Chapter 2 – Called to a “New” Covenant

 

VIDEO PRESENTATION – CHAPTER TWO

(see written transcript below)


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Lesson 2 – Written Transcript

The Messianic Covenant

It is important to our quest for authentic Christianity for us to understand that just as He did with Abraham and with the nation of Israel, who enjoyed a covenant relationship with God designed especially for them, you also get to enjoy a covenant relationship with God through what we now know as, “The New Covenant in Christ.” The Bible says:

For this reason He [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

(Hebrews 9:15, NASB)

This verse plainly states that our Lord Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant.  We no longer live by the terms and provisions of God’s covenant with Abraham, or God’s covenant with Israel.  We live, and enjoy a life-giving relationship with God, by the terms of the New Covenant in Christ.

This verse also helps us understand that, when Jesus died, His sacrificial death on the cross was not only for those of us who get to live in this the final age, or the Christian dispensation, of Bible history.  Jesus also died to redeem all those people who lived back in Old Testament days.  In fact, His death fulfilled and redeemed—paid for—every single Old Testament animal sacrifice that had ever been made in faith; from the days of Adam and Eve up to the time of of God’s covenant with Abraham, on through to the time of Moses and God’s covenant with Israel, and right on up to the hour of the cross.  All of it—all the sin and corruption, all the wickedness and iniquity, all the transgression and rebellion—every sinful act that had ever been faithfully atoned for by an animal sacrifice was paid for in full by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  You see, the blood of Christ flows both ways: backward into history as well as forward into the future.

Now, it is important for you to know that the God’s covenant with Israel, given through Moses, and the New Covenant that we enjoy in Christ are both rooted in that ancient covenant that God first made with Abraham. The covenant given through Moses related to God’s promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation. It fulfills that “Nation-Land Promise” that we talked about earlier. However, the New Covenant in Christ relates to God’s promise to Abraham that,in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, NASB). It fulfills that “Family Blessing Promise” that we mentioned.  This is why, in the New Testament, we are told:  “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29, NASB).  God’s promise to Abraham is continuing to be fulfilled right down to this very day in people of faith, like you and me.

However, it is also important to know that these two covenants—the Old Covenant given through Moses and the New Covenant given in Christ—are distinctly different from one another. Three times—once back in the Old Testament through the prophet Jeremiah, and twice in the New Testament book of Hebrews—we are reminded that the New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant. The Bible says:

Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.

(Hebrews 8:8-12, NASB)

Sadly, many people today are confused when it comes to understanding the distinctions between the Old Covenant given through Moses and the New Covenant in Christ. You see, while the Old Covenant manifested itself among God’s people in very physical ways—remember, it was meant to govern a physical, earthly nation—the New Covenant manifests itself among God’s people in spiritual ways because it is meant to govern a nation that is entirely spiritual.  When people try to impose Old Covenant ways of thinking and acting upon the New Covenant kingdom of God, negative, volatile, and even tragic consequences can result. This is why Jesus said:

No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

(Luke 5:36-38, NASB)

Jesus wasn’t talking about mending clothes and making wine. He was talking about the changes that were coming as a result of His ministry and mission upon the earth. He was talking about covenant and the distinctions between the old and the new.  As New Covenant children of God, we must become New Covenant thinkers. We must understand the difference between the physical manifestations of the Old Covenant, as illustrated in the Law of Moses—which were only meant to be “a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things” (Hebrews 10:1, NASB)—and the spiritual realities of “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2, NASB) which identifies and governs God’s children today.

For example, every covenant child of God from Abraham through Moses, and right on up until the time of Christ, understood that fleshly circumcision was the sign of the covenant that God had made with them—as first commanded by God in Genesis 17 and then later codified in the Law of Moses in Leviticus 12. Some people, therefore, have insisted that Christians, because we are the spiritual heirs of Abraham, must also continue the practice—that every male in the family of God must be circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant. This was really a big problem for the Christian community back in the first century.

