By Eugene Garner
OF THE NEW COVENANT
Scripture Lesson: Hebrews 8:1-10:39; Gal. 3:13-20.
One would be very blind if unable to see a connection between the New Covenant and those already studied in this series of lessons. The prophets continually recognized the promises to Abraham and David as necessary to the fulfillment of the Messianic hope in Israel, (Micah 7:9;
Ezek. 16:60-63). These covenants are inseparably associated with the honor, privileges and glory of that age in which Messiah shall be the supreme "King of kings and Lord of lords."
Though new in form, this covenant is the same in substance with those that have preceded it. The central object of God's covenant-purpose in both Old and New Testaments is this: "I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
The New Covenant is both the continuation and glorious perfection of the covenant made long ago with Abraham, (Gal. 3:9-15; Rom. 4). Jesus Christ is the Seed
of Abraham. He is also the glorious David
Whom God has given as "a witness
to the people, a leader
to the people," (Isa. 55:3-5).
The posterity of Abraham fell into three general categories:
- THE PHYSICAL -- those who were his merely by fleshly descent (as Ishmael, Midian and Esau).
- THE PHYSICAL-SPIRITUAL -- his descendants after the flesh, but who also walk in the steps of his faith, (as Isaac, Jacob and the Israelitish nation).
- THE PURELY SPIRITUAL -- Christ, and those who, in Him, become the children of Abraham, (Rom. 4:11-12; Gal. 3:14).
It must be understood that the New Covenant, as the Abrahamic and Davidic, is limited and exclusive. It pertains to a special people who meet specific qualifications; only these are "accepted in the Beloved" into a position of covenant fellowship with God. The serious, unbiased student of the New Testament (covenant) can easily recognize that this covenant was established, in its initial form, with the people identified by Christ as "my church."
Nor may this be construed to mean all the saved.
It consists ONLY of such as love and obey Him -- openly identifying themselves with the humiliation of His death and the glory of His resurrection.
That section of our Bible which we call the New Testament -- consisting of 27 books -- is an elaboration on the New Covenant. Its first and primary application must be made to the New Testament church -- the church of which Jesus Christ is founder, head, lawgiver and sustainer. The blessings of this covenant are only for those who accept its responsibilities and meet its prescribed conditions.
I. CHRIST, AND THE NEW COVENANT.
- BY A LIFE OF PERFECT OBEDIENCE AND A SUBSTITUTIONARY DEATH FOR SIN, JESUS CHRIST BECAME "THE END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS" TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVES HIM, (Rom. 10:4).
- He fulfilled the requirements of the Mosaic law, (Matt. 5:17-18; Col. 2:13-15).
- He became the surety (assurance, guarantee) of a better covenant, (Heb. 7:22).
- To such as are believing Him, Jesus holds forth the promise of an eternal inheritance, (Heb. 9:15; 10:36; 11:39-40; Acts 20:32; Eph, 1:14; 5:5; Col. 1:12; 3:24; I Pet. 1:4).
- THE MOSAIC COVENANT BEING FULFILLED, JESUS CHRIST RENEWED THE COVENANT MADE TO ABRAHAM AND SEALED IT WITH HIS OWN BLOOD.
- Before the Abrahamic covenant could be fulfilled it became necessary that the law be added "because of transgression" until the "Seed" should come, (Gal. 3:16, 19).
- Christ, the Seed, came and fulfilled the requirements of the law -- nailing it to His cross.
- Confirmed "of God in Christ" before the law was given, the Abrahamic Covenant was not set aside at Mt. Sinai -- else the promise would have been broken, (Gal. 3:17).
- Now, reconciled in the body of Christ, Jew and Gentile together -- walking in the steps of Abraham's faith -- are "children of Abraham" and heirs together of the better promises contained in the New Covenant.
- But the faith-walk-obedience condition must not be ignored; it is both foolish and dangerous to claim the blessings without meeting the conditions or accepting the responsibility involved.
- JESUS IS BOTH THE SACRIFICE AND THE MEDIATOR OF THE NEW COVENANT, (John 1:29; I Cor. 5:7; Heb. 8:3; 9:14, 28; 8:6; 12:24).
