Thursday, June 20, 2013
The New Covenant Applies To The Nation Israel And To Church-Age Christians
By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
The purpose of this posting
Some Christians believe the New Covenant applies only to the nation Israel, and, therefore, does not apply to church-age Christians. The purpose of this posting is to give evidence from the Bible and from Bible study helps that the New Covenant does, in fact, apply to church-age Christians. But we first must consider some practical information about the New Covenant.
Who predicted the New Covenant?
The New Covenant was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah, long before Jesus Christ walked throughout the land of Israel. The Zondervan KJV Study Bible (that is its exact name, and not to be confused with other study Bibles with similar names) says this: "Jeremiah's prophetic ministry began in 626 B. C. and ended sometime after 586." The one-volume MacArthur Bible Commentary has a helpful chart called "The Progress of Revelation," in which are given the approximate dates when the Bible's books and epistles (letters) were written. It It gives this date for the book of Jeremiah: 586 - 570 B. C. Jeremiah wrote about the New Covenant in chapter 31, verses 31 - 34, of his book. Here ( in red) are these verses, quoted from the King James Version:
31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
(All further quotes from the Bible are from the King James Version, unless otherwise indicated. They are taken from this website: www.biblegateway,com)
With whom was the New Covenant made?
It is clear from verse 31 that God said this: "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:" And verse 33 says God said this: "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;" So, we cannot debate this point. What is debated is whether or not this covenant applies to Christians, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, in this church age. As stated in my first paragraph, the purpose of this posting is to give evidence from the Bible and Bible study helps that the New Covenant does, in fact, apply to church-age Christians. This evidence will be given later.
When was the New Covenant instituted, and by whom?
It was instituted in the first century A. D. by Jesus Christ. It was done symbolically shortly before his death when he instituted the Lord's supper. And it was done literally when his blood was shed on the cross.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the details of the institution of the New Covenant, as does Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Here is a quote from Matthew 26: 26 - 28:
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Verse 28 makes it very clear that his shed blood was/is the basis for the New Covenant/Testament. When he said those words to those men, they understood that he was referring to Jeremiah 31, quoted above. What Jeremiah had predicted some hundreds of years before was being brought to pass in their lifetime.
Is there Biblcal evidence that the New Covenant applies to anyone but the nation of Israel?
My answer to this question is short and simple: YES! While its primary application is to Israel, that is not its only application. Consider some Biblical evidence for this claim.
Evidence from 1 Corinthians 11:23 - 26. In his letters to the Corinthian, the apostle Paul wrote to a church composed of Jews and Gentiles who had become Christians. From the subjects Paul addressed in these letters, it seems that the majority of those converts to Christ were Gentiles. And the historical background, found in Acts 18, concerning the founding of the Corinthian church also indicates the majority were Gentile converts. But even if the majority were Jews, it still was a church made up of Jews and Gentiles. And it was to such a church that Paul wrote the following things in chapter 11, verses 23 - 26:
"23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
Now, a careful reading of these verses reveals that Paul applied to a church composed of Jews and Gentiles what both Jeremiah and Jesus called the New Covenant/Testament. It was to this mixed church that Paul made this comment: 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." The cup to which Paul referred was the cup of the New Covenant. If the New Covenant had no application to Gentiles, Paul would have not have made such a statement.
Evidence from 2 Corinthians 3:4 - 6. One of the subjects Paul brought to the attention of the Corinthians was some differences between the Old and New Covenants. He also defended himself because of criticisms from his opponents who sought to undermine his apostolic ministry. One of his defenses is found in 2 Cor. 3:1 - 6, which says this: Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
It is very important to note what Paul said in verse 6: "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." If the New Testament/Covenant had no application to anyone but the nation of Israel, Paul would not have said God had made him and others who ministered to Gentiles and Jews who had become Christians, able ministers of it. They had been made able minsiters of the New Covenant in order to build up the church, not the kingdom of Israel.
Do any commentaries or study Bibles say that the New Covenant applies to the church?
The answer is an enthusiastic "Yes!" Consider a few of many that could be cited. Bible scholar, Gleason L. Archer, wrote a book called "Encyclopedia Of Bible Difficulties. What follows is part of Archer's first paragraph of his lengthy answer to a question on Jeremiah 31:31. The question was this: "Does this prophecy refer only to the New Testament church, or does it await fulfillment in the days when Israel will be converted to faith in Christ on a national level?" Archer said this: "This remarkable prediction very clearly found its first fulfillment in the raising up of the New Testament church in the days of the apostles, beginning with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the 120 believers at the Feast of Pentecost, after the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here is the complete concluding paragraph of his answer to the foregoing question: "Here, then, we have a clear case of two-stage fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy: Jeremiah 31:31 - 33 has been fulfilled in the New Testament church; and it will be consummated in the last days when there shall be a major national awakening among the Jewish people, and they turn to the Lord Jesus as their true Messiah and Savior (Zech. 12:10)."
Here is some of what "The Believer's Bible Commentary," by William MacDonald and Art Farstad, says on Jeremiah 31: "God made the new covenant primarily with Israel and Judah (v. 31).......It will not become effective for Israel as a nation until Christ's Second Coming. In the meantime, however, individual believers enjoy some of its benefits........"
Here is some of what The New Scofield Bible says on the Jeremiah passage: "Although certain features of this covenant have been fulfilled for believers in the present Church Age.....the covenant remains to be realized for Israel according to the explicit statement of v. 31."
Here is some of what The King James Study Bible, by Thomas Nelson Publishers, says on the Jeremiah passage: "Although the New Covenant is now operative.........and is attended by the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is resident in believers' lives........, the full realization of the new covenant, as the capstone of all the covenants, awaits the second coming of Christ. He will give to Israel the promises distinctive to that nation, and will rule over the earth in an unprecedented period of universal peace......, prosperity......, and the full knowledge (v. 34) of the abiding presence of God....."