An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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New Covenant

The new relationship with God given by Jesus Christ. The new covenant comes with Christ's promise to bring humanity into the kingdom of God and share the fullness of life with us. In response, we are to believe in Christ and keep his commandments. Love is to be at the heart of our participation in the new covenant. Jesus taught the summary of the law and the new commandment. The summary of the law is that we are to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds; and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The new commandment is that we are to love one another as Christ loved us. The new covenant was given by Christ to the apostles and through them to all who believe in Christ (BCP, pp. 850-851).

The new covenant may be contrasted with the old covenant of God and the people of Israel. The old covenant was associated with law. However, Jeremiah (31:31-34) prophesied a coming time when God would "make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah." This prophecy was recalled in the NT (Heb 8:6-13). The new covenant is associated with the gospel and the love of Christ that we are to share. The old covenant may be understood as preparing for or prefiguring the new covenant. God's covenant with Abraham was understood by Christians to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16-18). A collect at the Easter Vigil (following the reading from Ez 36:24-28) recalls that God "established the new covenant of reconciliation" in the Paschal mystery (BCP, p. 290). At the Last Supper, Jesus identified the cup of wine with "the new covenant in my blood" (1 Cor 11:25; see Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This identification of the wine, Jesus' self-offering of his life, and the new covenant is reflected in the institution narratives of Eucharistic Prayers A, B, C, and D in Rite 2, as well as Eucharistic Prayer II of Rite 1 (see BCP, pp. 363, 368, 371, 374, 342). Bishops are called to celebrate and provide for the administration of the sacraments of the new covenant (BCP, p. 517). Similarly, priests are to minister the sacraments of the new covenant so that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received (BCP, p. 532). The term "new covenant" has occasionally been used to indicate the New Testament.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.