- AS OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST, HE ENTERED INTO THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY -- THERE TO MAKE ATONEMENT FOR SIN WITH HIS OWN BLOOD, (Heb. 9:19-28; 10:12-14, 19; Contrast: Heb. 9:9; 10:1).
II. THE CHURCH, AND THE NEW COVENANT.
- THE CHURCH ESTABLISHED BY JESUS CHRIST, DURING HIS PERSONAL MINISTRY ON EARTH, IS CONSIDERED THE HOUSE, TEMPLE AND ISRAEL OF GOD IN THIS PRESENT AGE, (Mk. 13:34; I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:1-6, 12-14; Eph. 2:19-22; Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6-8).
- In the former age Israel alone was God's house; though many outside the covenant nation were saved, they were not considered a part of God's household, (as Jethro, Nebuchadnezzar, the Ninevites, etc.).
- Nor does membership in God's household belong to all the saved in this age; only to such as are circumcised in heart, and submitting themselves under Christ's authority.
- Requirements, in addition to the initial step of faith, must be met before one today can lay a rightful claim to this position.
- THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT (symbolized in the Lord's Supper) IS SOMETHING PROVIDED ONLY FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH, (Lk. 22:20; Acts 20:28).
- The Supper, when observed in obedience to the Lord's command, not only "shows forth His death till He comes again"; it also reminds the church of her exalted and blessed position in the sphere of His covenant grace.
- She is His BODY.
- She is His BELOVED.
- Symbolizing such glorious truth, the sanctity of the Supper must be carefully, even jealously guarded, (I Cor. 5:11, 7; 2 Cor. 11:2; Heb. 10:26-31).
- WATER BAPTISM (as administered by John the Baptist) SERVES AS AN OUTWARD SYMBOL OF THE NEW COVENANT RELATIONSHIP; IT IS PROPERLY ADMINISTERED ONLY AT THE HANDS OF A SCRIPTURAL, NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH.
- It involves an open, public declaration of one's identity with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection; in Him we died to the old way of life with all its affections and lusts, (Rom. 6:1-14; Gal. 5:24; 6:14).
- It involves a public declaration and pledge of one's intention to walk "in newness of life" with Christ -- no longer one's own, but His loving and devoted bondservant, (I Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 1:20; I Cor. 1:9; 15:58).
- IT WAS TO THE CHURCH, ESTABLISHED BY JESUS CHRIST DURING HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY, THAT THE COMMISSION OF DOING HIS WORK IN THIS AGE WAS GIVEN, (Matt. 28:18-20).
- She is to "disciple all nations" -- by testimony, stewardship, prayer and persuasion.
- She is to "baptize ... in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" those who "gladly receive the Word," (Acts 2:41).
- This symbolizes our death to the past.
- This is an initiatory act of obedience; here one transfers the title-deed of his life into the name of Christ -- pledging himself, henceforth, to be Christ's slave -- to love, adore, worship and serve Him forevermore.
- This involves an induction into the spiritual army of Jesus -- the company of the sanctified.
(1) Here we pledge our eternal allegiance and loyal service.
(2) Here we put on the proper uniform for the warfare that we must face.
(3) Here we become enchristed -- members of Christ's body on earth.
- She teaches baptized disciples how to observe (obey, keep) all that her Lord has commanded. Here is indoctrination in the rules of spiritual warfare.
- Revealing God's purpose and provision.
- Ascertaining individual responsibility.
- Emphasizing the necessity of absolute, unquestioning obedience to all that the Lord has commanded.
- She is assured that, as these conditions are met; as this pattern is followed explicitly, Christ will be with her "all the days, even unto the consummation of the age," (Matt. 28:20; I Jn. 3:1-3; Acts 18:9-10; Heb. 13:5-6; Matt. 13:39-43, 49; 24:3).
- THE LARGER PART OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (if not all) IS ADDRESSED TO SAINTS IN CHURCH FELLOWSHIP.
- The church -- Christ's intention for His people -- is the sphere of covenant-life in this age.
