This sermon is number 3 in a series of 3
Covenants - Part 3
"The New Covenant"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2010 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Good evening to you all again, it's good to be here at Scrabo. I have been coming for some time - is that true about the girls at the Youth Fellowship? Why are you only telling me now!? I don't know! Well, it is good, nevertheless, to be here. It's good to have been with you the last couple of weeks, and it has been hard work but very rewarding - for me probably the most - studying the Word, and hopefully you've gotten something out of it. It might be a good idea to get some of the recordings and just go over it all, there is a lot to take in - but very essential stuff, I hope you agree, and foundational for many other doctrines within the word of God.
Tonight is no different, in fact it's very interesting how it all comes to a crescendo this evening - I don't know whether that was planned! - but it certainly is providential, and fits in with a great deal of what we were studying this morning. We're looking tonight at 'The New Covenant'. If it's your first time with us, I'm sorry, we've covered Romans 9, 10 and 11 these Sunday mornings, and the Covenants in general - but specifically 'The Abrahamic Covenant', Genesis 15; last week we looked at 'The Mosaic Covenant', the Old Covenant which covers a great deal of the first five books of the Old Testament; and tonight we're looking at 'The New Covenant'.
So we're turning to Jeremiah chapter 31 please, Jeremiah 31 verse 31: "'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more'. Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): 'If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever'. Thus says 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, says the LORD'".
Let's bow in a moment's prayer please: Abba Father, in the name of Your Holy Child, Jesus, we come again and ask help as we come, we know, to a Father who has a throne of grace to provide grace and mercy in time of need. This is an hour of need and, Lord, I need You, and the people gathered here need You. We need what is enshrined in this portion of Scripture, we need to all be taught of God from the least to the greatest. We thank You for the many truths that we've been learning these weeks. Lord, there's been an awful lot to imbibe, and yet we want people going away - from this meeting in particular - changed, transformed, not just through a Bible study, but through a divine encounter. We want to meet the Living God, and we want You to change our lives. For the glory of the Lord Jesus we pray, Amen.
Now, as I've been saying week after week - I'll put it on the screen to help you, and hopefully it will sink in tonight if it hasn't done already - there are eight major covenants in the Bible. The first three covenants are what we call 'general covenants', and they are: the Edenic Covenant, the Adamic Covenant, and the Noahic Covenant. That simply means, 'general covenant', that they're made to the whole of mankind, they are universal in nature, not to one specific nation but to the whole population of the world. They are the first three, and then those after them are what we call 'theocratic covenants'. We've used the comparison of what 'democratic' is, democratic is 'rule of the people', 'theocratic' is 'rule of God'. The theocratic covenants are simply pertaining to the rule of God on earth, how He effects His influence upon His creation. Of course, the theocratic covenants are: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Palestinian or the Land Covenant, and the Davidic Covenant, and tonight we're looking at the New Covenant.
Now it is highly significant, as we've said, that all of these theocratic covenants - all of them without exception - were made with the nation of Israel, God's covenant people. We've also said, as we've gone through these studies, that there are two types of covenants involved in all these eight. There are conditional covenants and unconditional covenants. Briefly, conditional covenants are bilateral, that means there is a responsibility on both parties of the covenant to fulfil. In fact, God proposes to man in these bilateral conditional covenants: 'If you will, then I will'. Blessing in a conditional covenant is conditioned upon obedience. Before God fulfils His conditions, first man must fulfil his own. Now, two out of the eight major covenants of the Bible are conditional, and those are the red ones on your screen: the Edenic Covenant, which we have broken, hence sin upon all men; and the Mosaic Covenant, which we have read tonight has also been broken, and which has now passed, we saw last Sunday night, with the coming of Messiah and His death and resurrection. You will note from the screen that only one of the five covenants made with Israel was conditional, that being the Mosaic as we've said.
