Mormons tend to be confused about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. It’s important for those who want to minister well in Utah to understand how this topic of biblical theology fits within the framework of contextualizing the gospel for Mormons.
God’s Covenant with Abraham Was by Grace through Faith
Romans 4:1-5 summarizes the view of covenant grace that began not just with Christ, but with Abraham as early as Genesis 12! God’s relationship with humanity has always been one of grace and faith, yet many Mormons, while they are aware of OT stories, are unaware of this important biblical truth.
God’s Covenant with Israel through Moses Was for a Particular Purpose
The Mosaic Covenant was for ancient, national Israel and lasted from Moses to Christ. Its purposes were many, but one overlooked and crucial purpose was for Israel to be a light to the nations (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Leviticus 20:26). Israel’s holiness was not about superiority for superiority’s sake. Rather, their holiness was designed for them to be “priests” to the rest of the world, evidencing the God of Israel’s reality over and against the falseness of the world’s pagan, idol gods. The Old Covenant promised both blessings and curses for covenant obedience or disobedience (Deuteronomy 28; Leviticus 18:28; 26).
Jesus Instituted a Completely New Covenant
Jesus ushered in a new understanding of the mission of God to be carried out by Christ’s people—Christians. The New Testament assumes that we are blessed, that we have God the Spirit in us to guide us and illuminate our understanding to carry out God’s mission. We have this new covenant with God thanks to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The New Covenant in Jesus Replaces the Old Covenant of Moses
Hebrews 8:13 explains this view in a phrase:
When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.
Christians should not have a transactional view of God as many Mormons do, meaning that our relationship is based on transactions between us and God. That might look like this: If we do one thing, God is obligated to do what we want him to do. But we do not live holy lives to earn salvation or exaltation. Rather, we honor God with our lives by his very Spirit because of what he has already done for us through Christ.
[Related: An Animated Explanation of the Covenants]