Few understand the significance of the Bible covenants, commonly called the Old and New, yet they reveal God's nature and His plan for humanity. What do the covenants really mean for Christians today?
What is a Covenant?
It is important that the word 'covenant' be clearly defined. In the Chambers English Dictionary, the word 'covenant' is described as: A mutual agreement: the writing containing the agreement: an engagement entered into between God and a person or a people - a dispensation, testament - v.i. to enter into an agreement - v.t. to agree to: to stipulate. A covenant is a sealed contract between two parties in which both promise to abide by mutually-accepted terms. It is important to notice that the covenant is the actual agreement and that the terms are an entirely separate issue.
The Old Covenant
The nation of Israel entered into an agreement with God. The conditions of this agreement are stated in Exodus 19 - 24. God led the Israelites out of Egypt and then instructed Moses to speak to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. (This was probably at Pentecost). if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19:5,6).
God promised the nation of Israel physical blessings only, on the condition that they keep their agreement with Him. There were no promises of eternal life or of the gift of the Holy Spirit. All the promises made under the old covenant were material blessings. The nation of Israel would be a great nation, and the Israelites would be God's special people and He would be their God, only on the condition that they would obey the covenant, whose terms included the Ten Commandments, which had been in force from Creation.
A Marriage Agreement
The old covenant was a kind of marriage agreement between God and the nation of Israel. In The Interlinear Bible published by Hendrickson, on page 646, Ezek 16:8 is translated as: And I passed by you, and I looked on you, and, behold, your time was the time of love. And I spread My skirt over you, and covered your nakedness. And I swore to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord Jehovah. And you became Mine. The phrase spread your skirt is a sign of marriage. (See the book of Ruth 3:9 which, in The Interlinear Bible, reads: And she said, I am your handmaid Ruth, and you shall spread your skirt over your handmaid). The relationship is clearly shown in Jer 31:32 which reads: though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. In the marriage agreement, the nation of Israel promised not to commit spiritual adultery or fornication by worshipping the gods of other nations. Ex 34:12,14: Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst ... (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God). Then all the people answered together and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do. So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. (Ex 19:8).
The Conditions and Terms of the Covenant
The nation of Israel agreed to be obedient to God in return for His protection and blessings. God came down to the Israelites and instructed them on the terms and conditions of the covenant (Ex 19:11,15,18). God required the nation to obey the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17). He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. (Ex 31:18). These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly ... And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. (Deut 5:22). The Ten Commandments were a part of the old covenant which were written on slabs of stone referred to as the 'tablets of the covenant' (Deut 9:9,11). These were the ten basic principles for everyday living which show us the mind of God. The Israelites were also instructed to observe the civil law (including the statutes and judgements) which would govern their nation.
The statutes are civil enactment's prescribed by God (Ex 18:16). The New Bible Dictionary, (second edition used), edited by JD Douglas, N Hillyer, FF Bruce, D Guthrie, AR Millard, JI Packer and DJ Wiseman, on page 244 states, concerning the statutes: Many of the statutes of Exodus 22:18-23:33 are concerned with what we should call religious practice, e.g. the offering of firstfruits (22:29f.; 23:19a), sabbatical years and days (23:10-12), the three pilgrimage festivals (23:14-17) ... But the statutes also include ethical and humanitarian injunctions, protecting those who have no natural protector (22:21-24), forbidding excessive severity to debtors (22:25-27), insisting on judicial impartiality, especially where one of the litigants is an alien who might feel himself at a dis advantage (23:6-9).
The judgements were additions to make a decision based on God's Law - the Ten Commandments; they gave certain punishments for breaking God's Law. The New Bible Dictionary, on page 244 states concerning the judgements: There follows a series of case-laws (Exodus 21:1-22:17). These cover such civil and criminal cases as treatment of Hebrew slaves (21:2-6), the sale of one's daughter into slavery (21:7-11), murder and manslaughter (21:12-14), injury to parents (21:15,17), kidnapping (21:16), assault and battery (21:18-27, incorporating the lex talionis, 21:23-25), a goring ox (21:28-32), accidents to animals (21:33f.), killing of one ox by another (21:35f.), theft (22:1-4), damage to crops (22:5f.), deposits and loans (22:7-15), seduction (22:16f.).