Those are the conditional covenants, and then the other type is the unconditional - and that is a unilateral covenant, meaning that this is sovereign act of God. God alone is responsible to fulfil the obligations in this type of covenant. You can see that through passages dealing with unconditional covenants where God continually says: 'I will, I will' - and so the blessing is secured not by obedience, but by God's grace, a free act of God. Six of the eight total covenants of the Bible are unconditional: the Adamic, the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.
Now we did highlight, as we've gone through these studies, that one vital rule of Bible interpretation is to ascertain who is being addressed in any given portion of Scripture. It's using that principle of interpretation that we discern that many of these covenants have been made between God and a specific nation, that is, the nation of Israel. The New Covenant is no exception. Verse 31 makes that very clear: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah'. In this New Covenant, both houses of Israel are included - Israel, the northern kingdom; and Judah, the southern. Thus this covenant, it includes the entire Jewish people, all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The reason why that is an important biblical principle, and we emphasise who this covenant is made with, is because many have wrongly interpreted this covenant and the other covenants - some of them at least in the Old Testament - as having been made with the church, or having been made with Gentiles. But we see clearly in the context that this is a covenant God made with the covenant people, Israel. There are other Old Testament portions related to the New Covenant that also bear this out in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel - and we'll not look at them tonight.
But if you want a New Testament example of how this New Covenant has been made specifically with Israel, the best is the one where we were this morning in Romans chapter 11, if you care to turn to it with me. We spent some time, and it wouldn't do any harm for you to get that study if you weren't here and you want to fill in the gaps of what we're dealing with tonight, but in Romans 11 and verse 26 we read that there is a day coming when: 'all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins''. You can see that that is the same covenant as the New Covenant, when God will take away their sins then 'all Israel will be saved'.
Now right away there should be a question that arises in your mind: if this New Covenant was made specifically with Israel and not made with the church, how do we then understand the scriptures that clearly connect the New Covenant with the church? They are obvious, probably the most obvious being the Last Supper where the Lord Jesus, on the night on which He was betrayed, met together with His own disciples. He lifted the cup and He said: 'This is the New Testament, the New Covenant, in My blood'. Of course, Paul reiterates that account in 1 Corinthians 11 to a Gentile church, how the Lord said that we were to drink this cup, for it is the New Covenant in His blood. In 2 Corinthians chapter 3, we read that Paul and the apostles consider themselves, and I believe we have the administration, of the New Covenant - they were ministers of the New Covenant. The book of Hebrews reiterates this New Covenant teaching, where it speaks specifically of a New Covenant, and quotes from Jeremiah 31, our initial reading. It speaks in Hebrews of how this covenant is one of better promises, and we have a new High Priest, and there has been a once and for all eternal sacrifice, and even a new law - and we could go on and on.
So, how can this dilemma, seemingly, be reconciled? The covenant is made specifically with the house of Israel and Judah, and yet there are so many portions of Scripture which connect the New Covenant with the church. Well, the most common solution is what we call 'Replacement Theology', and we've touched a bit on this week after week. Replacement Theology is simply the idea of transference of these covenant promises that were made with Israel, transference of them to the church. In order to take that interpretation of Scripture, you need to have an allegorical approach to God's word - and that simply means that you just sort of spiritualise things that appear to be literal. Now what that does, as we've seen as we've touched on a few interpretive principles over the weeks, it does despite to sound Bible interpretation, and in fact it ignores the details of this covenant, and indeed any of the covenants - for instance, such as the land promises that are given to the nation of Israel.
Other people who don't espouse to Replacement Teaching, believe: 'Well, there are actually two covenants included in the New Covenant. One to Israel, and one to the church' - but that is not supported by any Scripture whatsoever. Then there are others, and they say: 'Well, there are not two covenants, there's only one, but there are two aspects to this one covenant. One aspect for Israel, and one aspect for the church'. The fact of the matter is, as you read this portion to do with the New Covenant and others, the covenant itself does not differentiate aspects at all, one to Israel or to the church. Now, believe it or not, the solution is much more straightforward, and it's found in Romans chapter 11 - where you, perhaps, are already, if not please do turn to it, it's important that you see these scriptures if you're not looking at it from the screen.
