Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The New Covenant – Security in Christ.

Even a casual read of the Bible reveals the presence of covenants. One of our old Baptist brothers, C. H. Spurgeon, had this to say about the importance of understanding the covenants of Scripture:

The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. ... I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace.

We see several covenants in the Bible, with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. There are two that are heavily contrasted in Scripture, the ones mentioned by Spurgeon, which Scripture calls the Old and New Covenants. And there is another covenant, which I nickname the covenant of death. Adam was told he would die if he ate from the tree in the middle of the garden. He ate. He died spiritually that day and Gen 3:17 tells us the earth, the entire planet, was cursed on his account. And the Spirit spoke through Paul to tell us how this affects us: For as by a man came death … in Adam all die … (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Whether Jew or Gentile, with Moses or without, all men share in death because all sinned in Adam and in themselves. We need a rescuer!

In addition to covenants, another basic aspect of the Bible is often lost on us, hampering our proper understanding of Scripture. This element is the Jewish nature of the Bible. During the time of Christ and the apostles, the biblical world basically revolved around national Israel and their corporate blindness towards and ignorance of the oracles of God that had been entrusted to them. While a few Hebrews in each generation were believers, the nation at large was unbelieving. Not only did they not get the message of their Messiah, they had an even more difficult time comprehending He would bring the kingdom to Gentiles! So much of what we will see in Scripture is the New Covenant contrasted with the Old - that umbrella which incorporated the covenant of circumcision, and the Mosaic and Davidic covenants. This was to make the case of the New Covenant clear for the Jews.

But it has caused confusion for us Gentiles as well. For many Christians have been led to believe that everyone, Jew and Gentile, is in the Old Covenant until and unless God brings them into the New. But the Old Covenant was ever and only given to national Israel. And when the New Covenant came, the Old became like a worn-out garment, and was being rolled up to be disposed of. By the time Jerusalem fell in AD 70, the last remnant of the Old Covenant was finished; no longer in effect. Since then, and until the end of the age, all people are spiritually dead in Adam until and unless they are made alive in Christ (Romans 5). Paul teaches us in Romans 2 that Gentiles are without the Law of Moses but are a law unto themselves (what I term God's universal law), convicted and excused by their consciences as they try to reconcile their sin with their innate, unsaving knowledge of God.

The New Covenant stands as the answer to everything that is wrong, it is God’s final Word on making all things right. The glory of being in Christ Jesus is revealed in this covenant, which binds Christ and His church together, providing redemption and eternal salvation for sinners. The sign of the New Covenant is circumcision not made with human hands followed by water baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). The Lord's Supper is another sign within this covenant, reminding us of its Author and His return (1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus is a better prophet than Moses and is more faithful than the first Adam.

The book of Hebrews is a sermon preaching the essentials of the faith to Christian Jews, as there were rumors that some were considering a return to what they were comfortable with. In chapters 7-9 the New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant, so they would see it more accurately. Chapter 9:1 even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. What follows is a description of the tabernacle of the Hebrew religion, featuring lampstands, a table and bread, the Most Holy Place with the ark of the Mosaic covenant containing the tablets of testimony, the golden vial of manna, and Aaron's staff. Levitical priests ever making sacrifices that would cover sin for a time but never able to take away sin. All of these forms of worship are summed up in verse 9 as symbolic for that age and “imposed until the time of reformation” (verse 10). There will be no re-institution of those types and symbols as the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was sufficient, satisfying God the Father and finishing the redemptive work announced in Genesis 3:15; bringing that time of reformation.

when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-12 & 15)

The differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are further clarified:

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:23-28)

The Old Covenant conferred earthly blessings in the promised land; the New Covenant confers heavenly blessings and eternal life. My friend, Jeff Johnson, tells us, “the law written on stone can never change the heart of stone.”

In writing to a mixed crowd of Jews and Gentiles in the church, Paul also contrasted Old and New. Romans 8:1-2: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. What is this “law of sin and death”? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:3 & 5-11: And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. The Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, specifically, is the law of sin and death mentioned in Romans 8, signified by the tablets of stone which sit in the ark of that Covenant, lost in time according to God’s will (Jeremiah 3:15 & 16). It has been ended, rolled up as a worn out garment (Hebrews 8:13).

There can be no greater contrast than what our Creator has provided through His apostle to the Gentiles. Consistently, the Old Covenant is described as stone, slavery, death, condemnation, and being worn out; for it, in all of its individual covenants, requires perfect obedience that no mortal man can deliver and yields salvation to no man. This covenant is contrasted with the New Covenant, described as flesh, liberty, life, righteousness, and eternal; delivered to the saints of God by the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus, yielding His righteousness to all His chosen people. In Gal 4, the Old Covenant is described as slavery, contrasted with the New Covenant which is described as freedom. We may wonder why any believing Jews would consider returning to the shadows of the Old Covenant - but we ought to wonder more why modern evangelicals would want us to be burdened by that yoke which no man can bear. This was the judgment of the apostles in Acts 15, when the Judaizing Christians, who demanded Gentiles be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, were brought to the first church council to settle this hash. Peter addresses these men, reminding them of how those outside Israel were saved by grace - with no distinction in this regard between Jew and Gentile. Then he asked, Acts 15:10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? In contrast, we hear from Christ that His yoke is easy and John tells us His commands are not burdensome. Rather than the Law of Moses, we live under - as Paul mentioned Sunday - the royal law, the law of liberty, the perfect law, the law of the Spirit, the law of Christ! No condemnation of the Law of Moses, no condemnation of God's universal law. Peace with God, by the blood of Christ - which He shed to cut the New Covenant.

