My Take on the New Covenant (Pt. 10): In Summary

Part Nine

In this final part I want to gather things together and summarize what has come before.  In the latter half of the full piece I interact with some other views.  I shall not concern myself with running over that ground here.  I shall only outline the major main pillars of my position on the New Covenant here:

  1. Jeremiah 31 is not to be thought about as definitive of the New Covenant.  There are many other passages which, although they don’t name the covenant as the NC, are rightly considered as important OT New Covenant passages (e.g. Deut. 30:1-6; Isa. 32:9-20; 42:1-7; 49:1-13; 52:10-53:12; 55:3; 59:15b-21; 61:8; Jer. 32:36:44; Ezek. 16:53-63; 36:22-38; 37:21-28; Hos. 2:18-20; Joel 2:28–3:8; Mic. 7:18-20; Zech. 9:10; 12:6-14.; 59:15-21).
  2. None of the great theistic covenants of the Bible (i.e. the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly, Davidic covenants) have a provision of redemption set within them.  That means they can never be fulfilled!  Sin bars the way.
  3. However, the problem of unfulfillment is overcome by Jesus Christ in the New Covenant.
  4. Since it deals with sin and salvation, the NC deals with the promise of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Two key NC passages, Isaiah 42:1-6 and Isaiah 49:1-8, speak both to Israel and to the nations.  Isaiah 42:1-3 is quoted by Matthew 12:17-21, and is applied especially to “the Gentiles.”  He might have quoted Isa. 11:10; 42:15; 60:3; Jer. 16:19, and Mal. 1:11.
  6.  Further, Isaiah 42 and 49 identify a person as a covenant who will bring salvation to both Israel and the Gentile nations.
  7. The Apostle Paul uses NC terminology and applies it to Christian redemption in Colossians 2:11-14 and Philippians 3:3.
  8. Not only that, but Paul explicitly says that Christians taking the Lord’s Supper are celebrating “the blood of the New Covenant” (1 Cor. 11:25).  Paul also declares that his ministry is a ministry of the New Covenant in 2 Cor. 3.
  9. Jesus said that His blood was NC blood (e.g. Lk. 22).  His disciples partook of the symbolism of it, and they formed the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20).
  10. Hebrews 7 – 10 names Jesus as our High Priest, which He can only be on the basis of the New Covenant.
  11. Jesus Christ and the New Covenant are One.  He is the covenant mentioned by Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8; as the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29), He is the covenant animal that makes the NC with His own body and blood (Heb. 9:16-17).  There is (and never was) any salvation outside of Him.
  12. We must beware of impeding our own understanding of God’s Word by wandering away from Scripture to fragmentary pagan notions of treaty and covenant.  We will be in poor shape to “hear” the Scripture if we fail listen with both ears and read with both eyes.  This is all the more important when the matter under consideration is the oaths of God!

 

 

 

Waiting on the Lord

I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me,
and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible
pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and
established my steps.” – Psalm 40: 1-2.

It is so hard to wait on the Lord. Especially when one is in trouble or hurting and there just isn’t anyone else who can help. Truthfully, that is not a bad place to be in, since our natural propensity is to lean on God very half-heartedly most of the time. If we want a good spiritual road check I suggest that all we do is to realize how quickly and easily we slip back into the driver’s seat of our lives whenever we think that things are within our own control. Limited dependence on God is the Christian’s default position and the cause of many of his troubles. What God wants from us; what He has always wanted from men and women is total dependence. This is one of the reasons God puts us to waiting for things. If circumstances are against us and nothing is happening to change them it is second nature for us to want to manipulate the situation so the ‘things get done.’ In most cases things don’t change and we have to wait for God to do something.

