Covenants

Review – The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology (Volume I – Old Testament Expectation)

Review: The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology (Volume I – Old Testament Expectation) by Paul Martin Henebury, Maitland, Florida: Xulon Press Elite, 467 pages; reviewed by Ed Vasicek

This is a brilliant, straightforward analysis of the nature of the Old Testament Covenants and their continuity throughout the Old Testament, including its latter portions. The author offers compelling evidence that the purpose of the covenants was clarity, not obscurity. He argues that the covenants should be interpreted in straightforward ways and understood as originally presented, with no future changes-of-definition allowed. When it comes to the covenants, God’s very faithfulness is on the line.

Henebury argues convincingly that the covenants are foundational to our interpretation of the rest of Scripture, and are the subject of constant appeal and rehearsal throughout the Bible (but in this volume, the author focus more so upon the Old Testament with only occasional treks to the New).

The author sees six covenants, covenants which are not assumed or interpolated, but stated in Scripture. They include the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Priestly Covenant (with Phineas), the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.

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Does Romans 4:13 Universalize Israel’s Land Promises?

Masada National Park

Romans 4:13 has become a hotly debated verse lately between those who believe in a literal future fulfillment of Israel’s land promises and those who do not. Here Paul declares:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:13).

Much discussion involves what Paul means when he says Abraham is “heir of the world.” Some non-dispensational scholars see this verse as evidence that Israel’s land promises in the Old Testament have been universalized in such a way that there is no longer an expectation of fulfillment of particular land promises for national Israel. Thus, Romans 4:13 allegedly transcends the Old Testament expectation of the land promises to Israel. Theologians such as N.T. Wright and Gary Burge, along with others, have promoted this view. Concerning Romans 4:13 Burge says,

The formula that linked Abraham to Jewish ethnic lineage and the right to possess the land has now been overturned in Christ. Paul’s Christian theology links Abraham to children of faith, and to them belongs God’s full domain, namely, the world” (Gary Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology, 86). (emphasis mine).

N.T. Wright declares:

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 2

A view of the Valley of Jezreel as seen from Mt. Carmel

Read the series.

The Old Testament gives us a picture of a coming great Deliverer who will one day defeat the serpent and break his power (Gen. 3:15). We have seen that this prophetic picture is quite extensive, providing one puts the pieces of the “Scepter,” the “Star,” the son of David, the despised substitute Sufferer, the Branch, the donkey Rider, the Messiah, etc. together in one person. This portrait of the coming King of the Earth, who reigns in Jerusalem, is there so that He can be identified when He appears. And when He is identified through these prophecies it will eventually be seen that the Old Testament was spot on. The only question in light of for example, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12 would seem to be, when would His own people recognize Him? This problem deepens because of the perceived mismatch between the victorious Ruler and the suffering Servant referred to above.

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On Splitting Covenants

"Christians are not under 'the law,' nor are they under 'part of the law.' This is no major loss, for we have the Law of Christ as our directive, a law operational on the basis of grace and the indwelling ministry of the Spirit. As far as splitting the New Covenant, the New Covenant is specifically directed to Israel, not the church." - Matt Postiff

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 1

A view of the Valley of Jezreel as seen from Mt. Carmel

From the forthcoming book The Words of the Covenant: Old Testament Expectation. Read the series.

If one surveys the contents of the Old Testament with both eyes upon the divine covenants, what one comes away with is a massive sense of expectation. The simply-worded Creation chapter (Gen. 1) displays a purpose and goal for the world which God is moving forward. The simplicity of the wording conveys an important hermeneutical truth; that what God does is directly in line with what He says (i.e. God’s words equal God’s actions). This can be tested in numerous points throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Gen. 1:3, 6-7, 11-12, 26-31; 6:7-13; 11:7-9; 2 Ki. 1:3-4, 16-17; 5:10, 14; Dan. 4:16, 25, 32-33).

This movement towards a goal is seemingly interrupted by the calamitous fall of our first parents and the autonomous thinking that it brought about. While seeming innocuous, this default of naive independence from the authority of God and His words has led mankind to every false notion and violent act in our bloody history. It has also caused God’s people to recalibrate what God has said by passing it through the apparatus of independent interpretation. In the long term this is what is chiefly responsible for the varied schools of thought in Christian theology. But in the Hebrew Bible it was a major cause, through reevaluation of God’s word, for Israel’s defection.

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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 9)

Read the series.

Having come to a conclusion about the foremost question in the debate about the range of the New Covenant and its connection to Jesus Christ, I want to spread out before the reader my reasons for identifying Him with the NC. These reasons are roughly, exegetical, theological, and devotional. I see no need to go back over the arguments for Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, 2 Corinthians 3, and the the Book of Hebrews (although I shall look into Heb. 9:16-17). However, I will provide a summary of the teaching of these passages as I interpret them, and add several further thoughts.

Some Exegetical Arguments

In Luke 22:19-20 our Lord first refers to His body:

This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. (Lk. 22:19)

The body of Christ was broken for the disciples, but who believes that it was broken for them only? As Paul says, it was broken also for all Christians. It is not called “the body of the New Covenant,” so there is no division of His body between supposed NC saints and non-NC saints. Then we come to the cup:

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Lk. 22:20)

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