Biblical Covenants Part 7
Jeremiah 31 was written when Israel had become apostate through disobedience to God to such an extent that their entire national rescue from Egypt was effectively reversed into exile (Barrick 1999:228). The Theocratic kingdom was established at Mount Sinai, but was terminated with the Babylonian exile. All of this is tragically depicted in Ezekiel 8-11 when God’s Shekinah glory exited from the temple in Jerusalem. Israel had repeatedly transgressed the Mosaic Law and, together with many other Jews, even Judah’s king was exiled to a foreign country. It is in this context that a gracious God promised to establish a New covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:27-40; cf. Isaiah 55:3; 59:21; 61:8-9; Ezekiel 16:60; 34:25-31; 37:26-28; Romans 11:25-27; Hebrews 8:8-13).
The New covenant was doubtlessly established with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:27-40; cf. Hebrews 8:8-13). Even if there are texts in the Scriptures that associates the New covenant with the Church (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6), the New covenant is still not established with the Church.
Jeremiah 31:31-32 makes it perfectly clear that the New Covenant is not a renewed Mosaic covenant (Pettegrew 1999:253-254; Fruchtenbaum 2005:35-37). It is a brand new unconditional covenant. Sacrifices brought in terms of the Mosaic Law covered sin, but on the basis of the blood of the Lamb of God sin is completely removed in terms of the New covenant. Furthermore, in terms of the New covenant, God will write His law on man’s heart (Jeremiah 31:33; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6). As distinct from the Mosaic Law, the New covenant will change repentant sinners from inside. The power and ability to achieve this originates with the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27; cf. Matthew 3:11). In the Old Testament not every believer received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or even received its permanent indwelling.
The New covenant includes specific promises for Israel. Israel’s regeneration is promised (Jeremiah 31:33; Isaiah 59:21) which means that at some stage the entire nation of Israel will come to saving faith (Romans 11:25-27). At the end of the Tribulation period, every Jew who is still physically alive will come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her Saviour. It will be this saved nation of Israel that will ask the Lord Jesus Christ to return to earth (Hosea 5:15-6:1; Zechariah 12:10-12; Matthew 23:39). When the Lord Jesus does return, He will restore and re-establish the Theocratic kingdom and this will be the start of the millennial kingdom. During the Millennium, the sanctuary will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 37:26-28) and Israel will be blessed abundantly – not merely spiritually, but also materially (Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 32:41; Ezekiel 34:25-27).
In the same way that the Mosaic covenant included the Mosaic Law, the New covenant includes the Law of Christ (Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). New Testament believers live under the Law of Christ; we do not live under the Law of Moses.
Although many of the commandments of the Law of Christ are the same as those of the Mosaic Law, many of the commandments are different too. Nine of the Ten Commandments, for instance, are included in the Law of Christ, but we are not commanded to keep the Sabbath (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16). Neither are we subjected to specific limitations dietary requirements (Mark 7:19; Romans 14:20).
Some of the commandments in the Mosaic Law are reinforced by the Law of Christ. The Mosaic Law stated for instance that you should love your neighbour as you love yourself (Leviticus 19:18), but the Law of Christ states that we should love one another as He, the Lord Jesus Christ, loved us (John 15:12). Christ is now the standard and He loved mankind enough to die for us.
Yet another difference is that the Mosaic Law was based on the conditional Mosaic covenant where the motivation was to obey and to do in order to be blessed. The Law of Christ, on the other hand, is based on the unconditional New covenant for which the motivation is that you are and have already been blessed, therefore you must do. Please read Fruchtenbaum (2005:36-37) for a more comprehensive discussion of the differences and similarities between the Mosaic Law and the Law of Christ.
An important question follows: If the New covenant belongs to the house of Israel and the house of Judah (which is the case), then what is the relationship of the Church to the New covenant? This question is especially relevant and important since the generation that lived in Israel at Jesus’ first advent did not only reject their Messiah, but moreover committed the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:23-32). The answer is that the Church consists of “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and are fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6 NASB 2006). The Church participates in the spiritual blessings of the New covenant but the Church, the Bride of Christ, does not inherit the unconditional covenants of Israel (the Wife of Jehovah) (cf. Ephesians 3:3-6). In the Church Age, Jesus Christ as Head builds His Bride by baptising Jew and non-Jew into one body, a mystery not previously revealed (Ephesians 3:1-12).
But how do believers become partakers of these blessings? When, during the Church age, someone believes the gospel of Christ, that person is placed “in Christ” who is the Mediator of the New covenant after the order of Melchizedek (cf. Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 5-8; Pettegrew 1999:269-270). Ever since Pentecost, every believer receives the indwelling Holy Spirit while being baptised into the body of Christ.
What is the sign of a believer’s inclusion in the New covenant? In the Church era, every believer, Jew or non-Jew, must submit to Jesus Christ and the sign thereof is the baptising of believers (Matthew 28:18-20).
Sources used and consulted:
Barrick, W.D., 1999, ‘The Mosaic Covenant’, The Master’s Seminary Journal 10(2), 213-232.
Bigalke, R.J., 2008, The Biblical Covenants.
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2005, ‘The eight covenants of the Bible’, Ariel Ministries, Tustin.
Pettegrew,L.D., 1999, ‘The New Covenant’, The Master’s Seminary Journal 10(2), 251-270.
Scholtz, J.J. 2014. Die wisselwerking tussen die verbonde van die Bybel. FaithEquip: Bellville.
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