These statutes and judgements (Ex 21,22,23), which made up the civil law, amplify God's Law - the Ten Commandments. The civil law can be found in Exodus 21-23, which was written in a book by Moses: Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient. (Ex 24:7). Both the Book of the Covenant (civil law) and the Tablets of the Covenant (Ten Commandments) were included in the Old Covenant, which the nation of Israel had to obey. Once the people had promised to obey God's laws, the agreement was sealed with blood. And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words. (Ex 24:8). The civil laws, which were written by Moses, contained the ministration of death, which meant the passing of the death sentence on anyone who broke certain of the laws, e.g. Ex 21:12: He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
Was God's Law Instituted at Mount Sinai?
There is a belief that God's spiritual Law - the Ten Commandments - was instituted by God at Mount Sinai. But is this so? Gen 26:5 reads: because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws. Abraham, who lived several hundred years before the time of Moses, obeyed God. For further proof, read Ex 16:28: How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? Ex 18:16 reads: and I [Moses] make known the statutes of God and His laws. The Bible clearly shows that God's laws, including the statutes and judgements, were in existence prior to the events at Sinai.
The God of the Old Testament
The old covenant was a marriage agreement between God and the nation of Israel. The Bible clearly shows that God spoke to Moses at Sinai. It might be thought that the God of the Old Testament who dealt with the nation of Israel was God the Father. John 5:37: And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. It was the Jews, to whom the Lord spoke, who personally had not seen nor heard the Father. Some mistakenly assume from this that the Father's voice has never been heard at any time. Yet Matthew 3:17 states: And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Compare also Mat 17:5; Jn 12:28; 2 Pet 1:17. These plain statements would be lies if the Father had never been heard.)
Who was the One dealing with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament? John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Two divine personages are mentioned in this verse - the Word and God. The Word, or Spokesman for the God Family, later became known as the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Only two personalities are mentioned in this verse. John 1:18 clearly states that no-one has ever seen the Father. This means that it was the Word who appeared and spoke to the Israelites and entered into the marriage covenant with them.
The Disobedience of the Israelites and the Broken Covenant
The Israelites could not keep God's Law, even in the letter. They lost sight of their agreement with God and thus lost the blessings of obedience (Lev 26:4-13). The results of disobedience had been explained to the nation of Israel in Lev 26:14-39. Yet the Israelites were unable to obey God's laws. For about 700 years, God pleaded with the nation: Return, O backsliding children, says the Lord; for I am married to you. (Jer 3:14).
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 - 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, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them. (Jer 31:31,32). This meant that the nation of Israel had been unfaithful to the marriage agreement. Eventually, because of the continued disobedience and 'adultery' of the nations of Israel and Judah, God 'divorced' them and they went into captivity, from which only Judah returned. The nation of Israel went into Assyrian captivity in the years 721-718 BC (Ezek. 20:23,24). The nation of Judah was captured by the Babylonians from 604-585 BC (2 Kings 23:27). The fault with this covenant was the weakness of the people, not the terms of the agreement. (Heb 8:7,8). Nevertheless, Jesus, the Son of Man, had to die in order to be able to re-marry spiritual Israel at a later time.
The Sacrificial Laws
Moses wrote down in a book the civil laws which became known as the Law of Moses or the Book of the Covenant, which contained the statutes and judgements (Ex 21-23). This is not to be confused with the Ten Commandments which were written on tablets of stone which became known as the 'tablets of the covenant' (Ex 20:1-17; 31:18; Deut 5:22; 9:9,11). The Israelites agreed to obey the terms and the conditions of the covenant; that is, they promised to obey God's law. These civil laws were also written on large, whitewashed stones set up on Mount Ebal, after crossing of the River Jordan into the Promised Land (Deut 27:1-8). [It should be stressed at this point that God's Law and the Law of Moses have nothing whatsoever to do with the traditions of the elders nor with pharis aical Judaism.] The sacrificial laws are not mentioned in the terms and conditions of the old covenant (Ex 19-23). The Israelites, when they made the covenant with God at Sinai, were not required to offer any form of sacrifice. Jer 7:22: For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. The sacrificial law was added after Sinai (Ex 40:2,17).