Verse 17 of Romans 11: 'If some of the branches were broken off', this is an analogy Paul is using, an illustration, we looked at it this morning, I'll explain it in a moment, 'If some of the branches were broken off and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you'. Very simply, the olive tree, the natural olive tree in this analogy, is the nation of Israel - it represents, essentially, the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants that Gentiles are foreigners to, and strangers of. The branches partaking of the blessings are natural branches, that is, Jewish believers; and the wild olive branches are Gentile people who have believed in Messiah. Unbelieving Jews have been broken off, natural branches, and thrown away; and Gentile believers in Messiah, wild olive branches have been engrafted in - but they have been engrafted in to be partakers, verse 17 says, partakers of the blessings, the root and fatness of the olive tree. In other words, they are partaking of the benefits of the covenants of the nation of Israel.
Indeed, verse 24 bears this out: 'For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree', that's Israel and her promises, 'how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?' - their own olive tree. Now we saw this morning, very quickly, that God's covenant elect people, Israel, who were foreknown in order to be a missionary nation to the world, and to be a vehicle to bring Messiah to bless all nations, they are in unbelief at this moment. God has judged them with a measure of blindness, though there is a remnant still being saved to this present day. This has been for the purpose of bringing the gospel to the nations: because the Jews have not believed, the nations are now hearing the gospel. This has always been foreseen by God - but there is a day coming when all Israel will be saved, and when God will turn to them again, and the natural branches will again be put into this olive tree. But note how Paul puts it: they will be grafted into their own olive tree - it belongs to them! These are their covenants, even the New Covenant.
So, how do you understand how the church relates to the New Covenant? Well, very simply: according to grace, the relationship of the church to the New Covenant is basically the same as the relationship of the church to the Abrahamic Covenant, and to the Land Covenant - we haven't looked at that, but that's the promise of the land of Israel - and the Davidic Covenant, which is the promise of the throne in Jerusalem. You say: 'How are you making this comparison, that the relationship with the New Covenant is the same with the Abrahamic Covenant, and the Land, and the Davidic Covenant?'. Simply this: the church has no claim upon the physical blessings of any of the covenants that God made with Israel. These physical blessings were partly in the Abrahamic Covenant and the Land Covenant and the Davidic Covenant, however the blessing spiritual aspect of these covenants is amplified in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. That spiritual aspect of all these covenants includes the Gentiles.
Now, that might seem a bit complicated to you, but it's really quite simple. In the Abrahamic Covenant, and all the theocratic covenants - apart from the Mosaic Covenant - we, as Gentiles, by grace can be partakers of the spiritual blessings of them all, but not the physical. The physical blessings belong to Israel, the spiritual belong to Israel and the world. Now, this is how God planned to bless the whole world through the nation of Israel. Now we see also from Jeremiah 31 that this New Covenant is to replace the Mosaic Covenant, or the Old Covenant, verse 32: 'not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD'. The Mosaic Covenant, as far as God is concerned, is now considered broken - even before Messiah came - we could nearly say even before the Covenant reached down to the bottom of Mount Sinai it appeared to be broken! Therefore the New Covenant is distinct from the Mosaic Old Covenant, it is not an elaboration of the Mosaic Covenant.
Now we have to be careful here, because confusion can come through the terminology that we use. I mean by that that we understand the Old Testament as being Genesis through to Malachi. Another term for Old Testament is Old Covenant, isn't it? Therefore some equate the Old Testament of our Bible with the Old Covenant, or the Mosaic Covenant. They read Jeremiah 31 in the New Testament, and because the Old Covenant is replaced by the New Covenant some mistakenly assume that all the covenants in the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi, have been replaced by the New Covenant - that is not the case at all. In fact, the Old Covenant does not include all the covenants of the Old Testament. We saw last week, what is the Old Covenant? The Old Covenant is simply the Mosaic Covenant, so the Old Covenant is not the Abrahamic Covenant, or indeed any of the unconditional covenants with Israel. The Mosaic Covenant, we saw last week, was conditionally established 430 years after God made His original promise to Abraham.
