By Eric V. Snow


            Should the old covenant be seen as more or less identical to the law?  Or, are the two


substantially different entities altogether?[1]  One of the foundational fallacies of the teachings of


the Worldwide Church of God concerning abolition of the Sabbath is about how it equates the


old covenant and the law.


            Pasadena has defined "covenant" the way a dictionary would:  "We can start by defining 


the word covenant.  In simple terms, a covenant is a formal agreement.  It can be an agreement


between two people, a treaty between nations, or a relationship between God and a human


individual or nation."[2]  However, in the course of argumentation, a truly CRUCIAL term switch


(equivocation) occurs.  Pasadena then says that the law and the old covenant are the same,


thereby confusing what the agreement (contract) was about with the agreement itself:


            The Ten Commandments were the words of the covenant. . . . The Ten Commandments formed the core of the Sinaitic, or old covenant, but the covenant also included all of Exodus 20-24. . . . The old covenant, as a package of laws regulating a relationship between God and his people, is obsolete. . . . This "setting aside" is not just talking about Levitical and sacrificial laws that were added to the old covenant--it is talking about the old covenant itself.  The whole package was set aside and replaced by Christ.[3]


David Albert also expressed this viewpoint succinctly and clearly: 


            I didn=t know and nobody had ever taught me in my 35 years in the Church that the Ten Commandments were the old covenant, as is to clearly stated in Ex. 34:28 and again in Deuteronomy 4:13.  I see now that we were ignorant about such basics as how God in his Word defines the old covenant--namely, by the Ten Commandments and vice versa.  Nobody ever taught me the truth and the sweeping implications of these two vitally important verses.[4]


The importance of this issue can=t be stressed enough.  For it was the most important argument


in Mr. Tkach=s three hour sermon that first announced the Anew covenant@ changes that would


abolish the Sabbath, tithing, and the holy days.


            Here it shall be maintained that the Ten Commandments, and indeed all the laws God


gave to Israel, are not the same thing as the old covenant.  By itself, the old covenant was a


contract between God and Israel in which the latter made a generic promise of obedience in


return for material (not spiritual) national blessings.  (Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 describe the physical


promises, and won't be the focus of this analysis).  Now, the Ten Commandments are called a


"covenant" in Deut. 4:13; 9:9-11; I Kings 8:9,21.  But is this covenant the same covenant as the


old covenant?  No--instead, actually two covenants were made with Israel in Ex. 19-24, one of


which was the Ten Commandments, the other which is the old covenant in which God made


Israel His chosen people with various (material) blessings in exchange for their promise of


obedience.  But--how do we know they are different covenants?


            Evidence that these covenants are different is found in how Paul's descriptions of the Ten


Commandments or the law don't fit those made about the old covenant.  For example, the author


of Hebrews (8:6-7) said about the old covenant:  "But now He has obtained a more excellent


ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, WHICH HAS BEEN


ENACTED,[5]  on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have


been no occasion sought for a second."  Consider carefully as you read through the Ten


Commandments:  Can you find anything wrong or weak with their promises?  Paul quotes the


fifth commandment in Eph. 6:1-3, inserting the parenthetical thought "(which is the first


commandment with a promise)" concerning its statement, "that it may be well with you, and that


you may live long on the earth."  Now, what's wrong with that promise?  Don't the meek inherit


the earth (Matt. 5:5) for life evermore?  As Walker put it:  "It is scripturally impossible for the


Ten Commandments to be the old covenant, for there are no defective promises found therein."[6]


This text also implies Paul thought individual parts of the Ten Commandments were still


binding, when he so-matter-of-factly cites the fifth one.


            Consider--the old covenant wasn't "faultless" (Heb. 8:7).  Do the Ten Commandments


have any faults in them?  Would you dare call something written by the finger of God (Ex.


31:18) and thundered aloud by His own voice (Ex. 19:11-12, 19-20; 20:1; Deut. 5:4-5, 22-27;


9:10) defective or faulty? Ps. 19:7 says:  "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul." 


James 1:25 says:  "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by


it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what


he does." In Romans 7:12, Paul maintains:  "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is


holy and righteous and good."  Could such a law be faulty as well if it is "perfect," "holy,"


"righteous," and "good"?  Can you honestly maintain these descriptions of the Ten


Commandments or the law fit the old covenant?  (Remember, Paul had just quoted the tenth


commandment in Rom. 7:7, so this should be the "law" he has in mind in v. 12).  God found fault


with the people of  Israel (Heb. 8:8), not His law itself, because they tried to obey it by human


effort.  For the basic flaw of the old covenant lies not in the law Israel was supposed to obey in


its contract with God, but in them trying to do it without God's Holy Spirit to aid them in their




            The old covenant now no longer exists, which is what Heb. 8:13 really says:  "When He


said, 'A new covenant,' He had made the first obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and


growing old is ready to disappear."  But does God's law continue to exist?  James thinks so (2:10-


11):  "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of


all.  For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.'  Now if you


do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law." 


