Most Christians are familiar with the language of “covenant”, particularly with the language of “new covenant”. In this context, covenant language denotes a particular (strong) relation between God and human creatures that carries weight and responsibility on both ends. Throughout the Old Testament we see that despite Israel’s frequent unfaithfulness God remains faithful to his covenant with them and continually renews it on the day of Atonement.
The new covenant, is generally understood by Christians to mean a renewed covenant between God and human creatures which is not based on the law but on the gospel. To remain faithful to this covenant from the human end of the deal means then to accept Jesus and to live accordingly. However, what many of us fail to recognize is that Jesus isn’t simply the mediator of new covenant (although he is that), Jesus is the new covenant, and he is so for us.
In other words, both the promises and the commands of the covenant are fulfilled in Christ. The following quote from T.F. Torrance puts it quite beautifully:
“That covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, for in him God’s faithfulness realizes his will for his people. The promises of the covenant are fulfilled in him, in the ultimate gift of God’s very self to man; the commands of the covenant are fulfilled in him, in the obedience of the son of man. This realization of the covenant will and faithfulness of God in Christ is atonement – atonement in its fullest sense embracing the whole incarnate life and work of Christ. It involves the self-giving of God to man and the assuming of man into union with God, thus restoring the broken communion between man and God. It involves the fulfillment of the divine judgement on the sin of humanity and the removal of that obstacle or barrier of sin between God and humanity, but that barrier is removed precisely by the complete fulfillment of the covenant, in which God kept faith and truth with humanity in its sin by its complete judgement – therefore it is in this complete judgement alone that men and women can be justified before God and have a just and true place in the covenant-communion with God. That whole work of atonement, of establishing covenant communion, Christ fulfilled in himself, by incarnation and atonement. He fulfilled it in himself as mediator, God and man in one person, acting from the side of God as God and from the side of man as man,” (Atonement, 9).