- Again, it must be emphasized, that apart from identity with Jesus Christ through faithful membership in a New Testament assembly, no one may legitimately lay claim to the blessings of the New Covenant.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF THE NEW COVENANT, (Heb. 7:22; 8:6).
- IT HAS CHRIST AS A BETTER MEDIATOR, (Deut. 34:10; Heb. 2:2; with Acts 7:53; Heb. 1:4; 3:3).
- A human mediator was necessary under the old economy, (Ex. 20:19).
- In Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, we have direct and immediate access to God -- a blessing that was not enjoyed while the law was in effect, (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16; 10:19-22).
- IT IS BUILT ON A BETTER SACRIFICE -- efficacious, instead of symbolic, (Heb. 9:23; 12:24; 10:10, 24).
- IT OFFERS A BETTER PRIESTHOOD, (Heb. 8:6; 7:7).
- Jesus Christ is the "High Priest over the house of God," the church.
- Every participant in the New Covenant has a priestly ministry.
- Offering sacrifices, (Rom. 12:1-2; 15:16; Mk. 12:32-33; Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6; I Pet. 2:5; Heb. 13:15-16).
- Interceding for others in prayer, (Rev. 8:3-4; I Tim. 2:1-4; Rom. 8:26-27).
- Being a blessing to others, (Gen. 12:2; Num. 6:23-27).
- Receiving the priestly portion, (Heb. 13:10; I Cor. 9:13).
- IT WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES, (Heb. 8:6b; 11:40).
- The promise of Divine sonship -- sharing the very nature of deity, (John 1:11-12; Matt. 5:44-45; 2 Pet. 1:2-4).
- The promise of joint-heirship with Christ to the fulness of joy and blessedness in the coming Kingdom of God, (Matt. 25:34-40; Rom. 8:17).
- All the promises that Christ has made to His church in the New Testament.
- IT HOLDS FORTH A BETTER HOPE -- of conformity to the image of Christ in glory, (Heb. 7:19; Rom. 8:29-30; Titus 2:13).
- IT PROVIDES FOR A BETTER RESURRECTION, (Heb. 11:35; Phil. 3:10-11; Rom. 8:17; 6:5).
- IT ASSURES A BETTER COUNTRY -- a new heaven and earth wherein righteousness is at home, (Heb. 11:13-16; Col. 3:1-3).
- IT PROMISES A CLOSER AND ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD, (Rev. 21:3-4; 22:3-5, 14).
IV. THE BLESSINGS OF THE NEW COVENANT.
- IT PROVIDES FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, (Jer. 31:34; Matt. 5:19; 26:28; Heb. 8:12; 10:15-18; Rom. 4:7-8; Acts 2:38; Mk. 1:4-5; Lk 24:47; 1:77).
- Sins that are remitted are loosed, sent away, and pictured as being cast behind God's back.
- Remission involves a consciousness of forgiveness (assurance) enabling one to come, with confidence and boldness, into the Holiest with God, (Heb. 4:16).
- Salvation and remission are not identical.
- Many were saved under the old economy.
- They did not, however, enjoy the blessing of remission.
- Instead of being freed from the consciousness of sin, every sacrifice and offering reminded them of their guilt.
- Had they known remission, the offering would have ceased; without a consciousness of sin-guiltiness the sacrifices and offerings would have been meaningless, (Heb. 10:1-3; 9:9).
- Abiding in Christ, we may rejoice in a blessedness known only by those to whom the Lord will not charge sin, (Rom. 4:7-8).
- This blessing should call forth such gratitude and love as to assure willing and faithful service to our covenant-keeping God.
- THE ABIDING HOLY SPIRIT ADMINISTERS THE NEW COVENANT IN THIS PRESENT AGE.
- Jesus promised to send the Spirit -- that His disciples not be left orphans, (John 14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:7-11).
- He commanded His church to "tarry in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high," (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8).
- On the Day of Pentecost the church was baptized in the Holy Spirit (figuratively, of course) -- anointed for spiritual service, (Acts 1:5; 2:1-21, 33; I Jn. 2:20-21, 27-28).
- The Spirit's work in behalf of the saints in this age is many-faceted.
- He brings us into a personal and experimental knowledge of God, (Matt. 11:27; Jn. 16:13-15).