David understood this. He knew who was in control, and he “waited patiently for the LORD.” David faith caused him to see both that God hears and that He considers. That is why this Psalm twice refers to the thoughts that God has toward us (vv. 5, 17). If we are sure that God is thinking about us, that “He knows what we need before we ask” we have more than sufficient reason to allow faith to settle us. Not that we shouldn’t pray for God to help us quickly. Twice also David asks for just this (vv. 13, 17). That is not a contradiction of his attitude in verse 1, since patience is necessary if God decides not to act when we would like Him to.

Let us not forget that Psalm 40 is both a record of God’s past and present dealings with the author. On the basis of what God did in the past (v. 2) David can have assurance in the present. And what had God done? He had delivered his saint from a desperate situation, described as “a horrible pit” and “miry clay.” In other words, a place of anxiety and discomfort; a position that looked for all the world as if it would only get worse. But God saw and at the right time, when David’s heart and mind had been trained in reliance upon his Maker.

What is significant about God’s deliverance is how full it was. Described by David as a “rock,” a solid point from where he could go forward. But it didn’t stop there. God also “established” his steps. His providence made a sure path for the writer’s feet. It is a great gift from the Lord when He clears all obstacles out of our way and then tells us, “This is the way; walk ye in it.”

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The Gift of Quietness

When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble? – Job 34:29a

It has always been easy to neglect personal communion with God.  The matters which lie right in front of us call for our time and attention, and if there are any of those two things left at the end of the day, well, we’re tired and we want to “turn off.”  God gets the scraps of our time.  But our relationship with our Father in heaven cannot be well kept up with fleeting prayers and momentary meditations.  And if we stopped to look at things aright, we would see that His claims upon us are primary.  It’s not as if we live these lives of ours in secret, cordoned off from God’s providence.  Psalm 139:1-17 shows us that the Lord knows us through and through.  God can facilitate our way if we slow down for Him.

Job was a man who was in deep distress and confusion, and he said some things which furnished plenty of proof of it.  But he also said some things which were hopeful and which he knew to be true.  It was Job who testified that “I know my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25), and it was he whose faith shone out in his exclamation “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15).  Satan tries to persuade us that because things are not working out the way we hoped God can’t be trusted, but Job’s words are certainly true.  We might not be able to understand why everything is going awry, but we can know that God is worthy of our trust – always.

In this verse it is not Job who is the speaker.  It is the younger man Elihu.  But it is a sentiment that Job at his best would have heartily agreed with.  I can remember a time in my life when I was very depressed.  Every day (for many years) was a struggle.  I trudged through the hours (emotionally speaking), as I lived out my existence.  I do not reveal this to garner sympathy – the Lord delivered me from it all  along time ago – but I mention only so that I can record an experience.  One particularly bad night I felt that I couldn’t take another day of it.  I cried out to God for help.  I then feel asleep emotionally exhausted.  In the morning it was like I was a different person.  I was permeated by peace.  It was a deep and powerful and yet “light” thing.  I was suffused by it.  It was without any question not mine.  It was given to me.  It was wrapped around me by Someone Who cared for me.  It didn’t last for more than a few days, but the knowledge that my Father had given it, and that such “shalom” was my destiny in Christ, was all I needed.

The text asks us, “When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?”  Notice the quietness or tranquility is given.  It includes a sense of utter safety and belonging.  It subdues all fears, and answers – though not in words – every doubt.  I believe emphatically that one day every saint of God will be surrounded by this “quietness,” and no one and nothing will be able to upset it.  Grace and peace is addressed to us in the New Testament letters.  Jesus words to His discouraged disciples are words to us too:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 

So we can expect trouble in this world.  We shall have peace!  Today, wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to spend more time with such a God of Peace?

 

Be Anxious for Nothing

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Phil. 4:6-7

It is easy to worry.  There is always something that we can think about that will be guaranteed to perturb our souls.  The Apostle Paul knew something about that.  His imagination could have envisioned the next round of mockery, or the next beating or imprisonment.  Or if not those things then maybe the sheer hassle of journeying from town to town on foot, on those sometimes dangerous byways.

