Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Abrahamic Covenant, by Dr. George B. Fletcher, Ch. 10

Chapter X
     The original promise given to Abraham as recorded in Genesis 12:3 is called in Galatians 3:3 "the gospel" and had to do with Christ (Gal. 3:16). In Galatians 3:17 it is spoken of as "the covenant, that was CONFIRMED before of God in Christ." The blessings of this gospel covenant promised to all Abraham's spiritual seed of all nations (Gal. 3:7-9, 29) are justification by faith (Gal. 3:8), redemption from the curse of the law (Gal. 3: 13) , and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:14). This gospel coven­ant is spoken of by other names in the New Testament, namely, a "better" covenant, because based on better promises (Heb. 3:6}, an "everlasting" covenant (Heb. 13:20), the "second" covenant, because the first was faulty (Heb. 8:7), and the "new" covenant (Matt. 26:28). It was first called the "New" covenant by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-34. But what do Jeremiah and the writer to the Hebrews (8:7,13) mean when they speak of "a new covenant"? Is it to be understood that God's plan for the redemption of sinners failed and had to be re-made? No, by no means. His plan never changed; His purpose was the same from the beginning. There was the same promise of deliverance from sin, the same Redeemer, the same required conditions for partici­pation in the benefits of redemption, the same complete salvation for all who embrace the divine offer of mercy. What then is new? Not the substance of the covenant, but the administration of it in historic fulfillment. In Christ as mediator this eternal covenant is perfectly administered; it is ratified afresh by His sufferings and death; it reveals more clearly the mysteries of grace, and through Christ the mediator there flows a larger measure of the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Four chapters in the New Testament - - 2 Corinthians 3, and Hebrews 8 through 10 -- are given over to the explanation of this New Coven­ant. No other Old Testament prophecy has so much New Testament space given over to the explication of it. The historic fulfillment of this New Covenant we keep in remembrance every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper (Luke 22 :20).
     Consider some of the notable characteristics and gracious blessings of this New Covenant. First, negatively:(1) There is not a word in this covenant about the land of Canaan; (2) It does not guarantee a foot of land in this present evil world to its heirs; (3) It does not men­tion nor guarantee the return of the Jews to the land, nor the restoration to their former glory; (4) It has nothing to say about Jerusalem as a Jewish international world capital; (5) It does not speak of Christ as sitting on the temporal, earthly throne of David; (6) It makes no mention and holds out no hope of a super-duper Jewish world power kingdom within the framework of time. Second, positively. To illustrate the term "new", let us consider it in contrast to the "old" covenant made at Sinai with Israel. (1) Its mediator is not a mere man like Moses, but the perfect man -- God's only-begotten Son. He guar­antees the fulfillment of all the promises and conditions of the covenant. His blood is covenant blood, not only binding the parties to the contract but securing the fulfillment of all its provisions. Christ's work renders certain the gifts of divine grace and the perseverance of God's people in faith and obedience .. (2) It is not external, but inward and personal. The "old" was an external thing -- ­laid up in the sacred Ark. The new covenant was not a summons from without, but a power within the soul. The law was not written on tables of stone, but on the heart. (3) The new covenant is not legal and ceremonial, but evange­lical and spiritual. God in revealing the first covenant said "Thou shalt not"; but in ordering the new covenant He says: "I will." There is not a hard cold legalism of Do' s and Don'ts but a gracious promise of His presence and power whereby we delight to do His will. (4) The New Cov­enant is not temporary, but permanent. The old is prepara­tory; the new is final. It is the · permanent final dis­pensation -- the last before the restoration of a11 things, designed for the conversion of men and the ingathering of the elect. The final revelation of grace has been made. (5) It is not national, but universal. The old was made with the nation of Israel at Sinai; but the new embraces the election of grace from among all nations both Jew and Gentile.
     Consider in the next place the time element involved in this gospel promissory covenant. It has an eternal aspect, for it is called "the everlasting covenant'' (Heb. 13:20) for it originated in the councils of the Godhead in eternity past and reaches in its sweep through time to eternity future (Rom. 8:29,30). There was also the revelation and gradual unfolding and enlargement of this gospel promissory covenant. It has an eternal aspect, for it is called "the everlasting covenant" (Heb. 13:20) for it originated in the councils of the Godhead in eternity past and reaches in its sweep through time to eternity future (Rom. 8:29, 30). There was also the revelation and gradual unfolding and enlargement of this gospel promise originally given in Genesis 3:15. Then there is the historic fulfillment in time when Christ came and ratified it with His own blood. Jeremiah prophesied that it would be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jer. 31:31-34). The question here is, Has it been so made with them, or is it still in the future? Is the making of the New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah history and in the past, or prophesy and in the future? The Scriptures show that it has been made and is therefore in the past and not in the future! It was with the believing and loyal remnant within the nation that our Lord Jesus Christ established the New Covenant strictly according to promise. An Old Testament parallel will bear this out. At the disruption of the nation in the days of Rehoboam, the ten tribes rebelled against and seceded from the two tribes. The ten tribes took the name of "Israel" but they had no right to it; That only was the true Israel, the people of God, that remained loyal to the house of David; for to that house God had solemnly covenanted to give the throne of Israel in perpetuity (2 Sam. 7:8-16). The Ten Tribal group consti­tuted a very large majority, but they could not carry the legitimate continuity of the nation with them. That re­mained with the loyal minority. Dr. Albertus Pieters gives the New testament parallel in his book entitled "The Ten Tribes in History and Prophecy".