There can be no greater hope, no greater joy, no greater peace, no greater salvation than what Christ Jesus provides for the redeemed in the New Covenant. We are complete in Christ, fulfilled in Him (Colossians 2:10). We have no other argument, we need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me and for thee! How can we not praise His name!

The Old Covenant was summed up on stone tablets and kept in the Ark of the Covenant as a reminder of all that God had communicated to Israel through Moses; the New Covenant law is written on the soul of each member; each will know the Lord, having been regenerated and indwelt by God's Spirit. The Old Covenant was broken by the ongoing disobedience of Israel; the New Covenant cannot be broken because God the Son mediates it (Hebrews 9:15) and keeps us (John 10:27-30). The sins of Israel were brought up to them time and time again, with petitions from many prophets for them to repent; yet they did not because they could not; and God divorced her (Jeremiah 3:8). The sins of New Jerusalem, the redeemed saints within the New Covenant, are forgiven in Christ and God promises to remember them no more (Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12)! Contrary to popular conventional wisdom, God does not forget our sins. He chose to not remember them. To forget something is symptomatic of flawed recall, something one cannot rightly attribute to God. The proper view of this is to take it as written, in the context of seeing God for Who He is: perfect and without flaws; able to not remember something. You and I can try to forget something, but such memories often return to our minds. God is not like this. When He chooses to not remember something, He does not allow that thing to come to His mind. He is perfect.

With the New Covenant comes the fulfillment of the types and shadows. The universal body of Christ, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is the true Israel of God (Romans 2:28-29; 9:6; Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9-10). James, writing to Christians, calls them the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (James. 1:1). Paul taught that all who believe in Christ are the true sons of Abraham (Romans 4:11-17; Galatians 3:7); that the middle wall of partition has been removed by Christ; and that the believing Jews and Gentiles are one body (Ephesians 2:14ff.). The universal church (all the called-out ones) of Christ is one spiritual building (Ephesians 2:20-22), one bride (Ephesians 5:22 & 32; Revelation 21:9ff.), and the New Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12; 21:1 & 2; 21:9-11).

The veil that covers the eyes of the unregenerate was typified by the temple veil that kept the world out of the Holy place where God met with His Levitical priests. The rending of the temple veil by God symbolizes the lifting of the veil on those who have died to self and been resurrected to new life in Christ; no longer separated from Holy God, no longer part of the world. When the antitype comes, the types must go – just as John recognized that Christ must increase and he would decrease.

The newness of the New Covenant cannot be overstated, as there are so many Christians who think it is not really new or interesting. But God is unchanging and He gave some Old Testament saints illumination on this topic. Jeremiah 31:31-34 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. they will all know Me, For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

John Reisinger shows in two short passages the similarities and the differences between the Old and New Covenants. The Old is conditional and is a type foretelling the New, which is unconditional (as far as mankind’s participation in each).

Exodus 19:5-6
1 Peter 2:9
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be
But you are [because Christ kept the covenant for us]
(1) my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me
(1) a chosen race, … a people for his own possession
(2) a kingdom of priests, and a
(2) a royal [kingly] priesthood,
(3) holy nation.
(3) a holy nation

The nature of the New Covenant reflects the promise made to Abraham: in it are and will be people from every nation. In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free; these ethical and temporal distinctives have no more role in determining one’s status in the New Covenant than does the blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man (John 1:13).

The New Covenant is new; it’s not the Old Covenant with a “new administration” as some claim. The New Covenant shines with the glory of the finished work of Christ; it does not promise the future work of the Messiah yet to come. The New Covenant brings the fullness of Christ to every child of God; with the surety of our Lord as the guarantee that He will not forsake us. The New Covenant is where new creatures in Christ have been brought into fellowship with the Father. Without the New Covenant, we would still be under the condemnation of law and Adam’s sin as well as our own, waiting without hope. But praise God for His faithfulness! Christ has come and fulfilled ALL that the Law and the prophets demanded. And by His blood He has cut the New Covenant, bringing all the lost sheep into the fold of God.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (John 10:14-18)

The New Covenant provides God Himself as our shepherd, caring for us, tending to us, keeping us unto that great Day of Judgment where He will serve as our advocate. The New Covenant gives us the fullness of Christ Jesus, in Whom we have every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3)! We can trust Him for He is faithful to Himself. We trust our souls to the only wise God, the judge and the justifier, Who is truly God and truly sovereign over time and space.

It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish. Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things, and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the LORD of hosts is his name. (Jeremiah 10:12-16)

If you are in Christ, He is sufficient and all glorious! Behold your God:

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle. Who is He, this King of glory? The LORD of Hosts, He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:8 & 10)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 21:5-6a)

This is the Lord we proclaim, the only One Who can do poor helpless sinners any good. If you do not know this King of glory, cry out to Him for mercy while you yet have breath. All things are ready – come and be reconciled to Christ Jesus. He really does save poor sinners.

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