What about us?  We can become anxious because we have been watching too much news on TV, or we have chosen to read an article by a contemporary prophet of doom.  We are in the midst of COVID-19 panic.  It is real.  It is serious.  What are we to do?  There is one vital thing we should do.  We must listen to God!

This passage is not a mere suggestion, as if it were a piece of homespun “wisdom” from an agony-aunt.  It is a command.  It is, in the military sense, a call to attention!  It declares, “Christian, do not worry…rather, do this!”  Go to God.  Ask, seek, knock.  Count your blessings and thank Him for them.  Thank your heavenly Father for easy access to the very Throne of Grace in Heaven.  Tell God your fears and concerns, and leave them with Him.

These verses are a call to mental discipline.  This means that we are to train our thoughts by repeatedly appealing to “the God of all comfort.”  We are to rein-in our imaginations and put them to work contemplating the Savior and our inheritance.  We are to cast all our cares upon Him, because we know that He cares for us.  And because the Father is there and hears us, we are to expect the warm breezes of His peace to start exercising their influence upon both mind and heart.

We don’t have to manufacture our own peace.  That is not our job.  Our job is to refuse to worry and let our God worry about it for us, whatever may be disturbing our emotions at the present time.  If Jesus can with a word command the wind and the waves to become calm and placid, He can surely introduce tranquility into even the stormiest heart.  So pay attention to this command.  Flee to the Lord and, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Spiritual Single-Mindedness

I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only. – Psalm 71:16

Psalm 71 is all about trusting the Lord, and seeing that in Him we have a strong foundation for our lives.  Even amid peril and distress there is a reason for hope.  Many of the psalms are heartfelt cries to God for help; sometimes for safety from ones enemies, sometimes for encouragement, and at other times for strength to support us in our weakness.

God wants us to depend upon Him.  For sure, there are many areas of life where we are required to put in effort, like at work, or at school, or “at home,” in the case of that unsung hero of our times, the housewife.  But even in the midst of those various responsibilities God wants us to lean on Him.

The role of dependence is especially important in the spiritual life; that is, for our inner selves, our minds and our hearts.  “Keep your heart with all diligence” we are told, “for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23).  A heart that has not taken some time to make God central in the morning, will be liable to fret once the pressures of the day gather steam.  A mind that has not quieted itself with God’s Word and with the knowledge of His presence, is likely to become disquieted with the list of items which begin clamoring for attention.

Here in this text the Psalmist acknowledges where his strength comes from.  He has to go forward into the day, but he goes “in the strength of the Lord God.”  His mouth must utter many words, but the righteousness of the God Who upholds him will find expression too.  And the acknowledgement of God, gives witness to and reinforcement of the strength which is graciously given by Him to those who seek Him.

Because what is going on inside can affect the way I relate to my job, or to others, or how I hear the news, or indeed how I frame my attitudes for the whole day, it is imperative that I throw off the reluctance to pray and to meditate on the Scripture, and take at least five or ten minutes to seek “the strength of my life” (Psa. 27:1).

We Are Anchored

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus… – Hebrews 6:19-20a

The “hope” of which the inspired writer speaks is the sure hope of someone to whom God has pledged eternal salvation and peace.  That is you if you are trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.  This pledge or “oath” to you is called “immutable” (i.e. unchangeable), which is why our hope is pictured as anchored.

Notice, the hope of salvation is what is our anchor, being as it is, fixed by God’s promise to us in the Gospel.  The Devil wants us to believe that our hope in Jesus is just like our hope of receiving a surprise inheritance from a distant relative we never knew we had.  If that were the case God’s salvation could hardly be described as an “anchor of the soul” and would be more like a message in a bottle, cast with doubtful anticipation of someone picking it up on some foreign shore.  But that is exactly the opposite of the truth.  The Lord sees your faith and knows you, and your life is tied unbreakably to Jesus, Who, as the passage tells us, “has entered for us.”  We are represented in Heaven.