Let me show you this again in case you weren't here last week, Galatians chapter 3 please. Galatians chapter 3 verses 16 and 17: 'Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made', his Seed is Christ, by the way, 'He does not say, 'And to seeds', as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed', who is Christ. And this I say, that the law', that is the Mosaic Covenant, the Mosaic Law, 'which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect'. So you see the differentiation between the Abrahamic Covenant, and indeed all the unconditional covenants with Israel, and the Mosaic Covenant. In fact, the Mosaic Covenant is an interim covenant until Messiah comes - and verse 19 bears this out: 'What purpose then does the law', that's the Mosaic Law, 'serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed', the Messiah, 'should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator'.
Now that Messiah has come, the Mosaic Covenant has been replaced - stay with me now - the Mosaic Covenant has been replaced with the fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant, which is the New Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant, the Old Covenant, has been replaced with the fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant, the New Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant abides today, and you're in the blessing of it - not physically, but spiritually. Now, I think you need another slide, if you look at that you will see where the Mosaic Covenant comes - if you can see it at all, if you haven't your binoculars with you, you'll just have to take our word for it! The Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis chapter 12, and out of the Abrahamic Covenant comes the Land of Israel Covenant, Deuteronomy 30; comes the Davidic Covenant, to do with the throne of David; and comes the New Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant does not come out of the Abrahamic Covenant, it is separate, it is interim - and you see that the Abrahamic Covenant has ramifications for the Land, right into the Millennial Kingdom; for the Davidic throne, right into the Millennial Kingdom; and for the New Covenant, into this New Testament era, the church spiritually, and Israel in the Kingdom. Interesting, isn't it?
Therefore, the Abrahamic Covenant is a covenant of promise, and the New Covenant is the covenant fulfilment of everything that the Abrahamic Covenant promised. Now, if I was to ask you the question: who is the major character in the Old Testament? What would your answer be? A lot of people would say 'Moses', but Moses is not. Abraham is the central character of the Old Testament. I said this in our first week when we looked at the Abrahamic Covenant, and I'm repeating it tonight because it's vital: the Abrahamic Covenant is the basis of all the theocratic covenants of God. That simply means that the Abrahamic Covenant is the one purpose of God for humans into which all of God's programs, plans and works fit. It's a comprehensive, packaged, detailed outlook of what God has done in history, what He will continue to do until the consummation of all things at the end of time. It's remarkable!
So, what was promised to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant is fulfilled now in the New Covenant, and will be fulfilled to Israel, and is being fulfilled to us spiritually. Now, I hope you followed that - but let me try and really tie it all down now specifically: what does the New Covenant mean spiritually to us and physically to Israel? Well, there are four provisions in the New Covenant that we read here: regeneration, national restoration, complete justification and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit. Now, first of all: regeneration. Spiritual and national regeneration are spoken of in Jeremiah 31. God will put His law in their inward parts, verse 33, and write it on their hearts. Now the key aspect of the entire New Covenant is the blessing of salvation, which includes Israel's national regeneration. We read it in Romans 11: 'So all Israel will be saved'.
It does appear initially that this regeneration of Israel will be universal among the Jews. Certainly that will be the case for Jews who are alive when Messiah returns, who Jesus said will cry: 'Blessed is He that comes in the name of the LORD', and they will embrace Him as Messiah. You can read about that in Zechariah's prophecy in chapters 12 and 13 where there are many details given. It would appear from then on, verse 34: 'No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD' - it appears that from then on there will be no need for one Jew to say to another, 'Know the LORD', for they shall all know Him. This is a promise to the house of Israel, the house of Judah, and when it is fulfilled all Israel shall be saved - there will be regeneration of the people of Israel when Jesus returns.
