Tag Archives: New Covenant

New Covenant Membership

To close up any loose ends from the last post on Christ, The Mediator, Part 2 and also Christ, The Mediator, Part 1 (see Gal. 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 2:5; Heb. 8:6, 9:15, 12:24) the following excerpt is from a paper, “Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology” written by Micah and Samuel Renihan during their studies at Westminster Seminary California.  You can read the paper in its entirety here: http://thelogcollege.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/rb-cov-theo-renihans.pdf

Jesus Christ has been and always will be the federal head of the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant. To be federally united to him you must be 1. promised to him outside of time in the Covenant of Redemption and 2. brought into union with him in time by the Holy Spirit.

The Son was the one elected by the Father to win the redemption of the elect. All of this is accomplished in the New Covenant, which is the historical climax of the Covenant of Grace. To be in the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant, you must be united to Christ, its federal head.15 Since the Covenant of Grace is the retro-active application of the New Covenant, if we posit that Christ is the mediator of the Covenant of Grace, we can only understand the terms of his role as mediator, and our relation to him as such, through the way that he is presented in the New Covenant. That Christ is the mediator of the Covenant of Grace, the New Covenant, no Reformed theologian denies. Thus, in line with New Testament doctrine, the only way to be under Christ’s federal headship is to be united to him by the Holy Spirit. This union finds its roots outside of time as we are chosen in Christ in the Covenant of Redemption and is applied to the elect in time by the Spirit, begun in effectual calling and consummated in the faith of the believer. Apart from saving faith there can be no union with Christ, because the Spirit does not indwell any except the elect, those who have been justified by faith.16 Christ is the one and only federal head of the Covenant of Grace, the New Covenant. Federal headship is never mediate, thus none can enter the Covenant other than those who are directly or immediately under his federal headship by the Holy Spirit.17

Vos says, “However narrowly or widely the boundary of the covenant of grace be drawn, in any case it involves a relationship with Christ, whether external or internal, by which it is tied to the covenant of redemption.”18

He adds:

One is first united to Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, by a mystical union, which finds its conscious recognition in faith. By this union with Christ all that is in Christ is simultaneously given. Faith embraces all this too; it not only grasps the instantaneous justification, but lays hold of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, as his rich and full Messiah.19

Bavinck says:

On the Christian position there can be no doubt that all the benefits of grace have been completely and solely acquired by Christ; hence, they are included in his person and lie prepared for his church in him…And since these benefits are all covenant benefits, were acquired in the way of the covenant, and are distributed in the same covenantal way, there is no participation in those benefits except by communion with the person of Christ, who acquired and applies them as the mediator of the covenant.20

Fairbairn says:

Here, precisely as in the rending of the veil for the ceremonials of Judaism, the exclusive bond for the people was broken at the center: Christ’s very mother and brothers were to have no precedence over others, nor any distinctive position in His kingdom; spiritual relations alone should prevail there, and the one bond of connection with it for all alike, was to be the believing reception of the gospel and obedience to it…So far, therefore, as regards Israel’s typical character, their removed and isolated position is plainly at an end: all tribes and nations are on a footing as to the kingdom of God – members and fellow-citizens if they are believers in Christ, aliens if they are not.21

Fairbairn adds, “And wherever there is found a soul linked in vital union with Christ, there also are found the essential characteristics of Abraham’s seed, and title to Abraham’s inheritance.”22

Rom. 8:9 “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Rom. 10:11-13 “For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all,23 bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””

1 Cor. 12:11-13 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Gal. 3:26-28 “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Eph. 1:22-23 “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”24

Eph. 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

The Covenant of Grace is so called because its blessings are freely given to its members. Those blessings are free because they have been won solely by Christ’s obedience in fulfillment of his commission in the Covenant of Redemption. Thus understood, the Covenant of Grace arises in history in contradistinction to the Covenant of Works. That covenant having been broken, all mankind is born immediately federally united to Adam, under the curse of the law. When man is liberated from this condemnation, his liberation comes through the propitiatory satisfaction of Christ on his behalf and the gracious imputation of Christ’s righteousness to his account, appropriated by faith. In other words, as Genesis 3 shows, the Covenant of Grace is the solution to the curses of the Covenant of Works.

The fact that we see this redemption promised and typified from the fall onward has led reformed theologians to see God’s grace extending into history prior to the incarnation and death of Christ. Where God’s grace extended into the past, it came by way of covenant, wherein Christ’s blood of the New Covenant was retroactively applied to those who believed in the promise, and that retroactivity of the New Covenant was and remains distinct from the Old Covenant. Thus, Christ’s people have always been those who were promised to him by the Father, and it is those people for whom he spilled his blood.

Scripture teaches that Christ brings his own to himself through the work of the Spirit, and that he dwells in his own by the Spirit. Therefore, without the Spirit, none belong to Christ. If you belong to Christ, you are in the Covenant of Grace. If you do not belong to Christ, you are in the Covenant of Works. You cannot be in both.25 If it is possible to be born into the Covenant of Grace through the mediated federal headship of a parent, then, unless regeneration is presumed, one is both in Adam and in Christ at the same time. However, this is impossible. One man sinned and brought death to all mankind; another obeyed and brought life to his people. You are either in Adam or in Christ. 10

To bring this to a conclusion, a right understanding of the membership of the Covenant of Grace is founded on the Covenant of Redemption and the New Covenant. Those who are in the Covenant of Grace are those who were promised to the Son by the Father in the Covenant of Redemption, won by the Son’s life, death, and resurrection, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, uniting them to their federal head, Jesus Christ. Laying claim to Christ and his benefits is a serious matter, and as scripture shows, only those who have saving faith can truly make that claim. There is no external federal relation to Jesus Christ. In terms of membership or qualification, there are no distinctions in the body of Christ, that is, the church. All are sons of God through faith, under one head, indwelt by one Spirit. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). In spite of the false professions, unbelief, and lies of apostates, God knows his own, Christ knows his sheep, and the Spirit of adoption knows the children of God.26 The covenant people of God are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1Pet 2:9). The glorious New Covenant does not look to the Old for its pattern and people but stands on the eternal foundation of the Covenant of Redemption and comes to the elect as a Covenant of Grace, purchased, mediated, and eternally kept by “our great God and savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people” (Titus 2:14).