If we look around for confirmations of this teaching in the New Testament we won’t have to look very far.  “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).  Already the Father has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6).  In a sense we don’t fully comprehend right now, you are already in Heaven!  As a citizen you are right now “on the books,” and your future well-being is assured.

Not that our Father forgets about us until we arrive at the Golden Shore.  Reflect upon this invitation from the same book:

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

God’s throne of grace is where we can “obtain” help.  The link is never broken.  God’s love is never unresponsive.  If you are a Christian, you are and always will be anchored.

Obtaining God’s Promise

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.  And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. – Hebrews 6:13-15

When the God of the universe makes a promise to someone to do something, that promise is as sure as anything can be.  It is as sure as God’s unimpeachable character and unstoppable power.  Abraham heard God say “Surely…I will bless you.”  And that word of certainty was not left to stand on its own (although it could have done!).  Because He is gracious and kind, and because He knows how weak our faith can be, the Lord swore an oath; He swore on His own Godhood that what He had promised Abraham He would eventually receive.  And although Abraham did not live to see the land given to his descendants, He did see and enter into “a heavenly country” (Heb. 11:16).

Just think of it; for four thousand years Abraham has been living in Paradise.  And he will never have to leave it!  One thinks of the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said,

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:43

There ahead of us lies our home.  Heaven will come to earth, but if we meet death before that occurs, we will go to be with Christ there.  Paul said of that place that it is “far better” (Phil. 1:23), and so it is.  The word “far” there being an understatement.

Returning to our opening passage, it tells us that after he [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.  We have to do the same.  We have to endure with patience, supported by God’s Spirit and God’s Word, whatever life throws at us.  We have not been left alone.  God’s has made His saints a promise of His presence and help now, and of eternal bliss thereafter.  We too shall obtain it. 

So let us walk with God in these days, knowing what is in store for us in the end.  If the Lord wants to bless us with Heaven later, He will surely us with what we need in this life.     

Trust in the Lord

Because of the present concerns over the coronavirus and the precautions that must be taken over it, I thought that one thing I could do was post some encouraging meditations for my readers.  I’ll try to write two or three of these a week.  This first one is a revision of something I wrote previously.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. – Prov. 3:5-6.

It is easy to say “I have faith in God.” It is very easy to say it when everything is going swimmingly and life is not presenting us with any trials designed to tax our allegiance. But it is a thing rather more difficult, even when times are steady, but especially during the uncertainties of a crisis, to trust God with all our heart. That makes demands upon us that we may not always feel entirely comfortable with. When God says, “Give me your heart,” He is not going to be content with a passing “Praise the Lord” or a casual “God is so good to me” inserted once or twice a day into our busy schedules. What He wants is ourselves. He wants us in our deepest thoughts and longings and motivations. He above all things is deserving of our greatest and unreserved trust. Yes, we can trust Him! He who made all things for Himself, and who has redeemed us so we can share in “the restitution of all things” is so far the sanest object of our trust that to question His right to it is sheer folly. The Devil rejoices when we don’t call God our Refuge!

Here we are in the midst of a torrid world; directionless, uncaring, vulnerable, and fundamentally incapable of addressing soberly any of the really big questions in life.  And there is God, who has not abandoned us when we need Him, but who in love and grace beckons us to Himself. “Trust in the Lord.” Trust in Him is what takes the reins out of our weak hands and makes us look up. That God has given His children in Christ some understanding is true, but any such wisdom that we may have is certainly going to wear out if we use it without coming to its Author. And when we begin leaning on our own understandings and taking counsel of ourselves, or of the world, we should not be surprised if in very short order, our spiritual temperature goes down, our dalliance with the world increases, and our fears loom larger.