- He writes the laws of God on our hearts, (Jer. 31:33; Rom. 2:13-15; 2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 10:15-17).
- He dwells within -- enabling us to fulfill God's will, (Jn. 14:16-17; Rom. 8:2-4, 26-27; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 5:16).
- He guides into all truth -- enabling us to discern spiritual things and to "rightly divide the word of truth," (Jn. 16:13; I Cor. 2:9-16; 2 Tim. 2:15).
- He will quicken our mortal bodies and fashion them for the Kingdom of God, (Rom. 8:11).
- Having finished the work of perfecting a people for the Lord, He will return the administration of the divine work on earth to Christ at His coming and Kingdom.
- But the Blessings of the Spirit will be increasingly more abundant in the age to come.
V. The Responsibilities of a New Covenant People. How should we live.
- IN A CORPORATE CAPACITY, AS DEPOSITARIES AND GUARDIANS OF THE TRUTH (I Tim. 3:15).
- AS A HOLY NATION AND ROYAL PRIESTHOOD SHOWING FORTH HIS PRAISE. (I Pet. 2:9).
- AS LIVING WITNESSES OF CHRIST'S PERFECTIONS, (Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 3:1-3),
- AS CHRIST'S AMBASSADORS IN AN ANTAGONISTIC WORLD, (2 Cor. 5:20).
- AS A LIVING EXHIBITION OF THE INCARNATE WORD OF LIFE, (Phil. 2:16).
- AS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, (Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:15; Rev. 1:12-13; 2 Cor. 3:18).
No brief study of the New Covenant can ever convey an adequate idea of the divine grace bestowed on those exalted to a position of covenant fellowship with God. What the church has experienced, on Pentecost and since, is a mere sample of that yet to come. Thus far we have seen only the "first fruits of the Spirit" -- the "early rain" that comes at the time of sowing, (Jas. 5:7-8; Eph. 1:13). The "latter rain" is yet future -- when the fullness of the, Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh at the harvest, the day of redemption, and the manifestation of the sons of God, (Isa. 32:15-18; Joel 2:28-3:2; Zech. 12:10).
The full realization of the New Covenant is yet future. Israel, after the flesh, (cut off because of unbelief) must first be brought back into the covenant, (Rom. 11:25-36). If their being cast aside has permitted men of all nations to be reconciled to God, and to enjoy covenant blessings; what glorious things may be expected when they are restored, (Rom. 11:15)? Peter can only refer to this redemption as a time of restitution and refreshing from the presence of the Lord, (Acts 3:19-21).
In view of God's great mercies, may we devote ourselves to a walk that honors Him. Making our calling and election sure, through spiritual growth, we may eagerly anticipate the fullness of joy in the Father's house, (2 Pet. 1:2-12). But let none presume to claim these blessings who are now ashamed to bear the reproach of the cross of Christ.
The faithful may look up; REDEMPTION IS NEAR!
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
- With what are the covenants associated?
- Of what covenant is the New Covenant a renewal?
- Into what three general categories may Abraham's people be classified?
- With whom is the New Covenant initially established?
- May its blessings be claimed, legitimately, by "all the saved"?
- In what way did Christ become "the end of the law for righteousness" for those believing Him?
- Why was the Mosaic Covenant added before the Abrahamic could be fulfilled?
- Who are "children of Abraham" in the New Testament sense?
- Jesus is both the __________ and __________ of the New Covenant?
- In what capacity has He entered the heavenly sanctuary to make atonement for our sins?
- What is the relationship between Christ's church and the New Covenant?
- For whom is the blood of the New Covenant provided?
- What serves as the outward symbol of the New Covenant relationship?
- What is the three-fold responsibility that Jesus Christ has given His church for this age?
- In what ways is the New Covenant superior to all others ever given?
- Name two specific blessings of the New Covenant not included in any previous statement of God's purpose for His people?
- What is meant by "remission of sin"?
- What is meant by the "abiding" Holy Spirit?
- In view of our exalted position as a New Covenant people, what ought we to be? What are our responsibilities?
- Has the New Covenant been fully realized? If, not when will it be?