TWO ASPECTS OF THE GOSPEL COVENANT
The Church is sometimes represented as a parenthesis between two Jewish dispensations; the one from Moses to Christ, and the other from the Second Advent of Christ to Eternity, a period called the "Millennium". The truth of the matter, however, is exactly the opposite. The Mosaic economy under the Law of Sinai was a parenthesis between the two aspects of the Gospel Covenant of Grace; namely, its primitive form, and its complete development in these Messianic times, John Brown in his Exposition of Galatians (pp. 236-238) makes this very clear.
"The word 'above' (Gal. 4:26) is used in reference to time as well
as place. The phrase before us may mean either the Jerusalem that
is above in place; that is, the heavenly Jerusalem, or it may mean
the Jerusalem above in time; that is, the ancient Jerusalem. That
the last is the meaning here, seems probable from its being con-
trasted, not with Jerusalem below or Jerusalem on the earth, but
with Jerusalem that now is. Jerusalem seems to have been a seat
of religion before the Israelitish economy. Melchisedec, the priest
of the Most High God, was king of Salem, which was the ancient
name for Jerusalem. In this case, 'Jerusalem above', or the ancient
Jerusalem, is a very appropriate emblem of the religion of fallen
man in its primitive form before 'the Lawas added', which is sub-
stantially the religion of the New Testament, the latter being the
complete development of the former. It is, I apprehend, in reference
to the state of things in which Melchisedec was a priest, that our
Lord is termed a priest, not after the order of Aaron, who was the
priest of a peculiar people, but after the order of Melchisedec, who
was the priest of mankind. If, however, we should understand the
word 'above' as referring to place, the idea is this, 'all believers of
every age have gone to heaven; and when a man becomes a believer,
he joins the great society they belong to.' Thus the conversion of the
Gentiles is described as their coming and sitting down 'with Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of their Father.' The apostle, speaking
of believers on the earth, says, That they are 'come to the spirits of
just men made perfect' (Matt. 8:11; Heb. 12:22). In either view of it,
Jerusalem is the true spiritual church consisting of genuine believers
from the beginning down to the present time. That Church is free. Its
principle is, 'believe and live; and love and do, and enjoy.' In the
original state of the spiritual church, its members were untrammelled
by such carnal ordinances as were afterwards enjoined 'because of
transgressions'. With the exce?tion of a very few simple rites, its ser-
vice was Spiritual and rational. It oreserved a filial Spirit in all who
belonged to it. Even under the servitude of the law, and now in the
most perf'ect state as to revelation in which it is to be exhibited on
earth, its members are 'made free' by the Son, and are 'free indeed'
(John 8:36). The primitive church which is founded on the promise of
mercy, is 'the mother of us all', says the apostle; that is, of all believers
whether they be Jews or Gentiles. They are all Abraham's spiritual
seed -- all children of the mystical Sarah; and they are a numerous
family -- 'a multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and
kindreds, and people, and tongues.' (Rev. 7:9)."
Galatians 4:27 deserves a further word of exposition before we take our leave of this glorious scripture. Dispensational premillennialists regard the Old Testament prophecies as a kind of prophetic kangaroo that leaps over the whole New Testament into the Book of Revelation, ignoring everything that is in between, insisting that the present Gospel age was not made known in the Old Testament times, but was a mystery hid in God, -- "parenthesis between two Jewish dispensations." Dr. Louis Sperry Chafer, one of Ameri.ca's noted dispensationalists, wrote that after the Christian dispensation has run its course, there will be "the regathering or Israel and the restoration of Judaism" (Dispensationalism, p. 413). But what saith the Scripture? Acts 3:24 -- "Yea, and ALL the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, AS MANY AS HAVE SPOKEN, have likewise foretold of THESE days." The apostle in Galatians 4:27 quotes Isaiah 54:1 to show that the real spiritual intent of that prophecy refers to these present Gospel times of the Messiah. The small remnant according to the election of grace within the nation of Israel in the days of the Messiah are likened to a barren and desolate woman, they were so few. But it was to have a large ingathering both of Jews and especially Gentiles, and is therefore called upon to break forth into songs of praise and rejoicing. Out of that infant church, apostles and true believers went everywhere preaching the Word (Acts 8:4), and thousands were converted from among the Jews (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7), and a great host from among the Gentiles (Acts 15:7-12).
