Read the series.
Putting Some More Passages Together
Deuteronomy 30 describes a time when God Himself will convert His people:
“If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.
Then the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deut. 30:4-5)
In this text we get the earliest example of a promise of inner transformation of a sinful people resulting in divine acceptance and blessing. This involves a change of heart and an obedient walk—indeed, a “circumcision of the heart.” This reminds one of Paul’s words in Colossians 2:11-14, especially verse 11 (“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.”)
Perhaps this is what Paul is referring to in Philippians 3:3 when he declares, “we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit”?
Isn’t this precisely what we see in Jeremiah 31:33, Isaiah 59:21 and Ezekiel 36:26-27? Deuteronomy 30 is a New Covenant passage, and is accepted as such by all authorities.
There are many scriptures that portray the Gentiles as seeking the Lord and being saved. Isaiah 11:10 declares, “the Gentiles shall seek Him.” Isaiah 60:3 says, “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (cf. Jer. 16:19). Malachi 1:11 speaks of the same thing:
“For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the LORD of host
When we recall the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 22:18 we should not be surprised at this. But wouldn’t it be odd for these blessings to be part of one covenant (the Abrahamic) but not be brought about by means of another covenant—the covenant that is Jesus? If “the iniquity of us all” was laid on Him (Isa. 53:6), what kind of theological alchemy is it that claims that some of the blood was New Covenant blood applied to Israel, while the rest of it was just blood that wrought salvation for the rest of us?
I realize that the reasoning is open to proper interrogation, but it is sound; if God is Yahweh (that is, the covenant God), and He is a God who makes covenants and steers history according to their course, and if He has designated His Son “a covenant to the people … a light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 42:6), why is it surprising to discover that Christ’s blood is covenant blood; New covenant blood?
With What Does Christ Sprinkle Many Nations?
Isaiah 52:15 declares “So shall He sprinkle many nations.” The verb translated “sprinkle” here is nazah, which bears an expiatory meaning. Christ will “sprinkle”the nations with what? With His blood (Col. 1:14, 20). His blood is “the blood of the New covenant” according to Jesus Himself (Mk. 14:24). There is no other blood that saves! It’s the blood of the New covenant or it’s damnation. This is why Paul can legitimately transfer the whole phrase over to his address to the Gentiles in Corinth without blinking an eye (1 Cor. 11:25).
We must not think that the Apostle is being clumsy in 1 Corinthians 11, and simply citing Jesus without removing the New covenant reference, since (we are told) it cannot refer to the Gentile believers. He shows in several other contexts that he is careful to quote only the part of a covenant that applies to his audience (e.g. in Rom. 4:1-5; Gal. 3:5-9).
Biblical Covenantalism, which is what I have dubbed my approach to biblical theology, takes pains to point out the central role of Jesus Christ in everything God does in his interaction with humans, especially the elect. As I have put it in another place:
This world is His and we are His; and all these things exist, in the first place, for Him. He is the judge of all of His creation and He shall rule over all of the creation. This world is of Him, for Him, by Him, to Him. If we’re going to have a scriptural doctrine of the Creation it will bear some correlation to Jesus Christ. I don’t say we must “find Him in it,” only that we must relate it to Him.
Colossians 1:15-17 is a bold statement about the greatness of Jesus. He really is at the center of God’s purposes for the world.
Then a few verses further he writes this:
[B]y Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20)
It is through the blood of Jesus that everything is reconciled to God; and it is New covenant blood! That is why I have taught that the New covenant provides the means for the other Divine covenants to be fulfilled to the letter—and those covenants dictate the program of God for this world.
Psalm 2:8 tells us that the nations will be given to Christ as an “inheritance.” We can hardly think that they will remain in defiance and unbelief. In fact, Psalm 22:27 distinctly says that,
All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
Jeremiah foretells a time when
And you shall swear, ‘The LORD lives,’
In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness;
The nations shall bless themselves in Him,
And in Him they shall glory. (Jer. 4:2)
The nations will turn to “Yahweh is Salvation”—to Jesus. They will glory in King Jesus. They will be bought by His blood.
Citing Isaiah 19, Michael Vlach demonstrates how,
[T]he people of God concept expands to include Gentiles alongside Israel who also exists as the people of God. (He Will Reign Forever, 164.)
Vlach takes care to distinguish the national identities of Israel and the other nations, but he has no hesitation in calling Christians “New Covenant Christians” later in his book (Ibid., 461). And no wonder, since we are also numbered as God’s people (cf. Acts 15:14).
Christ is a covenant; His blood is the blood of the New covenant; the New covenant is the only covenant that addresses salvation; Paul uses salvation terminology derived from OT New covenant passages and applies them to the Church; and He claims to be doing NC ministry while reminding the Church that the Lord’s Supper celebrates Christ’s “blood of the New covenant.”
So the arguments, some quite explicit, some circumstantial, are stacking up to show that Christians are indeed made parties to the New covenant. This could never have been revealed in the OT if what most Dispensationalists (rightly in my view) affirm to be the case that the Church is not mentioned there. But there is provision for the salvific element to enter into the Abrahamic promise to the nations. That provision allows for a progressive revelation of the New covenant to be made through the Gospel by the Apostolic proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.