All of us have decisions to make, about our kids, our workday, our leisure time, our bills, and our relationships. In the midst of our daily pursuits let us maintain a strong sense of the presence of God, owning the truth that “without Him we can do nothing.” Then we shall be more prepared to bring God into any situation. If we know that the way that we are taking today is already fully known by our Lord and Master, how much wiser will our deliberations be? How many undue concerns will fall away from us?  And how much more sure-footed will be our next step?  For “He will direct,” and that, surely, is what the believer wants!

The plan of God for our lives is usually not revealed but one step at a time (otherwise why would we need faith?). Yet faith acknowledges God. Faith lays hold of Him, and knows that the next step is known to Him. May we always beware of relying on our own limited understandings.  For only the Lord can say to us, “this is the way, walk ye in it.”

Image from Servants Place

My Take on the New Covenant (Pt. 9)

Part Eight

Having come to a conclusion about the foremost question in the debate about the range of the New Covenant and its connection to Jesus Christ, I want to spread out before the reader my reasons for identifying Him with the NC.  These reasons are roughly, exegetical, theological, and devotional.  I see no need to go back over the arguments for Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, 2 Corinthians 3, and the the Book of Hebrews (although I shall look into Heb. 9:16-17).  However, I will provide a summary of the teaching of these passages as I interpret them, and add several further thoughts.

Some Exegetical Arguments

In Luke 22:19-20 our Lord first refers to His body:

This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me – Lk. 22:19

The body of Christ was broken for the disciples, but who believes that it was broken for them only?  As Paul says, it was broken also for all Christians.  It is not called “the body of the New Covenant,” so there is no division of His body between supposed NC saints and non-NC saints.  Then we come to the cup:

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” – Lk. 22:20

Christ is not recorded as saying, “do this in remembrance of me.”  Interestingly, the Apostle Paul adds these words in 1 Corinthians 11:25.  In so doing he reinforces the connection between the body and the blood.  If, as we are sometimes told, Paul wished to teach a separation of Christ’s blood into NC and non-NC blood, why did he add the note of remembrance which the Gospels leave out?  That at least would give the theory of divided blood a sporting chance.  By adding the remembrance clause Paul is tying the blood and body of Christ together as one sacrifice for all.  And it should not go unnoticed that although there is plenty of opportunity for the inspired authors to teach a separation of Christ’s blood into NC and non-NC, all we find is NC blood in the Gospels (Lk. 22; Mk. 14; Matt. 26), and 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 11) and Hebrews 12.

The author of Hebrews also combines the sacrifice of Christ’s body with the blood, making them one sacrifice; neither His body nor His blood is divided.

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:10

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22 

In 2 Corinthians 3:6 Paul speaks of his ministry to the Corinthians as that “of the New Covenant,” which he then continues to contrast with the “first covenant.”  Some argue that Paul did not do this; that he was merely comparing his ministry to the Gentile Christians in Corinth, with the future ministry to Israel at the eschaton.  If a person wishes to believe such a thing I cannot stop them, but it has all the marks of skirting around an obvious conclusion, which one would prefer not to draw (because of certain cherished beliefs).  The straightforward “normal” meaning is not difficult to see: Christ instituted the New Covenant with His disciples before His Passion, the disciples formed the foundation of the Church, with Christ (Eph. 2:20), and Paul’s NC ministry (2 Cor. 3) included the remembrance of the “blood of the New Covenant”  being part of the Lord’s Table for Christians (1 Cor. 11).  Christ is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-15), because He has offered His blood at the altar in Heaven (Heb. 9:12-15).

This brings me to Hebrews 9:16-17.  As it reads in most of our Bibles this passage is an island of “testaments” sticking out of a sea of “covenants.”  The proposed temporary change from covenant to testament is due to the mention of “inheritance” in verse 15.  Here is the context:

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.  For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.  Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. – Hebrews 9:15-18

The switch back to “covenant” is necessitated by the reasoning in verses 19 and 20, which are concerned with Moses’ involving the people in the covenant in Exodus 24.  In every instance the same word (diatheke) is being translated.  My intention here is not to prove that “testament/testator” is an unnecessary translation (I think it is!).  I shall just give a few reasons for my rejection of it.

