The New Covenant-Part 2
|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©2002|
|In part 1 Dr. Showers showed that the Old Testament indicated that God would establish the New Covenant with the literal people of Israel. But the Old Testament does not say anything about the relationship of the Church to the New Covenant. In this article Dr. Showers gives two reasons why this should not be surprising.|
The Relationship of The Church To The New Covenant
As noted in our previous article, the Old Testament clearly indicated that God would establish the New Covenant with the literal people of Israel, the physical descendants of Jacob. The Old Testament said nothing concerning a relationship of the Church to the New Covenant. This silence should not be a surprise for at least two reasons.
First, the Apostle Paul indicated that no revelation concerning the Church was given before the time of the apostles and New Testament prophets (Ephesians 3:2-9). Thus, the Old Testament contained no information concerning the Church.
Second, the Old Testament prophets who presented God’s revelation concerning the New Covenant were Israelite prophets. It was their responsibility to declare God’s message specifically to the people of Israel. Thus, they described how the nation of Israel would be related to the New Covenant, not how others possibly would be related to it. Since the Old Testament contains their declaration of God’s message to Israel, one would expect the Old Testament to present only that nation’s relationship to the New Covenant.
In spite of the Old Testament’s silence concerning the relationship of the Church to the New Covenant, the New Testament seems to indicate that the Church does have some relationship to it. There are at least three lines of evidence for this conclusion.
First, the Church partakes of the communion service which Christ instituted on the night before He went to the cross (1 Corinthians 10:21; 11:23-30). When Jesus instituted the communion service, He stated the following concerning the cup of that service: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25; Luke 22:20—literal translation). Two things should be noted concerning Jesus’ statement.
First, since Jesus used the word the in the expression the new covenant, and since God had promised only one New Covenant (the one promised to Israel in Jeremiah 31) prior to Jesus’ statement, it seems evident that Jesus was referring to that New Covenant. Thus, Jesus was saying that the cup of the communion service represented the New Covenant which God had promised to literal Israel in Jeremiah 31 and other Old Testament prophetic passages.
Second, Jesus made His statement to Jewish men. They would have been aware of only one New Covenant—the one God had promised to Israel in Jeremiah 31. Since Jesus did not tell them to think otherwise, they would have understood Him to be referring to that specific New Covenant.
It seems obvious that Jesus was stating that the communion cup represents the New Covenant which God promised to Israel in the Old Testament. The fact that the Church partakes of the communion cup which represents the New Covenant promised by God to Israel seems to indicate that the Church has a relationship to that covenant.
The second line of evidence for concluding that the Church is related to the New Covenant is the fact that believers who make up the Church partake of the spiritual blessings which God promised as part of the New Covenant in the Old Testament. Church believers have been regenerated (Titus 3:5), received forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 2:12), been indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and received the new nature (a new favorable disposition toward God consisting of the law of God written in the heart—Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Peter 1:4).
The third line of evidence that the Church is related to the New Covenant is the Apostle Paul’s indication that the apostles of the Church functioned as ministers of a New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6).
It seems evident that, although the Old Testament promised the New Covenant specifically to the literal nation of Israel, the Church also has a relationship to that covenant. This prompts an issue.
The Statement of The Issue
The issue can be stated in the form of a question. Since the Church has a relationship to the New Covenant, partaking of its spiritual blessings, what is the relationship of the nation of Israel to the fulfillment of that covenant?
Theologians disagree with each other in their answers to this question. Many Covenant Theologians claim that the New Covenant is being fulfilled totally in the Church today. According to this view, the literal nation of Israel forfeited any relationship to the New Covenant because of its unbelief and rebellion against God. The New Testament Church has replaced literal Israel in that relationship. Thus, the promises of the New Covenant which were presented in the Old Testament are to be fulfilled in a spiritualized Israel (the Church) now. They are not to be fulfilled in the literal nation of Israel in the future. According to this view, there never will be a fulfillment of the New Covenant for national Israel.
By contrast, Dispensational Theologians claim that, since God promised to establish the New Covenant with the literal people of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31), since He intended the New Covenant to be unconditional in nature (totally dependent for the fulfillment of its promises upon God’s faithfulness to His word—Ezekiel 36:36), and since God declared that He would fulfill the promises of the New Covenant with Israel, not because the nation would deserve it, but because of its disobedience (Ezekiel 36:21-36), then the literal nation of Israel has not forfeited its relationship to the New Covenant because of its unbelief and rebellion against God. According to this view, the Church has not replaced literal Israel in its relationship to the New Covenant, and the New Covenant is not being fulfilled totally in the Church today. The fact that the Church has a relationship to the New Covenant does not rule out the fulfillment of all the promises of the New Covenant with national Israel in the future. Thus, according to the Dispensational view, there will be a fulfillment of the New Covenant for literal Israel in the future.
In light of this disagreement between Covenant and Dispensational Theologians, a conclusion can be drawn. The major issue related to the New Covenant is if there will be a complete fulfillment of the New Covenant with literal, national Israel in the future. This issue will be addressed in the next article.
For a comparison of Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology obtain the following book: Renald E. Showers, There Really Is A Difference! (The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Telephone: 800-257-7843. Mailing address: P.O. Box 908, Bellmawr, NJ 08099).