Circumcision is part of the covenant process in the old testament, and is replaced by Paul’s spiritual interpretation of sacrifice in the new testament. I would have thought this covenant is different from the new covenant. I take it that Saint Paul still regards this covenant as relevant to Christians, it’s just he wants reinterpretation. I am therefore confused, as this leads me to think there are two covenants (the new covenant, and the covenant being reinterpreted) that should be taken to be Christian. Would you be so kind as to resolve this issue? If either of the covenant’s do need to be taken, how should they be formally done?

Thank you all so much.

As "I am planning on becoming a member of the Church of Scotland" I seek answers from those in that Protestant and Presbyterian 'stable'.

  • 1
    Welcome to C.SE. Different denominations and even different theologies within a Protestant tradition will give a different answer. The site policy is such that in order to have an objective answer, sometimes the OP needs to explicitly disambiguate the question by specifying a tradition/denomination, which is true in this case. Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 18:01
  • Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 18:04
  • Welcome to the site Stewart! We are incredibly happy to have you here. In order to get your question to fit community guidelines, I would recommend asking one specific question and scoping the question to a specific denomination.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 18:05
  • What are "sacraments of initiation"? I can't say I've ever encountered such things. The usually recognized sacraments are baptism, communion, and confession. (RCCs / Orthodox might add a few, maybe it's specific to one of those?)
    – Matthew
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 18:25
  • I am planning on becoming a member of the Church of Scotland. I have removed questions, so that only the core question remains. Thank you so much for the comments.
    – user58570
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 21:12

2 Answers 2


There is one everlasting 'covenant', Hebrews 13:20 and Isaiah 61:8, more properly called a 'Testament' (διαθήκή, diatheke, in Greek) as defined in Hebrews 9:16, which states that this testament has, by definition, a Testator (who is Jesus Christ).

This testament cannot come into force until the death of the Testator, Hebrews 9:16 and 17.

This everlasting testament is not an agreement between God and man, it is a testament in regard to the Father (whose 'commandment is everlasting life', John 12:50) and the Son. The beneficiaries of this testament are those 'chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world', Ephesians 1:4. They are 'chosen' they are 'called', Romans 8:30, they are 'born again', 1 Peter 3:23, 'born from above', John 3:7, 'born anew', Titus 3:5, 'born of water and of Spirit', John 3:5, and they are 'born of God', 1 John 3:9.

Called by the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:14, repenting of their own works, Hebrews 6:1, they believe the demonstration of God's righteousness, Romans 4:3, at Golgotha, upon his own Son, and - believing - they are justified by faith, Habakkuk 2:4. This is the new birth.

This is the 'New Testament in my blood' saith Jesus Christ, Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20.

There was a covenant made by God with Abraham and his seed : it was an agreement made in order to set forth, on earth, using artifacts and rituals and sacrifices : to set forth a demonstration of the everlasting testament.

These rituals could never take away sin, they could not purify the soul, they could not resolve the matter of sin entering into the world : it was a demonstration on earth which set forth that coming testament.

Once Jesus Christ came into the world, and accomplished redemption by the giving of himself, by his 'suffering for sins in his body on the tree', 1 Peter 2:24, by his 'being made sin', 2 Corinthians 5:21, and by the shedding, Hebrews 9:22, of his blood - once this was achieved, there was no further use for the old arrangement and it was abolished, Ephesians 2:15.

This passing away of the old covenant is very clear from even a cursory reading of the epistles of Paul to the saints at Rome and to the churches in Galatia.

The everlasting testament may be seen in passages of scripture involving Adam, Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and David. It is spoken of in the psalms and in the prophets.

Alongside that testimony of a coming testament, is the expression of the Law which mankind chose, in Adam, rather than choosing the tree of life, the word of life, the way of life.

But by repentance and by a new birth, many are brought into the New Testament, under the headship of Jesus Christ, and are brought out from under the old headship of Adam, Romans 5:12-21.

This is the New Testament, a testament of grace which leads to sanctification and glory, Psalm 84:11 and Romans 8:30.

A more full expression of this subject is available on my website (for which see my profile) where the book 'The Everlasting Testament' may be downloaded free of charge as a PDF file, without any registration, freely.

I was brought up in the Church of Scotland. My father, grandfather and great grandfather (and, later, my brother) were all Ministers in the Church of Scotland. I was baptised into the C of S at the age of five and I vividly remember the event.

Had I wished, with my family background, I could have had a career in the C of S but I chose to leave, in conscience, at the age of fifteen, and to be baptised as an adult.

I left because of what I saw to be modernism and liberalism in the C of S and I left because I sought real salvation and a real gospel and I could not find these things in the C of S at that time (in the late 1960s).