Firstly, the uniform translation of diatheke as “covenant” in Hebrews, save for these two verses, makes them look suspicious.  George Guthrie writes:

Interpreters often have read 9:16-17 in terms of “will” or “testament,” but these verses should be read, in their context, as speaking of the establishment of a covenant… “The one arranging [diatithemi] it,” occurring in participial form, in 9:16-17, refers to the sacrificial animal that must die for a covenant to be established… This fits perfectly with the argument of 9:18-22, which deals with Moses’ inauguration of the Sinai covenant with the sprinkling of blood (Exod. 24:3-8). – in G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, editors, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old, 973.

Furthermore, there is good evidence that a testament in the ancient world did not require the death of the testator.  Think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son!  Hence, William Lane claims,

There is no evidence in classical papyriological sources to substantiate that a will or testament was legally valid only when the testator died. A will became operative as soon as it was properly drafted, witnessed, and notarized. Moreover, inheritance did not occur only after the death of the testator, since it was common legal practice for an inheritance, as parental distribution inter vivos (“among the survivors”), to take place before death. – Hebrews 9 – 13 WBC, 231

The assertion I am making then is that Jesus is Himself the “covenant animal” that ratifies the New Covenant.  Moreover, there is precedent for saying this.  Just recall John the Baptist’s reference to Christ as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29).  Do notice it is the sin of the world and not only of the remnant of Israel!

Returning to Isaiah

We must revisit Isaiah 42, 49 and 52-53.  In both Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 the Servant of Yahweh is called “a covenant to the people.”  So Christ (for He is in view) is a covenant.  This fact cannot be stressed too much.  Regardless of where one comes out on all this, it is vital to address this question: ‘If Christ is to be given as a covenant, which covenant?’  I have answered by claiming that what is to believed (the central oath) concerns the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The covenant is about Him, it is wrought by Him, it is mediated by Him, His blood is the blood of the NC, and He is Himself referred to as a covenant of salvation.  Q.E.D.  For me at least.  (more…)

My Take on the New Covenant (Pt. 8)

Part Seven

So we turn to the last two options in Vlach’s list:

  1. The New Covenant will be fulfilled with Israel but the church is an added referent to the New Covenant promises so there is a sense in which the New Covenant is being fulfilled with the churchThe New Covenant has two referents—Israel and the church (some revised dispensationalists; Paul Feinberg)
  1. Since the New Covenant was given to Israel for the purpose of also blessing Gentiles there is literal fulfillment of the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant to all believing Jews and Gentiles in this present age, while the physical/national promises await fulfillment with Jesus’ second coming when national Israel is incorporated into the New Covenant (some revised and most progressive dispensationalists)

I have already stated that in my opinion it is a mistake to view the New Covenant as entailing physical promises.  Those are contained in the other covenants, but they require “releasing” upon their stated party (the nation of Israel), which release is secured by the New Covenant, especially at the mass conversion of Israel at the second advent (e.g. Isa. 66:8).  The New Covenant therefore is the salvific conduit or stream through which the other covenants mix as they pass through it to their literal fulfillment.  Hence, I agree with Option 6 apart from the inclusion of the word “physical.”  Having taken out the physical element, I think one can argue that the difference between Option 5 and Option 6 is a semantic one.  Asked to phrase Option 6 in another way it is easy to imagine someone coming up with something that sounds very like Option 5.  In fine, the New Covenant is given to Israel (although they will not enter into its provisions as a nation until Christ returns), but since “salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22) the Church becomes an added referent to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.