The old covenant, as already seen, was ratified by blood. The Levitical priesthood was later established, followed by the introduction of the ritualistic laws. The sacrifices were added to remind Israel of its constant failure to keep to its side of the bargain (Jer 7; Hos 2). The Israelites failed miserably to keep God's law in the letter, so it was well beyond them to apply them law spiritually. All of the promises under the old covenant were to do with material blessings and prosperity. Without the addition of the Holy Spirit, the Israelites were destined to fail. Deut 5:29: Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever!
The Solution: The New Covenant
God had already decided on a solution: there was to be a New Covenant, which was to include the spiritual element (Jer 31:31-40; 32:37-42; Ezek 11:19,20). These were Israelitish covenants, of course, but the gentiles were eventually to be included, because they were going to be spiritual Israelites, the Israel of God (Rom 2:29; 11:11-25; Gal 3:27-29; 6:16; Eph 2:11-22). Then God has also granted to the gentiles repentance to life. (Acts 11:18). Due to the sinful nation of mankind, there was a need for a new covenant. 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 (Jer 31:31). The new covenant was to be very different from the old covenant. Jer 31:32: 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, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them. Heb 8:7: For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. What was this fault? Verse 8 explains: 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. The fault of the old covenant was with them, that is, the Israelites. How did God solve this difficulty? Continue in Jer 31:33: But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The spiritual law which was written on the two tablets of stone (the Ten Commandments), and the civil laws, were written down so that the Israelites could be constantly reminded of them. They could not obey the laws physically because of their carnal natures. Romans 8:7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. Under the old covenant, God's laws were written down on tablets of stone, but, under the new covenant, God's laws will be written on the heart. God's laws were not done away; they were to be written in fleshly hearts. Did Jeremiah ever suggest that the law was to be done away? A different law is not referred to in Hebrews 8:8-12 (this passage of scripture being quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34). Jeremiah knew only of God's law - the Ten Commandments. If God's law had ended under the old covenant, there would be no references from Jeremiah referring to it.
Acts Chapter 15
The Jews were widely known on account of three main practices: circumcision, clean and unclean food laws, and their 'different' Holy Days. The New Testament contains information on the abolition of only ONE of these. A special conference (Acts 15) was summoned to discuss circumcision, and the decision was that it was no longer necessary. Neither of the other two topics were mentioned at all. Paul preached on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14,42; 18:4,11). If the Sabbath were done away, that was a wrong example! He would have offended the gentiles as well as the Church of God! There would have been a tremendous uproar if either Holy Days or food laws had been abrogated. Certainly, it would have been well reported.
The Marriage Agreement
The new covenant is a marriage agreement between Jesus and spiritual Israel - the church. Under the new covenant, Christ will marry the Church. This is made plain in Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body. In Ephesians 5, the context is marriage between a husband and a wife. In verse 32: This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. For additional proof: For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Cor 11:2). In this passage, Christ is referred to as a husband and the church as a virgin bride. In the new covenant, the bride (the church) will marry the Husband, Jesus Christ, at His second coming. The new covenant marriage will not fail!
Not Yet in the New Covenant
Many claim to be living under the new covenant. Few seem to understand that the new covenant is not yet! The old covenant is becoming obsolete and growing old ... ready to vanish away (Heb 8:13), but the new covenant marriage has not yet been made. The new covenant will come into existence and force at the return to the marriage of Jesus Christ. Christians are now living under the terms and the conditions of the new covenant. Rev 19:7: Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) has come, and His wife (the Church) has made herself ready. Jer 31:33 speaks of The covenant that I will make. It is still in the future. Jer 31:33 is quoted in Heb 8:8-12, and this was after the death of Christ and the establishment of the Church of God in 30 AD. The new covenant is to be established at the return of Christ; it was NOT established by the blood of Christ on the cross, as many have assumed. What about now? The new covenant has not yet been made, but the terms and conditions have been revealed to Christians through Christ. Christians live under those terms and conditions in the new covenant. The old covenant ended when the Israelites were divorced by God. Jesus came to explain the terms and conditions with their new spiritual application. Christians have the opportunity to understand them before the new covenant is made. In this way, the church, composed of spiritually converted Christians, may prepare for its marriage to Christ. Ephesians 5:26: that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle...but that it should be holy and without blemish.