I now live in England and I do not have personal knowledge of the current state of the Church of Scotland.

  • I really appreciate the care you took in your answer. One issue is still bothering me though, why did St Paul offer a spiritual interpretation of the old covenant if it was already obsolete?
    – user58570
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 20:52
  • @Stewart I do not understand what you mean by 'spiritual interpretation of the old covenant'. Could you quote the text/passage to which you refer ? Prolonged discussion in comment is discouraged here, but you can always email me (see my website) or there is a 'chat' provision.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 7:38

It's not the old covenant reinterpreted. The old covenant served its purpose, then in came the new covenant. Paul did not offer a new interpretation of the old, but used what had been written about it centuries earlier to show the foretold change-over had taken place. This new covenant is not a reinterpretation of anything.

As you say that "I am planning on becoming a member of the Church of Scotland" I assume that you seek answers from those in that Protestant and Presbyterian 'stable'. I am a member of the Free Church of Scotland, which is also Presbyerian (and have added that point to your question in order to prevent it being removed).

The old covenant (in the Old Testament) was detailed in the writings of Moses. Yet before that was written down, God's covenant with Noah was understood to have its sign as the rainbow, and applied to every single person descended from Noah as being in that covenant, for all time to come. Then came God's covenant with Abraham, with circumcision as its sign. Eventually, we get to the covenant God made with the descendants of Abraham whom he delivered from Egypt. That covenant was formed at Mount Sinai - God requiring his people to keep their covenant obligations if they were to be blessed by him, and (again) circumcision of all males was the sign. It was a legal covenant, with laws that had to be obeyed.

Later, we read in the Old Testament of God's plan to introduce a new covenant:

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that 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, which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After these days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God. and they shall be my people. ...for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:31-34

The old covenant required the people to obey all the written laws which Moses presented to them, after God spoke with him on Mount Sinai, and after giving him tablets on stone, written by the finger of God. The written law shows us what the old covenant was all about. But it was never designed by God to save anyone from their sins! That is why he would later bring in a new covenant that was.

The old law covenant simply exposed all people as sinners unable to keep God's law. That is why the system of sacrifices is spoken of as being a continual reminder of their inability to keep God's law, as well as teaching them the holiness of God - that they needed a mediator to stand between them and God's righteous judgment of them. This is explained by the Christian writer of the letter to Hebrew Christians (not likely to be Paul.) Read this:

"[Christ] is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should have no place been sought for the second. [Then the writer quotes Jer.31:31-33.] ...In that he saith, 'A new covenant', he hath made the first old. Now that which is decayed and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

"...But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands... neither by the blood of bulls of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us... For this cause he is the mediator of of the new testament." (Hebrews 8:6-13 & 9:1-28)

'Testament' is an old-fashioned word for 'covenant'. Now check out all these new testament [covenant] scripture texts (not all of them written by Paul.)

"You could not be justified by the law of Moses" Acts 13:39. "By deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified" Rom. 3:20. "For if they which are of the law be heirs [of God and Christ], faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect, because the law worketh wrath" Rom. 4:14-25. "For you are not under the law but under grace" Rom. 6:14. "Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ. ...For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death" Rom. 7:4-5. "For Christ is the end of the law [to Christian believers] Rom.10:4. "A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ: ...for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified... for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" Gal. 2:16-21. "But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law" Gal. 5:18. "For whosover shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" James 2:10.

There are dozens more texts I could cite, all showing that now Christ has come and given the one perfect sacrifice for sin, the law of faith (Rom. 3:27 & 31) is what Christians are under, not the old written law that embodied the old covenant. This is what achieves fulfilment of the prophecy about the new covenant in Jeremiah 31.

Sadly, many people fall between two stools here, because they think they must still do things to show they are worthy of salvation, or at least, to be able to contribute a little bit towards it. They have failed to grasp the immensity of the new covenant, which has replaced the old covenant.

So, no, Paul does not "still regard this covenant as relevant to Christians, it’s just he wants reinterpretation" as you think (in your points after your question). That old covenant was nailed to Christ's cross, at his death (Col. 2:14). That was how it was symbolically taken away. That old covenant handwriting of ordinances of the old covenant was "a shadow of things to come" (vs. 17). Now we have the reality - Christ and the new covenant.

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    "Sadly, many people [...] think they must still do things to show they are worthy of salvation" — hear, hear! The Gospel, and Paul particularly, clearly teaches otherwise (n.b. Ephesians 2:8-9), yet many Christians make the same mistake as man-made religions by trying to add works to the equation. (Take note of the points about the OT; no works are sufficient!) I'd upvote just for this bit, but it's also a good overall answer; +1!
    – Matthew
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 14:52

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