Paul also thinks so in Romans 7:7-8:  "What shall we say then?  Is the Law sin?  May it never be!


On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not


have known about coveting [i.e as a sin] if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'  But sin,


taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart


from the Law sin is dead [i.e. doesn't exist]."  Hence, the law couldn't be the same thing as the


old covenant since one still exists and the other doesn't.  Similarly, if the law was substantially


identical to the old covenant, then one could insert into Romans 3:31 "old covenant" where "law"


appears, and it would make sense:  "Do we then nullify the (old covenant) through faith?  May it


never be!  On the contrary, we establish the (old covenant)."  The absurdity of saying the law and


the old covenant are substantially one and the same is evident.


            Now the giving of the law is implied to be different from the covenants in Romans 9:4: 


"(W)ho are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and


the giving of the law and the temple service and the promises."  Implicitly, the law is not made


identical to the covenants (plural) mentioned since it is listed separately from them.  The old


covenant wasn't the law itself, but it was made "concerning all these words" (Ex. 24:8, KJV) of


God's law in written form.  A similar distinction exists in Ex. 34:27-28 in which the covenant


between God and Israel is different from the Ten Commandments:  "And the Lord said to Moses,


'Write these words, for after the purpose and character of these words I have made a covenant

with you and with Israel'" (v. 27, Amplified).  "It was not the law itself but over the keeping of


the law--'the tenor of the words'--that the Old Covenant was made.@[7]  Moses called the golden


calf Israel worshipped "your sin, the calf which you had made," yet this wasn't the sin itself 


(compare I Cor. 10:19).  "In the same way the Old Covenant was not the law, but it was


concerning the law.  Thus it is called the covenant." Again, we have more reasons to doubt the


view the law and the old covenant are basically identical.


            Another way to look at the relationship between the old covenant and the Ten


Commandments is to see the latter as the basis for the former.[8]  For the failure of Israel to obey


God (i.e., uphold its part of the contract) doesn't make its basis cease to exist, since the contract


is about or concerns the basis, but isn't it itself.  The old covenant was not a law, but an


agreement to keep the law.  And Israel failed miserably in keeping this law, and failed to uphold


its part of the covenant.  For God found "fault with them" (Heb. 8:8), that is, the people, not his


perfect law (Ps. 19:17; James 1:25).  The basic flaw with the old covenant was on the human end


(trying to obey without spiritual help), not God's (concerning His law).   It=s incorrect to say the


law, sacrificial or moral, was the old covenant, as opposed to saying it was about, concerning, or


was the basis for, Israel's general promise to obey in return for material national blessings.


            Hence, the teaching of the Worldwide Church of God that the Ten Commandments are


basically the same thing as the old covenant is incorrect.  Therefore, one can=t argue that the


end of the old covenant abolishes the Sabbath, the Holy Days, or tithing.  For after all, if God


says (Heb. 8:10), AI will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts,@


how does that abolish the law, as opposed to making it more binding?  Therefore, the end of the


old covenant and the establishment of the new, far from abolishing these laws, allows them to be written on our hearts.

     [1]This whole line of  ultimately reasoning comes from a truly brilliant SDA book by Allen Walker called The Law and the Sabbath. Its chief value lies in how it refutes this crucial argument of Pasadena=s, which Dr. Bacchiocchi=s works don=t appear to deal with.  For this argument was at the core of the arguments Brinsmead made in his Verdict articles and Ratzlaff made in Sabbath in Crisis.  It can be ordered for $6.95 plus $2 postage from:  Amazing Facts, P.O. Box 680, Frederick, MD  21705-0680.

    [2]Joseph W. Tkach, APersonal ,@  Worldwide News,  p. 1.

    [3]Ibid., pp. 2-3.

     [4]David Albert, AHow I Came to Understand the New Covenant,@ WWN, June 20, 1995, p. 5.


    [5]Those who may still deny Christians are under the new covenant now, saying it begins at the second coming, should carefully ponder that past tense! 

    [6]Walker, The Law and the Sabbath, p. 185.

    [7]Joe Crews, Answers to Difficult Bible Texts, p. 9.

    [8]J.L.Tucker, Another Look At The Christian Sabbath, p. 73.