However, what people failed to comprehend, and what the writers of the New Testament had to point out, is that the physical manifestation of the Old Covenant—seen in circumcision—has become a spiritual manifestation in the New Covenant; and that the symbolic act of baptism has replaced circumcision. That’s right, your baptism into Christ, male or female, symbolizes your spiritual circumcision—a circumcision of the heart. The Bible says:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

(Romans 2:28-19, NASB)

… and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

(Colossians 2:11-12, NASB)

Just as with God’s covenant with Abraham, as well as His covenant with the nation of Israel, the New Covenant in Christ has been inaugurated with blood; that is, by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.  The Bible says:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…

(Hebrews 10:19-20, NASB)

And the Apostle Paul, speaking of the meaning and purpose of the holy communion—the Lord’s supper—shares these words from Jesus who said:

“This cup is the New Covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

(I Corinthians 11:25, NASB)

So when Jesus died on the cross, not only was He paying the price for all the sin of all humanity for all time—everyone who had ever lived or ever would live—but He was also, at the same time, inaugurating a New Covenant whereby we can enter into a close, personal, life-giving relationship with God.  The cross and all that happened there—that whole terribly tragic, beautifully scandalous scene at Golgotha, the place of the skull—was one big covenant inauguration ceremony.

And now, because a covenant is an agreement between at least two parties, God has invited each one of us, personally and individually, to participate in that inauguration ceremony.  We do that when we are baptized into Christ and into His death.  The Bible says:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

(Romans 6:3-7, NASB)

As with God’s covenant with Abraham, and with the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai, we can see from this passage of scripture how that both sides of the covenant—both God’s side and our side—are represented in this inauguration ceremony we call “baptism.”  Here in Romans 6, the Apostle Paul illustrates how baptism represents both the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—God’s side of the covenant—and our own death to self, burial with Christ into His death, and resurrection to walk in newness of life—our side of the covenant.

On the one hand, God has made provision for the satisfaction of His justice and the protection of His holiness through the death of His own Son who literally shed His blood on the cross.  The moment we are “baptized into His death,” as the scriptures state, the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God is applied to our own heart and life and God’s justice is satisfied, His holiness is protected, and His grace can now be extended to us.  At that very moment God is free to enter into a personal, intimate, life-giving covenant relationship with us.

On the other hand, when we are baptized, our own symbolic death to sin, burial with Christ, and resurrection to walk in newness of life is a demonstration of our faith in God and in the atonement that He offers us through the death of His Son.  When we, by faith, reach out and lay hold of the sacrifice of Christ and make it our very own, we join those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14, NASB); or, as the Apostle Paul puts it, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27, NASB); and, as the Apostle John reminds us, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7, NASB).  So, because the blood of Christ has now been applied and has taken care of our sin problem, we are considered holy and righteous in God’s sight and we can “draw near [to God] with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22, NASB).  All of this happens when we, by faith, reach out and claim the sacrifice of Christ as our very own at the moment of baptism—our inauguration into the New Covenant in Christ.

Furthermore, as with both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, this New Covenant in Christ is not without its tokens to help us remember and celebrate the promises of God’s love and the terms by which we have entered into relationship with Him.  As with all aspects of the New Covenant in Christ, the tokens are spiritual; although, for our sakes, God has ordained that some be symbolically acted out here in this earthly realm.

As a token of His love, and of His promise that we now belong to Him, we have been given “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NASB) who has taken up residence in our mortal bodies. The scriptures say:

…having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge [arrabon] of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

(Ephesians 1:13-14, NASB)

The Greek term, “arrabon,” means: “a deposit which guarantees, down payment, pledge” (ἀρραβών, 2013). “The word was also used sometimes in connection with an engagement ring” (Biblical, 2009). When you were baptized into Christ, God pledged His eternal love to you by presenting you with the most precious and priceless gift anyone in heaven or on earth could ever imagine—the gift of His own Spirit to dwell within your mortal body right alongside your own spirit.  This precious gift signifies that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NASB).

