1 THE NEW COVENANT (Part I) What makes the New Covenant new? As we have noticed, the Old Testament contains many covenants. Some of these covenants, - which we haven t looked at, - pertain to local circumstances such as, for example, the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech (Gen. 21:27), the covenant between Laban and Jacob (Gen. 31:44), and the covenant between Jonathan and David (I Sam. 20:16). The covenants we have briefly studied belonged to either one of two categories (i) the conditional covenant which was dependent upon both God and the people keeping it, and (ii) the unconditional covenant which was dependent upon God alone to maintain and preserve. The Adamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant were both conditional covenants and they failed because of human inability to preserve and honour them. It is the Mosaic Covenant Judaism adheres to. On the other hand, the unconditional covenants made with Noah, Abraham, and David continue for they are being kept by God, Ps. 89:34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. He will never change His mind, and He will never go back on His word for the covenants that have Him as their sole Signatory will remain. The recipients of these covenants were the people of Israel. God made these promises, - unconditional covenants, - with Israel. We are now arriving at a very important stage in our study because we need to be clear as to who the term Israel refers When God speaks about Israel, does He literally mean what He actually says? Is He referring to the national Israel, the people who have descended from Abraham, through Isaac, and Jacob? Or has the name Israel changed its meaning to become the description for the Christian church? Or does it merely refer to some of Abraham s descendants and not all of them only those small number, - remnant, - who come to a saving knowledge of Christ and belong to the Christian Church, or the so-called New Israel Is that what the term Israel refers to? This is fundamental to our study of the covenants. We are at a crossroads here, and it is important which road we take To whom do the covenants initially and primarily apply, and to whom do they apply today? Obviously, in the texts they unquestionably apply to the national people of Israel, - that is the nation to whom the Lord entered into covenant Israel is Israel, Jews are Jews, and Jerusalem is Jerusalem. Let s read them again, Gen. 12:3 I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed 15:18 the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The
2 2 Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed..., and it was also an unconditional promise God made with David, II Sam. 7:16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. The promises are undeniably in relation to the nation of Israel, in regard to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants the promises are to their offspring. Consequently, since God has made these unconditional promises to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they remain today for if God could forsake Israel if He could go back on His word to Abraham and to David, then He could go back on His word and forsake the Church! If God could change His mind and revoke the covenant of grace He unconditionally entered into with you and me, then your salvation and my salvation would be in jeopardy! So, if God could replace Israel if He could rescind, - abolish, annul, invalidate, or retract, - the unconditional promises He made to them then He could just as easily replace the Church, and it means the promises He made with you and me in His Word are of no value! Why do we have to emphasise this so much? We emphasise it so much because God does not break His word. I have many good friends who hold that God has forsaken the national people of Israel, and replaced them with the Church, which they term as the new Israel (a term you will not find in Scripture). Since Israel rejected God, - they say, - He has ended His covenant with them, and the people of Israel are no longer recipients of the promises He made with Abraham and David. The nation is no more special to Him than any other nation. Therefore, all the promises we read about in the prophecies of Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah, etc have no relevance to Israel the nation but, instead, they now belong to the Church because, - they say, - God has finished with Israel. Israel means nothing to God anymore! Israel no longer means Israel the nation, instead, it means the Church!
3 3 However, they do allow for some from out of Israel to be saved, but it has no relevance to the old covenants, and it does not mean that all Israel will be saved, that is, not all the nation of Israel will be saved. I am at a loss to understand how believers who believe in the doctrines of grace can give credence to this view that requires God to break the terms of His unconditional covenant! My salvation depends upon His unconditional covenant of grace, and I would allow no one to stand here and preach that God would break His Word! God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). He cannot go back on His word. The promises He made with Abraham and David were irrevocable and irrefutable unconditional covenants, and they were not dependent upon any set of criteria that had to be fulfilled by the Israelites, - as the conditional covenants needed. Instead, the unconditional covenants were God s responsibility to keep and if anyone says the unconditional covenants were broken, it means that God was unable to keep them or He didn t think them worth keeping and therefore, He decided to break His word. If God has cast aside Israel, He has broken His covenant and that is not possible! But some other people also present this problem What makes the Jewish people different to anyone else? Salvation comes through believing in Christ, and He is the only means by which anyone is saved, - the fact of them being a Jew is irrelevant Well, yes, that is true It doesn t matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and there is none righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10) Jews and Gentiles have all been born in sin and shapen in iniquity (Ps. 51:5)! If the Jews will not believe, they will not be saved! That is absolutely true as well. Okay, - these other people say, - there are a significant number of Jews coming to Christ, particularly since the end of the nineteenth century, when they started to repatriot their land. Yes they belong to the true Israel. They are the true benefactors of the covenants God made with Abraham and David so that means, only some, - but not all, - Israel will be saved and they quote out of context certain verses from Romans 9 about the remnant being saved. Let s not rush, and let s remind ourselves what God says! To Abram He said, Gen. 12:2 I will make of thee a great nation. He is identifying the people who miraculously would be born from Abram s physical seed as the beneficiaries of the covenant. Now, God was not making a fool out of this old man, - He wasn t speaking in riddles to confuse Him. God also specifically promised, I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: This was a clearly identifiable nation that would be produced from Abram and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