Incorporated in this is not just a spiritual regeneration, but a national restoration. We read here Jehovah, Yahweh, will be their God, and the nation will be His people, verse 33. So this New Covenant, just like the Abrahamic Covenant, involves the people who have descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, involves the land that God promised them, and involves the throne that was promised to David - physical blessings are in the New Covenant. Material blessings will be showered upon Israel at the New Covenant. We see this even in the same chapter, verse 27 of Jeremiah 31: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast'.
Now Ezekiel has a great deal to say about this New Covenant, if you go to Ezekiel 34 please, you'll read more about this material blessing. Verse 25 of Ezekiel 34: 'I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them'.
Now the Mosaic Law provided for material blessings when the Jews obeyed God - but, of course, as we know, the Jews largely forfeited those blessings because of their disobedience. However, the New Covenant is an unconditional covenant. God is saying: 'I will'. It's not conditional upon the faithfulness of the people, it's conditional upon the faithfulness of God. Not only will there be material blessings, the sanctuary, the Temple will be rebuilt. Now, I know this causes problems for some, but the problems are with how you understand Scripture when you turn to passages like Ezekiel 37. Turn to it again, Ezekiel 37 - keep a finger in Ezekiel, we'll be looking at a couple of portions here - the sanctuary is said to be rebuilt. Verse 26: 'Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore'.
Now you either spiritualise those details and, for that matter, if you care to look at it when you go home, chapter 40 on, there are very very graphic measurements and details of what this Temple structure is going to be like in the millennial reign of Christ. You either just spiritualise all of that, or you have to conclude that the sanctuary will be rebuilt. Now, the Mosaic Covenant provided for the Tabernacle, the tent in the wilderness. The Davidic Covenant provided for Solomon's Temple, and now the New Covenant is providing for the Millennial Temple, or the Messianic Temple which is yet to be. This will be a memorial to Israel of all of God's faithfulness to them right throughout their history of unbelief.
So there is regeneration and there is national restoration, but thirdly: there is complete justification. Keep your finger in Ezekiel, and look please at verse 34 in Jeremiah 31 - at the end of verse 34 God says: 'For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more'. This is the very thing, we saw it last week, that the Mosaic Covenant could not do! It only covered over sin, but it could not remove sin - but the New Covenant removes sin, and God pronounces that He remembers sin no more. Rather than merely forgetting, He chooses not to recall them ever again! Christian friend, you are in the good of that: complete justification.
But then fourthly, not only is there regeneration, national restoration, complete justification, there is the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is where I really want to linger tonight. It says in verse 32 that God would write His laws on their hearts, and then it says in verse 34 that they will all be taught individually by God from the least to the greatest. So what we have here is the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit. Now, if you go to Ezekiel 36 this time, you will see this borne out in verse 27 - Ezekiel 36:27, God says: 'I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them'. Now listen carefully: this is the great reason for Israel's failure in keeping the Mosaic Covenant. They could not keep the law of Moses! The reason why they could not keep the law of Moses - as we saw last week, there's nothing wrong with the law, its holy and it's pure, it's God's righteous standard revealed to mankind - the problem is: we are weak through the flesh, we have an inherent bent toward sin. In fact, what it does is: it multiplies sin for us, it creates sin. The people lacked the power to comply with the Mosaic law, and the purpose now of the New Covenant is to give the people the power to live righteously. Now that is mighty, because that is what freedom in Christ is. Freedom is not license, but it is the liberty to do that which is right, a liberty and freedom that we did not have by birth! Freedom in Christ is the freedom to do righteousness in the power of God.
