Understanding The Old and New Testaments.

The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testament. The word “testament” simply means “covenant.”

The Bible speaks of the Old and New Covenant.


7 For if that FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for A SECOND. 

So there is a first covenant, then a second. God had promised this second or new covenant because the first had been imperfect.

Hebrews 8:8-9 (NKJV)

8 Because FINDING FAULT WITH THEM, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make A NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 NOT ACCORDING TO (or not like) 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 did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. (This is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-32).

So the New Covenant would not be like the Old—the one made when Israel left Egypt (this is the covenant of the Law.).

Jesus is the Mediator of this New Covenant, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also MEDIATOR of a BETTER COVENANT, which was established on BETTER PROMISES” (Hebrews 8:6). Observe that the New Covenant is called better and established on better promises.

The first covenant is no longer binding but is obsolete, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming OBSOLETE and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).

This has tremendous implications for the Christian. It means that a LARGE portion of what is found in the Old Testament no longer applies to us today.

The Old Testament must therefore be CAREFULLY read. There are SEVERAL things present therein you are not supposed to do anymore. This is what it means to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The truth is, not EVERYTHING in the Bible is applicable to you TODAY!

For example, Leviticus 1 instructs a burnt offering for sin, “If his offering is of the flocks—of the sheep or of the goats—as a burnt sacrifice, he shall bring a male without blemish. He shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar” (vv. 10-11).

This ritual need not be imposed on the New Testament believer, as the Old Testament has now been made obsolete! Jesus is the true Lamb of God that takes away sins (John 1:29). The burnt offering of the Old pointed to Him. So simply because it is found within the pages of Scripture does not mean YOU are to do it. The Christian must learn to RIGHTLY DIVIDE.


What then is the value of the Old Testament today?

The Old Testament helps us see God’s redemptive promises. It serves as the background for the New Testament. It gives a “why” for a lot of what is found in the New Testament.

For example, we only know that a Messiah was promised, by reading Genesis to Malachi. In 2 Samuel 7:12-13, God promises a Seed from David who would reign as king (the Messiah). This helps us understand who the Messiah is when He finally appeared in the New Testament.

So the Old Testament serves to show HOW and WHY things happened in the New Testament. But salvation is explained CLEARLY and received in the New Testament.

Again, the Christian must learn to RIGHTLY DIVIDE the word of truth when reading his Bible. This means knowing the difference between the Old Testament and the New, and discerning what applies to him today and what does not (i.e. what belongs in the Old Testament age of Law).

Christians are not to observe the Sabbath day anymore even though Exodus 20:8 said to do so, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Why? Because the Sabbath was a commandment given to THE JEWS under the Law.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (NKJV)

12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days YOU shall labor and do all YOUR work, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it YOU shall do no work: YOU, nor YOUR son, nor YOUR daughter, nor YOUR male servant, nor YOUR female servant, nor YOUR ox, nor YOUR donkey, nor any of YOUR cattle, nor YOUR stranger who is within YOUR gates, that your male servant and YOUR female servant may rest as well as YOU. 15 And remember that YOU WERE A SLAVE IN THE LAND OF EGYPT, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded YOU (Israel) to keep the Sabbath day. 

The superfluity of the words “you” and “your” intimates that the Sabbath law applies only to Old Testament Israel. The direct recipients of this statute were the Jewish people. Vs. 15 speaks of them being slaves in Egypt. The audience is CLEAR.


Differences Between The Old & New Testaments.

There are SEVERAL differences between the Old Testament of the Law, and the New Testament in Christ. The Cross has made a difference, things have changed (2 Corin 5:17). Below are some of these differences:


• The Old Testament was a ministry of death, the New Testament is a ministry of life.

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)

6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the NEW COVENANT, not of THE LETTER but of the Spirit; for the LETTER KILLS, but the Spirit GIVES LIFE.


• The Old Testament was a ministry of the letter (written rules and regulations), the New is the Ministry of the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)

6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the LETTER but of the SPIRIT; for the LETTER KILLS, but the SPIRIT GIVES LIFE.

The letter” that kills is the Law of Moses, which gave the death penalty to sin. The Spirit does the opposite—He gives Life.


• Under the Old Testament, the priests and Levites were the ministers (Heb 9:1-10). Under the New Testament, Christians are the ministers.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NKJV)

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our SUFFICIENCY IS FROM GOD, 6 who also MADE US SUFFICIENT AS MINISTERS of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 


• The Old Testament was a ministry of condemnation (it condemned sin and the sinful). But the New Testament is a ministry of righteousness (it bestows righteousnesss freely, as a gift).

2 Corinthians 3:9 (NKJV)

9 For if the MINISTRY OF CONDEMNATION (the Old Testament) had glory, the MINISTRY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (the New Testament) exceeds much more in glory.  


• The instructions of the Old Testament were written on stone.

2 Corinthians 3:7 (NKJV)

7 But if the ministry of death, WRITTEN AND ENGRAVED ON STONES (the “letter” that kills, vs. 6), was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away.

While the Law (the Old Testament) was engraved on stones, the New Testament is written on the hearts of men.

Hebrews 8:10 (NKJV)

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MIND AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.


• The glory of the Old Testament has passed away. The glory of the New Testament remains and is much glorious:

2 Corinthians 3:11 (NKJV)

11 For if what is passing away (the Old Testament) was glorious, what remains (the New) is much more glorious.


• There was bondage under the Old Testament, there is freedom under the New.

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

1 Stand fast therefore in the LIBERTY by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a YOKE OF BONDAGE. 

The yoke of bondage contextually, is the Old Testament of the Law. This is the focus of the Book of Galatians—warning Christians against retrogressing back to the Law.


• The Old Testament was given to the Jewish nation ALONE.

