FREE IN CHRIST : THE NEW COVENANTWhilst writing this I was reminded of several of Paul's warning regarding false teachers, such as 1 Tim 1:3-7, when Paul said, "Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions."
It's very easy for us to make similar assertions, but unlike Paul's divine source, ours are usually from the unquestioning path we've been treading since we began our Christian journey. As a result anything which doesn't accord with our traditions is categorized as false teaching.
When we become “Christian”, most of us begin to be aware that we have much to learn. I dare say most of us under-estimate that learning process, and limit it to an intellectual aggregation of information coming from those within the tradition into which we've been welcomed. We are deceived if we think that process will be any less than a lifetime.
It usually isn't long before we have inserted into our psyche that it is traitorous, and an offense against God, to consider any other way of thinking than that tradition into which we've been adopted, and that holding private thoughts about ones faith is akin to heresy.
While holding firmly to the Soteriology as revealed during the Great Reformation, I understand myself as neither Reformed (Covenant Theology),nor Dispensationalist; Calvinist, nor Arminian. I am simply a sinner who has been given the graciously bestowed gift and privilege of being adopted into the Family of God, knowing Jesus Christ, and being just one little stone in the Church Jesus is building (1 Pet. 2:5).
Since, by the grace of God,that was made clear, some sixty odd years ago, my education in matters to do with walking this path, has been a long slog through a number of religious swamps, and occasional, majestic mountain tops, revealing the grandeur of the scene below, which I believe is best described by New Covenant Theology, of which I am now thoroughly convinced.
I am a follower of Christ who struggled for years with, what seemed to me, to be clear inconsistencies within what I had been taught since a very young age, most of those inconsistencies had to do with traditional sectarianism. Over a period of time I learned that the discomfort I felt with some of the positions I had inherited, were caused by the Scriptures revealing New Covenant Theology, and answering most of my struggles, some of which I hope will be seen in the following words. I also began to realise I was alone in these struggles.
The aforementioned New Covenant Theology (NCT) reveals God's plan of salvation, beginning with the first man Adam, and finally bearing the fruit of His purpose, and, consummated to His satisfaction, through the person and work of Jesus Christ through His life, death, and resurrection, on behalf of all those who would trust in that reality.
All of this is revealed by Scripture alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, to God's glory alone. Religious traditions do not come into the equation, no matter what it is called!
As Dr. Gary D. Long says:”God's plan of salvation is revealed and administered through the unfolding of biblical covenants in the flow of redemptive history, not through the theologically deduced system of CT's Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace/Covenant of Redemption schema” (29TH annual Sovereign Grace Doctrinal Conference,Saldo, Texas,October 9, 2004).
It is of most importance to note that the common goal of the Scriptures, from Genesis through The Revelation of John, is to reveal this plan in the person and work of the Lord Jesus as the purpose of our Sovereign God for His creation(Eph. 1:9,10).
The fact of God establishing a New Covenant, is the most important truth of NCT, a New Covenant, mediated by Christ, which fully, and permanently replaces the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:6-13).
When we learn about the making of the Old Covenant, it is clearly a formal agreement made only between two parties, God and the Nation of Israel.
This Old Covenant (Mosaic Covenant, also called the First Covenant) is a legal, conditional covenant, but NOT as some would have it, another administration of the Covenant of Grace.
There is no doubt that God had a gracious purpose for giving the Mosaic Covenant, and that the covenant, itself, has legal force, as well as being designed to reveal to the Israelites their sinful state.
The Ten Commandments or Tablets of Stone (Exodus 34:27-28; Dt. 5:1-3), spell out the terms of the Old Covenant (or first covenant) but did not include of all of God's law.
As we've already noted, the Old Covenant had legal efficacy or force with Israel and demanded perfect obedience to all it spelled out, for those with whom it was made, that they might receive the promised blessings (Ex. 19:3-6).
As the Apostle Paul clearly understood, the Old Covenant was a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:6-9) and was designed to be a teacher pointing the nation of Israel to God's better way of dealing with sin, the promised Messiah, the Lord,Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:24,25).