But hold on a minute, because many New Testament Christians make the mistake and think that righteous living is compliance with the Mosaic Law. Now we saw last week that that cannot be, the Mosaic law is finished. But then others will say: 'Well, this new law of Messiah that you mentioned last week' - that is, Galatians 6 and verse 2, where Paul says 'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ'; Romans 8 and verse 2, 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death'. That really comprises: the law of Messiah are the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ from His mouth, or His commandments via His apostles. Now we saw last week that the moral law existed before the Mosaic Law, in the Garden of Eden existed, in fact before Eden it existed - but the Mosaic law embodied the moral law, but now this moral law is embodied in the law of Messiah in totality and in perfection.
Now let us just home in on this for a moment, because there are some slight differences between the Mosaic Law and the moral law that was enshrined in the Mosaic Law, and the moral law that is enshrined perfectly in the law of Messiah. Well, some commands are repeated in the law of Messiah from the Mosaic Law; but some commands are omitted. Then thirdly, some commands are intensified from the Mosaic Law to the Messiah's law. Now let me illustrate this - some commands are repeated: nine out of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament, nine. The one left out is the omission in the law of Messiah, and that is the Sabbath - out of the Ten Commandments that is the one that is not repeated. Also the dietary laws and many rites and rituals of the Old Testament law are not repeated in the law of Messiah. But also some laws are intensified - some Christians get this into their head that the law of Messiah is a bit of an easy ride in comparison to the Mosaic Law, far from it! Some laws are intensified, for instance: the Mosaic Law said, 'Love your neighbour as yourself', Leviticus 19 verse 18 - now this means man is the standard. If you love yourself, and all you men know what that means, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' - man becomes the standard. But in the New Covenant, Jesus said in John 15 verse 12: 'Love one another, even as I have loved you'. Now it's not man as the standard, it's the Suffering Saviour who laid down His life for mankind. So some commands are repeated from the Mosaic Law to the Messiah law, some are omitted like the Sabbath and dietary codes and so on, but some are intensified.
Now listen carefully: from last week I hope no one went away with the assumption, 'Right, the law of Moses doesn't apply to us anymore, we have this law of Messiah that comprises the law of Christ, all the commandments of Jesus and the apostles', and you're going away thinking, 'Well, I don't follow legalistically this code of ethics from the Old Testament, but I follow now a new list of rules from the New Testament' - you could not be further from the truth! You say: 'David, you're contradicting yourself' - I'm not! Listen: the law of Messiah, just as the law of Moses, is impossible to live to according to the flesh. You cannot follow down a list, and tick it off, and say 'I've done this, I've done that, I haven't done this, I haven't done that'. 'What are you saying?', the Holy Spirit is central and vital to the New Covenant. What man could not do in the Old Covenant, he can now do in the Messiah Covenant, the New Covenant, but only by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. So many people think living the Christian life is just about obeying the law of Messiah, well here's the wake-up call for you: the law of Messiah is harder than the law of Moses! It's no longer an eye for an eye, it's turn the other cheek. Are you telling me that's easier?
But you say to me: 'Jesus said it's easier, His commands are not grievous, burdensome. He said, 'Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden', burdened with the yoke of bondage that the religious leaders had put on them, 'and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light''. You're missing the punchline! There is only one Man who can live the law of Messiah, and that is Jesus Christ. His life is the only life that pleases God, He is the only one who can fulfil this law - and we can only fulfil it by the power of the Spirit. Can I say to you: some of the folk who are experts in rightly dividing the word of truth when it comes to covenants are pygmies in understanding the ministry and the utter necessity, vitality, of the Holy Spirit. He is the great 'how' it is to be done.
You remember I shared with you the 2002 Barna Research Poll of Christians in the US, I think it was last week. It showed that most who were polled summed up the Christian life as, I'm quoting: 'Trying to do what God commands'. That is the level of doing rather than the level of being, the emphasis is on rules not on relationship - but the New Covenant emphasis is upon relationship. Do you understand? I gave you the better definition of what true Christianity is, and it's the New Covenant - it is a personal faith-based relationship with God as your Abba, your Father, through abiding in Jesus Christ, the Son, and walking in a loving obedience to His word through - here's the punchline - through the power and the person of the Holy Spirit. You can try and do all the rest, and you will fail without the person and power of the Holy Spirit! That's why Jesus said: 'It is necessary that I go' - what else could be so important that Jesus go?