The Messenger of the covenant
The messenger of the new covenant is Jesus Christ. Behold, I send My messenger...And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant (Mal 3:1). Heb 8:6: 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. Christ's ministry was cut short as He became the sacrificial lamb for mankind (Heb 9:23-28). Christ confirmed the terms and conditions of the new covenant in His ministry, which lasted for three and a half years. Isaiah had prophesied (8:16): seal the law among My disciples and (42:21): The Lord ... will magnify the law and make it honourable.
The sacrificial laws were added to the old covenant because of the sins of the Israelites. Galatians 3:19: What purpose then does the law [ceremonial] serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed [Christ] should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. The sacrifice of Christ replaced the need for the sacrificial system, which pointed people to Him.
The sacrificial system ended when Christ was crucified. Hebrews 10:10 states: By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. His death ended the need for rituals and animal sacrifices, NOT the need for God's law. The only text in the Bible which reveals what was terminated can be found in Hebrews 9:10, which reads: concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of the reformation. These were the regulations of rituals and ceremonial cleanliness. Christ's part of the new covenant was sealed with His own blood. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Heb 9:12). ...how much more shall the blood of Christ ...purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason, He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant. (vv 14,15).
The New Testament
Jesus confirmed the beginning of a new covenant which will be established at His return. He also left behind a testament which began after His death. A testament is a will in which the possessions of the testator are passed on after his or her death. Hebrews 9:16,17,22: For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives... without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Christ left a 'will' after His death, which enabled His followers to have an opportunity to be co-heirs or beneficiaries, of His possessions. Romans 8:17: and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Certain conditions must be fulfilled
before the Christian may inherit Christ's promises through His will. The
individual must be Christ's: And if you are Christ's, then you are
Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:29). Christ
explained in the New Testament, or His 'will', about the new covenant
and its better promises. The individual must put on Christ. (verse
27). This is achieved by belief in the gospel (Mark 1:15) and repentance
and baptism (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; Gal 3:27). After baptism,
a newly-converted Christian receives, by the laying on of hands, a token of the Holy Spirit to help practise a Christian way of life. The Holy Spirit helps the newly-begotten Christian to become more like Christ, preparing him or her for the spiritual marriage to come. At this marriage, God's laws will be written on the Christian's heart and the covenant will not be able to be broken.
The individual must have faith in God and His promises. This faith must be active and living faith from God, not a dead human faith. James wrote: Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead ... faith without works is dead (2: 17,20). Paul wrote: Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. (Romans 3:31). Works together with faith establish God's law. Christ left us His will which came into force after His death. This will is contained in the New Testament, which tells of eternal salvation. Christians have to fulfil the terms and conditions before eternal life can be imparted.
Christ came to fulfill the law
The Israelites did not have access to God's Holy Spirit and they did not have a perfect sacrifice to atone for the nation's sins. After the ratification of the old covenant, God instituted temporary substitute animal sacrifices. The old covenant was to prove that, without access to God's Holy Spirit, humanity was destined to fail. However, the new covenant makes it possible to obey God because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
There are some who claim that the Ten Commandments have been done away under the terms of the new covenant, but the Bible clearly shows that God's laws, the Ten Commandments, were in existence prior to Sinai. Some insist that the laws of God were made obsolete through the sacrifice of Christ. The old covenant is the agreement (between the Israelites and the Lord) which ended. But the old covenant was not God's law!!
Did Jesus come to nail God's law to the cross?
Matthew 19:16-19: Now behold, one
came and said to Him, Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I
may have eternal life? ...if you want to enter into life, keep the
commandments. He said to Him, Which ones? Jesus said, You shall not
murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal' 'You
shall not bear false witness,' 'Honour your father and your mother,'
and, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' Eternal life is one
of the promises under the new covenant.. How does one inherit eternal
Christ's response was: Keep the commandments. This would be a wrong example for Christ to set, if the law - the Ten Commandments - were to be done away following His death. After all, I am the Lord, I do not change. (Mal.3:6). and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever. (Heb 13:8).