17 Cf. WLC 65-69.

18 Vos, 252.

19 Vos, 256.

20 Bavinck, 591, emphasis added.

21 Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Prophecy (London: The Banner of Truth, 1964), 261-62.

22 Fairbairn, 270.

23 All italics in Scripture verses are added for emphasis.

24 Cf. Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:18.

25 Cf. Rom. 7:4-6.

 

 

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 30: The Lord’s Supper

1. The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.
( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17,21 )

2. In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same. So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ’s own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.
( Hebrews 9:25, 26, 28; 1 Corinthians 11:24; Matthew 26:26, 27 )

3. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use, and to take and break the bread; to take the cup, and, they communicating also themselves, to give both to the communicants.
( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, etc. )

4. The denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this ordinance, and to the institution of Christ.
( Matthew 26:26-28; Matthew 15:9; Exodus 20:4, 5 )

5. The outward elements in this ordinance, duly set apart to the use ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, although in terms used figuratively, they are sometimes called by the names of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ, albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.
( 1 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:26-28 )

6. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood, commonly called transubstantiation, by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason, overthroweth the nature of the ordinance, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.
( Acts 3:21; Luke 14:6, 39; 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25 )

7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.
( 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 )

8. All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.
( 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 11:29; Matthew 7:6 )

 

Christ: Mediator of the New Covenant, Part 1

In my last few posts here, we’ve been looking at eschatology, or the study of end things.  We’ve taken a parenthesis in this study to examine some thoughts on what the Bible says about covenants.  This is necessary because of the eschatological system that we paused at, dispensationalism.  If you need a quick review of that system, see here Understanding Dispensationalism.  Dispensationalism is more than just a particular view of the end times.  As stated before, it’s actually a hermeneutic, or science of interpretation.  While hermeneutic might sound like a technical, complicated word, it’s really not.  It’s simply describing the way in which one interprets a particular literary work.  As it relates to the Bible, it is the way, or science/system, of interpreting the Bible.  For a more thorough discussion, see here http://www.bible-researcher.com/baugh1.html

In this post, we continue our look at the New Covenant and its membership by concentrating on the Mediator of this covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ (For an excellent summary of Christ as Mediator see this post: 1689 Chapter 8)  By Mediator, it is meant that Christ “mediates” or acts as an arbitrator, between God (the Father) and man.  1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.  John Owen, in his commentary on Hebrews, writes “A mediator must be a middle person between both parties entering into the covenant; and if they be of different natures, a perfect complete mediator ought to partake of each of their natures in the same person.”

We are first introduced to this idea of the mediatorial work of Christ in Mark 14 during the upper room Passover meal of Jesus and His disciples,

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

From this passage we can begin to see the connection between the covenant (New) and the death of Christ, i.e. the shedding of His blood.  This is even more explicitly stated in Luke 22:20, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Here we see Jesus making specific reference to the New Covenant and its direct connection to His death.

Similarly the Apostle Paul references this connection outlined by our Lord in his first letter to the Church at Corinth,

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 also he took the cup, 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.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

In this particular passage, Paul also references Jesus’ words from the Passover prior to His death.  We see not only the relationship between the New Covenant and Jesus’ death, but also the association with communion, or the Lord’s Supper, with both the New Covenant and remembering Jesus’ death.  This will be important in helping to determine the membership of this covenant.  We have previously asserted (Regeneration) that membership of the New Covenant is limited to the regenerate as evidenced by their repentance and faith in Christ and at this point we must return to that particular question from several posts ago specifically regarding membership in the New Covenant.  As previously stated, only the regenerate belongs to the New Covenant, as seen in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 (It is common language, particularly within Reformed Baptist tradition to assert membership of the New Covenant is limited to the elect, but it would seem clear that it should be more specific, i.e. the regenerate elect).

Despite the promise of the New Covenant in these Old Testament passages, we do not see the inauguration of this covenant until the New Testament, specifically through the death of Christ as noted in the passages above.  So while Jeremiah and Ezekiel inform our understanding of what is to come, it really is incomplete without seeing greater detail that the New Testament provides.  Which brings us to our passage earlier from Paul.  Paul not only quotes Jesus’ statement about his blood and body represented by the wine and bread, but specifically references the New Covenant connection to this communion time.  He follows with this warning, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”  Paul is writing to the Church, i.e. believers, and he is warning them against partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.  Just what this unworthy manner has been of some debate, but what is clear is that Paul is exhorting believer’s to do a spiritual examination of their hearts before they share in communion with Christ, remembering His death and longing for His second coming.  This is important guidance for determining who should partake in Lord’s Supper, which has been identified as a sign of membership in the New Covenant.  By way of implication of this passage, it must be exclusive of believers only, those we have who have been regenerated in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Some have argued that membership in the New Covenant is extended to all Israel or all those who are believers and their children.  But this cannot be.  We’ve seen that the New Covenant benefits are for the regenerate and now, on the basis of the New Covenant purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, we see again that only believers are to partake in the Lord’s Supper because for them and them alone it is a sign of their inclusion in the New Covenant.