So there's a new motivation in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant motivation was: do to be blessed. The New Covenant motivation is: do because you are blessed. There's a world of difference. Let me illustrate it to you like this, and I hope you'll give me the time tonight - you've been very gracious this past couple of weeks, but I do want to do this justice tonight. There's a world of difference, I'll illustrate it to you like this: the famous Boston preacher, Dr A.J. Gordon, visited the World's Fair in Chicago. In the distance Gordon saw a man robed in bright, gaudy Oriental clothes. He appeared to be laboriously turning the crank of a pump, and thereby making a mighty flow of water. Gordon was so impressed with this man's energy, and his smooth motions, and his obvious physical conditioning, that he went a little bit closer - he was pumping this water tremendously. As he grew closer, Gordon was surprised to discover that the man was actually made of wood. Instead of turning the crank and making the water flow, the flow of water was actually turning the crank and thereby making him go.
Do you understand? Most conservative evangelicals are in their own energy cranking the pump: do, do, do - even if the 'do' is pray, read, don't look at this, don't go here, don't do that. It's not that those things are right or wrong, but they don't figure 'that' in a relationship with God. What God wants to do is, He wants to put His own life in you, that you will live out these New Covenant promises by the power of the Spirit. He wants to fill living waters through you that will crank the pump! The New Covenant was promised as a far prospect in Jeremiah - we're only starting, you know! - and it's promised as a near prospect in Luke chapter 22. Would you turn there with me, please, Luke chapter 22?
Promised as a far prospect in Jeremiah, now promised as a near prospect in Luke 22. This is the Last Supper, verse 15, this is so instructive: 'Then He said to them, 'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God'. Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, 'Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes'. And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me'. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you''. Promised as a near prospect, on the night on which He was betrayed the Lord represents the New Covenant in earthly tokens. It is about to be cut - you remember that's how this agreement, covenant, is made, it is spoken of as being 'cut'. It's about to be cut at Calvary.
Now, I want you to imagine this in your mind's eye, because we have lost a lot of the imagery. This was the Passover meal, the Lamb of God is in the centre of this meal, and He is pouring wine into the cup. In the Temple sacrificial system, the blood of the animal would be poured out as a drink offering, and He is pouring out this wine. It is also believed that the cup after supper that is spoken of here in Luke was the third cup of four cups used in the Passover meal, the Seder meal. In Jesus' day they may have filled up the same cup four times. The first cup represented sanctification, the cup of sanctification. The second is the cup of remembrance, the third is the cup of salvation - and that is the cup after supper that He took and consecrated as the cup, we would say, perhaps, of communion, or the Lord's Supper. It is with that cup in hand that He says: 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you' - the cup of salvation, the symbolism is incredible! Here is the New Covenant promised as a near prospect. The benefactor is Jesus in the midst, and He is to be cut by a voluntary sacrifice. This is a unilateral covenant, wholly established by the means of His obedience - Paul says, 'His obedience, even unto death, the death of the cross'. Remember it had nothing to do with the faithfulness of the disciples, they all forsook Him and fled. The beneficiaries are sitting before Him, His own disciples - representing, let it be said, the house of Israel and Judah - and yet we know this mystery, that represented here in spirit are wild olive branches like you and me, of Gentiles who will partake of these blessings.
It was promised in far prospect in Jeremiah, in near prospect in Luke 22, and then it's enacted. It's cut at Calvary where, Isaiah says, He was pierced through for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. In the Abrahamic Covenant, you remember, Abraham was told to take the animals and cut them in two, and God walked between them. The Mosaic Covenant was cut in stone, and the shedding of blood was sprinkled on the people - but this New Covenant will be engraved on the hearts of believing people, because it is a covenant cut with the shedding of the blood of the Son of God. 'I have graven you upon the palms of my hands', Jehovah says. Hebrews reads: 'If the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 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'.