Do not think that I came to destroy
the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. For
assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, on jot or one
tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Mat
5:17,18). This did not mean to say that Jesus was doing away with the
law; He was expressing it in its fullest significance and thereby
setting an example to be followed. ...till all is fulfilled. This
fulfilled is a different Greek word. It means 'until everyone is keeping the law.' The Law was no longer there to be obeyed in the letter - it was now to be obeyed in the spirit, a very different (and much more difficult!) matter. How can law-keeping be regarded as 'bondage' when those laws reveal the very mind and character of God? Only antagonism towards God rejects law. A realis ation of God's goodness leads to a glad and joyful acceptance of those things which He has said are for our benefit. Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. (Ps 119:165).
The New Covenant laws of love and faith are the spiritual EXPANSION of Old Testament laws. Mercy may indeed triumph over judgement (James 2:13) but judgement falls on law-breakers! God's laws are eternal (Psalm 111:8). Jesus did NOT abolish what was holy. His death was pointless if His laws are not in force today. The law (the schoolmaster) reveals the need for a Saviour - and the need for the power of the Holy Spirit to obey!
Colossians 2:13-17 is on the scriptures most often quoted to 'prove' that the Ten Commandments have been done away. having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having dis armed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. The handwriting of requirements means a bill of debt or the death penalty. It was the death penalty which was abolished; nailed to the cross. Once people sin, they have broken God's spiritual law and incurred the penalty. Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin [that which is earned] is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Life is forfeit once sin is committed. Jesus Christ came to pay that penalty, so allowing life to resume.
Through the death of Jesus, the death
penalty was nailed to the cross and, in that way, He triumphed over the
demons (compare Ephesians 6:12). That means that the observance of food
laws or holy days may only be regulated by the body of Christ (the
church). These holy days foreshadow things to come and therefore must
stand until their complete fulfilment. As always, difficult scriptures
are made easier to understand when taken in context of the Bible as a
whole. Scriptures do not contradict one another (John 10:35). The Bible
is a spiritual whole - and God is specific in His commands. Holy days
were established before
the Old Covenant. They all stand or fall together. They are an essential part of the New Covenant and will be observed in the Kingdom (Ezek 45:21; Zech 14:16-19). Ezek 46:3: Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the Lord on the Sabbaths and the New Moons. The offering of sacrifices, the ceremonial washings, the blowing of the shofar, the heaving of the wavesheaf, the laying of hands on the Azazel goat are the rites and the ceremonials which are done away. God's Holy Days remain.
The spiritual intent of the law
It is NOT possible to obey God's Law in New Testament principles only, while disobeying the letter of the law! The Old Testament statutes and judgements are just as valid today. The difference is that we are no longer under the ministration of death which was called for according to God's Law. 2 Cor 3:7,8: But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones [civil laws eventually written on whitewashed stones - Deut 27:1-10], 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, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:6). Today, Christians have access to repentance and forgiveness, made possible by Jesus' sacrifice. The ministry of the Spirit is, indeed, more glorious. Christians are still responsible for restitution in cases of moral obligation - and how could that be if the Law were done away? The obligation is to love your neighbour as yourself (Lev 19:18), and leave all judicial decisions to God (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). How can the principles of the Ten Commandments be kept without keeping them literally? How can laws be observed 'in principle' and then violated in practical application?
Galatians 5:16: I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Christians live by the faith OF the Son of God. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The holy, just, good and spiritual laws must be obeyed in the spirit. Every word of God counts! Of course, obedience can never EARN salvation (Romans 3:28). But - how can one disobey, knowing of the great sacrifice made by the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1,2) enabling Christians to be forgiven and justified? Romans 2:13: for not the hearers of the law are just[ifed] in the sight of God, but the DOERS of the law will be justified. Romans 3:25: Whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.
Forgiveness of sins is possible only on the acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice, baptism, the receiving of the Holy Spirit and continuing repentance. These are matters of law AND grace; matters of faith AND works. It is not the law that is done away, but the penalty of the law (i.e. the first death and eternal death). Jesus Christ revealed a way of life - and Christians are to follow His example (1 Cor 11:1; 1 John 2:6). The power to be profitable servants (Luke 17:10), going above and beyond mere legal requirements, is available through the Holy Spirit.
This is not EARNING salvation but it is pleasing to Jesus Christ. Matthew 7:23: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! The Law is the minimum requirement in relationships. The terms from the Old Covenant remain the same, but in New Testament times, are further expanded into the spiritual realm. Only those laws which are specifically abolished in the Bible, are abolished. Everything else remains as part of the inspired Word of God!!