4 4 God promises Abram the generations that would flow from him would continue throughout the ages and be a means of blessing to all nations. So, at this point it is appropriate to consider the question Paul asked, Rom. 11:1 Hath God cast away his people? and then he answered his own question, God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people. And the which he foreknew is not an addition thrown in, almost as an afterthought It clearly indicates, - as every Jew knew, - that God foreknew their nation (in the same way as He foreknew you and me), Rom. 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Yes, God has loved you and me forever, in the same way He loved the nation of Israel forever, II Sam. 7:23 And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? 24 For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever. He loved them as a consequence of the same grace He loved you and me. His plan for their salvation unfolded first, though, and set their nation apart. Consequently, they are like no other nation on earth, and that is what God said through Moses, Dt. 7:6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. In accordance with His promises to Abraham and David He has kept them despite their unbelief and despite every opposition they have faced since their days in Egypt until and including the present day. Promises He made to them thousands of years ago have come to pass some during the times of the Biblical records, and some have taken place in history and an increasing number of Biblical promises even in the lifetime of many of us here. God has honoured His covenant literally to Abraham and to David in the keeping of His people and, not least, in the bringing them back, - and establishing them, - in their own land. In over 2,500 years, He has not allowed them to be integrated into the nations so that they would lose their distinct identity. Neither have they lost their peculiarity as the people who belong to the land given to them by God. Even though they have been scattered all across the world, He has kept them and He is keeping His promises to them. He has kept His unconditional covenants for the sake of their fathers, - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Rom. 11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers'
5 5 sakes. And once God sets His love upon them, it can never be removed for that is what His Word teaches us about the love He has for us. He is keeping them today, and He will continue to keep them. The love He has for them is built upon His unconditional covenants. So then, what about this New Covenant? What is its significance? Well, the term is presented in Jer. 31:31, - in a section of the prophecy that addresses this most important subject, - Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah This is a covenant like none other that has preceded it, and it is began with the people of Israel. God addressed it to them Therefore, - not that He could or would anyway, - there is more proof God shows no intention of having them replaced The new covenant, - like the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, and the Davidic covenants, - is made in relation to the people of Israel that is what the Word says! God is not overlooking His ancient people and this is not some kind of code referring to a future set of people belonging to the nations This promise of a new covenant is made with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. This is further emphasised in v. 32 Not according to the [conditional] covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them [under the unconditional covenant with Abram], saith the LORD, - that is obviously and literally the children of Israel because He took no other nation but them out of Egypt. Therefore, this new covenant is being made with this same nation, the descendants of Abraham, and the beneficiaries of the unconditional covenants with Abraham and David. And God continues, 33 But this shall be [future tense] the covenant that I will make [future tense] with the house of Israel, - since the house of Israel in v.31 is literal, this house of Israel in v.33 is also surely literal, - and God continues, After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. It is the same message Isaiah prophesies in 2:3 and Micah in 4:2 he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. In other words, He has not rejected Israel, and there is no intention of Him replacing them On the contrary, they are an integral part of His plan for He includes them all, 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. That is to say, they shall all know me not a few, or some, or a remnant, but they shall all know me.
6 6 When will this happen? This will happen at God s appointed time when the nation of Israel will recognise the Saviour on that day when He comes again, and they will all be saved That is the Day of the Lord, during times of the most terrible tribulation in the land when it will seem as if Israel is to be wiped out forever. The prophet refers to it, Zech. 14:1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives. On that day, He will stand victoriously in the midst of them, Zech. 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn 13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness 9 they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. God will never remember their sins against Him as they cry out in repentance, and they will be saved by the same precious blood of Christ that was shed on Calvary for them, as well as us. Ah but, if God does such a work for them, - despite their unbelief and rebelliousness, - and doesn t do it to any of the other nations He is not being fair! No, listen to Paul, Rom. 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Why has God chosen to save you, and not to save another? The choice of who God saves is His prerogative, and it is a marvel of grace that He saves anyone! God saves whom He chooses, - that is how it has always been, Rom. 9:13 Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated and in accordance with His Divine choice, He has chosen Israel in such a wonderful and unique way, Dt. 7: 1 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers He is keeping the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And that is what He is doing today, - He is keeping His ancient promises, the promises He made to Israel.
7 7 Yes, they are presently far away from His grace, but here is what He has covenanted He will do for them, Ezek. 36:24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. Now, don t you see why He originally said, Gen. 22:16 By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord [an unconditional covenant], for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. There it is! God keeps His covenant with Israel, - His word depends upon it! That is what Paul believed in, Rom. 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh [the Jewish nation]: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants [note the plural], and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. That also so clearly demonstrates how there is not one covenant that has been made with the Church they have all been made with Israel, however, by God s grace, one of the covenants made with Israel has been opened to Gentiles to become partakers with Israel and this one covenant is the new covenant and God thoroughly stands by it, Jer. 31:35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: 36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. 37 Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. That is only half the story of the New Covenant, though, and by no means have we even come close to exhausting it. In our next study we shall look at how this same New Covenant relates to us Gentiles.