was the covenant [cf: ”Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments (Mal. 4:4); ”The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb” (Deut. 5:2)].
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” Gal. 4:21-24. Here the old law covenant of Sinai is declared to be “bondage” and he says “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Chap. 5:1.
So in Heb. 12:18-24, Paul distinctly says that Christians do not go to Sinai and the thunders of the law, but they come to Jesus and the new covenant. Read it all. Here are a few sentences:
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: But ye are come unto Mount Sion. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.”
Adventists are always dwelling upon the terrible scenes at Sinai at the giving of the law and pointing others there; but Paul says, No, do not go there; but to Mount Sion, to Jesus and the new covenant, to its teachings.
So Jeremiah predicted the rejection of the covenant in the ark and that instead of it, men would seek to the name of the Lord at Jerusalem where the gospel went forth.
“In those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, the ark of the, covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem.” Jer. 3:16,17.
Adventists are trying to revive the very thing the Lord said should be forgotten, “the ark of the covenant.” All their study and worship is centered around that just as of old with the Jews. But the effort is vain. God has said it. Since the cross Jesus and Jerusalem have been where all eyes have turned while the ark and old covenant are forgotten, just as the Lord said it would be. So Isa. 2:3; “Out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” There is where we now go for the law, not to the ark or to Sinai.
Adapted: Covenants by Dudley Marvin. Retrieved from : https://www.nonegw.org/canright/sdar19.htm