Importantly, as the writer of The Letter to the Hebrews was able to record, the New Covenant is both new and better than the Old Covenant, for a sound reason (Heb.8:7).
It is a better covenant because it is administered in a better way. Jesus Christ, as the sinless Son of God was able to fulfil all of the requirements of the Old Covenant as its mediator, and is the One of whom the better promises refer (Heb. 8:6).
The New Covenant people of God consists of those of whom Peter speaks in 1 Pet. 2:4ff., the church which Jesus is building, who receive the complete benefits of His reconciling work (Heb. 8:10-12; Heb. 7:25).
This position of being regenerate (born anew) can only come about through Jesus Christ, who kept the terms of the Old Covenant perfectly, on behalf of, and as the representative of His people, and it was by His sinless life, His death, and resurrection, that He earned all the promised blessings for them as the mediator of the New Covenant. Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant, and the new Lawgiver and Lord of the church (Heb. 1:1-4; Heb.7:12).
Those who can truly claim to be followers of Christ, and members of His Church, are under the authority of the New Covenant which is governed by the New Testament Scriptures (Eph. 2:19,20).
Meanwhile the Old Covenant has been perfectly fulfilled in Christ and done away, with God's righteous standards now contained in the Law of Christ (Gal.6:2; 1 Cor.9:21) which is motivated internally (not by Law) in the believer by His Holy Spirit.
New Covenant Theology is NOT a hybrid version of Covenant Theology and Historic Dispensationalism.
Covenant Theology fails in that it tries to read the Old Covenant as though it were the New Covenant.
Dispensationalism fails in that it reads the Old Covenant without taking into account the New Covenant.
The traditional "Covenant of Works" and "Covenant of Grace" are not found in Scripture.
As already mentioned, there can be no doubt that God had gracious intent by placing the nation of Israel under the law as a covenant, but it is quite a stretch to make the Old Covenant a covenant of grace.
As we said previously, the clear purpose of the Mosaic Law was to remind the nation that they were sinners, with the law being a means of bringing, those under the covenant, into deep conviction of sin to cause them to look away from themselves,and lead them to look to the promise given Abraham (Gen.12:2;22:17;Gal.3:16 ) and the fulfilment of that promise in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:23-25).
New Covenant Theology regards the nation of Israel as a picture (type) of those who were to be the people of God. They were not THE people of God (Heb. 8:7-9; Heb. 10:1).
The nation of Israel, whilst raised up by God, is essentially an unbelieving people who are eventually rebuffed and rejected by God (Matt. 8:5-12).
A remnant of the nation of Israel, such as Abraham and his family, were true believers (Hebrews 11). The Abrahamic Covenant expresses God's plan of salvation through Abraham and his physical descendants. The true seed of Abraham is Jesus Christ and believers are the true children of Abraham, children of faith, not of works.
These are true New Covenant people of God, who by faith,have trusted in the finished work of Jesus, and are purchased under the New Covenant (1 Pet. 2:4-10).
The Ten Commandments apply ONLY as the terms of the Old Covenant with Israel.
Genuine Christians, as a result, are no longer bound by the terms of the Old Covenant, which was made with the nation,Israel. Who, do not recognise Jesus for whom He is, and sadly, are still looking for the Messiah
We might then ask,”What is the objective standard for the New Covenant believer”? The Law of Christ, the essence of all of God's law is found in the 2 great commandments.
One of the Pharisees who prided themselves regarding their obedience to the terms of the Old Covenant, challenged Jesus with a question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Mat. 22:36). Jesus replied,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40).
The Law of Christ is the law in the New Covenant era. The situation then, is not whether believers in the New Covenant era are under law, it is simply the question of which law are the believers under since Christ inaugurated the New Covenant.
There is some excellent reading, and sound teaching on the internet through people such as John Reisinger Jon Zens, Randy Seiver, Fred Zaspel, and Gary Long (President of Providence Theological Seminary, Colorado Springs).