The conversion of the Gentiles constituted the glorious continuing fulfillment of Isaiah 49:12-23 where the prophet depicts Zion as saying, "The Lord hath forsaken and: forgotten me" (verse 14), which he assures them is not so (verses 15-17). Isaiah then says, "lift up thine eyes around about and behold: all THESE GATHER THEMSELVES TOGETHER AND COME TO THEE." He reveals that the children which they SHALL HAVE (Namely, the wild olive branches grafted in from among the Gentiles -- Rom. 11:24) AFTER THEY HAD LOST THE OTHER (namely, the natural branches which were broken off because of unbelief -- Rom.11:20,21) would constitute "many more" than she which hath an husband (namely, the rejected nation after the flesh to whom God had been an husband --Jer. 31:32). In that day the godly remnant constituting the infant Christian Church would have to say, "make room, the place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell" (Isa. 49:20). 'They are represented as saying, "Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children (the natural branches)? Who hath brought up these? Where had they been?" (that is, the Gentiles). And the answer is given: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and setup my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of .thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am i:he Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me." This prophecy is now receiving a glqrious fulfillment in.the salvation of the elect from among all nations. In the light of Acts 13:46, 47 the apostles themselves saw in their own preaching to the Gentiles the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6.· Compare Isaiah 49:8 with 2 Corinthians 6:2. On Isaiah 49:22 Calvin writes:
"When he promises that the sons of the church shall be brouglit in
her arms and on her shoulders, the language is metaphorical, and
means that God will find no difficulty when He shall.wish to gather
the church out of her dispersion, for all the Gentiles will assist Him.
Although this refers in the first instance to the Jews who.had been
banished and scattered, yet it undoubtedly ought to be extended to
all the elect of God, who have become partakers of the same grace."
All the covenants therefore may be reduced to two - THE COVENANT OF WORKS AND THE. COVENANT OF GRACE. The Covenant of Works was made with Adam as the representative head of the human race. In effect God said "Eat the forbidden fruit, and thou shalt die. Refrain from eating it and thou shalt live." It was a Covenant of Works. The same Covenant of works was afterwards made with the chosen nation. It was a re-enactment of the Covenant of Works. The ten commandments were given to them at Sinai. In effect God said: "Obey these and you shall prosper. Disobey, and disaster and suffering will be your portion." The Covenant of Grace was entered into by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with and on behalf of the elect, on whom grace and glory were settled forever in Christ their Mediator and Covenant-Head. This covenant is the fruit of God's sovereign love and grace, and is everywhere proclaimed in Scripture to be an eternal, absolute, sure and final covenant, filled with all spiritual blessings for believers. Of this covenant Matthew Henry writes:
"It is God's covenant; His mercy, love and grace moved for it; His
wisdom devised it; His Son purchased it; His Spirit brings souls into
it and brings them up in it."
The late Dr. T. T. Shields in a sermon preached February 12, 1939, on Hebrews 8:13 entitled "God's New Covenant with Israel" declared that there are but two, basic, all-important covenants.
"The second covenant IS.VERY SIMPLY· CALLED 'THE SECOND.'
They are called the old and the new; the first and the second. Why
make eight of two? Why not abide by the simplicity of the Word of
God? For after all, all that was in the Edenic, the Adamic, the Noahic
the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, as the Scofield bible
names them; and the New, is summed up in one of these covenants:
they are the first and the second, the old testament and the new, the
revelation of God at Sinai, and the full-orbed disclosure of Himself at
the place callad Ca1vary... The truth of the whole matter is that as the
first Adam miserably .failed, the se·cond Adam has triumphed
gloriously; and by the offering of that infinite sacrifice, has made it
possible for God to release the powers of His grace, and make us new
creatures in Christ Jesus."
Dr. Cecil J. Lowry in his excellent booklet, entitled Whither Israeli? with the sub-title of "Mosaic Restoration Examined" declares:
"The heresy of dispensationalism results from the lack of a proper
understanding of the nature or the Old Covenant; and its relationship
to the New. The Dispensationalists have never properly evaluated
the change of covenants at Calvary."