Just as spiritual, but played out on a more tangible, observable level, God has instituted the beautiful tokens of the holy communion to perpetually remind us of His promises and to help us continually remember and proclaim the terms of the New Covenant in Christ.  Like baptism, the holy communion is an observable symbol of a spiritual reality.  The Apostle Paul says:

… the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

(I Corinthians 11:23-26, NASB)

According to this passage of scripture, each time the children of God share together in the observance of the holy communion we proclaim, again, the terms of the New Covenant—the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior—by which we have been allowed to enter into this life-giving relationship with God.


The main points that I hope you will take with you from this lesson, beloved child of God, have to do with the nature of covenant, the purpose of covenant, and the expressions of covenant.  I hope you can see how that every covenant that God has made with humanity is about relationship.  God longs to enter into a close, personal, life-giving relationship with each and every one of us.  Covenant makes that relationship possible because the terms of covenant make provision for God’s holiness—ensuring that His justice and righteousness is respected and protected—while, at the same time providing an avenue whereby we can approach God and enter into a beautiful, life-giving relationship with Him.  Here are some important things to remember:

  • In each case wherein God enters into a covenant with humanity, the covenant must be inaugurated with blood because “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
  • No covenant is in effect until the inauguration ceremony has been performed and the covenant has been ratified by both parties.
    • On His part, Jesus has inaugurated the New Covenant by His death on the cross.
    • On our part, we personally ratify the New Covenant when we are “baptized into Christ” and “into His death” (Romans 6:3).
  • In addition to an inauguration ceremony, there are tokens whereby the covenant is continually remembered and celebrated.
    • On His part, the Lord has sealed us “with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).
    • On our part, when we “eat this bread and drink the cup, [the holy communion] we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26).

An Afterthought…

With regard to the two very important identifiers of the New Covenant: baptism into Christ—wherein we express our saving faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we are “united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5)—and the sharing of the holy communion—wherein we remember and “proclaim His death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26)—I just can’t help but think it odd, extremely bizarre even, that these two acts of faith and love which, by the way, are the only two ceremonial expressions of saving faith in which God has actually called His children to participate, these two identifiers of the New Covenant are, perhaps, the two most neglected religious observances among modern, denominational, so-called “Christian” churches today.

Baptism, for the most part, has been completely detached from saving faith.  Among some religious groups calling themselves “Christian,” baptism has been reduced to a legalistic work of law, rather than an expression of our faith in Christ and what He has done for us; hence, they baptize babies and young children to “get them saved,” and then later have to teach them to know the Lord—absolutely opposite of Bible teaching.  Others, perhaps in protest to that kind of legalism, have relegated baptism to some kind of an optional act of obedience that is nice, but not necessary for salvation.  They see it as sign or symbol of something that they think has already occurred, a mere outward testimony of an inward faith, but unrelated to entering into a saving relationship with God.  They certainly do not view it as the moment that one is put into Christ and into His death—thereby ratifying, or endorsing, or validating their inauguration into a New Covenant relationship with God.

The holy communion, or Lord’s Supper, has also been seriously downplayed among the so-called “Christian” churches.  My wife and I often visit the various churches here in our community and seldom—very seldom—have we ever participated together with them in an observance of the holy communion. Doesn’t the Bible say, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26, NASB).  Note that the scripture says, “for as often as you eat,” and not, “for as seldom as you eat.” But the various Protestants churches that we visit seldom seem to bother with it.  Apparently, remembering the terms of the New Covenant whereby we have been saved is just not something that very many “Christians” do very much anymore these days.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the only two ceremonial expressions of faith in which the Lord has called His New Covenant children to participate—baptism and the holy communion—both focused squarely on the death of Christ, are precisely the two expressions of faith that Satan, our adversary, in his ongoing effort to take our eyes off of Jesus, the cross, and all that happened there, has sought to attack and diminish.


 

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