The Apostle Paul as a Minister of Confusion or Clarity

I have already said that to understand Paul’s mention of “the New Covenant in My blood” in 1 Corinthians 11:25 as anything less than a clear indication that the Gentile Christians were seen by him as parties to the NC as they took “the cup,” makes him a pretty shabby communicator.  The same can be said of 2 Corinthians 3:6

who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  

The word rendered “ministers” (diakonos) is used in verse 3 (and throughout the chapter).  Just look at the verse:

clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

Who cannot see the continuity and semblance of thought here?  If the apostle did not believe the New Covenant was for the Gentiles, then why on earth did he tell them he was ministering it?  And why did he draw so close a connection between his ministry to them and his supposed “other” ministry (i.e. of the New Covenant?), or even of some eschatological ministry of which he would not be a part?  One would only minister the New Covenant to the party involved.  With all due respect to those who demur this beggars belief!  What has happened to the “plain sense”?  Pray, what is the difference in the context between what Paul calls “the ministry of the Spirit” (see 2 Cor. 3:9) in verse 3 and “the ministry of the Spirit” in verse 6?  If Paul wished to create befuddlement in the minds of his Corinthian readers, he certainly went about it the right way.

But it could be argued (and has been) that all Paul is doing in 2 Corinthians 3:6 is drawing a kind of parallel.  The argument goes that “ministers of the new covenant” (diakonous kainēs diathēkēs) does not in fact mean that Paul and his companions are actually ministering the New Covenant, only that their ministry resembles the future New Covenant dispensation.  I struggle a bit here.  For the NC work of the Spirit at the second advent is a complete work resulting in complete obedience (e.g. Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:25-27; Zeph. 3:13), which is quite unlike what we experience today.  Still, if that is what Paul is doing one has to ask in interrogative tones, “Why even say such a thing?”  How is the argument helped by dropping a “by the way, our ministry is sort of like what the NC ministry will be like” in at verse 6?  Why make a comparison of covenants here at all?  It surely looks like Paul views “the ministry of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:8) as synonymous with his present work “as [a] minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit” two verses earlier.  And even if the definite article is missing so that it actually reads “a new covenant” in verse 6, how far does that take us?  The contrast is between the Mosaic covenant and some covenant – a covenant involving the Spirit’s gift of new life.  Which covenant could that be?  The Abrahamic, Priestly, and Davidic covenants do not include the Spirit’s saving action in their terms.  The answer is staring us in the face: the New Covenant!

And what is all this about?

[T]hat at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:12-13

Brought near to what?  It would take a long article to fully expound the passage, but for my purposes the key is in the phrase “without God in the world.”  The blood of Jesus Christ brings us near to God.  It also includes us in the strand of the Abrahamic Covenant reserved for Gentiles (“in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” – Gen. 12:3; cf. Gal. 3:13-16).  But wait, Paul here speaks of “covenants” plural.  Does he mean we are included in the Priestly Covenant with Phinehas (Num 25)?  Assuredly not.  What about the covenant with David?  Again no.  The Abrahamic then?  Yes, but we need another covenant.  and we have one:  “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” – (1 Cor. 11:25).

Salvation Prior to the New Covenant

I have been asked the following question, which deserves an answer:

Both Noah and Abraham received the imputed righteousness of God BEFORE the promise of the New Covenant was made so their being redeemed was not dependent on the New Covenant. And I see no reason to believe that the redemption of the believers in the Body of Christ is dependent on the New Covenant since their redemption is also based on the imputed righteousness of God.  

I begin by simply pointing out that if anyone is going to be made right with God it is not going to be on the basis of their righteousness.  To assert such is to tacitly deny the doctrine of original sin, as well as its operations in a person’s life and thought.  No one merits salvation.  Righteousness must be imputed.  The only way for a sinner to be saved is by the merits of Christ.  Yes, Noah built a boat; Abraham believed what God said about his seed, but God reckoned their faith as righteousness in view of the coming sacrifice of His Son for mankind.  Nobody’s salvation is independent of “the imputed righteousness of God.”  This is how Job’s testimony in Job 19:25, for example, is to be understood. (more…)