To get the clearest picture of the word of God in the Scriptures it is absolutely necessary and essential that we discern between the “Old” Testament and the “New” Testament. Without discerning between the old and the new, we have to ignore the names given to each testament. Many combine the two covenants (testaments), and try to obey all the commands in the entire Bible. There are obvious problems such as the commandments to offer animal sacrifices. Then there is a command to go to Jerusalem three times a year for the three feasts. No Christian takes any of these commandments seriously because they have been nailed to the cross and do not apply to us today.

The Old Testament was not given until God formed the physical nation of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea. Now free from Egypt’s control, they had no national law to govern their new nation. God then gave 613 commandments to govern the nation. Most of these commandments (368) were negative to stop the Israelites from doing wrong. Another 268 commandments were given to direct Israelites and what they should do. These commandments included Temple worship and worship of God.

The New Testament was given to govern the spiritual kingdom of God. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles all taught that the kingdom was at hand. Jesus promised that that kingdom would come in the lifetime of some of those standing in front of him as he taught. The Lord promised that the kingdom would come with power. That power came on the day of Pentecost when the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit, given power to speak in tongues, to lay their hands on others and give them the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-19). From that point the kingdom of God had come in the spiritual nation of Israel was established. The rest of the New Testament is to govern that new spiritual nation of Israel.

The Old and New Testaments are also called the old and new covenants according to Hebrews 8:7-10. We all know what a covenant is. If one party does not keep their part of the covenant, the other is not obligated to keep his part of the covenant. This is exactly what the Lord said concerning Old Testament Israel. In Hebrews 8:9, he points out that the Israelites were not careful to keep their part of the covenant, and so he no longer regarded them. He made many promises, especially in Deuteronomy 28 that he would fulfill if they would keep this entire covenant.

The Israelites thought that they were keeping God’s covenant, and search the Scriptures to find eternal life (John 5:39). Jesus himself testified that the Pharisees gave their tithe or ten percent (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees did keep the Sabbath and condemned Jesus for not keeping it. Most of the Jews kept the Passover where we find many of the Jews from all over the world gathered in the second chapter of Acts when Peter preached the first gospel sermon. The Israelites also obeyed several other commandments, but Jesus testified that none of them kept the Law that Moses gave (John 7:39). In Matthew 15 Jesus pointed out that the Jews added many words to the old covenant, which caused them not to obey some of the commands of God (Matt. 15:4-6). God had commanded the Israelites not to add to or to diminish any of his commandments so that they would keep all of them (Deut. 4:2).

As we pointed out previously, we all know that all the conditions of the covenant must be kept or the covenant is void. The Lord argued in Galatians 3:15, that men respected each other’s covenants (wills), and did not change anything. The new covenant is God’s “will,” which the Lord makes clear in Hebrews 9:16-17, where he says “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” We all know that the conditions of any man’s will are to be followed in every detail. Should we have the same attitude or mind toward the Lord’s will?

In the “Great Commission,” the Lord commanded the apostles to teach the disciples they made to observe all things that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus challenged his disciples in Luke 6:46, saying: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

We all know that when any man makes a new covenant, he has made the first old, which naturally vanishes away. The Lord said the same thing concerning the Old Testament in Hebrews 8:13, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Should we acknowledge that Jesus nailed the handwriting of ordinances (10 Commandments) to his cross? Circumcision was a part of the old covenant. Today, if a man is circumcised to obey the Law of Moses, the Lord says that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal. 5:1-4). No man can have two masters. The Jews claimed that they were Moses disciples, and thus could not be Jesus disciples (John 9:28). They acknowledge that the previously blind man was Jesus disciple, and therefore could not be Moses’ disciple. If we try to keep two covenants we really fully confused.

Thus, it is necessary to see the difference between the old and the new covenants and between the Old and New Testaments. We need to continue in the new covenant (Heb. 8:9), listen to our master and Lord (Luke 6:46), and observe all that he commands us (Matt. 28:20).

Beth Johnson

Chennai Teacher Training School

Women’s Studies

Muliebral Viewpoint

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson




By the time we finish this study, we should know the characteristics of God’s two covenants with His chosen people. We should know the purpose behind His laws and the difference between how He deals with His people in the Old and New Testaments. 


The Old Testament was given to the Israelite nation after they left Egypt.

  • Law of Works
  • Circumcision
  • Physical Sacrifices
  • Cleansing of Flesh

The New Testament is for a spiritual nation—Christians.

  • Law of Faith
  • Circumcision of Heart
  • Spiritual Sacrifices
  • Cleansing of Heart
  • Belief in Jesus

OT-NT DIFFERENCES is a mini-course. By that you may understand that the lessons are not as long as they are in some other courses. However, the memory work (listed at the bottom of this introduction) should be studied regularly in order to learn those valuable facts.



Colossians 2:16-17—Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Hebrews 8:3-6—For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. 6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

Hebrews 10:1—For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

One should be able to see why it is important to study the Old Testament; it helps us better understand the New.