|A Better Deal|
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (RSV)
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is being prophesied here at a time when the people of Israel were finally facing the consequences of breaking their covenant with God. Though it was not because God made a mistake that Israel failed to keep up their end of the deal, He made a provision by which Israel could be reconciled to Him, and Gentiles as well. This was to be done by means of the work of the Holy Spirit, who is able to put God's will within the believer so that a life pleasing to God may be lived.
The New Covenant prophesied in this passage has general principles rather than detailed laws. It is not like the old agreement. In the Old Covenant everything was laid out in minute detail, as a parent would spell out detailed rules for their young children who cannot at their level of maturity understand the general principles behind the rules. However, the New Covenant is set forth as given to sons and daughters who know what their Father is doing. While the Old Covenant made provision for forgiveness and grace was present, its focus was on the law and working to keep it. In contrast, while the New Covenant has laws, its focus is on Jesus and the grace He offers us as a result of His life, death, and resurrection.
The New Covenant includes all of the moral laws of the Old Covenant, but not in the Old Covenant form. Instead of volumes of detailed laws, the New Covenant gives a few basic principles falling under the one chief moral commandment of "Love one another, even as I have loved you" (John 13:34). Under the New Covenant we also have civil duties. These principles would include how the Christian is to relate to society and the governing authorities, and would include interpretations and applications of New Covenant principles to the specific time and culture. And, of course, at the heart of the New Covenant we have the Gospel, which deals with Christ's work to save us.
In the Old Covenant only key leaders were filled with the Holy Spirit and had a personal knowledge of God. However, in the New Covenant all are to know God personally and be taught by Him. The Old Covenant was limited to the "sons of Israel" and those who would "join themselves to the LORD" by being circumcised and observing the sabbaths given by God to Israel, thus coming under the Old Covenant law. But the New Covenant is good news for everyone. For Jew and Gentile alike. All may join the New Covenant community by believing in Jesus, demonstrating this belief by being baptized and observing the Lord's Supper. Most importantly, though, one who enters the New Covenant accepts the Gospel of Christ, and is sealed by the Holy Spirit. And those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit are led to live godly lives, a result of being saved by grace alone. This better deal illustrates God's everlasting love for us and unwillingness that we be separated from Him.