The blood of Messiah is the basis of salvation in the New Covenant, and that blood was shed at the cross. The blood of Messiah has ratified, signed and sealed the New Covenant. If you want to read about that, read Hebrews 8 to 10. Not only was it enacted at Calvary, it was fulfilled in the book of the Acts and Romans. In the Acts, the obedience to the great commission - our Lord spoke and said, 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth' - in Acts this is fulfilled. The gospel is first proclaimed to the Jews in Jerusalem, then it goes to the Samaritans who were a Jew-Gentile hybrid, and it goes to them through Philip. Then it moves out to the Gentiles via Peter, to Cornelius and his household. Then it goes to Antioch and to the regions beyond. Then we come to the book of Romans, and the New Covenant Gospel is proclaimed to the Jew first and then the Greek - that's the power of God unto salvation to them, Romans 1:16.
Then, as we studied these Sunday mornings, Romans 9, 10 and 11, it goes to the Jew first, then it goes to the Greek, the Gentile, and then it's going to go back to the Jew again. We see this on every one of Paul's missionary journeys, he has a pattern to follow. First he seeks out the synagogue and he preaches to the Jews - and even on his last journey, as he was going to his death to Rome, he commences at Jerusalem where he witnesses in Acts 21 in the Temple, and he declares to the Jews in Acts 22: 'I am a Jew'. Then, three days following his arrival at Rome for execution, it says in Acts 28 he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and declared: 'I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel'. He felt so indebted to the Jews, we read it in Romans 9, that he could almost wish he was accursed, so that his kinsmen in Judaism could be born again - those through whom the covenants have come, and Messiah has come.
Let me ask you a question: in the light of all this ministry, particularly this morning and tonight, do you feel indebted to the Jew for where you are tonight? For if you don't, you don't understand this salvation. There is a Gentile obligation upon you for your indebtedness to the Jew, and I don't have time to go into it - but in Romans 15 we read that Gentile believers, who had become partakers of the Jewish spiritual blessings, of Macedonia sent finance to the poor church in Jerusalem. Paul basically says in Romans chapter 15: 'Seeing that you have been partakers of their spiritual blessings, should they not be partakers of your material blessings?'. There was an obligation to Israel. Can I say: that obligation is not just material, it's spiritual - pray for the Jews. Witness - I know there's not too many Jews in Ulster, or Ireland for that matter - but, if you can, witness to the Jews, and support the witness to the Jews.
Now I'm concluding, and I'm concluding the whole series by drawing your attention to these last verses - 35 to 37. They are fitting for the close of this whole series: 'Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): 'If those ordinances'', those ordinances of the sky, covenants really of the sky, agreements of the sky, ''depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever'. Thus says 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, says the LORD''. That really incorporates one Hebrew word, it's called 'hesed', the steadfast love of the Lord. It's used 250 times in the Old Testament, and it speaks of how God is always faithful to an unfaithful people. He will be faithful to His physical and spiritual promises to Israel, and He will be faithful to His spiritual promises to believing Gentiles - otherwise the heavens would cave in around your head.
All I could think of when I thought of that was a very old hymn entitled, 'Loved with Everlasting Love' - the final verse says:
'His forever, only His:
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart' - listen to this.
'Heaven and earth may fade and flee,
Firstborn light in gloom decline;
But, while God', while God, 'and I shall be,
I am His, and He is mine'.
Father, we thank You for Your truth. We ask that by the Spirit You will write it on every heart. Lord, don't just fill our heads - O God, deliver us from full heads and empty hearts. Give us all the blessings of this New Covenant that cost the blood of Jesus. Oh Lord, how the church needs all the blessings of the New Covenant. We spare a moment for Israel. We pray that that remnant of Jews will increase, and we pray for the day - Maranatha - when they will all be saved when Jesus comes. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered in Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'Covenants' series, entitled "The New Covenant" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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