Deuteronomy 5:1-3 (NKJV)

1 And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. 2 The Lord our God MADE A COVENANT WITH US in HOREB. 3 The Lord DID NOT MAKE this covenant WITH OUR FATHERS, but WITH US, those WHO ARE HERE TODAY, ALL OF US WHO ARE ALIVE. 

While the Old Covenant is restricted only to the Hebrew people, the New Covenant is for the whole world.

Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

15 And He said to them, “Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the GOSPEL to every creature. 

The Gospel announces God’s New Covenant.


• The Old Testament was a shadow of good things to come, it contained types or foreshadowing. The New Testament, in contrast, is the reality:

Hebrews 10:1 (NKJV)

1 For the law, HAVING A SHADOW OF THE GOOD THINGS TO COME, and NOT THE VERY IMAGE OF THE THINGS, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 

Hebrews 9:11 (NKJV)

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the GOOD THINGS TO COME, with THE GREATER AND MORE PERFECT TABERNACLE not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 

The antitype is greater than the type! (Read concerning Biblical typology here: Types and Antitypes).


• Under the Old Testament, the blood of animals was sacrificed for sins.

Hebrews 9:18-22 (NKJV)

18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated WITHOUT BLOOD. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took THE BLOOD OF CALVES AND GOATS, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT which God has commanded you.” 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost ALL THINGS ARE PURIFIED WITH BLOOD, and without shedding of blood THERE IS NO REMISSION. 

The blood of animal sacrifices could never take away sins though.

Hebrews 10:4 (NKJV)

4 For it is NOT POSSIBLE that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. 

Under the New, however, Jesus offered HIS OWN BLOOD.

Matthew 26:28 (NKJV)

28 For this is MY BLOOD of the NEW COVENANT, which is SHED for many for the REMISSION OF SINS.  

And this blood takes away sins.

1 John 1:7 (NKJV)

7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN.

Revelation 1:5 (NKJV)

5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.


Unlike the Old, the blood of the New takes away sins. God has now taken away the first covenant to establish the second, “Then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He TAKES AWAY the FIRST that He may ESTABLISH the SECOND” (Hebrews 10:9).

Now, this does not render the Old Testament useless in the Church age. The Church CAN learn from the Old Testament, “For whatever things were WRITTEN BEFORE were WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING, that we through the PATIENCE AND COMFORT OF THE SCRIPTURES might have HOPE” (Romans 15:4).

So Christians may learn valuable truths, particularly from the narratives of the Old Testament. The story of David and Jonathan can teach loyalty. The story of Samson may warn against lust and disobedience etc.

However, the Christian faith and practice are derived from the New Testament, particularly the Epistles. The New Testament is the authority of the Church today. Jesus made it so.


The Epistles: Source For Christian Faith & Practice.

Jesus has the authority over the Church, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all IN THE NAME (or authority) OF THE LORD JESUS, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

In Matthew 16:18, He says, “I will build MY church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The Church is His, and belongs under Him. Ephesians 1:22 says, “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be HEAD over all things TO THE CHURCH.” Christ is the Head to the Church.

At His Resurrection, He receives all authority. In Matthew 28:18, He says “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Then Jesus delegated this authority to His Apostles. Observe how Paul says this, “Through Him we have RECEIVED GRACE and APOSTLESHIP for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name” (Romans 1:5). So Jesus picks men called Apostles, and bestows His authority upon them.

These Apostles were then inspired, just like the authors of the Old Testament, to write. Their writings carry the SAME weight as Scripture, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD” (1 Corinthians 14:37).

The writings of the Apostles (Romans to Jude) are revelations by the Spirit of God.

Ephesians 3:1-5 (NKJV)

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the DISPENSATION of the grace of God which was GIVEN TO ME for you, 3 how that BY REVELATION HE MADE KNOWN TO ME the mystery (as I have BRIEFLY WRITTEN already, 4 by which, WHEN YOU READ, you MAY UNDERSTAND my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as IT HAS NOW BEEN REVEALED BY THE SPIRIT TO HIS HOLY APOSTLES AND PROPHETS. 

The Epistles are therefore not just mere letters—they are Scripture! It is from the Epistles (Romans to Jude) that the Church draws doctrine and practice. They stand as authoritative as Genesis to Malachi.

The benefits of the Old Testament will never be done away with, but the Epistles must be the Christian’s PRIMARY focus. The Law has therefore been done away with.

Colossians 2:14-17 (NKJV)

14 having WIPED OUT the HANDWRITING OF REQUIREMENTS that was against us (the Old Covenant), which was contrary to us. And He has TAKEN IT OUT OF THE WAY, having NAILED IT to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So LET NO ONE JUDGE you in FOOD or in DRINK, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a SHADOW OF THINGS TO COME, but the SUBSTANCE (reality) is of Christ.  

Do not stay with the shadow, not when we now have the reality. We are dead to the Law, Romans 7:4 says.

Romans 7:4 (NKJV)

4 Therefore, my brethren (Christians), you also have become DEAD TO THE LAW through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  

So the Church must find authority for everything she does in the Epistles, not the Law. Departing from the Law will not lead to a licentious, wanton lifestyle, as some have argued.

There are instructions on how we ought to live in the New Testament (for more on this, get the sermon “Simple Courtesy: How God’s Children Ought To Behave” by Pastor Josh). The Book of Ephesians, for example, is divided into “sit” and “walk.” The first three chapters tells the Christian who who he is in Christ (he is seated in Him). Then the last three chapters discusses the Christian’s responsibilities and conduct (i.e. his walking).

The Epistles abound with instructions on Christian conduct. But unlike the Old Testament, the Christian is enabled by the Spirit of God to carry out these instructions (see Gal 5:22-25, Philip 2:13, Eze 36:25-27).


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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