     "Jesus Christ came into the world, the Messiah of promise, the
     legitimate king of Israel. He offered Himself to the people of
     Israel in that capacity. Some accepted Him as such -- a small
     minority. The official heads of the nation and a large majority
     of the people rejected Him. What did the king then do? Some
     tell us that He withdrew His plan of establish­ing the kingdom,
     a truly naive notion, as if He could so play false with the loyal
     portion of the nation! What He did was to re-organize His people,
     by appoint­ing new leaders, the twelve apostles, from among the
     loyal group, and assuring them they were to 'judge the twelve
     tribes of Israel.' namely, to be the official heads of the re-
     organized nation. Let us now put this question soberly to our-
     selves: 'Did those who accepted Christ thereby lose their standing
     before God and with reference to the prophetic promises of God,
     as Israel­ites? Did they secede from Israel, or did those who
     rejected the King secede?' No Christian; it seems to me, can
     affirm the first of these alternatives, for to be a Christian means
     first of all that one accepts Jesus as. the true Messiah, the King of
     Israel. It was as in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. Again
     there was a king of the house of David, and again a large part of
     the nation refused to accept Him. If He was really the legitimate
     sovereign, then, clearly, those who refused were in rebellion, and
     ipso facto lost their standing as Israelites. The number does not
     matter. By losing their standing as Israelites, they lost all claim
     upon the promises of God. 'All the promises of God in Him are
     yea and in Him Amen.' Those who are not in Christ, the un-
     believ­ing and disobedient, have no promises -- not one.
     "By the same token the portion of the nation that accepted and was
     loyal to the legitimate king of the house of David constituted the
     continuation of the national organization. They were entitled to
     every­thing God had promised to Israel. Again, the smallness of
     this number does not matter; or, rather, it confirms their title, for it
     had been expressly prophesied that the number would be small. 'If
     the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is
     the remnant that shall be saved' (Rom­ans 9 :27).
     "This believing and loyal remnant, then, was re­organized by the
     Davidic King into the Christian Church. With this re-organized
     Israel the New Cov­enant was established, strictly according to the
     promise. To whom had it been promised? To 'The House of Israel
     and the House of Judah.' To whom was it ful­filled? To 'The House
     of Israel and the House of Judah'; to the only group in the wide
     world legitimately entitled to that name. The new officers began to
     function immediately after the ascension of Christ. Finding a
     vacancy in their number, they filled it by the election of Matthias
     in place of Judas, according to prophecy. Openly they stood forth
     as authoritative leaders of the re-organized Israel, and invited their
     disloyal and seceded countrymen back into the ranks.
     "It is important to remember that this re-organization was completed,
     and the New Covenant Israel was a going concern for some years
     before the Gentiles began to come in. Up to that point the members
     of this Israel were not only by legitimate right, but also by race,
     Israelites. When the Gentiles did come in, that required and caused
     no further re-organiza­tion; and when they eventually grew to be the
     over­whelming majority, that also made no difference in the title of
     the group to be the New Covenant Israel; any more than the coming
     in of immigrants and their naturalization, however many they may be,
     makes any change in the historic continuity of the United States of
     To the Ephesian Christians Paul wrote that before they became Christians they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel", clearly implying that after they became Christians they were MEMBERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL. Now, what is this "commonwealth of Israel"? Is it the external, earthly nation of Israel, commonly referred to as "the Jews"? We think not, because the Ephesian Christians had not become members of the commonwealth of Israel" in any such sense as that. What, then, can Paul mean by his implication that the Ephesian Christians had become members of "the commonwealth of Israel"? We submit that in Eph. 2:12 "the commonwealth of Israel" clearly means the body of the believing, redeemed people of God, into which the Ephesians had been incorporated.
     Finally, consider the End of the New Covenant. The benefits and blessings of the New Covenant are eternal to all the beneficiaries under its terms. At the Second Advent of Christ it will cease to be the instrument for bringing the election of grace to faith. Christ comes at His Second Advent not to make a New Covenant, but to con­summate the redemption of His people under its promises: Hebrews 9:28 --"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." See also Romans 8:19-25. The Old Covenant ended with the rending of the veil of the Temple (Matthew 27:50-53), and hence Israel's peculiar privileges as a nation were terminated at that time. Dr. John Owen makes this clear in the following excerpt from his writings:
     "You Jews must admit, that the tenor and charter of all your peculiar
     privileges as a nation, is the covenant which was made at Sinai;
     consequently, that these privileges must continue or cease with that
     covenant. If you believe the Scriptures, you must also admit, that in
     Jer. 31:31 -- there is the promise of another covenant, which was to
     be made long after the former, and of a different nature from it; and
     that this could not take place unless that first covenant were im-
     perfect, faulty, and removable (Heb. 8:7). Now we ask, Do you
     believe that God will make a new covenant, not according to the
     covenant which he made with your fathers at Sinai? If you do not,
     you renounce the prophets and the promise of God to you. But if you
     do believe it, we ask, with what sacrifice shall it be estab­lished? and
     by what priest, and with what worship shall it be administered? If
     you say, By the sacri­fice, priests, and worship of the law, you retract
     what you have granted, namely, that it is a NEW and ANOTHER
     covenant; for such sacrifices, priests, and worship, cannot confirm
     and administer any other covenant but the first, for which only they
     were appointed. But if you admit that this new and other covenant
     must have a new mediator, priest, and sacrifice, without which it
     cannot be a new cov­enant, then must the old cease and be removed
     that the new may come in its place."
     That aspect of the New Covenant of bringing the election of grace to faith will end with the rending or the heavens at the Second Advent of Christ, when they shall depart as a scroll when it is rolled together (Rev. 6:14). Revelation 11:l8, 19 -- "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and
thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." With the Second Advent of Christ time is over and eternity is here! Luke 13:25, 27 -- "When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: ...depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." There is no salvation after the Second Advent of Christ! 2 Corinthians 6:2 --"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

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