New Covenant

Tuesdays in Galilee: Faithful Life in the Old Covenant

I love the Book of Hebrews. It has the deepest Christology in the New Testament and in all of scripture. It also makes us think very deeply about the similarities and differences for the faithful believing life between the Old Covenant and the New. This very issue has come up repeatedly over the past few weeks within my own congregation, as we’ve worked our way through the heart of the “Jesus is the different, better High Priest” section which begins at Hebrews 7. Because the benefits Jesus brings to the faithful covenant member are so much better, people naturally want to know what was so different about one’s relationship with the Lord before Jesus came.

So, people ask questions. They want to know about salvation. They know it wasn’t “by works,” but so often people don’t really know any more than that. They want to know about obedience—why did people obey God, back then? Fear or love? People ask about atonement—was it about getting back a salvation lost, or about maintaining a ruptured relationship that still existed? What’s “new” about this New Covenant?

As every astute interpreter knows, these are weighty questions. Hard questions. If you’re a dispensationalist of any flavor, I submit they’re even harder. More specifically, the more you fancy discontinuity in your system, the harder these questions will be to explain without lots of charts. This short article outlines how I answered some of these questions just this morning.

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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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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 9)

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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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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 7)

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Is Christ’s Blood Divided?

I want to begin with two more quotes from Beacham. I should say first that I think his article is an excellent presentation of Option 1. On page 22 of his paper he states:

The soteriological benefits that Israel experiences at the ratification of the New Covenant are not exclusive either to Israel or to the New Covenant. Many people,
throughout human history, have experienced spiritual blessings like those promised to Israel under the New Covenant. Their spiritual experience, however, neither originates in the New Covenant, nor places them under the New Covenant. Salvation is trans-historical and offered to all who believe. The New Covenant is eschatological and offered to Israel alone. (The Church Has No Legal Relationship to or Participation in the New Covenant, 22)

Every system has to account for the salvation of sinners before Christ, and who would disagree with the sentiment that “Salvation is trans-historical and offered to all who believe“? The issue is concentrated on the form in which that salvation takes. Beacham holds that “The New Covenant is eschatological and offered to Israel alone.” He states:

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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 6)

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Gentiles and Their Connection to the New Covenant

What has proven to be a thorny issue for Dispensationalists is the relation of the Church/Gentiles to the New Covenant. Since the only explicit NC text in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (repeated in Hebrews 8) identifies Israel and Judah as parties to the NC with God, the contention is that the Church is associated with the NC in a less direct way, or perhaps not connected at all! This brings us back to Mike Vlach’s list which we reproduced in Part One.

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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 5)

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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.

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